The USS Sailfish, originally named Squalus, was one of the most active and decorated submarines during World War II. The sub was awarded nine battle stars for service during the war and also received and Presidential Unit Citation in honor of outstanding performance on the 10th of her 12 war patrols.
The Sailfish was built in 1937 as a diesel attack sub. The ship was commissioned in March of 1939 before conducting test dives off the coast of Portsmouth. In May of 1939 the Sailfish (Squalus) sank after the main induction valve failed and caused flooding. This accident killed 26 men, while 33 survivors were rescued. Near the end of 1939 the ship was re-floated in one of the most difficult salvages in naval history. She was repaired, and refitted early in 1940. After the repairs were completed she was officially given the name Sailfish and was recommissioned by September of that year.
Action in World War II
The Sailfish traveled to Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal in early 1941, then traveled to Manila before the Pearl Harbor attacks. After the attack, the Sailfish departed Manila to begin her first war patrol.
During her first seven patrols the Sailfish had confirmed one sinking and engaged several enemy ships. She returned to Pearl Harbor in January of 1943, then traveled to Mare Island for an overhaul. After the overhaul her eighth tour began. During this tour the Sailfish sank two Japanese vessels and escaped an intensive counterattack before heading to Midway for repairs.
Her ninth war patrol remained relatively quiet and the ship eventually returned to Pearl Harbor to be refitted and repaired. After leaving Pearl Harbor the Sailfish embarked on what would be her most successful war patrol. The tenth patrol of the Sailfish was marked by the sinking of three Japanese vessels, as well as an escape from a Japanese fighter plane. On the fourth of December in 1943, the sailfish attacked and sank a Japanese carrier southeast of Yokosuka. Three days later the sub attacked a pair of freighters south of Kyushu, sinking one of them. She sank one more Japanese freighter before ending her tenth patrol and returning to Pearl Harbor.
After the War
The Sailfish would make two more war patrols before finally returning to the States for the last time in December of 1944. The ship was decommissioned in 1945 and sat idle until 1948 when she was scrapped and sold.
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.