I was pleased to see the sad tale of LANCETFISH finally surface in the April 2007 edition of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW. There is a bit more to the story. After LANCETFISH was de-watered and decommissioned she was placed in a graving dock for extensive repairs including removal and overhaul of all machinery, replacement of the batteries and all wiring that got wet. I was told by a knowledgeable and reliable source that while the boat was on the blocks, the drydock gate collapsed, permitting the boat to fill with harbor water a second time. I have found it difficult to confirm this episode, presumably because casualties to ships under construction attract less attention than similar accidents to commissioned warships manned by a military crew which may share responsibilities.
Completion of LANCETFISH was evidently a low priority project for she was not assigned to the First Naval District until 27 February, 194 7, when she joined the Reserve Fleet. Even then she was incomplete, with major propulsion units set on their foundations but not aligned, and smaller equipment’s boxed and set in the proper compartments but not installed. In December, 1952 LANCETFISH was assigned to the New London Group of the Reserve Fleet. The Chief, Bureau of Ships proposed that LANCETFISH be converted to a GUPPy for $I 0,500,000, but this overture was evidently declined for on 9 June, 1958 she was struck from the List of Naval Vessels, and was offered for sale as scrap.
As the Sub Base Repair Officer I had often cast covetous looks up the Thames River to where the Reserve Fleet submarines were berthed, but we had very strict orders not to raid them for parts or equipment, no matter how desperately needed. With many of the Reserve Fleet boats slated for disposal in the summer of 1958 we were allowed one week to salvage bits and pieces before the boats were auctioned off. LANCETFISH was a popular target for our ship-strippers because her equipment had no wear, had been refurbished recently and required no time-consuming rip-out or disassembly. Quite a bit of LANCETFISH was used by various boats, including the periscope shears which went to a Key West boat some four or five years later.
Sorry to say, LANCETFISH never went to sea under her own power. Maybe that’s why she failed to make the list of boats lost during World War II.
Hany H. Caldwell
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