USS Scabbardfish SS-397 (1944-1965)

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The Scabbardfish SS-397, a 311′ 6″ Balao-class submarine, was laid down by the Portsmouth Navy Yard of Portsmouth, New Hampshire on September 27, 1943. Her launch date was January 27, 1944 and she was commissioned April 29, 1944. Her commander was Lt. Comdr. F.A. Gunn.

The Scabbardfish reported to New London, Connecticut, after completing initial training at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and torpedo trials at Newport, Rhode Island. She began anti-submarine warfare (ASW) duties at Key West, Florida, beginning June 21, 1944. From there, the Scabbardfish was assigned to Pearl Harbor, departing on July 1 via the Panama Canal.

Action in World War II

Arriving July 24, 1944, the Scabbardfish was assigned to the Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. On August 17, the submarine departed for Midway Island, then traveled to the Ryukyu Island area for her maiden war patrol. Her first sighting of enemy ships was August 31, where the submarine fired two, three torpedo spreads at an inter-island steamer and its escorts with no hits.

However, the Scabbardfish landed two hits on a 5,500-ton Jingei-class submarine tender west of Okinawa on September 19. Later attacking a Chidori-class escort with no hits, she suffered three hours of retaliatory depth charges without sustaining damage. Arriving at Midway October 12, the submarine left for Saipan two weeks later.

She departed for Honshu November 12, arriving four days later and scuttling a 2,100-ton inter-island steamer that same day. On November 22, she engaged Kisaragi Maru, sinking that vessel and later damaging a 4,000-ton freighter. November 28 saw the Scabbardfish engage the 1-365, a Japanese submarine, sinking it and rescuing only one survivor. Her patrol ended at Guam, December 20, 1944.

On January 16, 1945, Saipan bound, Scabbardfish started her third patrol. She patrolled the sea lanes from the Philippines to the Ryukyu Islands. While engaging a trawler, she was bombed by an enemy plane but did not sustain damage. After returning to Saipan, she was ordered to Pearl Harbor on March 6, 1945.

April 29, she headed for the East China Sea. Reassigned to the Life Guard League, May 4 she made her first rescue. May 17, she fired on a hunter-killer group, resulting in a retaliatory four-hour depth charge attack. She had no serious damage and returned to Guam on June 11.  Her fifth patrol began July 1 for the Life Guard League. Between July 25 and August 10, the Scabbardfish rescued seven. On August 15, with the cease fire in effect, she sailed to Pearl Harbor.

After the War

She was decommissioned in February 1948 but later placed back in commissioned in October 1964, receiving official transfer to the Royal Hellenic Navy of Greece on February 26, 1965. During her time as a vessel for Greece, she served as the Triana S 86. For service in World War II, Scabbardfish was awarded five 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.


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