USS H-4 SS-147 (1948-1922)
In 1915 the Imperial Russian Navy ordered 18 H-class submarines from the Electric Boat Company out of Groton, Connecticut. 11 submarines were delivered and served as the American Holland class submarines. Shipment of the remaining subs was held up pending the outcome of the Russian Revolution of 1917. These boats were subsequently stored in Vancouver, British Columbia in knockdown condition. On May 20, 1918 the boats were purchased by the United States Navy and assembled at the Puget Sound Navy Yard.
H-4 was launched in October of 1918 and commissioned in the same month with Lieutenant Ralph O. Davis in command. She was first stationed with Submarine Division 6 and then Submarine Division 7, both stationed out of San Pedro, California. H-4, along with her sister H-boats, participated in numerous battle and training exercises up and down the West Coast. She only ceased these exercises to complete periodic overhauls at Mare Island, as well as patrol duties off Santa Catalina Island.
In company with Submarine Division 6 and 7as well as the tender Beaver, H-4 sailed out of San Pedro and arrived at Norfolk, Virginia on September 14, 1922. During October of the same year H-4 was decommissioned, but not struck from the Naval Vessel Register until February 26, 1931. She was sold for scrap that same year.
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.