Laid down by the Mare Island Navy Yard of Vallejo, California, this Sargo-class submarine was the first to be named for this type of fish. She was sponsored by Mrs. Claude C. Bloch, wife of Admiral Bloch who was Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet, and commanded by Lt. Chester C. Smith. She was commissioned on July 22, 1939.
Action in World War II
After shakedown in the Pacific and post-shakedown repairs at Mare Island, the Swordfish operated out of San Diego, California until early 1941, when she set sail for Pearl Harbor. Along with three other United States submarines, she left Pearl Harbor on November 22 and arrived at Manila, Philippine Islands. She remained there until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. She sailed on her first war patrol the following day, traveling off the coast of Hainan, China. After doing damage to enemy vessels shortly after arriving, on December 16 she sank her first vessel, an enemy cargo ship called the Atsutasan Maru. She then headed for Soerabaja, Java, arriving on January 7, 1942.
Her second war patrol began on January 16, taking her to the Celebes Sea and the Philippines. On January 24, she sank by torpedo the cargo ship, Myoken Maru, off Kema, Celebes Islands. On February 20, she rescued the President of the Philippines and his family, taking them to San the Philippine Islands on the 22nd for transfer to another vessel. She returned to Manila Bay, finishing that patrol by landing at Fremantle, Australia on March 9.
Her third patrol’s primary mission was to deliver 40 tons of provisions to the island of Corregidor, though it fell to the Japanese before this could happen. She was then ordered to patrol around Ambon Island, which yielded no acceptable targets. She then returned to Fremantle, sailing on her fourth patrol from that port on May 15 for the South China Sea. On May 29, she sank a 1,900-ton cargo ship and was in the Gulf of Siam on June 12, where she sank the cargo ship, Burma Maru, by torpedo. She returned to Fremantle on July 4.
After undergoing an unproductive fifth war patrol in the Sulu Sea and another unproductive sixth patrol in the Solomon Islands, her seventh war patrol saw her sink the 4,122-ton cargo ship, Myoho Maru, on January 19, 1943. She then returned to Pearl Harbor on February 23, undergoing overhaul that lasted until July 29, when she left for her eighth war patrol.
On August 22, she sank the cargo ship, Nishiyama Maru, with two torpedoes. On September 5, she damaged a large tanker before sinking another cargo ship, the Tenkai Maru. She ended this patrol at Brisbane, Australia on September 20. After reaching her assigned patrol area for her ninth patrol, material defects in the vessel were noticed and she had to return to port after only three weeks at sea.
Her tenth patrol took her to the Tokyo Bay the day after Christmas, 1943. She sank the passenger-cargo ship, Yamakuni Maru, on January 14, 1944, and the converted gunboat, Delhi Maru, two days later. She then sank a converted salvage vessel, the Kasagi Maru, with two torpedoes on January 27. She returned to Pearl Harbor on February 7, staying there until March 13 and her 11th war patrol, which yielded several enemy hits but no confirmed sinking.
Her 12th patrol brought her to the area of the Bonin Islands, where on June 9 she sank the Japanese destroyer, Matsukaze, with two torpedoes. On June 15, she sank the cargo ship, Kanseishi Maru, by torpedo, while the remainder of the patrol was unproductive. She ended this deployment on June 30 at Pearl Harbor.
Her 13th war patrol saw her operate in the vicinity of Nansei Shoto. On 2 January 1945, she was ordered to patrol clear of the Nansei Shoto area until completion of scheduled air strikes and she acknowledged receipt of these orders on January 3. However, no further communication was received from the Swordfish and on February 15, after repeated attempts to contact her by radio failed, she was reported as presumed lost, the victim of unknown causes. The Swordfish received eight 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.