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USS Narwhal (SS-167)
USS Narwhal (SS-167) at sea, 1931
Career (United States)
Name: USS Narwhal
Builder: Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine[1]
Laid down: 10 May 1927[1]
Launched: 17 December 1928[1]
Commissioned: 15 May 1930[1]
Decommissioned: 23 April 1945[1]
Struck: 19 May 1945[1]
Fate: Sold for breaking up, 16 November 1945[1]
General characteristics
Type: V-5 (Narwhal)-class composite direct-drive diesel and diesel-electric submarine[2]
Displacement: 2,730 long tons (2,770 t) surfaced, standard,[3] 3,900 long tons (4,000 t) (submerged)[3]
Length: 349 ft (106 m) (waterline), 371 ft (4,450 in) (overall)[4]
Beam: 33 ft 3 14 in (10.141 m)[3]
Draft: 16 ft 11 14 in (5.163 m)[3]
  • As Built: 2 × BuEng (licenced from MAN)[5] direct-drive 10-cylinder 4-cycle diesel engines, 2,350 hp (1,750 kW) each, driving 300 kW (400 hp)[6] electrical generators,[7] 2 × BuEng (MAN-licenced)[8] 4-cycle 6-cylinder auxiliary diesel engines, 450 hp (340 kW) each, 2 × 120-cell Exide ULS37 batteries,[9] 2 × Westinghouse electric motors, 800 hp (600 kW) each[2][3]
  • Re-engined: 4 × Winton Model 16-278A 16-cylinder two-cycle diesels, 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) each,[8] 2 × 8-268A 2-cycle auxiliary diesels,[8] 2 × 120-cell Exide] UHS39B batteries,[9] 2 × Westinghouse electric motors, 1,270 hp (950 kW) each, Fairbanks-Morse reduction gears,[9] 2 × shafts
Speed: 17.4 kn (20.0 mph; 32.2 km/h) surfaced, trial,[2] 14 kn (16 mph; 26 km/h) surfaced, service;[2] 8 kn (9.2 mph; 15 km/h) submerged,[3] 6.5 kn (7.5 mph; 12.0 km/h) submerged, service, 1939[3]
Range: 9,380 nmi (10,790 mi; 17,370 km) @ 10 kn (12 mph; 19 km/h),[3] 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[3]
Endurance: 10 hours at 5 kn (5.8 mph; 9.3 km/h)[3]
(bunkerage 178,460–182,778 US gallons (675,540–691,890 L)[10]
Test depth: 300 ft (90 m)[3]
Armament: 6 × 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes (four forward, two aft; 24–26 internal torpedoes)[10] (four external tubes {two each bow and stern, four torpedoes} were added 1942-3; provision for 8–12 additional torpedoes externally)[10] 2 × 6 in (150 mm)/53 cal Mark XII Mod. 2[10] wet type[10] deck guns[3]

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. Charles F. Adams, wife of the 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

Inter-War Period

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 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, Narwhal departed Mare Island Navy Yard on 2 February 1932 for fleet exercises off Hawaii. She returned to San Diego on 17 March. After patrol duty along the West Coast,[11] 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

Narwhal was one of four[12] docked submarines 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.

On her first war patrol – from 2 February-28 March 1942 — Narwhal, with Lieutenant Commander Chester 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[13] others – accomplished nothing.

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. See reference only On 1 August, Narwhal included Meiwa Maru to her credit despite aircraft bomb and depth charge retaliation. One reference credits Narawal with an additional sinking on 1 August. See reference only Seven days later, she sank Bifitku 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. She went on to San Diego on 4 April 1943, arriving two days later to embark the 7th Infantry Scout Company for the invasion of Attu Island. On 18 April, she set course for Alaska, arriving Dutch Harbor on 27 April.

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 assist in the campaign to reoccupy the Philippines begun in January 1943, when Gudgeon debarked 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. 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 debark 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. 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 debarking. 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 debarked her passengers at Port Darwin, then continued on to Fremantle, Western Australia.

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.

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 American 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 — 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, a source of enemy oil. That night, the submarine closed the shore and fired 56 rounds of 6 in (150 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, a submarine chaser was in her wake. Narwhal evaded him to do some shooting herself the next day at a Japanese sea truck and on 22 June at an unidentified tanker. After putting her evacuees ashore at Port Darwin on 29–30 June, she continued to Fremantle.

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 debarking procedures, greatly speeded this time by the use of bamboo rafts built by the shore party under direction of Commander Charles 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 Sairi Bay, where on 29 September she received 31 liberated prisoners-of-war rescued from the sea after Paddle sank several Japanese transports off Sindagan Point on 6 September. 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° 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.

Narwhal based at Mios Woendi, Dutch New Guinea, before starting on 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 food stuffs. 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.

According to a POW survivors account (Murray M. Sneddon, Zero Ward: A Survivors Nightmare) the Narwhal picked up 82 POW's (not 31 as presently stated)at Siari, Mindanao. "Forty-one placed in the forward torpedo room and 41 in the aft torpedo room", p. 126.

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 in (150 mm) guns are permanently enshrined at the Naval Submarine Base New London, at Groton, Connecticut.


Narwhal received 15 battle stars for World War II service, making her one of the Most decorated US ships of WWII.


  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 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. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
  4. Lenton, H. T. American Submarines (New York: Doubleday, 1973), p.33.
  5. Blair, Clay, Jr. Silent Victory (New York: Bantam 1976; reprints Lippincott 1975 edition), p.57.
  6. Alden, John D., Commander, USN (retired). The Fleet Submarine in the U.S. Navy (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1979), p.211.
  7. U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 259
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Alden, p.210.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Alden, p.211.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 Alden, p.31.
  11. "Video: Cameraman Risks Life To Film 'Sub' In Striking Speed Tests, 1933/10/18 (1933)". Universal Newsreel. 1933. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  12. "Ships present at Pearl Harbor 0800 December 7, 1941 US Navy Historical Center". Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  13. Blair, pp.236 & 240.

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