The USS Kete, a 1,526 ton Balao class submarine built by the Manitowoc ship building Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin in the Great Lakes, served at the tail end of World War II. The Navy commissioned the USS Kete July 31, 1944. Her first commanding officer Commander Royal L. Rutter sailed her down the Mississippi River, through the Gulf of Mexico and then to a U.S. Naval base in Panama where she underwent several weeks of training.
Action in World War II
After her training the Kete set sail for Hawaii, arriving at Pearl Harbor in mid-October. She joined the war against Japan at the end of the month, sailing for the East China Sea on her first war patrol. In mid November the Kete suffered from mechanical problems, forcing the sub to port at a U.S. Naval base in Saipan for repairs. The USS Kete resumed her patrol at the end of 1944 where she then spent a month patrolling near Ryukyu Islands. There she reported weather information and served as a life guard for U.S. pilots operating in the area.
The USS Kete started her second war patrol under the command of Lieutenant Commander Edward Ackerman in early March of 1945. Ackerman sailed the Kete to the waters off Okinawa. Once there she performed flawlessly, sinking three small cargo ships during a ten day long offensive against a Japanese shipping convoy.
Disappearance at Sea
The Kete sent a weather report on the 20th of March, which was supposed to be her departure date from this patrol area. The submarine never made any further communications to Pearl Harbor. The Navy declared her lost at sea on April 16. Nothing was ever heard from her again and the remains of the submarine were never found. The sub went down with her 87 officers and men. She received one battle star for her service.
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.