USS Spearfish SS-190 (1939-1946)

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USS Spearfish is a Sargo-class submarine, which was the first line of submarines sent into action after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Her keel was laid down in 1937 by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut. She was commissioned on July 17, 1939 with Lieutenant C.E. Tolman, Jr., in command.


Prior to her service in World War II Spearfish conducted sea trials in the waters off New London, Connecticut and underwent and overhaul at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine until February 2, 1940. After that she conducted training operations in San Diego, California before sailing to Pearl Harbor. Her first war patrol took her to the South China Sea, where she attempted a submerged attack against a Japanese submarine that did not result in a hit. During her third war patrol, which took her to the Sulu Sea and the Lingayen Gulf, Spearfish was successful in sinking her first cargo ship. This was followed up with the sinking of a 6,995-ton freighter less than two weeks later.

Spearfish participated in a total of 12 war patrols, receiving ten battle stars for her service. Along with targeting enemy ships, Spearfish’s numerous deployments included acting as a lifeguard submarine for air strikes, various training exercises, a photographic reconnaissance survey, and offensive patrols.

After Service

Spearfish returned to Pearl Harbor on January 24, 1945, where she was used as a training ship until mid-August. From there she went underway to the West Coast bound for Mare Island. Once at Mare Island a Board of Inspection and Survey recommended decommissioning her immediately, as well as scrapping. It was decided she would retained in an inactive status in order to be used for experimental explosive testing, which were eventually canceled. Spearfish was decommissioned June 22, 1946 and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on July 19, 1946. Not too long after she was sold to the Lerner Company of Oakland, California where she was finally scrapped.

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.

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