USS Sculpin SS-191 (1939-1943)
The USS Sculpin was an American submarine that saw heavy action during World War II. She engaged in nine war patrols before being damaged and eventually sunk by Japanese war ships. Built in the Navy yard in Kittery, Maine, the Sculpin was a Sargo class submarine weighing in at 1450 tons. She was commissioned in January of 1939 and spent the majority of that year working with the USS Squalus on salvage and rescue operations.
Action in World War II
In 1941 the Sculpin traveled to the Philippines, where she was stationed until the war in the Pacific began in December of that year. Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Sculpin set out on her first war patrol. During this patrol she damaged and possibly sank a Japanese vessel. At the end of her first war patrol she traveled to Java and then to Australia, where she would be stationed until 1943. While based out of Australia, the Sculpin made five more war patrols into enemy waters. During this time she managed to sink two Japanese ships as well as damage a light cruiser and a destroyer along with several other enemy ships.
In 1943 the Sculpin headed for the US west coast where she received an overhaul before being assigned to Pearl Harbor. From May to September of 1943 the Sculpin engaged in two more war patrols. During these patrols she sank a Japanese cargo ship, and inflicted damage on the Japanese carrier Hiyo. Following her eighth patrol she once more made port at Pearl Harbor for repairs and rearmament.
Destruction in the Central Pacific
The ninth and final patrol for the Sculpin began in November of 1943. She was to operate as part of a wolf pack under the command of John P. Cromwell. In mid November the Sculpin launched an attack on a Japanese convey in the Pacific. During the battle she was badly damaged by depth charges, and was forced to surface, and engaged the enemy with gunfire. Her commanding officer and several seamen were killed during the battle. After the surviving crew members had escaped the badly damaged sub Cromwell made the decision to ride the sub down to avoid jeopardizing military secrets. He was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his actions.
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.