Tomcat Down!


Just off the coast of Scotland, a large naval exercise was underway. “Teamwork 76” included hundreds of ships, from a dozen NATO countries, in which staged (joint) maneuvers were underway. Among those watching the maneuvers were dozens of news reporters, all of whom were invited to photograph and report on the exercise. (And thanks to a previous collision that had occurred between an American navy frigate and a disguised Soviet sub, all knew that Soviets were also in the area.)

At the center of the exercise was the USS John F. Kennedy, an aircraft carrier that was carrying planes that were performing “realistic strike operations.” NATO was counting on the press to show the world, and especially the Soviets, that it was prepared. A standout of the exercise was a twin-tailed Grumman F-14 Tomcat, the newest and “hottest thing in the sky”. The Tomcat was aggressive to the eye in the sky and a picture of it would send a hell of a message. (more…)

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire: NR1’s Next Adventure

A. Holifield T. Warson

NR-1’s next trip would take it to the Mediterranean, which hardly gave her a welcoming embrace. On one of its first evenings, the NR-1 quietly rode along the Mediterranean floor; a small vessel in the ominous darkness. The sonar showed nothing – exactly what CO Warson wanted. Nestled in behind the pilot chairs, he was taking a much needed rest. Suddenly, the 2nd pilot reached around and shook Warson roughly. Warson woke up irritated, but surrounded by views that chilled his bones. The external video cameras showed that the NR-1 was smack dab in the middle of a mine field. Somehow the sonar had failed to pick up the WWII mines. Warson, now fully awake, shouted “Don’t Move! Don’t Do Anything!” for he knew that the mines became much more sensitive when submerged in salt water. If the NR-1 would even slightly brush one of those mines, she and her crew would be history.

Welcome Aboard, Sir! The continuing saga of NR-1

NR-1 Docked

After doing its part for the NATO project AFAR – helping to place Acoustic towers beneath the waters surrounding the Azores – NR-1 and her crew headed back to her home port in Groton, Connecticut. In its short time afloat, NR-1 had gone from being “Rickover’s Rubber Duck” to a full-fledged part of the Navy’s submarine service.

NR-1’s first crew had dealt with her trials and tribulations with eagerness, ingenuity, and professionalism. They had shared something few could ever claim, but as the old adage says: all good things must come to an end. In the words of one her crew, “they had been present at the creation, but the NR-1 was not their property…and their role, like it or not, was done.” They departed, one-by-one, heading out down their individual paths.

Dwaine Griffith, the CO of NR-1, was replaced by a young Naval Academy graduate, Toby Warson. Warson was considered to be, by many, an up-and-coming sailor that possessed a golden ticket. He was bound for an outstanding, highlighted career, of that they were sure. He accepted the billet of NR-1’s second command, never having heard of the ship or its missions. Warson underwent training for his command on NR-1 at the Prospective Commanding Officers School, but nothing could truly prepare him for the adventures and trials he was about to undergo aboard the Navy’s smallest and secret submarine. (more…)

Rickover’s ‘Little Ship That Could’: NR-1 story continues

The USNS MIZAR towing the NR-1.

After many years of dancing and darting through red tape, fiscal uncertainties, and seemingly never-ending engineering hurdles, Admiral Rickover’s ‘Little Sub that Could’ was successfully built.
Throughout the lengthy build process, the crew of the NR-1 spent their time viewing training movies, working on simulators, and training for something the Navy had never seen before; all while waiting and wondering if the $100 million nuclear submersible/undersea research vehicle/submarine would actually be built. If the crew had doubts, ADM Rickover did not. He ensured that everything moved forward, including the readiness of the people charged with its use and care. And in Rickover’s mind not just any crew would do. Many times he made it clear that only the best-of-the-best would be allowed to sail on her and with only a dozen men onboard (including 3 officers and 9 enlisted men), they all had to know the boat – fore and aft – and be able to run it.

NR-1: The beginning


In honor of the museum’s newest upcoming exhibit, we will be sharing stories of the Research and Recovery vehicle, NR-1 and the crew that sailed on her.

After the tragic loss of the USS THRESHER (SS 593) and all that served on her, the Navy designed rescue vehicles that were built with one mission in mind – to “find and save the lives of sailors trapped on crippled subs.” This led to the creation of the Deep Submergence Systems Project and its centerpiece, the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV), a piloted mini submarine
In the early 1960’s, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover began kicking around the idea of a making a nuclear powered DSRV that could drive (yep, drive) along the ocean floor. Rickover believed that the inclusion of nuclear power would blow the doors open on the future possibilities of the submarine force. He knew that the usage of compact nuclear reactors would lead to vehicles that “would not depend on batteries and could be entirely self-contained.” There was only one question – would it be logistically possible? To find out, Rickover “ordered parameters drawn up for a small submarine that could go deeper than any current manned sub, and with a nuclear reactor powering it, could stay underwater indefinitely.”

CDR Richard H. O’Kane, Medal of Honor Recipient


CDR Richard H. O’Kane

Richard Hetherington O’Kane was born in Dover, NH, on February 2, 1911, the son of Dr. and Mrs. Walter O’Kane. After attending Phillips Academy and the University of New Hampshire, O’Kane entered the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1934. Following his graduation, O’Kane served aboard the USS Chester and USS Pruit, before reporting to sub school at Sub base NLON.

Upon completion of his training in 1938, he served aboard the USS Argonaut until reporting for duty in fitting out USS Wahoo at Mare Island, California. He served as Executive Officer of Wahoo from her commissioning in May 1942, after which he saw her through five war patrols, until July 1943 when he was detached, (just before she was announced overdue and presumed lost in November 1943.) O’Kane was awarded the Silver Star Medal with 2 gold stars, a Letter of Commendation with accompanying medal, and Presidential Unit Citation ribbon for his outstanding service on Wahoo.

The Sinking of the Imperial Japanese Supercarrier Shinano by USS Archerfish (SS 311)


On 11 November 1944 B-29 air strikes against Tokyo were cancelled and Archerfish, originally assigned to lifesaving duties, was free to patrol the waters near Tokyo Bay. On the night of 28 November she spots what is believed to be a tanker leaving the bay. Lookouts later determine that it’s a large aircraft carrier with three destroyer escorts.

Archerfish CO, CDR Joseph F. Enright, begins a six-hour surface track on the carrier in anticipation of a submerged attack. When the carrier turned into the sub’s path six torpedos were fired. They were set for shallow running in order to increase the chances of a hit in case they ran deeper than set. Two torpedo hits were seen and four more were heard. The carrier sank in 5 hours.

Enright believed the target to be, and was credited for, a Hayataka-class carrier weighing 28,000 tons. Post war accounting identified the target as the Shinano, a 72,000 ton supercarrier, originally laid down as a Yamato-class battleship, the first of its kind. It was so secret it was being transferred from Yokusuka to Kure for final fitting out. One of the items on the list for installation were her watertight doors. Once the torpedos hit, the inexperienced crew could do nothing to save her. As of 2014, Shinano remains the the largest warship ever sunk buy a submarine. Archerfish earned the Presidential Unit Citation for this patrol.

Dec 1, 1943: Loss of the USS Capelin (SS 289)


Capelin put out on her second war patrol on 17 November 1943, in the Molucca and Celebes Seas, and was to pay particular attention to the trade routes in the vicinity of Siaoe, Sangi, Talaud, and Sarangani Islands. She was to end her patrol on 6 December.

USS Bonefish (SS 223) communicated with Capelin on 1 December 1943 in the area assigned to Capelin at that time. Bonefish warned Capelin about a convoy they had just attacked. Capelin acknowledged the message was never heard from again.

Japanese records studied after the war listed an attack by minelayer Wakataka on a supposed United States submarine on 23 November, off Kaoe Bay, Halmahera. The Japanese ship noted the attack produced oily black water columns that contained wood and cork splinters and later a raft was found. This is the only reported attack in the appropriate area at that time. Also, Japanese minefields are now known to have been placed in various positions along the north coast of Sulawesi (Celebes) in Capelin’s area, and she may have been lost because of a mine explosion. Gone without a trace with 76 crew members, Capelin remains in the list of ships lost without a known cause.

The Loss of USS CISCO (SS-290)

On 10 May 1943, the U.S. Navy commissioned USS CISCO (SS-290) at Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. Soon after, the boat set out for Darwin, Australia, arriving in the middle of September. While there, Chief Radioman Howell B. Rice became sick and was sent to the local Navy hospital. On 18 September, his boat set out on her first war patrol without him. A leak in her hydraulic system forced her to turn back for repairs, but two days later CISCO headed back out. She was never heard from again.


Medal of Honor Recipient Howard Gilmore

Howard Walter Gilmore was born in Selma, Alabama, on 29 September 1902. He enlisted in the Navy at the age of eighteen; two years later he scored high enough on the entrance examination to be accepted into the Naval Academy. He was commissioned in 1926 and sent to a battleship; in 1930 he volunteered for submarine duty. He served as executive officer of USS SHARK (SS-174), during whose shakedown cruise Gilmore and another officer had their throats slashed during a stop in Panama; although scarred, both survived. He took command of SHARK in 1941, but was transferred to the not-yet-commissioned USS GROWLER (SS-215) the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He and his new boat began their first war patrol on 29 June 1942, just three months after GROWLER joined the fleet.