The Balao-class of diesel-electric submarines serving the United States Navy (USN) during World War 2 (1939-1945) became one of the more important contributors to the war being fought under the waves. One-hundred twenty boats of the class were completed during the span of 1942 to 1946 and these were in commission into the mid-1970s with the USN and other global naval forces before the end. One-hundred nine of the class were ultimately retired (and scrapped) while eight were preserved. Eleven were lost in service.
USS Clamagore (SS-343) was one of the group and laid down on March 16th, 1944 by Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut. Launched on February 25th, 1945, she was commissioned on June 28th, 1945 following her trials. However, with the war in Europe having drawn to a close and the Japanese surrender of August 1945, Clamagore was destined to never see combat service in World War 2. Her first post was in Key West which began her official service tenure and her early work centered on various actions in Caribbean waters.
Her profile was conventional with a tall sail over midships. Dive planes were fitted forward near the bow. Her dimensions included a length of 312 feet, a beam of 27 feet and a draught of 17 feet. Displacement was 1,550 tons when surfaced and 2,460 tons when submerged. Power stemmed from 4 x General motors Model 16-278A V16 diesel engines for surface travel and 4 x General Electric motors for undersea travel. This arrangement drove power to 2 x shafts at the stern.
Internally the crew complement numbered 80 personnel including 10 officers and 70 enlisted. The vessel could stay underwater for some 48 hours and held an endurance of 75 days - useful for long patrol sorties. Range was out to 11,000 nautical miles at 20 knots surfaced and submerged speeds reached nearly 9 knots. The test depth was 400 feet.
Armament-wise, Clamagore was completed with 10 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes with six of these facing forward and four of these facing aft. A total of 24 torpedoes were carried. To counter surface threats she was also fielded with 1 x 5" (127mm) /25 caliber deck gun and 40mm Bofors and 20mm Oerlikon guns for close-in defense against incoming enemy aircraft.
USS Clamagore proved valuable during the ensuing Cold War decades, a conflict between the Soviet Union and the West. With the establishment of NATO, a combined military force for western nations, Clamagore saw renewed life and took part in exercises in the North Atlantic and conducted various tours along the American East Coast.
From late 1947 to mid-1948, USS Clamagore was slated for conversion to the new "GUPPY II" standard - the "Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program" was devised by the USN to increase undersea performance, including endurance and maneuverability, of its boat force. Much was learned from the capture of a pair of Nazi German Type XXI U-boats and this knowledge was pressed into existing American submarine designs. As a whole new class of submarine design was out of the question, it was decided to simply convert existing types like Clamagore. The modifications were begun with the GUPPY I program and ended with the GUPPY III program. Clamagore was part of both GUPPY II and GUPPY III conversion programs.
Following GUPPY II, Clamagore displaced 1,900 tons when surfaced and 2,480 tons when submerged. Her speeds when surfaced / submerged increased to 18 knots and 9 knots, respectively with operational ranges out to 15,000 nautical miles (surfaced). All of her deck gun armament were removed though she retained her ten torpedo tubes. A snorkel was also added during GUPPY II as was the Mk 106 torpedo Fire Control System (FCS). The work was completed at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
The GUPPY III work was begun in 1962 and changes to the boat included a 15-foot extension of her hull and installation of passive ranging sonar (BQG-4 PUFFS). This added three fin-like protrusions along her dorsal spine. In her GUPPY III guise, Clamagore's displacement became 2,007 tons surfaced and 2,490 tons submerged. Surfaced speed became 17 knots with 14.5 knots achieved when submerged. Endurance dropped to 36 hours (submerged). Her sensor suite included the BQS-4 active search sonar, the BQR-2B passive search sonar and the BQG-4 passive attack sonar fits.
While twenty-four boats were used in the GUPPY II conversion program, just nine made up the GUPPY III program. The GUPPY III work on Clamagore was completed in February of 1963 and she joined Submarine Squadron 2 based out of Groton.
USS Clamagore finished out her tenure as a surveillance boat and was decommissioned on June 12th, 1973 after a respectable thirty year career. She was struck from the Naval Register on June 27th, 1975 and preserved as a museum ship, stationed at Patriot's Point in Charleston, South Carolina from May 1981 on. Once there, she joined the World War 2 aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10) and the destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724). She stands as the only preserved GUPPY III submarine in the United States but her condition is rated as quite poor - facing the threat of becoming an underwater reef if repairs to her hull are not made.
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