USS Tusk SS-426 (1945-1973)
This Balao-class submarine was laid down by the Cramp Shipbuilding Company and launched on July 8, 1945. Sponsored by Mrs. Carolyn Park Mills, the diesel-electric submarine was commissioned on April 11, 1946 and commanded by Commander Raymond A. Moore.
Following a southern Atlantic shakedown cruise and goodwill visits to Latin America, she returned to New London in June, 1946. After spending the rest of that year in east coast operations, she spent the first month of 1947 in a fleet tactical exercise in the Central Atlantic. A three-month overhaul and oceanographic work lasted until October 1946, when she arrived at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for a “Guppy II” conversion.
Extensive modifications improved her submerged performance and endurance, including a submerged top speed increase of five knots. June and July of 1948 saw her complete shakedown training and make a simulated war patrol to the Canal Zone. After a stop at Annapolis to showcase her technology, she spent the fall and winter in normal operations with other United States and NATO forces. These operations took her from the Caribbean Sea to the Arctic Circle. However, the next year initially brought more localized duties, as she operated out of Newport, Rhode Island. In July she rejoined the multinational forces of NATO for another round of exercises in the North Atlantic, visiting Londonderry, Northern Ireland; and Portsmouth, England.
Unfortunately, on August 25 a submarine the Tusk operated with, Cochino, suffered an explosion during harsh seas. When the Tusk offered assistance in the form of a raft, it overturned in the waves. Although both the sailor and civilian onboard were rescued from the icy Atlantic waters, another wave broke over the Tusks deck, washing away the civilian and 11 other Tusk crewmen. Only four of these sailors were recovered.
As the submarines headed for assistance at Hammerfest, Norway, another explosion shook the Cochino, causing it to quickly take on water. However, the Tusk was able to retrieve all crew members safely before the vessel sank.
Returning that fall for east coast operations in support of the Submarine School, she made cruises north to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and south to Bermuda. This service lasted until her mid-1951 assignment to Submarine Development Group 2. This lasted until the summer of 1952, when she returned to an operational unit, Submarine Squadron (SubRon) 10. East coast duties continued until she began another six-month Mediterranean tour with the 6th Fleet, which ended in early summer of 1953.
Local operations out of New London continued until the first part of 1954, when the submarine operated in the Caribbean. After four additional months of local operations, she sailed for northern European waters, visiting Irish and Scottish ports and conducting training exercises with NATO forces in the northern Atlantic. Four additional deployments to the Mediterranean, east coast operations and overseas deployments followed between 1954 and 1973. NATO exercises and training also took up these years. Her final year of service was concluded with normal eastern seaboard operations around New England. She was decommissioned, struck from the Navy list and sold to the Taiwan Navy on October 18, 1973.
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.