The USS Flying Fish SS-229 was constructed at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, and launched from that location on July 9, 1941, sponsored by Mrs. Husband E. Kimmel. The submarine was commissioned on December 10 of that same year, with Lieutenant Commander Glynn “Donc” Donaho placed in command. She was soon underway to Pearl Harbor.
Action in World War II
During the course of the war, the Flying Fish conducted twelve patrols. The first began in June of 1942 at Midway Island, where she and other submarines screened the surrounding waters for the Battle of Midway. For her second patrol, she was sent to Truk, where she attacked a Japanese battleship guarded by two destroyers and a number of planes. Though she did not sink any ships that day, she was able to sink a large patrol vessel before having to evade another.
The Flying Fish’s third patrol was plagued by malfunctioning torpedoes and unconfirmed hits, though she sank a freighter on February 16, 1943, during her fourth. Despite poor weather at the beginning of her fifth patrol, she downed several more freighters throughout April and May. Her sixth, seventh, and eighth patrols passed in much the same manner, with the Flying Fish sinking several ships and damaging others.
On her ninth patrol off Iwo Jima, the submarine attempted to attack a tanker, but was held off by Japanese aircraft, destroyers, and another submarine. During her tenth patrol, she was able to provide important information regarding the movement of a Japanese carrier force days before the Battle of Philippine Sea, which was instrumental in subduing Japan’s aircraft and their carriers. After her eleventh patrol, she was fitted with mine detecting equipment, which allowed her to sail heavily mined seas for her twelfth.
After the War
After returning to the U.S. after the war, the Flying Fish became the flagship of Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet. In this capacity, she performed reserve training cruises and visited ports in the Caribbean and in Canada. After completing her flagship duties in 1951, she performed sonar experiments and became the first U.S. sub to make 5,000 dives.
The Flying Fish was finally decommissioned on May 28, 1954, and was sold for scrap five years later. For her twelve war patrols, she earned twelve battle stars and sank 58,306 tons of enemy shipping.
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.