USS Tigrone SS-419 (1944-1975)
This Balao-class submarine was laid down on May 8, 1944 and launched by the Portsmouth Navy Yard on July 20, 1944. Sponsored by Mrs. Charles F. Grisham, she was commissioned on October 25, 1944 and placed in the command of Commander Hiram Cassedy. Following her fitting out and training, she left her New London base for training at the Fleet Sound School and Panama before sailing to Pearl Harbor. On the way to the Pacific base, she conducted extensive practice approach exercises with Riverside APA-102.
Action in World War II
After arriving at Guam on March 19, undergoing a three-day main engine repair, she led a combined attack group which included Bullhead SS-332, Blackfish SS-221 and Seahorse SS-304. They set sail for the South China Sea, forming a scouting line in the hopes of intercepting Japanese shipping. Although the Seahorse was accidently strafed by a friendly bomber, the Tigrone first experienced combat as she was forced to dive to avoid an enemy plane and felt the shock of a small bomb. She emerged unscathed.
After unsuccessfully attempting to intercept an enemy convoy, on April 3 she began lifeguard duties off the eastern shore of Hainan, evading another enemy bomb on the 5th. Three days later, she assumed a lifeguard station off Kuannan. She narrowly avoided an enemy submarine’s torpedo while there, submerging for over two hours to avoid further risk. She continued lifeguard patrols off Mofu Point and continued patrols off Hainan until the April 15. On the following day, she bombarded Pratas Reef with 5-inch gunfire, joining Rock SS-274 three days later to fire on targets which included towns and docks on Batan Island. She ended her first war patrol on April 24, 1945 at Guam.
Following refitting by Apollo AS-25, Tigrone left Apra Harbor on May 19 to take on torpedoes at Saipan the same day. On May 20, she got underway for her assigned area, sighting Sofu Gan Island and Tori Shima before taking up her lifeguard station south of Honshu and west of the Nanpo Shoto on May 25. She also rescued a downed pilot from the 19th Fighter Command, Iwo Jima, on the same day. Early on May 27, she engaged in surface fire with a Japanese lugger, which countered the submarine’s 5-inch and 40-millimeter fire with machinegun fire. She eventually stopped the Japanese vessel in her tracks and set her on fire with her 5-inch fire.
On May 28, she rescued five Navy bomber crew members, proving her skills as a rescue vessel even more over the next few days, responding to frequent calls for aid and rescuing 23 men from the Philippine Sea. She also rescued 16 survivors, the crew and passengers from a Catalina Sea plane which had attempted to make a rescue operation of its own but hit a wave with its nose during takeoff. On May 30, she rescued seven Army aviators who were stranded in her lifeguard area on a raft. In her message explaining she was returning to Iwo Jima with her rescued men, she noted that she had set a new lifeguard proficiency record.
Following shipping out on June 1, she was forced to ask for reassignment to lifeguard duties because a persistent scraping noise around her starboard shaft made normal submarine patrol and attack functions hazardous, if not impossible. Joining the “Lifeguard league” while operating south of Honshu, she recued a downed aviator only minutes after his parachute deployed. During the next two days, she took on rescued aviators from other submarines, setting her course for Guam on June 28. She ended her second war patrol on July 3 at Apra Harbor, with a total of 30 aviators rescued on this war patrol.
She left Guam on July 31 after a refit, stopping for torpedoes before arriving on lifeguard station. When within 100 miles of Honshu, she received the news that Russia had declared war on Japan. Despite the first word of Japanese surrender on August 11, she continued her lifeguard duties, bombarding Mikomoto Island on August 13, which the submarine claimed as the final bombardment of the war. On the following day, she rescued another downed aviator.
She received final orders to cease all attacks on August 15 and, the next day, the official statement of Japan’s surrender was published. Patrolling off the east coast of Japan, on August 30 she rendezvoused with “Benny’s Peacemakers” and, the following day, moored in Tokyo Bay. She left Tokyo on September 2, making her way via Hawaii and the Canal Zone to New London, where she arrived in early October 1945.
After the War
After visiting Washington, D.C. and reporting to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for preservation procedures preparatory to inactivation, she was placed out of commission and on reserve on March 30, 1946. After her hull classification symbol was changed to SSR-419, radar picket submarine, on April 12, 1948, she was converted at Portsmouth and recommissioned on November 1, 1948. After shakedown, she prepared for her new duties as an Arctic radar picket, joining Submarine Division 62 operating out of Norfolk to begin activities evaluating new radar equipment and techniques for long range air defense that summer. Operating in the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea and completing five Mediterranean Sea deployments with both American and NATO forces, she continued in this role until 1957. She was again decommissioned later that year and berthed at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
After re-designation to SS-419 in February 1961, she was recommissioned in March 1962, undergoing overhaul and conversion before reporting to New London for refresher training on September 22. After shakedown in Puerto Rico, she returned to New London, remaining there until her operation in the Mediterranean from April through August 1963. After conducting local operations after that cruise, she was redesignated an auxiliary submarine with hull classification symbol AGSS-419 on December 1, 1963. Following refitting with an experimental sonar unit in early 1964, she spent the remainder of that year operating in conjunction with the Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory and the Submarine School, testing and evaluating the new equipment.
Another overhaul and installation of more experimental sonar equipment followed in 1965. She was then assigned primarily to data collection and sonar and acoustic tests in connection with the Brass program. She operated out of New London, conducting underwater systems tests as well as research in sound propagation, duties which would constitute the remainder of her service. 1968 saw her visit Britain and the Norwegian Sea, conduct antisubmarine warfare exercises and train reserves. Joining with submarine HMS Grampus in early 1972 for a joint American-British oceanographic operation in the eastern Atlantic, her research missions continued. She then operated occasionally in the Caribbean Sea, taking part in Operation “Springboard” in 1973 and 1974. On October 25, 1974, she observed her 30th anniversary of commissioning. She resumed her research off the east coast into 1975.
On June 27, 1975, she was decommissioned at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut, at the time being the oldest submarine in commission in the United States Navy, as well as the last unit of the submarine force still in operation to have participated in combat action in World War II. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on that same day, and she was sunk as a target on October 25, 1976. Tigrone received two 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.