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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive


Contributed by Mike Smolinski

Whale (SS-239)

Radio Call Sign: November - India - Tango - Bravo

Gato Class Submarine: Laid down, 28 June 1941, at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA.; Launched, 14 March 1942; Commissioned USS Whale (SS-239), 1 June 1942; Decommissioned on 1 June 1946, at New London, CT.; Laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, New London; Laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet; Placed in service in reserve on 22 January 1957 to become a pierside training ship at New Orleans from 1957 to 1960; Struck from the Naval Register, 1 March 1960; Final Disposition, sold for scrapping, 29 September 1960, at New Orleans, LA. Whale earned 11 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' 10"; Beam 27' 4"; Draft 15' 2"; Speed, Surfaced 20.25 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts; Complement 6 Officers 54 Enlisted; Maximum Operating Depth, 300 ft; Submerged Endurance, 48 hrs at 2 kts; Patrol Endurance 75 days; Cruising Range, 11,000 miles surfaced at 10 kts; Fuel Capacity, 97,140 gal.; Armament, ten 21" torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes, one 3"/50 dual purpose deck gun, two .50 cal machine guns, two .30 cal machine guns; Propulsion, four GM diesel, 5,400hp, electric reduction gear with four main GE generator engines, 2,740shp, two 126-cell main storage batteries, twin screws.
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Whale212kKeel laying ceremony of the Whale (SS-239) being placed on the blocks at Mare Island Navy Yard, 28 Jun 1941.US Navy photo courtesy of ussubvetsofwwii.org.
Text courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale206k The keel of the Whale (SS-239) is shown being laid at Mare Island Navy Yard on 28 Jun 1941. The keel of the Wahoo (SS-238) had been laid on the same ways minutes before. The Wahoo and Whale were the first two ships to be built on the new Building Ways Number 3 at Mare Island. USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Wahoo & Whale 96k View of the Ballard's (AVD-10) after portion, taken at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 5 January 1942. Note motor launch stowed above the main deck between the smokestack and the after deck-house, with life rafts nearby; 3"/50 dual-purpose gun atop the after deck-house; large propeller guards at her stern. Two submarines under construction in the background are probably Wahoo (SS-238) and Whale (SS-239). Photograph # 19-N-26638 from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.
Wahoo & Whale 169k The Wahoo (SS-238) is ready for her launching at Mare Island on 14 February 1942. The Whale (SS-239) is on the building ways to the right. USN photo # 771-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Wahoo, Whale & Tinosa 489k The Wahoo (SS-238) is ready for launching at Mare Island Navy Yard on 14 February 1942. The Whale (SS-239) is on the building ways on the left and a hull section for Tinosa (SS-283) is just visible on the lower left corner of the photo. Her keel would be laid on the same ways on 21 February 1942.
The large building in the rear of the photo is the Naval Hospital.
Note: RADM Richard O'Kane has autographed the photo in the upper left corner.
USN photo # 764-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Wahoo & Whale 451k The stern of Wahoo (SS-238) is entering the water during her launching at Mare Island Navy Yard on 14 February 1942. The Whale (SS-239) is on the building ways on the left. USN photo # 772-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale605kLong range photo of the Mare Island Southern waterfront. Left to right Whale (SS-239) on the ways with Humphrey (DD-236) just under Whale and Helena (CL-50) on the right on 13 March 1942. USN photo # MINSY 8665-3-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Photo added 03/06/11.
Whale118k Commandant's Order N0. 9-42 for the launching of the Whale (SS-239) at Mare Island Navy Yard on 14 March 1942.USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale337kThe then Attorney General of California Earl Warren reads his address during the launching ceremonies for the Whale (SS-239) at Mare Island on 14 March 1942.USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale147kDistinguished guest at the launching of Whale (SS-239) at Mare Island on 14 March 1942.From left to right: Capt. E. V. Reed, MC, USN; Mrs. E. V. Reed; Capt. R. A. White, USN (Ret); Mrs. R. A. White (Matron of Honor); Mrs. Charles Chillingworth; Capt. A. D. Denney, USN; Mrs. A. D. Denney (Sponsor); RADM W. L. Friedell, USN (Shipyard Commandant); Mrs., J. J. Hogan; Mrs. W. L. Friedell; Mr. Earl Warren (Attorney General of California); Mrs. Earl Warren; Major F. Stewart (Vallejo); Mrs. F. Stewart; Capt. F. G. Crisp, USN; Mrs. F. G. Crisp; Col. M. E. Shearer, USMC.USN photo # 1357-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale170k Mrs. R. A. White (Matron of Honor) and Mrs. A. D. Denney (Sponsor) are pictured prior to the launching of Whale (SS-239) at Mare Island on 14 March 1942. USN photo # 1359-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale108kMrs. A. D. Denney (Sponsor) christens the Whale (SS-239) at Mare Island on 14 March 1942. USN photo # 1370-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale99k News clipping of the launching of the Whale (SS-239) at Mare Island Navy Yard on 14 March 1942. She was launched 11 months ahead of schedule. USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale108k Whale (SS-239) at the end of way during her launching at Mare Island on 14 March 1942. USN photo # 1376-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale158k The Whale (SS-239) is waterborne after her launching at Mare Island on 14 March 1942.USN photo # 1346-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale93kSignal flags all a flutter are wrapped around the Whale's (SS-239) fore and aft rigging as she is waterborne after her launching at Mare Island on 14 March 1942. USN photo # 1362-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale23kCommemorative postal cover marking the Whale's (SS-239) launching, 14 March 1942.Photo courtesy of Jack Treutle.
Whale20kCommemorative postal cover marking the Whale's (SS-239) commissioning, 1 June 1942.Photo courtesy of Jack Treutle.
Whale186kPort side view of the Whale (SS-239) off of Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo Calif., on 30 July 1942 when she started dock trials and initial shakedown training.US Navy photo # 80-G-395022 courtesy of ussubvetsofwwii.org.
Whale152kPort-side view of the Whale (SS-239) off of Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo Calif., on 30 July 1942 when she started dock trials and initial shakedown training.US Navy photo # 4082-42 courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Whale55kWhale (SS-239) with a modified coning tower at NAS Alameda CA., 30 July 1942. USN Archives photo and text courtesy of The Floating Drydock, Fleet Subs of WW II", by Thomas F. Walkowiak.
Tunny 243k Commissioning ceremonies aboard Tunny (SS-282) at Mare Island on 1 Sep 42.Sunfish (SS-281) is to the right and Whale (SS-239) is in front of the Tunny.USN photo # 5215-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale226kKiku Maru took the plunge from the Whale (SS-239)Photo courtesy of Tommy Trampp.
Whale46kKiller Whale (SS-239) target.US Navy photo # 80-G-49402 courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Whale81k A bow view of Whale (SS-239) off Mare Island on 21 April 1945. She was under going repairs at Mare Island from 26 January and 26 April 1945. USN photo # 2879-45, courtesy of Darryl Baker and John Hummel.
Whale213kStern view of Whale (SS-239) off Mare Island on 21 April 1945. USN photo # 2877-45, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale209kBow on view of Whale (SS-239) off Mare Island on 21 April 1945. USN photo # 2880-45, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale259k Broadside view of Whale (SS-239) off Mare Island on 21 April 1945. She was in overhaul at the shipyard from 26 January until 26 April 1945. USN photo # 2881-45, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Whale189k Mascot of Whale (SS-239) on the shoulders of Murray Dreyus F2/c.
Victory and the end of the war meant the breaking up of most submarine crews. Garbo, Skeeter, Betty, and other dogs went home with crew members. Porches, lawns, and the occasional cat replaced steel hulls, tile decks, and depth charges. Gabby, mascot of the Gabilan, proudly represented all submarine sea dogs when he marched with his crew in a welcome-home victory parade in Mobile, Alabama, in October 1945.
USN photo # 1957-45, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Pooch text courtesy of the article Sea Dogs by William Galvani in americanheritage.com.
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.
Text courtesy of Dave Johnston.
Photo courtesy of John Hummel.
Whale536kThe boat sitting on the marine railway at the Submarine Base in New London is indeed a Government design Gato. It is a Mod 4A with the lowered bridge and the separate air search radar mast aft of the shears. This dates the photo to late 1944 at the earliest. The problem is that all of the Gato's would have been long gone from New London by this date. The last of the Portsmouth Gato's was Steelhead (SS-280) and she was commissioned in Dec '42. The Squadron 50 boats were pulled back from Europe in mid-1943 and sent to the Pacific, and at this time they would have been sporting a Mod 3 (with the high bridge, covered wagon ribs not exposed) if they had any fairwater mods at all.
So with all this in mind, this photo could not have been taken even in late 1944. The only time where you would see a Mod 4A Gato in New London would be post war. A lot of Gato's were laid up in reserve there at finger piers on the north side of the base. I am speculating that this photo shows a boat going through a pre-lay up overhaul. Guns have been removed from the fairwater gun decks, work is being done on the aft engine room mufflers, and there is a big tarp over the deck gun. It is hard to tell, but the air search radar looks like a big dish SV. I would place the date sometime in 1946 or early 1947.
The Whale (SS-239) looks the closest, right down to the extra holes drilled in her casing roundover - forward, aft, but not midships.
Photo courtesy of Wendy Gulley via Ron Reeves.
Photo i.d. courtesy of Dave Johnston & Robert Morgan.
Photo added 02/02/13.

View the Whale (SS-239)
DANFS history entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway Web Site.
Crew Contact And Reunion Information
Not Applicable to this vessel
Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
Ep-21 (1) - Victory At Sea ~ Full Fathom Five - HQ

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