Thursday, January 24, 2013

USS S-26 (SS-131) Lost This Day in 1942

USS S-26 (SS-131) was designed during the First World War, and was designed based on the experience gained fighting the German U-Boats of that period.-

S-26 was built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation at their shipyard in Quincy, MA. Commissioned in 1923, she, along with her sisters of the same "S" class, were the workhorses of the American submarine force in the 1920s and 1930s.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, the Navy decided to press as many submarines into service as possible. Even the "S" class boats, by then near 20 years old and lacking the speed and range of more modern submarines, could be used to patrol areas like the Aleutian Islands, the Philippines, the East Indies and the approaches to the Panama Canal, where their limited performance could be offset by greater numbers, at least until newer submarines could be built.

S-26 was assigned to patrol the Atlantic Ocean approaches to the Panama Canal. On January 24th, the submarine chaser USS Sturdy (PC-460) was assigned to escort four submarines out to their patrol areas. At 2210, Sturdy sent the message that, having reached the patrol zone, she was leaving the formation, and that the submarines should begin their assignments. 

 did not receive the message.

Since wartime rules were in effect, both S-26 and Sturdy were traveling under blackout conditions. Neither the small submarine nor the small patrol boat saw each other in the darkness, and at 2223, USSS turdy struck S-26.

The submarine sank almost immediately. The only survivors were the men on the bridge at the time of the collision - the Commanding Officer, the Executive Officer, and an enlisted lookout.

Salvage operations were begun immediately, and divers were able to reach the sunken submarine.  However, they found no indications that anyone survived the initial sinking.  46 men were lost. S-26 was never raised.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Photographs of Razorback from 1947

Recently, a Razorback veteran, Rodger Whitman, visited AIMM.

He served aboard Razorback in 1947.  Razorback was his qualification boat, and Mr. Whitman left the Navy before serving on any other submarines.

He gave us digital copies of photographs that he had taken while aboard Razorback.  We know that Razorback was in drydock at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, on Marine Railway #2 from January 16th until January 28th, 1947.

Most of Mr. Whitman's pictures are from that time.

The entire set of photographs is available on the AIMM Website.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

U.S. Navy Training In Quindao, China in 1948

To put Razorback's 1948 visit to Quindao in context, and to show the importance of the work that Razorback and the other vessels were trying to do, we thought we would share some photographs from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland that were taken in Quindao during this same time period.

After WWII ended, the United States attempted to support the Chinese Nationalist Party in their civil war against the Chinese Communist Party.  The U.S. Navy, in particular, provided surplus vessels, and then provided the technical training that the Chinese crewmen would need to keep the ships running.  The American effort was spearheaded during this period by Admiral Charles Cooke, a submariner who had been strategist for the U.S. Navy during World War II (he was also a native Arkansan).
In this picture, a Chief Motor Machinist, J.O. Cooke demonstrates engine handling to a class of Chinese trainees while an American officer watches on.

Both a "Boot Camp" for future enlisted sailors and an "Annapolis-like" school were established for officers in Quindao.

In this picture, Chief J.D. Lyons checks the aiming of Chinese sailors on twin 40-mm guns.  These guns would be found on many of the small surface craft that the U.S. Navy was transferring to the Chinese Nationalist Navy.

Here, a Chinese sailor practices using a sextant.

These are Midshipmen at the Chinese Naval Academy.  It was modeled closely after Annapolis, and the students would have become Ensigns in the Chinese Navy had they been able to complete four years of study.

Unfortunately, despite all the assistance and training, Quindao fell to the Chinese Communist Party on June 2nd, 1949, little more than a year after Razorback's visit.  Most of the trainees in these pictures likely evacuated, along with the rest of the Chinese Nationalist military, to the island of Taiwan, where a strong naval tradition still exists today.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Razorback Visits China in 1948

In late October, 1947, Razorback left San Francisco for what would be recorded as "Simulated War Patrol Number Two", a deployment that modern sailors would recognize as a WESTPAC.  Among the ports Razorback visited was Quindao, China (also known as Tsingtao).

Razorback arrived there on this day in 1948.

At the time, the United States was supporting the Chinese Nationalist Party in its civil war against the Chinese Communist Party.  Major training bases for both officers and enlisted personnel in the Chinese Nationalist Navy were in operation in Quindao during this time.

Razorback would remain in Qindao for three weeks, conducting training with various U.S. Navy destroyers during this period.  The deck logs show that Razorback sailors had ample opportunities for liberty on the weekends.

This silk embroidery was created for former Razorback crew member and museum supporter Gene Haley during this time.  Gene had it framed and donated it to AIMM.  It is on display in the museum.

Monday, January 07, 2013

USS Perch (SS-313) Commissioned This Day in 1944

This plaque was recently donated to AIMM, and the story behind this little known submarine is (at least to us) an interesting one, and one that we thought should be shared.

USS Perch (SS-313) was commissioned on this day in 1944.  Like Razorback, Perch was a Balao-class submarine.  Unlike Razorback, she was built at the Electric Boat Company shipyard in Groton, CT.

Perch conducted seven war patrols during World War II, earning four battle stars.

Like Razorback, Perch remained in the Navy after the war, and this is where Perch's story becomes interesting (and complicated).

Shortly after WWII ended, Perch was decommissioned and placed in reserve status.

There were, of course, incredible technological advances in the postwar period, and there were many theories about the roles that submarines would play in the Navy.  One thought was that submarines could carry troops, especially Marines or special operations forces.  Perch was selected as one of the submarines to test these theories.

Perch was outfitted with a pressure-proof chamber large enough to carry a small helicopter or a small armored amphibious vehicle and designated as an SSP - Submarine Transport, then as an ASSP - Transport Submarine.  Both of her torpedo rooms were turned into berthing spaces for the embarked troops.  After these changes were made, Perch was able to carry over 100 marines or other special forces personnel, 85 tons of their equipment, a landing vehicle AND a jeep and eight 10-man rubber rafts.

A hatch connected the pressure-proof hanger to the submarine, and all the equipment could be accessed and maintained while at sea.

During the Korean War, Perch actually landed a small force of British commandos in an successful attack on a Korean train tunnel.

After the Korean War ended, Perch continued in her role, but was classified as an APSS - Submarine Transport.  In 1960, Perch was decommissioned, but she was returned to active service in 1961 and began training with the U.S. Marine Corps and other special operations forces.  Perch landed troops multiple times during the Vietnam War.

In 1967, Perch began the final phase of her career, when she became a Naval Reserve training submarine.  Her classification was changed to LPSS - Submarine Transport.  Then in 1971, she was re-designated as IXSS - Unclassified Miscellaneous Submarine and on 1 December 1971, Perch was finally decommissioned and sold for scrapping.

Perch almost certainly holds the record for the most number of different classifications (six):

  • SS
  • SSP
  • ASSP
  • APSS
  • LPSS
  • IXSS