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Of light cruisers and baby flattops

Here we see an aerial photo of the Pacific Reserve Fleet, San Francisco unit, in early 1958, some 60 years ago.

Located at Hunter’s Point (San Francisco Naval Shipyard), the most recognizable vessel in the collection of cargo ships, light/escort carriers, and light cruisers is the USS Bataan (CVL-29) with her pennant number on her deck. Directly behind her should be The Mighty Moo, 12 battlestar-recipient USS Cowpens (CVL-25), which had been in mothballs since 1947. The bows on these cruisers-hulled light carriers are a dead ringer for the greyhounds they are moored among.

Among the escort carriers listed at San Francisco at the time were the Commencement Bay-class USS Rendova (CVE-114) who was completed too late for WWII but was home to F4U Corsairs of VMF-212 off Korea for 1,700 sorties as well as fellow classmates and Korean War vets USS Bairoko (CVE-115), USS Badoeng Strait (CVE-116), and USS Sicily (CVE-118).

Many of the escort carriers in U.S. inventory during the mid-to-late 1950s were reclassified as auxiliary aircraft ferries (ACV), helicopter carriers (CVHE), aviation cargo ships (AKV), or aircraft transport (AVT) with some administratively transferred to the Military Sea Transportation Service on paper before they were removed from Naval custody, although they were not given any modifications to operate as such.

Among the light cruisers at San Fran at the time were USS Astoria CL-90, Birmingham CL-62, Vincennes CL-64, Springfield CL-66, Topeka CL-67, Vicksburg CL-86, Duluth CL-87, Miami CL-89, Oklahoma City CL-91, Amsterdam CL-101, and Atlanta CL-104, a Cleveland-class light cruisers completed late in the war. Two anti-aircraft cruisers are also seen middle left of the photo. Moored on red lead row at Hunters Point in 1958 were USS Oakland (CL-95) and USS Tucson (CL-98).

By 1962, virtually the entire assemblage you see above (save for Atlanta, who went on to be destroyed in 1965 as a weapons effects test ship and Tuscon, which was a test hulk until 1971) was stricken from Navy List and subsequently sold for scrap, the days of 1945-era all-gun cruisers and abbreviated flattops in the rearview for a Navy that was increasingly all-jet and missile. Oakland’s mast and nameplate are preserved just a few miles from where this image was taken at the Port of Oakland’s shoreline park.

RIP Soon-Tek Oh

If you grew up watching anything war or military-related in the 1970s and 1980s, odds are, you saw diasporic Korean actor Soon-Tek Oh– several times. He was truly a gifted man of many faces:

Born in 1932 in Japanese-occupied Korea, he graduated with a degree in political science at Yonsei University in 1959, then flew to Los Angeles to study international relations at UCLA. By 1965 he was acting locally and soon moved into a series of TV and film roles, and somewhat sadly became typecast in roles that called for an “Asian in uniform” for many years, but always gave a good performance.

He was in Airwolf (as three different characters), MASH (as five different characters in both the ROK and DPRK armies), Magnum p.i as an NVA officer, Bond back-up Lt. Hip in The Man with the Golden Gun, Baa Baa Black Sheep as both Lt. Miragochi and the 20+ years older Col. Tokura, the list goes on.

One of my favorite roles was as IJN pilot Lt. Shimura in the sci-fi flick The Final Countdown, where the USS Nimitz gets zapped from 1980 to Dec. 6, 1941 outside of Pearl Harbor, and Shimura gets captured when he loses a fight in his Zero against a pair of Jolly Roger F14s (go figure)– but goes down fighting. (Also I am a sucker for carrier MARDETs and woodland camo, so there is that….)

Oh died earlier this month at age 85.

Warship Wednesday, March 7, 2018: The ‘most fightingest ship’ of the Great North

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 each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, March 7, 2018: The ‘most fightingest ship’ of the Great North

Here we see the British-built Tribal (Afridi)-class destroyer Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Haida (G63) of the Royal Canadian Navy, as she appeared during WWII. One of Canada’s most celebrated vessels, this “little tin can that could” has an impressive record and is still around today taking the “Queen’s shilling” so to speak.

The Afridi‘s were a new type of destroyer designed for the Royal Navy in the late 1920s off experience both in the Great War and to match the large, modern escorts on the drawing boards of contemporary naval rivals of the time.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Huron (G24), in dazzle camouflage, sailing out to sea during the Second World War during one of her countless trans-Atlantic escorting runs. The Tribal-class destroyer, commissioned on July 28,1943, also served in the Pacific theatre during the Korean War under the new pennant number 216.

These 378-foot vessels could make 36+ knots on a pair of geared steam turbines and a trio of Admiralty three-drum boilers while an impressive battery of up to eight 4.7″/45 (12 cm) QF Mark XII guns in four twin CPXIX mountings gave them the same firepower as early WWI light cruisers (though typically just three turrets were mounted).

Gun crew on Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Algonquin cleaning up their 4.7″/45 (12 cm) Mark XII guns after firing at the Normandy Beaches on 7 June 1944. Note that the crewman kneeling in the rear is holding a 4.7″ (12 cm) projectile. Library and Archives Canada Photograph MIKAN no. 3223884

Some 32 Afridi‘s were planned in eight-ship flights: 16 for the RN (named after tribal warriors: HMS Cossack, HMS Eskimo, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, et. al), eight for the Royal Australian Navy, and eight for the Canadians. Of the Canadian ships, four were to be built by Vickers in the UK and the other four by Halifax shipyards in Nova Scotia. All the Canadian ships were to be named after First Nations tribes (Iroquois, Athabaskan, Huron, Haida, Micmac, Nootka, Cayuga, etc.)

The subject of our tale, HMCS Haida, was the last of the Canadian Tribals built in the UK, laid down at Vickers 29 September 1941. She commissioned during the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, on 18 September 1943.

As noted by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net, Haida immediately began working up with the Home Fleet based at Scapa Flow and just a scant two weeks later was operational, heading on a mission to reinforce the icy Spitzbergen garrison and provide a covering force for Lend-Lease minesweepers headed to the Soviets past heavily defended German-occupied Norway.

Then between Nov. 1943 and Jan 1944, Haida would be part of no less than five dangerous runs through U-boat and Scharnhorst-infested waters between the UK and Kola Pen, shepherding freighters to fuel Uncle Joe’s war machine. Speaking of Scharnhorst, Haida was present just over the horizon at the Battle of North Cape when the mighty German capital ship was sent to the bottom.

Next, she was assigned to escort a raiding force to Norwegian waters consisting of the Free French battleship Richelieu, the battlewagon HMS Anson and several fast cruisers. Once that went off uneventfully, Haida was tasked to Operation Neptune, the Normandy Landings, and transferred to the English Channel.

Filling her time escorting forays into mine and E/S-boat infested coastal waters along the French coast, Haida traded naval gunfire and torpedoes with German shore batteries and torpedo boats, coming away unscathed but leaving the Elbing-class torpedo boat T29 dead in the water in a sharp nighttime action in April 1944. One of her sisters, HMCS Athabaskan, was not so lucky and sank in the same action.

When the D-Day balloon went up, she spent her time on the patrol line between Ile de Bas and Ile de Vierge and, on 9 June, with three of her sisterships, engaged four German T-boats and destroyers. The action left one German sunk, another hard aground, and the final pair limping away to lick their wounds.

On 24 June 1944, Haida racked up a confirmed kill on the German U-971 (ObrLt. Zeplien) off Brest in conjunction with the RN destroyer (and sistership) HMS Eskimo and a B-24 Liberator flown by the Free Czechs (Sqdn. 311). The event, as chronicled by Haida, included nine attacks by the destroyers and ended with a surface action in the English Channel as the stricken sub crashed to the surface and men started to abandon ship.

From Haida‘s report:

It was decided to attack without waiting for ESKIMO to regain contact and pattern “G” had been ordered when at 1921 the submarine surfaced about 800 yards ahead at an inclination of about 100 left. Fire was opened from “B” gun and a hit obtained on the conning tower, with the second salvo. High Explosive was used and penetrated the conning tower, starting a fire, the flames being clearly visible through the hole made. No further hits were obtained with main armament and fire was checked as soon as it was apparent that the enemy did not intend to fight. Close range weapons were used during the same period.

Lost was one German submariner, while Haida and Eskimo picked up 52 survivors (including six were injured, three seriously) and brought them to Falmouth in the predawn hours of 25 June.

U-BOAT KILLER’S MASCOT. 26 JUNE 1944, PLYMOUTH, ON BOARD THE CANADIAN DESTROYER HMCS HAIDA, WHICH WITH HMS ESKIMO DESTROYED A U-BOAT IN THE CHANNEL. (A 24385) Dead-eyed Jock Macgregor who was the first to open fire with his Oerlikon on the U-boat destroyed by the HAIDA and HMS ESKIMO. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 24384) Seaman Jock MacGregor of HMCS HAIDA holds ‘Muncher’ the ship’s pet rabbit by the Oerlikon 20 mm gun Platform. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

August saw Haida maul a convoy of small German coasters off Ile d’Yeu. Between April and September 1944, she is credited with assisting in the sinking of at least nine Axis ships including two destroyers, two T-boats, a U-boat, a minesweeper, patrol boat and two armed trawlers.

By September, the Canadian war baby headed for her home country for the first time, to get a badly needed refit at Halifax. Early 1945 saw her sortie back to Europe where she was engaged off Norway again, escorted some more convoys to Russia, and was among the first Allied ships to enter the key Norwegian port of Trondheim post VE-Day. Returning to Canada, she was to be made ready to fight in the Pacific against the Japanese but never made it that far before the A-bombs ended the war unexpectedly.

Laid up in reserve, by 1947 she was reactivated and soon put to effective use when she served off Korea as part of the Canadian contribution to the UN forces in that conflict, completing two tours in those far-off waters.

In 1952, an extensive refit saw her reconfigured as a destroyer-escort (pennant DDE-215) which saw her WWII sensors replaced by a more modern SPS-6C air search radar and SQS-10 sonar. Her main armament, those six beautiful 4.7-inch rapid fires, was swapped out for a more conservative pair of twin 4-inch Mk16s. Her depth charges replaced with a Squid ASW mortar. This would be her final configuration for her last decade in active service, and the one she would carry into her later days.

This photo shows the ship’s company in Hong Kong in 1953 (Parks Canada)

Rescued from the streets of Japan, Pom Pom served as Haida’s mascot during the ship’s first tour of duty in Korea (Parks Canada)

A 1930s design in the jet age, Haida was decommissioned in October 1963 after 20 years of hard service.

HMCS HAIDA (DDE215) makes her way towards Lock 4 on the Welland Canal during her farewell Great Lakes tour in 1963

Overall, when compared to her sisters, she was a lucky ship and outlived her family. No less than 12 of the 16 Tribals in British service were lost during WWII and the remaining quartet were all paid off by 1949. All the Tribals in Canadian service were sold to the breakers by 1969. The three Australian ships that were completed (five were canceled) likewise were turned to razor blades.

Tribal-class sister HMCS Huron (DDE-216), port bow view while off Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives 80-G-646914:

Haida was the last of her class remaining in any ocean and, after an effort by concerned citizens, she was towed to Toronto and opened as a museum ship in 1965. Over the next three decades, she still hosted sea cadet camps and Canadian Forces events in addition to her work a floating memorial, known as “Canada’s most fightingest ship”.

In 2003, she was moved to Hamilton, Ontario where she had been a National Historic Site ever since, operated by Parks Canada on a seasonal basis.

(Parks Canada)

Earlier this year, she was named ceremonial Flagship of the Royal Canadian Navy with an honorary commanding officer chosen from the Navy, is authorized to fly the Canadian Naval Ensign, and the ship will observe traditional sunrise and sunset ceremonies as well as arrival announcements on the gangway.

(Parks Canada)


Displacement:1,959 long tons (1,990 t) tons standard, 2,519 long tons (2,559 t) deep load
Length: 377 ft (114.9 m)
Beam: 37 ft 6 in (11.4 m)
Draught: 13 ft (4.0 m)
2 shafts; 3-Admiralty 3 drum type boilers
2 × Parsons Marine geared steam turbines, 44,000 shp (33,000 kW);
Speed: 36.5 knots (67.6 km/h; 42.0 mph) (maximum), 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph) (service)
Complement: 259 (14 officers, 245 ratings)
Sensors and processing systems:
As G63 (1943–1952):
1 type 268 radar
1 type 271 radar
1 type 291 radar
1 × Mk.III fire control director with Type 285 fire control radar
1 type 144 sonar
1 type 144Q sonar
1 type 147F sonar

As DDE 215 (1952–1963):
1 SPS-6C air search radar
1 Sperry Mk.2 navigation radar
1 × Mk.63 fire control director with SPG-34 fire control radar
1 type 164B sonar
1 type 162 (SQS 501) sonar
SQS 10 sonar


As G63 (1943–1952):
3 × 4.7-inch (119 mm)/45 Mk.XII twin guns
1 × 4-inch (102 mm)/45 Mk.16 twin guns
1 × quadruple mount 40 mm/39 2-pounder gun
6 × 20 mm Oerlikon cannons
1 quad launcher with Mk.IX torpedoes (4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes)
1 rail + 2 Mk.IV throwers (Mk.VII depth charges)

As DDE 215 (1952–1963):
2 × 4-inch/45 Mk.16 twin guns
1 × 3-inch (76 mm)/50 Mk.33 twin guns
4 × 40 mm/56 Bofors guns
1 quad launcher with Mk.IX torpedoes (4 × 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes)
2 × Squid ASW mortars

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That’s a whole lot of mobile real estate

WESTERN PACIFIC (Nov. 12, 2017) The aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and their strike groups are underway, conducting operations, in international waters as part of a three-carrier strike force exercise. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia Pacific region routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional security, stability, and prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. James Griffin/Released)

Currently, the Navy has 11 commissioned nuclear aircraft carriers in service (as well as two under construction and two conventional carriers laid up pending disposal). Well, for the first time in a long time, 7 of those 11 are underway with three– USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71)— fully armed and conducting operations forward deployed in the Western Pacific. Those three flattops are currently off the Korean Peninsula with vessels of the Republic of Korean Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force.

WESTERN PACIFIC (Nov. 12, 2017) Three F/A-18E Super Hornets, assigned to the Eagles of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 115, fly in formation over the aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and their strike groups along with ships from the Republic of Korea Navy as they transit the Western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Aaron B. Hicks/Released)

There haven’t been seven carriers underway since 2004 and it’s been a decade since three carrier strike groups operated together in the big blue of the Pacific during exercise Valiant Shield 2007.

“It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott Swift in the Navy’s presser on the ops in the West Pac. “Multiple carrier strike force operations are very complex, and this exercise in the Western Pacific is a strong testament to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s unique ability and ironclad commitment to the continued security and stability of the region.”

Let’s roll that beautiful bean footage:

Getting Kiffe

Here we see a rundown of the standard bayonet fare for U.S. military rifles from the early 20th Century through the early days of the Vietnam conflict.

From top to bottom: an M1905 sword bayonet with a 16-inch blade on the M1903 Springfield rifle, an M1 bayonet on an M1 Garand, a chopped down bayonet (10-inch blade) made from the legacy M1905 pigsticker redesignated M1905E1 on an M1 Garand, and finally an M4 bayonet on M1 Carbine.

The M4 is very interesting in the respect that it originally wasn’t suppose to exist, and then went on to be both widely used and extensively cloned.

Initially, the M1 Carbine did not accept a bayonet. However, beginning in June 1944, the front band included a bayonet lug. Most earlier carbines were subsequently retrofitted with the bayonet-lug front band. Most U.S.-made M4 bayonets were produced by W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co., Turner Manufacturing Co, Imperial Knife Co., Conetta Manufacturing Co, and Bren-Dan Manufacturing Co. using the M8/8A1 sheath, and ran into the early 1960s at least.

Early models used the leather washer handles while post-WWII production shifted to hard rubber or plastic grips. Standard blade length on military spec models was 6.5-inches, overall is 11.5-inches. The M4 bayonet blade even went on to form the pointy end of a later Korean-era M1 Garand bayonet, the M5A1, which replaced both the M1905E1 and M1 bayonet.

The M4 model I just picked up is a Kiffe made in Japan, which would obviously make it a Post-WWII variant.

Though the company was founded in New York in 1875 by Herman H. Kiffe and remained in operation through the 1960s, they contracted their M4 bayos to unknown Japanese makers in the 1950s.

Not meant for military contracts (at least from the U.S.) these were popular with new civilian buyers of surplus M1 Carbines which were widely available for a song at the time. These new bayonets sold for $3 at the time via mail order– about $23 in 2017 greenbacks, which is a deal both then and now.

1967 ad for Kiffe, note the “M8 Bayonet” in the top right with “self-sharpening plastic sheaths” (!)

Overall length is 11.25-inches, while weight is 8.6-ounces, in each case without the scabbard.

The blade is marked simply “Kiffe Japan” as is the hilt.

While not a true martial bayonet, it is beautiful and this specimen is very minty– no doubt because it was purchased during the Atomic-era as a keepsake to complete a privately owned M1, rather than for field use. At 50~ years old, it looks great and I think it will hold up for another 50 with no problem.

66 years ago today: ‘Spitting death at the Communists in North Korea’

Seaman Leroy Kellam weighed down with belts of 20-millimeter cannon ammunition, hustles up the flight deck of USS Essex (CVA-9) to load a waiting Banshee fighter (examples seen behind him) as the WWII-era fleet carrier cruises somewhere off the Korean coast.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97271

From the Navy:

“These same shells were spitting death at the Communists in North Korea a short time after this picture was taken. Photograph and caption were released by Commander, Naval Forces, Far East under date of 12 October 1951.”

The McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee was a single-seat carrier-based fighter developed from the older FH Phantom I– the first jet fighter flown from flattops– and was introduced to the fleet in 1948. Though nearly 900 were made for the U.S. and Royal Canadian Navy (they had carriers back then!), these straight wing jets were 100 kts slower than MiG-15s, which made them a bad investment after 1950 and they were all subsequently retired by the early 1960s.

They did carry four sweet 20 mm Colt Mk 16 cannons, though, for which they carried a total of 940 shells of the kind Seaman Kellem is swathed in Frito Bandito-style.

As for the mighty Essex, she was decommissioned for the last time in 1969 after extensive service and sold for scrap in 1975.

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017: I’d like to be back on my horse

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 each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017: I’d like to be back on my horse

USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & via Navsource

Here we see the Balao-class diesel-electric fleet submarine USS Tilefish (SS-307) returning to San Diego on 5 December 1958 for inactivation. You may not recognize her in the photo, but she was always ready for her closeup.

A member of the 128-ship Balao class, she was one of the most mature U.S. Navy diesel designs of the World War Two era, constructed with knowledge gained from the earlier Gato-class. U.S. subs, unlike those of many navies of the day, were ‘fleet’ boats, capable of unsupported operations in deep water far from home.

Able to range 11,000 nautical miles on their reliable diesel engines, they could undertake 75-day patrols that could span the immensity of the Pacific. Carrying 24 (often unreliable) Mk14 Torpedoes, these subs often sank anything short of a 5000-ton Maru or warship by surfacing and using their 4-inch/50 caliber and 40mm/20mm AAA’s. The also served as the firetrucks of the fleet, rescuing downed naval aviators from right under the noses of Japanese warships.

We have covered a number of this class before, such as Rocket Mail slinging USS Barbero, the carrier-sinking USS Archerfish, the long-serving USS Catfish and the frogman Cadillac USS Perch —but don’t complain, they have lots of great stories.

Laid down at Mare Island Navy Yard in Vallejo, California, on 10 Mar 1943, USS Tilefish was the first and only naval vessel named for homely reef fish found in the world’s oceans.

1916 USBOF sheet on the Tilefish, via NARA

Commissioned just nine months later on 28 Dec 1943, Tilefish completed her trials and shakedown off the California coast and made for the Western Pacific in early 1944.

Broadside view of the Tilefish (SS-307) off Mare Island on 2 March 1944. USN photos # 1434-44 through1436-44, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker. Via Navsource

Her first war patrol, off Honshu in Japanese home waters, was short and uneventful.

Her second, in the Luzon Strait, netted a torpedo hit on the 745-ton Japanese corvette Kaibokan 17 south of Formosa on 18 July.

Her third patrol, in the Sea of Okhotsk and off the Kuril Islands, resulted in sinking a sampan in a surface action, as well as two small cargo ships, a larger cargo ship and the 108-ton Japanese guard boat Kyowa Maru No.2. Tilefish also picked up a Russian owl in these frigid waters, which was duly named Boris Hootski with the ship’s log noting, “He is now official ship’s mascot and stands battle stations on top of the tube blow and vent manifold.”

She closed the year with her fourth patrol in the Kurils and Japanese home waters with sinking the Japanese torpedo boat Chidori some 90 miles WSW of Yokosuka.

Early 1945 saw her fifth patrol which sank a small Japanese coaster and effectively knocked the IJN minesweeper W 15 out of the war. She also plucked LT (JG) William J. Hooks from the USS Hancock (CV-19) of VF-80 out of the water after he had to ditch his F6F at sea off Amami Oshima in the Ryukyus.

After refit on the West Coast, Tilefish completed her sixth patrol on lifeguard station off the Ryukyus where she ended the war, being ordered back to California on 7 September.

In all, Tilefish received five battle stars for World War II service. Her tally included 7 vessels for a total of 10,700 claimed tons– though many were disallowed post-war by JANAC. Her six patrols averaged 48 days at sea.

While most of the U.S. submarine fleet was mothballed in the months immediately after WWII, Tilefish remained in service. She even managed a sinkex in August 1947 against the crippled Liberty tanker SS Schuyler Colfax, at 7,200-tons, Tilefish‘s largest prize.

Her war flag represented as a patch from Note the 10 vessels claimed and the parachute for Lt. Hooks.

When the Korean War kicked off in 1950, Tilefish made for the region.

As noted by DANFS:

“From 28 September 1950 through 24 March 1951, the submarine operated out of Japanese ports conducting patrols in Korean waters in support of the United Nations campaign in Korea. She made reconnaissance patrols of La Perouse Strait to keep the Commander, Naval Forces Far East, informed of Soviet seaborne activity in that area.”

Tilefish received one battle star for Korean service.

Hula dancers Kuulei Jesse, Gigi White and Dancette Poepoe (left to right) welcome the submarine, as she docks at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base after a Korean War tour. Crewmen placing the flower lei around Tilefish’s bow are Engineman 3rd Class Donald E. Dunlevy, USN, (left – still wearing E-3 stripes) and Torpedoman’s Mate 1st Class Gordon F. Sudduth, USNR. This photograph was released by Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, on 26 March 1951. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the All Hands collection at the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97068

The next nine years saw her conducting regular peacetime operations and exercises including a goodwill visit to Acapulco; a survey mission with four civilian geophysicists on board from the Hydrographic Office of Eniwetok, Wake, and Midway; and other ops.

USS TILEFISH (SS-307) Caption: Photographed during the 1950s. Description: Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN (MSC), 1974. Catalog #: NH 78988

These “other ops” included filming some scenes for the 1958 Glen Ford WWII submarine flick Torpedo Run, which were extensively augmented by scale models, and more extensive shoots for Up Periscope, a film in which James Garner, a Korean war Army vet and Hollywood cowboy, plays a frogman ordered to photograph a codebook at an isolated Japanese radio station.

The film was an adaption of LCDR Robb White’s book of the same name.

Garner was not impressed by the Tilefish.

James Garner as Lieutenant Kenneth M. Braden in Up Periscope

As related by a Warren Oaks biographer, Garner, bobbing along on the old submarine offshore at 9-kts in groundswells, said, “You know something? I’d like to be back on my horse.”

After her brief movie career and service in two wars, Tilefish was given a rebuild at the San Francisco Navy Yard and was decommissioned in May 1960.

Tilefish was then sold to Venezuela, which renamed her ARV Carite (S-11). As such, she was the first modern submarine in that force. She arrived in that country on 23 July 1960, setting the small navy up to be the fifth in Latin America with subs.

ARV S-11 Carite El 4 de mayo de 1960

As noted by El Snorkel (great name), a Latin American submarine resource, Tilefish/Carite was very active indeed, making 7,287 dives with the Venezuelan Navy over the next 17 years. She participated in the Argentine/Dominican Republic/Venezuelan -U.S. Quarantine Task Force 137 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and intercepted the Soviet tug Gromoboi in 1968.

In 1966, she was part of the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) conversion program and (along with 20 other boats), was given the very basic Fleet Snorkel package which provided most ofthe bells and whistles found on the German late-WWII Type XXI U-boats– which would later prove ironic. This gave her expanded battery capacity, steamlined her sail conning tower fairwater into a so-called “Northern or North Atlantic sail”– a steel framework surrounded by thick fiberglass– added a snorkel, higher capacity air-conditioning system, and a more powerful electrical system and increased her submerged speed to 15 knots while removing her auxillary diesel. A small topside sonar dome appeared.

ex-Tilefish (SS-307), taken 12 Oct. 1966 after transfer to Venezuela as ARV Carite (S-11). Note the GUPPY series conversion, the so-called very basic “Fleet Snorkel” mod.

However, during this time, her most enduring exposure was in helping film Murphy’s War, in which a German U-boat (U-482) hides out in the Orinoco River in Venezuela after sinking British merchant steamer Mount Kyle, leaving Peter O’Toole as the lone survivor on a hunt to bag the German shark. The thing is, she looked too modern for the film after her recent conversion.

For her role, Carite was given a far-out grey-white-black dazzle camo scheme and, to make her more U-boat-ish, was fitted with a faux cigarette deck after her tower complete with a Boffin 40mm (!) and a twin Oerlikon mount (!!). Her bow was fitted with similarly faked submarine net cutting teeth.

Her “crew” was a mix of U.S. Peace Corps kids working in the area (to get the proper blonde Germanic look) with Venezuelan tars at the controls.

The movie, filmed in decadent Panavision color, shows lots of footage of the old Tilefish including a dramatic ramming sequence with a bone in her teeth and what could be the last and best images of a Balao-class submarine with her decks awash.

That bone!

Ballasting down– note the very un U-boat like sonar dome. I believe that is a QHB-1 transducer dome to starboard with a BQR-3 hydrophone behind it on port

By the mid-1970s, Tilefish/Carite was showing her age. In 1972, the Venezuelans picked up more two more advanced GUPPY II conversions, her Balao-class sister USS Cubera (SS-347), renaming her ARV Tiburon (S-12) and the Tench-class USS Grenadier (SS-525) which followed as ARV Picua (S-13) in 1973.

The Venezuelan submarine ARV Carite (S-11) demonstrates an emergency surfacing during the UNITAS XI exercise, in 1970. via All Hands magazine

Once the two “new” boats were integrated into the Venezuelan Navy, Tilefish/Carite was decommissioned on 28 January 1977 and slowly cannibalized for spare parts, enabling Cubera and Grenadier to remain in service until 1989 when they were replaced by new-built German Type 209-class SSKs, which still serve to one degree or another.

According to a Polish submarine page, some artifacts from Tilefish including a torpedo tube remain in Venezuela.

Although she is no longer afloat, eight Balao-class submarines are preserved (for now) as museum ships across the country.

Please visit one of these fine ships and keep the legacy alive:

-USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Which may not be there much longer)
USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is also on borrowed time)
USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
-USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, (which played the part of the fictional USS Stingray in the movie Down Periscope).
USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

However, Tilefish will endure wherever submarine films are enjoyed.


Displacement, surfaced: 1,526 t., Submerged: 2,424 t.
Length 311′ 10″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 15′ 3″
Speed surfaced 20.25 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts
Cruising Range, 11,000 miles surfaced at 10kts; Submerged Endurance, 48 hours at 2kts
Operating Depth Limit, 400 ft.
Patrol Endurance 75 days
Propulsion: diesels-electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks-Morse main generator engines., 5,400 hp, four Elliot Motor Co., main motors with 2,740 hp, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.
Fuel Capacity: 94,400 gal.
Complement 6 Officers 60 Enlisted
(As built)
10 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes,
one 4″/50 caliber deck gun,
one 40mm gun,
two .50 cal. machine guns
(By 1966)
10 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes,

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