In 1915 the Imperial Russian Navy ordered 18 H-class submarines from the Electric Boat Company out of Groton, Connecticut. Serving as part of the American Holland class submarines, 11 of these subs were delivered. However, the shipment of the remaining subs was held up pending the outcome of the Russian Revolution of 1917. While awaiting this conclusion the subsequent ships were stored in Vancouver, British Columbia in knockdown condition. On May 20, 1918 these additional boats were purchased by the United States Navy and assembled at the Puget Sound Navy Yard.
USS H-5 SS-148 was one of the submarines included in the final delivery. She was launched in September of 1918 and commissioned in the same month with Lieutenant Gordon Hutchins in command. She was first stationed with Submarine Division 6 and then Submarine Division 7, both of which operated out of San Pedro, California. H-5, along with her sister H-boats, participated in numerous battle and training exercises along the West Coast. The exercises were periodically interrupted by the need for overhauls at Mare Island, as well as patrol duties off Santa Catalina Island.
In company with Submarine Division 6 and 7, H-5 departed San Francisco, California on July 25, 1922. USS H-5 arrived at Norfolk, Virginia on September 14, 1922. H-5 was decommissioned in October of that same year, but not struck from the Naval Vessel Register until February 26, 1931. The submarine was later sold for scrapping on November 28, 1933.
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.