USS Ray SS-271 (1943-1960)
The USS Ray SS-271 received a number of awards for the service she provided the United States. One of these awards was the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation, given for the ship’s action during World War II. Seven battle stars were also awarded to the Ray. This attack submarine was commissioned in July 1943, and commanded by B.J. Harral.
Action in World War II
The same year the Ray launched her first war patrol, searching an area north of the Bismarck Archipelago. This brought her within radar contact with a three ship convoy, which the Ray attacked very early in the morning. She was successful in scoring three direct hits on one of the freighters. This was followed by sinking the gunboat Nikkai Maru with a series of torpedoes.
Her second patrol began in December 1943 and concluding the following month in the Celebes-Ambon-Timor area. On December 26 the Ray spotted an enemy tanker, the Kyoko Maru. When the tanker got to open water, the Ray started firing torpedoes, stopping the tanker with a huge explosion, followed by a bright fire that disintegrated the tanker. On the first of January, the Ray intercepted two ships and successfully sank the gunboat Okuyo Maru following three direct hits. The Ray then returned to Fremantle.
In February the Ray headed out to the South China and Java Seas. There she laid a minefield near Saigon. That March she intercepted a huge nine-ship convoy. From here the Ray saw action in the Davao Gulf – Molucca Passage area. The fifth patrol occurred in July and August, 1944, near the Philippines in the South China Sea, leading to the sinking of four enemy ships and damage to a fifth.
After the War
The Ray completed a total of eight patrols before the end of the war in 1945, at which time she returned to the United States to New London, Connecticut. After conversion to a radar picket submarine in 1950 and a few years of completing fleet training operations, the Ray entered the Charleston Navy Yard in 1958. There she was placed out of commission. The Navy struck her from their list in April, 1960. Eight months later the submarine’s hulk was sold for scrap to the Commercial Metals Co.
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.