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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND


Barbel

A European fresh water minnow, whose name derives from the pair of fleshy, beard-like appendages found on either side of its thick lips.


II

(SS-580: displacement 2,145 (surfaced), 2,895 (submerged); length 219'; beam 29'; draft 28'; speed 15 knots (surfaced), 25 knots (submerged); armament 6 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Barbel)

The second Barbel (SS-580) was laid down on 18 May 1956 by the Portsmouth (N.H.) Naval Shipyard; launched on 19 July 1958; sponsored by Mrs. Bernard L. Austin, wife of Vice Admiral Bernard L. Austin, Commander, Second Fleet; and commissioned on 17 January 1959, Lt. Comdr. Ord J. Kimzey, Jr., in command.

Shakedown training, builder's trials, and post-shakedown availability occupied the submarine through the summer of 1960. She then joined the Atlantic Fleet and was based at Norfolk, Va. Her routine consisted of training and fleet exercises in Atlantic and Caribbean waters. In January 1961, Barbel entered the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for alterations which moved her diving planes from the hull near the bow to the submarine's sail. The work was completed in October; and, on 1 November, her home port was changed to San Diego, Calif. The submarine departed Norfolk in January 1962, bound for the west coast, and made intermediate stops at San Juan, Puerto Rico, and at Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles, en route to Panama. After transiting the canal, she visited Manzanillo, Mexico, before reaching San Diego and beginning duty with the Pacific Fleet. In July, her home port was changed once more, this time to Pearl Harbor.

In Hawaii, she became a unit of Submarine Division (SubDiv) 13. Following two months of training exercises in the Hawaiian operating area, Barbel deployed to the western Pacific for duty with the 7th Fleet. During her six months in the Far East, the submarine was involved in several training exercises and made brief port calls at Yokosuka, Japan, and Hong Kong. She returned to Pearl Harbor in March 1963 and spent the next few months in upkeep and training Hawaiian waters. She began an extended training exercise in July and touched back at Pearl Harbor in September.

Barbel continued local operations in the Pearl Harbor area through April 1964, when she got underway for the California coast. On 27 April, she entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., for overhaul. After 14 months of work, Barbel left the shipyard in July 1965 and returned to Pearl Harbor. The submarine began her second Far Eastern cruise in November. The New Year 1966 found her in port at Sasebo, Japan. She held several training exercises and briefly entered the Vietnam war zone on 21 March while en route to Hawaii. The ship arrived in Pearl Harbor on 19 April and entered the naval shipyard there for a restricted availability.


Barbel (SS-580) standing out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
An undated view reminiscent of those snapped by Tai Sing Loo, the photographer at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard in the 1930s and 1940s.
Naval History and Heritage Command Collection

Barbel resumed duty on 18 September 1966 by taking part in the testing of new torpedoes and carrying out refresher training. On 27 December, she began her third deployment to the western Pacific. She paused briefly at Guam on 11 January 1967 and then continued on to Yokosuka. While in Japanese waters, the submarine conducted exercises with units of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and held brief upkeep periods. On 12 February, she began an at-sea training period. She visited Hong Kong from 6 to 12 May and returned to Japanese waters on the 22d, anchoring at Beppu for a three-day visit. On 28 May, the submarine moved to Yokosuka for upkeep through 5 June and then departed Japan on another at-sea training period that she completed on 6 July at Adak, Alaska. The submarine arrived back at Pearl Harbor on 15 July and began an extended leave and upkeep period.

During the first two weeks of October 1967, Barbel served as a training ship for the Submarine Force's Prospective Commanding Officers' School, and next visited Lahaina, Maui. She took part in Exercise 4-67 from 6 to 19 November and then began preparations for overhaul. Barbel entered the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in February 1968. The submarine left the yard in July, carried out sea trials, and returned to the shipyard in December for more repair work. On 24 January 1969, she once again resumed fleet operations. She set sail on Valentine's Day, bound for Bangor, Wash., where she conducted weapons acceptance tests, and then headed up the west coast on 8 March for a goodwill visit to Esquimalt, Canada. On the 11th, she began the voyage back to home port where she arrived on the 22d.

At Pearl Harbor, Barbel prepared for an upcoming deployment upon which she embarked on 16 June 1969. She reached Yokosuka on 1 July and, after voyage repairs, began the first of two training cruises out of that port which lasted until 14 November. On that day, she began a circuitous voyage home which took her to Hong Kong and Guam before she moored once again at Pearl Harbor on 19 December.

The submarine entered the shipyard at Pearl Harbor on 7 January 1970 for repairs, began sea trials on 19 February, and--in March--started training in anticipation of another Far Eastern cruise. On 11 September, her preparations completed, she departed Pearl Harbor and headed west. After a stop at Okinawa late in September, Barbel pushed on toward Japan. She arrived at Yokosuka on 10 October and prepared for at-sea training cruises. These cruises began on 20 October and were completed in time for the submarine to return to Yokosuka on Christmas Eve. She closed the year in port at Keelung, Taiwan. The first six weeks of 1971 found the submarine visiting several Far Eastern ports, among which were Buckner Bay at Okinawa, Hong Kong, and Subic Bay and Manila in the Philippines. The submarine began her journey back to home port in mid-February, arrived at Pearl Harbor on 5 March, and began a post-deployment standdown. On 13 May, the ship began overhaul at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

She held sea trials from 29 February to 13 March 1972 and then rejoined the active fleet. For almost four months, Barbel carried out training exercises in Hawaiian waters. She left Pearl Harbor on 7 July bound once more for Oriental waters. Barbel paused briefly at Yokosuka on the 24th and then began over a month at.sea. She was in Sasebo, Japan, for upkeep in early September but got underway on the 13th for independent training operations. On 9 October, she entered Hong Kong for a period of rest and relaxation. After more operations at sea, Barbel arrived back in home port on 23 December.

Barbel underway off Oahu, 7 November 1973
photo taken by PH1/AC E. L. Goligoski, USN
U.S. Navy Photograph KN-21154,

Following almost eight months of local operations, she began upkeep at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard on 18 August 1973. She next resumed operations in Hawaiian waters and prepared for another western Pacific cruise. Barbel departed Pearl Harbor for the Far East once again on 11 January 1974. She arrived at Yokosuka on the 27th but stayed only briefly. Then, after a short visit to Keelung and another quick call back at Yokosuka, she began intensive at-sea training operations. The submarine put into Hong Kong on 2 April for liberty before moving on to Subic Bay on the 12th for a much needed upkeep. She arrived back at Yokosuka on 12 May and participated in an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) exercise with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force from 25 until 29 May. On 16 June, the ship entered Pusan, Korea, for a three-day visit, after which she took part in a joint ASW exercise with South Korean naval forces. On 28 June, she began the voyage back to Pearl Harbor where she spent the remainder of the year in upkeep and local operations.

From January through March 1975, the submarine underwent a restricted availability for a battery replacement. The next two months were devoted to weapons testing and readiness exercises. Late in June, she got underway for San Francisco Bay and an overhaul at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Barbel left Mare Island on 7 November 1976 and visited the Canadian ports of Victoria and Vancouver. On 4 December, she set sail on the voyage back to Pearl Harbor. There, she rejoined Submarine Squadron 1. The first seven months of 1977 found the warship carrying out training operations and exercises in Hawaiian waters. She embarked on another Far Eastern deployment on 22 August and reached Yokosuka on 10 September. During this tour, she took part in numerous training exercises and visited Subic Bay, Manila, Hong Kong, and the Taiwanese ports of Kaohsiung and Keelung. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 2 February 1978.

Upon arrival in Hawaii, the submarine resumed local operations and weapons testing. On 28 August 1978, she got underway for the west coast and six weeks of training. She made port visits at Coos Bay in Oregon, Esquimalt in Canada, and Seattle, Wash., before returning to Hawaiian waters on 7 October. She then entered a leave and upkeep period. Following a restricted availability at Pearl Harbor from 3 January through 16 February 1979, she conducted local operations until beginning preparations to deploy overseas once again. The ship sailed on 14 July for Japan and put into Yokosuka on the 30th. Subsequent ports of call included Atami and Sasebo, Japan; Buckner Bay, Okinawa; Subic Bay in the Philippines; Chinhae, South Korea; and Hong Kong. While deployed, Barbel took part in several type training exercises, weapons tests, and ASW exercises. On Thanksgiving Day, the submarine left Buckner Bay bound for home. She arrived in Pearl Harbor on 11 December and began holiday leave and upkeep.

After six weeks of local operations, Barbel began a restricted availability at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard on 23 February 1980. She commenced sea trials in mid-June and began upkeep in July. During the rest of the year, she engaged in various training exercises and inspections. On 11 December, the submarine sailed again for the Orient. She arrived at Yokosuka on the 27th and spent the holiday season there.

On 2 January 1981, Barbel got underway for Subic Bay, snorkeling part of the way to test her submerged running capabilities. Arriving there on the 10th, she moored alongside Queenfish (SSN-651). Putting to sea on the 19th, she cruised into the South China Sea to practice individual ship operations until returning to Subic Bay on 5 February. Ten days later, the submarine sailed to Hong Kong, mooring there on 18 February. Departing the city on the 24th, the boat sailed north to Okinawa where she participated in training drills off Buckner Bay. On 2 March she proceeded to Chinhae, South Korea, for a week of operations with South Korean naval forces. After port visits to Fukuoka and Sasebo in late March, the submarine returned to Subic Bay on 10 April.

Two days later, Barbel sailed into the South China Sea. Although the boat suffered a hazardous gas leak in the torpedo room on 17 April 1981, the compartment was ventilated and the problem fixed without further incident. She then entered the Gulf of Thailand and commenced local exercises with Royal Thai Navy warships. The boat put into Phattaya> Beach for a liberty period on the 27th, before returning to sea to conduct diver operations with Thai and U.S. Navy SEALs in concert with the salvage ship Bolster (ARS-38) on 4 May.

On the night of 11 May 1981, as Barbel headed for the Philippines, she spotted an unlighted boat ahead. A searchlight beam soon revealed a 12-meter fishing craft in the rough waters of the South China Sea. At 2244, the submarine pulled alongside the sinking craft and sent over a corpsman and a two-man damage control party who soon learned that the leaky vessel was "out of food, nearly out of water and fuel and had been at sea three days…" Finding one of the leaks irreparable, Barbel began transferring the refugees, eventually bringing on board 87 Vietnamese, of whom 30 were children – several sick from lack of food and water – among them. The submariners provided food and blankets to their guests, and they spent the night on deck. The following morning, the submarine transferred the Vietnamese by motor boat to the Military Sealift Command oiler USNS Hassayampa (T-AO-145), that had been diverted from a position 200 miles south of Saigon. Once the oiler had embarked the refugees, Barbel scuttled the wallowing boat and resumed her passage to the Philippines. Hassayampa, interestingly, vectored to the scene by a U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3 Orion, rescued an additional 122 "boat people" from an unseaworthy and overloaded 48-foot craft later that same afternoon, and transported the refugees to Singapore. The submarine, meanwhile, proceeded on to Subic Bay, providing services for the carrier Kitty Hawk (CV-63) on the 14th, and arrived there on the 15th. After a short maintenance period, the boat sailed for home on 20 May, eventually arriving at Pearl Harbor on 11 June.

Barbel remained at the submarine base until 13 July 1981 when she resumed local operations.She continued that routine until 16 February when the submarine moved into AFDM-6 at Pearl Harbor for a two-week drydock period. Barbel then spent the spring operating locally in Hawaiian waters. On 14 June, the submarine got underway for San Francisco, mooring there on the 24th. Four days later, the boat moved into the southern California operating area for a month of exercises. Aside from a short visit to San Diego between 4 and 7 July, Barbel operated at sea until returning to that port on 30 July. The submarine headed back to Pearl three days later, arriving there on the 12th. Once back in Hawaii, Barbel's crew prepared for the submarine's next overhaul, which began at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard on 25 September. She remained in dry dock until 18 July 1983, when she moved alongside a pier in the shipyard to continue repairs. The submarine finally left the yard on 11 November. Barbel spent the next ten months undergoing inspections, carrying out refresher training and preparing for her next deployment to the Far East.

Departing Pearl Harbor on 7 September 1984, Barbel sailed west across the Pacific and arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, on the 26th. After a brief visit, she ventured south, cruising to the Philippines and mooring at Subic Bay on 10 October. Following four weeks of local operations, the submarine entered the Subic Bay repair facility on 15 November for maintenance. On 5 December, Barbel put to sea and sailed north to Japan, arriving in Sasebo on the 14th and remaining there through the end of the year. On 14 January 1985, Barbel began an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training exercise in Japanese waters before putting in to Yokosuka at the end of the month. She remained there until 5 March, visited Hakodate on the 8th, and sailed for home the next day, arriving in Pearl Harbor on 23 March. The submarine spent the next six months in upkeep, conducting refresher training or preparing for her next deployment.

This voyage, however, was different from previous ones, as she was being transferred to Sasebo and assigned to Submarine Group Seven. Departing Pearl Harbor on 20 September 1985, Barbel once again steered west for Japan and arrived at Sasebo on 10 October. Following a six week repair period in the SSK shipyard in Sasebo, the submarine's crew spent the holidays settling in to their new home port.

On 6 January 1986, Barbel sailed to Okinawa for ASW refresher training before continuing south for training and exercises in Philippine waters. On 20 February, the boat put in to Hong Kong for a port visit before returning to Sasebo on the 26th. In March, the submarine began a series of ASW training exercises with both American and Japanese ships and planes. This pattern of operations--brief cruises to the Philippines or the South China Sea followed by training periods in the Okinawa and Honshu operating areas--filled Barbel's time while stationed in Japan. In between operations off Honshu during the rest of 1986, for example, Barbel made training cruises to Korea in mid-June and in the Yellow Sea in October.  

On 14 January 1987, the submarine ventured south again, cruising into Philippine waters by the end of the month. After a brief stop at Subic Bay in early February, the boat departed the region on the 13th and sailed south for three weeks of operations in the Gulf of Thailand.  Following a five-day port visit to Hong Kong in early March, the submarine returned north to Korea for exercises there on the 23d before moving to Sasebo on 29 March. In a change of pace, Barbel got underway on 19 April and sailed southeast to Guam, mooring there in Apra Harbor a week later.  She spent two weeks there until returning to Yokosuka on 18 May. The submarine made another southern cruise starting in July, operating in Korean waters early in the month before visiting Hong Kong and Subic Bay.  Aside from one three week trip back to Sasebo in late September, Barbel remained in Philippine waters through November until returning to Japan on 13 December.

On 4 January 1988, the submarine sailed south and returned to the Philippines, where she conducted two weeks of training operations. After a port visit to Hong Kong between 23 and 28 January, the boat returned north to Sasebo, arriving there on 3 February.  Over a month later, she shifted to Yokosuka for a brief visit before sailing to Chinhae, South Korea, for a three-week ASW exercise. She returned to Sasebo on 7 April, where Barbel's crew began preparations for an overhaul.  Entering the SSK shipyard dry dock on 29 July, the boat remained there until October when she began post-overhaul refresher training. Those exercises kept her busy through the end of the year.

On 15 January 1989, Barbel put to sea for another southern cruise, operating in the Philippines before returning to Japan via Hong Kong and Okinawa on 27 February.  She embarked on another cruise on 30 April. The next day, however, two hours and forty minutes into the mid watch, a huge wave swamped the boat on the surface, sweeping three men overboard and plunging the submarine underwater. Although she quickly surfaced, water flowed into the boat and threatened to flood the battery compartment. After radioing for assistance, the crew began searching for their missing shipmates.  One man was rescued at 0654 but, despite the help from friendly ships and planes, the other two were never found.  After returning to Sasebo on 2 May, the boat underwent a series of repairs, inspections and underway examinations to determine her seaworthiness. After the Navy concluded the boat was not worth a full refit, the submarine departed Japan on 18 September and sailed for Hawaii. She arrived in Pearl Harbor on 3 October.

Barbel was decommissioned at Pearl on 4 December 1989. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 17 January 1990, the boat was sunk as a target off southern California on 30 January 2001.

Barbel (SS-580) received four battle stars for her service during the Vietnam War.