Tag Archives: eternal patrol

Thresher at 60

Laid down only four short years after the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571) took to the sea, USS Thresher (SSN-593) was the lead ship of her 14-unit class.

USS Thresher. Starboard-bow view, July 24, 1961. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph)

Commissioned on 3 August 1961, she was longer than the preceding Skipjack class of attack boats but still ran a good deal shorter at 279 feet than the WWII-era “fleet boat” subs that had brought Japan to its knees.

Designed to dive to as deep as 1,300 feet to seek and destroy the increasing herds of Soviet subs, Thresher was lost with all hands during deep-diving tests, on 10 April 1963– the first of SSN in any fleet lost at sea but sadly not the last.

Her 129 souls aboard represented the largest single loss of life in the 123-year history of the U.S. Submarine Service. 

She was lost in 8,400 feet of water, a depth impossible for any SSN.

Illustration of the depth of 8400 ft where the Thresher sunk. From The Death of the USS Thresher by Norman Polmar, p96

In recognition of this loss, the National Archives has an excellent post on more resources available online.

And there is also this retrospective video from the USNI, and how the loss of Thresher, and later USS Scorpion (SSN-589), helped institute the SUBSAFE changes that have kept American boats from joining the “Eternal Patrol.”

In all, some 64 American submarines were lost between USS F-4 (SS-23) in 1915 and Scorpion in 1968, 52 of them during WWII.

The boats, and their 3,852 forever embarked crewmen, are still on patrol.

(Photo: Chris Eger)

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023: The Only ‘T’ in the P-class

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Feb. 8, 2023: The Only ‘T’ in the P-class

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 41932

Above we see a great 1937 image of the Porpoise-class fleet boat USS Tarpon (SS-175), her bow breaking the surface at a relatively steep up angle. The only one of two of her class that was commissioned without a “P” series fish name (note her “P4” bow number), some 80 years ago today, Tarpon accounted for an entire Japanese regiment when her torpedoes sent the troopship Tatsuta Maru to the bottom in the middle of an overnight gale while some 42 nautical miles east of Mikura Jima, and none of the 1,400 men aboard her were ever seen again.

Background on the Porpoise class

As noted by Pigboats.com, the Porpoise was the first of the so-called “fleet boats,” large cruising submarines of a full double hull design thought suitable for cross-ocean combat and dives as deep as 250 feet. “These boats were the culmination of the four decades of submarine design and research that preceded them and were the height of US technology leading into World War II.”

Some 301 feet overall, they went almost 2,000 tons when fully loaded and submerged. Capable of 19 knots on the surface, they could overhaul most merchant ships but could never outrun an enemy destroyer or sub-buster. Submerged speed maxed out at just eight knots. Armament consisted of four forward 21-inch torpedo tubes and two stern tubes of the same size. Besides the capability to carry 16 torpedoes, the class also had a 3-inch/50 single deck gun wet mount over their flat sterns.

Sistership USS Shark, SS-174, the only other non-P-named Porpoise class boat. Seen here under construction at Electric Boat in Connecticut, 20 May 1935, her four-pack of forward torpedo tubes is plainly seen.

USS Shark (SS-174). Official model, photographed circa 1938 by her builder, the Electric Boat Company NARA

Detailed by Norman Friedman in U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History:

Porpoise (SS-172) was the first of a new generation of submarines that developed into successful WW II fleet boats. Her design shows much of the standard above-water configuration for U.S. submarines completed through 1942. Many features of her internal arrangement were adopted in Dolphin (SS-169): Officer’s quarters above the forward battery, control room below the conning tower & above the pump room, crew’s quarters above the after battery, the engine room & a maneuvering room above the motor room. Dolphin differed in having a large galley above an auxiliary (battery-charging) machinery room abaft the crew’s mess / after battery forward of the main engine room. In Porpoise, a small galley & washroom with a storeroom below was worked in at the after end of the control room.

Porpoise plan, Drawing by Jim Christley via Navsource.

In all, ten Porpoise class boats were constructed in three sub-classes with USS Porpoise (SS 172) and Pike (SS 173) in the initial run built at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, sisters Shark (SS 174) and Tarpon (SS 175) constructed at Electric Boat to a slightly upgraded arrangement, and the final six boats with much better endurance split between both yards: Perch (SS 176), Pickerel (SS 177), Permit (SS 178), Plunger (SS 179), Pollack (SS 180), and Pompano (SS 181). All were completed in 44 months between 27 October 1933 when Porpoise was laid down and 12 June 1937 when Pompano was commissioned. Not bad when you remember this is peacetime construction.

The first USS Tarpon on the Navy List, like our vessel, was a submarine, only the 14th ever commissioned. A humble little 105-foot craft with fire-prone gasoline engines, she was only in commission for 10 years before her career ended.

USS Tarpon (Submarine # 14) Photographed by Enrique Muller, 1909. The gunboat in the right distance is either USS Castine or USS Machias. NH 43600

Meet Tarpon

Constructed at EB, our second Tarpon was commissioned on 12 March 1936, then almost immediately sailed for the West Coast to join Submarine Division (SubDiv) 13 with whom she operated out of San Diego and Pearl Harbor.

A great series of diving images of Tarpon, from which the first photo of this post was taken, was captured at the time, the benefit of being so close to Hollywood, I guess.

USS Tarpon (SS-175) recovering a practice torpedo, during exercises off San Diego, California, 22 August 1937. NH 63184

USS Tarpon (SS-175) underway on the surface, circa 1937. NH 41923

Same as the above, NH 41924

A great stern shot from the series, showing her single 3″/50 deck gun. Catalog #: NH 41919

USS Tarpon (SS-175) submerging, with her foredeck awash, circa 1937. NH 41918

USS Tarpon (SS-175) submerging NH 41934

USS Tarpon (SS-175) submerging NH 41933

NH 41925

USS Tarpon underway while nearly submerged, circa 1937. NH 41929

USS Tarpon running submerged, with her periscope extended. NH 41927

USS Tarpon surfacing, with her bow at a shallow up angle, circa 1937. NH 41920

USS Tarpon underway on the surface, circa 1937. Crew members appear to be preparing to bring her 3/50 deck gun into action. NH 41928

She was soon transferred to the Philippines with SubDiv 14 where she was forward deployed along with many of her sisters, augmenting a half-dozen old “Sugar Boats” that had been in the PI since the 1920s.

Six Porpoise-class boats nested together, circa 1939-1941. Probably seen from the tender USS Canopus (AS-9) in Manila Bay, Philippines. The inboard submarine is not identified. The others are (from left to right): USS Pike (SS-173); USS Tarpon (SS-175); USS Porpoise (SS-172); USS Perch (SS-176); and USS Permit (SS-178). Collection of Jack L. Wheat, who served in Canopus. NH 99672.

A different view of the above


Assigned to the newly-formed SubDiv 203 just days before the war in the Pacific started, Tarpon began her first war patrol just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor and was assigned to patrol off southeastern Luzon. With little to show for her efforts, she put into Darwin, Australia on 11 January 1942.

Her second patrol went even worse, with the boat surviving a tense grounding situation west of Flores Island in the Dutch East Indies. After jettisoning anchors, torpedoes, oil, and ammunition she is able to free herself and make it back to Freemantle.

Her third and fourth patrols ended with no enemy ships on her tally and her original skipper that she started the war with subsequently reassigned to shore duty, while Tarpon was ordered to the Mare Island Navy Yard for an overhaul in June 1942 that would change her sensor suite, add two extra external torpedo tubes, and a 20mm AAA mount.

She would spend four months refurbing in California and leave with a new skipper, LCDR Thomas Lincoln Wogan, (USNA 1930). A career submariner, Wogan had commanded the old Sugar Boat USS S-34 (139) out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska already under nightmarish conditions and was surely glad to get the upgrade and orders for warmer waters.

Leaving Mare Island, Tarpon had another great photo shoot.

USS Tarpon (SS-175) At the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, after an overhaul, 24 September 1942. Circles mark recent alterations to the ship. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. 19-N-35372

Same as above. Note the new 20mm gun. Catalog #: 19-N-35373

Same as above. Note the two recently installed external bow torpedo tubes, giving her a six-tube main punch. NH 99008

Off Mare Island. NH 99009

USS Tarpon off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, after an overhaul, 30 September 1942. Note barrage balloons in the distance. 19-N-35370



A smashing Sixth Patrol

Getting back in the war, Tarpon would spend her 5th war patrol roaming north of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands area in October-November.

It would be her sixth patrol, and second with Wogan, 33, as the “old man” that Tarpon would finally draw blood. In nine days across the first two weeks of February 1943, while on patrol in Japanese home waters, south of Honshu, she claimed two massive transports.

First was the Japanese troopship Fushimi Maru (10935 GRT) about 20 nautical miles south of Omai Zaki on 1 February after a pair of night attack runs (one submerged, one surfaced) and six torpedoes. A former Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) lines merchant passenger-cargo ship delivered in 1914, she was carrying a battalion-sized element when sunk. The auxiliary net layer Kokai Maru rescued 214 survivors and dropped depth charges on Tarpon without success.

From her war patrol report: 

The second was the aforementioned Japanese troop transport Tatsuta Maru (16975 GRT), another NYK liner although one with a much more interesting history. Carrying 1,223 soldiers and passengers and 198 crew members to Truk under escort from the destroyer Yamagumo, she never made it, taking what was believed to be all four torpedoes launched from Tarpon’s forward tubes.

Sinking in less than a half-hour with seas in too high a state to take to the lifeboats, Yamagumo stood by but was not able to recover any survivors. As with Fushimi Maru, the attack on Tatsuta Maru was a submerged night attack run aided by radar conducted from at periscope depth (35 feet) from almost point-blank range.

The rest of the war

Tarpon’s continued service saw a slow 7th patrol followed by an 8th patrol that damaged the Japanese merchant Shinsei Maru (4746 GRT) off Mikura Shima and sank the 97-ton guard boat Yulin Maru in a surface gun action.

On her 9th patrol, she would end the career of the 4,700-ton German armed auxiliary commerce raider Michel (Hilfskreuzer-9/Schiff-28/Raider H) off Chichi Jima.

HK Michel

The former Gdynia-America-Line steamer Bielsko, the German was armed with a half-dozen 6-inch guns and another half-dozen torpedo tubes, making her deadly for any Allied merchantman her Arado seaplanes could find, and she had claimed no less than 18 of them. Tarpon would end Michel’s second raiding voyage just 50 miles short of the safety of Yokohama on 17 October 1943. Hit by four torpedoes from Tarpon across four attack runs, the last of Hitler’s operational HSKs went to the bottom carrying her skipper, KzS Günther Gumprich, and three-fourths of her crew.

Although Tarpon went on to complete three further patrols under a new skipper, her record of kills stopped with the German raider’s end. An aging vessel whose design was surpassed by the newer Gato and Balao-class fleet boats, she was ordered to the East Coast to serve as a training boat for new crews.

The submarine departed Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1944, and arrived at New London, Conn., on 17 January 1945.

USS Tarpon in New London, note her long homeward bound pennant and the snow-covered landscape– a big difference from her last eight years of Pacific service for sure!

With the war soon over, Tarpon decommissioned in Boston on 15 November 1945.

Tarpon decommissioned at Boston

She received seven battle stars for her World War II service.

Tarpon went on to serve as a Naval Reserve training hulk for a time at New Orleans before being stricken from the Navy List in 1956.

She ended her career off Cape Hatteras in 1957 where she sank while under tow to the salvage yard.


Part of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, Tarpon today rests 135 feet down and, as noted by the agency, “The site is heavily encrusted with coralline algae and supports an array of cnidarians, such as sea anemones and corals. Tarpon also typically has several sand tiger sharks on site, which can provide dramatic photographic subjects while enjoying this historic shipwreck dive.”

Today, the ex-USS Tarpon wreck site is home to an abundance of marine life. Here, a sand tiger shark swims in the foreground with the Tarpon’s dive planes in the background. Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

Meanwhile, most of her patrol reports and plans are in the National Archives. 

Her most famous skipper, Capt. Wogan, who had earned a Navy Cross and two Silver Stars while aboard Tarpon, sadly took his life in 1951 while commander of the tender Sperry, aged just 42.

There has not been a third Tarpon in U.S. Navy service.

As for her nine sisters, four (Shark, Pompano, Perch, and Pickerel) were lost while on service in the Pacific. They are considered on Eternal Patrol, numbered among the 52 American submarines that never returned to port during the conflict.

Their names are inscribed on a memorial at the USS Albacore Museum in New Hampshire. (Photo: Chris Eger)

Like Tarpon, many of her surviving sisters spent a short spell as training boats in the last days of the war and immediately after.

Also like Tarpon, they were all disposed of by the mid-1950s. Since they were all scrapped, Tarpon endures as the best-preserved relic of the class.

Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a

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!

RAN getting into the SSN Game, apparently

The Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service has been around since 1964 but the Ozzies have been running subs going back to the Great War-era British E class submarines AE1 and AE2, which we have covered here on a Warship Wednesday.

Besides the Es, the Australians operated a half-dozen J-class boats in WWI, two O-class boats in the 1920s, and eight British Oberon-class submarines through the Cold War.

Barbecue on top of HMAS Onslow, a diesel submarine operated by Australia’s Navy from 1968 to 1999.

Today, they have the half dozen controversial (but Australian-built!) Collins-class submarines in service that are aging out.

Collins-class submarines conducting exercises northwest of Rottnest Island 2019

Driven by political pressure against nuclear-powered subs– both Australia and New Zealand have had issues with American “N” prefixes visiting in past years– Canberra signed a contract for a dozen planned Attack-class SSKs from France in a competition that saw both German and Japanese designs come up in a close tie for second place.

However, with the French boats not being able to get operational into some time in the mid-2030s, the Australians are scrapping the stalled French contract and going with a program with the U.S. and Royal Navy to field SSNs.

The AUKUS program is ambitious to say the least. 

RAN’s official statement, with a lot more detail than you get elsewhere: 

The submarines will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, where French company Naval Group was to construct the soon-to-be canceled submarines, which is a heavy lift for sure, but not insurmountable. 

As SUBSCOL in New London is very good at what they do at training Nuclear Program submariners, and the production line for the Virginia-class boats is white-hot, it is likely something that could be done inside the decade with some sort of technology sharing program similar to how Australian acquired their FFG-7 frigates in the 1980s, provided the RAN can cough up enough submariners (they have a problem staffing their boats now as it is) as well as the cash and political will.

If a Virginia-class variant is chosen, perhaps one could be hot-loaned from COMSUBPAC, with a cadre of specialists aboard, to the Australians for a couple years as a training boat while theirs are being constructed. 

Can Canberra buy and man 12 boats? Doubtful, but a 4+1 hull program with one boat in a maintenance period and the four active subs, perhaps with rotating blue/red crews, could provide a lot of snorkel.

Plus, it could see American SSNs based in Western Australia on a running basis, which is something that has never happened. Of course, the precedent is there, as 122 American, 31 British, and 11 Dutch subs conducted patrols from Fremantle and Brisbane between 1942 and 1945 while the Royal Navy’s 4th Submarine Flotilla was based in Sydney from 1949 until 1969.

Of course, the French, who have been chasing this hole in the ocean for five years, are going to raise hell over this. 

The “breakup statement” of French Naval Group with Australia Attack class submarine deal…no mention of them being overpriced, overdue and under delivery.

Meanwhile, off Korea

In related Pacific submarine news, the South Koreans successfully fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Wednesday, just hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea.

The ROKN boat, likely the new ROKS Dosan Ahn Changho (SS-083), which just commissioned in August, fired the indigenous Hyunmoo conventional warhead SLBM, of which not much is known. The 3,700-ton Changho-class, of which nine are planned, have six VLS silos for such missiles in addition to their torpedo tubes.

Malyutka 96, Found on Eternal Patrol

The Russian Geographical Society has recently confirmed the location of the Soviet Series XII M (Malyutka/малютка = “baby”) class submarine M-96.

Built at plant No. 112 Krasnoe Sormovo, Gorky, in six sections, the small (250-tons submerged, 123-foot oal, 2×21 inch tubes) “Baltic” style submarine commissioned 12 December 1939 in that odd period in which the Russians were only fighting Finland in the Winter War while co-occupying Poland with allied Nazi Germany.

Her actual WWII service with the Red Banner Baltic Fleet was lackluster, firing torpedos at and missing a series of at least three different Axis ships in 1942. Notably, one of her early skippers was Alexander Marinesko, the somewhat infamous captain of submarine S-13 which sank the German military transport ship Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945, sending 9,400 to a watery grave. 

However, even while Marinesko had moved on to a bigger, better command, M-96 was already on the bottom, lost with all hands in September 1944 on a mission to reconnoiter German minefields in Narva Bay.

M-96 lies in the northern part of Narva Bay at a depth of 42 meters. Inspection showed that the ship was destroyed on the surface, probably during the night charging of the batteries. The engine telegraph on the bridge shows the command “Full ahead”, the rudder is turned to the right, the upper conning tower hatch is open. A mine explosion occurred under the bow of the boat, breaking the hull.

Here’s the footage of divers at the sub, seen for the first time since 1944.

HMS Urge, found on eternal patrol

HMS Urge, IWM FL 3433

Commissioned 12 December 1940, the British U-class submarine HMS Urge (N 17) served in World War II throughout 1941, seeing extensive action in the Med. Over the course of 20 patrols, she proved a one-submarine wrecking crew to the Italian Navy, sinking the Giussano-class light cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere as well as extensively damaging the cruiser Bolzano and battleship Vittorio Veneto.

On 27 April 1942, the 16-month-old Urge left Malta en route to Alexandria but failed to arrive on schedule and was reported overdue on 7 May. Her crew, commanded by LCDR Edward Philip Tomkinson, DSO and Bar, RN, was never heard from again.

Her shield, which had been landed prior to shipping out, is currently on display at The Register Office in Bridgend, Wales. The town, which contributed around £300,000 to the war, had adopted HMS Urge as part of national “Warship Week” in 1941.

HM Submarine Urge was discovered in a search conducted by staff from the University of Malta just off Malta’s Grand Harbour, where she apparently was destroyed on the surface by a mine. In addition to her 32 crewmembers, she had been carrying 11 other naval personnel and a journalist.

More here.


USS S-28 and HMAS AE1, checking in from eternal patrol

USS S-28 (SS-133) Photographed during the 1920s or 1930s. U.S. Submarine, S-28. NH 42689

An S-1 class submarine missing since 1944 has been located.

Commissioned 13 December 1923, S-28 spent much of her career on the West Coast and, when war came in 1941, moved to Alaskan waters where she was very active, completing several war patrols in the hazardous waters of the Bering Sea. Then came an ordinary day in July…

According to DANFS:

On J3 July, she began training operations off Oahu with the Coast Guard cutter Reliance, The antisubmarine warfare exercises continued into the evening of the 4th. At 1730, the day’s concluding exercise began. Contact between the two became sporadic and, at 1820, the last, brief contact with S-28 was made and lost. All attempts to establish communications failed. Assistance arrived from Pearl Harbor, but a thorough search of the area failed to locate the submarine. Two days later, a diesel oil slick appeared in the area where she had been operating, but the extreme depth exceeded the range of available equipment. A Court of Inquiry was unable to determine the cause of the loss of S-28.

S-28 was awarded one battle star for her services in World War II and has been marked on eternal patrol since then.

However, according to The Lost 52 Project (named after the 52 missing U.S. submarines from WWII), they have found her in the very deep regions of the Pacific’s cold embrace.

On September 20th, 2017, a team led by noted award-winning explorer Tim Taylor, supported by STEP Ventures LLC and carrying Explorers Club Flag #80, discovered the remains of the WWII submarine lost in over 2600 meters (8500 feet) of water off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

Based on preliminary video and other documentation, the team currently speculates that the sub suffered a hull failure that resulted in the eventual separation of the bow, causing a near-instant loss. She is the final resting place of 49 US sailors.

More on S-28, here


HMAS AE-1, an the E-Class submarine manned by the Royal Australian Navy was the first submarine to serve in the RAN but was lost at sea with all the crew near East New Britain, Papua New Guinea on the 14th September 1914, after less than seven months in service. The cause of the loss has remained a mystery.

Since 1976, 13 search missions have attempted to locate the wreck. The submarine has finally been found near the Duke of York Islands. The men of AE1 are commemorated in the “Book of Remembrance” kept in the Submarine Memorial Chapel in Fort Blockhouse.

The names of the crew are listed in the “Area of Remembrance” at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport. There is also a small dedicated memorial to the Australian Submarines AE1 & AE2 (the latter a Warship Wednesday alum) in the Fieldhouse Building at the Submarine Museum.

However, as noted by the Australian Department of Defense, AE-1 is lost no more after 103-years.

“The Royal Australian Navy teamed up with a range of search groups in this latest expedition, funded by the Commonwealth Government and the Silentworld Foundation, with assistance from the Submarine Institute of Australia, the Australian National Maritime Museum, Fugro Survey and the Papua New Guinea Government. The expedition was embarked on the survey ship Fugro Equator which is equipped with advanced search technology.”

More on AE-1 here.