It was a warm, sunny morning in Norfolk, VA on Friday, May 27th, 2005 when members of the Tidewater chapter of the Submarine Veterans of World War II and the Hampton Roads Base of the USSVI assembled to conduct a service of remembrance. At the conclusion of the ceremony remembering the boats and men lost during WW II and the Cold War, the submarine ALBACORE was inducted into the Submarine Hall of Fame. A former ALBACORE crew member was invited to participate in the ceremony and I was fortunate enough to draw the long straw.
Eight years ago, the Tidewater chapter of the Submarine Veterans of WW TI began considering boats to be inducted into the Submarine Hall of Fame. Boats are selected through a nominating and voting process conducted by the Hampton Roads Base of the USSVI. Nominations are accepted during November of each year and a boat is chosen by vote of the membership the following February. General criteria for nomination include boats associated with certain feats or occurrences, boats having particular engineering features, and boats recognized for operational achievements or subject to international acclaim. For each boat selected, a shadow box filled with memorabilia from that boat is placed in Alcorn Auditorium in Ramage Hall, home of Submarine Leaning Center, Norfolk.
Boats inducted into the Hall to date are:
USS HOLLAND (SS· I), the first official submarine
USS IREX (SS 482), the first U.S. submarine to have a snorkel system
USS NAUTILUS (SSN 571), the first nuclear powered submarine
USS NARWHAL (SSN 671 ), for 25 years of Special Operations
USS NORFOLK (SSN 714), the first submarine to have all its Tomahawk missiles hit their targets
USS TRITON (SSN 586), the first U.S. submarine to circumcise navigate the world submerged and first twin reactor submarine USS GRENADIER (SS 525), for forcing a Russian diesel submarine to the surface during North Atlantic Cold War operations:
USS ALBACORE (AGSS 569) for her hull and other advanced submarine engineering and design Innovations.
Launched in August of 1953, ALBACORE was commissioned in December of that year. In September of 1972, she was decommissioned and moved to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. She remained there until 1984 when she was towed to Portsmouth and later moved to her current location in 1985.
ALBACORE was a one-of-a-kind submarine built and maintained in Portsmouth by the skilled craftsmen of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Administratively a part of Submarine Squadron Two in New London, CT. ALBACORE was home ported in Portsmouth for her entire life.
Under the leadership of Admiral Charles Momsen, ALBACORE was conceived to inaugurate a radical change in submarine design. World War II experience had shown that speed, endurance and maneuverability were key requirements for submarines. As a result, ALBACORE’S hull was designed with underwater speed as the prime requirement. Scale models of the hull were tested in tow tanks and wind tunnels to determine the optimum shape. Albacore was the first modem submarine to have the rounded hull and a single propeller. She was later outfitted with a second counter-rotating propeller as part of an experiment to provide greater propulsion efficiency.
For almost 19 years, ALBACORE served the Navy as an experimental vessel. Among things tried that were not too successful were: using a parachute to decelerate the boat, dive brakes, and slippery water. As for successes, she demonstrated the use of several types of towed sonar devices, tested four different propulsion and control surface arrangements, evaluated several combined instrumentation panel displays, used sound quieting techniques for rotating machinery, introduced aviation type controls, and evaluated a more effective ballast tank blow system. As a result of ALBACORE’s service, the Navy was able to refine designs and concepts before incorporating them into the fleet. ALBACORE truly lived up to her motto: Praenutius Futuri or Forerunner of the Future.
The Friends of ALBACORE wish to thank the Tidewater Chapter of U.S. Submarine Veterans of WW II and the Hampton Roads Base of the USSVI for their recognition of ALBACORE and its contributions to our submarine Navy. ALBACORE previously had been designated a National Historic Landmark for her contributions to submarine design, a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark for her many unique systems and a Historic Welded Structure for her hull.
In a related note, in the October 2004 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, LCDR Jordan wrote of the efforts of our Friends of ALBACORE group to respond to a challenge grant made by Steve Cuff, a former ALBACORE Ship Sup. The fund raising campaign was successful in raising over $28,000 from former shipmates. A portion of this money has been invested in a recently activated audio tour system consisting of five sites external to the boat and eleven internal sites. Each site provides about two minutes worth of information, remembrances and sea stories for our visitors.