USS Narwhal (D-1) SS-17 (1909-1922)

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The first of the D-class submarines, the USS D-1, originally known as the USS Narwhal, was launched on April 8, 1909, and received her commission that November under the command of Lieutenant J.C. Townsend.  The submarine measured 134 ft, 10 inches in length and could travel at speeds of up to 13 knots.  She could carry 15 officers and men.  For comparison, modern Virginia-class submarines can carry 134 men at speeds of 25 knots.

Service as a Training Sub

After being launched from Groton, Connecticut, the Narwhal proceeded to the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet at Newport, Rhode Island.  Here, these submarines were active in diving grounds in northeastern waters.  Since they were among the very first military submarines, they tested torpedoes and performed other experimental operations.

The Narwhal was renamed the USS D-1 on November 17, 1911.  At the time, the sub, with the fleet, was cruising the Caribbean Sea, with stops at Florida ports in the Gulf of Mexico.  When the United States entered World War I, the D-1 served in the Third Naval District, training crews and officers.  She received an overhaul and was put in reserve commission to continue her training and developmental work.

After Service

On January 30, 1922, the USS D-1 was towed to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she was decommissioned on February 8.  Her hulk was sold for scrap in June.

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.


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