The US Naval Vessel USS Raton was constructed as an attack submarine at the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in May 29, 1949. The name, Raton, refers to a polynemoid fish living off the US Pacific coast. The ship’s defense armament included machine guns and 10 twenty-one foot torpedo tubes.
Action in World War II and the Cold War
The Raton launched January 24, 1943, and was commissioned on July 13, 1943. She completed eight World War II war patrols as the SS-270. During 1943 to 1945, the Raton joined in combat war patrol efforts in Australia, New Guinea, the Karimata Strait, South China, Pearl Harbor, Guam and Hong Kong. The ship arrived at Subic Bay on July 23, 1945, where she needed some maintenance, however, during that time the war ended. She sailed home to San Francisco in September.
The Navy vessel was serviced and repaired at Mare Island Shipyard, located 25 miles northeast of San Francisco. She then traveled to New London, Connecticut, by way of the Panama Canal. Over the next few years, the Raton played a part in Cold War training exercises in the North Atlantic and Caribbean.
After the War
Returning to New London, Connecticut in 1948, she was soon decommissioned in March 1949. In 1952, she was hauled to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and converted to a radar picket submarine used for increasing radar detection range to prevent surprise attacks. Now a SSR-270, she was recommissioned on September 21, 1953. She departed the Atlantic seas and journeyed back to the Pacific through the Panama Canal once again. There she served a stint in local operations and another deployment to WestPac. She also worked with the 7th Fleet in operations with SEATO and the Japanese Maritime Defense Force.
In July 1960, the Raton was modified to an auxiliary sub and reappointed as AGSS-270. After a major overhaul and participation in fleet training operations, she was deployed once again in early 1963, this time joining the resident naval vessels in Thailand, the Philippines, and the Republic of China. In May of 1968, the Raton participated in a training exercise to find out if a small tug could rescue men from the sunken submarine.
The remaining service of Raton AGSS-270 consisted of another deployment to Yokohama in August 1968. She returned to San Diego in late 1968 and was decommissioned at Mare Island Shipyard. The Raton was honored with six battle stars for her superb active duty in World War II.
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.