USS Pipefish SS-388 (1943-1967)

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The USS Pipefish, a Balao-class submarine, received six stars for service in World War II. The well-honored ship was named for the Panamanian pipefish, a narrow fish known for its extraordinary ability to conceal itself in vegetation.

The Pipefish (SS-388) was constructed in 1943 and laid down at the Navy Yard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She was launched on October 12, 1943, and commissioned on January 22 the following year. Lieutenant Command William N. Deragon assumed command as the vessel underwent training on the east coast. The Pipefish then traveled to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, via the Panama Canal. The ship arrived in Hawaii on May 3, 1944.

Action in World War II

During the first of six war patrols, Pipefish served as a rescue sub for carrier strikes on Saipan, the largest island in the Marianas chain. She rescued a pilot on June 12. The submarine also cruised the Suriago Straits in the Philippine Islands to block Japanese escape during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. This war patrol ran from May 24, 1944 to July 16, 1944.

The submarine’s second war patrol began a few weeks later on August 6 and ended on September 27, 1944. The Pipefish patrolled the waters off the southeastern coast of Honshu, Japan and sank Japan’s Hakutetsu Mara No. 7.

Her third war patrol, which ran from October 28, 1944 to January 6, 1945, included the southwestern coast of Taiwan and the east coast of Hainan Island, China. Working with submarines Pampanito, Sea Cat, and Sea Raven, the Pipefish sank Japan’s Coastal Defense Vessel No. 64 on December 3rd.

On her fourth war patrol, which involved the area of Nansei Shoto, the Pipefish provided rescue services for downed aviators. This patrol lasted from January 31, 1945 to March 26, 1945. The fifth patrol lasted from April 28, 1945 until June 16, 1945. The Pipefish rescued eight aviators while on lifeguard duty near Honshu Island, Japan, and in the Nanpo Shoto area. The sub’s final war patrol was from July 15, 1945 to August 28, 1945.  The Pipefish returned to the Nanpo Shoto and destroyed eight mines.

After the War

When the war was called to an end, the submarine returned to Pearl Harbor and then to the western coast of the U.S. The Pipefish was decommissioned in May of 1946 and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet. She was struck from the Navy’s register on March 1, 1967.

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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