USS Tambor SS-198 (1940-1945)

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USS Tambor was the lead ship of the Tambor-class submarines, a class that formed the core of the United States Navy’s Pacific submarine fleet at the time of the U.S. entry into World War II. She was commissioned on June 3, 1940 with Lieutenant Commander John M. Murpy, Jr., in command.


Before being placed on war patrols, Tambor was the first sub in the United States Navy to conduct live-fire trials concerning the effectiveness of depth charges. Tambor was conducting a routine peace time patrol of Wake Island when World War II broke out. Tambor conducted a total of twelve war patrols, earning her eleven battle stars for service.

On Tambor’s third war patrol she was credited with 5,800 tons of enemy ships postwar, and 2,500 tons during her fourth. On her fifth patrol Tambor sailed the Sunda Strait between Krakatau and Thartway Island. In an act of aggression rarely demonstrated by submarines, Tambor attacked an enemy destroyer on January 1, 1943. Although torpedoes missed this target, Tambor was still credited with a hit during this deployment because of earlier laid mines. Tambor’s other patrols included one in which she was part of the special mission known as “MacArthur’s Guerillas.” It took place in the Philippine Islands, and involved landing a small party headed by Lt. Cdr. Charles Parsons on southern Mindanao with various rounds of ammunition and $10,000 in currency.

Tambor’s 12th and final patrol sent her to Saipan as one of six members of the wolf pack “Burt’s Brooms.” There Tambor engaged in fire, utilizing her deck guns, sinking her target and taking prisoners of war from the water. After this patrol Tambor was retired from combat.


Following training operations with navy patrol aircraft under Fleet Air Wing 6, Tambor was decommissioned and placed in reserve on December 10, 1945 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. In April 1947, the sub was assigned to the Ninth naval District so she could help train naval reservists in Detroit, Michigan. Upon inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey in 1959, Tambor was labeled unfit for further naval service and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on September 1st; after which she was sold for scrap.

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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