USS Grenadier SS-525 (1944-1973)
This Tench-class diesel-electric submarine was the second in the U.S. Navy to bear the name, Grenadier. Built by the Boston Naval Yard, the vessel was launched on February 10, 1951. Under the sponsorship of Mrs. John A. Fitzgerald, wife of the first Grenadier’s last skipper, the submarine was commissioned on the same day with Commander Henry G. Reaves, Jr. in command.
As one of the first “Guppy” submarines, the Grenadier possessed a snorkel, allowing it indefinite running in an awash condition. On her return from the Caribbean, during shakedown, she proved the value of her snorkel as she made the 7-day voyage from Guantanamo Bay to New London, Connecticut submerged. Following nearly two years of training exercises out of New London, the Grenadier underwent overhaul at Philadelphia, which lasted from December 16, 1952 to April 22, 1953.
June 1953 saw the vessel’s participation in the annual midshipman cruise to Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian ports. Upon returning to New London, she supported ASW exercises during November as a carrier task force honed its antisubmarine operations. She continued battle and training exercises in the New London area until August 1955 when she cruised to Montreal, Quebec via the St. Lawrence River.
After that cruise, she left new London, on January 3, 1956, on the first of what would be several Mediterranean cruises. Participating in attack and antisubmarine exercises with various units of the 6th Fleet, she steamed throughout the Mediterranean, showing her flag, for this three-month deployment. Later Mediterranean deployments saw her operate with the 6th Fleet to support peace keeping operations throughout troubled world regions. The submarine spent her time between these Mediterranean cruises participating in exercises along the East Coast, as well as visiting the Caribbean waters. Operating out of New London until September 15, 1959, the Grenadier then transferred to Key West, Florida, serving more frequently in the Caribbean and patrolling and holding exercises along Florida’s Gulf coasts.
Action in the Cuban Missile Crisis
On May 29, 1959, while on special antisubmarine exercises in the North Atlantic with a patrol plane on the morning of May 29, 1959, the Grenadier sighted and photographed a Russian submarine off of the waters of Iceland. This was the first confirmed sighting of a Soviet submarine in the Atlantic. However, this was not the Grenadier’s last sighting of a Russian vessel. She again confronted Soviet ships during the Cuban missile crisis, which threatened to send the United States and Russia into a nuclear war in October 1962. Along with Balao, Threadfin, Trutta, and Chopper, she made up part of the American fleet that blockaded and quarantined the Communist island during this conflict. Following the Soviet’s removal of their missiles from Cuba, the Grenadier was then one of several ships sent to Cuba in November to follow up with the island nation, asserting the United State’s interests there.
The Grenadier continued operating out of Key West after the conflict, later being assigned to SubRon 12. With that group she participated in Atlantic coast and Caribbean exercises, also helping perfect advanced sonar and ASW equipment. On May 15, 1973, the Grenadier was decommissioned, struck from the Naval Vessel Registry and sold to Venezuela.
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.