USS Pompano SS-181 (1937-1943)

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The USS Pompano was a Perch class submarine built in the Mare Island Navy Yard. She was commissioned in June of 1937 and would operate in the Eastern Pacific for the rest of the 1930s.

Action in World War II

She arrived in Pearl Harbor shortly after the start of World War II and began her first war patrol later on that month. She survived attacks by friendly planes after leaving Pearl Harbor and was inspected by people on Wake Island on New Year’s Day of 1942. The submarine then headed to the Marshall Islands and attacked a large ship on January 13th, but she did not have any success at sinking the ship.

However, she had a second patrol in April of 1942 until June of the same year that took her into the East China Sea where she would have a good amount of success. That success included the sinking of a tanker, a large transport and some small craft. During her third patrol she sank two enemy ships, but she sustained damage to herself after being depth charged by the Japanese ships.

When she returned to Mare Island she received an extensive overhaul. Then she was deployed back into the Marshalls Islands from January to February of 1943. She sank no ships, but had some terrible problems with her torpedoes that ended up plaguing many of the submarines during the war’s first half. Her seventh war patrol saw her heading into Japanese waters again and resulted in the sinking of two Japanese ships.

Disappearance at Sea

However, with mystery surrounding her she ended up disappearing without a trace after leaving Midway on August 20. There is some evidence that she was probably sunk with a mine in September of 1943, since Japan made no anti-submarine attacks in that area around that time. This mine likely ended the lives of many of the sailors that were inside of her, but also the career of the ship herself. She received seven battle stars for her service.

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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