The USS Narwhal SS-167 was built at the shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Originally named the V-5, the submarine was set to sea December 17, 1929, and left for the West Indies in the month of August. She was prepared for operations in New England, and was finally deemed ready January 31, 1931. The submarine was reclassified to a level SS-167 on July 1st, 1931.
The USS Narwhal was then sent to a location near Hawaii to get ready for battle by doing marine drills. After that she was appointed to San Diego, and for the three years following this, she was put to use nearby. She was sent intermittently to Seattle and to the west side of Hawaii.
In 1938 the Narwhal was assigned to the base in Hawaii. At that time the base was incomplete; however, base members had access to torpedo, machine and battery equipment shops. Additional services were available, and these included drill, repair and storage areas. By the year 1941 a total of 21 submarines served with the Narwhal.
Action in World War II
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the USS Narwhal was in port along with five other submarines. The focus of the attack was not the submarines and the Narwhal was spared during the fight. Her gunners were actively shooting that day and were able to bring down two of the Japanese torpedo planes.
Commander Charles W. Wilkins was in charge of the Narwhal’s first patrol after the United States entered the war. February 27 was the date that the submarine entered the battle firsthand, attacking the freighter Manju Maru, and a few days later the Narwhal torpedoed the Taki Maru, a freight ship. A later attack resulted in a miss and she was sent back to Pearl Harbor for servicing.
Other notable battles involving the USS Narwhal include the submarine launching an attack and sinking the Japanese ships Shinsei Maru, Nissho Maru and Kofuji Maru. She was also responsible for the destruction of the Meiwa Maru and the Koan Maru while under attack from aircraft and underwater vessels.
After the War
The Narwhal was involved in many skirmishes and was awarded 15 battle stars for the service she contributed during World War II. The submarine was retired and removed from the list of active vessels in May of 1945; later the Narwhal was scrapped for parts.
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.