The Gato-class submarines of the United States Navy (USN) proved ultra-critical to Allied victory in the Pacific against the mighty Empire of Japan. Seventy-seven boats were completed to the Gato standard and these were built from 1940 until 1944, in commission from 1943 to 1969. Some twenty were lost during service with fifty-seven ultimately seeing retirement. Six of the group went on to be preserved as floating museums or otherwise. Some of the group saw service in foreign hands including the navies of wartime enemies Italy and Japan as well as friendlies in Greece and Brazil.
USS Bluefish was one of the many boats in the class constructed for service in World War 2 (1939-1945). She was a diesel-electric attack submarine by design, relying on diesels for surface travel and electric motors/batteries for undersea work. The batteries required the vessel to surface for recharging - a common limitation of attack submarines of the day as the action presented a most vulnerable target to enemy warplanes and destroyers/sub-hunters.
USS Bluefish displaced 1,525 tons (long) when surfaced and 2,425 tons when submerged. Her length was 311.8 feet with a beam of 27.2 feet and a draught of 17 feet. Power was from 4 x General Motors model 16-248 series V16 diesel engines and 4 x General Electric motors (with reduction gears) and 2 x 126-cell Sargo batteries. This allowed for surfaced speeds up to 21 knots and submerged speeds of 9 knots. Range was out to 11,000 nautical miles, giving the boat a good reach in the vast Pacific. It could go a full two days submerged and out of sight of the enemy which maintain a complete 75-day patrol schedule overall. The hull was tested to depths of 300 feet.
USS Bluefish was laid down on June 5th, 1942 by Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut and launched on February 21st, 1943. She was commissioned on May 24th, 1943 and serve through the end of the war in August of 1945.
Internally she carried a crew of sixty with six officers and 54 enlisted personnel. Armament centered on 10 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes with six launchers facing the bow and four facing the stern. This allowed the boat to engage targets both in front and behind her without having the boat turn completely around to face them. For surfaced, close-in work, a 3" (76mm) /50 caliber gun was installed on her deck. For Anti-Aircraft (AA) protection, she carried 1 x 40mm Bofors autocannon and 1 x 20mm Oerlikon autocannon.
Well-armed, fast and designed for long endurance in deep water, Bluefish represented a formidable foe. She was ever-present in the Pacific Theater of War and participated in a total of nine war patrols with over 50,000 tons of enemy goods claimed to her name. Some of her victims included the torpedo boat IJN Kasasagi, the destroyer IJN Sanae and the seaplance carrier IJN Hayasui. In her last wartime action, she successfully engaged a Japanese submarine chaser near Sumatra. For her service in the Grand War, USS Bluefish and her crews were awarded ten Battle Stars.
After the war she was made part of the 16th Fleet and underwent repairs at Groton. She returned to operational service in 1946 but was set in reserve status during early 1947 until recommissioned in January of 1952 and added to the numbers of Submarine Division 82 as part of the Atlantic Fleet. From there she joined Submarine Division 41 in the Caribbean. The boat finally went out of commission in late 1953, was struck from the Naval Register in 1958 and sold for scrap in 1960.