Asbestos in the military

USS Angler (SS-240)

USS Angler (SS-240)Description:  History of the U.S. Navy submarine USS Angler (SS-240) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.

The USS Angler (SS-240) was ordered for the U.S. Navy during the World War II era. Her keel was laid down by the Electric Boat Company on November 9, 1942. She was launched on July 4, 1943 and commissioned on October 1, 1943 under the command of Lieutenant Commander Robert I. Olsen.

USS Angler headed to Pearl Harbor on November 27, 1943. Her first patrol found a Japanese convoy north of the Mariana Islands on January 29, 1944, where she was credited with sinking the Shuko Maru. She put in at Midway Island for repairs on February 4, resuming her patrols on February 15. The submarine was assigned to patrol the Mindanao Sea and Sulu Sea. During this patrol, she rescued 58 civilians from massacre by the Japanese on the island of Panay. Before they disembarked their passengers, many people became nauseous, and the captain ordered fresh water tanks due to suspected contamination.

On May 3, the USS Angler was assigned to support the carrier strike at Surabaya, Java, where she provided lifeguard services and guarded the naval passages nearby. She torpedoed and sank the Otori Maru on May 20, escaping damage from Japanese retaliation. The following day, the crew again became ill, too sick to maintain surface watch. Two other submarines were dispatched to provide assistance, and a forbidden can of carbon tetrachloride was discovered on board.

The USS Angler began her next patrol on June 21, but damage from an uncharted obstruction put her back in for repairs until June 29. She joined the USS Flasher and USS Crevalle in wolf pack patrols in the South China Sea and along the coast of Indochina. Ordered to the west coast of Luzon at the end of July, her pack sank six ships of a Japanese convoy, although USS Angler herself scored no hits. The submarine returned to Fremantle on August 23.

Her next patrol began on September 18 in the Sulu Sea. The USS Angler sank the Nanrei Maru on October 14. Eight days later, she came upon the wreckage of a Japanese ship, taking three survivors aboard as prisoners and providing food and water for the remaining 23 survivors, with a course to find land with their lifeboat. The following day, she made radar contact with the Japanese force heading toward Leyte.

After returning to Fremantle in early November, the USS Angler headed back out on patrol on December 4. She sailed to provide assistance to the USS Bergall, which had taken damage that prevented her from diving. The two submarines traversed 2,000 nautical miles through enemy waters without encountering any Japanese aircraft or ships.

USS Angler headed to San Francisco via Saipan and Pearl Harbor for overhaul in February 1945. Work was completed by May 18, and she was back in the war zone by the end of June. This patrol did not include any successful shipping hits, but the submarine did take part in three shore bombardment missions on Kinkasan Island and Hokkaido.  She was at Midway when the Japanese surrendered on August 15. The submarine was decommissioned on February 12, 1947.

The USS Angler was recommissioned on April 2, 1951, operating out of her new homeport at New London. She was decommissioned briefly to undergo conversion and reclassification as SSK-240, rejoining the Atlantic Fleet in September 1953. The next few years involved training cruises, fleet exercises, and periodic overhaul. The submarine reverted to her original classification, SS-240, in 1960.

In October 1962, USS Angler joined the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. She made ports of call in Spain, Italy, France, and Greece before returning to New London on February 6, 1963 to resume training operations with the Submarine School. The submarine was redesignated AGSS-240, and spent the rest of her career conducting training cruises and in several deployments to the Caribbean and West Indies. She was decommissioned on April 1, 1967 and redesignated IXSS-240 on June 30, 1971. The submarine was removed from the Naval Vessel Register on December 15, 1971 and sold for scrap on February 1, 1974. She earned six battle stars for her service in World War II.

Like other vessels from the World War II era, the USS Angler was constructed from asbestos-containing components. The toxic substance asbestos was known for its resistance to fire, heat, water, and corrosion, so it could be found in nearly all areas of the submarine. Anyone who served onboard the USS Angler or was involved in her repair and overhaul was put at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

USS Angler workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma.  Anyone who worked in or around the USS Angler, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.

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