Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Submarine Longshots of Yesteryear

Today's cruise missiles sport accurate ranges exceeding 500 nautical miles with precision and compactness making them suitable for submarine armament, unlike the world's first cruise missiles. Germany's V-1 rockets, introduced in 1944 with a range of only about 120 nautical miles, are considered the first.

The longest successful submarine warshot during WW1 was by Fregattenkapitän Hans Rose in command of U-53. On December 6, 1917 Rose torpedoed and sank the first American destroyer lost during WW1. Rose's torpedo struck USS Jacob Jones from 1-1/2 nautical miles, the longest successful torpedo shot on record, at that time, some 23 years before radar. Interestingly, however, in 1889, Captain Arthur Krebs designed an electric pendular gyroscope for the experimental French submarine Gymnote, enabling the sub to breach a naval blockade in 1890. Refined gyroscope technology eventually led to the V-1's gyromagnetic compass guidance system in 1944.

Evading escort vessels, LCDR Thomas 'Burt" Klakring commanding USS Guardfish (SS-217) found a convoy Sept. 3, 1942. Guardfish sank 5,253-ton Kaimei Maru and 1,118-ton Tenyu Maru. The Chita Maru, a 2,376-ton freighter, retreated and anchored in Kinkasan Harbor. In one of the war's longest torpedo shots, Guardfish sank the Chita Maru from over 3 nautical miles (7,500 yards). This was the year after serious depth flaws in U.S. torpedoes had finally been proven and properly fixed.

On April 7, 1943, USS STRONG (DD 467) sank a Japanese submarine. A few months later, on July 6, 1943, the STRONG was torpedoed in the Kula Gulf, by a Japanese destroyer from a range of more than 6 nautical miles (in one of the longest torpedo shots of WW2). Neither 3 enemy destroyers nor a Long Lance torpedo (launched 15 minutes and three radical course changes earlier) had been detected in time for evasion!

Guardfish decommissioned in 1946, remaing inactive until 18 June 1948, when she was placed "in service" served as a Naval Reserve Training Ship in New London. She was finally stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1960. One of the most successful WW2 submarines performed her last service as a lowly target for Dogfish and Blenny. The diesel subs sank Guardfish with newly developed torpedoes off New London in 1961.
Submarines are always silent and strange.



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