Periscope Photographs of San Francisco Bay

Over at SFGate, Peter Hartlaub has discovered a series of photographs taken from the periscope of the U.S.S. Catfish (SS-339) of San Francisco.

Catfish, a Balao-class submarine, was built by Electric Boat of Groton, Connecticut in 1944. Catfish conducted a single war patrol in the Far East during World War II, and several missions in support of UN forces in Korea during the Korean War. Although based in San Diego, Catfish visited Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo several times for overhauls and upgrades.

Catfish was decommissioned in 1971 and sold to Argentina, which named her ARA Santa Fe. Damaged during the 1982 Falklands War, she was captured by British forces and scuttled in 1985.

According to the USS Catfish SS339 Home Page, Catfish made at least one trip to San Francisco in 1951:

In Jan 51 the Catfish departed San Diego for San Francisco. While there the boat embarked on a one-day cruise training Naval Reserve personnel from the SF area. At the same time, the Mutual Broadcasting Co made a tape recording which was a general story of the Submarine Navy and the Submarine reserves. The Catfish returned to San Diego and continued type training and special services on 27 Jan 51.

The Catfish arrived at Mare Island Shipyard on 30 April 1951 for a regular overhaul. The yard overhaul was completed on 31 July 51 and from then until 6 Aug, 51 the boat conducted exercises in the San Francisco area. It was during this overhaul that the Portsmouth step sail was installed. The following pictures are from Truman Winnett who was aboard at that time.

The SFGate pictures are dated 19-21 January 1951, so it’s possible the pictures were taken during the Naval Reserve/Mutual Broadcasting Company cruise.

Whether or not the submarine is actually submerged is a good question. Submarines usually transit San Francisco Bay surfaced, in order to identify themselves and avoid collisions. A submarine can also use its periscope while surfaced. The fact a cargo ship appears heading within ten degrees of a submarine seems to indicate that the sub is surfaced.

This entry was posted in Korean War, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay, Submarines, World War II. Bookmark the permalink.

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