Please report any broken links or trouble you might come across to the Webmaster.
Please take a moment to let us know so that we can correct any problems and make your visit as enjoyable and as informative as possible.


NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive


Patch on left courtesy of subvetsofwwii.org, on right contributed by Mike Smolinski.

Sunfish (SS-281)

Radio Call Sign: November - Echo - November - Zulu

Gato Class Submarine: Laid down, 25 September 1941, at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA.; Launched, 2 May 1942; Commissioned USS Sunfish (SS-281), 15 July 1942; Decommissioned, 26 December 1945, at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA.; Laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, Mare Island Group;Placed in service in April 1949 as a Naval Reserve Training Vessel at Vallejo, CA, until 1960; Struck from the Naval Register, 1 May 1960; Final Disposition, sold for scrapping 29 November 1960 to Learner & Co., Oakland, CA for $ 27,287.00. Removed 15 December 1960. Sunfish earned nine battle stars for service during World War II.
Partial data submitted by Ron Reeves, HTC, USNR (ret.) & Yves Hubert.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 1,526 t., Submerged: 2,424 t.; Length 311' 10"; Beam 27' 4"; Draft 16' 10"; 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, 116,000 gals., four General Electric main motors, HP 2740, two 126-cell main storage batteries, twin propellers.
Click On Image
For Full Size Image
Size Image Description Source
Sunfish 22k Commemorative postal cover marking the keel laying of the Sunfish (SS-281) at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA., 25 September 1941. Photo courtesy of Jack Treutle.
Trigger & Sunfish 551k The Trigger (SS-237) slides down the launching ways on 22 October 1941, at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA.
The Sunfish (SS-281) is under construction to her port side and would be launched 2 May 1942. The ship under construction to Sunfish's port side is the Submarine Tender Sperry (AS-12), she would be launched on 17 December 1941.
USN photo courtesy of Rick Connole, son of Commander David R. Connole, K.I.A. while commanding the Trigger (SS-237), 28 March 1945. Photo i.d. courtesy of Fred Tannenbaum & Darryl L. Baker.
Sunfish 23k Commemorative postal cover marking the Sunfish's (SS-281) launching, 2 May 1942. Photo courtesy of Jack Treutle.
Sunfish 88k Stern view of the Sunfish (SS-281) shortly before her launching at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA., 2 May 1942. < Official USN photo courtesy of subvetsofwwii.org
Sunfish511kThe figure on the bow of the Sunfish (SS-281) is not her figurehead, but a pair of steady hands to help secure the bunting prior to going down the building ways at Mare Island Navy Yard on 2 May 1942. USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Sunfish 125k The Sunfish (SS-281) is seen going down the building ways at Mare Island Navy Yard on 2 May 1942. Official USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Sunfish 345k The Sunfish (SS-281) is waterborne after her launching at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA., 2 May 1942. Official USN photo courtesy of subvetsofwwii.org
Sunfish325kPort side view of the Sunfish (SS-281) just after being waterborne.
A pair of steady hands make ready to help secure the jack staff.
USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Sunfish 105k The launch party for the Sunfish (SS-281) is shown during the launching ceremony at Mare Island Navy Yard on 2 May 1942. Front row left to right: Mrs. W. R. Friedell; Mrs. C. W. Fowler, Matron of Honor; Mrs. Joseph Fowler, Sponsor; Mrs. R. F. O'Hara. Back row left to right: Mr. Russell F O'Hara; Capt Joseph Fowler, USN, Production Officer; RADM W. R. Friedell, USN, Commandant; Capt F. G. Crisp, USN, Manager; Capt C. V. Ellis, USN, Chaplain. Official USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Sunfish 115k The scene at the commissioning ceremony of the Sunfish (SS-281) at Mare Island on 15 July 1942. The Tunny (SS-282) is alongside. Official USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Tunny 243k Commissioning ceremonies aboard Tunny (SS-282) at Mare Island on 1 September 1942. 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.
Sunfish 61k Broadside view of Sunfish (SS-281) off Mare Island on 24 October 1942. USN photo # 6586-42, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker. The photo is off a negative from the Vallejo Naval Historic Museum.
Sunfish 26k Starboard side view of the Sunfish (SS-281), off Hawaii, probably taken in mid to late '42. The forward part of the conning tower fairwater had yet to be cut down and she is still carrying the 3 in./50 cal. "popgun". Text courtesy of David Johnston, (USNR). Official USN photo courtesy of ussubvetsofwwii.org.
Sunfish 85k Port side view of the Sunfish (SS-281) off Hawaii, probably taken in mid to late '42. The forward part of the conning tower fairwater had yet to be cut down and she is still carrying the 3 in./50 cal. "popgun". Text courtesy of David Johnston, (USNR). Official USN photo courtesy of ussubvetsofwwii.org.
Sunfish 65k Port side view of the Sunfish (SS-281) off Hawaii, probably taken in mid to late '42. The forward part of the conning tower fairwater had yet to be cut down and she is still carrying the 3 in./50 cal. "popgun". Text courtesy of David Johnston, (USNR). Official USN photo courtesy of ussubvetsofwwii.org.
Sunfish 33k Port side view of the Sunfish (SS-281) off Hawaii, probably taken in mid to late '42. The forward part of the conning tower fairwater had yet to be cut down and she is still carrying the 3 in./50 cal. "popgun". Text courtesy of David Johnston, (USNR). Official USN photo courtesy of ussubvetsofwwii.org.
Sunfish 108k This 24 October 1942 view of the Sunfish (SS-281), was taken at Mare Island during refit. A newly added 20mm gun was mounted aft on the gun deck along with a flare pot. The boat being built in the background is the submarine tender Bushnell (AS-15). USN Archives photo. Photo and text courtesy of The Floating Drydock, Fleet Subs of WW II", by Thomas F. Walkowiak.
Sunfish 104k The crew of the Sunfish (SS-281) upon completion of her 9th War Patrol in December 1944. She was berth alongside of the Howard W. Gilmore (AS-16) at Majuro Atol (Myrna Island). Mr. George Day is in the 4th row from the bottom (See the arrow). Photo courtesy of George Day & Darryl L. Baker.
Barb & Sunfish 284k After plan view of Barb's (SS-220) conning tower at Mare Island on 7 May 1945. Sunfish (SS-281) is inboard of Barb. USN photo # 3364-45, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Sunfish 94k During WW II, aircraft fulfilled their prewar promise as anti-submarine weapons. At Mare Island on 17 July 1945, Sunfish (SS-281) shows a variety of counters, including new single 40-mm & 20-mm guns (only the mount for the later is visible, abaft the periscope shears).
This photo also shows two more subtle measures. The long wire radio antenna has been moved from the centerline (strung between fairwater & stern) to short poles alongside the fairwater, on each side.
Photo & text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman. Naval Institute Press.
Sunfish 216k Bow on view of Sunfish (SS-281) departing Mare Island on 18 July 1945. She was in overhaul at Mare Island from 6 May until 31 July 1945. US Navy Photo # 5341-45, courtesy of George Day & Darryl L. Baker.
Sunfish 821k The Sunfish (SS-281) at Mare island at about 0800 on 18 July 1945. She was commencing the second of five sea trials after overhaul period that began 6 May and completed 25 July 1945. Official USN photo # No. 5338-45, courtesy of David Buell.
Sunfish 236k Stern view of Sunfish (SS-281) departing Mare Island on 18 July 1945. US Navy Photo # 5337-45, courtesy of George Day & Darryl L. Baker.
254 233k Stern view of Gurnard (SS-254), departing Mare Island on 26 July 1945. The other submarine in the background (right of Gurnard) is either Sunfish (SS-281) or Flounder (SS-251). USN photo # 5462-45, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Sunfish 45k The Sunfish (SS-281) is shown in the Mare Island Channel in 1945. Official USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Sunfish239kPicture taken from the Pipefish (SS-388) on 29 August 1945 as Sunfish (SS-281) was leaving P.H. In the foreground is the crew on the Pompon (SS-267). Sunfish was in P.H. from 9 August 1945 to 29 August 1945. The Pipefish arrived on morning of 28 August 1945. From Pipefish sixth war patrol report, "28 August 1945". Made morning rendezvous with surface escort and proceeded to Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor in company with Barb (SS-220), Silversides (SS-236), Springer (SS-414), Skate (SS-305) and Pompon .U.S. Navy Photograph courtesy of Fred Lester, Secretary/Editor for Ozark-Runner Base.
Mare Island Causeway 461k 6 December 1945 photo appeared in the 14 December 1945 issue of the Mare Island newspaper lists the following subs present at the dockyard:
Unknown, Dragonet (SS-293), Guavina (SS-362), Sunfish (SS-281), Sargo (SS-188), Spearfish (SS-190), Saury (SS-189).
First two ships in second row appear to be: Bashaw (SS-241) and Mingo (SS-261).
The Tiru (SS-416) is on the building ways on the left above the subs and surrounding by staging and cranes.
It is interesting to note that the boats have started the mothballing process, as evidenced by the preservative cocoons around the deck guns.
U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker. Partial text courtesy of David Johnston, USNR.
Unknown Photos 1.18k The table below lists the location of submarines at Mare Island on 20 September 1945. This information was pulled from microfiche copies of the hand written shipyard journals. Im surprised that both the clipping and my table show 21 subs at the yard on the date in question. The photo is looking north and berth 3 is at the top of the photo and then the berths run down or south.
Berth 3 - Springer (SS-414) & Spadefish (SS-411)
Berth 4 - Guavina (SS-362) & Barbero (SS-317)
Berth 5 - Hammerhead (SS-364), Tinosa (SS-283), Mapiro (SS-376) & Moray (SS-300)
Berth 6 - Bream (SS-243), Seahorse (SS-304), Batfish (SS-310) & Aspro (SS-309)
Berth 7 - Pomfret (SS-391), Parche (SS-384) & Sunfish (SS-281)
Berth 8 - Queenfish (SS-393)
Berth 9 - Lionfish (SS-298) & Plaice (SS-390)
Dry Dock 1 - Bashaw (SS-241) & Mingo (SS-261)
Berth 12 - Guitarro (SS-363).
Photo i.d. & text courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Photo courtesy of Ron Reeves.
Photo added 05/18/14.
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.
Mare Island Reserve Fleet 900k Inactivated submarines at Mare Island on 3 January 1946.
Front row left to right: Sand Lance (SS-381), next two could be Sealion (SS-315) and Seahorse (SS-304), Searaven (SS-196), Pampanito (SS-383), Gurnard (SS-254), Mingo (SS-261), Guitarro (SS-363), Bashaw (SS-241).
Back row left to right: Unknown, Tunny (SS-282), next three could be Sargo (SS-188), Spearfish (SS-190), and Saury (SS-189), Macabi (SS-375), Sunfish (SS-281), Guavina (SS-362), Lionfish (SS-298),Piranha (SS-389).
The Scabbardfish (SS-397) is docked in ARD-11 on the other side of the causeway.

The mixture of boats from the Salmon/Sargo, Gato, and Balao classes illustrate the clear differences in the conning tower fairwaters and the periscope shears that can be used to identify boats. The high bridges with the uncovered support frames (the "covered wagon" look) of the Gato's and Salmon/Sargo's contrast with the low and sleek look of the Balao's. The fatter, more robust periscope shears of the Balao's are markedly different from the thinner shears with more supporting structure of the Gato's and Salmon/Sargo's.
The differences in the pattern of the superstructure limber holes can also be used for identification purposes. The single row of large semi-circular holes identify Electric Boat or Manitowoc boats. A dual row of smaller rectangular holes mark the government built boats. Also note that the EB/Manitowoc boats have the deck mounted, T-shaped JP sonar head on the starboard side of the forward deck, while the government boats have it on the port side.
EB/Manitowoc boats had the anchor on the starboard side, the government boats on the port side. A close look will show that some of the boats have had the anchor removed and the hawsepipe plated over as part of the mothball process.
Most of the boats have the late war radar outfit of the SJ surface search (small dish) and SV air search (large dish). The Balao's and some of the Gato's have the SS dish mounted on a separate large mast aft of the periscopes. The older Salmon/Sargo's and Gato's have a much smaller mast. Searaven appears to have had her radars already removed.
Searaven is actually sporting a late war SJ surface search antennae mounted to starboard of the periscopes. This is a rare installation. Most often it was mounted forward (early war) or aft (late war) of the 'scopes shears. Her air search set is a late war SD antennae mounted on a stub mast directly aft of the 'scopes. Searaven never received the much more capable SV air search set. Having been assigned to training duties after November, 1944 it was probably felt that the SV set was not necessary.
One strange thing: almost all of the boats appear to have the outer doors of the forward torpedo tubes open. Even though the boats have an interlock system that prevents the breech and outer doors from being opened at the same time, this is an unusual thing to do and a potential source of catastrophic flooding.
U.S. Navy photo # 17-46, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Text courtesy of David Johnston, USNR.
Who Am I?289kInactivated submarines at Mare Island in early 1946.
Front row left to right: Sand Lance (SS-381), next two could be Sealion (SS-315) and Seahorse (SS-304), Searaven (SS-196), Pampanito (SS-383), Gurnard (SS-254), Mingo (SS-261), Guitarro (SS-363), Bashaw (SS-241).
Back row left to right: Unknown, Tunny (SS-282), next three could be Sargo (SS-188), Spearfish (SS-190), and Saury (SS-189), Macabi (SS-375), Sunfish (SS-281), Guavina (SS-362), Lionfish (SS-298),Piranha (SS-389).
The Scabbardfish (SS-397) is docked in ARD-11 on the other side of the causeway.
Tiru (SS-416) is on the ways in upper left hand side of photo. Two ferry boats (to the right of Tiru's ways) are YHB-2 / [ex-Post of Stockton] and YHB-21 / [ex-Tamalpais].
Photo i.d. courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Sunfish & Pampanito 207k Sunfish (SS-281) & Pampanito (SS-383) along the water front at Mare Island in August 1960. Photo courtesy of Jim Richardson.
Pomfret1.30kPomfret (SS-391) off Mare Island on 23 August 1962. YRB-18 is in the background along with the sterns of two decommissioned submarines, the Pampanito (SS-383) inboard & Sunfish (SS-281), with her after deck being removed.Photo # 55846-8-62 TH from the collection of the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum via Darryl L. Baker.
Photo i.d. & text courtesy of Ric Hedman, David Johnston & Robert Morgan.

View the Sunfish (SS-281)
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 Sunfish SS-281
Ep-21 (1) - Victory At Sea ~ Full Fathom Five - HQ

Back To The Main Photo Index Back To the Submarine Index
Problems and site related matters, E-mail Webmaster
This page was created and maintained by Michael Mohl
1996 - 2014, NavSource History All rights reserved.