USS Scorpion SS-278 (1942-1944)
The Scorpion SS-278, the fifth craft by that name, was commissioned on October 1st, 1942, under the command of Lieutenant Commander W. N. Wylie. She began her first war patrol on March 24th, 1943, following the installment of newer technology at Pearl Harbor. Her first operation was reconnaissance and mine-planting off the east coast of Honshu.
Action in World War II
TheScorpion saw a flurry of action in April of that year, sinking the Japanese gunboat Meji Maru No. 1 and four sampans within the space of three days. On April 27th the submarine was damaged while attacking a convoy of freighters, but successfully sank the merchant vessel Yuzan Maru. The next day Scorpion received orders to return home, and while en route to Pearl Harbor she engaged and destroyed two patrol vessels. During one of these engagements the crew suffered its first casualty when Lieutenant Commander R. M. Raymond was killed by gunfire.
After being fitted with new guns at Pearl Harbor, the Scorpion departed on her second war patrol, hunting the shipping lanes off Takara Jima, the Yellow Sea, and the Shantung Peninsula. The submarine successfully sank the Japanese freighter Anzan Maru and the cargo ship Kokutryu Maru, but received damage from retaliatory depth charging and was forced to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
On October 13th the Scorpion departed for her third war patrol, which consisted of reconnaissance of shipping lanes in the Marianas. Plagued by bad weather, the Scorpion had a difficult time finding targets and was unable to pursue the ships that she did find. On November 8th the submarine engaged a merchant ship that was actually a warship in disguise, and was forced to retreat. November 13th saw success at halting an oil tanker, but engagements throughout the remainder of the patrol were unsuccessful due to the weather. It returned to Pearl Harbor on December 5th.
Disappearance at Sea
TheScorpion departed for her fourth war patrol on January 3rd, 1944, heading for the shipping lanes in the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea. The last anyone heard from the submarine was on January 5th, when she attempted to transfer a wounded man to the Herring but failed because of the weather. The Scorpion continued on her way and was never heard from again. She was officially declared lost on March 6th, assumed to be the victim of a Japanese mine. The submarine was awarded three battle stars for its service in World War II.
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.