USS Razorback


USS Razorback, a Balao-class submarine of the Sandlance variant, was built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

What does Sandlance variant mean?

Submarines, like other naval ships, are built in “classes”. Each class is named after the first ship of the class. Even though all members of a class are largely identical, as new technology is introduced, “variants” of the class occur.

For example, there are nine different variants of the “Balao” class:

  • Balao (SS 285 – 291)
  • Devilfish (SS 291 – 297)
  • Lionfish (SS 298 – 299, SS 308 – 312)
  • Moray (SS 300 – 303)
  • Seahorse (SS 304 – 307)
  • Perch (SS 313 – 352, SS 362 – 378)
  • Sandlance (SS 381 – 404)
  • Sea Owl (SS 405 – 410)
  • Spadefish (SS 411 – 416)

Sources: Christley

Her keel was laid on 09 September 1943. Razorback was constructed in Drydock #1 at the shipyard, and she was launched, along with two sister ships USS Redfish (SS-395) and USS Ronquil (SS-396), on 27 January 1944. USS Scabbardfish (SS-397) was also launched at the shipyard that day. This was the largest single-day launch of submarines in US history.

Details of Razorback's Construction

Physical Characteristics  
Overall Length: 311 Feet, 7 Inches
Maximum Beam: 27 Feet, 3 Inches
Draft: 16 Feet, 10 Inches
Surfaced Speed: 20.25 Knots
Submerged Speed: 8.75 Knots
Surfaced Range: 10,000 Nautical Miles
Submerged Range: 10 hours, 48 minutes at 2 Knots (21.75 NM)
Test Depth: 400 Feet
Crush Depth: 600 Feet
Surfaced Displacement: 1,870 Tons
Submerged Displacement: 2,391 Tons
Torpedo Tubes: 10 (21″ diameter)
Six Forward  
Four Aft  
Deck Guns: 1 – 4″/50 Mk12 Mod 44 – Forward
Changed to 2 – 5″/25 Mk13 Mod11 Guns after 3rd War Patrol  
2 20mm Single Mount  
Various small arms  
Periscopes: Two
  1 – Type 2 Attack Periscope
  1 – Type 3 Search Periscope
Diesel Engines: 4 – Fairbanks Morse
  1,350 HP each
Auxiliary Engine: 300 Kw
Electric Motors: 4 – 685 HP each
Batteries: 2 – 126 cells each
  18,600 amp-hr total capacity

She was commissioned on 03 April 1944. Her first Commanding Officer was LCDR Albert W. Bontier, USN.


During her training period, Razorback ran aground in the late evening of 23 May 1944 at Race Rock Light outside New London submarine base. Initial attempts to free her failed, and ultimately Razorback would be forced to unload gun ammunition and torpedoes from the forward torpedo room. Following a short drydocking period (27 May – 04 June), Razorback resumed her training regimen. CDR Roy S. Benson relieved LCDR Bontier as Commanding Officer on 05 June 1944. (LCDR Bontier would go on to commmand USS Seawolf (SS-197), which was probably sunk by U.S. forces on 03 October 1944.)

World War II Service

Razorback conducted five combat patrols during World War II, sinking Japanese vessels, capturing Japanese POWs and rescuing American pilots who had been shot down. At the end of WWII, she was one of only 12 submarines selected to be present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrender was signed.

Details of USS Razorback's WWII Service

Following her commissioning on 03 April, 1944, Razorback and her crew underwent an intensive period of tests, exercises, and other training. She departed New London, CT en route to the Pacific on 23 June, 1944. Stopping from 30 June to 11 July in Key West, FL to act as a target for new SONAR operators at the Fleet Sound School there, she transited the Panama Canal on 15 July, 1944. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on 04 August, Razorback underwent additional training and had the following modifications performed:

  • Replaced the 20mm gun on the after end of the bridge with a 40mm gun
  • Installed a VHF radio
  • Installed an AN/APR-1 Radar Countermeasures System (a Radar detector)
  • Replaced one RAL radio receiver with a newer RBH-1
  • Painted the submarine in standard camouflage scheme 32/3 SS-B
First War Patrol

Razorback departed for her first combat patrol on 25 August. CDR Roy Stanley Benson, USN, Razorback‘s Commanding Officer, was also in overall command of a group, or “wolf pack” of three submarines, known as the “Dog Pack”:

  • USS Razorback (SS 394)
  • USS Piranha (SS 389)
  • USS Cavalla (SS 244)

(CDR Benson would ultimately rise to the rank of Rear Admiral.)

During the first part of the patrol, the group operated as part of a larger group of submarines (known as the “Zoo”, under the tactical command of CAPT C.W. Wilkins, USN), conducting offensive reconnaissance in support of the invasion of Palau and fleet operations around the Philippines. Then, the group patrolled the areas east of Taiwan and between Taiwan and the Philippine island of Luzon.

Although neither Razorback, nor the other two submarines in the group sank any Japanese ships, it was recognized that this was due to the fact that the group was severely constrained in their operations and movements by the other operations going on in the Pacific. Razorback in particular was recognized for making a systematic collection of information about Japanese use of radar, especially radar aboard aircraft. Razorback‘s newly installed APR radar detector almost certainly prevented her from being sunk by Japanese aircraft. Razorback had bombs and/or depth charges dropped on her twice.

At the end of the patrol on 09 October, the group split up. Razorback headed to Midway, Piranha to Pearl Harbor, and Cavalla to Freemantle, Australia.

Read Razorback‘s War Patrol Report for her First War Patrol here Adobe PDF file

Razorback arrived at Midway on 19 October. CDR Benson was relieved by LCDR C. Donald Brown, USN on 21 October. During her time in Midway, a few minor alterations were performed and a week-long training period was conducted. Razorback departed for her second war patrol on 15 November, 1944

Second War Patrol

Razorback operated as part of “Roys Rangers”, a wolfpack group under the command of CDR R.M. Davenport, Commander of USS Trepang. The group consisted of:

  • USS Razorback (SS 394)
  • USS Trepang (SS 412)
  • USS Segundo (SS 398)

The group patrolled the Luzon Strait area. A total of 10 attacks were conducted on six different groups of Japanese vessels. Razorback was so aggressive in pressing her attacks that part way through her patrol, she ran low on torpedoes and returned briefly to Saipan for 24 more.

Razorback sank the following vessels:

  • Unknown Shigure-type Destroyer of approximately 1,400 tons
  • IJN Kuretake (DD-4), a Wakatake class Destroyer (1,100 tons full load displacement)
  • A large Oiler (8,000 tons)
  • A large AK (troop carrying freighter) (7,500 tons)
  • A large AK or AP (troop ship) type (5,000 tons)

Razorback shares 1/2 credit for the last vessel with Segundo, who had previously damaged it.

Razorback also damaged a medium AK (troop carrying freighter) of about 4,000 tons.

More recent evidence suggests that the attack on the Shigure-type destroyer, conducted on 05/06 December, 1944, was not actually successful. Research is ongoing.

At the end of her second patrol, Razorback headed for Guam.

Read Razorbacks War Patrol Report for her Second War Patrol here Adobe PDF file

Razorback arrived at Apra Harbor, Guam on 05 January, 1945 for a refit and overhaul. She departed on her third war patrol on 01 February, 1945.

Third War Patrol

Razorback operated as part of a group “Fulp’s Fiddlers”, consisting of:

  • USS Segundo (SS 398) (CDR J.D. Fulp, USN, Pack Commander)
  • USS Razorback (SS 394)
  • USS Sea Cat (SS 399)

The group patrolled the East China Sea. Razorback conducted two unsuccessful torpedo attacks, but sank two 85-foot long, 100-ton wooden sea trucks; a 50-ton wooden schooner; and a 100-ton, two-masted junk with her 4″ deck gun and her 40mm and 20mm guns. Four Japanese POWs were also captured.

At the end of her third patrol, Razorback stopped at Guam to discharge her prisoners, then proceeded to Pearl Harbor, HI.

Read Razorbacks War Patrol Report for her Third War Patrol here Adobe PDF file

Razorback arrived at Pearl Harbor 26 March, 1945. While the crew was given a well deserved rest, Razorback was undergoing both a normal post-patrol refit as well as having major modifications done. Some of the work done included:

  • Attempted repair of (followed by replacement of) the port propeller shaft which had begun over heating at deep submergence depths
  • Replaced 4″/50 gun forward with a 5″/25
  • Installation of a second gun foundation aft
  • Installation of a 5″/25 gun aft
  • Installation of an ST-type (range-only) periscope radar

Razorback departed on her fourth war patrol on 07 May, 1945.

The majority of this war patrol was spent on lifeguard duty very near the Japanese coast. Razorback rescued a total of five men:

  • Lt. Col. Charles E. Taylor, a P-51 pilot
  • 1st Lt. J. Z. Keseks, B-29 “MASCOT 31”
  • 2nd Lt. J. P. Duffy, B-29 “MASCOT 31”
  • 2nd Lt. C. J. Duveen, B-29 “MASCOT 31”
  • Staff Sgt A. J. Liberi, B-29 “MASCOT 31”

These men were transferred to USS Dragonet (SS 293) on 05 June, and Razorback continued her patrol.

During this patrol, Razorback saw no large vessels at all, but did see a number of Japanese aircraft and experienced a variety of new Japanese ASW tactics, including “gambit” or loitering tactics by Japanese aircraft and possibly the use of an air-dropped ASW torpedo.

At the end of her fourth war patrol, Razorback headed for Midway.

Read Razorbacks War Patrol Report for her Forth War Patrol here Adobe PDF file

Razorback arrived at Midway on 27 July, 1945. During a short refit period, the following alterations were performed:

  • Replaced 20mm gun on aft cigarette deck with a twin 20mm gun mount
  • Replaced the SD-4 air search radar with an SD-5
  • Installed a DCDI (Depth Charge Direction Indicator)
  • Installed an ice cream freezer

While Razorback was in Midway conducting underway training, GMC Valant, a crewman aboard USS Entemedor (SS 340), was washed overboard. Razorback crewmen LT (jg) W. H. Pattillo, USNR and MoMM3 D.D. Langford went into the water and rescued him, despite the state 3 seas and a nearby reef.

Razorback departed on her fifth war patrol on 22 July, 1945. This patrol was spent in the Okhotsk Sea and east of the Northern Kurile Islands.

Razorback was especially impressed with the performance of the newly installed SD-5 air search radar, which regularly gave contacts at an excess of 50 miles. Previous contact distances had been as low as 10 miles or less.

The only large vessels sighted during this patrol were Russian vessels, and Razorback was able to confirm that they were staying in their agreed upon areas. A number of these vessels were “shot” with a camera, rather than torpedoes. Razorback was able to engage and sink six wooden “sea trucks” and damage two others with her deck guns.

Razorback‘s offensive patrols were interrupted by assigned to lifeguard stations, but fortunately, her services were not needed.

Despite the declaration of a cease fire on 16 August, Razorback was fired upon by an unidentified submerged Japanese submarine on 29 August. Razorback dove to avoid the torpedo and did not return fire.

On 30 August, 1945, Razorback was assigned to the task group “Benny’s Peacemakers”, and she entered Tokyo Bay on 31 August to participate in the formal surrender ceremonies on 02 September, 1945.

Read Razorbacks War Patrol Report for her Fifth War Patrol here (4MB Adobe PDF file)Adobe PDF file

Read Razorback‘s Official Ship’s History for World War II Here (400KB Adobe PDF file)Adobe PDF file

Read a Summary of the Awards that Razorback‘s Officers and Crewmen Received Here (353KB Adobe PDF file)Adobe PDF file

Copies of Razorback's 1944 and 1945 Deck Logs

All U.S. Navy deck logs are kept at the National Archives in College, Park, MD.

They are available for researchers to examine and even make copies of, but cannot be “checked out”.

As such, the process of getting digital copies made is time-consuming. Hiring someone to do it would be prohibitively expensive (but if you would be interested in helping, please let us know).

At the present time, the following log books have been scanned:

April 1944 (Commissioning, including crew list) Adobe PDF file

May 1944 Adobe PDF file

June 1944 Adobe PDF file

July 1944 Adobe PDF file

August 1944 Adobe PDF file

September 1944 Adobe PDF file

October 1944 Adobe PDF file

November 1944 Adobe PDF file

December 1944 Adobe PDF file

January 1945 Deck Log Notes Adobe PDF file

January 1945 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

February 1945 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

March 1945 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

April 1945 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

May 1945 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

June 1945 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

Click here for a copy of Razorback‘s WWII Cruise Book

Click here for a copy of Razorback‘s Navy Day program from 1945

Post War Service

After WWII, Razorback was active in the Cold War, conducting surveillance patrols around Russian ports, photographing Russian vessels, and conducting training missions with US ships and aircraft, as well as with US Coast Guard vessels and the vessels of the Canadian, British, and other allied nations.

Copies of Razorback's 1948 Deck Logs

All U.S. Navy deck logs are kept at the National Archives in College, Park, MD.

They are available for researchers to examine and even make copies of, but cannot be “checked out”.

As such, the process of getting digital copies made is time-consuming. Hiring someone to do it would be prohibitively expensive (but if you would be interested in helping, please let us know).

At the present time, the following log books have been scanned:

January 1948 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

February 1948 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

June 1948 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

July 1948 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

August 1948 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

October 1948 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

November 1948 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

December 1948 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

Details of Razorback's Post-War Service (1946 - 1952)

After the formal surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay, Razorback returned to America, arriving in San Diego on 20 September 1945. By the end of the year, she was back at sea, arriving in Pearl Harbor on 05 January 1946 for a general overhaul which lasted until 22 April. The following modifications were performed during this overhaul:

  • Installed a Mk IV TDC (Torpedo Data Computer)
  • Installed a Mk II TBT (Target Bearing Transmitter)
  • Installed a MK 7, Mod 1 DRT (Dead Reckoning Tracer) in the Control Room
  • Installed an SV air search radar
  • Installed an AN/SPR-1 Radar Receiver
  • Installed an SCR-624-A VHF Radio
  • Installed a JT Sonar
  • Installation of a NGA Fathometer
  • Installation of a fixed dome on the QB sonar spherical sound dome
  • Installation of two 5″/25 caliber Mark 40 wet type guns
  • Installation of two 40mm mounts
  • Installation of associated gun and ammunition storage
  • Installed permanent propeller and stern plane guards
  • Modified the general alarm system
  • Modified the diving alarm system
  • Modified the submarine control announcing system
  • Modified the heat exchanger in the fresh water distiller
First “Simulated War Patrol”

After the overhaul, Razorback remained at the Submarine Base in Pearl Harbor through the rest of April. Razorback and her crew also underwent eight days of training, including two days of target approaches, but no torpedoes were fired (probably a reflection of postwar budget realities). She then departed Pearl Harbor on 13 May 1946 for what was called a “Simulated War Patrol”.

During this patrol, Razorback took photographs of Johnson Island and made an extensive photographic and periscope reconnaissance of Nauru Island. She also took soundings around Nauru Island, in order to update navigational charts (which were based on a 1921 Australian survey). Her patrol ended on 02 June 1946 in Guam.

Read Razorback’s Patrol Report for her First “Simulated War Patrol” here.

On 23 June 1947, Razorback entered the San Francisco Naval Shipyard for an overhaul. The following major alterations were performed:

  • Installation of a WFA-1 Sonar
  • Installation of an SS Radar
  • Installation of a Mk18 Mod 1 Auxiliary Gyroscope
  • Rearrangement of both the Conning Tower and the Control Room
  • Rearrangement of 5″ ammunition stowage space (reflecting the postwar shift away from submarine guns and, therefore a reduced allowance of ammunition)
Second “Simulated War Patrol”

Following the overhaul, Razorback departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor, HI, arriving on 05 November. After having other work done, Razorback and her crew underwent two weeks of pre-patrol training, firing four practice torpedoes and holding three gunnery exercises. On 28 November 1947, she departed Pearl Harbor on a wide ranging cruise, traveling to:

  • Canton Island
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Okinawa
  • Tsingtao, China
  • Midway

The stop at Canton Island was an unscheduled stop. On 02 December, MoMM2 (Motor Machinist’s Mate Second Class) E.B. Zeller, Jr complained of severe abdominal pain. The Duty Corpsman, Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class L.C. Jones diagnosed a case of appendicitis. COMSUBPAC was contacted, and Razorback requested that a plane and doctor be sent to rendezvous at Canton Island. COMSUBPAC agreed, and a plane brought a Dr. Vogel to Canton Island. After examining MoMM2 Zeller, Dr. Vogel had the petty officer transported back to Pearl Harbor.

Razorback arrived at Sydney Harbor on 15 December. The boat was open to visitors from 1300 to 1600 each day, and “a capacity crowd was present each day, despite the fact that it rained almost continually.” (Just proves that Razorback has always been a crowd pleaser. Upon her departure, the patrol report also noted that, “All hands considered Sydney an excellent liberty port.”

Razorback departed Sydney on 19 December. On Christmas Eve, the Razorback Choir, under the direction of “Mastro” LT A.W. Gillis, entertained the crew with Christmas Carols over the 1MC. A photo reconnaissance of Yap Island was attempted, but the sky was too overcast to permit taking pictures, so Razorback headed for Okinawa, arriving on 05 January 1948. Four days of ASW exercises were held, with Razorback playing the roll of hunted, a part she would play over and over again for many years.

After the exercises, there was a short time ashore, during which a softball game between the officers and crew was held. Crew defeated the Officer’s team 9-8, and Razorback headed for Tsingtao, China that afternoon.

Razorback rendezvoused with USS Charles P. Cecil (DD 835) in the area of Chalin Tao Island (about 30 miles southeast of Tsingtao) on 13 January and conducted a series of ASW exercises with her. The next day, a series of exercises with USS Begor were cancelled due to the poor weather. Exercises on the 15 were also cut short. The Patrol Report noted that, “…the weather in general very unpleasant.”

Razorback moored at Tsingtao, China from 16-18 January, then conducted a series of exercises, including ASW exercises as well as attack exercises, almost every day for the next month. Razorback also had the opportunity to fire five exercise torpedoes, all of which were recovered and returned to Razorback for re-use. The only interruption was when a case of measles was diagnosed. The infected man was isolated in the forward torpedo room until he could be transferred to the hospital ship USS Repose (AH 16) the next day. Razorback finally left Tsingtao on 15 February for Midway and then Pearl Harbor, arriving on February 28 after steaming 16,985 miles since her departure.

Read Razorback’s Patrol Report for her Second “Simulated War Patrol” here.

Third “Simulated War Patrol”

On 19 July 1949, Razorback departed Pearl Harbor on 19 July 1949 for her Third “Simulated War Patrol”. Upon arriving at Guam, Razorback provided ASW target services for both US Navy aircraft and surface ships. Two practice torpedoes were fired at USS Hewell (AKL 14) and both torpedoes were hits. Her stay in Guam was cut short so that Razorback could travel to Yokosuka, Japan to provide ASW target services for the destroyers of DESRON Five as well as for various air units.

For the next month, Razorback conducted exercises daily during the week, with short weekend stays in Yokosuka for liberty. On 19 August, Razorback made a successful approach and simulated attack on USS Manchester (CL 83), even though she was protected by eight destroyers and a Sunderland seaplane. At the end of August, Razorback shifted to Subic Bay, Philippines, to provide ASW target services for the vessels of DESDIV 32. Razorback also conducted ASW training with British units in the Yokosuka area.

According to the Patrol Report, “DESDIV 32 had gone through considerable ASW training and was ready for advanced work.” Despite this, just after her arrival,Razorback was able to slip past four DESDIV 32 destroyers, make an approach on USS St. Paul (CA 73), and simulate launching 10 torpedoes at the cruiser! After nearly a month in the Philippines, Razorback left for a scheduled four day stop in Hong Kong for liberty and recreation.

Unfortunately, the visit had to be cut short due to the approach of Typhoon Omelia, and Razorback departed for Pearl Harbor on 06 October. After a short stop at Midway, Razorback arrived back at Pearl Harbor on 21 October having steamed 16,440 miles.

During this patrol, the Razorback basketball team ran up a string of seven consecutive victories over various opponents in the Western Pacific, mostly against teams from destroyers. (Apparently, the basketball court was taken out during the GUPPY conversion.)

Read Razorback’s Patrol Report for her Third “Simulated War Patrol” here.

Read a copy of the Menu for the 1949 Christmas Party, including a complete list of all officers and crew

Fourth Simulated War Patrol

1951 Found Razorback on the East Coast, operating out of Norfolk, VA. On 30 April 1951, she departed Norfolk and began operating in an operating area in the Atlantic known as “Convex II”. For the first several days, Razorback found many merchant ships, and was the target of frequent searches by aircraft, but managed to evade all her potential aerial hunters.

Finally, on the 6th, Razorback located two destroyers, but was unable to press the attack. A P2V Neptune scored first on the 7th after surprising Razorback on the surface and conducting a successful simulated attack. It turned out that the aircraft was not attacking Razorback‘s periscope, but a fisherman’s float marker. Nevertheless, Razorback reported herself “Out of Action” in accordance with the exercise rules. Just before returning to duty, Razorback was attacked a second time by a P2V Neptune and put out of action again.

Razorback turned the tables on the 11th. She penetrated the destroyer screen around USS Palau (CVE 122) and simulated firing six torpedoes. She was able to avoid the hunting destroyers for two hours, but was finally located and successfully attacked by USS Johnson (DD 821). She then spent the remainder of the exercise unsuccessfully searching for another group to attack, but while successfully avoiding attack by any other aircraft.

Read Razorback’s Patrol Report for her Fourth “Simulated War Patrol” here.

She received the coveted Navy “E” for overall excellence in 1949.

GUPPY Conversion

Razorback was decommissioned on 05 August 1952 in order to undergo conversion and modernization under the (Greater Underwater Propulsive Power) “GUPPY” program.

Read a copy of the program from a party held in June, 1952 for Razorback’s Decommissioning, including a complete crew list.

The GUPPY program was developed by the US Navy after World War II to improve the submerged speed, maneuverability and endurance of its submarines. The modifications were made at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, where she had been built just eight years before. Many technologies had advanced in those eight short years. The world had also changed and both the technological changes and the geopolitical changes had a direct impact on submarine operations and submarine design.

Details of the Guppy Program

By 1946 the Soviet Union was already seen as the future adversary of the United States. It was estimated that the Soviet Union had 229 submarines, of which only 13 were obsolete types. It was also estimated that over the next 20 years the Soviet Navy would be able to build over 1200 new submarines. Clearly, the United States could not build enough new submarines to keep up, so existing submarines would have to be modernized.

At the end of World War II, cutting edge German submarine technology, including complete submarines, examples of snorkel technology, highly advanced torpedoes, and even sound absorbing tiles for submarine hulls had been evenly distributed between the three major allied powers (the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union). In this distribution, the United States and the Soviet Union both received 10 German submarines. In addition, American and British Naval leaders believed that advancing Soviet armies, while occupying much of Germany, had captured additional items including blueprints, prototypes and possibly even as many as 40 nearly complete submarines.

It was clear to American Naval leaders that the US submarine fleet would need to be rapidly modernized in order to keep pace with the expected advances in Russian submarine technology. The surface Navy also needed to learn how to detect, defend against, and if necessary, attack the fast, modern submarines the Soviets were building, so they needed similarly fast, modern submarines to train against.

The primary elements of the GUPPY Program were:

  • Increased battery capacity
  • Streamlined outer hull
  • Addition of a snorkel
  • Improved sensors

Increased Battery Capacity
The underwater endurance of a diesel-electric submarine is defined by the capacity of it’s batteries. The GUPPY program increased the number of battery cells in each submarine with some later boats receiving improved batteries that provided even more power per cell.

Streamlined Outer Hull
WWII submarines like Razorback were basically surface ships that could submerge, but were very slow under water (8.5 knots vs 18 knots surfaced). A submarine’s underwater speed is limited by the amount of drag created by it’s fairwater, periscopes, guns, and other deck machinery. All of these items created a great deal of drag. Reducing this drag meant that the submarine could go faster while using the same amount of power. Streamlining also had the advantage of reducing an opponent’s sonar effectiveness by 10% or more. Significant changes included:

  • Removal of deck guns
  • Removal of 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft guns
  • Rebuilding of the bridge/periscope shears structure as a streamlined “sail”
  • Capstans made retractable
  • Deck cleats made retractable
  • Deck safety rail stanchions made flush with the deck
  • All deck safety rails made removable
  • Replacement of the pointed bow and towing fairlead with a rounded bow (known as the “Guppy Bow”)

Addition of a Snorkel
The snorkel, often credited to the German Navy, was actually a Dutch invention. The Dutch Navy began experimenting with snorkels as early as 1938. When the Netherlands fell to German invasion in 1940, the invention fell in to German hands, and was being installed on German U-Boats by 1943.

The snorkel allows a submarine to run its diesel engines while submerged (down to about periscope depth), greatly increasing its underwater endurance while also greatly reducing its vulnerability to detection by radar. (A snorkeling boat was actually more vulnerable to detection by sonar, but this was considered an advantage for US submarines, since existing sonars and torpedoes, designed to detect and attack surface ships, could still be used to detect and attack a snorkeling submarine. Also, the Soviet Navy operated from a very limited number of bases, allowing US submarines to “lurk” off these bases waiting for their noisy targets to approach.)

Improved Sensors
The GUPPY program added a wide variety of sensors, including better sonars, better electronic warfare systems, and even new fire control systems in the later boats.

The GUPPY program eventually led to seven different variants:

  • Fleet Snorkel

The apparent out of order sequence is correct. Furthermore, some boats that went through an early part of the program were upgraded a second time in a later phase. For example, both GUPPY I boats (USS Odax (SS 484) and USS Pomodon (SS 486)) went through the GUPPY II program while all nine GUPPY III boats had themselves previously been through the GUPPY II program. A total of 50 submarines went through some phase of the GUPPY program.

While many of the museum submarines in the United States went through some form of the GUPPY program, Razorback is the only Balao class GUPPY IIA boat on display anywhere in the world. Furthermore, she is one of only two GUPPY submarines to have had her hull reinforced so she could act as a live target for torpedo tests, a role Razorback would fulfill regularly during her career. (The other submarine was USS Thornback (SS 418), a Tench class submarine that also served in the Turkish Navy. She is now a museum submarine in Istanbul.)

Read a copy of Razorback‘s Recommissioning Program Here Adobe PDF file

Cold War Activities and Training

Recommissioned on 08 January 1954, Razorback resumed her Cold War duties. During 1955 alone, she made over 390 dives during exercises and ASW training. In 1957 she made a surveillance patrol around the Russian port of Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia’s primary submarine port in the Pacific.

Click here to read the formerly TOP SECRET patrol report from Razorback‘s patrol off Petropavlovsk. Adobe PDF file

She also participated in testing of the Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) in 1957. ASROC was designed to give surface ships a long-range ASW capability.

Razorback was awarded a second Battle “E” on 11 August 1959.

In 1960, Razorback continued her R&D work with both the Naval Electronics Library and the Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory.

From November 1961 to February 1962, Razorback was drydocked in San Francisco for additional modifications, including the replacement of her “step-sail” (installed as part of the GUPPY program) with a larger “North Atlantic” sail (the same sail she still has today).

On 04 December, 1961, a Ship’s Party was held. The emcee was Ed Hennessey, who emceed the 1961 “Miss Universe” pagent.

Click here to see a copy of the program from the party, including a complete crew list. Adobe PDF file

On Christmas Day, 1961, Razorback, then under the command of LCDR Schoenherr, hosted a Christmas Party for “Submarine Group San Francisco”. Unfortunately, the program does not list any of the participants, but it does list some of the crew and a menu. Click here to see a copy of the program from the party.


On 11 May 1962, Razorback participated in the “SWORDFISH” nuclear weapons test. An ASROC with a nuclear depth charge warhead was fired by the destroyer Agerholmn (DD-826) at a target raft from a range of 2 nautical miles. Razorback was submerged at periscope depth 2 nautical miles from the target raft. The ASROC weapon produced a powerful underwater shock wave which visibly shook Razorback and her crew. The resulting data was used to formulate tactical doctrine for ASROC, a weapon that remained in front-line service for nearly 30 years.

Training for Vietnam

Following the “SWORDFISH” test, Razorback resumed her normal duties. She conducted ASW training with many different vessels and aircraft. In 1962, Razorback traveled to Seattle, Washington where she participated in the annual “Sea Fair”. She hosted an estimated 5,000 visitors during her stay.

In 1963, she rescued Vice Admiral Gerald F. Bogan, USN (ret) and six other men after Admiral Bogan’s yacht, Freedom II sank in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and San Diego. In 1967, Razorback rescued two US Navy crew members from a downed S-2E aircraft. Two Razorback crewmen received citations from the Secretary of the Navy for aiding in the rescue and treatment of the airmen.

On 29 June 1965, Razorback deployed to the western Pacific for seven months, receiving the Vietnam Service Medal and visiting many ports of call before returning to the United States in early 1966.

In May 1967, Razorback recorded her 6,000th dive.

On 02 July 1969, Razorback won the Navy “E” for a third time.

During this period Razorback was also participating in the Vietnam War. She received the Vietnam Service medal four times and the Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation twice. She received five battle stars for her Vietnam-era patrols. Many of the details of her Vietnam-era service remain classified.

Click here to read a copy of the “Welcome Aboard” Booklet from CDR Biggar’s time as Commanding Officer (10 May 1968 – December 1969)

Razorback's Deck Logs from 1970

All U.S. Navy deck logs are kept at the National Archives in College, Park, MD.

They are available for researchers to examine and even make copies of, but cannot be “checked out”.

As such, the process of getting digital copies made is time-consuming and expensive, requiring that an AIMM staff member travel to the Washington, DC area in person. There are also the expenses of hotel rooms and food. Hiring someone to do it would be prohibitively expensive (but if you would be interested in helping, please let us know).

At the present time, the following log books have been scanned:


January 1968 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

February 1968 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

March 1968 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

April 1968 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

May 1968 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

June 1968 Deck Log Adobe PDF file


January 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

February 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

March 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

April 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

May 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

June 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

July 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

August 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

September 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

October 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

November 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

December 1969 Deck Log Adobe PDF file

Read the Conning Tower Emergency Bills Here

Decommissioning and Transfer to the Turkish Navy

On 30 November 1970, USS Razorback was decommissioned and transferred to the Turkish Navy.

Click here to read the Decommissioning Booklet Adobe PDF file

She was recommissioned as TCG Muratreis (S 336) on 17 December 1971. Muratreis served in the 1st Submarine Squadron, based in Karadeniz Eregil on the Black Sea. On 13 August 1993, she was transferred to the 2nd Submarine Squadron, sailing out of Gölcük and Karadeniz Eregil.

During her service with the Turkish Navy, Muratreis served as a front-line, combatant submarine, making at least 14 patrol rotations and 7 long-range deployments. She also participated in the NATO-sponsored exercise LINKED SEA-95, conducted in the Atlantic in June 1995.

TCG Muratreis was decommissioned on 08 August, 2001.

On 25 March 2004, the Turkish Navy officially transferred Muratreis to the “USS Razorback / TCG Muratreis Association”, which is now the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum Foundation.

Click here to see the transfer booklet. Adobe PDF file

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