The USS Gurnard was a Gato-class submarine and the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for gurnard, a fish inhabiting the South Atlantic. Her keel was laid down by the Electric Boat Company out of Groton, Connecticut. She was launched in June 1942, and sponsored by Miss Suzanne Slingluff. The Gurnard was commissioned September 18, 1942 with Lieutenant Commander Charles H. Andrews in command.
Gurnard’s first war patrol was part of the Atlantic Fleet and took her to the Bay of Biscay where she waited off the Spanish coast for German blockade runners in route to Spanish ports. Her first patrol was an uneventful one and all of her subsequent patrols were carried out in the Pacific Fleet.
USS Gurnard SS-254 participated in nine war patrols total. Her first action occurred on June 29, 1943 where she damaged two Japanese merchantmen and surviving 24 depth charges thrown by an enemy destroyer. Gurnard made her first kill on June 11th when she sunk the cargo ship Taiko Maru. Her third war patrol took place in the South China Sea where she sunk the cargo ship Taian Maru and the passenger-cargo ship Dainichi Maru west of Luzon. Her following patrols warranted much the same results.
Gurnard received a total of six battle stars, as well as the Navy Unit Commendation for her services in World War II. Six of Gurnard’s war patrols were deemed “successful” by the United States Navy.
After her ninth war patrol Gurnard put in at Mare Island in May 1945 for a major overhaul. From there she returned to San Francisco where she was decommissioned on November 27, 1945. She remained in reserve for approximately two years after that when she was reported to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard for activation as an armory for naval reserve submarine training, which she also aided in at the port in Tacoma, Washington. After June 1960 she was inactivated in preparation for disposal. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register in May of 1961 and sold for scrapping to the national Metal and Steel Corporation, Terminal Island, Los Angeles, California.
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.