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
Yes, Dolphins on a Marine uniform…
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.
Scouts and Raiders Painting, Oil on Canvas; by Carlos Lopez; C. 1943; Framed Dimensions 29H X 44W Accession #: 88-159-HD as a Gift of Abbott Laboratories “Commandos of the Navy, they leave a transport, submarine, or invasion craft in their black rubber boats at night on reconnaissance, scout, or demolition missions against enemy-held shores. Their faces and hands painted black for night operations, and now called officially Amphibious Scouts by the Navy, they specialize in rugged finesse. Here they go up and over some rock jetties.”
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.
Yes, this IS a submarine with an Amtrac aboard. Perch (ASSP-313) preparing to launch an LVT amphibious tractor during a 1949 exercise. The vehicle could be carried in the cargo hangar and launched by flooding down the submarine. USN photo and text from The American Submarine by Norman Polmar, courtesy of Robert Hurst.
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:
Marine Corps Amphibious Reconnaissance troops in LCR (landing craft, rubber) leave submarine to perform a landing operation during maneuvers. OFFICIAL U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO 313892
“A five-man amphibious reconnaissance team stands with nylon boat and equipment necessary for their mission, including aqualungs, depth gauges, wrist compasses, and exposure suits which enable swimmers to work in the extremely cold water. All members of the team are outstanding swimmers, capable of breasting high surf and rough waters.” OFFICIAL U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO A367275
“OPERATION SKI JUMP – Technical Sergeant B. J. Parrerson, left Company Gunny of Amphibious Reconnaissance and Private First Class Robert T. Kassanovoid, right, help Staff Sergeant Jimmie E. Howard gets rigged with aqua-lung equipment on the forward deck of the submarine PERCH.” January 17, 1957, J.W. Richardson. DEFENSE DEPT PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A352423
“OPERATION SKI JUMP – Scout patrol of Amphibian Reconnaissance Company, leaving in rubber boats from the submarine PERCH.” January 17, 1957, J.W. Richardson DEFENSE DEPT PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A352380
Reconnaissance scouts of the 1st Provisional Marine Air-Ground Task Force load into a rubber boat from a submarine of the Pacific fleet as they leave on a night mission against “enemy” installations on the island of Maui. The training afforded the Marines of the Task Force, which is based at the Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, is the most versatile offered to Marines anywhere on October 7, 1954, Sgt D.E. Reyher DEFENSE DEPT PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A290040. The classic WWII “duck hunter” camo had by 1954 been out of use for almost a decade except for special operations units.
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.
“When the mission is a raid on “enemy-held” beaches, members of the Marine recon party move out on the double to their assigned targets.” DEFENSE DEPT PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A31990
“Parachute scout, foreground, makes a sketch of enemy terrain and installations while another Marine Corps scout covers him with a “burp” gun. All Reconnaissance Leathernecks are experts in determining terrain factors and capabilities of roads and bridges.” December 2, 1957, MSgt J. W. Richardson DEFENSE DEPT PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A367293. Note the M3 Grease Gun and the WWII M1 “duck hunter” camo helmet covers worn as caps.
“BUDDY SYSTEM – Before leaving the submarine on a mission, scout-swimmers assist each other with the bulky equipment. When the mission is a raid on “enemy-held” beaches, members of the Marine recon party move out on the double to their assigned targets.” December 2, 1957, MSgt J. W. Richardson DEFENSE DEPT PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A367308
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.
BUSAN, Republic of Korea (Oct. 13, 2017) The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) (Gold) pulls into Busan Naval Base for a routine port visit. Note the twin Dry Deck Shelters on her casing, each able to carry 4 rubber raiding craft or an SDV minisub. Michigan can carry as many as 60 expeditionary operators, be they Navy or Marines (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Carlisle/Released)
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. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm
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!