Named for the popularly-edible fish, the USS Flounder was a Gato-class submarine built in Connecticut and launched on August 22, 1943. Under the command of Commander C.A. Johnson, the submarine was commissioned on November 29 of the same year. Ultimately, the Flounder would earn two battle stars and sink 2,681 tons of Japanese shipping.
Action in World War II
From the East Coast, the Flounder set out for New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean, and from there began her first war patrol in the Palau Islands. The presence of enemy planes limited her actions, and she returned to Milne Bay for a refit. Her second patrol was more eventful, as she sank a transport ship. Though several bombs landed close by, the Flounder emerged with only minor damage.
During her third patrol in the Philippine Islands, she only fired on one enemy ship, which was able to escape. Her fourth patrol took her to the South China Sea with two other submarines and ended up sinking a German sub, the U-537, which had been patrolling the Far East. During her fifth patrol in January of 1945, the Flounder had to return to Australia to repair her fathometer, but would be plagued by further troubles. She was nearly hit by two of her own errant torpedoes, and then brushed against fellow submarine the USS Hoe, causing leakage.
After the War
After an uneventful sixth and final patrol, the Flounder returned to the United States for an overhaul. She was on her way to Pearl Harbor when the Japanese surrendered, and was ordered to return to the East Coast. After a period of inactivity, she was decommissioned on February 12, 1947, and placed in reserve, though her name was not removed from the Naval Register until 1959.
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.