USS Perch SS-176 (1936-1942)

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The USS Perch was a submarine built in Groton, Connecticut, by the Electric Boat Company. The ship was commissioned in 1936 and sent to the Pacific Ocean in 1937. She took part in some of the fleet exercises as well as working independently for the next two years. In 1939 she was sent out to the Philippines where she would be stationed in 1940 and 1941 as part of the Asiatic Fleet.

Action in World War II

When the United States entered the war with Japan, the Perch was sent out to patrol off the Subic Bay area. She would also end up operating in Formosa and Hong Kong. While here she encountered several enemy ships, but her attacks would not prove to be successful. She suffered damage to her engines and periscope that forced her to dock in Darwin, Australia, in January of 1942.

The Perch had to stay in Darwin for another month before she was sent back out onto her second cruise. That second cruise had her help to defend the East Indies from Japanese thrusts into the area. She even attacked an enemy ship in February, but she received damage in this attack. After that she was transferred to the waters north of Java. However, while she was in that area, she became a target for destroyers, which crippled the ship to the point that she was an easy target.

Destruction at Java

The Perch quickly became the target of another depth charge attack the next day while she was trying to leave the area. Unfortunately, she was trapped half-submerged in an area of shallow water. She was quickly surrounded by enemy ships and the commanding officer ordered the boat to be scuttled on March 3 of 1942. The men and officers of the ship were quickly taken captive as prisoners of war and they all spent the next three years in a POW camp.  Not all of the Perch’s crew survived those three years

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.


Naval Historical Center

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