USS Tilefish was a Balao-class submarine, a class used for service during World War II that was the largest class of submarines in the United States Navy. She was commissioned on December 28, 1943 with Lieutenant Commander Roger Myers Keithly in command.
Tilefish was involved in a total of seven war patrols. She received five battle stars for her service in World War II and one battle star for service in the Korean War. During her first war patrol Tilefish made a determined attack against a small convoy in what is known as the “Hit Parade” area east of Honshu. She was able to score a hit before being driven under in order to avoid depth charges. The sub was able to dive to 580 feet which was well below test depth in order to evade her pursuers. Tilefish’s subsequent patrols included both surfaced and submerged attacks in which she was credited with taking out various enemy ships.
Tilefish was also involved in other activities during her patrols including conducting lifeguard duties, participating in search and rescue missions, and taking part in wolf pack exercises. These wolf pack exercises required Tilefish to take part in live load training that used the hulk of former SS Schuyler Colfax as a target. During the period of time between January 1947 and September 1950 Tilefish operated out of California ports in which she conducted underway training and took part in fleet exercises off the West Coast.
After World War II
From the end of September 1950 through March 24, 1951, Tilefish conducted patrols in Korean waters in support of the United Nations campaign in Korea. She was charged with reporting Soviet seaborne activity to Commander, Naval Forces Far East, by performing reconnaissance patrols of La Perouse Strait. Prior to inactivation, Tilefish took four geophysicists from the Hydrographic Office on board in order to complete submerged surveys of Eniwetok, Wake, and Midway Island, operating at sea for almost three months. She was decommissioned on October 12, 1959 before undergoing overhaul at the San Francisco Naval Yard, after which she was re-commissioned on January 30, 1960. She was decommissioned for the last time in May of 1960. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on December 1, 1960 and sold to the Venezuelan government.
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.