USS Mackerel SST-1 (1953-1973)
Originally known as USS T-1 (SST-1), the USS Mackerel was the lead ship of the T-1 class of training submarines. The second United States navy vessel named for this sport fish, she was initially planned as an experimental auxiliary submarine with hull number AGSS-570. However, her hull number was changed to SST-1 and she was redesignated a training submarine. Built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation at Groton, Connecticut, she was launched on July 17, 1953. Placed in non-commissioned service on October 9, 1953 as USS T-1, she was commanded by Lieutenant J. M. Snyder, Jr.
Following the completion of trials in the New London and Massachusetts Bay areas, in February 1954, she departed for Key West. Upon arriving, she began operations with submarine and antisubmarine forces in the southern Florida and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, areas. On July 15, 1956, she was renamed Mackerel.
Her operation out of Key West included fleet exercises, regular overhauls, several cruises testing new equipment and a continuous sea run from Key West to Annapolis, Maryland in April 1957. 1963 saw her conduct one of her first test and evaluation voyages. On July 8, she left Key West for a two-week period in the British West Indies to test acoustical developments in submarine hulls. February 1964 saw her again operate in the West Indies.
On assignment as a special project ship, Mackerel was at Groton Connecticut on April 27, 1966, during which time she received new equipment. Upon her June 26 return to Key West, she began experimental work associated with the development of future submersibles. This continued until March 1967, when part of the special project equipment was removed and she returned to her normally assigned mission of training for Fleet Sonar School, Key West. She also trained submarine force junior officers during this time. While in drydock at Key West during June and July 1967, additional special project equipment was removed.
Her Key West operations continued in 1967, as she served as a target for vessels used to train sonar operators at the Fleet Sonar School. She also provided shiphandling training for submarine force junior officers, as well as acting as a target for surface and air antisubmarine warfare forces practicing off the Florida coast and in the Caribbean during the late 1960s and early 1970s. 1971 and 1972 saw her provide target and training services for antisubmarine warfare units of the United States Atlantic Fleet in the Key West and the Mayport/Jacksonville, Florida, operating areas.
Mackerel was finally commissioned 1971. Her last dive was made on July 21, 1972. Following that, she remained in service with a reduced crew and conducted junior officer and midshipman training on the surface regularly through October 1972. On January 3, 1973, she was finally taken out of service. On January 31, 1973, she was decommissioned and stricken from the United States Naval Registry alongside her sister ship, USS Marlin, in a dual ceremony at Naval Station Key West. She was sunk off Puerto Rico on October 19, 1978 as a target.
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.