Laid down, built, launched, and commissioned all in one year, the USS Gabilan was a Gato-class submarine constructed by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut. She received her commission on December 28, 1943, with Commander K.R. Wheland placed in command.
Action in World War II
Arriving in Pearl Harbor by way of the Panama Canal on March 23, 1944, the Gabilan soon embarked on her first war patrol, scouting the Marianas Islands as the U.S. prepared for invasion. Her second patrol was more eventful, taking her to the southern edge of the Japanese island of Honshu, where she pursued and eventually sank a 492-ton minesweeper ship.
As the U.S. worked to liberate the Philippine Islands, the Gabilan took a third patrol in the area to prevent Japanese ships from interfering. She ended this patrol by sinking an auxiliary ship and sailing to Fremantle, Australia, for a refit. After this, she proceeded to the South China Sea for her fourth patrol, though neither she nor her sister ships were able to spot the Japanese battleships that were rumored to be in the area.
For her fifth patrol, she joined submarines USS Charr and USS Besugo as part of a wolf pack which chased down a Japanese cruiser and its escorts. The Gabilan disabled the cruiser and the Charr sank her the next morning. Her final war patrol saw her performing lifeguard duties for American aviators at Tokyo Bay in the last weeks of the war, rescuing 17 pilots.
After the War
The Gabilan was returning to Pearl Harbor when she received news of Japan’s surrender. She returned to Connecticut for decommissioning on February 23, 1946, and was placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Sold for scrapping in 1959, she earned four battle stars for her service and four of her six patrols were considered successful.
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.