About time the "Silent Service" got some airtime around here.
This is GATO (SS-212) in February of 1942, with the standard overall Dull Black (BK) of Measure 9 as applied to all submarines early in the war.
GATO shows the nearly "as built" configuration of the class, with the tall and prominent bridge fairwater and enclosed periscope shears. This design was quickly cut down in refits as war experience showed how it increased observability while the boats were running on the surface. GATO has yet to receive any of the radar sets later fitted (such as the near-ubiquitous SD); this would come in later yard periods. The boat mounts a .50-caliber machine gun on the cigarette deck, which would have to be stowed belowdecks before the boat could dive. The deck gun is the standard 3"/50-caliber 'wet" mount. The small hydrophones of the WCA system (QB and QC projectors) are visible on the bottom of the hull below the diving planes. Their position on the bottom of the boat meant that bottoming (as was common in the Pacific) reduced their effectiveness considerably, and later refits usually added a JP or JT line-array sonar on the main deck.
This is WAHOO (SS-238) in August of 1942, after a refit period at the Mare Island Navy Yard. WAHOO is in the usual Measure 9 overall Dull Black (BK).
The boat shows the beginnings of the wartime alterations, with the bridge fairwater aft of the periscope shears cut down significantly to reduce the silhouette while surfaced. The SJ surface search antenna with its paraboloid reflector has been fitted on a small mast ahead of the periscope shears, and the SD omnidirectional air search antenna is mounted atop the old antenna mast. WAHOO mounts a 4"/50-caliber Mark 12 "wet" mount aft of the fairwater. This would be relocated in later refits.
This is WAHOO (SS-238) in February of 1943, at the conclusion of her third war patrol. The boat is still in Measure 9 camouflage. Seven sinkings were claimed during this patrol, and WAHOO returned to Pearl Harbor famously flying a broom from the second periscope to indicate a "clean sweep". The banner flying from the SD antenna mast reads "SHOOT THE SUN ZA-BITCHES", and was custom made by the crew after the skipper's infamous order to machine gun lifeboats full of Japanese soldiers rather than let them live to fight another day.
WAHOO set out for the war zone after her August 1942 refit with a tall fairwater as seen in images of the early GATO class boats. At Pearl Harbor, the fairwater was cut back forward and a new 20mm Oerlikon mounted in that position. A second Oerlikon was mounted aft of the fairwater. WAHOO's July 1943 refit at Mare Island would add a third 20mm Oerlikon on the cigarette deck just aft of the periscopes.
WAHOO was sunk by Japanese aircraft in October of 1943 while returning from a patrol in the Sea of Japan.
This is HARDER (SS-257) in April of 1944, during the boat's daring rescue of Ensign John Gavlin off Woleai in the Caroline Islands. HARDER was the lifeguard submarine for the area during this period.
HARDER shows the classic mid-war appearance of the GATO class, having traded her overall black Measure 9 camouflage for the "light gray job" of Measure 32/3SS-B. This pattern blended Light Grey (5-L) on the conning tower and forward hull into Ocean Gray (5-O) and then finally Dull Black (BK) on the rest of the boat. Decks were Gloss Black, and the tops of the deck guns were painted with a mottled pattern of Dull Black above and Light Grey below.
HARDER's SJ radar and its mast have been moved to an offset position between the SD mast and the number 2 periscope, which cleared the open conn forward. This is just another of the bewildering number of modifications made to these boats during the war. The JP line array hydrophone is visible on the main deck just ahead of the 4"/50-caliber Mark 12 deck gun.
HARDER was lost on her sixth war patrol, with 60 officers and men killed in action.
Here's a great high res photo of the rescue mentioned in the first paragraph: https://imgur.com/a/0p1M1
This is SILVERSIDES (SS-236), the first of the famous "Mare Island Trio" (along with sisters TRIGGER (SS-237) and WAHOO (SS-238)), as the boat appeared in August of 1944. SILVERSIDES is configured almost identically to TRIGGER at the same date; the two boats left Mare Island after overhauls in the same month. SILVERSIDES is camouflaged in the overall Dull Black (BK) of Measure 9.
SS-236 mounts the usual 4"/50-caliber Mark 12 wet mount forward, with a 20mm Oerlikon on the aft gun foundation. A single 40mm Bofors Mark 3 sits on the cigarette deck, with another 20mm Oerlikon mounted on the forward position of the fairwater. The SJ-1 surface search radar antenna (with its slotted grid reflector) sits on a mast ahead of the periscope shears, with SD aft. The JP line array hydrophone is just forward of the 4" gun.
SILVERSIDES survived the war to become a museum ship in Muskegon, Michigan.
This is TRIGGER (SS-237) in August of 1944, after completion of a lengthy refit period at the Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, California. She is camouflaged in Measure 9, with Dull Black (BK) on all surfaces.
TRIGGER shows very typical mid-war features for a GATO class boat. The SJa surface search antenna with its mesh grid paraboloid reflector sits atop the small mast ahead of the periscope shears, with the usual SD dipoles on the antenna mast aft. The early TBT (target bearing transmitter) sits just forward of the new 40mm Bofors on the fairwater, and the small stub antennas of the APR-1 radar countermeasures system have appeared on the periscope shears. The radio direction finding loop sits between the SJa mast and the forward periscope.
TRIGGER's armament configuration reflects war experience; a 40mm Bofors single mount (similar to that used by the Army) has been fitted on the fairwater's aft position, with a 20mm Oerlikon forward and a second 20mm gun on the forward gun foundation on the main deck. A 4"/50-caliber Mark 12 wet mount aft of the fairwater completes the armament. The 40mm guns were especially prized for shooting up the small sampans and fishing boats normally used by the Japanese for picket duty.
TRIGGER would be sunk by combined air and surface ship depth charging on 28 March 1945, during her twelfth war patrol.
This is GROUPER (SS-214) in July of 1945, at the conclusion of a major refit period at Mare Island Navy Yard. The boat is camouflaged in the standard Measure 32/3SS-B of the time, with Haze Grey (5-H) and Ocean Grey (5-O) blending into Dull Black (BK) towards the stern.
GROUPER shows the late-war alterations made to most of the GATO class, with the SD air search set replaced by the new SV set, and SJ-1 for surface search. A new mast has been added aft of the periscope shears to support the new SV radar antenna, which freed up space inside the cramped conning tower. Two single 40mm Bofors guns sit on the fairwater positions. The main gun forward is the advanced 5"/25-caliber Mark 40 wet mount developed in 1944. A single 20mm Oerlikon has been fitted aft.
GROUPER would survive the war to become the US Navy's first "hunter-killer submarine" (SSK) in 1951. After serving in this capacity until 1958, GROUPER was converted to a floating underwater sound laboratory (AGSS) - before finally being sold for scrap in 1970.
This is DACE (SS-247) in May of 1945, at the start of the boat's seventh war patrol. She is camouflaged in Measure 32/3SS-B - the standard grey scheme with black pressure hull found to be very effective at defeating surface observation.
DACE shows a very typical late-war GATO class configuration, with SD and SJ-1 search radars on masts aft of the periscope shears. The two 40mm Bofors Mark 3 single mounts fitted to the fairwater proved their worth during the waning months of the war, as most of the enemy ships engaged by the submarines were mainly junks and sampans (too small to be hit with torpedoes). A 5"/25 deck gun is fitted aft. The most interesting feature of DACE during this period is the DBU radar countermeasures system fitted on either side of the fairwater (just visible as a series of receiver antennas immediately forward of the side lights). This was a slight improvement over the APR-1 system usually installed, and saw service on several boats.
DACE survived the war to serve in the postwar US Navy, before being transferred to Italy. Renamed LEONARDO DA VINCI (S-510), ex-DACE served in the Marina Militare Italiana until 1972, when the boat was returned to the US. It was sold for scrap in 1975.
This is BARB (SS-220) after the boat's eleventh war patrol, off the coast of China. During this patrol, BARB penetrated Namkwan Harbor on the eastern China coast, firing torpedoes on a convoy of nearly 30 Japanese ships at anchor. The boat's daring escape through uncharted and heavily mined waters while being pursued by Japanese subchasers earned Commanding Officer Eugene Fluckey the Medal of Honor, and the boat the Presidential Unit Citation.
BARB is camouflaged in Measure 32/3SS-B, the submarine light grey system that reduced visibility during surfaced operations. The boat mounts the usual late-war electronics fit of SJ-1 surface search radar and SD air search on a telescoping antenna mast aft of the shears. The ST range-only radar has been fitted to the no.1 periscope. A 40mm Bofors single mount sits ahead of the fairwater, with a 20mm Oerlikon on the cigarette deck. The highly successful 5"/25 Mark 40 open mount sits aft of the fairwater. Built by Electric Boat at Groton, CT, BARB shows the characteristic pattern of half-moon shaped limber holes in the deck casing forward. Her bow planes have been rigged at a down angle to increase diving speed (a common modification late in the war), and the T-shaped head of the JP sonar is visible ahead of the fairwater along the main deck.
BARB would complete one more patrol in this configuration, famously attacking Japanese factories with 5" rockets and landing a shore party to set demolition charges on a railroad track, which later destroyed a Japanese train. BARB would survive the war to be sold to the Italian Navy, where it was recommissioned as ENRICO TAZZOLI (S 511). The boat was sold for scrap in 1972.
BARB is noted as the "submarine which sank the most tonnage by Japanese records" in most literature.
This is DRUM (SS-228) in July of 1945 after the conclusion of a refit period at Hunter's Point Navy Yard in San Francisco, CA. The boat is camouflaged in Measure 32/9SS-B.
The lack of large targets worth the expenditure of a torpedo as the war reached its conclusion meant that special emphasis was placed on the gun armament of the American submarines. The highly successful 5"/25 wet mount was occasionally mounted both fore and aft on some boats, leading to the "gun boat" configuration seen on DRUM here. Otherwise, DRUM shows very standard late war GATO class features, with SV air search and SJ-1 surface search antennas, ST range-only radar on the attack scope, and APR-1 countermeasures receivers arrayed on the shears. A 40mm Bofors Mark 3 mount sits on the forward edge of the fairwater, with a 20mm Oerlikon twin mount aft on the cigarette deck.
DRUM would survive the war to become a museum ship in Mobile, Alabama.
This is BALAO (SS-285) in October of 1944 after the completion of a refit period at Mare Island. She is camouflaged in Measure 32/3SS-B.
The BALAO class submarines were externally almost identical to the GATO class, with the main difference in their construction being the use of thicker high tensile steel to allow for a max diving depth of 600' versus the 400' limitation of the GATO class. The BALAO class were built with the cut-down bridge fairwaters retroactively fitted to the GATO class. The BALAOs benefitted from wartime experience with the GATOs, and all of them received a simplified periscope shears design that eliminated the heavy bracketing and complicated support structure from the previous design. BALAOs built by government yards (such as Mare Island and Portsmouth) were launched with oval limber holes along the entire length of the main deck, while Electric Boat yards (Groton and Manitowoc) continued to build their boats with only a single row of semi-circular limber holes forward. Government boats also featured a portside anchor, while the Electric Boat design mounted the single anchor to starboard.
BALAO herself mounts two 20mm Oerlikons on the fairwater positions, with a 4"/50-caliber Mark 12 deck gun forward. This would be replaced in 1945 with the usual 5"/25 Mark 40 mount seen on almost every sub towards the end of the war. BALAO has been fitted with the ST range-only radar set, visible as the small bump under the forward periscope's optic. This was a set similar to the ranging radars used aboard the surface ships, and performed the same function, allowing the officer using the periscope to quickly range his target. BALAO mounts the SD air search set on the new mast aft of the periscope shears, as well as the SJ-1 surface search set between them.
BALAO would survive the war to be sunk as a target in 1963.
This is TANG (SS-306) in April of 1944, during the boat's second war patrol. She is camouflaged in the usual Measure 9 overall black of the period. During this patrol, TANG was assigned as a lifeguard submarine off Truk where the boat rescued 22 downed aviators.
TANG exhibits the standard features for the "as built" BALAO class submarines, which incorporated many of the wartime improvements made to the GATO class. Two 20mm Oerlikons sit on the fairwater, with a 4"/50-caliber deck gun forward. The SJ and SD radars are mounted aft of the periscopes - this arrangement would be revised on later boats.
TANG was lost in October of 1944 after being hit by a malfunctioning torpedo that made a circular run. 78 officers and crewmen were killed in action, with only nine men surviving the sinking and their later imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Japanese. TANG and her commanding officer Richard O'Kane registered 33 ships sunk totalling 116,454 tons, making her one of the highest scoring submarines of the war.
This is BOWFIN (SS-287) in November of 1944, after a yard period at Mare Island. BOWFIN was camouflaged in Measure 32/9SS-B, referred to in many publications as the "dark grey job", because of its use of #11 Dark Grey in place of the #27 Light Grey of Measure 32/3SS-B. Only a few boats were camouflaged in 9SS-B, and most received the more common 3SS-B or stayed in the overall Dull Black (BK) of Measure 9.
BOWFIN shows very standard features for a BALAO class boat in 1944, with the SJ-1 surface search antenna on its small mast aft of the periscope shears, and a third aft mast for the SD air search set. The 4"/50-caliber Mark 12 gun forward would be replaced by the usual late-war 5"/25 at the boat's next refit. A WCA hydrophone has been mounted abeam the JP line array sonar forward.
BOWFIN would survive the war to become a memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
This is PAMPANITO (SS-383) in July of 1945, at the conclusion of a refit period at Hunter's Point near San Francisco. She is camouflaged in Measure 32/3SS-B.
PAMPANITO (like the class leader BALAO) was a "government built" boat, with two rows of limber holes and a portside anchor. PAMPANITO was launched with a 4"/50-caliber deck gun, but the July 1945 refit period removed this gun in favor of the newer 5"/25 wet mount. PAMPANITO also received two 40mm Bofors Mark 3 single mounts on the fairwater, and the aft end of the fairwater itself was shortened to reduce the boat's silhouette when running surfaced. The SV air search radar sits on a mast aft of the periscope shears, with the SJ-1 surface search antenna ahead of it, and the ST range-only radar on the forward periscope. APR-1 radar countermeasures stub antennas sit atop the periscope shears, and the usual DF loop (for underwater HF reception) hangs between the shears, suspended from the topmost brace.
PAMPANITO would survive the war to become a museum in San Francisco, CA.
This is COBBLER (SS-344), as the ship appeared in November of 1948 while underway to Groton, CT, for conversion to a GUPPY design. The boat is camouflaged in Measure 32/3SS-B, though the pattern has been painted in the sharper postwar pattern that eliminated a lot of the complex blending of the wartime design.
COBBLER mounts two 5"/25 deck guns, along with two 40mm Bofors Mark 3 medium AA guns on the fairwater. COBBLER's bow planes have been angled down, a common late-war modification to increase dive times to periscope depth. The periscope shear and radar mast arrangement is the late-war configuration designed by Electric Boat, with the SJ-1 surface search set on a small mast ahead of the shears, and the SV air search antenna on a third "shear" type mast just aft of the scopes. An additional whip antenna is sponsoned off the SV mast. An inclined ladder has been fitted on the cigarette deck to allow the crew of the aft gun to reach it faster during battle surfacing.
COBBLER's most interesting modification during this period is the topside rudder aft; complaints by wartime skippers of the fleet boats' lack of underwater maneuverability led to this attempted solution. It was not found to be satisfactory in service and was not widely adopted.
COBBLER would serve in the postwar US Navy, receiving the GUPPY III modernization in 1948, before being transferred to the Turkish Navy in 1973 and serving on as TNS ÇANAKKALE (S 341) until 1998.
This is TORSK (SS-423) in February of 1945, with Measure 32/3SS-B camouflage. TORSK was a TENCH class boat, a wartime incremental improvement over the preceding GATO and BALAO class submarines. The TENCH class incorporated a new propulsion system, a completely redesigned ballast tank arrangement, and a revamping of the torpedo rooms (allowing four more torpedoes to be carried). Externally, the only visible difference between the TENCH and BALAO class boats is the sharper knuckle on the lower edge of the bow, a result of the redesigned forward torpedo room. Otherwise, TENCH class boats were built to the same standards as the BALAOs. An interesting feature of TORSK, usually seen on late-war boats, is the angled dive planes; these allowed the boat to crash dive much faster, as the planes are already rigged down and would immediately force the bow under while diving.
A late-war class, few of the TENCH boats saw any service, but TORSK completed two successful war patrols in the last days of the conflict, sinking the last Japanese ship of the war on August 14th, 1945.
TORSK survived the war, serving in the peacetime US Navy, and went on to become a museum ship in Baltimore, Maryland.
This is REQUIN (SSR-481) in January of 1952, while operating off the US east coast. The boat is camouflaged in Measure SS 17 F, the postwar version of Measure 32/9SS-B ("the dark gray job").
The disastrous wartime experience off Okinawa reinforced the need for survivable radar picket ships; this requirement gave rise to Project MIGRAINE and the conversion of existing fleet-type subs into radar picket submarines (SSR). REQUIN was modified in the fall of 1946 to bring the boat up to MIGRAINE I standard: this series of modifications added an air search radar and height finder on the main deck aft, but this configuration was found to be problematic. The MIGRAINE II program attempted to resolve these issues by elevating the radars where possible. REQUIN was further modified in 1948 to near-MIGRAINE II standard.
The MIGRAINE II modifications for REQUIN relocated the big SR-2 air search radar from the main deck to a tall pedestal on the fairwater, replacing the 40mm Bofors in this position. This refit also added a snorkel, with the induction/exhaust just aft of the periscope shears. REQUIN retains the original SV-1 air search radar, with SS surface search radar on a small mast ahead of the periscopes. The no.1 periscope has been fitted with the ST range-only radar. The WFA sonar transducer is mounted abeam the forward planes, and the JT trainable passive sonar head remains in its original position. Aft, the YE-2 homing beacon is mounted on a small pedestal, and the SV-2 heightfinder is right aft. This radar suffered from water intrusion in this position, and on later MIGRAINE II boats it was relocated to a tall pedestal aft of the SR-2. The small mast ahead of the YE-2 is an air early warning antenna. Note wire antennas for the TCZ and TCS radios strung between small masts fore and aft of the SV-2, and the large outgrowth of whip antennas.
The MIGRAINE mods removed the 5" guns as weight compensation. Aft, all four torpedo tubes were demilitarized and the aft torpedo room converted to a rudimentary CIC and electronics spare parts store room. Forward, the upper two torpedo tubes were converted to storage lockers, but the bottom four tubes remained in use.
REQUIN would serve in this configuration until her conversion to the "Fleet Snorkel" standard in August 1959. The submarine would serve into the 1970s, before being converted into a museum ship in 1972.
All GATO class submarine drawings available here: http://shipbucket.com/drawings/search?c ... =&drawing=
All BALAO class submarine drawings available here: http://shipbucket.com/drawings/search?c ... =&drawing=
All USN submarine drawings available here: http://shipbucket.com/drawings?category ... shipType=6