The construction of the S-46 (SS-157) started on February 23, 1921, by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in Quincy, Massachusetts. She was launched on September 11, 1923, sponsored by Miss Grace Roosevelt, first cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Lt. Commander Hubert V. LaBombard, the submarine’s commander, was commissioned on June 5, 1925.
Between the Wars
Following training exercises off southern New England, S-46 sailed to the Panama Canal Zone to become part of Submarine Division (subDiv) 19. On 26 September in Coco Solo she held local operations to Balboa, which were occasionally interrupted by semi-annual training cruises and annual fleet problems in the Pacific and Caribbean oceans. Repairs that needed to be done took place in Balboa.
In 1927 the SubDiv 19 was transferred to part of the Battle Fleet based out of San Diego; Mare Island served as home yard for the ships. On June 11, the S-46 left Panama, arriving in San Diego on June31, then headed to Pearl Harbor to engage in tactical exercises with other battle Fleet submarines. In late August she helped search for the missing Dole Flight pilots. At the end of August she returned to San Diego for two months of local patrol. In December she returned to Mare Island for an overhaul, resuming operations in June 1928 out of home port. Due to the design limitations of the S-42 class, her maximum speed was reduced to 10.5 knots to help alleviate excessive vibration and engineering problems that occurred at higher speed.
The S-46 remained based in San Diego until December of 1930 when the rest of the division was transferred to Pearl Harbor. She stayed there for five years, becoming part of SubDiv 11. She spent time with other submarines on the Rotating Reserve Division 14. In spring of 1936 she returned to Coco Solo after Fleet Problem XVII.
Action in World War II
The S-46 saw little combat in World War II. She did spot two Japanese destroyers in May of 1942 in the area of Rabaul and the Duke of York Islands. On June 3, she began hunting along the northwest coast of New Britain, but developed motor trouble the following day and headed for Vitiaz Strait. On June 9, she was ordered to intercept Japanese destroyers though to be heading for Lae but the ships were never sighted. From October to December 1943 she did damage an enemy oiler in the Paramushiro area. During her second campaign from December 1943 through January 1944 she was scoreless.
After the War
The S-46 was awarded one battle star for her World War II service. She was decommissioned November 2, 1945, and her name was removed from the navy list two weeks later. Her hulk was sold for scrap to the Salco Iron and Metal Company in San Francisco in November of 1946.
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.