USS Stickleback SS-415 (1945-1958)
The USS Stickleback was a Balao-class submarine that was commissioned on March 22, 1945 with Commander Lawrence G. Bernard in command. The Balao-class subs were the largest class of submarine in the United States Navy, whose design was used during World War II.
Stickleback reported for duty on June 21st to Commander, Submarines, Pacific Fleet from which she sailed to Guam. Her first war patrol began on August 6th when she departed Sea of Japan. Stickleback’s war patrol was extremely short, lasting only two days, when the cease-fire order was given in light of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After World War II
Stickleback arrived back in the United States at the port in San Francisco, California as a unit of Admiral William F. Halsey’s Third Fleet. She was a participant in the Navy Day celebration before being decommissioned at Mare Island on June 26, 1946. While decommissioned the first time, Stickleback was attached to the Pacific Reserve Fleet. She was re-commissioned in September of that same year after which she served as a training ship off San Diego, California. In November of 1952 she entered the Mare Island Shipyard once again in order to be converted to a snorkel, or GUPPY 11A, type submarine. Once her revisions were completed the ship joined Submarine Squadron 7 at Pearl Harbor. Stickleback’s other post-war operations included supporting the United Nations forces in Korea, participating in training operations, and aiding in the development of both defensive and offensive submarine tactics.
In May of 1958, Stickleback was engaging in an antisubmarine warfare exercise with destroyer Silverstein DE-534 and a torpedo retriever boat in Hawaiian waters. Upon completing a simulated torpedo run on Silverstein, Stickleback lost power while attempting to dive to a safe depth. Her loss of power caused her to broach the water just ahead of a destroyer escort. Despite attempts by Silverstein to avoid a collision Stickleback was holed on her port side. The crew was safely evacuated by a retriever boat, but despite the efforts made by Silverstein, Sabalo SS-302, Sturtevant DE-239, and Greenlet ASR-10, Stickleback’s compartments flooded and she sunk to 1,800 fathoms. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on June 30, 1958.
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.