USS Toro SS-422 (1944-1963)
This Tench-class submarine was launched on August 23, 1944. Sponsored by Mrs. Alan G. Kirk, she was commissioned on December 8, 1944, with Comdr. James D. Grant in command. She then participated in training exercises out of Portsmouth, Newport, and New London before arriving at Key West on February 11, 1945. After providing services to the Fleet Sonar School, she left Key West on February 28 for the Canal Zone, where she spent a week in intensive training. After arriving at Pearl Harbor, she conducted training until sailing for Saipan to begin her first war patrol.
Action in World War II
After arriving in the area south of Shikoku and east of Kyushu for lifeguard duties on May 16, she came across occasional Japanese planes, detecting Japanese submarine radar two days later and pursuing an unsuccessful attack. While lifeguarding off Omino Shima a week later, she rescued three downed B-29 Army aviators. She narrowly avoided an enemy torpedo the next morning before returning to regular patrols which lasted until June 14. She ended that patrol at the Marianas.
After refitting, she began her next wart patrol from Guam on July 14. Arriving on July 24, she made an unsuccessful search for a downed flier. Later that day, the Toro’s air cover left her, which left her open to a mistaken attack as an American convey on an antishipping sweep came through the area. Unable to clear the area in time or identify herself as a friendly vessel, suffering brutal gunfire as the ships chased her down. She survived the mistaken attack when the American forces believed her sunken.
Returning to lifeguard station that same morning, she rescued three British aviators afloat at sea on a raft. She then remained for carrier strikes, rescuing an Army Mustang pilot who parachuted from his crippled vessel on July 30. After transferring her British pilots to another vessel, she rescued two Army aviators who had separately jumped from their planes.
After the War
With Japan’s surrender in mid-August, she arrived at Midway on August 27. She then sailed to Philadelphia, arriving on October 31 for inactivation preparations. In January 1946, she was towed to New London, where she was decommissioned and placed in reserve on February 7.
She was recommissioned on May 13, 1947, reporting for duty to Submarine Squadron 2, Atlantic Fleet on May 28 to conduct hunter/killer exercises, make a simulated war patrol in the Arctic Sea, and join fleet tactical exercises in the Mediterranean. In 1950 she joined Submarine Development Group 2, helping to refine submarine tactics, weapons, and equipment. She operated in the Atlantic and Caribbean until July 1952, when she reported to Submarine Squadron 2 at New London and assumed new duties training submariners.
She spent the following 10 years combining these activities with type training and services to ships and aircraft engaged in antisubmarine warfare exercises. She also made a Mediterranean cruise and participated in Operation “Springboard.” Redesignated auxiliary submarine (AGSS) in July 1962, she made her 11,000th dive during her Long Island Sound operations, marking the approaching close of her military service. Berthing with the Philadelphia Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, for demilitarization and non-industrial stripping in February 1963, she was decommissioned from the Navy on March 11 and struck from the Navy list on April 1, 1963. She was later sold for scrapping. The USS Toro received 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.