The USS Tiru, a Balao-class diesel-electric submarine, was laid down by the Mare Island Navy Yard in April 1944, though she remained unfinished because the end of World War II brought the close of the submarine building program. After the Navy decided to convert the Tiru as a Greater Underwater Propulsive Power snorkel boat, or Guppy, her design was altered and she was finished with these improvements. She was launched in September 1947 and commissioned a year later, with Commander Charles N. G. Hendricks in command.
After training and trials, she sailed to Pearl Harbor, her home port, to join her squadron. She then made a snorkel voyage to the west coast before making her first Western Pacific deployment to the Far East, operating in support of United Nations forces battling Korean hostilities. She returned to Pearl Harbor on November 26, 1951, and then made her second WestPac deployment in February 1952.
Four additional WestPac deployments followed from 1952 to 1959, along with several local operations, such as her services for antisubmarine warfare (ASW) exercises and type-training. After her seventh WestPac tour with the 7th Fleet, ending in April 1959, she underwent major overhaul at Pearl Harbor, which included significant upgrades to her internal equipment and alterations to her external appearance.
After her FRAM/Guppy III conversion, she conducted local Pearl Harbor operations until deploying for another 7th Fleet deployment in November 1960. Local operations occupied her from the end of that trip until early 1962, when she was again was deployed to WestPac in March and April before returning to Hawaiian waters on May 3. Operating with a carrier task force on ASW “hunter-killer” exercises the next month, a torpedo malfunction damaged the ship, overcoming 18 men with toxic gases. For their quick reaction, four men aboard the ship were awarded Navy and Marine Corps medals.
Three more WestPac deployments through 1965 followed, and then the Tiru returned to local operations. She underwent another extensive overhaul late that year, departing in June 1966 for the Naval Torpedo Station at Keyport, Washington, for an alignment and testing of her weapon system after sea trials. She then headed back to Pearl Harbor, sailing to Brisbane, Australia. After conducting ASW exercises in the Coral Sea with warships of the Australian, British, New Zealand, and United States Navies, she returned to Brisbane.
On November 2, 1966, sailing for Subic Bay, Philippine Islands, she ran aground on Frederick Reef. She could not escape the predicament by her own power and had to be rescued by two vessels. She returned to Brisbane for dry-docking, damage estimates and emergency repairs. She then sailed for the United States Naval Ship Repair Facility, Yokosuka, Japan, entering drydock for restricted availability.
On January 9, 1967, she left for Chin Hae, Korea, and while in transit provided services for an Iwakuni-based patrol plane squadron. She then operated with Republic of Korea (ROK) ASW forces from January 15 through 17, returning to Yokosuka for more upkeep after. Special operations in the area followed, before she returned for additional upkeep. She then sailed for a “Yankee Station” deployment off Vietnam, later operating with Nationalist Chinese forces on ASW exercises, conducting additional special operations, and again providing services for patrol plane squadrons based at Iwakuni. She returned to Hawaii on May 15, 1967.
1967 saw her operate in local operations around Pearl Harbor, while she commenced 1968 as a unit of Submarine Division (SubDiv) 72, SubRon 7, and Submarine Flotilla (SubFlot) 5. She was then transferred to operational control of Commander, 7th Fleet, and saw her home port changed to Yokosuka, Japan. She left the western Pacific on October 4, transiting the Vietnam war zone before seeing her homeport switch to San Francisco, California, and her unit change to SubDiv 52, SubRon 5, SubFlot 1.
After overhaul and local operations until late 1969, she made another WestPac deployment. Transferring to the command of the Commander, 7th Fleet, on December 6, she arrived at Yokosuka on December 10. Five days later, she began special operations which lasted into 1970. After participating in Exercise “Sea Rover,” she headed back to the United States. On her return, she heard of a search and rescue (SAR) operation underway to look for and rescue survivors of a small craft which had been adrift for two days in a heavy sea. The Tiru located the missing individuals and sailed with them to Guam, where she was personally thanked by the Japanese consul.
After arriving at San Diego, she conducted local operations and underwent overhaul before her transfer to the Atlantic Fleet on August 1, 1970. She spent the end of 1970 into 1972 conducting local operations provided services, and underwent type training out of her new home port of Charleston, South Carolina. After transfer to SubFlot 6, SubRon 4, SubDiv 41, during 1972, Tiru operated in the Caribbean and off the lower east coast of the United States, with two European water deployments, into 1975.
On July 1, 1975, she was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list to be sold to the Turkish government. However, an American arms embargo imposed on Turkey as a result of the Cyprus tensions between Greece and Turkey delayed the sale. With the sale never completed, the Tiru was sunk as a target ship on July 19, 1979.
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.