Built and launched by the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company of Wisconsin, the USS Guavina was commissioned on December 23, 1943, and put under the command of Commander Carl Tiedeman. The submarine had her initial shakedown cruise, than was towed down the Mississippi to New Orleans for further training. Soon, she was sent to the Pacific to join the war effort. She would ultimately earn five battle stars for her service.
Action in World War II
On April 6, 1944, the Guavina set out from Pearl Harbor on her first war patrol. Right away, she was able to sink a number of Japanese ships, including trawlers and merchant ships. Her second patrol took her from Majuro to Brisbane, Australia; not only did she down an important ship, but she also rescued a dozen Allied pilots.
The Guardfish visited the Philippines for her third patrol, yet again sinking multiple ships and performing lifeguard duties between August 16 and September 29. In October, she began her fourth patrol in the South China Sea. She first torpedoed a Japanese ship carrying aviation fuel, and then a week later sank the tanker the Down Maru before returning to Brisbane in December.
Returning to the South China Sea for a fifth patrol, the Guardfish worked with several other Navy submarines to sink two tankers before sailing to Fiji for a refit. After another patrol with other subs in the South China Sea, the Guardfish went to the U.S. West Coast for an overhaul. She left San Francisco for the Far East on August 6, 1945, but the Japanese surrendered before she could get there.
After the War
In 1949, the Guardfish was converted into a submarine oiler and redesignated SSO-362. She was home ported out of Key West in 1951, operating in the Caribbean and up the East Coast all the way to Nova Scotia. After several overhauls, she tested submarine-borne aircraft as well as various refueling methods for other submarines. She was ultimately decommissioned 1959 and served as a training ship until being stricken from the Navy List in 1967.
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.