July 20, 1999
The USS RASHER (SS/SSRIAGSS 269) Organization would like to hear from: former crewmembers who served in RASHER 1942-1974; anyone who worked on the boat (civilian or Navy) in a refit or overhaul unit; anyone who was employed by American Ship Dismantlers, Portland, Oregon and participated in the scrapping of RASHER; anyone who has RASHER stories to share; anyone who owns or knows the whereabouts of RASHER memorabilia (flags, pennants, photos, artifacts, documents, diaries, etc.) and would like to donate them to the growing collection of RASHER material bound for a submarine museum.
For more information, or to join the RASHER Organization, contact Dick Traser, editor of “Through the Scope”, the official RASHER newsletter, at (760) 499-6907 or e-mail: ussrasher269@-USA. navy .org.
Thanks for your consideration
RE: WWII U-BOATS
9 August 1999
I must take issue with the review by Ralph Enos of Clay Blair’s Hitler’s U-boat War in the April issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW. Indeed, Blair did a masterful job in compiling this history of submarine warfare in the Atlantic from 1939 to 1945.
But three of the key observations in the review do not ring true:
1. Discussing torpedoes, Enos notes “Despite a much speedier response [than the U.S. Navy to its torpedo problems] on the part of the German high command once a torpedo crisis was recognized, solutions were slow to enter the fleet and in some cases never did.” Part of the reason for the slow response was that new, more capable torpedoes were being developed. Those weapons took up the effort needed to more rapidly fix older torpedo problems.
2. Enos states, “German U-boats lacked radar and sonar, and their fire control and listen gear was only so-so.” German submarines were fitted with radar toward the end of the war; more significant, their GHG sonar was the most advanced acoustic detection system in service with any navy. (The German Navy had experimented with the antecedents of the GHG as early as 1927.)
The GHG from a Type XXI U-boat was installed in USS COCHINO (SS 345) and a direct copy of that sonar became the U.S. Navy’s BQR-2, our principal passive sonar of the 1950s. Further, the GHG was the key to an advanced fire control system fitted in the Type XXI submarine. The submarine’s echo-ranging gear and plotting table were linked to a special instrument for so-called programmed firing in attacking convoys. As soon as a U-boat had succeeded in getting beneath a convoy, data collected by sonar was converted and automatically set in the Lilt pattern-running torpedoes, which were then fired in spreads of six.
After launching, the torpedoes fanned out until their spread covered the extent of the convoy. Then they began running loops across its mean course. In this manner, the torpedoes covered the entire convoy. In theory, these torpedoes were certain of hitting six ships of from 197 to 328 feet in length with the theoretical possibility of success of 95 to 99 percent. In firing trials, such high scores were in fact achieved!
3. The review also states, “While the Allies continued to improve their weapons, sensors, tactics, and competence, the German posture stayed essentially the same as in 1939, or deteriorated.” The Germans did put to sea advanced torpedoes-the world’s first operational acoustic homing torpedo, pattern-running torpedoes, and when the war ended the Germans were producing the first wire-guided acoustic torpedoes. Also developed were acoustic torpedoes that could out-fox the Allied Foxer countermeasure device used to deter acoustic torpedoes, and a wake-homing acoustic torpedo!
The Type XXI submarine, entering service when the war ended, was the world’s most advanced undersea craft and served as a model for our Guppy conversions and post-war submarines of the Tang (SS 563) and K 1 (SSK 1) classes. Planned Type XXI variants-with amidship torpedo tubes among other innovations-and the closed-cycle Walter submarines gave promise of even more potent U-boats.
Other points of the Blair book and the Enos commentary also could be contested.
The German armed forces were plagued with largely inept leadership, organizational infighting, and production problems. But, in virtually every field of military endeavor-especially submarines-the Germans were highly innovative.
Finally, the concern by the British Admiralty over the 84 ships (635,000 tons) sunk in March reflected the fact that most were sunk while in convoys (believed to be the answer to the U-boat threat), relatively few U-boats were sunk in return, and the rate of loss was greater than the rate of merchant ship construction. Such a trend was most ominous.
A CORRECTION RE: ARGONAUT
11 August 1999
I wish to draw your readers’ attention to a serious omission in my book The Last Patrol published by Airlife Publishing in 1994. The book deals with the losses of United States submarines during World War Two.
In the chapter concerning the loss of USS ARGONAUT (SS 166), I observed that the boat’s skipper, Lieutenant Stephen G. Barchet, was relieved of his command after her first war patrol. Specifically, I wrote, “The lack of aggressiveness caused discontent in the boat, and on return to Pearl Harbor the commanding officer was relieved of his duties.”
My assertion requires some explanation as new information has been received to show that a number of factors were not taken into consideration. These include the old ARGONAUT’s defensive mission as a mine-laying submarine, the boat’s limited operational capabilities, and the prolonged patrol assignment.
In fact, COMSUBPAC letter April 1942 commended Lieutenant Commander Barchet for his exemplary conduct of ARGONAUT’s first war patrol. In due course change of command on June 12, 1942, at Mare Island Navy yard near the end of a long-overdue and much-needed overhaul of ARGONAUT, Lieutenant Commander Barchet transferred command of the boat to Lieutenant Commander John Pierce. Subsequently, Lieutenant Commander Sarchet assumed duties as Commander Submarine Division 32 and was promoted to the rank of Commander.
I should then point out that Commander Barchet went on to another submarine division command, a distinguished war record with the 7th Amphibious Fleet in the Pacific Theatre, held peace-time major commands both ashore and afloat, and rose to the rank of Rear Admiral upon his retirement from active service in 1964.
I consider the U.S. Submariners of World War Two to be the Bravest of the Brave and I am more than happy to put the record straight with regard to Lieutenant Commander Stephen G. Barchet.
27 Cooper Fold, Middleton
Manchester, M24 6.JN, England
19 September 1999
In the article uThe Origin of the ALBACORE” by Mr. R.P. Largess, it was stated that the hull material was reported by Captain Frank Andrews to be HY-80. The material was not HY-80 but the forerunner of it. The material was designated as HTS-ST. The ST was for special treatment and it approached HY-80 but the chemicals were not the same. The tensile strength was slightly different and the welding procedures were much more stringent than for HY-80. The first hull of HY-80 was in SK.IPJACK (SSN 585) built at EB.
ALBACORE also had the first hemispherical hull structure at the forward end. The plates were formed of petals pressed out by Lukins Steel Corporation and delivered to Portsmouth and assembled under rigidly controlled circularity and welding temperature conditions.
The early history is very interesting and much can be verified by Captain Harry Jackson and Captain Don Kem. Both were deeply involved in the design and fabrication of this high-speed submarine.
CAPT R.J. Dzikowski, USN(Ret.)