The Triton was a Tambor-class diesel-electric submarine was laid down by the Portsmouth Navy Yard and launched on March 25, 1940. She was commissioned on August 15, 1940, with Lt. Comdr. Willis A. Lent in command. Her shakedown training was held from January 14 to March 26 in the Caribbean. She then conducted training and minelaying exercises in the Portsmouth-New London area before sailing to Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on August 4.
Action in World War II
After local and fleet operations in the Hawaiian area, on November 19 she sailed to an area off Wake Island for practice war patrol. On December 8, during that patrol, she learned that Pearl Harbor and Wake Island had been bombarded by Japanese bombing. On the 10th, she spotted a destroyer, who gave chase. She dove to avoid the vessel and sent four torpedoes towards the target, shortly after hearing one explosion she believed was a hit.
After returning to Hawaii, on January 25, she sailed on her second war patrol for the East China Sea. On February 17, off Kyushu, she hit an enemy freighter’s stern, though it continued sailing. That evening she sank a cargo ship. Four days later she sank another cargo ship in a group of two, though she could not attack the second. On February 27, she hit another vessel with a torpedo, but was unable to finish the attack because of haze and smoke.
Her third patrol sent her from Pearl Harbor on April 13 to the East China Sea, and on the 23rd, she sank a 1,000-ton trawler with her deck guns. On May 1, she sank the lead ship of a six-freighter convoy. On May 6, she sent two torpedoes into a destroyer and heard two explosions. She then hit another vessel with two torpedoes. May 15 saw her sink two deep-sea fishing boats with her deck guns. On May 17, she sank an enemy submarine.
Her fourth war patrol took her to Alaskan waters from June 25 until August 24. On July 4, she sank a Japanese destroyer with one torpedo hit. On August 9, she avoided a Japanese submarine attack and on the 15th, she sank another vessel which appeared to be larger than a destroyer. However, no official record of that sinking exists. She returned to Pearl Harbor that September, then entering the navy yard for repairs, which lasted until December 6.
She sailed for a position 20 miles east of Wake on the Midway-Wake route on December 16, marking the way for Army Liberator bombers in strikes on Wake and serving as rescue vessels for the crews of any planes forced down at sea. Although she made no rescues, she did aid on a night bombing attack on that island. On December 24, she sank a vessel headed for Wake. She sank a transport on December 28, on her way to Brisbane. She then patrolled the Truk-Rabaul-New Guinea shipping lanes, beginning on December 30, 1942.
On January 13, she scored a hit on a tanker, though she could not finish off the vessel. Three days later she scored hits on two cargo ships, though she was forced to submerge before she could estimate the damage done. She arrived at Brisbane on January 26. Leaving February 16 for her sixth and final war patrol, she sailed to destroy enemy shipping between the Shortland Basin and Rabaul.
On March 6, she sank a cargo ship and damaged a freighter in a convoy of five destroyer-escorted ships. She made another attack on March 8, claiming that five of the eight torpedoes fired scored hits. Enemy fire prevented her from observing the results. After, she made an attack on a convoy on March 11 and received warning of an attacking convoy two days later. On March 15, Trigger sent message that she had been depth charged after attacking a convoy and even though attacks on her had ceased, she could hear them continue afterwards. Post-war Japanese records indicated that three Japanese destroyers attacked and apparently destroyed an American submarine northwest of Triton’s assigned area on that date. The Triton was reported overdue and presumed lost on April 10, 1943. She received five 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.