SUBS EXPLAINED – Letters from BILL HOELLER

In our last Sunday feature I shared with Berangere and Jean the hope that some reader would respond with explanations for the largely mysterious – for us – submarines that we included there.  We were blessed with just such from Bill Hoeller.  Now we will print out his explanations beneath the subs they apply to.  And we will introduce this with the introduction to his first letter to us.  Thanks much Bill.

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Dear Paul,

Having been born and raised in Seattle I always look forward to your Seattle Now & Then feature every Sunday.  In 1940 when I was born I lived in the Rainier Valley.  My wife and I currently live in Wallingford.  I saw you had some questions concerning submarines, which I know a little about, so I thought I would respond.  I’m also anxious to see additional posts about submarines.

All the best,

Bill Hoeller

This submarine is the H-Class submarine H-1 (SS-28).  She was commissioned as the Seawolf, but was renamed the H-1.  The H-3, built here at the Moran shipyard, was named the Garfish (SS-30).
This submarine is the H-Class submarine H-1 (SS-28). She was commissioned as the Seawolf, but was renamed the H-1. The H-3, built here at the Moran shipyard, was named the Garfish (SS-30).
I’m still trying to find the name of this submarine.  She’s a Balao or Tench class submarine that underwent a Guppy conversion.  The shark fin looking thing up near the bow and just aft of the sail are two of the three sonar arrays for the PUFFS passive underwater fire control BQG-4 system that would give the range and bearing of a target.  The third array would be well aft on the submarine.  The high sail was added to the original configuration of the boat to provide more protection for those on the bridge from heavy seas, and was referred to as a North Atlantic Sail.  These sails were also made partially of plastics to reduce weight and reduce corrosion.  The boat may very well have been a foreign submarine when this photo was taken, one of the many Guppy boats we gave away.
I’m still trying to find the name of this submarine. She’s a Balao or Tench class submarine that underwent a Guppy conversion. The shark fin looking thing up near the bow and just aft of the sail are two of the three sonar arrays for the PUFFS passive underwater fire control BQG-4 system that would give the range and bearing of a target. The third array would be well aft on the submarine. The high sail was added to the original configuration of the boat to provide more protection for those on the bridge from heavy seas, and was referred to as a North Atlantic Sail. These sails were also made partially of plastics to reduce weight and reduce corrosion. The boat may very well have been a foreign submarine when this photo was taken, one of the many Guppy boats we gave away. LATER . . .  Thank you very much for asking Paul.  You’re more than welcome to quote me.
 
Regarding the mystery boat moored across from the Continental Can Company, I belong to the United State Submarine Veterans, Inc. (USSVI) so I asked a friend of mine, Patrick Householder, who lives here and who once was the National Commander of the organization.  The USSVI has over 13, 000 members, so the pool of knowledge within the group about U.S. submarines is infinite.  Patrick knows more than most about U.S. diesel submarines.
 
Patrick said the boat was either the USS Salmon (SS-573) or the USS Sailfish (SS-572), and now that he said it I agree.  Since the Salmon was a west coast boat and the Sailfish was an east coast boat, the boat in the picture is the undoubtedly the Salmon.  I should have thought of Salmon because she was in our flotilla in San Diego when I was on Sea Devil (SS-400).  
 
Salmon and Sailfish were purpose built as radar picket boats and both were 350’ long, which at the time was huge.  The standard Gato, Balao and Tench class fleet submarines at the time were 312’ long.  The boats carried a huge radar antenna on deck aft of the sail, and another huge antenna on top of the sail when they operated as picket boats, but when they were re-classified as regular diesel attack submarines their huge radar antennas were removed.   [Here I asked Bill Hoeller to explain the meaning of "picket boats" in his passage above.  His answer follows.]  Don’t hold my feet to the fire on this, but the term “picket” would be likened to a picket fence around a house to act as a barrier to keep dogs in the yard (or perhaps outside the yard.)  During the battle for Okinawa destroyers formed a picket barrier away from the main battle fleet to give early warning of Japanese aircraft Kamikaze attacks, and although the destroyers performed their job well many of them naturally became targets of the Kamikaze and many were sunk.  The notion came up that perhaps a submarine could better do the job by submerging before the aircraft attacked, but nothing was done until shortly after the war.  Perhaps eight or so conventional fleet diesel submarines were configured with huge search radars that allowed them to determine the range, distance and altitude of an aircraft.  Here on the west coast I remember there were the Spinax, the Rock, the Raton and the Rasher.  The Salmon and the Sailfish were purpose built as radar picket boats, as was the nuclear powered submarine USS Triton (SSRN-586).  She was the boat that sailed around the world submerged.  The whole program of using submarines as radar picket boats didn’t last long, perhaps for a year or a bit longer.  Radars on long range aircraft performed the job much better.
Here’s a photo of Salmon in San Francisco Bay that I found on the Internet.  I think it’s rather cool.
Here’s a photo of Salmon in San Francisco Bay that I found on the Internet. I think it’s rather cool.
These two boats are the Bass (SS-164) and the Bonita (SS165).  They were V-Class boats.
These two boats are the Bass (SS-164) and the Bonita (SS165). They were V-Class boats.
Here’s the Bass again.  Inboard of the Bass is probably the Barracuda (SS-163).  The outboard boat is the Dolphin (SS-169).  When she operated out of the old Coco Solo submarine base in Panama she was the D-1.  Like the Bass and Barracuda the Dolphin was a V-Class boat.
Here’s the Bass again. Inboard of the Bass is probably the Barracuda (SS-163). The outboard boat is the Dolphin (SS-169). When she operated out of the old Coco Solo submarine base in Panama she was the D-1. Like the Bass and Barracuda the Dolphin was a V-Class boat.
Below as you know is the USS Carp (SS-338).  She was a Balao class boat, commissioned in February 1945, and made one war patrol before the war ended.  She was sold for scrap in 1973.
Below as you know is the USS Carp (SS-338). She was a Balao class boat, commissioned in February 1945, and made one war patrol before the war ended. She was sold for scrap in 1973.
The USS Puffer (SS-268), a Gato class submarine, had a stellar career in WWII.  She sustained one of the longest depth charging of any submarine, over 31 hours.  She was submerged for 38 hours before coming back to the surface.   Puffer holds a special place for me.  I enlisted in the Navy aboard her in 1957 when she was the training boat for Submarine Reserve Division 13-16 here in Seattle at the Naval Armory.  I spent a lot of time aboard her, and spent a lot of time marching around inside the Armory.   You mentioned you lived for a time in a houseboat along Fairview, and told the story of the Puffer going adrift.  When I was fourteen I worked for a commercial diver as his tender.  He had a moorage for his diving barge at the north end of Lake Union, just east of the Gas Works.  He managed to corral a lot of galvanized barrels.  We filled the barrels with water, placed them under houseboats between the cedar logs upon which the houses were built, and blew the water out using compressed air, which helped to raise the houseboat up a bit.  The cedar logs over the years would become waterlogged and slowly sink.  We worked on houseboats all around Lake Union and Portage Bay.
The USS Puffer (SS-268), a Gato class submarine, had a stellar career in WWII. She sustained one of the longest depth charging of any submarine, over 31 hours. She was submerged for 38 hours before coming back to the surface.
Puffer holds a special place for me. I enlisted in the Navy aboard her in 1957 when she was the training boat for Submarine Reserve Division 13-16 here in Seattle at the Naval Armory. I spent a lot of time aboard her, and spent a lot of time marching around inside the Armory.
You mentioned you lived for a time in a houseboat along Fairview, and told the story of the Puffer going adrift. When I was fourteen I worked for a commercial diver as his tender. He had a moorage for his diving barge at the north end of Lake Union, just east of the Gas Works. He managed to corral a lot of galvanized barrels. We filled the barrels with water, placed them under houseboats between the cedar logs upon which the houses were built, and blew the water out using compressed air, which helped to raise the houseboat up a bit. The cedar logs over the years would become waterlogged and slowly sink. We worked on houseboats all around Lake Union and Portage Bay.

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HOPEFULLY – if we can find it – we intend to return to this SUBMARINE SECTION of our blog with something on THE PRINCESS ANGELINE, the “first atomic submarine built for Puget Sound commuter service.”  We doubt that it was ever built.  Were we not quoting we would have preferred to write “planned for Puget Sound commuter service.” Please check for it later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “SUBS EXPLAINED – Letters from BILL HOELLER”

  1. Very nice follow-up! To submariners, posts like these two are just gold. I dove once with the S646 Galatée (French navy, submarine base of Toulon :)) (and I live in Wallingford too mate! :)).

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