USS Razorback SS-394 (1943-1970)
The USS Razorback was a United States submarine active during World War II, as well as during Vietnam. She was built at the Navy shipyards in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in the fall of 1943. She was commissioned by the US Navy in April of 1944, and after training exercises off the New England coast she reported to the Pacific Fleet for her first war patrol.
Action in World War II
The Razorback acted in support of the Palau landings in September of 1944. In October she traveled to Midway to await her next patrol. During her second war patrol the Razorback assisted in damaging a Japanese freighter, also sinking an 820 ton destroyer, the Kuretake, before traveling to Guam for refit.
While patrolling the East China Sea during her third war patrol, the Razorback sank four wooden hulled ships, and captured three prisoners who were turned over in Guam. She left for Pearl Harbor in March of 1945. In May of 1945 the Razorback once more traveled west into the Pacific, performing a lifeguard role at Tokyo Bay and Nanpo Shoto. During this patrol she rescued four downed pilots before traveling to Midway.
The Razorback participated in her final patrol of the war when she departed Midway for the Okhotsk Sea. During this patrol she sank six wooden sea trucks and damaged two more. After this the Razorback moved on to provide lifeguard services near Paramushiro. She was also one of 11 submarines to enter Tokyo Harbor for the formal surrender of the Japanese.
After the War
The Razorback continued to serve in the Pacific Fleet until 1952 when she was decommissioned and converted to a Guppy IIA submarine. After being recommissioned two years later, she traveled to Connecticut for training exercises.
In May of 1954 the Razorback was transferred to San Diego where she assisted troops training in anti-submarine warfare. In 1957 she embarked on her first Far East expedition since the end of the Second World War and served as part of the 7th fleet, earning a Vietnam Service medal in 1965. In 1970 she was decommissioned by the US Navy and transferred to Turkey until 2001. After 30 years as part of the Turkish Navy, the ship was purchased by the city of Little Rock, Arkansas and is currently part of the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.
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.