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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive

Patch on right by Harold F.(Carl) Carlson, on left by Mike Smolinski

Piranha (SS-389) (AGSS-389)

Radio Call Sign: November - Juliet - Whiskey - Lima

Balao Class Submarine: Laid down, 21 June 1943, at Portsmouth Navy Yard, on Seavey Island in Kittery, Maine. Launched, 27 October 1943; Commissioned USS Piranha (SS-389), 5 February 1944; Decommissioned, 31 May 1946, at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA.; Laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, Mare Island Group; Reclassified Auxiliary Research Submarine, (AGSS-389), 6 November 1962; Struck from the Naval Register, 1 March 1967; Final Disposition, hull sold for scrapping. 11 August 1970 to Portsmouth Salvage Co., Portsmouth, VA for $ 61.650.00. Piranha received 5 battle stars for World War II service.
Partial data submitted by Ron Reeves (of blessed memory) & Yves Hubert.

As built to the specifications: Displacement, Surfaced 1,526 t., Submerged 2,391 t.; Length 311' 8"; Beam 27' 3"; Draft 15' 3"; Speed, Surfaced 20.25 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts; Cruising Range, 11,000 miles surfaced at 10 kts; Submerged Endurance, 48 hours at 2 kts; Operating Depth, 400 ft; Complement 6 Officers 60 Enlisted; Armament, ten 21" torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes, one 5"/25 deck gun, one single 40mm gun mount, one single 20mm gun mount, two .50 cal. machine guns; Patrol Endurance 75 days; Propulsion, diesel-electric reduction gear, Fairbanks Morse diesel engines, 5,400 HP, Fuel Capacity, 116,000 gal., four Elliot Motor Co. electric main motors with 2,740 shp, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.
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Piranha2.89k24 page PDF showing General Plans for the Piranha (SS-389). USN photos courtesy of Scott Koen &
Piranha 974k Miss Eloise V. Downer, maid of honor, and Mrs. William S. Farber, sponsor for Piranha (SS-389), launched at Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H. 27 October 1943. National Archives Identifier: 12562959
Photo courtesy of
Piranha 902k Rear Admiral T. Withers, Senator Ralph Brewster, Senator Charles Tobey, ex-Governor Alvan Fuller, Congressman Charles Plumley, and Senator Frances Maloney, at the triple launch of the Pomfret (SS-391), the Sterlet (SS-392), and the Piranha (SS-389), 27 October 1943. National Archives Identifier: 12562959
Photo courtesy of
Piranha 346k Officers and crew of the Piranha (SS-389), salute the colors as the boat is launched at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H., 27 October 1943. USN # 80-G-166753 from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Piranha 31k Commemorative postal cover marking Piranha's (SS-389) commissioning at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H.,5 February 1944. Courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Piranha 88k After East Coast training, Piranha (SS-389) departed Key West 3 April 1944 for the Panama Canal and her base, Pearl Harbor, arriving 18 May for final training. With submarines Guardfish (SS-217), Thresher (SS-200), and Apogon (SS-308), she made her first war patrol between 14 June and 8 August. The coordinated attack group prowled waters west and north of Luzon, striking fiercely and with notable success at Japanese convoys. Piranha's victims were passenger-cargo ships Nichiran Maru, 6,504 tons, sunk 12 July, and Seattle Maru, 5,773 tons, sunk four days later. Several times attacked by enemy aircraft and dodging surface patrol craft, Piranha returned safely to Majuro. Text courtesy of DANFS.
Photos courtesy of &
Midway197kThe submarine tender Griffin (AS-13), at Midway with three of her charges between 26 August and 1 September 1945 The three boats are not identified, but boats at Midway at that time included Piranha (SS-389), Lionfish (SS-298), Moray (SS-300), Devilfish (SS-292), and Hackleback (SS-295).
The outboard boat is an EB boat, but none of the above boats are EB boats, all Cramp or Portsmouth-built, so they are unidentified for now.
USN photo from the collection of Benton E. Buell, CWO 4, USN, courtesy of David Buell.
502k Score card of Piranha's (SS-389) accomplishments during WW II. The other boat alongside is Spadefish (SS-411). Photo i.d. courtesy of Edwin Page.
USN photo courtesy of Tommy Trampp.
Piranha1.73k15 page WW II history PDF of the Piranha (SS-389). USN photos courtesy of Scott Koen &
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:
Sand Lance (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 indentify 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.
USN photo # 17-46, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Text courtesy of David Johnston
Piranha 368k Post war predator photo of Piranha (SS-389), Moray (SS-300), Mapiro (SS-376), Baya (SS-318) & Jallao (SS-368). USN photo courtesy of via Ron Reeves (of blessed memory).
Piranha 136k Piranha (SS-389), tied to a pier at the US Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Conn. awaiting salvage operations. Courtesy of John Hummel, USN (Retired).
Piranha 904k After lying in reserve for 24 years, the Piranha (AGSS-389), tied to a pier at the US Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Conn. awaiting salvage operations.
She appears here in this 1967-8 photo as ex-Piranha, after she was struck from the Naval Register 1 March 1967, along with ex-Spadefish (SS-411), originally located at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. The boats were loaded with equipment and material stripped from two other hulls and towed from the West Coast to the sub base for salvage.
Partial text from DANFS.
USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen &

View the Piranha (SS-389)
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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