The USS Flasher SS-249, a Gato-class submarine, was constructed in Groton, Connecticut, and launched on June 20, 1943. She was commissioned on September 25, with Lieutenant Commander Reuben T. Whitaker in charge. Soon after, she was sent to Pearl Harbor for her first war patrol.
Action in World War II
This first patrol, which began on January 6, 1944, sent the Flasher to Mindoro, where she sank a gunboat, followed by a freighter and two cargo ships. Ultimately, the Flasher was credited with sinking the most enemy tonnage of any World War II submarine, and she sunk another two Japanese vessels before the end of her first patrol. After her second patrol, she was sent to Fremantle, Australia, for a refit.
While in the South China Sea for her third patrol, the Flasher attacked a 13-ship convoy. Twelve days later, the Flasher struck again, this time at a cruiser and a destroyer. She used the remainder of her torpedoes to sink one tanker and damage another. With the USS Hawkbill and the USS Becuna, the Flasher participated in a coordinated group attack in the Philippines.
She encountered another convoy in Camranh Bay, Vietnam, and with her group, took down a tanker and at least two destroyers. Her sixth and final war patrol began on January 25, 1945, after which she headed to the U.S. West Coast for an overhaul. She was en route to Guam when the war ended in August, and was ordered to return to Connecticut.
After the War
The USS Flasher was decommissioned on March 16, 1946, but remained in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Her name was finally struck from the Naval Register on June 1, 1959, and her hull sold for scrap four years later. However, her conning tower was placed at Nautilus Park as a memorial. In addition to six battle stars – one for each of her patrols – the Flasher also received the Presidential Unit Citation.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially throughout conflicts of the last century, submarines also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. However, these risks extend beyond the inherent dangers that existed while operating the vessels during military conflicts. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were also common aboard submarines because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Furthermore, the enclosed environment of submarines put servicemen at an even higher risk of exposure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with or served on submarines should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.