USS Piranha SS-389 (1944-1946)

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The Piranha (SS-389) was an American submarine commissioned on February 5, 1944, under the command of Lt. Comdr. Harold E. Ruble. She went on six war patrols and received five battle stars for her service in World War II.

Action in World War II

On May 18, 1944, the Piranha left Pearl Harbor with an attack group which included the Guardfish, the Thresher, and the Apogon. The group sunk numerous ships in the waters around Luzon with the Piranha contributing two of those sinkings.  The Piranha joined an even larger group for her second war patrol. Their mission was to conduct reconnaissance for the assault of Peleliu, a strategic target which would aid in the eventual liberation of the Philippines. Once Peleliu was taken, the Piranha went west on the search for more targets, but she was unsuccessful in sinking any enemy ships.

The Piranha set off for the East China Sea with another attack group on her third patrol. She did successfully damage one enemy ship, but a nearby escort prevented her from finishing her kill. Although she did not sink any ships on this patrol, she did serve lifeguard duty for a portion of the patrol, recovering downed pilots off of Kyushu.

On February 11, 1945, the Piranha set off on her fourth patrol in search of enemy convoys. At one point, in an attempt to intercept a convoy leaving Hong Kong, the Piranha penetrated a large group of fishing junks by running up a Japanese ensign. Unfortunately, her cleverness did not pay off as they never found the convoy. The patrol ended with a bombardment of Pratas Island on March 26 and a ten day patrol of Wake Island before returning to Midway for refitting.

On her fifth patrol, the Piranha spent ten days at Marcus before being sent to Honshu. Despite the danger of operating in the shallow waters off the Japanese coast where the Piranha would be easier to spot, she did considerable damage to the enemy, destroying four ships and damaging a fifth, before returning to Pearl Harbor on July 10, 1945.

After the War

The Piranha’s final mission would last all of 14 hours. Leaving Pearl Harbor on August 14, 1945, her mission would end the next day when Japan surrendered, ending World War II. The ship would ultimately be decommissioned on May 31, 1946.  She remained in reserve for another twenty years before her hull was scrapped and her conning tower removed and placed in a naval museum

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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