- USS Blueback (SS-581)
USS "Blueback" (SS-581) was a "Barbel"-class
submarinein the United States Navy. She was the second Navy submarine named for a form of the rainbow or steelhead troutfound only in Lake Crescenton the Olympic Peninsulain Washingtonstate. The fish lives in deep water and is bluish black along its upper sides and whitish underneath.
"Blueback" was laid down by
Ingalls ShipbuildingCorporation of Pascagoula, Mississippion 15 April 1957. She was launched on 16 May 1959sponsored by Mrs. Kenmore McManes, wife of Rear Admiral McManes, and commissioned on 15 October 1959, Lieutenant Commander Robert H. Gautier in command. She was the last non-nuclear submarine to join the United States Navy.
After fitting out, "Blueback" got underway in January 1960 for a series of acceptance trials in the
Gulf of Mexico. She completed that mission and departed Pascagoula on 11 June, bound for the Pacific. She transited the Panama Canalon 7 Julyand continued on to her home port, San Diego, Calif. There she was assigned to Submarine Squadron 3 (SubRon 3), Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. "Blueback" then carried out torpedo tubeacceptance trials at Keyport, Washington, and underwent a post-shakedown availability at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. On 23 November 1960, the submarine was accepted for service.
Type training in the San Diego area kept her busy into February 1961. On the 11th, she commenced a two-week availability at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. "Blueback" got underway on
28 Marchfor a deployment to the western Pacific during which she participated ln 7th Fleet operations and exercises. The submarine left Yokosuka, Japan, on 3 Septemberand sailed submerged to San Diego, arriving there on 25 September.
After leave and upkeep, "Blueback" began type training exercises out of San Diego on
14 October. Four days later, she participated in a fleet exercise off the southern Californiacoast conducted under the auspices of the Chief of Naval Operations(CNO). During the next eight months, the submarine took part in several fleet exercises and visited San Francisco, California, and Seattle, WashingtonIn July 1962, "Blueback" entered the Mare Island Naval Shipyard for her first major overhaul.
Upon completion of the overhaul in January 1963, the submarine made port calls at Seattle and at
Vancouver, British Columbia. She then left the west coast and proceeded to her new home port, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. There, the submarine was assigned to Submarine Division 13 (SubDiv 13). "Blueback" was involved in local operations from February to early April. On 11 April, the submarine got underway for operations in WestPac. "Blueback" sailed to Australiato participate in the annual celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Seaand visited Brisbane, Melbourne, and Perth. She then continued on to Subic Bay in the Philippinesfor operations with the 7th Fleet. While on her deployment, "Blueback" also called at Naha, Okinawa; and at Sasebo, Kobe, and Yokosuka, Japan, before returning to Pearl Harbor on 26 October.
"Blueback" resumed her former routine in Hawaiian waters and continued local operations into 1964. In March, she suffered damage when a crane toppled over onto her while changing her
propeller, necessitating her entering a drydockfor repairs. In the fall and early winter, the submarine made two trips to the vicinity of Wake Islandto take part in the evaluations of the SUBROC missile system and "Permit-class" submarines. In each test, "Blueback" served as a target ship.
17 February 1965, "Blueback" began her second deployment to the Far East. During the cruise, she made port calls at Naha, Hong Kong, Subic Bay, and Yokosuka, and also was involved in supporting American operations in Vietnam. She returned to Pearl Harbor in June, where she carried out local operations until 7 September. She got underway for Bremerton, Wash., on that day and entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard18 days later for overhaul.
The yard work ended on
26 September 1966, and the submarine commenced sound trials and weapons tests in Puget Sound. She also provided services for research and development project conducted near Nanoose, Canada. After a four-day visit to Vancouver, she set sail for Pearl Harbor, where she arrived early in November and began refresher training.
Following three months of preparations and training, "Blueback" embarked on another tour of duty in the western Pacific on
17 February 1967. During the seven-month assignment, she punctuated periods at sea training and supporting the American effort in Vietnamwith port calls at Hong Kong and in Japan at Yokosuka and Sasebo. The submarine returned to Oahu early that fall, arriving in Pearl Harbor on 20 September. After a month of leave and upkeep, she resumed operations in Hawaiian waters. On 19 December, she entered the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyardfor a restricted availability.
In mid-January 1968, the submarine helped prospective
commanding officers to prepare for their new assignments at the Pacific FleetSubmarine Force's school. She then acted as a target for several surface ships and aircraft to practice ASW techniques, and engaged in type training and weapons exercises. On 8 July, she began a five-month deployment to the Far East which, in addition to two special operations, also included much time spent in upkeep at Yokosuka. "Blueback" returned to Pearl Harbor on 3 December.
Very early in 1969, she voyaged to Bremerton, Wash., and entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on
17 Januaryfor an overhaul. During her subsequent sea trials and training, the submarine visited Nanaimo, British Columbia, and Port Angeles, Wash., before returning to Hawaii early in December. After intensive training during the first three months of 1970, "Blueback" set sail on her fifth deployment to the western Pacific on 10 April. She carried out lengthy special operations; made brief visits to Yokosuka, Hong Kong, and Guam; and spent time in the Vietnam war zone. The warship ended the cruise at Pearl Harbor on 1 Octoberand began a period of local operations and upkeep. On 12 February 1971, she entered the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for a restricted availability which concluded in late March with trials at sea. Early in April, she took part in SUBASWEX 1-71 in the Pearl Harbor area. After conducting torpedo firing exercises, "Blueback" entered upkeep at Pearl Harbor.
She began another Far eastern assignment on
25 Juneand arrived at Yokosuka on 12 Julyfor a week of upkeep before beginning a month of operational training at sea. The submarine next visited Sasebo for 10 days and then continued on to Hong Kong for a liberty period. "Blueback" traveled south to the Vietnam war zone to render training services to destroyer units of the 7th Fleet and then returned to Japan for upkeep at Yokosuka. On 11 October, the submarine got underway for more training at sea. She paused once again at Yokosuka before sailing for Hawaii on 29 November. She arrived back in her home port on 14 December.
Local operations occupied her during the first 10 weeks of 1972; then, the submarine began a lengthy overhaul at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard on
29 March. Nearly a year later early in March 1973, she finished the yard work commenced local operations and trained in preparation for deployment. She sailed for the Orient on 8 Augustand, while there, participated in several operations with other American warships as well as with naval forces from Koreaand Taiwan. Among the ports she visited were Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan; Chinhaeand Pusan, Korea; Buckner Bay, Okinawa; Hong Kong; and Subic Bay in the Philippines. On 5 January 1974, "Blueback" left Subic Bay and visited Keelung, Taiwan, for two days before heading back to Hawaii.
The submarine arrived in Pearl Harbor on
31 January 1974and commenced a leave and upkeep period. During the remainder of the year, "Blueback" took part in numerous training operations and exercises. She provided services to surface ships and aircraft, conducted torpedo firing drills, and did another tour preparing prospective commanding officers for the new jobs.
During the first two months of 1975, the submarine continued local operations. In March, she participated in Exercise "RIMPAC 75," which included ships from the navies of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Upon completion of this operation, "Blueback" commenced a restricted availability. Early in June, she resumed local operations including a series of torpedo firing tests, type training, and services to surface and air units. The warship closed out the year in upkeep at Pearl Harbor.
She held sea trials and weapons exercises in January 1976 and began another long overhaul at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in February. She did not complete those repairs until
1 December. "Blueback" commenced refresher training 12 days later. In February 1977, she took part in Exercise "RIMPAC 77," then conducted torpedo trials. After a brief period of upkeep, the submarine departed Pearl Harbor on 28 Marchand proceeded to her new home port, San Diego, arriving there on 8 April. After an inspection and services to aircraft, she set out for San Francisco on 27 May, made a brief visit, and returned to San Diego on 1 Juneto prepare for duty overseas. On 21 June, the submarine got underway for Santa Marta, Colombia. Upon arriving there on 7 August, she joined Task Force 138 to participate in UNITAS XVIII. The task foxce also included "Mahan" (DDG-42), "Capodano" (FF-1063), and "Vreeland" (FF-1098). During the deployment, "Blueback" visited ports in Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. She departed Talcahuano, Chile, on 27 Septemberand beaded back to San Diego. She stopped at Rodmanin the Panama Canal Zone, and made a four-day liberty call at Acapulco, Mexico, before reaching San Diego on 11 November.
The submarine began 1978 in upkeep. She got underway on
13 Februaryfor a short visit to San Francisco, returned to San Diego on the 21st, and provided services to ships and aircraft in the San Diego area. From 23 Aprilto 23 May, she underwent a battery replacement in preparation for an upcoming deployment. The ship sailed on 30 Mayfor Portland, Oregon, where she represented the Submarine Force at that city's Rose Festival. She then continued north along the coast to conduct an exercise with Canadian forces off Esquimalt, British Columbia. Following this operation, "Blueback" arrived at Seattle on 23 Junefor a two-day liberty call before returning to San Diego.
The submarine began a restricted availability on
17 Julyand, on 8 August, began final preparations for deployment. On 11 September, she got underway for her eighth western Pacific cruise. She touched at Pearl Harbor on the 22d, but soon pressed on for Japan, and arrived at Yokosuka on 7 October. She next made a run to Chinhae, Korea, for two weeks of joint special warfare and ASW exercises with units of the South Korean Navy. On 5 November, "Blueback" arrived in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to participate in ASW exercises with the Taiwanese Navy. From 14 Novemberto 24 November, she took part in a 7th Fleet exercise and then proceeded to Sasebo for a leave and upkeep period. "Blueback" then spent five days at Hong Kong from 6 Decemberto 11 Decemberbefore heading on to Subic Bay where she arrived on 13 Decemberto close out the year in upkeep.
"Blueback" got underway on
5 January 1979to provide target services for ships of the 7th Fleet undergoing ASW training. She then took part in special warfare exercises with Army Special Forcestroops. On 22 January, the submarine arrived at Subic Bay for upkeep. Nine days later, she set out on a submerged voyage back to the United States and reached San Diego on 1 March.
After a few weeks of leave and upkeep, the submarine took up local operations again and continued so engaged until beginning a tender availability on
14 May. She resumed local operations again on 12 June. "Blueback" sailed north on 18 Augustto visit Astoria, Oregon, and Seattle, Wash., returning to her home port early in September. Following a minelaying exercise off the southern California coast between 17 Septemberand 20 September, the submarine entered drydock on 1 October. She began sea trials on 27 Novemberand then provided ASW services before closing the year in a holiday leave and upkeep status.
She spent the first three and a half months of 1980 in local operations and exercises in preparation for overseas movement. "Blueback" departed San Diego on
15 Apriland completed her submerged transit of the Pacific at Okinawa on 11 May. The submarine then took part in ASW exercises in the Philippine Sea. She began upkeep at Yokosuka on 18 Mayand then got underway for special operations. "Blueback" began the month of June in upkeep at Sasebo but soon returned to sea to participate in joint exercises with South Korean forces. After another period of upkeep and liberty at Sasebo, she got underway on the 22d for ASW operations in cooperation with the Japanese submarine "Isoshio". At the conclusion of the exercise, "Blueback" visited Beppu, Japan, before heading for Subic Bay, where she arrived on 8 July. After upkeep, the submarine participated in an ASW exercise in the South China Seawith several ships of the 7th Fleet.
22 July, "Blueback" began a six-day journey to Chinhae to take part in extensive exercises with the South Korean Navy. Early in August, the submarine visited Sasebo and Subic Bay. She conducted specia1 warfare operations from 18 Augustto 21 Augustand then entered port at San Fernandoon northern Luzon. She got underway on 25 Augustfor ASW operations with ships of the Royal Navy. After a final call at Subic Bay, the submarine began her voyage back to home port on 15 September. She entered San Diego on 15 Octoberand began post-deployment leave and upkeep. Then came several days of type training in nearby waters followed by holiday leave and upkeep to close out the year.
"Blueback" (SS-581) earned two
battle stars for her Vietnam Warservice.
Blueback appeared in the movie "The Hunt for Red October", although it did not perform the famous stunt of "jumping" out of the water during an emergency surfacing procedure. A film crew was allowed on board to film a torpedo room scene. Some crewmates were paid $50 to have their hair cut and to put on Russian uniforms. The cut never made the film. Blueback also appeared in an episode of the 70's television series Hawaii Five-O.
"Blueback" was decommissioned on
1 October 1990and laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet in Bremerton, Washington. She was struck from the Naval Registeron 30 October 1990. In February 1994 the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry(OMSI) towed her to Portland, Oregon, where she now rests as an interactive part of the museum and a memorial. Blueback's propeller was removed and installed outside the museum as a National Submarine Memorial.
OMSI currently offers guided tours of the submarine several times a day.
The Hunt for Red October (film)
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
* [http://www.hnsa.org/ships/blueback.htm HNSA Web Page: USS Blueback]
* [http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/08581.htm navsource.org: USS "Blueback"]
* [http://www.omsi.edu/visit/submarine/ OMSI Web Page]
* [http://www.nvr.navy.mil/nvrships/details/SS581.htm USS "Blueback" (SS-581)] Entry in the US Navy's Naval Vessel Register
* [http://www.ussblueback.com/ USS "Blueback" (SS-581)] Photo Album
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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