USS Silversides SS-236 (1941-1946)
First to be named for a small fish marked with a silver stripe along each side of its body, the USS Silversides was a gato-class submarine launched August of 1941. She was sponsored by Mrs. Elizabeth H, Hogan and commissioned on December 15, 1941 with Lieutenant Commander Creed C. Burlingame in command.
World War II Service
On her first war patrol she sailed toward the Japanese home islands in the area of Kii Suido. On May 10, 1942 she shot her gun and damaged a Japanese gunboat. One of her crew, Mike Harbin, fell victim to the 75-minute attack and was later buried at sea.
On May 17, she approached a target and fired three torpedoes at it. The 4,000 ton cargo ship began to sink as she took action against a second enemy vessel. The second cargo ship was hit but its fate was undetermined. On her second war patrol she sank a 4,000 ton transport and then a passenger cargo ship, Nikkei Maru on August 8 1942.
In January of 1943, Silversides sank tanker Toei Maru, but that was the beginning of a very busy week at sea. Two days later Silversides fired torpedoes at overlapping targets and sank three enemy ships. The attack was barely over when the crew realized that a torpedo was stuck in a forward torpedo tube. Since it was impossible to disarm the torpedo, the ship officer decided to re-fire it, a very dangerous procedure which they pulled off safely. That night, Silversides left her war patrol two days early after a discovery of a serious oil leak.
Silversides seventh to tenth war patrols were all very successful and she sunk many enemy ships. While her eleventh patrol wasn’t considered productive, she did aid in the rescue of a stricken sister submarine. Her twelfth war patrol found her very few targets but she did find one worthwhile target and to their disadvantage, the crew slammed home torpedoes to sink that 4,556 ton cargo ship named Malay maru.
Silversides was decommissioned on April 17, 1946 and June 30 of 1969 her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register. She is now preserved as a museum ship in Muskegon Michigan.
Asbestos and 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.