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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive


Patch contributed by Mike Smolinski

Guardfish (SS-217)

Radio Call Sign: November - Alpha - Juliet - Hotel

Unit Awards, Campaign and Service Medals and Ribbons


Presidential Unit Citation
Gato Class Submarine: Laid down, 1 April 1941, at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT.; Launched, 20 January 1942; Commissioned USS Guardfish (SS-217), 8 May 1942; Decommissioned, 25 May 1946; Laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet; Placed in service as a Naval Reserve Training Vessel, 18 June 1948, at New London CT.; 1 June 1960; Placed out of service and struck from the Naval Register; Final Disposition, expended as a target, sunk by torpedo, 10 October 1961 off the coast of New England. Guardfish received the Presidential Unit Citation & eleven battle stars for World War II service.
Partial data submitted by Yves Hubert.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 1,526 t., Submerged: 2,424 t.; Length 311' 9"; Beam 27' 3"; Draft 15' 3"; Speed, Surfaced 20.25 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts; Complement 6 Officers 54 Enlisted; Operating Depth, 300 ft; Submerged Endurance, 48 hrs at 2 kts; Patrol Endurance 75 days; Cruising Range, 11,000 miles surfaced at 10 kts; Armament, ten 21" torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes, one 3"/50 deck gun, two .50 cal. machine guns, two .30 cal. machine guns; Propulsion, diesel electric reduction gear with four General Motors main generator engines, HP 5400, Fuel Capacity, 97,140 gals., four General Electric main motors, HP 2740, two 126-cell main storage batteries, twin propellers.
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Guardfish 211k Commemorative postal cover marking the launching of the Guardfish (SS-217), at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT.,20 January 1942. USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Grunion62kU.S. Naval Submarine Base, New London, Groton, Connecticut:
Members of the 4th Command Class at the Submarine Base, February 1942.
Those present are, bottom row left to right:
Lieutenant Commander Mannert L. Abele; first command would be the Grunion (SS-216). He would be K.I.A. while commanding the Grunion, 30 July 1942.
Lieutenant Commander Thomas B. Klakring; first command would be the Guardfish (SS-217),
Commander Karl G. Hensel, Officer in Charge;
Lieutenant Commander George W. Patterson, Jr., Senior Assistant; and
Lieutenant Commander Jesse L. Hull; first command would be the Finback (SS-230).
Top row, left to right:
Lieutenant Commander Howard W. Gilmore; first command would be the Growler (SS-215). He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor after he was K.I.A. on the bridge of the Growler, 7 February 1943.
Lieutenant Commander Philip H. Ross; first command would be the Halibut (SS-232),
Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. Taylor; first command would be the Haddock (SS-231),
Lieutenant Commander Albert C. Burrows; first command would be the Swordfish (SS-193) and
Lieutenant Commander Leonard S. Mewhinney; first command would be the Saury (SS-189).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph # 80-G-88577, now in the collections of the National Archives. Courtesy of the USNHC.
Guardfish 63k Bow view at rest of the Guardfish (SS-217), at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT., 19 April 1942, three weeks before commissioning. USN photo courtesy of Electric Boat.
Guardfish 494k Income tax day, 15 April 1942 finds the Guardfish (SS-217) at rest while the crew pays their dues at Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT. Courtesy of John Hummel.
Guardfish 1.25k Commissioning photo of the Guardfish (SS-217). Photo & text courtesy of Claude Connor, author of Nothing Friendly in the Vicinity: My Patrols on the Submarine USS Guardfish During WWII.
Guardfish 26k Commemorative postal cover marking the commissioning of the Guardfish (SS-217) at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT., 8 May 1942. Courtesy of Jack Treutle.
Guardfish 27k Commemorative postal cover marking the commissioning of the Guardfish (SS-217) at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT., 8 May 1942. Courtesy of Jack Treutle.
Guardfish 118k Guardfish (SS-217) helps make a dent in the destruction of shipping in WW II. US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com
Guardfish 149k Guardfish (SS-217) gets a "going over". Underwater explosion forms huge bubble and sends out percussion waves. Blast close aboard could crush pressure hull. Here the sub sustains a near miss. On same patrol, Guardfish watched a Honshu horse-race, sank 4 ships in a day, scored one of the wars longest torpedo shots. Drawing by Lt. Cmdr. Fred Freemen, courtesy of Theodore Roscoe, from his book "U.S. Submarine Operations of WW II", published by USNI.
Guardfish 53k Admiral Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief, US Pacific Fleet, presents the Navy Cross to LCdr Thomas B. Klakring, Commanding Officer of Guardfish (SS-217). USN photo.
Guardfish 356k Lt. Cmdr. Thomas B. Klakring. Born in Annapolis, Maryland on 19 December 1904, as the only child of Colonel and Mrs. Leslie Klakring, he entered the Naval Academy from the State of Connecticut, and graduated with the Class of 1927.
A submarine hero of the Pacific War in World War II, Admiral Klakring was credited with sinking eight Japanese ships within sight of Japanese ports, after taking his submarine, Guardfish (SS-217), into Japanese water previously un-patrolled by American submarines. Without the benefit of sophisticated SONAR, Guardfish sighted, or torpedoed, 77 enemy vessels in about 35 days, during one of her war patrols.
LCDR Klakring commanded Guardfish from 1941 to 1943. While under LCDR Klakring's command, Guardfish chalked up an impressive record. She left on her first war patrol on 6 August 1942 for the eastern shore of Honshu, and sent eight enemy ships, totaling 51,055 tons, to the bottom, and damaged a 7,000 ton freighter. In October, during her second war patrol, Guardfish sank another freighter and a tanker, and damaged another freighter in the East China Sea. On Guardfish's third war patrol, in the Rabaul-Kavieng area, additional Japanese shipping was sunk, including two naval vessels.
For his heroism while commanding Guardfish, Klakring was awarded the Navy Cross with two Gold Stars (in lieu of second and third awards). In addition, Guardfish was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation while under Klakring's command.
Admiral Klakring's other decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star (both for heroism during World War II), China Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Area Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
USN photo from the book: These Men Shall Never Die by Lowell Thomas (Philadelphia: John C. Winston Co.,1943), p. 90.)
Text and photo submitted by Bill Gonyo.
Guardfish622kDeparting Brisbane for the same waters 2, May 1943, Guardfish (SS-217) sank 201-ton freighter Suzuya Maru and damaged another before being forced down by aircraft 13 June. She picked up a surveying party on the west coast of Bougainville 14 July and returned to Brisbane for refit 2 August 1943.
Photo dated 21 May 1943, likely there is a mistake with with one of the dates as it is unlikely that the Guardfish would have the time to have a photo taken in the middle of her war patrol.
Text courtesy of DANFS.
US National Archives photo # 80-G-394379 from National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Guardfish1.40kCitation from Admiral Carpender aboard the Guardfish receiving their submarine combat insignia on 18 August 1943.
The boats in the background are: Peto (SS-265) in the middle. Interesting that she still has the high bridge forward. She would depart on 9/1/43, so unless the tender did a quick cut down, she would have departed on patrol in September still with a high bridge. Even if they did cut it down before she departed, its interesting that she still had it as late as August. I had no idea they were splotching the periscopes that early, a great detail for modelers. Scamp (SS-277) to the right. Assuming the August 18 date is correct, that would match up. Scamp departed on patrol on September 2nd, so she would have been there. If the boat to her port is a high bridged type (hard to tell, but from the sailor peeking out of the dead light, maybe), then she would be Peto, who was likely the only high bridge type there, and probably the very last one. She would depart on September 2nd.
Others in port at that time included Albacore (SS-218), Stingray (SS-186), Grouper (SS-214) and likely Gato (SS-212). All departed Brisbane between August 23rd and September 6th.
Grouper is to the left in the background moored with the Fulton (AS-11). The boat to her starboard whose extreme stern is probably Tuna (SS-203). She had left for patrol before the awards ceremony date, but a friendly fire incident with an RAAF bird forced her back into Brisbane for repairs, so she had reentered port and didn’t leave again until August 21st, 1943. She had the aft torpedo tube shutters as-built like the other Tambors, and like the mystery boat. It’s hard to see and faint but the mystery boat appears to have the degaussing circuit on her stern. So did Tuna (http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/0820306.jpg), and at that precise place and time, too.
Majority text i.d. courtesy of Robert Morgan, with input from Dave Johnston (USNR) & John Hummel.
US National Archives photo # 80-G-394390 & 80-G-394401 from National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Guardfish 650k The red-white background is my piece of the Homeward Bound Pennant". Photo on the top-left is me, top-right is Clay Blair. Color photo is our "Battle Flag," claiming 26 ships sunk by torpedoes; 20 merchant ships, 6 War Ships. The small Japanese flags represent 3 small-craft sunk by deck-gun action. Top-center represents our 2 Presidential Unit Citations. Photo & text courtesy of Claude Connor, author of Nothing Friendly in the Vicinity: My Patrols on the Submarine USS Guardfish During WWII.
Guardfish 971k The one on the top-right is Guardfish (SS-217) at Pearl Harbor Sub Base, preparing to return to the States. The long banner from the raised periscope toward the stern is the red-white "Homeward-bound Pennant" that has an inch of length per months overseas per crew-member. The photo on the left is a view over the stern on our way home, looking down on the after-cigarette deck. I'm the closest guy on the left. Bottom-left view shows the high-lookout "cage" aft of the #2 periscope at the level of the Loop antenna located between the periscopes. That's the Lookout position I had when the boat almost left me to swim because I didn't hear the diving alarm when it submerged (see pages 25-26 in my book). Photo & text courtesy of Claude Connor, author of Nothing Friendly in the Vicinity: My Patrols on the Submarine USS Guardfish During WWII.
Who Am I?64kA close up of a early construction government built Gato class submarine with only part of it's hull number painted on the sail, and a symbol possibly reminiscent of the Guardfish (SS-217). The number painted on the conning tower probably indicates its squadron, # 5 (?), which if it was during WW II would make it in the Atlantic. It may have been taken off Pensacola in the summer of 1944, or somewhere in the Pacific during 1945 or early 1946.USN photo courtesy of Ivan van Meter, submitted by Jack LaPeer courtesy of Fabio Peņa.
Photo i.d. courtesy of David Johnston & John Hummel.
Who Am I?89kHigh altitude photo of a Gato/Balao class submarine. It may have been taken off Pensacola in the summer of 1944, or somewhere in the Pacific during 1945 or early 1946.USN photo courtesy of Ivan van Meter, submitted by Jack LaPeer courtesy of Fabio Peņa.
Photo i.d. courtesy of David Johnston & John Hummel.
Guardfish 397k Guardfish (SS-217) & crew photo at the end of WWII. Photo courtesy of David "Hutch" Hutchinson, MOMM 1st Class, SS 217 via Paul S. Hobbs, Submarine Veteran ET1 (SS),USS Thomas Jefferson SBN 618.
Photo added 01/18/14.
SS-267, 253, 239 & 260140k Five Atlantic Reserve Fleet subs in mothballs at New London CT., late 1940's:
Pompon (SS-267),
Gunnel (SS-253),
Whale (SS-239),
Lapon (SS-260) and unidentified sub, probably the Guardfish (SS-217) or Dace (SS-247).
Text courtesy of Dave Johnston. Photo courtesy of John Hummel.
Guardfish 58k Guardfish (SS-217) moored, in 50's at SUBASE NLON while she was a NRT Trainer. USN photo courtesy of Don McPherson via ussubvetsofworldwarii.org.
Text i.d. courtesy of Ron Reeves.

View the Guardfish (SS-217)
DANFS history entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway Web Site.
Crew Contact And Reunion Information
U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation
Fleet Reserve Association

Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
USS Guardfish
Ep-21 (1) - Victory At Sea ~ Full Fathom Five - HQ

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