USS Picuda SS-382 (1943-1972)
The USS Picuda, originally known as the Obispo, was an American Naval submarine active during World War II and the post-war period. The Picuda received six battle stars for service in the war, and made six war patrols from 1943 to 1945, after which she was sent to the Atlantic Fleet to serve mostly as a training vessel for the rest of her time in the American Navy.
The Picuda was a Balao class submarine built in Portsmouth New Hampshire. The vessel was commissioned in 1943 and reported to the Pacific Fleet in January of 1944 after the completion of training exercises.
Action in World War II
During her first war patrol the Picuda sank the Japanese gunboat Shinyo Maru in waters not far from Truk. After changing course in March the Picuda attacked another vessel; however, counterattacks from enemy destroyers forced her to break off the attack. The following day the Picuda attacked and sank a Japanese ship off the coast of Yap Island. A little over a week later the Picuda sank another enemy vessel and narrowly escaped after destroyers attacked with 26 depth charges.
During the Picuda’s second war patrol she crippled one ship that was destroyed by Allied aircraft and heavily damaged another Japanese ship before being forced to flee as eight ships attempted to blast her with depth charges. After this war patrol she headed to Pearl Harbor via Midway for another refitting.
The Picuda’s third war patrol took her into the Luzon Straits, where she would go on to sink three more enemy vessels. After fueling up and joining another wolf pack in Saipan, she embarked on her fourth war patrol, this time heading to the East China Sea, where she sank several more enemy vessels. She then traveled to Guam in anticipation of a fifth war patrol, in which she damaged several Japanese vessels and sank one before returning to Pearl Harbor. There, she prepared for her sixth and final war patrol, an uneventful lifeguard duty off the coast of China.
After the War
The Picuda spent the next several years as a training vessel, touring the Mediterranean and docking at Key West, Florida. During a NATO operation in 1967 she lost two crewmen at sea. In 1972 the Picuda was officially transferred to the Spanish Fleet and renamed the Narciso Monturiol, though mechanical defects finally put her out of commission for good in 1977.
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.