Here at LSOZI, we will take off every Wednesday to look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and 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, June 16, 2021: Rig for Red
Called a skalomniscope by American sub wonk Simon Lake, the periscope of sorts was first invented in 1854 by a French guy by the name of Marie Davey, submersibles have had various “sight tubes” ever since. While early boats had a single short scope attached directly to the (single) top hatch (!) by the 1930s it was common for large fleet submarines to have multiple search and attack periscopes in the sail.
Over the years, these devices in U.S. parlance led to the term “periscope liberty” which denoted side use in observing peacetime beaches and pleasure craft with bikini-clad femmes at play and, of course, the old-school “Rig for red” use of red lighting for those who would use the scopes while the boat was at periscope depth at night or was preparing to go topside should the boat to surface in the o-dark-o’clock hours.
Here are some of the cooler periscope shots in the NHHC’s collection, among others.
Vessel sighting mechanism details LC-USZC4-4561 Robert Hudson’s submarine 1806 periscope patent
The eye of the submarine periscope, Gallagher card.
Aircraft carrier Taiho, seen through the periscope of submarine USS Albacore
Japanese destroyer ‘Harusame’, photographed through the periscope of USS Wahoo (SS-238) after she had been torpedoed by the submarine near Wewak, New Guinea, on 24 January 1943
Japanese armed trawler seen through the periscope of USS Albacore (SS-218) during her tenth war patrol. Photo received 17 November 1944 NHHC 80-286279
80-G-13550 Guardfish periscope
Submarine officer sights through a periscope in the submarine’s control room, during training exercises at the Submarine Base, New London, Groton, Connecticut, in August 1943 80-G-K-16013
Periscope death of the destroyer Tade, (1922) Montage of eight photos showing her sinking after being torpedoed by USS Seawolf (SS-197) on 23 April 1943 NH 58329
Shoreline of Makin Island, photographed through a periscope of USS Nautilus (SS-168) on 16 August 1942, the day before U.S. Marine raiders were landed 80-G-11720
Periscope photograph taken from USS Seawolf (SS-197), while she was on patrol in the Philippines-East Indies area in the fall of 1942. 80-G-33184
Periscope photograph made PUFFER SS-268 freighter Teiko Maru (ex-Vichy French steamship D’Artagnan 1943. Torpedo is shown hitting NH 68784
USS Barb 1944 “fiendish antisubmarine weapon bird” blocking Lucky Fluckey’s view on approach. He reportedly sank the Japanese ship with his observation periscope
In January of 1951, the recently GUPPY’d USS Catfish slipped into San Francisco Bay underwater and remained in the harbor for three days taking photos of the Bay Area through their periscope in daylight as part of an authorized mission to see if they could do it with a minimum of civilian reaction. The mission was successful to a degree, as no one called SFPD or the military, as reported by the San Fran Chronicle.
Sighting the target submarine periscope by Georges Schreiber, Navy Art Collection 88-159-ji
USS JOHN HOOD (DD-655) and USS SNOWDEN (DE-246) photographed through a submarine periscope, while underway 1950s USN 1042008
View from the HALIBUT’s periscope of the March 1960 launch of the Regulus missile.
USS Seadragon (SSN 584) crewmembers explore ice pack in the Arctic Ocean through the periscope
President John F. Kennedy through the periscope aboard USS THOMAS EDISON (SSBN-610) 14 April 1962 USN 1112056-F
USS New Jersey (BB-62) seen through the periscope of USS La Jolla SSN-701
Bohol Strait USS Triton spies a local fisherman on April 1 1960
Key West submarines USS Sea Poacher, USS Grenadier, and USS Threadfin wind their way up the Mississippi River toward New Orleans, as seen through the periscope of USS Tirante, Mardi Gras 1963
Periscope view as Captain G.P. Steele searches for an opening in the ice through which to surface, September 1960 USS Sea Dragon SSN-584 USN 1050054
USS Cowpens through the periscope of the nuclear fast attack submarine USS Salt Lake City (SSN 716), Western Pacific, September 1994.
Many modern submarines, including the U.S. Virginia and RN’s Astute class, no longer use traditional periscopes, having long since ditched them in favor of modern telescoping digital optronics masts housing numerous camera and sensor systems with the Navy’s current standard being the AN/BVS-1 photonics mast.
Astute class CM10 Optronic Masts from Thales. periscope
GROTON, Conn. (Dec. 20, 2019) Sailors assigned to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Minnesota (SSN 783) stand topside as they pull into their homeport at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., Dec 20, 2019, following a deployment. Minnesota deployed to execute the chief of naval operation’s maritime strategy in supporting national security interests and maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Hoskins/Released)
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