USS Narwhal (SS-167)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

USS Narwhal (SS-167) at sea, 1931
United States
NameUSS Narwhal
BuilderPortsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine[1]
Laid down10 May 1927[1]
Launched17 December 1928[1]
Commissioned15 May 1930[1]
Decommissioned23 April 1945[1]
Stricken19 May 1945[1]
FateSold for breaking up, 16 November 1945[1]
General characteristics
Class and typeV-5 (Narwhal)-class composite direct-drive diesel and diesel-electric submarine[8]
Displacement2,730 long tons (2,770 t) surfaced, standard,[2] 3,900 long tons (4,000 t) (submerged)[2]
Length349 ft (106 m) (waterline), 371 ft (4,450 in) (overall)[10]
Beam33 ft 3+14 in (10.141 m)[2]
Draft16 ft 11+14 in (5.163 m)[2]
Speed17.4 kn (20.0 mph; 32.2 km/h) surfaced, trial,[8] 14 kn (16 mph; 26 km/h) surfaced, service;[8] 8 kn (9.2 mph; 15 km/h) submerged,[2] 6.5 kn (7.5 mph; 12.0 km/h) submerged, service, 1939[2]
Range9,380 nmi (10,790 mi; 17,370 km) @ 10 kn (12 mph; 19 km/h),[2] 25,000 nmi (29,000 mi; 46,000 km) @ 5.7 kn (6.6 mph; 10.6 km/h) with fuel in main ballast tanks[2]
  • 10 hours at 5 kn (5.8 mph; 9.3 km/h)[2]
  • (bunkerage) 178,460–182,778 US gallons (675,540–691,890 L)[11]
Test depth300 ft (90 m)[2]
  • As Built: 9 officers, 10 petty officers, 70 enlisted[2]
  • 1942: 9 officers, 88 enlisted[11]
  • 1943: 8 officers, 80 enlisted[11]

USS Narwhal (SS-167), the lead ship of her class of submarine and one of the "V-boats", was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the narwhal. She was named V-5 (SC-1) when her keel was laid down on 10 May 1927 by the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine.

V-5 was launched on 17 December 1929 sponsored by Mrs. Frances Adams (née Lovering), wife of Charles F. Adams, Secretary of the Navy, and commissioned on 15 May 1930, Lieutenant Commander John H. Brown Jr. in command.


V-5 a.k.a. USS Narwhal under construction at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, 1927

V-5 was generally similar to the preceding submarine minelayer V-4, although slightly smaller and lacking a minelaying system. The configuration of V-4, V-5, and V-6 resulted from an evolving strategic concept that increasingly emphasized the possibility of a naval war with Japan in the far western Pacific. This factor, and the implications of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, suggested the need for long-range submarine "cruisers", or "strategic scouts", as well as long-range minelayers, for which long endurance, not high speed, was most important. The design was possibly influenced by the German "U-cruisers" of the Type U-139 and Type U-151 U-boat classes, although V-4, V-5, and V-6 were all larger than these. A raised gun platform was provided around the conning tower, and deck stowage for spare torpedoes was included under the platform and in the superstructure. V-5 and her near-sisters V-4 (Argonaut) and V-6 (Nautilus) were initially designed with larger and more powerful MAN-designed diesel engines than the Busch-Sulzer engines that propelled earlier V-boats, which were failures. Unfortunately, the specially built engines failed to produce their design power, and some developed dangerous crankcase explosions. The engineering plant was replaced in 1942.[4]

The as-built engine specifications were two BuEng-built, MAN-designed[3] direct-drive 10-cylinder 4-cycle main diesel engines, 2,350 hp (1,750 kW) each, with two BuEng MAN[4] 4-cycle 6-cylinder auxiliary diesel engines, 450 hp (340 kW) each, driving 300 kW (400 hp)[5] electrical generators.[6] The auxiliary engines were for charging batteries or for increased surface speed via a diesel-electric system providing power to the main electric motors.

Inter-War Period[edit]

A Momsen lung in use during training – USS V-5 (SC 1) crewman A. L. Rosenkotter exits the submarine's escape hatch wearing the "Momsen Lung" emergency escape breathing device during the submarine's sea trials in July 1930. The emergency breathing device was named for its inventor, U.S. Navy submarine rescue pioneer Cdr. Charles "Swede" Momsen. The submarine V-5 was later renamed USS Narwhal (SS 167).

V-5 departed Annapolis, Maryland on 11 August 1930 for a cruise to the West Indies, returning to Portsmouth on 11 September. She trained in New England waters until 31 January 1931, when she sailed for the West Coast via the Panama Canal, arriving San Diego on 4 April. On 19 February, V-5 was renamed Narwhal and on 1 July received the new hull number SS-167. After overhaul at Mare Island Navy Yard, Narwhal departed on 2 February 1932 for fleet exercises off Hawaii. She returned to San Diego on 17 March. After patrol duty along the West Coast,[12] the submarine got underway on 12 July 1934 for a cruise with Submarine Division 12 (SubDiv 12) until her arrival at San Diego on 18 September. For the next three years, she operated as far north as Seattle, Washington and as far west as Pearl Harbor, which became her home base for operations through 1941.

World War II[edit]

Narwhal was one of four[13] submarines in overhaul caught by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the early morning of 7 December 1941. Within minutes of the first enemy bomb explosions on Ford Island, Narwhal's gunners were in action to assist in the destruction of two torpedo planes.

1st-3rd Patrols and overhaul, February 1942-April 1943[edit]

On her first war patrol – from 2 February-28 March 1942 — Narwhal, with Lieutenant Commander Charles W. "Weary" Wilkins in command, departed Pearl Harbor to reconnoiter Wake Island on 15–16 February, then continued on to the Ryukyu Islands. On 28 February, she made her first torpedo attack of the war, heavily damaging Maju Maru. Six days later, the submarine sank Taki Maru in the East China Sea.

She spent her second war patrol – from 28 May – 13 June – in defense of Midway Atoll. As TF 16 – with the aircraft carriers Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown — prepared to meet the Japanese attack, Narwhal joined Plunger and Trigger in scouting east of Midway; during the Battle of Midway on 3–6 June, these submarines – along with 15[14] others – accomplished nothing as the Japanese did not move east of Midway.

Narwhal's third patrol – from 7 July – 26 August – took her close to Hokkaidō to stalk Japanese shipping off the Kurile Islands. She claimed two small inter-island freighters on 24 and 28 July. One reference credits Narwhal with 3 sinkings on 24 July.[15] However, it is likely that the gunboat mentioned was too small to be considered in the official tally, and the other two sinkings are the ones that took place around this date. On 1 August, Narwhal included Meiwa Maru to her credit despite aircraft bomb and depth charge retaliation. One reference credits Narwhal with an additional sinking on 1 August (the tanker Koan Maru).[15] Seven days later, she sank Bifuku Maru. On the morning of 14 August, the submarine raised her periscope to discover three enemy destroyers crossing her stern in column. She waited while the destroyers "were running all over the ocean" dropping depth charges. Only slightly damaged, Narwhal departed her patrol area the next day.

On 8 September, Narwhal sailed from Pearl Harbor for the West Coast, arriving Mare Island Navy Yard on 15 September for overhaul. Her aging BuEng MAN engines were replaced at this time with four GM-Winton 16-278As and other upgraded machinery, including more powerful electric motors and new batteries.[9] She also received four external torpedo tubes, two in the bow and two on top of the stern casing, and may have received increased torpedo deck stowage as well. She went on to San Diego on 4 April 1943, arriving two days later to embark a company of the 7th Infantry Division Provisional Scout Battalion (including Alaskan Native scouts of the Alaska Territorial Guard) for the invasion of Attu Island.[16] On 18 April, she set course for Alaska, arriving at Dutch Harbor on 27 April.

4th-8th Patrols, April 1943-December 1943[edit]

The submarine began her fourth war patrol – from 30 April-25 May – departing Dutch Harbor for the western Aleutian Islands. She rendezvoused with sister ship Nautilus on 11 May off the northern side of Attu Island, and the two ships debarked Army Scouts in rubber boats for the preliminary landings in the recapture of the island, a venture successfully completed on 29 May. Narwhal returned to Pearl Harbor with a stopover at Dutch Harbor on 14 and 18 May.

With Commander Frank D. Latta in command, she again got underway for the Kurile Islands on her fifth war patrol, from 26 June – 7 August. Her mission – beginning on 11 July – was to create diversion by bombarding an air base on Matsuwa. Lapon, Permit, and Plunger were about to attempt an exit from the previously impenetrable Sea of Japan which they had so daringly invaded. The night of 15 July, Narwhal drew so much enemy attention to her presence she was forced to dive from the shells, but she accomplished her mission: the other submarines slipped through Etorofu Strait without detection.

Narwhal made her sixth war patrol – from 31 August – 2 October – off the Marshall Islands. On the morning of 11 September, she torpedoed and sank Hokusho Maru before a Japanese escort caught up with her. After a severe depth charging, she departed for the Kwajalein Atoll area. By the end of September, the submarine was en route to Brisbane, Australia.

Upon arrival, Narwhal prepared to participate in the campaign to assist the guerrilla movement in the Philippines begun in January 1943, when Gudgeon disembarked six Filipinos and a ton of equipment on Negros Island. Narwhal eventually became the leading submarine in supporting the Philippine guerrilla movement with nine secret transport missions to her credit.

Narwhal was loaded down with 92 short tons (83 t) of ammunition and stores and a party of ten for her seventh patrol, from 23 October – 22 November, supporting Philippine guerrillas. She was in the Sulu Sea, off Mindanao, the night of 10 November en route to Puluan Bay when two Japanese ships astern opened fire. The night of 13 November, she entered Ptiluan Bay stealthily to disembark her passengers and half of her cargo while lying off the starboard side of Dona Jitana Maru. By midnight Narwhal was safely on her way to Nasipit, on Mindanao, where she docked on 15 November to unload the rest of her stores to the tune of "Anchors Aweigh" played by a grateful Filipino band.[17]:173 She then embarked 32 evacuees, including eight women, two children, and a baby, for Darwin, Australia, and the end of her patrol.

Picking up such odd assortments of passengers and secret cargo soon became routine for Narwhal. She departed on her eighth war patrol – from 25 November – 18 December – with the usual cargo and 11 Army operatives bound for Cabadbaran, on Mindanao, arriving Butuan Bay on 2 December for disembarking. With seven evacuees on board, Narwhal sailed for Majacalar Bay, arriving off Negros Island on 3 December. Taking on nine more people, she stood out of Alajacalar Bay on 5 December. Around sunrise that same day, the submarine sank Hinteno Maru in a blaze of gunfire. On 11 December, she disembarked her passengers at Port Darwin, then continued on to Fremantle, Western Australia.

9th-12th Patrols, January 1944-July 1944[edit]

On her ninth war patrol – from 18 January-15 February 1944 – the submarine returned to Darwin to embark observer Commander F. Kent Loomis and more stores. Following a nighttime transit of the Surigao Strait, Narwhal slipped west and north, made a submerged patrol off Naso Point, Panay, then headed for Pandan Bay to transfer cargo to sailing craft. With six new passengers, she came off Negros Island on 7 February to deposit 45 tons of supplies. Narwhal then received 28 more evacuees for the trip to Darwin, including Professor Roy Bell and family.[18]:155–160

On her tenth war patrol – from 16 February – 20 March — Narwhal delivered more ammunition to Butuan Bay on 2 March. With 28 new people on board, she departed on 3 March for Tawi-Tawi. That evening, she damaged Karatsu (the captured USS Luzon (PR-7)) and was heavily bombarded with depth charges by enemy escorts for her trouble. On the night of 5 March, two small boats – assisted by rubber boats from Narwhal — put off for shore with cargo. Three Japanese destroyers closed in later; she eluded them and transferred her passengers, now a total of 38, to Chinampa on 11 March before docking at Fremantle.

USS Luzon, damaged by USS Narwhal while serving under Japanese command

Narwhal, with Commander Jack C. Titus in command, departed on her 11th war patrol – from 7 May – 9 June – for Alusan Bay, Samar, where she landed 22 men and supplies, including electric lamps, radio parts, and flour for the priests, the night of 24 May. By 1 June, the submarine was unloading 16 men and stores on the southwest coast of Mindanao. She ended this patrol at Port Darwin.

The twelfth war patrol – from 10 June – 7 July – gave Narwhal a chance for some action. On 13 June, she submerged for reconnaissance of Bula, Ceram Island, an enemy fuel depot. That night, the submarine closed the shore and fired 56 rounds of 6 inch (152 mm) projectiles to destroy several gasoline storage tanks and set fires around a power house and pumping station area before she had to retreat from the salvos directed at her. Three minutes before sunset on 20 June, she rendezvoused with native boats to send her cargo ashore during a suspenseful nine and one-half hours. Within 30 minutes she had completed unloading and taking on 14 evacuees, but a submarine chaser was in her wake. Narwhal evaded him to do some shooting herself the next day at a Japanese motorized sailboat and on 22 June at the tanker Itsukushima Maru. After putting her evacuees ashore at Port Darwin on 29–30 June, she continued to Fremantle.

13th-15th Patrols, Decommissioning, and Scrapping, August 1944-May 1945[edit]

Her 13th war patrol – from 12 August – 10 September – started at Fremantle and ended at Port Darwin. On the night of 30 August, Narwhal surfaced in Dibut Bay on the east coast of Luzon for her usual disembarking procedures, greatly speeded this time by the use of bamboo rafts built by the shore party under the direction of Major Robert Lapham and Lieutenant Commander Charles "Chick" Parsons, a liaison man in the Philippine supply and evacuation missions. Before midnight on 2 September, Narwhal sent a party and supplies ashore to a beach off the mouth of the Masanga River, and received four evacuees in return to complete the patrol.

On her 14th war patrol – from 14 September – 5 October — Narwhal deposited men and stores on Cebu Island on 27 September, then took off for Siari Bay, where on 29 September she received 31 liberated prisoners-of-war (POWs) rescued from the sea after Paddle sank several Japanese transports off Sindagan Point on 6 September. However, according to a POW survivor's account, Narwhal picked up 82 POW's vice 31 at Siari, Mindanao. "Forty-one placed in the forward torpedo room and 41 in the aft torpedo room".[19] Narwhal found herself in danger the afternoon of 30 September, when she submerged to avoid a Japanese antisubmarine patrol plane, her stern planes locked in a 20° down-angle. Forced to blow her main ballast to stop the steep dive, Narwhal reversed direction and popped out of the water stern first just two minutes after she went down. Luckily, the patrol plane could not maneuver fast enough to return before she again dove.

After a short refit at Mios Woendi, Dutch New Guinea, Narwhal conducted her 15th and last war patrol from 11 October – 2 November, with Commander William G. Holman in command. Friday the 13th brought a near attack by a PBY Catalina. Once the submarine was recognized, the aircraft signaled "GOOD LUCK NARWHAL." The evening of 17 October she was off a Tawi Tawi beach to deliver 11 short tons (10.0 t) of cargo. Two days later she unloaded the rest of her cargo and 37 men at Negros Island and took on her last passengers, 26 in all, for the trip to Brisbane.

Narwhal departed Brisbane on 6 January 1945 for the east coast via the Panama Canal, entering the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 21 February, where she was decommissioned on 23 April. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 19 May and sold for scrap. Narwhal's two 6 inch (152 mm) guns are permanently enshrined at the Naval Submarine Base New London, at Groton, Connecticut. There is an oral tradition in the US submarine force that USS Narwhal (SSN-671) received her hull number as a deliberate re-arrangement of the older Narwhal's hull number of SS-167.


Narwhal received 15 battle stars for World War II service, tied with Thresher for the most battle stars earned by a submarine, placing them amongst the most decorated US ships of World War II.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 285–304. ISBN 1-55750-263-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
  3. ^ a b Blair, Clay, Jr. Silent Victory (New York: Bantam 1976; reprints Lippincott 1975 edition), p.57.
  4. ^ a b c d e Alden, p.210.
  5. ^ a b Alden, John D., Commander, USN (retired). The Fleet Submarine in the U.S. Navy (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1979), p.211.
  6. ^ a b U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 259
  7. ^ a b c Alden, p.211.
  8. ^ a b c d Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 266–267. ISBN 0-313-26202-0.
  9. ^ a b c Friedman, p. 180
  10. ^ Lenton, H. T. American Submarines (New York: Doubleday, 1973), p.33.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Alden, p.31.
  12. ^ Video: Cameraman Risks Life To Film 'Sub' In Striking Speed Tests, 1933/10/18 (1933). Universal Newsreel. 1933. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  13. ^ "Ships present at Pearl Harbor 0800 December 7, 1941 US Navy Historical Center". Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  14. ^ Blair, pp.236 & 240.
  15. ^ a b HyperWar USN Chronology 1942
  16. ^ American Thinker, "Remembering the Alaska Scouts", 12 November 2005
  17. ^ Wolfert, I., 1945, American Guerrilla in the Philippines, New York: Simon and Schuster
  18. ^ Mills, S.A., 2009, Stranded in the Philippines, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, ISBN 9781591144977
  19. ^ Sneddon, p. 211


External links[edit]