USS Puffer SS-268 (1942-1960)
The USS Puffer is a submarine that was launched in late 1942 and commissioned in April of 1943. She was transported down the Mississippi River on a floating dry dock and had her torpedoes, ammunition, and periscope all installed while she was going down the river. After arriving in New Orleans, she had a month of training near Panama. The she headed over to Australia to arrive in 1943.
Action in World War II
While in Australia she launched her first war patrol and intercepted the commerce ships that were vital to Japan. However, she only damaged the ships and did not sink any. During her second patrol she had some luck and managed to sink some Japanese ships including a destroyer. Then she traveled into port for a refitting for her third patrol. In the third patrol she sank a transport. She set sail again in early April and served as a life guard ship for an Allied carrier strike. During this period she sank quite a large number of Japanese ships. During her fifth patrol she sank another enemy ship, but then completed this patrol at Pearl Harbor where she stopped over before going to Mare Island for a complete overhaul.
After the crew got some more training they departed for the sixth patrol. She sank one coast ship and damaged a destroyer, freighters, and a tanker. She was refitted at Midway before heading to the South China Sea where she conducted her eighth patrol. She performed a surface sweep on the Bali coast and used her guns to take out some trucks and landing craft. She also handed the Japanese some damage to harbor installations.
After the War
At the end of the war the Puffer headed for Subic Bay. From there she returned to the United States, specifically San Francisco. She returned to Hawaii in 1946 to train officers and men in submarine warfare. She was decommissioned in 1946 and berthed in Mare Island as a reserve boat. However, by the end of the year she was reactivated and sent to the 13th Naval district for training. She would remain here until 1960 and was put out of service and sold that same year.
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.