U.S.S. Torsk (SS-423)
Torsk is a Tench-class submarine built during WWII. She served during the waning days of the war in the Pacific and held a long and distinguished career postwar.
She was laid down Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 7 June 1944 and commissioned 16 December.
Torsk arrived at Pearl Harbor on 15 March 1945 to prepare for her first war patrol. She set out on 15 April for the coast of Japan, but she was not there to sink enemy ships. The sub acted as a search-and-rescue for any B-29 bombers that could not make it back from raids on the Japanese mainland. She did sight two Japanese ships during this patrol, but no attacks were made. Torsk returned to Pearl Harbor on 16 June.
The sub departed Pearl Harbor for her second patrol on 17 July. Operating in the Sea of Japan, Torsk sank three enemy ships. The last of these ships was also the last Japanese ship sunk during WWII and the torpedo that hit her was the last U.S. torpedo fired in anger during the war.
The boat continued her patrol off Japan until 9 September, when she sailed for home waters. She transferred to the Atlantic Fleet on 20 September and arrived at New London, Connecticut 15 October. She joined Submarine Squadron 8 and operated between the East Coast and the Mediterranean into the 1950s.
She returned to her birthplace, Portsmouth Shipyard, on 6 November 1951 for the fitting of a snorkel. This device allowed her to use her diesel engines while at periscope depth, instead of being forced to switch to her less powerful electric motors before every dive. During this refit, she received her signature sail, which enclosed her periscope, radar masts, and snorkel in a protective covering.
Torsk transferred to Submarine Squadron Six, based at Norfolk, Virginia, on 1 July 1955. A few months later, she reported to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for conversions so she could operate the Regulus missile, an early cruise missile. She would retain this armament until the 1960s. The sub took part in the 1959 opening of the St. Lawrence sea way, sailing through the Great Lakes and giving citizens of Buffalo, Chicago, and Milwaukee a hands-on look at submarines.
In October 1962, Torsk was sent to Cuban waters as part of the naval blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis. There, she boarded and inspected several Soviet cargo ships, actions that earned the Navy Commendation medal. Afterwards, Torsk served as a training sub for anti-submarine warfare ships until her decommissioning in 1968. Even after she was taken out of regular service, the sub served as a pier side training ship at the Washington Navy Yard.
Torsk was given to the State of Maryland on 26 September 1972 to serve as a museum. She is currently docked in Baltimore along with museum ships Taneyand Chesapeake.
Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Torsk was built during the height of U.S. naval construction, WWII. At this time, the use of asbestos was rampant in naval construction. While Torsk herself is a diesel-electric sub, there are still areas of the sub that may have contained asbestos, such as steam-powered torpedoes.
Asbestos can easily break down into tiny fibers under stress. These fibers, when inhaled, are proven to cause mesothelioma, a malignant form of lung cancer. There is currently no cure for mesothelioma; however, treatment such as chemotherapy can be used to fight the disease.
If you or someone you know served aboard Torsk or worked on her in a shipyard and has contracted mesothelioma, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page for free information regarding your rights to compensation.
A Note About Museum Ships
U.S.-based museum ships undergo rigorous safety and health inspections by numerous state and federal agencies before receiving approval for donation. The restoration process is closely monitored and conducted with safety and removal/containment of hazardous materials being of most concern. Where possible, asbestos is removed from a ship, and in areas where this is not possible, asbestos insulation is carefully sealed in several layers of a strong, durable, plaster-based coating. If you are planning a visit to Torsk or any other museum ship in the U.S., please do not be discouraged by this article. If this information is not enough to reassure you about visiting her, please contact her museum association directly. Her restoration or ship maintenance department can answer any specific questions you have.