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USS Billfish (SS-286)
Image-USS Billfish;0828608.jpg
USS Billfish
Builder: Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine[1]
Laid down: 23 July 1942[1]
Launched: 12 November 1942[1]
Sponsored by: Mrs. Lewis Parks
Commissioned: 20 April 1943[1]
Decommissioned: 1 November 1946[1]
Struck: 1 April 1968[1]
Fate: Sold for scrap, 17 March 1971[1]
General characteristics
Class & type: Balao-class diesel-electric submarine[2]
Displacement: 1,526 long tons (1,550 t) surfaced[2]
2,414 long tons (2,453 t) submerged[2]
Length: 311 ft 9 in (95.02 m)[2]
Beam: 27 ft 3 in (8.31 m)[2]
Draft: 16 ft 10 in (5.13 m) maximum[2]
  • 4 × General Motors Model 16-278A V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators[3][4]
  • 2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries[5]
  • 4 × high-speed General Electric electric motors with reduction gears[3]
  • two propellers [3]
  • 5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced[3]
  • 2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged[3]
Speed: 20.25 knots (37.50 km/h) surfaced[6]
8.75 kn (16.21 km/h) submerged[6]
Range: 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) surfaced at 10 knots (19 km/h)[6]
Endurance: 48 hours at 2 knots (3.7 km/h) submerged[6]
75 days on patrol
Test depth: 400 ft (120 m)[6]
Complement: 10 officers, 70–71 enlisted[6]
Armament: 10x21 in (53 cm) torpedo tubes (six forward, four aft; 24 torpedoes)
one 4 in (102 mm)/50 caliber deck gun
one 40 mm (1.57 in) Bofors antiaircraft cannon
two .5 in (12.7 mm) machineguns[7]

USS Billfish (SS-286), a Balao-class submarine, was the first ship of the United States Navy to bear the generic name for any fish, such as gar or spearfish, with bill-shaped jaws. Her keel was laid at Portsmouth Navy Yard on 23 July 1942. She was launched on 12 November 1942 sponsored by Mrs. Lewis Parks (wife of Lieutenant Commander Lew Parks), and commissioned on 20 April 1943 with Lieutenant Commander Frederic C. Lucas, Jr., in command.

Between 12 August 1943 and 27 August 1945 Billfish made eight war patrols out of Pearl Harbor. During these patrols she sank three freighters totaling 4,074 tons and five smaller craft. Part of her seventh and eighth patrols were spent on plane guard duty off Japan.

On 11 November 1943, in the Makassar Strait, a Japanese destroyer severely damaged Billfish with a depth charge attack, driving her to a depth of 650 feet (200 m), some 250 feet (76 m) below her test depth while continuing the attack. Many of the crew were badly injured; Lieutenant Charlie Rush found himself the senior man still able to carry out his duties. He assumed command and began attempting to escape the attack. Realizing that his boat's damaged fuel tanks were leaking profusely and the enemy was undoubtedly tracking him by the oil slick he was leaving, he reversed course so precisely that he was able to proceed back down his previous track, using the floating oil slick as cover instead of a trail.

Meanwhile, Chief Electrician's Mate John D. Rendernick took action from his battle station and led emergency repairs, which included using a hydraulic jack to reposition the port main motor, which had been knocked off its foundation, and filling a leaking stern torpedo tube with grease.

After 12 hours, the attack ceased. Four hours after that, under the cover of night, Rush surfaced the boat, recharged batteries using the single operating generator, completed repairs, and continued her patrol.

For his actions, Rush earned the Navy Cross. Rendernick was awarded the Navy Silver Star, posthumously, and on 17 August 2004 the Naval Submarine Training Center (NAVSUBTRACEN) John D. Rendernick Damage Control Wet Trainer at Pearl Harbor was named in his honor.

Billfish arrived at Pearl Harbor from her last war patrol on 27 August 1945, and was ordered to the Atlantic. She arrived at New Orleans, Louisiana, on 19 September and spent the next nine months in maneuvers and training. Following inactivation at Portsmouth Navy Yard (June - October 1946) she was towed to New London, Connecticut, by ATR-64 and went out of commission in reserve there 1 November 1946.

Billfish received seven battle stars for her World War II service.

The Billfish, like several other World War II boats, did not end her service at the end of the war. From 1 January 1960 until 1 April 1968 she served as a training vessel for the Naval Reserve, First Naval District, at the South Boston Annex of the Boston Naval Shipyard. She was stricken from the list of Navy ships on 1 April 1968 and subsequently sold for scrapping in 1971.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 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. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 275–280. ISBN 0-313-26202-0. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 275–280. ISBN 978-0-313-26202-9. 
  4. U.S. Submarines Through 1945 p. 261
  5. U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305-311
  7. Lenton, H. T. American Submarines (Doubleday, 1973), p.79.

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