USS Sea Poacher SS-406 (1944-1969)
The USS Sea Poacher was launched on May 20, 1944 at the Navy shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, seeing its commissioning in July. The Balao-class submarine underwent a number of trials and training for the crew in Portsmouth and New London, Connecticut area before being sent through the Panama Canal to its final destination, Pearl Harbor.
Action in World War II
The first two war patrols for the USS Sea Poacher were unproductive but during the third patrol, the Sea Poacher torpedoed a Japanese trawler, sinking the ship near the Kuril Islands. The next patrol was just as successful, as two fishing boats were sank during the cruise via a surface attack. The USS Sea Poacher was not without its malfunctions though. During another patrol, three members of the crew were injured when one of the 20 millimeter guns exploded. As a result, the patrol was terminated and the submarine returned to its station at Midway.
After a fourth patrol off the eastern coast of Japan, the USS Sea Poacher returned to Pearl Harbor where work was done to the submarine. However, while undergoing maintenance, World War II ended.
After the war
After the war ended, the Sea Poacher was based at Balboa, Canal Zone to engage in fleet exercises and training with Submarine Squadron 6. In June 1949, the Sea Poacher was transferred to Key West, Florida and in 1951 the submarine became the first Guppy IA conversion performed by members of the Charleston Naval Shipyard.
For the rest of her career, the Sea Poacher operated around Key West and around the Caribbean. While stationed there, the Sea Poacher provided aid to units of the Atlantic Fleet, while also completing various exercises with NATO forces. In July 1952, while operating near the Keys, the Sea Poacher rescued a blimp that suffered an engine failure and was floating helplessly. The submarine helped tow the blimp back to the mainland.
In 1969, the Sea Poacher finished its service with a deployment to the Northeastern Atlantic to act in antisubmarine training exercises with the Spanish and Portuguese navies. Once back to the Keys, the submarine operated locally in the Caribbean until October. The Sea Poacher was decommissioned in November 1969 and assigned to a reserve fleet in Philadelphia. In July of 1974, after decommission, the submarine was sold to Peru. During its time of service, the USS Sea Poacher received four battle stars for its World War II service.
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.