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Barracuda II (SS-163)

(SF-4: d. 2,119 (surf.), 2,508 (subm.); l. 341’6”’ b. 27’7”; dr. 15’7” (mean); s. 18.7 k.; a. 1 5”, 6 21” tt.; cl. V-1)

Any of several large, voracious fishes of warm oceans related to the gray mullets.


The second Barracuda (SS-163) was originally laid down as the unnamed fleet submarine V-1 (SF-4) on 20 October 1921 by the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard; launched on 17 July 1924; sponsored by Mrs. Cornelia W. Snyder, the wife of Capt. Charles P. Snyder, and commissioned on 1 October 1924, Lt. Comdr. Sherwood Picking in command.

To allow testing the performance of her diesel engines, V-1, after fitting out, departed her builders’ yard on 13 January 1925 on her shakedown cruise. In the course of those trials, that found her voyaging over 17,000 miles, V-1 based at Colon, Republic of Panama, and visited a succession of places in the West Indies – the Perlas Islands; St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Curacoa, Dutch West Indies; Georgetown, British Guiana; Barbados; Port of Spain, Trinidad; Ponce, Puerto Rico; and Kingston, Jamaica. Ultimately departing Colon on 23 May 1925, V-1 reached Portsmouth on the 31st.

V-1 began the year 1931 at San Diego. On 5 February, she departed her homeport for Panama. While en route to her destination of Panama Bay, on 19 February 1931, V-1 was named Barracuda and given the alphanumeric identification number B-1. Reaching Panama Bay on 20 February, she operated thence and participated in Fleet Problem XII. Working out of Balboa, and, later, Saboga Bay, whence she conducted fleet tactical exercises, battle torpedo exercises, sound exercises, and the like, V-1 ultimately departed Panama’s waters on 23 March to return with the fleet for winter maneuvers.

Barracuda then resumed her operations off southern California’s coast, maintaining a schedule of tactical exercises into the summer, twice taking part in fleet concentrations off San Pedro and punctuating those evolutions with an annual drydocking at Mare Island (14-18 June). During that time, on 1 July 1931, she was given the new alphanumeric hull number SS-163 vice SF-4.

Later that summer, Barracuda twice operated off San Diego for the filming of the RKO melodrama “Mystery Ship,” between 16-18 August and 18-24 September, interspersing her “reel” world operations with a visit to San Francisco between 21-31 August for “Fleet Week” observances. Moviegoers eventually saw Barracuda’s portrayal of a German U-boat on the silver screen as “Suicide Fleet,” which starred William Boyd (“Hopalong Cassidy”) and James Gleason, and featured an early performance by a young Ginger Rogers.

Once away from the cameras, Barracuda returned to the real world of training off the coast of southern California, a regimen she pursued, punctuated by mooring pierside at San Diego for Navy Day observances on 27 October 1931, into January of 1932. After conducting tests of her main motors, and taking part in fleet tactical maneuvers off her homeport, the submarine sailed for Hawaiian waters on 1 February 1932. Reaching Pearl Harbor on 12 February after taking part in Army-Navy Grand Joint Exercise No.4, she ultimately departed Pearl on 6 March to return to the west coast. Entering Mare Island Navy Yard on 18 March, she was placed in Rotating Reserve Submarine Division 15. Emerging from yard hands on 12 October 1932, the submarine conducted a brief stint of training out of San Diego before she shifted to Long Beach on 26 October for Navy Day observances, returning to her homeport on the 28th.

Barracuda remained in the rotating reserve through the end of the year 1932. During early January 1933, the submarine engaged in engineering tests and crew training, as well as officer training, evolutions carried out in the Coronados Islands-San Diego vicinity. Further officer qualification training preceded a drydocking at the Destroyer Base at San Diego, and a period of tender upkeep alongside Holland (AS-3), after which time Barracuda sailed on 8 February 1933 to participate in Fleet Problem XIV.

Upon completion of those large-scale maneuvers, Barracuda put into San Francisco for liberty and recreation for her crew (20-27 February) before she resumed training, interspersed with the usual periods of moored or tender upkeep, out of San Diego in the late winter, spring, and summer. Paying a return visit to San Francisco, this time for Fleet Week (12-23 August), she returned to San Diego soon thereafter. She carried out Scouting Force tactical exercises in September, and conducted salvage operations in concert with submarine rescue vessel Ortolan (ASR-5) later in the month, followed by a stint of tactical exercises out of her homeport, before returning to ‘Frisco for further Fleet Week observances (6-10 November). Then, following periods of upkeep, and radio, sound, and tactical training, Barracuda entered Mare Island Navy Yard the day after Christmas 1933, and began an overhaul that extended until 14 June 1934. The submarine returned to her homeport on 16 June.

Proceeding to San Francisco for Independence Day observances, Barracuda cleared ‘Frisco on 9 July and stood up the west coast for Tacoma, Wash., arriving there on 12 July.

Over succeeding weeks, the submarine visited a succession of Alaskan ports – Ketchikan (21-23 July), Sitka (24-26 July), Juneau (27-30 July), Valdez (1-2 August), Seward (3-6 August), Kodiak (7-8 August), and Dutch Harbor (10-16 August) – before she proceeded to Hawaiian waters. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on 25 August for upkeep, she departed Oahu on 8 September to return to the west coast, conducting “readiness for war” trials en route, and reached San Diego on 18 September.

Local operations, punctuated by tender upkeep in her homeport and a visit to San Francisco (8-17 December) occupied Barracuda for the remainder of the year 1934 and into the spring of 1935. During the latter part of that time, she conducted not only her own training but assisted Destroyer Division 11 with their battle depth charge practices, and again worked on salvage operations in concert with Ortolan. Ultimately departing San Diego on 27 April, Barracuda, assigned to the BLACK Fleet, then engaged in Fleet Problem XVI, the large-scale fleet maneuvers that featured attention to antisubmarine warfare tactics.

The Main Body of the WHITE Fleet stood out of San Diego harbor a half hour before the end of the mid watch on 29 April, bound for San Francisco, as Phase I of Fleet Problem XVI began. Planes from Utility Squadron (VJ) 1F and from the Naval Reserve Air Base at Long Beach, but from neither carrier assigned to the force, Ranger (CV-4) and Saratoga (CV-3) -- nor from the battleships and cruisers, covered the sortie. Later that day, Saratoga put aloft an inner air patrol, but not over the main body itself. That tardy acknowledgment of the “enemy” submarine threat soon proved a case of closing the barn door after the horse had bolted: BLACK submarines were already inside the WHITE formation.

Undeterred by the anti-submarine screen, Dolphin (SS-169) fired six torpedoes at a New Mexico-class battleship at 1,300 yards; Narwhal (SS-167) four at Pennsylvania (BB-38) at 800 yards and two from her stern tubes at the lead battleship in the right flank column, 1,500 yards distant. The slowness of getting the patrols underway the following day allowed BLACK submarines to again approach undetected; Bonita (SS-165) closed to within 500 yards and fired six torpedoes at Ranger while she was recovering aircraft. Barracuda fired four at Ranger from 1,900 yards. Planes from Saratoga and Ranger, however, operated effectively against BLACK 30 and 31 April. Dive bombers caught Bonita on the surface on the 30th, and carried out their attacks so efficiently that one plane had completed its run before the submarine, running on the surface, was even aware of the planes’ presence.

Ultimately, the harried WHITE main body entered San Francisco Bay under cover of darkness during the mid watch on 1 May under darkened ship conditions. In view of the submarine menace reflected in the attacks on the WHITE fleet during its passage up the California coast, Adm. Joseph M. Reeves, the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet (CinCUS), acting in his capacity as Commander, WHITE Main Body, changed his force’s operation order covering Phase II of the problem the advance of the fleet toward the Hawaiian Island-Aleutian Islands line. His ships would steam at higher speed than before, steer courses off a direct track to their next destination (Pearl Harbor), and mount intensive anti-submarine patrols by destroyers and aircraft. In addition, the WHITE fleet would employ a false screen of destroyers ahead and on the Main Body’s flanks, and monitor BLACK communications traffic to determine the activities of his submarines. With those measures ready to be implemented, the WHITE force sailed for Oahu on 3 May.

Barracuda ultimately reached Pearl Harbor on 11 May, and operated thence during the balance of the fleet exercises. She sailed for the west coast on the 29th, reaching her homeport on 10 June. After a period of upkeep there, she visited San Francisco between 3 and 8 July. Leaving the Golden Gate in her wake on the latter date, she arrived at Port Angeles, Wash., on the 12th. She conducted practice approaches, sound training, and squadron tactics in those waters before undergoing tender upkeep at Seattle. She then proceeded to the Mare Island Navy Yard, arriving there on 9 August to commence a period of repairs and alterations. Departing the yard on 14 November after having completed deep submergence and post-repair trials, Barracuda reached San Diego on the 16th to resume training from her homeport.

Following local operations tactical exercises, approaches, battle torpedo practices, punctuated with the usual upkeep periods Barracuda departed San Diego on 25 April for Panama and participation in Fleet Problem XVII, reaching Balboa on 9 March and, after operating for a time out of Santelmo Bay and Balboa, ultimately returned to her homeport on 6 June.

Following an interim drydocking at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, and a period of tender upkeep, Barracuda departed Hawaiian waters on 12 October 1936. She reached San Diego on the 19th, but remained there for only a short time, sailing for Panama on the 28th. Transiting the Panama Canal, she reached Coco Solo on 7 November, and spent the remainder of the month preparing for participation in gravimetric survey operations. Standing out of Coco Solo on 30 November, she visited a succession of ports during her work: Port of Spain, Trinidad (5-9 December); Bridgetown, Barbados (12-14 December); Fort de France, Martinique (16-18 December); St. John’s, Antigua (21-26 December); and Bassaterre, St. Kitts (29 December 1936-6 January 1937). She subsequently visited St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, en route to the Philadelphia Navy Yard where she was decommissioned on 14 May 1937.

Barracuda remained in reserve until taken to the Portsmouth Navy Yard, arriving there on 18 June 1940, where she was recommissioned on 5 September 1940, Lt. Comdr. James M. Hicks in command, and assigned to Submarine Division 9.

She sailed from Porstmouth 2 March 1941 to Bermuda; returned in June; and joined Submarine Division 71. She remained in the New England area until sailing from new London 17 November 1941 to join the Pacific Fleet. She attended to duty in the Pacific Patrol Area until 15 December 1941 when she rejoined the Atlantic Fleet. Between 15 December 1941 and 7 September 1942 Barracuda was attached to Submarine Division 31 and completed six war patrols in the Pacific Ocean, southwest of Panama, without enemy contacts.

Barracuda returned to Coco Solo, C.Z., 7 September 1942 and, following voyage repairs, she proceeded to Philadelphia for overhaul. Following overhaul she was based at New London until February 1945 with Submarine Divisions 13 and 31. She operated on training problems with destroyers, other submarines, and planes in Block Island Sound. Barracuda arrived at Philadelphia Navy Yard 16 February 1945; was decommissioned 3 March 1945; and sold 16 November 1945.

24 February 2006

Published: Tue Jun 23 09:33:18 EDT 2015