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Warship Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019: Splinter No. 330 (of 448)

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Jan. 2, 2019: Splinter No. 330 of 448

Collection of George K. Beach, U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 91189

Here we see the mighty 110-foot Submarine Chaser No. 330 of the U.S. Navy en route across the Atlantic, circa September-October 1918, to take the fight to the Kaiser’s unterseeboot threat. The hearty little class, more akin to yachts or trawlers than warships, were hard to kill and gave unsung service by the hundreds, with SC-330 one of the longer-lasting of the species.

In an effort to flood the Atlantic with sub-busting craft and assure the U-boat scourge was driven from the sea, the 110-foot subchasers were designed by Herreshoff Boat Yard Vice President, the esteemed naval architect Albert Loring Swasey (Commodore of the MIT Yacht Club in 1897) on request of Asst Naval Secretary Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1916 and rushed into construction the next year. It was believed the vessels could be rushed out via commercial boat yards at $500K a pop.

Submarine Chaser SC-49 parading with other Sub Chasers off an unknown East Coast port

Derided as a “splinter fleet” the SCs were built from wood (the most excellent Subchaser Archives says “Frame/floors: white oak. Planking: yellow pine. Deck planking: Oregon pine”), which, when powered by a trio of Standard 220-hp 6-cylinder gasoline (!) engines, a 24~ man crew could get the narrow-beamed vessel underway at a (designed) top speed of 18 knots, which was fast enough for U-boat work at the time.

View in the engine room, looking aft, circa 1918. Taken by Louis Harder, at The Naval Experimental Station, New London, Conn NH 44355

Armed with a 3″/23cal low-angle pop gun forward– which was still capable of punching a hole in a submarine’s sail or pressure hull out to 8,000 yards– a couple of M1895 Colt/Marlin or Lewis light machine guns for peppering periscopes, and assorted depth charges (both racks and projectors), they were dangerous enough for government work.

3-inch gun drill, Submarine Chaser operating in European waters, 1918 NH 124131

Deck scene aboard a U.S. Navy Submarine Chaser during World War I. Caption: This photo, taken from the top of the pilot house, shows the boat’s “Y” gun depth charge thrower aft of amidships and a 12-foot Wherry dinghy coming alongside (each chaser carried one as well as a liferaft stowed on the engine room trunk). The submarine chaser in the picture is not identified but may be USS SC-143. Original photograph from the collection of Mr. Peter K. Connelly, who was Boatswain on the SC-143 in 1918-1919. NH 64978

For finding their quarry, they were equipped with hydrophones produced by the Submarine Signal Company of Boston (which today is Raytheon), of the C-tube and K-tube variety.

As noted by no less authority than Admiral William S. Sims in a 1920 article reprinted in All Hands in 1954:

“The C-tube consisted of a lead pipe-practically the same as a water pipe which was dropped over the side of the ship fifteen or
twenty feet into the sea; this pipe contained the wires which, at one end, were attached to the devices under the water, and which, at the other end, reached the listener’s ears.”

When a cavitation submarine was near it “showed signs of lively agitation. It trembled violently and made a constantly increasing hullabaloo in the ears of the listener.”

C-Tube Illustration #2 Caption: This diagram shows the inner workings of a C-tube listening device. Original Location: Submarine Signal Company Descriptive Specifications of General Electric Company’s “C” Tube Set, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 338, National Archives, Washington, DC

C-Tube Illustration #1 The C-Tube over the side

“At work aboard a U.S. Navy submarine chaser (SC),” at the U.S. Naval Experimental Station, New London, Connecticut, circa 1918. Photo by Louis Harder, New London. NH 2460

Besides escorting coastal convoys (subchasers had short legs) and watching for surfaced boats, 3-packs of the hardy little vessels would drift and listen, their K-tubes and C-tubes in the water, depth charges at the ready.

From Sims:

The three little vessels, therefore, drifted abreast-at a distance of a mile or two apart-their propellers hardly moving, and the decks as silent as the grave; they formed a new kind of fishing expedition, the officers and crews constantly held taut by the expectation of a “bite.” The middle chaser of the three was the flagship and her most interesting feature was the so-called plotting room. Here one officer received constant telephone reports from all three boats, giving the nature of the sounds, and, more important still, their directions. He transferred these records to a chart as soon as they came in, rapidly made calculations, and in a few seconds, he was able to give the location of the submarine. This process was known as “obtaining a fix.”

This photograph captioned “Battle Formation of Sub-chasers”, seems to depict the vessels in a columnar formation, which would be unusual for engaging with a submarine. The battle formation was most commonly ships arranged in a line abreast. From the T. Woofenden Collection at via NHHC

The first of the class, SC-1, was built at Naval Station New Orleans and commissioned in October 1917. Others were built at Mare Island, New York (Brooklyn), Charleston, Norfolk and Puget Sound Naval Yards; by Matthews Boat in Ohio, Hodgdon Yacht in Maine, Hiltebrant in Kingston, College Point Boat Works, Mathis Yacht in New Jersey, Barrett SB in Alabama, Great Lake Boat Building Corp in Milwaukee…well, you get the idea…they were built everywhere, some 448 vessels over three years.

110-foot subchaser under construction in Cleveland. Photo by Cleveland Parks

110-foot wooden submarine chaser being built at an unidentified shipyard. NARA 165-WW-506a-111

Our subject, SC-330, was handcrafted with love by the Burger Boat Co., Manitowoc, Wisconsin— the only such craft built by the yard– and commissioned 8 February 1918. Of note, Burger is still in the yacht biz today.

She cut her teeth with the early submarine hunter-killer group centered around the Paulding-class four-piper destroyer USS Jouett (DD-41) on the East Coast.

Assigned to Division 12 of Submarine Chaser Squadron 4 for service overseas during the Great War, SC-330 headed overseas in September 1918, ending up in the Azores.

U.S Navy Submarine Chasers at sea in August 1918. NH 63449

Submarine chasers at sea in European waters during World War I NH 2687

Rushed into service, at least 121 of the 110s made it “Over There” before Versailles, including no less than 36 that operated in the Med from the island of Corfu. Not bad for ships that only hit the drawing board in late 1916.

The boat carried two officers, a CPO, five engine rates, three electricians (radiomen), a BM, a QM, 3 hydrophone listeners, a couple of guys in the galley, and 5-7 seamen. Crews were often a mix of trawlermen serving as rates, Ivy League yachtsmen as officers, and raw recruits making up the balance. In many cases, the Chief was the only regular Navy man aboard. Life was primative, with no racks, one head and hammocks strung all-round.

Most crews went from civilian life to getting underway in just a few months. The fact that these craft deploying to Europe did so on their own power– effectively in a war zone as soon as they left brown water on the East Coast– with very little in the way of a shakedown is remarkable.

Subchaser refueling, on the voyage from the Azores to Ireland

Fueling sub chasers at sea, 1918. Capable of an 880-mile range on their 2,400 gallons of gasoline, each chaser needed to refuel 4-5 times while on a crossing of the Atlantic. Pretty heady stuff in the day. NH 109622

In an Azores harbor with other ships of the U.S. and foreign navies, circa October 1918. The six sub chasers in the left center of the view, with bows to the camera, are (from left to right): SC-223, SC-330, SC-180, SC-353, SC-331 and (probably) SC-356. Ships nested with them, to the right, include a bird type minesweeper and two converted yacht patrol vessels. The four sailing ship masts to the extreme right probably belong to the French Quevilly, which was serving as station tanker in the Azores. Collection of George K. Beach, who was a crewmember of USS SC-331 at the time. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 99742

Mosquito fleet U.S. Navy submarine chasers of the “Mosquito Fleet” at the Azores, circa 1919. Naval History and Heritage Command NH 67714

The ships did what they could and, when used in a littoral, performed admirably. For example, a squadron of 11 of these chasers screened the British-French-Italian naval forces during the Second Battle of Durazzo in Oct. 1918, destroying mines that threatened the bombarding ships and driving off an Austrian submarine trying to attack the Allied fleet.

However, when in open ocean, things could get really real for them.

As noted by an Irish site referencing the 30 110s under Capt. A.J. Hepburn that arrived in August 1918:

The 110 foot subchaser was a fine sea boat, but was never designed to withstand the wild Atlantic seas off Ireland. Constant leaks from decks and windows, choking petrol fumes in the officers quarters, and constant seasickness from the rolling motion, were the lot of crews of these craft.

In heavy weather they would be almost awash, with only the pilot house showing above the waves. The depth charge racks were felt to be too heavy and made the vessels prone to taking seas over the stern. Many reports of German submarines from coastwatchers and others were actually subchasers ploughing through heavy seas.

Subchaser in heavy seas, showing how, from a distance, it could be mistaken for a u-boat

Once the war ended, SC-330 was sent back to the states, served in Gitmo for a time, and was laid up in the Gulf Coast in 1919.

Submarine chasers awaiting disposition. Caption: Part of the hundreds of World War I submarine chasers tied up at the Port Newark Army Base, New Jersey, awaiting disposition, 13 May 1920. Those identified include: USS SC-78, USS SC-40, USS SC-47, USS SC-143, and USS SC-110. Description: Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, San Francisco, California, 1969. Catalog #: NH 69166

SC-330 caught a reprieve. In the summer of 1920, she was sent up the Mississippi River system and served on semi-active duty through the 1920s and 30s, training Naval Reservists in the Midwest. As such, the little boat and those like her cradled the USNR through the interwar period, and, without such vessels, WWII would have looked a lot different.

S-330 underway in Midwestern waters, during the 1920s or 1930s. Sign on the building in the right distance reads Central Illinois Light Co. Note that she has lost her depth charges and Y-gun, not needed for use on the Mississippi River. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41996

Three of the 110s that made it to WWII service: USS SC-330; USS SC-412; and USS SC-64, in port, circa the 1920s or 1930s. The original image is printed on postal card stock. Note the difference in lettering, with some using abbreviations (“S.C. 64”) and some not (“SC412”) Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2005. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Photo #: NH 103096

Of her 448 sisters, more than 100 were transferred to the French during the war, some to the Coast Guard in the 1920s, and most liquidated by the early 1930s as they grew long in the tooth. Wood vessels with gasoline engines weren’t highly desired by the Navy at the time, after all.

USCGC Vaughan, ex-USS SC-152, was built by the Gibbs Gas Engine Co., Jacksonville, FL but served her career in Coastie White off Key West and San Diego during Prohibiton. With Volstead on its way out, she was decommissioned 28 March 1928 and sold. Her end is similar to most SCs., discarded before they had 10 years on their rapidly deteriorating wooden hulls.

Few of the 110s survived the Depression on Uncle’s inventory and SC-330 was the only one of her 100-ship block (from SC 301-400) to serve in WWII, likely continuing her role as a training ship. As most of her life had been spent in freshwater– usually wintering ashore to keep out of the ice– the likely contributed to her longevity.

SC-330 out of the water for maintenance, from an article in the Marengo-Union Times relating a 1940s interaction with the vessel at St. Louis, MO

Only about a dozen or so 110s were carried on the Naval List during the Second World War. (The other 12 were: SC-64, SC-102, SC-103, SC-185, SC-412, SC-431, SC-432, SC-437, SC-440, SC-449, SC-450, SC-453, one of which was lost and three were retired before the end of the war. In addition, SC-229 and SC-231 were in USCG service as the cutters Boone and Blaze, respectively). Most were in YP or training duties, although some did mount ASW gear to include mousetrap bomb throwers and depth charges, just in case.

SC-330, was one of the last four of her type in service, decommissioning and struck from the Navy Register 22 June 1945, then transferred to the War Shipping Administration on 8 October 1946. (The only longer-lasting 110s were: SC-431 transferred to WSA on 12/9/46, SC-437 on 3/21/47, and SC-102 on 1/3/47).

While these craft are all largely gone for good, extensive plans remain of the vessels in the National Archives.

For more on these craft, please visit Splinter Fleet and The Subchaser Archives.


Displacement: 85 tons full load, 77 tons normal load
Length: 110 ft oa (105 ft pp)
Beam: 14 ft 9 in
Draft: 5 ft 7 in
Propulsion: Three 220 bhp Standard gasoline engines (!) as built, replaced by Hall & Scott engines in 1920.
Speed: 18 kn as designed, 16 or less in practice
Range: 880 nmi at 10 kn with 2,400 gallons fuel
Complement: Two officers, 22-25 enlisted
Sonar-like objects: One Submarine Signal Company C-Tube, M.B. Tube, or K Tube hydrophone
1 × 3 in (76 mm)/23-caliber low-angle gun mount, fwd (2 designed, only one mounted in favor of Y-gun aft)
2 × Colt/Marlin M1895 .30-06 caliber machine guns (some seen with Lewis guns)
1 × Y-gun depth charge projector, depth charge racks

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

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Warship Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018: Nimitz’s pogy boat

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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

Photo by Harry Berns, Official photographer of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., Manitowoc, WI., courtesy of Robert E. Straub, RM2SS, Guavina SS-362 (August 1944 to August 1946). Photo i.d. courtesy of John Hummel, USN (Retired). Via Navsource

Here we see the Balao-class diesel-electric fleet submarine USS Menhaden (SS-377) underway during sea trials in Lake Michigan, January 1945. One of 28 “freshwater submarines” made by Manitowoc in Wisconsin during WWII, she cut her teeth in the depths of the Great Lakes but was soon enough sent off to war. Before her career was said and done she would participate in three of them and help aid the next generation of bubbleheads well into the Red October-era.

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 the rocket-mailing USS Barbero, the carrier-sinking USS Archerfish the long-serving USS Catfish and the frogman Cadillac USS Perchbut don’t complain, they have lots of great stories

Like most pre-Rickover submarines, the subject of our tale today was named for a fish. Menhaden, commonly called pogy, is a small and greasy fish of the herring family found in the Lakes, as well as in the Atlantic and Gulf. Where I live in Pascagoula, we have a menhaden plant that processes boatloads of these nasty little boogers to mash for their oil, which is later used in cosmetics (remember that next time you see lipstick) and for fish oil supplements.

I give you, menhaden, in its most common form…I take it every day. Omegas and all that.

Her insignia, like almost all those on the WWII fish boats, is great.

Insignia: USS MENHADEN (SS-377) Caption: This emblem originated in 1944, prior to MENHADEN’s commissioning. It features a fish wearing an Indian war bonnet and carrying a tomahawk with a torpedo for a head. The idea for this design developed because the Menhaden fish was a staple food of the Manitowoc Indians. The ship was built at Manitowoc, Wisconsin. This embroidered patch emblem was received from USS MENHADEN in 1969. Description: Catalog #: NH 69767-KN

Laid down by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., Manitowoc, Wis., 21 June 1944, USS Menhaden was commissioned 366 days later 22 June 1945, Navy Cross recipient CDR David H. McClintock in command.

Menhaden, the last of the Manitowoc‑built boats to have commissioned service during World War II, trained in Lake Michigan until 15 July. Thence, she was floated down the Mississippi River to New Orleans where she departed for the Canal Zone on 27 July. She conducted extensive training out of Balboa during the closing days of the war against Japan, and between 1 and 16 September cruised to Pearl Harbor for duty with SubRon 19. Photo via Wisconsin Maritime Museum.

While she may have been commissioned (as it turns out) too late for the war, her crew was far from green.

USS Darter (SS-227), a Gato-class submarine commissioned in 1943, in her 13 months of existence won a Navy Unit Commendation and four battle stars across a similar number of war patrols, credited with having sunk a total of 19,429 long tons (19,741 t) of Japanese shipping. While a part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Darter sank the massive 15,000-ton Japanese heavy cruiser Atago and seriously damaged her sister, the cruiser Takao, directly impacting the outcome of the fleet action. However, she paid a price and, hard aground in the Philippines, had to be abandoned.

USS DARTER (SS-227) Caption: Aground on Bombay Shoal, off southwest Palawan. Note damage caused by her crew’s attempts to scuttle her. DARTER had gone aground on 24 October 1944, after a successful attack on the Japanese fleet, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. From U.S. Submarine Losses, World War II, page 113. #: NH 63699

In order to retain their high esprit de corps, the entire Darter crew was ordered to Wisconsin to take over Menhaden, fleshed out by 20 new blue jackets.

As it turned out, this gave the new ship with her crack crew of salty veterans a unique rendezvous with destiny.

You see some four years prior, at Pearl Harbor just three weeks after the bloody attack that crippled the U.S. battleship force in the Pacific, Adm. Chester William Nimitz, Sr. (USNA 1905), who cut his teeth on cranky early submarines before the Great War and by 1939 was the chief of the Bureau of Navigation, assumed command of the U.S Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT) on the orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, replacing the outgoing Adm. (reduced to RADM) Husband Edward Kimmel. As a nod to his early days (and because no battleships were available), Nimitz hoisted his flag first on the Tambor-class submarine USS Grayling (SS-209).

USS Grayling (SS-209). The signed inscription reads, “At Pearl Harbor on 31 Dec. 1941 hoisted 4-star Admiral’s flag on U.S.S Grayling and took command of U.S. Pacific Fleet. C.W. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral, USN” NH 58089

Nimitz, of course, would be slightly better remembered than Kimmel and would hold his job until replaced at Thanksgiving 1945 by ADM Raymond A. Spruance. That’s where Menhaden comes in.

Arriving at Pearl on 16 Sept 1945 after their trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans from the Great Lakes and a run through the Canal, Menhaden was chosen to host the change of command between Nimitz and Spruance.

As noted by the Navy,

Although untried in combat, she was one of the newest boats in the Submarine Service and incorporated the latest improvements in submarine design and equipment. Moreover, her “gallantly battle‑tested” crew epitomized the “valor, skill, and dedicated service of submariners” during the long Pacific war. Thus, on her deck that morning Fleet Admiral Nimitz read his orders assigning him to duty as Chief of Naval Operations, and his relief, Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, read orders making him CINCPAC and CINPOA.

In a change of command ceremony, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, is relieved as Commander-in-Chief Pacific-Pacific Ocean Area (CINCPAC-CINCPOA) by Admiral Raymond A. Spruance on board USS MENHADEN (SS-377) moored at Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, 24 November 1945. Shown here boarding the submarine is Fleet Admiral Nimitz followed by Admiral Spruance. the sub on the opposite side of the pier is USS DENTUDA (SS-335). Description: Catalog #: NH 62274

Admiral Raymond A. Spruance relieves Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, as Commander-in-Chief Pacific-Pacific Ocean Area (CINCPAC-CINCPOA)onboard USS MENHADEN (SS-377) moored at Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, 24 November 1945. Standing in line, L To R, are Vice Admiral J.H. Newton, Vice Admiral C.H. McMorris, Rear Admiral D.C. Ramsey, Commander James Loo, and Lieutenant Sam L. Bernard. All USN. Here, Admiral Spruance reads his orders. Description: Catalog #: NH 62272

USS MENHADEN (SS-377) Caption: In Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 24 November 1945, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, hoisted his 5-star flag on MENHADEN and turned over command of U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean areas to Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN. The writing on the photo is Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s. Description: Catalog #: NH 58081

The brand-new submarine and her crew of vets operated out of Pearl Harbor for just four months then received orders for San Francisco where she was decommissioned 31 May 1946 and mothballed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet after less than a year of active duty.

In 1951 the still “new-old-stock” fleet boat was taken back out of storage for use in Korea, recommissioning at Mare Island 7 August 1951, earning the Korean Service Medal and UN Service Medal.

However, as before, she didn’t get any licks in and remained on the West Coast for most of the conflict, converting the next year to a “Guppy IIA” modification, which she would carry the rest of her career. Nimitz attended the recommissioning ceremony as an honored guest, the second time the young boat would fly the flag of a five-star admiral.

USS MENHADEN (SS-377) Caption: Off the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Mare Island, California, 4 May 1953, after her “Guppy 11A” conversion. Note change in the sail, the addition of a snorkel, and removal of deck guns, etc. Description: Catalog #: NH 90862

After her first West Pac deployment starting in Sept. 1953– picking up the China Service Medal for services to the Chinese Nationalist Navy Vessels in Formosa– Menhaden would rotate back and forth between training operations off California and patrols in the troubled waters off Korea and Taiwan, keeping tabs on Chinese and Soviet assets in the region and just generally serving as “the powerful seagoing arm of freedom in the Far East,” as DANFS notes. She completed four lengthy West Pac deployments by 1964.

Menhaden (SS-377) underway, c. 1961. Her sail would later be further streamlined. via Navsource

Then came two tours in the waters off Vietnam (Nov 1964-May 1965 and Aug 1966-Feb 1967), seeing her active shooting war for the first time, and was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal with two campaign stars.

As far as WWII diesel boats, the late 1960s and early 1970s were not kind to them. The last two Gato-class boats active in the US Navy were USS Rock and USS Bashaw, which were both decommissioned Sept 1969. The last Balao-class submarine in United States service was USS Clamagore (SS-343), which was decommissioned June 1973. The final submarine of the Tench class, as well as the last submarine which served during World War II, in fleet service with the U.S. Navy, was USS Tigrone (SS/AGSS-419) which decommissioned June 1975.

That’s where Menhaden was given a reprieve of sorts, remaining in (sort of) service with the Fleet well past her sisters had gone to the breakers. Decommissioned 13 August 1971, her name was taken off the Naval List two days later and she was again in mothballs.

By 1976, she was transferred to the Naval Undersea Warfare Engineering Station in Keyport, Washington who would use her as a surface and submerged target ship for another decade. In this role, she had her engines and batteries removed and she was painted bright yellow.

A literal Yellow Submarine.

Under tow to the Naval Torpedo Station, Keyport, Washington, 28 December 1976, where it will be used as a surface and submerged target to obtain data on torpedo effects. The sub is painted yellow to enable easier damage assessment. Tug is a torpedo retrieval boat. KN-25569

Ex-Menhaden (SS-377) at the Explosive Handling Wharf, Naval Submarine Base, Bangor, Washington, in the early 1980s. Text courtesy of Dave Carpenter. Photo courtesy of Les Guille. Via Navsource

By the late 1980s, even Menhaden, known around Keyport as “The Hulk” was no more, and she was scrapped by 1988. As far as I can tell, she was the last WWII-era diesel sub in use by the Navy in any form.

A port bow view of the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Chicago (CG-11) laid up at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Washington (USA). To the left of Chicago is the submarine USS Menhaden (SS-377), another submarine and the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CV-34). To the right is USS Hornet (CVS-12). National Archives and Records Administration cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6450775. DN-SC-90-03977

Lots of remnants and tributes to the ship endure.

The National Museum of the Pacific War, home of the Nimitz Museum in Texas, has some artifacts from the Menhaden. There is an extensive crew/reunion site for the vessel (here) and a historical marker on the north bank of the Milwaukee River, on The Manitowoc County 28 Boat Memorial Walk, adjacent to her sister, the USS Cobia, at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.

At the USS Bowfin submarine museum and park in Honolulu (a sister ship of Menhaden), they have a war-bonnet wearing pogy donated to the site by one of Menhaden’s skippers.

Via Bowfin Museum

From the Bowfin Museum:

The sub’s emblem displays the head of the fish Menhaden, decorated with a war bonnet that honors the Manitowoc Indians who used said fish for food and fertilizing their fields. Dale C. Johnson, who was one of USS Menhaden’s commanding officers (1964), was raised on the Yakima Indian Reservation, and when childhood friends learned of his occupation on such a boat, they arranged to have a war bonnet made and sent to Johnson and his crew. A pattern maker from USS Sperry carved the fish head, fin, and torpedo-tomahawk, which when added to the war bonnet, made the emblem three-dimensional and to be displayed on festive occasions. Commander Johnson has since donated his treasure to the USS Bowfin Museum and Park, where it is on display today

Although Menhaden 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 is, sadly, set to sink as a reef in the next few months)
USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is also in poor shape)
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.

The Navy List has not carried the name of another Menhaden, which is a shame.

Her first skipper, CPT. David Haywood McClintock (USNA 1935) retired from the Navy in 1965 and died in 2002 at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Michigan, aged 89.


Balao-Class USS Menhaden shown in model re-fitted as a remotely-controlled, unmanned acoustic test vehicle, known as the ‘Yellow Submarine’ serving with the Naval Underwater Systems Center until she was scrapped in 1988 Via ARC Forums

1,848 tons (1,878 t) surfaced
2,440 tons (2,479 t) submerged
Length: 311 ft
Beam: 27 ft 4 in
Draft: 17 ft
4 × General Motors Model 16-278A V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries
4 × high-speed General Electric motors with reduction gears
two propellers
5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced
2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged
(1953): Snorkel added, one diesel engine and generator removed, batteries upgraded
20.25 knots surfaced
8.75 knots submerged
17.0 knots maximum
13.5 knots cruising
14.1 knots for ½ hour
8.0 knots snorkeling
3.0 knots cruising
Range: 11,000 nautical miles surfaced at 10 knots
48 hours at 2 knots submerged
75 days on patrol
Test depth: 400 ft (120 m)
Complement:10 officers, 70–71 enlisted
10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
6 forward, 4 aft
24 torpedoes
1 × 5-inch (127 mm) / 25 caliber deck gun
Bofors 40 mm and Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes, small arms

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find.

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018: The spaghetti boats of Mar del Plata

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Nov. 28, 2018: The spaghetti boats of Mar del Plata

Colorized by my friend, Diego Mar, of Postales Navales

Here we see the fine Italian-made Santa Fe (Cavallini)-class submarine ARA Santa Fe (S1) of the Argentine Navy sailing past Castello Aragonese in Taranto in 1933.

With the recent tragic loss of ARA San Juan, it should be remembered that the blue and white banner of the Armada de la República Argentina has been waving proudly over submarines for almost a century, with the fleet’s Comando de la Fuerza de Submarinos being established some 85 years ago and Santa Fe and her twin sisterships, known in Argentina as the “Tarantinos” due to their origin, started it all.

The Italians had started building submarines as far back as 1892 when the Delfino took to the water. Although they don’t get a lot of press, the Regina Marina put to sea with a formidable submarine force in both World Wars and the Spanish Civil War, which was used to good effect. In WWII, for instance, domestically made Italian subs working briefly in the Atlantic claimed 109 Allied ships, amounting to almost 600,000 tons. Further, Buenos Ares and Rome had a prior relationship stretching back to the 19th Century when it came to ordering naval vessels, so the two were natural partners when the Latin American country wanted in on submersibles.

Contracted with Cantieri navali Tosi on 15 October 1927, the Argentine government arranged for three submarines to be constructed at Taranto to a design of the Cavallini type derived from the Italian Navy’s Settembrini-class boats. At just over 1,100-tons when submerged and some 227-feet long, these were not big boats by any means, but they a modern and efficient design.

Argentina submarines Sumergibles Salta, Santa Fe y Santiago del Estero. Año under construction in 1929. Astillero Franco Tosti. Tarento. Italia.

Equipped with Tosi diesels and electric motors, they could make 17.5-knots surfaced and about half that while submerged, which was pretty good for a 1920s era submarine. Using a saddle-tank hull design with five compartments, they could make an impressive 7,100 nm at 8 knots surfaced, allowing them to deploy from Italy to their new homeland non-stop when completed and complete 30-day patrols. With a crush depth of 300~ feet, they mounted a 4-inch gun on deck and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes, making them capable of sinking a battleship with a single salvo. The Italians later developed the design into their Archimedes-class submarines.

ARA Santa Fe (S1) was class leader followed by ARA Santiago del Estero (S2) and then ARA Salta (S3), all completed by early 1933, all named after Argentine provinces, a tradition in the Armada. After a shakedown in the Med with Italian-trained crews and a short work-up cruise to the Canary Islands, they were on their way to Argentina.

Inspected by national leaders to include President Agustín Pedro Justo upon their arrival at their new homeland, they were given their naval ensigns in October 1933, scarcely six years after they were ordered.

The submarines were tended by the old (Italian-made) protected cruiser ARA General Belgrano until the latter was stricken in 1947, and then her place was taken by the coastal battleship ARA Independencia.

Argentine Santa Fe class submarines, Mar del Plata, circa 1947. Submarinos Tarantinos with coastal battleship ARA Independencia

Operating from their base at Mar del Plata, the class would train and exercise regularly, and stand to (uneventful) service in WWII to protect Argentina’s neutrality and later (on paper) join the effort against Germany after the country declared war on 27 March 1945.

Famously, the last two German U-boats to surrender, U-530 and U-977, did so to Argentine military forces on 10 July and 17 August 1945 at Mar del Plata, respectively and were briefly in the custody of the country’s submarine flotilla until transferred to the U.S. Navy.

U-977 lies in in Mar del Plata, Argentina; rusty and weather-beaten after 108 days at sea – Photograph courtesy of Carlos J. Mey – Administrator of the Historia y Arqueologia Marítima website via U-boat Archive

Post-war service continued with more of the same and the Santa Fe-class subs, growing long in the teeth and being hard to repair due to their 1920s Italian parts, often made by companies no longer in business after 1945, meant their timeline was limited. Santa Fe was stricken in Sept. 1956, followed by Santiago del Estero in April 1959.

Salta would outlast them all, making her 1,000th dive in 1960 before striking on 3 August. The last of the Tarantinos was sold for scrap the following April. Salta‘s flag, as well as several artifacts from her days in the Armada, are on display at the Museo de la Fuerza de Submarinos in Mar del Plata but that is not the end of her legacy.

On 1 April 1960 the US and Argentine Navy signed an agreement to transfer two Balao-class submarines, USS Macabi (SS-375) and USS Lamprey (SS-372) who went on to be renamed ARA Santa Fe (S-11) and ARA Santiago del Estero (S-12), respectively, and were manned in large part by veteran submariners who cut their teeth on the Italian-built boats. Serving until 1971, they were in turn replaced by two other GUPPY-modified Balaos, USS Chivo (SS-341) and USS Catfish (SS-339) who served as (wait for it) ARA Santiago del Estero (S-22) and ARA Santa Fe (S-21). The latter, a Warship Wednesday Alumni, had somewhat spectacularly bad luck in the Falklands, becoming the first submarine taken out of service by a helicopter-fired missile.

Speaking of the Falklands, in 1971, Argentina ordered a pair of new Type 209/1200 submarines from Germany, named ARA Salta (S-31) and ARA San Luis (S-32), the latter was more or less active in the Falklands but faced the double-edged sword of not being sunk although an entire British task force (including modern SSNs) were looking for her but in turn not being able to make a hit with her malfunctioning torpedoes.

ARA Salta S31, a Type 209 SSK now some 45 years young and still on active duty

Salta is still on active duty although San Luis has since been decommissioned. With the recent loss of San Juan, Salta and one remaining TR-1700 type U-boat, ARA Santa Cruz (S-41), are the only operational Argentine subs.

Argentine submarine classes in a nutshell from 1933 to current. Between the 11 boats, only six names were used.

For more information on the boat and her class, see the dedicated memorial group for them at Los Tarantinos Argentina 1933 -1960 (Historia de submarinos) and the articles on the class at ElSnorkel (Spanish) and Histarmar.


USN Submarine Sighting Guide ONI 31-2A June 1958 with Salta compared when she was likely one of the last 1920s-ordered submarines on active duty anywhere

Displacement: 755 tons (1155 submerged)
Length: 227 (oa) ft.
Beam: 21.91 ft.
Draft: 16.56 ft.
Diving depth: 80m operational
Engines: 2 Tosi diesels, 3,000hp. One electric motor, 1,043kW
Speed: 17.5 knots on the surface, 9 submerged
Range: 7,100nm at 8 knots surfaced on 90 tons of fuel oil, 80nm at 4kts submerged
Crew: 40
1x 4″/40 Odero-Terni deck gun
2x machine guns
8x 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 forward, 4 aft)
1x 40mm/60cal Bofors single added in 1944 for WWII service

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find.

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

The curious Soviet mini-sub of South Alabama

While running around South Alabama, I came across the sleepy shrimping capital of Bayou La Batre along the Mississippi Sound. The basis for Winston Groom’s (who grew up in Mobile County and for years later lived along Mobile Bay) fictional Greenbow, Alabama in “Forest Gump,” the town self-bills as, “The Seafood Capital of Alabama.”

So, of course, it has a surplus Soviet mini-sub along Hwy 188 downtown.

Soviet Sever 2 Bis civil submersible on its carriage at Bayou La Batre, 2018 (Photo: Chris Eger)

Built in Leningrad between 1968 and 1972 for the Soviet Ministry of Fisheries to research fish concentrations, Project 1825 produced two “North” (Sever) type submersible, dubbed “Север-2” (Sever-2) and Sever-2 Bis.

Proof the above wasn’t a Mardi Gras parade float

Complete with manipulator arms, seven viewing ports (3x 140mm, 4x60mm) and the ability to dive to as deep as 2,000m, they were legit minisubs for their day, akin to the U.S. Navy’s similar Alvin DSV project which predated the Severs by a half-decade.

Sever 2 in happier times

Operating from the 2,700-ton Soviet research ships Odissey and Ikhtiander, the two subs spent time in the Med, Atlantic, Baltic, and Pacific throughout the 1970s and 80s, conducting fisheries and oceanographic research. Electrically powered, they could motor at 3.5-knots for up to 9 hours before their batteries were drained, or simply submerge for as many as 72, carrying 3-5 operators/observers.

SEVER 2 & ODISSEY in the Atlantic, May 12, 1977, via Shipspotting

Displacement 39.9 tonnes
Length: 40.68 feet
Beam: 8.76 feet
Draft (surfaced): 13.28 feet
Speed: 3.5 kts
Diving depth: 2,000 m, operating

Their work was important enough that the Soviets showed them off in a series of postage stamps.

Once the Cold War ended and Moscow thawed, the aging Severs and their motherships were laid up. Odissey and Ikhtiander were soon scrapped and Sever-2 left to rust in Sevastapol.

Apparently, in the 1990s, Sever-2 Bis was sold to an entrepreneur who considered putting it back into service and moved to Steiner Shipyard in Bayou La Batre. There it has sat ever since.

Mobile-native filmmaker Mike deGruy– who dived on “Titanic” with director James Cameron and for his BBC series “The Blue Planet”– took a look at the vessel in 2010 saying at the time that “a person would have to be crazy to go underwater in that contraption.”

Now, pushing 50, the Sever-2 Bis is still hard ashore in Shrimp Town, USA.

Head-on (Photo: Chris Eger)

Starboard. (Photo: Chris Eger)

The 44 brave submariners aboard San Juan have been located

Just over a year after the German-made Type TR-1700 SSK ARA San Juan (S-42) went missing with 44 souls aboard, she has been found.

The sad news from Ocean Infinity:

Ocean Infinity, the seabed exploration company, confirms that it has found ARA San Juan, the Argentine Navy submarine which was lost on 15 November 2017.

In the early hours of 17 November, after two months of seabed search, Ocean Infinity located what has now been confirmed as the wreckage of the ARA San Juan. The submarine was found in a ravine in 920m of water, approximately 600 km east of Comodoro Rivadavia in the Atlantic Ocean.

Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s CEO, said:

“Our thoughts are with the many families affected by this terrible tragedy. We sincerely hope that locating the resting place of the ARA San Juan will be of some comfort to them at what must be a profoundly difficult time. Furthermore, we hope our work will lead to their questions being answered and lessons learned which help to prevent anything similar from happening again.

We have received a huge amount of help from many parties who we would like to thank. We are particularly grateful to the Argentinian Navy whose constant support and encouragement was invaluable. In addition, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, via the UK Ambassador in Buenos Aires, made a very significant contribution. Numerous others, including the US Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, have supported us with expert opinion and analysis. Finally, I would like to extend a special thank you to the whole Ocean Infinity team, especially those offshore as well as our project leaders Andy Sherrell and Nick Lambert, who have all worked tirelessly for this result.”

Ocean Infinity used five Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) to carry out the search, which was conducted by a team of approximately 60 crew members on board Seabed Constructor. In addition, three officers of the Argentine Navy and four family members of the crew of the ARA San Juan joined Seabed Constructor to observe the search operation

For the San Juan: Eternal Father, Strong to Save, as performed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and chorus.

Peru’s u-boats, USN adjacent

140923-N-ZF498-067 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sep. 23, 2014) Peruvian submarine BAP Islay (SS-35) pulls alongside the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Islay participated in a maneuvering exercise with Theodore Roosevelt, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston Churchill (DDG 81), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) and USS Farragut (DDG 99). Theodore Roosevelt is currently out to sea preparing for future deployments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Anthony N. Hilkowski/Released)

Peru has been in the submarine business hot and heavy for over a century, and for much of that has had a very close relationship with the U.S. Navy.

The Latin American country started off their involvement with subs back in the 1880s, when one Federico Blume y Othon came up with a small Toro Submarino submersible equipped with a cable-layed torpedo (more of a mine) that was neat but not successful, although it was an interesting footnote to the War of the Pacific between Peru, Bolivia and Chile.

Fuente: Museo de la Marina de Guerra del Perú, sección de Submarinistas, via Superunda.

Then came a pair of Holland-esque 151-foot submarinesBAP Teniente Palacios and BAP Teniente Ferré— that were ordered from Schneider in France and operational by 1913. Both were disposed of by the 1920s.

Sumergible Palacios

Peru’s first effective subs (and first U.S. connection) were four 187-foot R-class submarinesBAP Islay (R-1), BAP Casma (R-2), BAP Pacocha (R-3), and BAP Arica (R-4)— ordered from the Electric Boat Company in Connecticut, delivered in the mid-1920s. Carrying four torpedo tubes, these diesel-electrics were involved in both the Colombian-Peruvian War and Peruvian-Ecuadorian War before being upgraded back at Groton to extend their life after WWII, at which point they were probably the last 1920s-era diesel boats still in front-line service. Of note, the U.S. Navy used some 27 R-class boats of their own.

The four Peruvian R-class subs. Built during Prohibition in Connecticut, they remained with the fleet until 1960

To replace these were four more Electric Boat-produced modified U.S. Mackerel-class submarines ordered in 1953. Termed the Abtao-class in service, the quartet– BAP Lobo/Dos de Mayo (SS-41, BAP Tiburon/Abato (SS-42), BAP Atun/Angamos (SS-43) and BAP Merlin/Iquique (SS-44)— remained in service in one form or another into 1998.

Peru then picked up a pair of aging U.S. Balao-class diesel boats in 1974–  BAP Pabellón de Pica/La Pedrera (SS-49), ex-USS Sea Poacher (SS/AGSS-406) and BAP Pacocha (SS-48), ex- USS Atule (SS-403)— which they kept in service as late as 1995.

BAP Dos de Mayo, Peruvian submarine

Peru has since acquired six German-built Type 209 (1100 and 1200 series) boats, commissioned starting in 1974:

BAP Angamos (SS-31)
BAP Antofagasta (SS-32)
BAP Arica (SS-36)
BAP Chipana (SS-34)
BAP Islay (SS-35)
BAP Pisagua (SS-33)

The evolution looks like this:

Besides Cold War exercises, the Peruvian submarines have been a part of the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) since 2001. In the program, the Latin American u-boats head north and operate with the USN as an OPFOR of sorts. Over the years, submarines from the country have performed such duties 15 times.

The latest, Arica, just wrapped up 89 days of stateside operations supporting “fleet pre-deployment exercises with the Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group and conducted anti-submarine training with the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft and the Helicopter Weapons School.”

“The Arica proved to be a quiet and elusive adversary, providing valuable insights into tactical operations against modern diesel submarines,” said Capt. Robert Wirth, commodore of Submarine Squadron 20.

Crew members from the Peruvian submarine BAP Arica (SS-36) pose for group photos in front of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland (SSBN 738) prior to a tour at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., as part of the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) program. The DESI Program is a U.S. Navy partnership with South American countries and supports their diesel-electric submarine operations and fleet readiness events in operating areas off the U.S. east and west coasts.

Japan goes Li-Ion

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force just launched what could be a seriously advanced non-nuclear submarine.

At 4,200-tons and 275-feet in length, these are large, capable SSPs that are a bargain at around $600 million each. For comparison, Virginia-class SSNs, while bigger and arguably more capable of worldwide operations, run $3.2 billion a pop.

Diesel-electric boats had an extended lease on life when the first nuclear-powered SSNs hit the water due to the fact that the German-originated snorkel system became standard post-WWII. Coupled with enhanced hull shapes (also largely pioneered by the Kriegsmarine) snork boats are still viable, although ASW countermeasures then started concentrating on detecting snorkel pipes and targeting same.

Then came X-shaped sterns and Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) which allowed SSKs to sever their ties to the surface in exchange for adding weight and space to the boat in the form of a Stirling system that allowed the vessel to remain operational while submerged for weeks at a time, sans coming to shallow depths to snork.

Currently, at least 10 nations are building AIP submarines while 20 nations are operating them.

Now, the Japanese could have just flipped the desk on the AIP argument by coupling it with better batteries. You see the newest member of the Soryu-class diesel-electric submarine, JS Oryu (Phoenix Dragon), uses enhanced lithium-ion batteries capable of much better performance– more than double the electric storage capacity of traditional lead-acid batteries– and still has an AIP system. Now, we could be talking months without coming to the surface, not weeks.

She launched this week at Mitsubishi’s Kobe yard.

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