USS Sawfish SS-276 (1942-1960)
The Sawfish, a 311′ 9″ Gato-class submarine, was laid down at the Portsmouth Navy Yard on January 20, 1942. She was launched June 23 and commissioned August 26. In command was Lt. Comdr. Eugene T. Sands.
Action in World War II
The Sawfish headed for Pearl Harbor on January 21, 1943 after shakedown off Portsmouth, in Narragansett Bay. Her first war patrol began January 31. Patrolling off southwestern Japan, the Sawfish engaged several targets, but sank none. Her patrol ended March 25 at Midway.
Her second patrol began April 15, back in Japanese waters, patrolling off the coast of Honshu. On May 5 she sank converted gunboat Hakkai Maru and ended up at Pearl Harbor on June 6. Her third patrol commenced June 30 in the South China Sea. On July 27th, after successfully firing a four torpedo spread on a convoy escorted by a 720-ton minelayer, the Sawfish went deep. Returning to periscope depth revealed minelayer Hirashima sinking, but the convoy escaped.
September 10 began her fourth patrol in the Sea of Japan. She returned to Midway October 16. Her fifth patrol brought her to the Bonins on November 1. She sank Sansei Maru, a 3,267-ton passenger-cargo ship on December 8, returning to Midway December 19, then to Hunter’s Point Navy Yard, San Francisco, for overhaul.
On April 8, 1944, Sawfish headed for Japanese waters, her sixth patrol. She attacked a cargo ship April 25 but did not sink it. Her seventh patrol, beginning June 22, saw her join the Rock (SS-274) and the Tilefish (SS-307) and commence wolfpack operations. In Philippine waters, on July 26th, she fired a four torpedo spread, sinking Japanese submarine 1-29. She returned to Pearl Harbor on August 15.
Departing Pearl Harbor September 9 under Comdr. Alan B. Banister, the Sawfish joined the Drum (SS-228) and the Icefish (SS-367) in wolfpack maneuvers south of Formosa, inflicting heavy damage on enemy shipping. The Sawfish sank tanker Tachibana Maru on October 9 and seaplane tender Kimikawa Maru on October 23, also serving as lifeguard supporting carrier raids. On October 16 she rescued a downed pilot, returning to Majuro on November 8.
On December 17, the Sawfish returned to Formosa waters, performing lifeguard duty and rescuing a pilot on January 21, 1945. She then harbored at Apra Harbor February 4. In March, she was assigned as lifeguard off Nansei Shoto near Okinawa. After overhaul in San Francisco, she sailed for Hawaii, receiving the news of hostilities ending August 15.
After the War
The Sawfish was decommissioned in June 1946 and struck from the Navy list April 1, 1960, then scrapped. For service in World War II, Sawfish was awarded eight battle stars.
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.