The USS Spikefish SS-404 was a Balao-class submarine that was laid down on January 29, 1944 by the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. She was commissioned in June 1944 with Commander N. J. Nicholas in command.
Spikefish completed training services in the Portsmouth-New London area before assuming her first war patrol in the Kuril Islands and the Sea of Okhotsk. During this time she never sighted an enemy ship and was called back to Midway Island in January of 1945. Following a few other relatively unsuccessful attempts she was placed under the command of Cdr. Robert R. Managhan and sailed alongside Dragonet (SS-293) where she was to assume lifeguard station duties off the coast of Formosa.
In late May of 1945, Spikefish’s orders placed her at a station off Sakishima Gunto where she was to act as a lifeguard for carrier planes in the area. During this time she was able to open fire on the Miyara airstrip located on Ishigaki Jima. Two days later she rescued a downed pilot whose plane had crashed after taking off from the escort carrier, Sargent Bay (CVE-83).
Spikefish’s last war patrol started off in the Yellow Sea and included lifeguard duty off Shanghai. On July 24, 1945 she bombarded Surveyor Island, off the China coast, hoping to destroy an enemy radar station. Later, in that same location, Spikefish was victorious in sinking a small Japanese cargo ship with gunfire, bringing aboard three survivors. On August 13th, southeast of Shanghai, Spikefish made radar contact with a surfaced submarine. After establishing that the vessel was Japanese, Spikefish fired six torpedoes, effectively sinking the sub. The sole survivor of the attack was brought on board and able to identify the enemy submarine as I-373; the last Japanese sub to be sunk in World War II.
After the War
Following Japanese surrender, the order to cease all attacks was given, and Spikefish delivered her prisoners to Saipan before making her way to Pearl Harbor. She was in dry dock at the Portsmouth Navy Yard from November 1, 1945 to February 15, 1946. After dry docking she returned to her home port in New London where she was assigned to Submarine Squadron 2, aiding in the training of personnel of the submarine school. On March 18, 1980 Spikefish became the first United States submarine to record 10,000 dives. She was re-designated as Auxiliary Research Submarine AGSS-404 in 1962. In 1963 she was decommissioned and struck from the Navy Vessel Register and later sunk as a target off Long Island. USS Spikefish received three battle stars for her services in World War II.
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.