Monday, August 17, 2015

USS Archerfish (SS 311)

"Submarine Honor Guard"

USS Archerfish (SS 311)

Archerfish was among the twelve submarines that served as an honor guard on September 2, 1945, for the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan ending World War II.

Archerfish was a Balao-class submarine built in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine.  Her keel was laid on January 22, 1943, launched on May 28, 1943, and commissioned into the United State Navy on September 4, 1943.  From the day the keel was laid it took ten months and seven days to join the Pacific fleet.

USS Archerfish (SS 311) launched at Portsmouth Navy Yard, May 28, 1943.  Photograph courtesy of
She earned seven battle stars during her World War II service.  The maiden patrol began on December 23, 1943.  The areas of patrols included Formosa, Palau Islands, Bonin Islands, Iwo Jima, Tokyo Bay, and South China Sea off Hong Kong.  Archerfish rescued downed aviator, Ensign John B. Anderson, after a strike against Iwo Jima.

USS Archerfish (SS 311) World War II battle flag.  Photograph courtesy of
The primary mission of Archerfish's fifth war patrol was lifeguard service for the first B-29 Superfortress strikes against Tokyo.  November 28, 1944, no air raids were launched that day, so the submarine roamed the waters near Tokyo Bay.  That evening, Archerfish discovered a large Japanese aircraft carrier screened by three destroyers.  Commander Joseph F. Enright decided to attack the carrier while submerged. Six torpedoes were fired upon the ship and successfully sunk the ship.  It was not until after the war that the United States learned that the target was Shinano, the biggest aircraft carrier that served in World War II.  Archerfish received the Presidential Unit Citation, and Commander Enright received the Navy Cross.  To this day, Shinano is the largest warship to be sunk by a submarine.

"For extraordinary heroism in action...against enemy Japanese combatant units in restricted waters of the Pacific.  ...the Archerfish (SS 311) culminated a dogged six and one-half-hour pursuit by closing her high speed target, daringly penetrated the strong destroyer escort screen, and struck fiercely at a large Japanese aircraft carrier Shinano with all six of her torpedoes finding their mark to sink this extremely vital enemy ship. ...the Archerfish skillfully evaded her attackers by deep submergence and returned to port in safety.  Handled with superb seamanship, she responded gallantly to the fighting determination of the officers and men and dealt a fatal blow to one of the enemy's major Fleet units."  Citation for the Presidential Unit Citation for the President, James Forrestal Secretary of the Navy.

Archerfish was on lifeguard duty for B-29 bomber raids in Tokyo when hostilities came to an end August 15, 1945.  She was invited to the surrender ceremony and was present when the Japanese Government signed the instrument of surrender.

After World War II, Archerfish returned to the United States and reported to Mare Island Naval Shipyard.  She was decommissioned June 12, 1946.  Archerfish was recommissioned on March 7, 1952, but a fire occurred aboard the boat during her shakedown.  The submarine had to be repaired, and joined the Atlantic fleet in July 1952.  During her time in the Atlantic she operated out of Key West, Florida, visiting Santiago, Guantanamo Bay, Port-Au-Prince, San Juan, and Trinidad.  She was then decommissioned for a second time on October 21, 1955.

Bow view of USS Balao (SS 285) and USS Archerfish (SS 311) for the movie "Operation Petticoat" in 1959.  Photograph courtesy of Tommy Trampp.
Archerfish was commissioned for a third time into the United States Navy on August 1, 1957.  In 1959, she was portrayed as USS Sea Tiger in the Hollywood movie "Operation Petticoat" for underwater and distance scenes and shots.  In October of 1959, Archerfish was used for establishing feasibility of deep submarine escape.  October 2nd Commander George F. Bond and Chief Engineman Cyril Tuckfield safely completed a 52-second, 302 foot buoyant ascent from the boat's forward escape trunk.  Both men received the Legion of Merit in 1960 for this escape test.

Archerfish post 1957.  Photograph courtesy of
In 1960, Archerfish was reclassified as an auxiliary submarine, (AGSS 311), to participate in Operation "Sea Scan."  This scientific study used a team of civilian scientists to study the marine weather conditions, water composition, ocean depths, and temperature ranges.  Through 1968, she conducted various research assignments.  

Commemorative post mark honoring Archerfish (AGSS 311) January 26, 1961. 
Archerfish's third and final decommission occurred on May 1, 1968.  On October 19, 1968, she was used as a target and sunk by a torpedo from the submarine USS Snook (SSN-592).

Archerfish hit by a MK-14-5 torpedo.  Photograph courtesy of
The submarine Archerfish (SS 311) had a long and colorful history.  She served the United States Navy for three commissioned eras that spanned 25 years.  Her active service equaled 16 years, 11 months, and 22 days.  She earned seven battle stars for World War II service, was featured in a Hollywood movie, participated in scientific studies, and finally met her fate as a target.

Author: Allison Hiblong

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