USS Torsk SS-423 (1944-1971)
Laid down on June 7, 1944 by the Portsmouth Navy Yard, the Torsk was sponsored by Mrs. Allen B. Reed and commissioned on December 16, 1944, with Comdr. Bafford E. Lewellen in command. She trained out of Portsmouth, Newport and new London until February 11, when she arrived in Port Everglades, Florida, to provide services for antisubmarine research. She left for Hawaii on February 20, reaching her destination on March 23.
Action in World War II
Following repairs and training, she began her first war patrol, reaching an area off Kii Suido on May 11 for lifeguard duty. However, that first month saw few enemy encounters and she rendezvoused with two other vessels to cover the east coast of Honshu. This also turned up no enemy activity. On June 2, she attempted to sink a small coastal minelayer, but was unsuccessful. She again unsuccessfully attempted to sink a freighter two day later before she returned to Pearl Harbor on June 16.
Her second patrol began on July 17, after refitting and new equipment installation. After two days at Guam, she sailed for the Sea of Japan. On August 11, she rescued seven Japanese merchant seamen who survived the sinking of their vessel four days earlier. The next morning, she sank a small coastal freighter in her patrol area.
On August 13, she sank another small freighter, making an unsuccessful attack on a cargo ship later that day. The next morning, she sighted a cargo ship, giving chase and leading her to a 745-ton "Kaibokan"-class patrol escort vessel. She sank this vessel with one of the new experimental Mark 28 torpedoes, though she was unable to sink the freighter, which was able to escape into its harbor.
That afternoon, she sank another frigate with a Mark 28 torpedo fired initially, followed by a new acoustic Mark 27, which she fired after submerging to a depth of 400 feet. This sinking secured the Torsk credit for sinking the final Japanese warship of World War II. After receiving word of the cessation of hostilities on August 15, she continued patrolling the Sea of Japan, conducting visual and photo surveillance and destroying floating mines.
After the war
She ended her second war patrol on September 9, with her return to Guam. She returned to New London in mid-October, operating out of that port as a training vessel, participating in exercises and tests and making occasional naval reserve training cruises for the next seven years. After assignment with Submarine Squadron 2 in June 1949, she made a summer 1950 deployment to the Mediterranean, returning to New London in the fall for fleet exercises and operations into the Caribbean the next year.
She was converted to a fleet-snorkel submarine and was deployed again to the Mediterranean in the summer of 1952. With her November return, she continued operations out of New London ranging from Halifax to Havana as she trained prospective submarine personnel and laid exercise mine fields. She was reassigned to Submarine Squadron 6 at Norfolk in 1955, helping aircraft and surface ships become more adept at antisubmarine warfare.
She also made frequent Caribbean voyages and participated in Operation “Springboard.” She also visited various ports on Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan in June 1959, before returning to Norfolk in mid-August. The 1960s saw her make Mediterranean deployments, join Commonwealth nations in Exercise “New Broom X” and continue her antisubmarine training duties. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, in 1962, she patrolled in support of the blockade.
The Torsk was decommissioned on March 4, 1964 and was assigned to the Washington Navy Yard for use in training reserves after Boston Navy Yard modifications. She continued operating out of Washington until 1971, when she was struck from the Navy List on December 15. She was sent to Maryland on September 26, 1972 to be used as a museum in the Inner Harbor at Baltimore. For her World War II service, the Torsk received two battle stars.
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.