USS Gunnel was a Gato-class submarine and was the only ship in the United States Navy of that namesake. Her keel was laid down by the Electric Boat Company out of Groton, Connecticut. Her launch was in May of 1942 and she was sponsored by Mrs. Ben Morell. She was commissioned in August of that same year with Lieutenant Commander John S. “Jack” McCain, Jr. in command.
Gunnel’s first patrol was in the Atlantic Fleet, covering a passage from the United States to the United Kingdom. It was at this time that Gunnel participated in Operation Torch, the Allied Invasion of North Africa. Gunnel’s subsequent war patrols were all conducted in the Pacific Fleet, and on her second war patrol she gleaned her first kill, the cargo ship Kayo Maru. A few days later Gunnel brought down another cargo ship, Tokiwa Maru, with both sinkings confirmed by JANAC postwar.
Gunnel was credited with a total of six ships sunk accounting for a total of 24,624 tons. Gunnel received five battle stars for her service in World War II, and four of her eight war patrols were deemed “successful.”
Postwar, while the Gunnel was being refitted at Pearl Harbor she was ordered to New London, Connecticut where she was decommissioned on May 18, 1946. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on September 1st of 1958, and she was sold for scrapping in August of 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.