USS Sea Cat SS-399 (1944-1968)
The USS Sea Cat was an American submarine that operated from 1944 to 1968. The Balao class sub earned three battle stars for service during World War II before being reassigned to the Atlantic fleet where she would finish her time. The USS Sea Cat, built in Portsmouth New Hampshire, was formally commissioned in May of 1944. After her initial shakedown and training was completed the Sea Cat traveled south, through the Panama Canal, to join the Pacific Fleet.
Action in World War II
During the Sea Cat’s first war patrol she journeyed into the South China Sea and operated as part of a wolf pack. During this war patrol the Sea Cat launched torpedoes at a pair of Japanese merchant ships. Initial reports claimed that both ships sank; however, post war documentation could not confirm this. At the end of the patrol the Sea Cat headed to Guam to refit before beginning her second war patrol in February of 1945.
During her second war patrol the Sea Cat once more operated as part of a wolf pack, patrolling the East China Sea. During this patrol the Sea Cat engaged the enemy on two different occasions, damaging one vessel with surface gunfire and possibly sinking the second. At the termination of this patrol the Sea Cat traveled to Midway for rearmament.
Her third war patrol took the Sea Cat into the Yellow Sea where she damaged and sank a number of enemy ships. She took on two prisoners before making way to Pearl Harbor. The Sea Cat’s fourth patrol took her into waters near the Kurils; however, she soon received word of the end of the war and was ordered to Tokyo Bay to attend the formal surrender of the Japanese. After the ceremony she traveled to Guam, then San Diego, and finally arrived at San Francisco to receive an overhaul.
After the War
After being overhauled, the Sea Cat joined the Atlantic Fleet. She was originally stationed in Balboa; however, by 1949 her home port was moved to Key West. After a short stay in Key West she was redirected to the Philadelphia harbor where a number of experimental changes were made. The Sea Cat spent her remaining days operating in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. She made one trip to the Mediterranean in her twilight years before being decommissioned in 1968. In May of 1973 the Sea Cat was sold as scrap.
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.