Tag Archives: USS Perch

Rig for divers

COMSUBPAC recently released several images of things you don’t usually see: Dry Deck Shelter and submerged diver operations on a Virginia-class hunter-killer submarine.

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 18, 2021) — The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS North Carolina (SSN 777) conducts operations off the coast of Oahu, Hawai’i. U.S. military forces are present and active in and around the Pacific in support of allies and partners and a free and open Indo-Pacific for more than 75 years. (U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Perlman/Released)

The Navy only has about a half-dozen of the 38-foot DDSs (2-3 in each of the SDV Teams), which were put into service in the 1980s to replace the capability lost when the Pentagon scrapped the old transport submarines (see USS Perch) of the Vietnam-era. Boats such as Perch could put ashore platoon-sized elements of Marines or UDTs/SEALs via small boats and do so in relatively (for the blue water Navy) shallow water.

While usually older boats operate DDSs– for instance converted Tridents turned into SSGNs– 10 of Virginias are believed equipped to operate DDSs, which can support a SEAL platoon (16 operators) for dive or small boat (CRRC) operations.

Previous to these images, some of the last good quality released images of DDS shelters in use on DVIDS date to earlier this year and, beyond that to 2008, both on converted SSGNs.

Sub-Marine ops, Back In style

The Marines have been rubber boating around, a skill they are used to as each Battalion Landing Team for years has typically included a designated “Boat Company,” trained to run about on 15-foot Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC, or “Crick”).

What is interesting about this is that they recently did so in conjunction with a converted boomer in the Philippine Sea, embarking on some expeditionary training. The standard Dry Deck Shelters used by the Navy’s submarines are each able to carry an SDV minisub for use by SEALs– or four CRRCs, enough to carry a platoon-size Marine maritime raid force.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Feb. 2, 2021) The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Ohio (SSGN 726), deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, rendezvous with a combat rubber raiding craft, attached to U.S. Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Company, III Marine Expedition Force (MEF), for an integration exercise off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. The exercise was part of ongoing III MEF-U.S. 7th Fleet efforts to provide flexible, forward-postured, and quick response-options to regional commanders. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Audrey M. C. Rampton)

“This training demonstrates the ability of Force Reconnaissance Marines in III MEF to operate with strategic U.S. Navy assets,” said III MEF Force Reconnaissance Company Commanding Officer Maj. Daniel Romans. “As the stand-in force in the first island chain, it is critical that Force Reconnaissance Marines are capable of being employed across a myriad of U.S. Navy platforms in order to enhance the lethality of the fleet in the littoral environment. Reconnaissance Marines have a proud history of working with submarines and we look forward to sustaining these relationships in the future.”

It is not a dramatically new concept.

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.

Then of course, throughout the 1950s and 60s, Marines on submarines were a regular sight…

Reconnaissance scouts of the 1st Provisional Marine Air-Ground Task Force load into a rubber boat from Greenfish, 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 October 7, 1954. Note the classic WWII “duck hunter” camo which had by 1954 been out of use for almost a decade except for special operations units. (Sgt D.E. Reyher DEFENSE DEPT PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A290040.)

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017: Putting the ‘Marine’ back in submarine

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)

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Warship Wednesday August 27, the plucky Perch, hardy frogman steed

Here at LSOZI, we will take off every Wednesday to look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and profile a different ship 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, August 27, the plucky Perch

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Here we see the Balao-class submarine USS Perch (SS-313) as she appeared in the late 1960s off Pearl Harbor with her crew in summer whites. This hardy vessel made seven war patrols during WWII then remained one of the last operational smoke boats in the U.S. Navy, seeing hot service in both Korea and Vietnam.

The 128-ship Balao class were classic 311-foot, 2500-ton ‘fleet boats’ designed to roam the Pacific on patrols that could last some 75-days due to their 11,000-nm range. Capable of making over 20-knots in a surface attack, they carried a staggering 10 torpedo tubes for which they stocked two dozen steel fish, as well as a reasonably well-armed battery of deck and AAA guns to sink smaller vessels like sampans and defend themselves against aircraft. We have covered ships of this class in the past here at LSOZI but don’t complain, they have lots of great stories.

Laid down 5 January 1943 at Electric Boat in Groton, she was commissioned 367 days later and departed for Key West for training. Needed for service in the Pacific, she arrived in Pearl Harbor at the beginning of April 1944. Just three weeks later she left on her first war patrol. For the next year, she conducted a total of 7 patrols in enemy waters, often working as part of a small U.S. submarine wolf-pack, chasing down the few Japanese merchant and warships that remained afloat. She lurked in the South China sea, trading an attack on an oilier for a counter-attack by a Japanese sub buster. Perch managed to send a few small trawlers and coasters to the bottom in surface gunfire actions while plucking Navy Corsair pilots and USAAF B-29 crews from the Pacific.

In a sign of things to come, she was used to land a 12-man Australian commando force of the famous Z Special Unit on a reconnaissance mission to Balikpapan Bay, Borneo, Indonesia (then in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies). The ill-fated force under the renowned Aussie commando leader Major John Stott was lost through no fault of the Perch.

Ending the war off the coast of Imperial Japan, Perch was decommed and placed in reserve in 1947. However, unlike many of her class, she was soon dusted off and in May 1948 she was converted to a Submarine, Transport (SSP-313, later ASSP-313, then APSS-313, then LPSS–313, all with basically the same meaning) then recommissioned.

Aft view of the Perch (SS-313) off Mare Island after completion of conversion to a troop transport. Note the large dry deck shelter for equipment and small boats. US Navy photo

Aft view of the Perch (SS-313) off Mare Island after completion of conversion to a troop transport. Note the large dry deck shelter for equipment and small boats. US Navy photo

Soon after the balloon went up on the Korean peninsula, Perch was used for landing British Commandos on raids behind North Korean lines. These were so successful not to mention hazardous, that Perch’s CO was made the recipient of a Bronze Star, the only such sub commander to win one in action during the Korean conflict.  The sub added a fifth battle star to her record to go with the four she earned during WWII.

Broadside view of Perch (ASSP-313) off Mare Island on 6 May 1954. She was under going repairs at Mare Island from 8 December 1953 to 13 May 1954. US Navy photo # 21035-5-54, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.

Broadside view of Perch (ASSP-313) off Mare Island on 6 May 1954. She was undergoing repairs at Mare Island from 8 December 1953 to 13 May 1954. US Navy photo # 21035-5-54, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.

Except for a 20-month period when she was laid up (1960-61), Perch spent the next 15 years shuttling around the Pacific from the Aleutians to the Gulf of Siam landing groups of Navy UDT teams, Army Green Berets, and Allied troops up to company-sized on exercise beaches under all conditions. While the equipment was stored in an external dry deck shelter bolted to the outside of the hull aft of the conning tower, the embarked commandos had to hot bunk with the crew. Since there were some 70 enlisted berths, this meant an additional 70 footsoldiers could be taken aboard, if uncomfortably.

Perch (ASSP-313),during exercises with reconnaissance troops from the 1st Marine Division off the coast of California. In addition to many internal changes, the Perch's conning tower structure had been extended and additional masts and shears added by January 1957, when this photo was taken.USN photo and text from The American Submarine by Norman Polmar, courtesy of Robert Hurst via Navsource

Perch (ASSP-313), during exercises with reconnaissance troops from the 1st Marine Division off the coast of California. In addition to many internal changes, the Perch’s conning tower structure had been extended and additional masts and shears added by January 1957, when this photo was taken.USN photo and text from The American Submarine by Norman Polmar, courtesy of Robert Hurst via Navsource

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.

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.

While many of her class had been upgraded or decommissioned, Perch remained largely in her WWII configuration, even retaining some of her deck guns in an era when most submarines in the fleet had removed theirs.

Then came Vietnam. From August 1965-October 1966 she landed UDT troops as well as South Vietnamese commandos up and down the coastline, performing classified “Deck House” beach reconnaissance missions and “Dagger Thrust” amphibious landings. You see these old smokers could come much closer to shore than many other warships, capable of floating in 17 feet of seawater when surfaced. This made them popular for these littoral missions conducted in the dark of night, especially in areas without much enemy ASW capability.

 

Perch was more or less a dedicated frogman ride from 1948-1967.

Perch was more or less a dedicated frogman ride from 1948-1967.

It was during this Indochina service that Perch became the last U.S. submarine to conduct a surface gunfire action.

The last gun-armed US Submarine in commission was USS Perch APSS-313. She was armed with a wet mount 40MM cannon on a sponson forward of the bridge and a 40MM cannon on the cigarette deck. Her last battle stations gun-action took place on August 20, 21, 1966 near Qui Nhon viet Nam. Perch opened fire with both 40MM’s and .50 Cal machine guns to assist extraction of a UDT team that was receiving Viet Cong fire from the beach. On the night of August 21, 1966 lying to on the surface 500 yards from shore she again opened fire with her deck guns and machine guns on enemy troops moving into position around a small ARVN force on the beach. Several secondary explosions of VC ordnance was observed. The ARVN force was extracted. USS Perch was relieved by USS Tunny APSS-282 the following month. Perch returned stateside for decommissioning. Tunny had several members of her crew trained for rigging topside to allow UDT teams to concentrate on the mission, and a portion of the crew trained as a “reaction force” to assist UDT extraction, or repel an enemy vessel. Tunny carried .50 Cal Machine Guns as did many smoke boats that operated in that area. Source–SEALS, UDT/SEAL Ops in Viet Nam, T.L. Bosiljevac, Ivy books New York, 1990.

USS Perch (SS-313) Balao class submarine in 1965 as transport submarine APSS-313, note the 40mm Bofors, forward.

Her third war over, Perch was sent back home and used as a training and auxiliary vessel, rarely getting underway after 1968. On 1 December 1971, she was decommissioned and, at age 27, stricken. She was sold for scrap in 1973.

The Homecoming, original painting of a Balao class sub by artist John Meeks

The Homecoming, original painting of a Balao class sub by artist John Meeks

While Perch no longer exists, of her 121 other Balao-class sisters, one (Tusk) is still in some sort of service with the Taiwanese Navy while at least eight are preserved in the U.S.

Please visit one near you if you can and remember the old Perch.

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.
USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey.
USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Specs:

Balao Class Submarine
(As-built)
Displacement: 1,526 tons (1,550 t) surfaced
2,424 tons (2,463 t) submerged
Length:     311 ft 9 in (95.02 m)
Beam:     27 ft 3 in (8.31 m)
Draft:     16 ft 10 in (5.13 m) maximum
Propulsion:
4 × General Motors Model 16-278A V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries
4 × high-speed General Electric electric motors with reduction gears
two propellers
5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced
2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged
Speed:     20.25 knots (38 km/h) surfaced
8.75 knots (16 km/h) submerged
Range:     11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) surfaced at 10 knots (19 km/h)
Endurance:     48 hours at 2 knots (3.7 km/h) submerged
75 days on patrol
Test depth:     400 ft (120 m)
Complement: 10 officers, 70–71 enlisted. After 1948, 75 commandos for short periods.
Armament:     10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
(six forward, four aft) 24 torpedoes
1 × 5-inch (127 mm) / 25 caliber deck gun, Oerlikon 20 mm cannon (Removed 1948)
Bofors 40 mm

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/

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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!