Warship Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017: Putting the ‘Marine’ back in submarine
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship (in this case, doctrine) each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017: Putting the ‘Marine’ back in the submarine
On 17 August 1942, just nine months after Pearl Harbor, 211 Marines of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion embarked aboard the submarines USS Argonaut and Nautilus crept ashore at Makin Island and did what the Raiders were meant to do– hit hard in the most unexpected area they could find and jack up a small Japanese garrison.
While that attack was the pinnacle of U.S. submarine commando ops in WWII, and the Raiders were disbanded by early 1944, the Marines did not forget the concept of amphibious scouts and small raiding forces carried by submarines when the war was over.
In 1948, the Marines pushed to convert a dozen Balao-class fleet subs into auxiliary Submarine Troop Carriers (ASSPs) which would involve removing all the torpedo tubes (the Navy loved that idea) as well as two of the big main diesels and using the new-found space to install extra bunks, showers and a pressure-proof hangar mounted outside of the pressure hull on deck. These subs would be able to carry 120 troops including an LVT with a jeep and equipment stowed aboard and eight rubber raiding rafts.
In theory, these boats could lift an entire reinforced battalion landing team with four 75mm Pack Howitzers, six 57mm recoilless rifles, 12 jeeps, 12 LVTs, 48 boats, 220 tons of ammo and ordnance; and 158 tons of supplies– enough to operate for ashore for ten days.
The bad news for the USMC was that the Navy just converted two of the subs– USS Perch (SS-313) and USS Sealion (SS-315). While they were later used extensively to support the Navy’s own UDT operations through the Vietnamese conflict, they didn’t come close to realizing the Marine’s vision in 1948.
Nonetheless, the Marines continued to trial submarine operations with smaller teams of amphibious recon troops in the 1950s, as seen in these great images:
The submarine above is USS Greenfish (SS-351). Greenfish was a Balao-class fleet sub commissioned 7 June 1946, too late for WWII. She did, however, perform duty during the Korean and Vietnam wars and, after she was decommissioned in 1973, was transferred to the Brazilian Navy as the submarine Amazonas (S-16), who kept her in service for another 20 years before she was ultimately scrapped in 2001. In U.S. service, Greenfish sank two submarines in her career, the captured U-234 in 1947 and her sister ship and former Warship Wednesday alumni USS Barbero (SS/SSA/SSG-317) off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 October 1964 after that ship was stricken.
The tradition of the Raiders and their use from submarines continues in the modern-day Raiders, recon teams, and, of course, Navy SEAL units who utilize several dedicated boats including the Seawolf and modified Ohio-class SSGNs when they are feeling particularly froggy as well as the organic Combat Rubber Raiding Craft companies built into to each of the seven Marine Expeditionary Forces.
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