USS Pomfret SS-391 (1944-1971)

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The USS Pomfret, named for a fish belonging to the Bramidae family found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, was a 1526-ton Balao class submarine. Laid down and built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine, in 1943, launched in the same year and commissioned in February of 1944, she sailed to Pearl Harbor after her safety check cruise and was then placed with the Pacific fleet.

Action in World War II

She was assigned to her first war patrol in the waters off Japan. That first mission lasted from June to August of 1944. In the course of the patrol, the Pomfret fired on three Japanese ships including a battleship, but was not successful in hitting them. She gave allowance to continue to travel in peace to a Japanese hospital ship and came under an air attack. Her second patrol was in the Luzon Strait and took place September through October of 1944. During the mission the Pomfret succeeded in sinking a Japanese transport.

During her third war patrol, again in the Luzon Strait, as part of a coordinated submarine group, she sank three additional Japanese vessels. She served three more missions on lifeguard patrol between January of 1945 and the surrender of Japan in August of that year. During the lifeguard patrols, she rescued downed U.S. airmen, once spectacularly, as the submarine was in the midst of hostilities during the rescue. The submarine crew also shelled shore facilities and sank more than 40 land mines. During the lifeguard patrols, she also rescued Korean and Japanese survivors.  The Pomfret received five Battle Stars for her World War II service.

After the War

The Pomfret remained active after the end of World War II, being assigned missions to the Western Pacific three times from 1946 to 1949. In 1951, she served in the Korean War. Decommissioned in 1952, the Pomfret’s underwater performance was greatly improved by a Guppy IIA upgrade. The submarine was recommissioned in 1952 when the upgrade was completed

The Pomfret returned to active service with regular missions to the Far East, including a mission to the Gulf near Vietnam where she participated in war exercises until 1971. The United States loaned her to the Turkish Navy in 1971 and two years later, she was again decommissioned and then purchased and commissioned by Turkey. She remained in active service with the Turkish Navy until 1987 under the name Oruc Reis.

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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