USS Pickerel SS-177 (1937-1943)

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The USS Pickerel was 1300 ton Porpoise class submarine and was the first submarine to be named after the pickerel fish. She served in the United States Naval Fleet from 1937-1943. The ship was built by the Electric Boat Company at Groton, Connecticut in 1935. The ship was first launched on and was commissioned in 1937.

After being commissioned the submarine conducted training outside of New London, Connecticut until October of 1937. After this initial shakedown and completion of training the ship set sail for Guantanamo Bay to enter the Panama Canal region. The submarine arrived in the region on November 9 of 1937 and was assigned to the Pacific Fleet, performing maneuvers outside of San Diego, California. She was often deployed to the Hawaiian Islands. Early in 1938 the USS Pickerel was transferred to the Asiatic fleet and prepared for the threat of the looming war in Europe and the Pacific sea.

Action in World War II

After the United States was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the USS Pickerel sped to the coast of Indochina and began her first combat mission against Japan. She tracked a Japanese submarine and a destroyer off the coast of Tourane Harbor but lost both ships in a heavy fog during rain squalls. On Dec. 19 she fired five torpedoes at a Japanese patrol boat but missed her mark. The submarine returned to Manila Bay on December 29 for further orders.

On her second patrol from December 31st, 1941, to January 29th, 1942, the Pickerel sank the Japanese ship Kanko Maru. On the submarine’s third and fourth patrols from February 7 to June 6 1942 she failed to damage any enemy ships. The USS Pickerel’s fifth war patrol was marked with success when she damaged a Japanese freighter with multiple torpedo hits in the Mariana Islands. The ship’s sixth war patrol was also a success; among sixteen documented attacks she sank the Japanese ship Tateyama Maru and two 35-ton sampans.

Disappearance at Sea

The ship departed Pearl Harbor on March 18, 1943, on her way to a mission to Midway Island. She never reported in, and that was the last that was heard from the submarine. Reports that she was sunk by the Japanese have surfaced in documents and radio recordings over the years past. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on August 19, 1943.

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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