Mr. Messner is a former submariner who served in DI ODON in the fifties. He stays in touch as a Life Member of both the Naval Submarine League and US Sub Vets, Inc. He is an associate member of WWII Sub Vets.
My interest was drawn to this story when I first met Bert Orr, Captain, USN (Ret), at a WWII Sub Vets function back a few years ago. Bert, at age of 90, didn’t give the appearance of a retired naval officer as he had this over abundant crop of long, white, flowing hair coupled with a quiet demeanor; a dichotomy in itself. He quietly chatted with his wife and friends, and I didn’t pay much attention, that is, until he stood and took his tum at the introductions. From the silence in the room, I knew he commanded respect of the group and I had better listen up.
Bert casually reflected on his service in the Submarine Force starting with his first boat, PORPOISE (SS-172) in Subic Bay on 8 Dec 1941, followed by being a plank owner on RASHER (SS-269) and her first four war patrols, followed by LANCETFISH (SS-296) as PCO (Prospective Commanding Officer), and, oh by the way, it sank pier side in Boston Navy Yard, and …….. he continued but my mind was still back at the pier in Boston.
mind was still back at the pier in Boston. Two years later I had the opportunity to visit with Bert and his wife of 68 years, Mariane, at their home in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas. I heard more of the story and became more deeply intrigued. What follows took more than a year to put together, but it is something worth sharing.
The start of this narrative is usually found at the finish of most -the epitaph. But the epitaph for USS LANCETFISH, SS-296, tells a tale unique unto itself. No other WWII Fleetboat’s story parallels that of LANCETFISH.
EPITAPH of USS LANCETFISH SS-296
Authorized by Congress: FY ’42
Contract to Cramp: 24 Dec ’41
Keel Laid 30 Sep ’42
Launched 15 Aug ’43
Towed to Boston Navy Yard for Completion 19 May ’44
Commissioned: Cmdr. Ellis B. Orr in Command: 12 Feb ’45
Sunk Pier Side: 15 Mar ’45
Raised: 23 Mar ’45
Decommissioned: 24 Mar ’45
Struck 09 Jun ’58
Sold for Scrap 20 Aug ’59
LANCETFISH was named after a voracious, deep sea fish (Plagyodus ferox) described as having long, lancet-like teeth and a high dorsal fin-a great name for an attack submarine. It was one of the first 30of150 authorized by Congress in FY ’42. This included hull numbers SS-285 through SS-314 with 12 assigned to Portsmouth Navy Yard, 12 to Cramp Shipbuilding Company, 4 to Mare Island Navy Yard and 2 to Electric Boat (EB).
Mare Island Navy Yard and 2 to Electric Boat (EB). The Navy in their endeavor to bring more qualified submarine builders on line during WWII, awarded Cramp a contract to build 12 Balao class submarines in December 1941. At this time there were four builders-Electric Boat, Portsmouth Navy Shipyard, Mare Island Navy Shipyard and Manitowoc Shipyard. The Navy’s effort in developing Manitowoc as a supplier of subs (hull numbers SS-265 to SS-274) with EB’s assistance was remarkably successful.
The contract to Cramp was for hull numbers SS-292 through SS-303, which included DEVILFISH, DRAGONET, ESCOLAR, HACKLEBACK, LANCETFISH, LING, LIONFISH, MANTA, MORAY, RONCADOR, SABALO and SABLEFISH respectively. Unlike Manitowoc which used the EB design, Cramp was to use the Navy design commonly referred to as a Portsmouth Boat. Cramp’s only previous experience in building submarines was back in 1914 when they built and commissioned SS-26, USS THRASHER (G-4), a one-of-a-kind boat designed by an Italian firm, Laurenti. Cramp subsequently received two follow-on contracts, one for hull numbers SS-425 through SS-434 and the other for hull numbers SS-530 through SS-536. Only SS-425, TRUMPETFISH, and SS-426, TUSK, were completed. The rest were cancelled as a result of the wind down of WWII.
At the time the tow to Boston Navy Yard was effected, 19 May ’44, Cramp had completed two of the twelve boats to the point where the Navy assigned crews and commissioned them. It took Cramp an agonizing 30 months to bring DEVILFISH, SS-292, to that point and 23 months for DRAGONET, SS-293. Contrast that with 17 months each for the first two boats completed at Manitowoc, PETO (SS-265) and POGY (SS-266). The best effort Cramp ever achieved from the time of Keel Laid to Commissioning was 21 months and that was for MORAY (SS-300). Manitowoc, on the other hand, improved their learning curve with every subsequent boat taking only l 0 months for ROCK (SS-274) the last of the original order of 10 boats. Thus the efficiency hoped for at Cramp, with Manitowoc as the model, never materialized.
BOSNY was not known as a builder of submarines (as they weren’t), but they were awarded their.first ever submarine construction contract in mid ’43 to build four Tench class boats, SS-522 thru SS-525, AMBERJACK II, GRAMPUS III, PICKEREL Ill and GREDADIER II. All four boats had the same recorded Keel Laid date of OS Feb ’44. So when the tow of LANCETFISH and LING was made in May ’44, BOSNY had four subs on the ways but not a one in the water.
In any event, back to the epitaph. The next item Commissioned: Cmdr. Ellis B. Orr in Command, 12 Feb ’45 doesn’t raise much curiosity as it is the next normal, sequential event in bringing a ship alive. But the next three items taken together are show stoppers. Sunk Pier Side: 15 Mar ’45; Raised: 23 Mar ’45 and Decommissioned: 24 Mar ’45. This is what truly makes LANCETFISH’s history unique. It was sunk at the pier only one month after commissioning, raised eight days later and decommissioned the next day. What happened?
The Deputy Naval Inspector, a Commodore was assigned the task of conducting the IG investigation.
INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT
The Inspector General’s date is stamped 05 Apr ’45, serial 095, and has two multi-page attachments, (A) Facts and (B) Discussion of Facts. The subject is “USS LANCETFISH SS-296 -Sinking of’.
In brief narrative form, attachment (A), Facts, indicates that LANCETFISH sank due to flooding through# 10 torpedo tube when a yard worker opened the breech (inner) door unaware that the interlock mechanism between breech door and muzzle (outer) door had been defeated and that the muzzle door had unknowingly been opened by another yard worker assigned to check out the hydraulic system, a separate task. The pressure of the inflow of water was so strong such as to prevent the closure of the breech door. Addition-ally, shipyard rigging such as ventilation ducting, air hoses and power lines had been led down the after torpedo room hatch and through the after and forward bulkhead doors of maneuvering room thus preventing them from being secured. In short the after torpedo room could not be isolated and water tight integrity could not be achieved in a timely manner. LANCETFISH filled with water at pier side, flooded and sunk to a depth where all hatches save the conning tower hatch were awash.
Attachment (A) also discloses a major shipyard systemic problem which contributed to the flooding of LANCETFISH, and which was phrased as lack of thought.foresight and coordination. The shipyard had scheduled three different crews on the swing shift for three independent tasks, all dealing with the torpedo firing system, and none of the crews was aware of the other crew’s assignments. Additionally, the ship itself had not been informed of the work scheduled. These tasks were:
1. testing the hydraulic service line
2. joining the two hydraulic pipes between the control valve and the power cylinder on the after torpedo room tubes
3. adjustment of the breech and other mechanisms on the after torpedo tubes
A third major factor identified in Attachment (A) was lack of training, experience and procedures. LANCETFISH, as previously mentioned, was the first submarine scheduled to be completed at BOSNY. LING was to be the second subsequently followed by the four Tench Class boats under construction. Recognizing this, BOSNY had sent a number of officers and men to Portsmouth for one-on-one training.
Attachment (B), Discussion off acts, presents this probable scenario as to what occurred:
The Task 3 crew had been testing the jack nuts, interlocks, rollers and breech doors of all four after tubes and, of course, at the time all were dry. They broke for dinner and were going to finish upon their return. They inadvertently left the jack nut for #10 tube in a half way position and never picked up the error upon their return from dinner.
In the mean time, Task l and 2 crews, were aware of each others presence but didn’t realize their testing various parts of the torpedo tube hydraulic system conflicted with each other’s assignments. Their assigned tasks took them from the After Torpedo room to the After Engine room so they weren’t always in visual range of each other. The testing didn’t go as programed due to some valve positions being changed unknown to the other crew thereby being aligned improperly for a particular test, and the dinner hour caused a disjoint in the work effort to further allow Murphy’s Law to rear its ugly head.
Task 2 crew had completed testing the hydraulic supply line before the dinner break and were in the process of testing the return line after the dinner break. This involved pumping oil in the contrary direction using a small hand pump. Inadvertently, with some of the valves set in the wrong position, the oil flowed in such a manner as to open the muzzle door breaking the interlock chain in the process -and no one noticed.
Task 3 crew returning from dinner continued their testing unaware they had left the jack nut for #10 tube in the wrong position which along with Task 2 crew’s pumping allowed the muzzle door to open half way (the jack nut jammed against the stop preventing it from opening further). The crew noticed water in tube #1O’s sight glass but still believed it to be dry. Now here’s where DUMB kicks in. To prove the tube was dry, the yardbird opens the breech door with a member of the ship’s crew (a qualified QM2) watching. The rest is history.
From the information given in the Inspector General’s report, the conclusions and recommendations make sense except for one, and that is the recommendation to take disciplinary action against the Commanding Officer, Commander Ellis B. Orr. As was pointed out previously, Commander Orr’s name was only mentioned in the documents, Facts and Discussion of Facts, once, and that was in regard to a very positive action to maintain the safety of the ship and with which the shipyard refused to comply. One can only surmise that the Inspector General’s Office had become accustomed to a long Navy tradition wherein when a naval ship has a serious accident, the Commanding Officer must bear the responsibility and must pay the penalty, regardless of culpability-normally being assigned to a career ending desk job.
The 5th document is a cover letter from CinCUS/CNO to Commandant First Naval District. It is date stamped 02 May ’45, serial 01239, and also has two multi page attachments, (A) Record of Proceedings of Court of Inquiry re: LANCETFISH and (B) Navy Inspector General Serial 0945 (which was document #4 with the two attachments, Facts and Discussion of Facts.
COURT of INQUIRY REPORT
This report is significantly different from the Inspector General’s (IG) conclusions and recommendations as previously discussed -mainly in the recommendation of disciplinary action to ship’s company. It is dated 25 Apr ’45, 20 days after the JG report.
Note: The Inspector General’s findings are advisory in nature whereas the Court of lnquiry’s findings are lawful and legally binding.
The Facts section of the report reiterates the facts substantially the same as the JG report but adds an extra clause delineating the budgetary costs for raising ($18,000) and repair ($450,000) of LANCETFISH.
The Opinion section deviates from the IG report in that it finds the below decks watch, a GMI (SS), culpable stating he did not note the condition of the torpedo tubes on his 2200 hour inspection tour. The curious thing is that the IG report only mentions the below decks watch in one paragraph regarding the condition of the ballast tanks being full or empty-it never follows through on this item and the comment just dies.
Continuing, it finds Commander Ellis B. Orr in no way responsi ble, and it continues with the comment,… he took extra precautions not required by existing orders to prevent any casualties to his ship”. This was fascinating in that it was completely contrary to the IG recommendation. It appears that the Court of Inquiry dug a little deeper than the IG.
Finally it finds the OD partially responsible for the same reason as stated in the IG report.
The Court of Inquiry then recommends the following:
- No further action taken in case of Commander Orr.
- The ships DO (an Ensign) be admonished.
- The below decks watch (GMl(SS)) be disqualified.
- The Yard worker who opened the torpedo tube be reduced in rate.
- Indoctrination of Shipyard supervisors be more thoroughly carried out in the future.
The next to final section of the Court of Inquiry report is interesting. It is drafted by the Convening Authority, Commandant 111 Naval District (Rear Admiral) where he reiterates the above and basically approves the proceedings, fi11dings, opinions and recommendations stated in the report. No where in his comments does he address the issue of administrative discipline to shipyard personnel other than the worker who indeed opened the door.
But the Commandant doesn’t have the last say, a Captain (F-05) on the CNO’s staff does. He appends the Court of Inquiry report with:
“In my opinion the action of the Court of Inquiry is a typical example of failure to fix responsibility on those in authority; they must accept the responsibility. In general the Commandant approved this whitewash. The submarine sank as a direct result of the action of a yard workman who acted contrary to the advice of the SS’s QM. Because of yard equipment, hoses and the like, the ship’s personnel were thwarted in their efforts to isolate the flooding, although it is indicated they acted properly after the initial yard mistake. The Captain, and others in authority attached to the SS, cannot escape the responsibility for the safety of that command, but, in this case, there were extenuating circumstances resulting from the failure of yard personnel, both senior and junior. The IG ‘s recommendations include disciplinary action to be taken in the case of the Production Officer and others attached to the Yard. I consider the IG’s recommendations to be just and complete with one exception-I do not think that Commander Orr merits censure; quoting from Record of Court of lnquiry,” Commander Orr-is in no way responsible for the sinking -he took alt proper precautions for the safety of his ship -In addition -he took extra precautions not required by existing orders, to prevent any casualties -”
(This was obviously meant for the CNO’s eyes)
In summary, eight shipyard personnel, 4 Navy and 4 civilian, received letters of admonition, one ship’s personnel, the Duty Officer, received a letter of admonition and one ship’s personnel, the below decks watch, GM I (SS), was recommended for disqualification in subs.
The rest of LANCETFISH’s tale is anti climatic as she was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet Reserve in uncompleted condition only to be struck from the Navy’s register in Jun ’58 and sold for scrap in Aug ’59 to Yale Waste Company. Typical scrap value of comparable sales was shy of$ I 00,000. So ends the saga of SS-296, USS LANCETFISH.
USS LANCETFISH. But that’s not the end of the story. What remains to be explored is the rational for the different recommendations by the Inspector General’s Office and the Court of lnquiry with regard to Commander Orr’s fate. Why didn’t the Court of Inquiry follow the IG’s recommendation, i.e., appropriate disciplinary action ? The 42 pages of documents available from LANCETFISH’s BOAT BOOK are silent on this subject so one must look elsewhere or speculate.
Rather than speculate at this point, a look at Commander Orr’s credentials is in order.
In 1914 Orr was born in Detroit, Ml. where he subsequently grew up and went through the usual schooling processes. Orr’s father through the years encouraged him to think seriously about his life’s goals so after high school, he enrolled at Michigan State University at East Lansing. While still a freshman he was awarded a congressional appointment to Annapolis.
After graduation, class of’ 36, the young Ensign Orr reported to the battleship OKLAHOMA (BB-37) for his first duty assignment. OKLAHOMA was based in San Diego, but shortly after Orr reported aboard she was assigned to take midshipmen on a European training cruise. The cruise was interrupted with the outbreak of civil war in Spain, and OKLAHOMA was tasked with rescue operations of American citizens and other refugees which she carried to Gibralter and French ports. She then returned to Norfolk and back to the West Coast.
Orr was then assigned to a destroyer, USS CONYNGHAM (DD-371) operating out of San Diego. Two years to the day after his graduation from the Academy, he married the love of his life, Marian, whom he had been courting since the academy days-got spliced as Orr phrases it. A Navy chaplain whom he knew from the OKLAHOMA, then in San Diego, performed the ceremony. Shortly after that, Orr applied for sub school and by 1939 he and his new bride were in New London.
Upon graduation from sub school Orr was assigned to USS PORPOISE (SS-172) stationed at Cavite in Manilla Bay and, as regulations allowed it, accompanied by wife Marian. It’s amazing that dependents were still allowed as war fever was definitely building. As an example, during the next year, Orr watched the Asiatic Submarine Force under Admiral Thomas C. Hart grow to a total of 29 boats when 16 Salmon, Sargo & Seadragon class boats (SS-182 thru SS-197) were transferred en mass from Pearl Harbor along with the sub tender HOLLAND (AS-3) in Oct ’41. These 16 relatively modern boats beefed up the contingent of 6 S class boats (S-36 thru S-41), 7 P class boats (SS-172 thru SS-178), 2 sub tenders (CANOPUS (AS-9) and OTUS (AS-20)) and one sub rescue vessel, ASR-6, USS PIGEON already stationed there. This seriously depleted the sub force left at Pearl Harbor to 21 boats, 11 of which were state side in ship yards for overhaul I modernization, repairs or on shakedown cruises on 7 December. The transfer was understand-able, however, as the US political and military leaders knew that Japan coveted the Netherlands East Indies and the Philippines were right in their path.
PORPOISE was a fairly modem boat having been commissioned in 1935. It was a class leader and was the last class to have partially riveted hulls giving it a test depth of 250 feet. It was the first class to have 4 tubes forward and two aft, electric reduction gears and high speed Winton diesels. All 4 of these Win tons were being overhauled on December 8, 1941 in Subic Bay Navy Yard while undergoing a refit, but by working around the clock, the work was finished and they were steaming for Cavite in 12 days. On 22 December PORPOISE embarked on her first war patrol. Orr’s wife and other dependents had been evacuated with only 24 hour notice back to the states on a transport ship. Marian headed for Detroit where Orr’s parents were and landed a job in Civil Service.
Orr, now Lieutenant Orr, did three war patrols on PORPOISE, his Qua/ boat, as commissary and communications officer. The first was in and around Lingayen Gulfin north east Luzon where the Japanese had landed invasion troops just days prior on the 21st. This was a hot spot indeed with PORPOISE being one of seven boats assigned to the area. Six boats actively engaged the enemy with S-38 credited with sinking a Maru and SALMON getting a possible on a destroyer. A typical comment from the COs was “couldn’t penetrate destroyer screen-destroyers all over the place”. STINGRAY spotted the invasion force but didn’t engage, and the skipper was relieved of command for being too cautious. According to Clay Blair in Silent Victory, there were 9 other boats within striking range but none were called up.
PORPOISE continued her patrol off Camranh Bay, French Indo China, but around the 22″” of January, she was repositioned to the northern neck of Makassar Straits separating the islands of Borneo and Cele bes. She was one of I 0 subs positioned in and around the straits to intercept the Japanese invasion force heading for the oil rich seaport of Balikpapan, Borneo. She attacked two ships without results but fortunately the US Destroyer Force (DesRon 59) played hell with the invasion fleet by sinking several Maru troop ships, but not enough to prevent the invasion and occupation of Balikpapan. After 39 days on patrol, PORPOISE transited the treacherous Makassar Straits and tied up at Surabaya, Java on the last day of January where her skipper, showing extreme fatigue was relieved of duty.
Admiral John Wilkes, Commander Asiatic Submarine Force, had ordered the Submarine Force in Cavite to be evacuated in late December and established temporary headquarters in Surabaya as Manilla was about to be over run by the enemy-and it was on the zru1 of January. Later, when Surabaya’s fate became questionable, the Sub Force moved to Perth/Fremantle, Australia in early March for the duration of the war.
Nine days after getting to Surabaya, on 9 February, PORPOISE left on her second patrol with her new skipper. Her area this time was called the Barrier in the Netherlands East Indies. More accurately, this is the Malay Barrier which encompasses the mountainous chain of islands stretching from Malaya, K.ra Peninsula (Singapore), south and east to Timor. It includes Sumatra, Java and the dangerous Lombok Straits. This area was expected to be teeming with activity as Balikpapan, Borneo was overran in January, Singapore fell in mid February, Java was invaded in late February and the Netherlands East Indies were declared lost in early March. But after 49 days of disappointing results, PORPOISE tied up at the new sub base established in Fremantle on 30 March.
On 26 April PORPOISE left Fremantle for her third patrol. Once again the area was the Barrier. Enemy activity in the region was scarce as the islands of Bali, Timar and Celebes were already occupied by Japanese troops as well as Borneo, Malaya and Java mentioned earlier. The Japanese had their hands full in the Philip-pines with Baatan in April and Corregidor which was about to fall (May). Their other major front was the push for Port Moresby, New Guinea, but this task force came from Rabaul and Kavieng far to the east of of PORPOISE’s assigned patrol area. All was not a washout, however, as PORPOISE was credited for rescuing five airmen off the enemy held island of Ju (the author was not able to locate this island). Admiral Charles A. Lockwood was now ComSubSo Wes Pac having relieved Adm. Wilkes in May.
Lockwood ordered PORPOISE to proceed to Pearl Harbor via Midway Island as the Battle of Midway was imminent. At least 18 subs were positioned in an arc to the west of Midway to intercept the enemy. PORPOISE was stationed in the extreme southwest area and was nowhere near the Japanese fleet. It was strictly an aircraft battle in which the Japanese Navy lost four front line carriers all of which had been in the Pearl Harbor strike force.
PORPOISE tied up in Pearl Harbor on 17 June ’42 to end her third patrol. She was then sent on to Mare Island for a long overdue overhaul at which time Lieutenant Orr was transferred to new construction and sent to Manitowoc, Wisconsin and assigned to USS RASHER (SS-269).
This was a dream assignment for Lt. Orr. New construction of a Gato Class boat in Manitowoc, and best of all, his wife, Marian, who was still working in Detroit after her evacuation from the Philip-pines, could join him. RASHER was the fifth of sixteen Gato class boats being built by Manitowoc. Its keel was laid in May of’42 and it was commissioned in June of ’43. The Gato class boat became the standard Fleet Boat of the Submarine Force for the duration of the war. The big differences between Lt. Orr’s qual boat and the Gato boats were test depth of 312 feet vs. 250, ten torpedo tubes in a 6/4 arrangement vs. six in a 4/2 arrangement, two separate watertight engine rooms as standard design, and slightly higher submerged speed of 8.75 knots.
By the time RASHER was conunissioned, Orr earned his Lieutenant Commander stripe. His seniority earned him the position of Engineering Officer on RASHER at commissioning time. As Engineering Officer, LCDR Orr drew the duty as Diving Officer for RASHER’s first trim dive as well as her initial test depth dive in Lake Michigan.
After transiting the Chicago Sanitary canal, Illinois River and Mississippi River, Navy acceptance of RASHER was in New Orleans where she shortly set sail for Brisbane, Australia. She continued on to Fremantle arriving in September ’43 and set out on her first war patrol in the same month-destination Cele bes Sea and the ever dangerous Makassar Straits, not unfamiliar territory to LCDR Orr. Hunting was good for RASHER and under the command of an aggressive CO, sank4 enemy ships in 8 attacks during the 61 day patrol. Out of torpedoes, she headed back to Fremantle only to be bombed by a friendly navy patrol bomber. Fortunately no serious damage was sustained. RASHER received the PUC (Presidential Unit Citation) for outstanding performance in combat during this patrol as well as earning the combat patrol pin.
Under a new CO, RASHER left for her second patrol in December 43, a joint patrol with BLUEFISH (SS-222) – main mission, plant mines along the approaches to Saigon harbor. This accomplished she continued her mission stalking Japanese shipping in the South China Sea off Borneo. In spite of premature torpedoes and vigilant enemy escorts, she sank one tanker with another possible before returning to Fremantle after a relatively short patrol of 36 days.
Admiral Ralph W. Christie was now ComSubSoWesPac having relieved Admiral Lockwood who had moved to Hawaii to become ComSubPac. In mid February, Christie sent RASHER back to the Java Sea area on her third patrol. Hunting was good again as RASHER sank two cargo ships off Bali after an alert from the code breakers about a convoy in the area. RASHER then transited Makassar Straits into the Celebes Sea where she sank another cargo ship. Out of torpedoes, she returned to Darwin, Australia for a reload and patrolled the ever dangerous Molucca Passage for eighteen days during which she sank her fourth freighter before retiring to Fremantle after six weeks on the line. RASHER received her second PUC for this patrol and another combat patrol pin for a successful patrol.
The next was the last patrol on RASHER for LCDR Orr it was her fourth. She departed the last day of April to join seven other Fremantle boats assigned lifeguard duty surrounding Java in support of a US air strike on Surabya’s oil refineries. Enroute she sank a freighter while experiencing a myriad of torpedo problems such as deep running and faulty magnetic detonators. The air strike was a success and the lifeguards were not required so RASHER headed for the Celebes Sea via Makassar Straits after reloading eighteen torpedoes at Darwin. On this seven week double header patrol, hunting was again good as she torpedoed and sank two enemy freighters, one tanker and a converted gun boat. For this action she was awarded her third PUC and another combat patrol pin.
After RASHER’s fourth patrol, Orr received orders to report to Boston Navy Yard and assume command of USS LANCETFISH.
Note: Bert recalls the orders were originally for him to be the PCO, but by commissioning time he had received his next stripe and as a full Commander the records indicate he was the CO.
In any event, this brings us back to the question of reconciling the differences in the Inspector General’s report and the Court of lnquiry report with regard to Commander Orr.
From the evidence available, the author concludes that the Inspector General’s Office simply took the traditional approach, i.e., the Captain goes down with the ship, regardless of the circumstances. The Court of Inquiry, although privy to the IG’s report, delved deeper into the events and found in Commander Orr, a highly decorated officer, veteran of seven war patrols with a distinguished track record. A similar look at Boston Navy Yard revealed a shipyard immature in the art of submarine construction and not having adequately established the necessary procedures and safety measures, i.e., essentially running out of control. The Court of Inquiry had the courage and conviction to buck tradition and render a just recommendation.
Commander Orr continued his career in the Submarine Force after the LANCETFISH experience. He did a tour as PCO on Sea CAT (SS-399) and then returned to the shipyard, this time Mare Island, as CO of REM ORA (SS-487) where he guided her through her Guppy II conversion, the second Guppy on the west coast with POMODON (SS-486) being the first. This was followed by desk jobs at Newport, RI, the Pentagon, CNO Staff in Washington DC and now as Captain Orr, his final assignment was CO of US Naval School of Mine Warfare in Yorktown, VA. In 1959 when the School of Mine Warfare was relocated to Charleston, SC, Captain Orr put in for retirement as it was time.
Even in retirement Captain Orr was not to be denied his love of the sea. His retirement ceremony was held dockside at the naval school where he and his crew consisting of wife, Marian, and children Mar, Jean and David were piped aboard their 39Vl foot cabin cruiser Viking where they laid a course for the Gulf of Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. Final destination-their citrus farm in La Feria, TX.
Personal interview with E. Bert Orr, Feb 2006, La Feria TX.
42 pgs of Navy documents from USS Lancetfish’s Boat Book, Navy Museum, New London, CT
Newspaper article, La Feria News, 06 Aug 2003
Silent Victory by Clay Blair-war patrols of USS Porpoise & USS Rasher
Red Scorpion by Peter Sasgen-record of USS Rasher
HOLD A PIECE OF HISTORY IN YOUR HAND AND HELP SAVE THE SILVERSIDES
You can help by purchasing our 6×3/4x 112 inch wood and brass plaques made of oiled, hand rubbed pieces of teak from Silversides topside walking deck that took submariners into Harm’s Way during 14 WWII War Patrols-and brought them back ranking her high among the most famous of our surviving Diesel Boats. She helped win the Great War on and below the Pacific Ocean; now she needs our help if she is to just survive our Peace.
For more than fifty years, Silversides has waited patiently for her long overdue dry-docking. While her topside superstructure and her below-decks area shows loving care, her underwater hull and fittings have to be in extremely poor material condition.
We cannot and will not let her be consigned to the scrap heap that has long been the lot of many of our most honored Naval Vessels. A donation of $22.00 will cover packaging and shipping, allowing us to add $20.00 toward the $60,000 already raised. This will bring us just that much nearer to the half a million dollars that she must have to survive. Only this way will unborn genera-tions be aware of what SILVERSIDES-and the men who manned her left to them in Freedom’s name. Please phone EMCM(SS) Paul L. Kidd USN (Ret) at (231) 744-9618 or mailcobss424 comcast.net.