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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive

Steelhead (SS-280)

Radio Call Sign: November - Bravo - Kilo - Whiskey

Gato Class Submarine: Laid down, 1 June 1942, at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, ME.; Launched, 11 September 1942; Commissioned USS Steelhead (SS-280), 7 December 1942; Decommissioned, 29 June 1946, at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA.; Laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, Mare Island Group; Placed in service as a Naval Reserve Training Vessel on 12 November 1947 at San Diego, CA; Placed out of service and struck from the Naval Register, 1 April 1960; Final Disposition, sold for scrap 21 December 1960. Steelhead earned six battle stars for service during World War II.
Partial data submitted by Yves Hubert.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 1,526 t., Submerged: 2,410 t.; Length 311' 8"; Beam 27' 4"; 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 Fairbanks Morse main generator diesel engines, HP 5400, Fuel Capacity, 94,400 gals., four General Electric main motors, HP 2740, two 126-cell main storage batteries, twin propellers.

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PNY1.03kPortsmouth Navy Yard: Scamp (SS-277), on left & Scorpion (SS-278) in middle & Steelhead (SS-280) on right, under construction on building ways. Stern views looking forward from after catwalk, 7 July 1942.
Directly to the left of the Scamp, there is apparently an empty way. However, if you look closely enough, you can just barely see a small section of Balao (SS-285). She filled the way vacated by Sawfish (SS-276) on 23 June 42.
Over on the far left is Snook (SS-279). You can see her conning tower and covered wagon ribs and some portions of her bow. The numbering system for the ways at Portsmouth was quite odd at the time. They were out of numerical sequence. From left to right, they are Ways #2, 4, 3, 1A, & 1. The construction shed was widened in 1941 and two ways were added. Way #1A was crammed in between the others in 1942 and Scorpion was the first to be built on it.
Photo i.d. courtesy of Ric Hedman , John Hummel, Dave Johnston (USNR) & Robert Morgan.
US National Archives photo # 19LCM 757-42, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 692k Steelhead (SS-280) slides down the launching ways at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, ME. on 11 September 1942. US National Archives photo # 19lcm 911-42, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 18k Commemorative post mark on the occasion of the Steelhead's (SS-280) launching at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, ME., 11 September 1942. Courtesy of Jack Treutle.
Steelhead 1.70k Commissioning of the Steelhead (SS-280) at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, ME. on 7 December 1942.
Captain G.C. Kriner USN, reading orders of commissioning.
US National Archives photo # 80-G-174398, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 1.10k Commissioning of the Steelhead (SS-280) at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, ME. on 7 December 1942.
Lt. Comdr. David L. Whelchel reading the orders of taking of command.
US National Archives photo # 80-G-17400, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 1.50k The National Ensign is raised for the first time aboard the newly commissioned Steelhead (SS-280) at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, ME. on 7 December 1942. US National Archives photo # 80-G-174399, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 596k While in drydock, on 1 October 1944 Steelhead (SS-280) suffered a serious fire which required the installation of a new conning tower. After a long repair period, the submarine stood out of San Francisco on 16 April 1945, en route to Pearl Harbor.
Forward torpedo loading hatch showing proposed hatch blank ring in place, 1 January 1945.
Text courtesy of DANFS.
US National Archives photo # 19lcm-1 from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 771k After torpedo loading hatch showing proposed hatch blank ring in place, 1 January 1945. US National Archives photo # 19lcm-2 from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 1.00k Forward torpedo loading hatch, view from topside showing proposed hatch blank foundation and blank rings, 1 January 1945. US National Archives photo # 19lcm-3 from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 1.00k After torpedo loading hatch, view from topside showing proposed hatch blank foundation and blank rings, 1 January 1945. US National Archives photo # 19lcm-3 from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 880k Steelhead (SS-280) getting ready to get underway after completing her last war time refit. US National Archives photo # 19lcm 85139, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 754k Plan view of the Steelhead (SS-280) on 10 April 1945. US National Archives photo # 19lcm 85138, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 690k Stern view of the Steelhead (SS-280) on 10 April 1945. US National Archives photo # 19lcm 85137, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 1.30k Steelhead (SS-280) after she had been refitted with a 5"/25 deck gun on 10 April 1945.
This image has been retouched by wartime censors to remove radar antennas atop Steelhead's periscope sheers.
Text courtesy of USNHC.
US National Archives photo # 80-G-334446, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 637k Starboard quarter view of the Steelhead (SS-280) on 10 April 1945. US National Archives photo # 19lcm 85134, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 687k Broadside starboard view of the Steelhead (SS-280) on 10 April 1945.
The shears are in a typical Balao late war 2/1-1 arrangement, but the conning tower fairwater retains the original Gato length, in order to accommodate the older style (and much larger) main air induction valve under the cigarette deck.
Now what would be really interesting would be to find out the exact configuration of the conning tower itself. The Gato class boats were built with a conning tower made of the same steel as the hull, 9/16" thick mild steel with both ends dished inward. The Balao class boats were being built with a conning tower made out of 1" thick special-tensile steel that not only gave them a deeper diving depth, but provided a vastly increased level of ballistic protection from small caliber (i.e. machine gun) rounds. Both ends of the conning tower were dished outwards in a convex configuration. So, in late 1944 when Steelhead had her fire, what would they have replaced her conning tower with? The production lines and suppliers had all shifted over to the Balao style thicker conning towers. I think it is unlikely that a one-off Gato style thin steel concave ended conning tower was built just for Steelhead. More than likely she was refitted with the new Balao style tower with the dished out ends and the thicker steel.
Text & photo i.d. courtesy of David Johnston (USNR).
US National Archives photo # 19lcm 85134, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 1.10k Stern view of the Steelhead (SS-280) on 10 April 1945. US National Archives photo # 80-G-334449, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert, Webmaster & Editor ModelWarships.com
Steelhead 23k Steelhead (SS-280), probably after WW II. USN Archives photo courtesy of Bill Tennison submitted by Joe Radigan, USNR.
Mare Island Reserve Fleet137kReserve fleet at Mare Island, circa January 1946. There are 52 submarines and 4 Sub Tenders in this photo. This photo is a Berthing list identifying the ships in the picture. Photo commemorating 50 years, U. S. Submarine Veterans of WW II 1996 calendar, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Mare Island Reserve Fleet453kPhoto of the Reserve fleet at Mare Island, circa January 1946. There are 52 submarines and 4 Sub Tenders in this photo. Whether coincidental or on purpose, the number of boats in the photo is the same as that which were lost in WW II.
From back to front and left to right, first group of 12 boats:
Sandlance (SS-381)
Tunny (SS-282)
Aspro (SS-309)
Lionfish (SS-298)
Guvania (SS-362)
Sunfish (SS-281)
Macabi (SS-375)
Gurnard (SS-254)
Pampanito (SS-383)
Mingo (SS-261)
Guitarro (SS-363)
Bashaw (SS-241)
From back to front and left to right, second group of 12 boats:
Sealion (SS-315)
Hammerhead (SS-364)
Bream (SS-243)
Seahorse (SS-304)
Tinosa (SS-283)
Pintado (SS-387)
Mapiro (SS-376)
Pipefish (SS-388)
Moray (SS-300)
Batfish (SS-310)
Hackleback (SS-295)
Bluegill (SS-242)
From back to front and left to right, third group of 12 boats:
Hawkbill (SS-366)
Menhaden (SS-377)
Perch (SS-313)
Loggerhead (SS-374)
Barbero (SS-317)
Baya (SS-318)
Hardhead (SS-365)
Spadefish (SS-411)
Springer (SS-414)
Devilfish (SS-292)
Kraken (SS-370)
Dragonet (SS-293)
From back to front and left to right, fourth group of 12 boats:
Lamprey (SS-372)
Piranha (SS-389)
Manta (SS-299)
Pargo (SS-264)
Rancador (SS-301)
Archerfish (SS-311)
Mero (SS-378)
Sawfish (SS-276)
Spot (SS-413)
Lizardfish (SS-373)
Jallao (SS-368)
Icefish (SS-367)
From back to front and left to right, last group of 4 boats:
Steelhead (SS-280)
Puffer (SS-268)
Stickleback (SS-415)
Trepang (SS-412)
From back to front, Submarine Tenders group of 4 ships:
Pelias (AS-14)
Aegir (AS-23)
Euryale (AS-22)
Griffin (AS-13)
Photo commemorating 50 years, U. S. Submarine Veterans of WW II 1996 calendar, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Steelhead 181k Steelhead (SS-280) underway off San Diego, California, 1946. Point Loma is in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, courtesy of David Buell.
Mare Island dry dock #2325kPargo (SS-264), Sawfish (SS-276), Puffer (SS-268), and Steelhead (SS-280) entering Mare Island's dry dock #2 on 31 January 1947.U.S. Navy photo MINSY #368-47, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Photo added 03/27/13.
Mare Island dry dock #1325k Four submarines in Mare Island's dry dock #1 on 14 February 1947. Front row: Sawfish (SS-276) and Pargo (SS-264); back row Puffer (SS-268) and Steelhead (SS-280). U.S. Navy photo # 374-47, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Steelhead 155k 11 April 1958 article from the NTC San Diego Hoist about Steelhead's (SS-280) tenure as a training submarine near the base. Photograph courtesy of David Buell.

View the Steelhead (SS-280)
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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