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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive


Patch on left contributed by ussubvetsofworldwarii.org, on right by Mike Smolinski

Finback (SS-230)

Radio Call Sign: November - India - Victor - Tango

Gato Class Submarine: Laid down, 5 February 1941, at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, N.H. Launched, 25 August 1941; Commissioned USS Finback (SS-230), 31 January 1942; Decommissioned, 21 April 1950, at New London, CT.; Laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet; Struck from the Naval Register, 1 September 1958; Final Disposition, sold for scrapping on 15 July 1959. Finback received 13 battle stars for World War II service.
Partial data submitted by Yves Hubert.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 1,526 t., Submerged: 2,410 t.; Length 311' 10"; Beam 27' 3"; Draft 15' 2"; Speed, Surfaced 20.25 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts; Complement 6 officers, 54 enlished; 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 Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines, 5400 hp, Fuel Capacity, 94,400 gals., four Elliot Motor Co., electric motors, 2740 hp, two 126-cell main storage batteries, twin screws.


The following data was added as a result by an inquery by Robert S. Rayfield, Jr. & answered by Dave Johnston (USNR).
As built gun armament: One 3"/50 caliber deck gun, either Mk 17, 18, or 21 dual purpose (DP), mounted on the main deck aft of the conning tower fairwater. All three marks were used on U.S. submarines and were designed to be dunked in salt water as "wet mounts". I think timing of construction, location of construction, and availability of the gun from the supplier dictated which mark a boat actually carried. Without referring to the actual construction blueprints it will be difficult to determine which she actually carried. An educated guess would point to the Mk 17. She also carried one .50 caliber water cooled machine gun on a Mk 3 mount on the "cigarette deck" just aft of the bridge. This gun was dismounted and taken below when the boat dived, so in many pictures you can only see the pedestal mount and not the gun. I have found references to the early Gato’s also carrying .30 caliber Browning and/or Lewis machine guns. These however were considered to be "small arms", lumped in with M1911 pistols and Thompson guns carried for self defense in port, and not generally listed on armament tables. It is my gut feeling that the .30 caliber guns were no longer carried by the end of the war.

One variation: A small number of Gato’s carried the 3"/50 caliber Mk 6 gun. This was a single purpose (SP) gun, unable to raise to the higher elevations needed for antiaircraft fire. The mounting of these older guns was probably dictated by production shortages of the intended Mk 17 just prior to and at the start of the war. I am reasonably sure that Finback carried the Mk 17 variant.
It must be understood that once the war started gun armament on U.S. submarine varied often and wildly. Various combinations of .50 caliber, 20mm, and 40mm guns of several different marks/mods were carried, along with a constantly changing deck gun ranging from the original 3"/50 popgun up to the massive 5"/51 on the Tambor/Gar class and the even bigger 6"/53 caliber Mk 15 shipwreckers on the Argonaut (SS-166), Narwhal (SS-167), and Nautilus (SS-168).

A couple of notes on Mr. Rayfield’s information below:

Most sources list the 40mm Bofors gun carried on submarines to be the air cooled Mk 1 left loading type, as the USN version was based on the Army’s M1 which was the left loading variant. The mount that the gun was attached to was designated Mk 3 Mod 5 or 6 for wet mounts. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that some of the boats carried Mk2 right loading type guns from time to time, as dictated by availability at particular bases and shipyards.


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Finback 18k Commemorative post mark from Finback's (SS-230) keel laying ceremony at Portsmouth Navy Yard N.H., 5 February 1941. Photo courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Finback 21k Commemorative post mark from Finback's (SS-230) keel laying ceremony at Portsmouth Navy Yard N.H., 5 February 1941. Photo courtesy of petloveshack.com.
Finback 521k Mrs. Adolphus E. Watson, sponsor for U.S. Submarine Finback (SS-230) & and Mrs. Alexander Liggett, Maid of Honor, Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH., 25 August 1941. National Archives Identifier: 7788741
Photo courtesy of catalog.archives.gov
Photo added 05/29/17.
Finback 469k Mrs. Adolphus E. Watson, sponsor for U.S. Submarine Finback (SS-230), Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH., 25 August 1941. National Archives Identifier: 7788740
Photo courtesy of catalog.archives.gov
Photo added 05/29/17.
Finback 1.28k Finback (SS-230) slides down the building ways at her launching at Portsmouth Navy Yard N.H., 25 August 1941. National Archives Identifier: 7788739
Photo courtesy of catalog.archives.gov
Photo added 05/29/17.
Finback 258k Launching of the Finback (SS-230) at Portsmouth Navy Yard N.H. 25 August 41 at 2:40 PM, view showing ship in water being towed to berth No.1 by the tugs Penacook (YT-6) & Sightseer. USN photo courtesy of ussubvetsofworldwarii.org.
Finback 18k Commemorative post mark from Finback's (SS-230) launching at Portsmouth Navy Yard N.H., 25 August 1941. Photo courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Finback 21k Commemorative post mark from Finback's (SS-230) launching at Portsmouth Navy Yard N.H., 25 August 1941. Photo courtesy of petloveshack.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 commmanding 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 postumously 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 USN photo # 80-G-88577, now in the collections of the National Archives. Courtesy of the USNHC.
Finback 148k Finback (SS-230) model, circa 1942. Photo courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library.
Finback 471k Crew of the Finback (SS-230) posing for a shot on 13 August 1942 in Dutch Harbor. Photo # 80-G-215170 from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Finback 204k On 20 October 1942 the Finback (SS-230) (Lt.Cdr. J.L. Hull) torpedoes and sinks the Japanese army passenger-cargo ship Africa Maru (9476 GRT) and cargo ship Yamafuji Maru (5359 GRT) west of Formosa in position 24^(o)26'N, 120^(o)25'E. Text info & map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper - © Karl L Swartz & uboat.net
Photos courtesy of Tommy Trampp.
Flasher & Finback 117k Flasher (SS-249) & probably Finback (SS-230) most likely from April of 1945 when Flasher was in Pearl Harbor enroute to San Francisco for overhaul. USN photo courtesy of Ric Hedman TN(SS).
Finback 97k Finback (SS-230) rescues Lt.(JG) George H.W. Bush before he became a source of protein for the Japanese garrison at Chichi Jima. Photo courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library via Tommy Trampp.
Finback 189k Downed pilots rescued by the Finback (SS-230) shown with the officers of the Finback, circa September 1944. Photo courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library.
Fremantle 365k This plaque was unveiled 20 March 1995 by His Excellency Major General P.M. Jeffery OA MC, Governor of Western Australia to commemorate the sacrifices made by Allied submarines that operated out of Fremantle, Western Australia during WW II. Photo courtesy of Ron Reeves (of blessed memory).
Finback 157k Lieutenant (junior grade) Lawrence Heyworth, Jr., pictured in his service dress white uniform after the ceremony in which he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for service while on board the submarine Finback (SS-230) in 1945. Photo courtesy of the National Naval Aviation Museum via Bill Gonyo.
Grouper181kGroup of Grouper (SS-214) photos with a torn hull, unknown cause, circa 1946-50, probably at New London, CT. She is seen here with the Finback (SS-230).Photo courtesy of Daniel E. Whaley, Jr. of blessed memory via his daughter, Carol Poole.
Finback 390k Finback (SS-230) underway off New London, CT, 7 March 1949. USN photo.

View the Finback (230)
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
Ep-21 (1) - Victory At Sea ~ Full Fathom Five - HQ

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