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USS Narwhal (SS-167)

Diesel-Electric Attack Submarine

Naval Warfare / Ships

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Image from the United States Navy; Released to the Public Domain.

USS Narwhal SS-167 was introduced for service in 1930 but managed a complete career through World War 2 - eventually being broken up and sold off.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 3/16/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The United States Navy (USN) continued its interest in attack submarine platforms well after World War 1 had ended in November of 1918. USS Narwhal (SS-167), the second boat to bear that name, became the lead ship of the small V-5 (SC-1) class to emerged in the late-1920s / early 1930s. She was built by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard of Kittery, Maine and saw her keel laid down on May 10th, 1927. The boat was launched on December 17th, 1928 and the vessel was formally commissioned on May 15th, 1930.

Design, Internals and Armament
At this point in history, it appeared that the major threat to United States interests, particularly in the Pacific region, was the Empire of Japan whose expansion would soon lead the Americans into World War 2. As such, it was decided that the USN required long-ranged boats that went far beyond what the earlier designs offered. The new boats - USS Narwhal and USS Nautilus - carried 2 x BuEng (MAN) 10-cylinder, 4-cycle direct-drive diesel engines of 2,350 horsepower (each) paired with 2 x BuEng (MAN) 6-cylinder, 4-cycle auxiliary diesel engines of 450 horsepower (each), the latter used to drive the Westinghouse electrical generators which, themselves, produced 800 horsepower. 2 x 120-cell Exide ULS37 battery banks were carried. Two propeller shafts were in play.

The boat could make headway at 14 knots when surfaced (trialed as fast as 17 knots) and about 8 knots when submerged. Range was out to 9,380 nautical miles when traveling at 10 knots. It could operate for up to 10 hours at 5 knots steady. The hull was tested down to depths of 300 feet.

Aboard was a crew of 89 personnel including nine officers, 10 petty officers and 70 enlisted sailors. As built, the boat exhibited an overall length of 349 feet, a beam of 33.3 feet and a draught of 16.11 feet. Armament was 6 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes with four being bow-facing and the remaining pair facing the stern. Twenty-four reloads were carried. For surfaced work, the boat was further armed with 2 x 6" (152mm) /53 caliber Mark XII Mod 2 deck guns, one mounted forward and one aft of the conning tower.

Service and War Patrols
USS Narwhal was used to train her new crews in 1930 off the New England coast and transited the Panama Canal to San Diego waters in early 1931. Following an overhaul, she conducted various operations and exercises concentrated along the American West Coast before being homeported at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She resided there on the morning of the Japanese Attack - December 7th, 1941 - that began the American entry into World War 2.

Her first war patrol took part in February-March 1942 and she damaged Maju Maru with her first attack and managed to claim Taki Maru soon thereafter. She conducted a total of three war patrols from February 1942 into April 1943. Also in 1942 the boat was re-engined with 4 x General Motors Winton Model 16-278A 16-cylinder diesel-electric engines of 1,600 horsepower each. Fairbanks-Morse reduction gears were also added. The crew complement increased to 97.

Her 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th war patrols spanned April 1943 until December 1943 and were followed by war patrols 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th from January 1944 until July 1944. Her final outings were war patrols 13th, 14th, and 15th and lasted from August 1944 until May 1945.

Post-War Career
During her career, the boat was awarded 15 total Battle Stars for service in World War 2 as well as the American Defense Service Medal with FLEET clasp, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War 2 Victory Medal. Before the end, she became one of the most decorated fighting boats of the entire United States Navy.

Narwhal was formally decommissioned on April 23rd, 1945 and struck from the Naval Register that May 19th. Her hull was broken up on November 16th, 1945 and the remains sold for scrapping. Her two 6" deck guns were, however, saved and placed on display at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.

The USS Narwhal name was resurrected once more with the nuclear submarine SSN-671 in 1969.


Decommissioned, Out-of-Service
89 Personnel
Ship Class [ V-5 (Narwhal)-class ]
Ships-in-Class [ 2 ] Ship Names: USS Narwhal (SS-167); USS Nautilus (SS-168)
National flag of United States United States (retired)
- Blue Water Operations
- Fleet Support
- Hunter
- Direct-Attack
349 ft (106.38 m)
Width / Beam:
33.3 ft (10.15 m)
Height / Draught:
16.11 ft (4.91 m)
Displacement (Surface):
2,770 tons
Displacement (Submerged):
4,000 tons
2 x BuEng / MAN direct-drive diesel engines developing 2,350 horsepower each; 2 x BuEng / MAN auxiliary diesel generators developing 400 horsepower each; 2 x 120-cell Exide ULS37 battery pack; 2 x Westinghouse electric motors generating 800 horsepower each; 2 x Shafts.
Speed (Surface):
14 kts (16 mph)
Speed (Submerged):
8 kts (9.21 miles)
9,385 nm (10,800 miles; 17,381 km)
6 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes (4 bow-facing; 2 stern-facing); 24 x Total torpedo reloads.
2 x 6" (152mm) /53 caliber Mark XII Mod. 2 deck guns.

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