A Permit-class submarine, the USS Flasher SSN-613 was originally designed as a Thresher-class vessel. However, the loss of the USS Thresher during a routine deep-sea diving test led engineers to reconsider the design, as well as implement new safety standards for submarines. As a result, the Flasher received many additional modifications during the building process. She was launched on June 22, 1963, and commissioned on July 22, 1966.
Service in the Pacific
Under her first commander, Kenneth M. Carr, the Flasher proceeded to Pearl Harbor, her new home port. She was first deployed to the Western Pacific on April 25, 1968, and received a Battle Efficiency “E” in the process. She won another the next year and was also awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation for her activities between spring of 1967 and summer of 1968.
After an overhaul, the Flasher was once again sent to the Western Pacific in 1971, this time visiting Guam, the Marianas Islands, Japan, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. She participated in RIMPAC 72 exercises in September of 1972 and went on another deployment in 1973. She won a number of awards during this period, including another two Battle Efficiency “E”s, a Presidential Unit Citation, and a Navy Unit Commendation.
In 1983, the Flasher received another overhaul, this time in California. San Diego became her new home port, and she went on two more Western Pacific deployments. She received three more Meritorious Unit Commendations before the end of her service.
After an inactivation ceremony in 1991, the Flasher was decommissioned on May 26, 1992, and stricken from the Naval Register later that year. She was then transferred to Washington to be a part of the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program.
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.