USS Nautilus SS-168 (1930-1945)

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July 1930 was the commission date for the USS Nautilus SS-168. She was constructed as a Narwhal class submarine. Before World War II the Nautilus stayed mostly in the Pacific. She was based at San Diego, California, and Pearl Harbor. She was first commanded by Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Doyle, Jr. The Nautilus, along with her sister ship the Narwhal, was built for long range ocean cruising. They were the largest submarines built in the U.S.

Action in World War II

She played a strategic role in the Battle of Midway. During this period she attacked the Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu (although it is believed she actually fired on the Kaga). During the same patrol she successfully sank the Yamakaze, a Japanese destroyer.

The Nautilus then began a new career as a transport submarine. This was a good role for her due to her large size. She also delivered Marines to Makin Island where they carried on a raid. In Attu she put scouts ashore. She also conducted several missions in the Philippines between May of 1944 and January of 1945. On September 25 she grounded on Luisan Shoal. Here she was forced to lighten her load. Everything from mail to cargo was sent ashore. The submarine’s secret materials were burned.

During this time she also was responsible for conducting anti-shipping and reconnaissance patrols off Japan. There she successfully sank and damaged a number of Japanese ships. Her 14th and last patrol was at Darwin. This concluded the end of January, 1945. Then she was ordered home.

After the War

She arrived at Philadelphia in May, 1945. The following month she was decommissioned. She was then removed from the Naval Vessel Register on July 25. Six months later she was sold for scrap and purchased by the North American Smelting Company located in Philadelphia.

During her career the Nautilus was given a number of awards. One of these included the Presidential Unit Citation. She was also awarded 14 battle stars for her service during World War II. Additionally, her commanding officer was given the Navy Cross due to his actions during the Battle of Midway.

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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