US Navy Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, TH

1950

Fleet boats at their moorings. Garbage wagon on the right.

The base facilities

Main barracks

This was the barracks bunk spaces where the sub crews could sack out when not on duty aboard. These spaces have now been converted into apartments to give more privacy to the crewmen.

 

Swimming pool

The swimming pool still exists just as it did in 1950.

The Base chapel

 

The Officer's Club

Looks about the same, but the cars have been updated.

The escape training tower is now drained, but stands as a landmark.

The other boats in port

A fleet boat arriving at Sail 9 in Pearl Harbor during WWII. Other subs alongside a tender to the right.

USS Bergall (SS320)

 

USS Blackfin (SS322)

 

 

USS Greenfish (SS351)

 

 

USS Besugo (SS321)

 

 

USS Pomfret (SS391)

 

 

USS Ronquil (SS396)

 

 

USS Stickleback (SS415)

The Stickleback was specially outfitted to be a torpedo target for testing sonic torpedoes. The outer hull had been reinforced with 1" thick steel (the normal outer tank shell was only 1/4" thick). We conducted operations with the Stickleback off Lahaina to test the homing capabilities of the new electric sonic guided torpedoes. We actually shot unarmed torpedoes at her with the expectation they would impact her hull near the screws. Here she is seen surfacing off the west coast of Maui after serving as target for our torpedoes. We fired the torpedoes while on the surface in order to monitor the torpedo track. We had observers standing on the stern and fired out of the stern tubes.

One torpedo proved to be a problem. The propulsion motor did not start upon being expelled. The torpedo just popped to the surface about 20 yards off the stern and bobbed there nose up like a buoy. We watched it slowly drift aft since we still had a slight headway. We called the retriever to come and capture it, but suddenly it came to life, the propulsion motor started, which caused it to rise almost full length out of the water before falling back sideways and taking off in the wrong direction. The retriever did manage to chase it down and bring it back to port.

I never did do much with this boat, but twenty-five years later I found I was working in a company with someone who had been an ET on the boat at this time. He had gone on to be an LDO and retired as a LCDR after being in charge of a navy electronics supply ship (a converted LCT) in Yokosuka harbor. ( I also in 1974 found myself working at a company with one of my former classmates in navy electronics school from 1949)

USS Pickerel(SS524)

The famous submarine converted to snorkel and GUPPY provisions. The hot shot skipper put it through its paces, doing all but loop-the-loops submerged. It was the first GUPPY to be home ported at this base. This picture shows it doing a 60-degree up angle surface off the port of Lahaina, Maui, HI. We often did operations here since the water was shallow enough to allow rescue salvage in case of an accident which put the sub on the bottom. It came up from 300 feet at flank speed and rose high enough to bring the front of the sail out of the water. The skipper was trying to beat the record of the Amberjack(SS522) which had set an official record of 40 degrees on the east coast.

It returned to Pearl Harbor after a record-setting 21-day submerged run snorkeling across the Pacific from Hong Kong.

The Pickerel arriving in Pearl Harbor after the 21 day run.

USS Wahoo (SS565)

This is the reincarnation of the original boat skippered by "Mush" Morton. It was one of three that were designed based on the German U-boat concept. The bridge was set high so the deck officer stood near the top of the periscope shears. There was no separate conning tower, the conning station was a raised section in the middle of the control room. That same concept was used later for the Nautilus. We always got tours of the new boats when they arrived. They were called "fast attack" boats, but they had only four tubes forward.

USS Tang (SS563)

This is the reincarnation of the original boat skippered by "Killer" O'Kane. It also was of the U-boat design. I toured it in Monterey in 1985 as it was on its way to be decommissioned. It had some experimental sonar mounted topside.

USS Gudgeon (SS567)

These boats had a peculiar design as the bow planes swiveled out instead of folding up. The starboard plane swiveled forward, the port plane swiveled aft on the same cross shaft. The story was that this new design had not been thoroughly tested before mounting it on the boat during construction. When the boat's hydraulic power was activated and the planes extended for the first time, it was proven that they had not been expected to swivel out so fast. The planes literally snapped off the cross shaft when they hit the stops and fell into the drydock. They then installed some hydraulic snubbers to slow the planes down.

K1 later called the USS Barracuda (SSK1)

This was one of a set of three specially designed and built "killer" boats. Actually it was less like a doberman and more like a chihuahua with big ears. They each sported a huge sonar dome on the bow that contained an array of hydrophones which could detect faint sounds in the water. This was also a design lifted from the Germans. At first the sonar was considered highly secret, and even visiting crewmen from other boats, and we all took tours of these strange boats, were not told how it worked. The "K-boats" were only 200 feet long, stubby to see. They had only one engine room but three engines. And their engines were actually the small auxiliary diesel engines like we had tucked between the two main engines. As I said they were strange to behold. They had no stern tubes and only four bow tubes, so their teeth had been dulled if not pulled. It was basically intended to be a sonar platform. The undersides had been reinforced with 2" thick steel plating so the boat could settle safely on the bottom regardless of bottom conditions, sand or rocks. The tactical use of the boat was to have it stationed outside a harbor, sitting on the bottom and listening for approaching traffic, surface or submarine. A radio antenna buoy would connect it to the base headquarters.

K2 later called the USS Bass (SSK2)

The little K-boats very quickly were given the nick-name: "kiddie cars." The kiddie cars were involved in several other experiments, none of which worked properly. Some genius came up with the idea of replacing the in-line diesel engines with radial diesel engines similar to those used on airplanes. The K2 was so outfitted during an overhaul in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. I had a tour of it after it came back to the base. The engines had been designed to have the crankshaft set vertically, and the generator was mounted to it from below. The engineman looked over the top of the horizontal radial cylinders. There were three engines set in a staggered line in the engine room. It worked, at least they had come back to the base under their own power. But it failed the proof of the pudding. The engines were not as rugged as the old diesel standbys. At first they had breakdowns just steaming around the harbor on shakedown. Then when they thought they had those fixed, when they went to sea the engines couldn't handle the tossing around of rough seas. Since the boats were smaller they were tossed around like tin cans. They never had all three engines in running commission at the same time. They cannibalized one to keep two going. It reminded me of the movie with Gary Cooper where he was assigned to help with an experimental ship propulsion system and the ship became known as the USS Teakettle. It would blow its boilers at sea and have to be towed back into port. The K2 actually went that far.

K3 later called the USS Bonita (SSK3)

The K-boats were equipped with snorkels so they could run submerged and charge their batteries. But the bulbous nose was not hydrodynamicly aligned with the movement of the sub and when they built up any amount of headway the bow would broach. Also, since the sonar was so sensitive the sound of the water flowing past the dome surface overpowered the weak sounds of distant ships. So it was required to move slowly when the sonar was in use. In this picture, taken from the stern of the ARD, the USS Greenlet, ASR10 can be seen at its usual mooring at Sail2.

The K2, K3, Pickerel, and Greenfish in port

Retrievers

When we went to sea to shoot practice torpedoes at the DDs acting as targets, we used "exercise shots", torpedoes with no explosive warhead. The exercise shots would surface and bob in the water and these yellow trimmed retrievers would hook onto them and pull them aboard and deliver them back to the base torpedo shop for overhaul and reuse. The retrievers were modified PT boats with the rear ramp installed so the torpedoes could be winched aboard. The red fireboat is a former landing craft.

Coming in the Pearl Harbor channel after a day (or week) at sea.

Coast Guard Cutter in Pearl Harbor channel. This was before President Kennedy provided the red sash emblem.