The USS Hardhead was a submarine that played an essential role in operations in the Pacific during World War II. It received six battle stars for its service during the war. The Hardhead was commissioned on April 18th, 1944, under the command of Commander F. McMaster. After training exercises in Lake Michigan, it departed for its first war patrol in the Philippines on July 27th.
Action in World War II
During this patrol, the Hardhead sank the Japanese cruiser, the Natori. The remainder of the patrol consisted of performing lifeguard duties in the Philippines during aircraft strikes. It also functioned as part of a reconnaissance line during the Paulus operation.
The Hardhead departed from Fremantle, Australia, for its second war patrol on October 24th, 1944. One of its first actions was the rescue of Commander Bakuti, shot down during the Battle for Leyte Gulf. During the remaining months of 1944, the Hardhead played an important role in disrupting Japanese supply lines in the Philippines, including sinking several coastal defense vessels.
Late in 1944, the Hardhead departed Australia for a third patrol in the South China Sea. The first half of 1945 saw much action for the submarine. It sank the Nanshin Maru and performed lifeguarding duties during the air strikes on Singapore. In April, during its fourth patrol, it was part of a mission to lay mines off the coast of French Indochina. The submarine continued to successfully damage and sink Japanese merchant vessels in the South Pacific.
The Hardhead’s fifth patrol ended abruptly when it was forced to dock at Onslow, Australia on July 17th, 1945 due to the illness of its commanding officer. Though it departed for a sixth patrol in the Java Sea a day later, the culmination of successful campaigns to disrupt Japanese merchant fleets meant that the submarine saw little action. When the war ended in the Pacific theater, the Hardhead returned to the U.S. and was decommissioned on May 6th, 1946.
After the War
After several years as part of the reserve fleet at Mare Island, the Hardhead was converted and recommissioned in 1953. It took part in more military maneuvers in 1956 when it departed for the Mediterranean to lend assistance to the sixth fleet during the Suez Crisis, but soon after it became part of Submarine Development Group 2. The Hardhead spent its remaining years as part of this group, which was engaged in research to maintain the readiness and effectiveness of the U.S. Naval fleet. It received four “E” awards for its performance in the group.
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.