The USS Pampanito was first laid down in March of 1943 and by November of that year would be commissioned in the U.S. Navy. She had her first shakedown training off of New London before heading to Pearl Harbor in 1944.
Action in World War II
She had her first war patrol in the approaches of Saipan and Guam. She was given lifeguard duty during this period and would fire two torpedoes at a Japanese destroyer before heading to Midway and Pearl Harbor to repair the extensive damage she had from depth charges from her destroyer encounter. She had a second patrol off of the home islands and was attacked by a submerged Japanese submarine, but remained unharmed by that attack and managed to damage a gunboat before departing for Midway.
The third patrol saw her working in a wolfpack formation with two other submarines. During this period she managed to sink two Japanese ships and damage a third ship. She also helped rescue British and Australian POWS from a sinking ship. She deposited the survivors at Saipan before heading back to Pearl Harbor.
The fourth patrol took place off of Formosa and the coast of China. With three other submarines, she was able to sink a cargo ship. She also damaged another Japanese ship. Her fifth patrol was one of her more productive as she sent two Japanese ships to a watery grave. Her sixth patrol was her most uneventful one as she only spotted one Japanese ship before returning to Pearl Harbor.
After the War
She was overhauled in San Francisco and started to head for Pearl Harbor. Upon her arrival she was told to turn around because the war was over and returned San Francisco. She was decommissioned in 1945 and would remain in service until 1960. Then she was assigned to the Naval Reserve Training Fleet. She remained in this role for the coming years and remained active as a Naval training ship at Vallejo, California into the 1970s. In 1975, she was transformed into a maritime museum in San Francisco.
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.