USS Sunfish SS-281 (1942-1960)

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This Gato-class submarine was laid down by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on May 2, 1942. She was commissioned on July 15, 1942, with Commander R. W. Peterson in command. She was sponsored by Mrs. J. W. Fowler and was the first U.S. vessel named for this fish.

Action in World War II

Following shakedown in the San Diego Bay area, the Sunfish returned to San Francisco for post-shakedown availability before shipping out to Pearl Harbor on October 26. She left for her first war patrol on November 23, patrolling off the coasts of Honshu and Hokkaido, Japan. After spreading a field of mines at the entrance to Iseno Imi on the night of December 16 and 17 and unsuccessfully attacking a freighter, she returned from this patrol on January 14, 1943, sailing to Midway Island.

Her second patrol took her into the East China Sea on February 4. It proved more successful, as she hit targets on March 4, two days later, and again on March 13, when she sunk the 3,262-ton Kosei Maru. Her third patrol brought her to the shipping lanes near Truk Atoll, though enemy shipping was not found. She then surveyed Anguar Island on May 23 and shelled a refinery on Fais Island five days later.

Her fourth patrol brought her to the waters off Formosa, where on August 13 she sank a tanker and watched a second ship explode. On September 4, she attacked a ten-ship convoy, sinking the Kozon Maru. She then returned for a refitting at Pearl Harbor, shipping out for an unsuccessful patrol of northeast Formosa. Her sixth patrol brought her to the shipping lanes between the Caroline and Mariana Islands where she made photographic reconnaissance of the area. On February 23, she attacked a convoy, sinking the Kunishima Maru and Shinyubari Maru for a total of 9,437 tons of enemy shipping. After returning to Pearl Harbor on March 7, she sailed to San Francisco for overhaul.

Following the completion of that overhaul in early June, she returned to Pearl Harbor for a June 22 patrol of the Kuril Island area. On July 5, she sank the passenger cargo ship, the Shanmai Maru, sinking a fleet of 14 sampans and trawlers with her deck guns the next day. On July 9, she sank the 6,284-ton cargo ship, Taihei Maru, before steaming to Midway for refit. Her eighth war patrol brought her to the Yellow Sea, where she sank the Chihaya Maru and damaged several other targets on September 10. Three days later she sighted another convoy and sank the Etashima Maru  and claimed damage on other targets.

Returning to the Yellow Sea on October 23 as part of a “wolf pack” with the Peto SS-265 and Spadefish SS-411, the Sunfish sank two ships on a convoy on November 17. The other wolf pack members sank four additional enemy vessels. On the 29th, Spadefish sank Daiboshi Maru, while the Sunfish sank the transport, Dairen Maru, the next day. When the patrol ended on December 19, 1944 at the Marshall Islands, the group had sunk a combined 59,000 tons of Japanese shipping.

After leaving for another patrol of the East China and Yellow Sea on January 15, 1945, she had to cut this deployment short after colliding with an unsighted ice floe, which bent both periscopes. On January 27, she entered Apra Harbor, Guam, for refit and repairs. Her 11th and final war patrol began on March 31 off Honshu and Hokkaido, where she operated in the approaches to Ominato in April. She damaged a ship on the 9th, though it escaped. After missing a merchantman target, she sank a transport and frigate on April 16. Three days later she exhausted her torpedo supply in the sinking of the Kaiko Maru and Taisei Maru. She then returned to Pearl Harbor, and the united States two days later.

After an overhaul, which took place from May 7 to July 31, she returned to Pearl Harbor on August 9 in preparation for another war patrol. However, hostilities with Japan ended and she left for the west coast, arriving at Mare Island on September 5. She was placed on the inactive list and decommissioned there on December 26, 1945, remaining in reserve until she was struck from the Navy list on May 1, 1960. The Sunfish was awarded nine battle stars for her service 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.


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