USS Tirante SS-420 (1944-1973)
Laid down by the Portsmouth navy yard on April 28, 1944, the Triante was launched on August 9 of that year. Sponsored by Mrs. William B. Sieglaff, wife of Comdr. Sieglaff, she was commissioned on November 6, 1944 and put in the charge of Lt. Comdr. George L. Street III.
Action in World War II
Following shakedown in Long Island and further training off Panama and Oahu, Hawaii, she left Pearl Harbor on March 3, 1945 for Japan’s home waters. While patrolling approaches to Nagasaki, she first sank the 703-ton tanker Fuji Maru on March 25 and followed this success with the sinking of the 1,218-ton freighter Nase Maru three days later. She escaped the second attack despite counter attacks from Japanese escorts.
She sank a 70-ton lugger with 5-inch and 40-millimeter gunfire on March 31, following that up with the capture of a Japanese fishing vessel, which she took the crew prisoner from and sank. The next day she torpedoed a 2,800-ton cargo freighter loaded with a deck cargo of oil drums, which post-war examination of Japanese records failed to confirm as a "kill."
After the breaking of Japanese codes, the American Navy was able to anticipate the enemy’s movements, leading to an April 9 ambush that sunk the 5,500-ton transport, Nikko Maru, which was carrying homeward-bound Japanese soldiers and sailors from Shanghai. Although she heard another of her torpedoes strike one of the escorts taking actions against her, post-war accounting again failed to confirm this sinking.
After she received an intelligence report informing her that an important Japanese transport was at Cheju, the main port on Quelpart Island, she entered the harbor to find three targets. After sinking the maru with three torpedoes, the two escort vessels pursued her out of the harbor. While heading back to sea, she fired a spread of torpedoes that sank both vessels. She captured two Japanese airmen on her way back to midway, concluding a successful first war patrol on April 25. Comdr. Street was awarded the Medal of Honor for that performance, while Lt. Edward L. Beach, the executive officer and later commander of Triton SSRN-586, received the Navy Cross.
Leaving Midway on May 20 as the command ship in a nine-boat wolfpack, known as "Street's Sweepers," the vessels patrolled the Yellow and East China Seas on the lookout for enemy targets. Despite dwindling enemy targets, on June 11 she encountered an enemy convoy, sinking an 800-ton cargo freighter, although Japanese records again did not confirm this sinking. The next day she again made a daring harbor performance, as she crept into Ha Shima harbor, some seven miles from Nagasaki and sank the 2,200-ton Hakuju Maru, moored alongside a colliery.
She resumed her patrols, disrupting Japanese shipping between Korea and Japan, destroying junks carrying supplies from Korea to the Japanese home islands. Along with destroying many of these vessels, she also sank two heavily armed picket boats with surface gunfire before returning to Guam on July 19. Departing Guam on August 12 for what would have been her third war patrol, the ending of the war sent her back to Midway on August 23.
After the War
After mooring at the Washington Navy Yard, Commander Street received his Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony. On October 31, she was sent to the east coast, eventually being decommissioned and placed in reserve at her Connecticut home port on July 6, 1946. She was recommissioned on November 26, 1952, after being converted to greater underwater propulsive power (GUPPY) configuration. Following shakedown in Bermuda and operation in the Atlantic as far north as Iceland, the submarine returned to the east coast to prepare for her first deployment with the 6th Fleet.
For the next twenty years, Tirante made six more Mediterranean deployments, broken with regularly-schedule exercises and maneuvers with Fleet units in the North Atlantic, off the east coast and in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. During this period she also participated in joint exercises with NATO forces, occasionally served as a target for antisubmarine warfare exercises, and at times assisted the Fleet Sonar School at Key West, Florida in the development of ASW tactics and weapons.
She was decommissioned and struck from the Navy List on October 1, 1973 at Key West. She was sold to Union Minerals and Alloys of New York for scrapping on April 11, 1974. Tirante was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and two battle stars for her World War II service.
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.