From: The Dictionary of American Fighting Ships

Narwhal (SS167)

A gray and white arctic whale which averages 20 feet in length. The male has a long, twisted ivory tusk of commercial value.

(SC-1: dp. 2,730 (surf); dp. 3,960 (subm.); l. 371'; b. 33'3"; dr. 15'9"; s. 17 k.; (surf.); s. 8 k. (subm.); cpl. 88; a. 2 6", 2 .30 cal. mg., 10 21" tt.; cl. Narwhal)

Narwahl (SC-1) was laid down as V-5 by Portsmouth, Navy Yard, N.H., 10 May 1927; launched 17 December 1929; sponsored by Mrs. Charles F. Adams, wife of the Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned 15 May 1930, Lt. Comdr. John H. Brown, Jr. in command.

V-5 departed Annapolis, Md., 11 August for a cruise to the West Indies, returning to Portsmouth 11 September 1930. She trained in New England waters until 31 January 1931 when she sailed for the west coast via the, Panama Canal, arriving San Diego, California, 4 April. On 19 February 1931 V-5 was renamed Narwhal and on 1 July 1931 reclassified SS-167. After overhaul, Narwhal departed Mare Island Navy Yard 2 February 1932 for fleet exercises off Hawaii. She returned to San Diego 17 March. After patrol duty along the West Coast, the submarine got underway 12 July 1934 for a cruise with Submarine Division 12 until her arrival at San Diego 18 September. The next 3 years she operated as far north as Seattle, Washington, and as far west as Pearl Harbor, which became her home base for operations through 1941.

Consequently, Narwhal was one of five docked at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese aerial raiders struck in the early morning of 7 December 1941. Within in minutes of the first enemy bomb explosions on Ford Island, Narwhal's gunners were in action to assist in the destruction of two torpedo planes. The Japanese ignored the Pearl harbor Submarine Base, an omission they would regret, for the submarines of the Pacific Fleet launched an undersea offensive that by the spring of 1944 was strangling the lifelines of commerce to Japan itself. On her first war patrol (2 February-28 March 1942), Narwhal, Lt. Comdr. Charles W. Wilkins, USNR, in command, departed Pearl Harbor to reconnoiter Wake Island 15 through 16 February, then continued on to the Ityukyu Islands. On 28 February she made her first torpedo attack of the war, heavily damaging 6,515-ton Maju Maru. Six days later the submarine sank 1,241-ton Taki Maru in the East China Sea.

She spent, her second war patrol (28 May-13 June) in defense of Midway Atoll. As TF 16, with Enterprise (CV-6), Hornet (CV-8), and Yorktown (CV-5) the mainstay prepared to meet the Japanese attack Narwhal joined Plunger (SS-179) and Trigger (SS-237) in scouting east of Midway. The Battle of Midway, 3 to 6 June, became the first American victory of World War II, checking the Nipponese advance across the Central Pacific and eliminating the threat to Hawaii.

Narwhal's third patrol (7 July-26 August) took her close to Hokkaido to stalk Japanese shipping off the Kuriles. She claimed two small interisland freighters 24 and 28 July. On 1 August Narwhal included 2,921-ton Meiwa Maru in her kills despite aircraft bomb and depth charge retaliation. Seven days later she sank 2,559-ton Bifitku Maru. The morning of 14 August the submarine raised her periscope to discover three enemy destroyers crossing her stern in column. She resubmerged to wait it out while the destroyers, according to one of her submariners, "were running all over the ocean" dropping depth charges at her. Only slightly damaged, Narwhal departed her patrol area the next day.

On 8 September Narwhal sailed from Pearl Harbor for the west, coast, arriving Mare Island Navy Yard the 15th for overhaul. She continued on to San Diego 4 April 1943, arriving 2 days later to embark the 7th Infantry Scout Company for the invasion of Attu Attlit Island. On 18 April she set course for Alaska, arriving Dutch Harbor the 27th.

The submarine began her fourth war patrol (30 April-25 May) departing Dutch Harbor for the western Aleutians. She rendezvoused with Nautilus (SS-168) 11 May off the northern side of Attu, and the two ships, debarked Army Scouts in rubber boats for the preliminary landings in the recapture of the island, a venture successfully completed 29 May. Narwhal returned to Pearl Harbor with a stopover at Dutch Harbor 14 to 18 May.

With Comdr. Frank D Latta, USNR, in command, she again got underway for the Kuriles on her fifth war patrol (26 June-7 August). Her mission, beginning 11 July, was to create diversion by bombarding an air base on Matsuwa. Lapon (SS-260), Permit (SS-178), and Plunger (SS-179) were about to attempt an exit from the previously impenetrable Sea of Japan which they had so daringly invaded. The night of the 15th Narwhal drew so much enemy attention to her presence she was forced to dive from the shells, but she accomplished her mission: the other submarines slipped through Etorofu Strait without detection.

Narwhal made her sixth war patrol (31 August-2 October) off the Marshalls. The morning of 11 September she torpedoed and sank 4,211-ton Hokusho Maru before a Japanese escort caught up with her. After a severe depth charging, she departed for the Kwajalein Atoll area. By the end of September the submarine was enroute to Brisbane, Australia, via the Solomons.

Upon arrival, Narwhal prepared to assist in the campaign to reoccupy the Philippines begun in January 1943 when Gudgeon (SS-211) debarked six Filipinos and a ton of equipment on Negros Island. Veteran Narwhal eventually became the leading submarine in supporting the Philippine guerrilla movement with nine secret transport missions to her credit.

Narwhal was loaded down with 92 tons of ammunition and stores and a party of ten for her seventh war (23 October-22 November). She was in the Stulu Sea, off Mindanao, the night of 10 November en route to Puluan Bay when two Japanese ships astern opened fire. The night of 13 November she entered Ptiluan Bay stealthily to debark her passengers and half of her cargo while lying off the starboard side of Japanese registered Dona Jitana Maru. By midnight Narwhal was safely on her way to Nasipit, Mindanao, where she docked the 15th to unload the rest of her stores to the tune of "Anchors Aweigh" played by a grateful Filipino band. She then embarked 32 evacuees, including 8 women, 2 children, and a baby, for Darwin, Australia, and the end of her patrol.

Picking up such odd assortments of passengers and secret cargo soon became routine for Narwhal. She departed on her eighth war patrol (25 November-18 December) with the usual cargo and 11 Army operatives bound for Cabadaran, Mindanao, arriving Buttian Bay 2 December for debarking. With seven evacuees on board, Narwhal sailed for Majacalar Bay, arriving off Negros Island 3 December. Taking on 9 more people, she stood out of Alajacalar Bay 5 December. Around sunrise that same day the submarine sank 834-ton Hinteno Maru in a blaze of gunfire. On 11 December she debarked her passengers at Port Darwin, then continued on to Fremantle, Australia.

On her ninth war patrol (18 January-15 February 1944), the submarine returned to Darwin to embark observer Comdr. F. Kent Loomis and more stores. Following a nighttime transit of Surigao Strait, Narwhal, slipped west and north, made a submerged patrol off Naso Point, Panay, then headed for Pandan Bay to transfer cargo to sailing craft. With six new passengers she came off Negros Island 7 February to deposit 45 tons of supplies. Narwhal then received 28 more evacuees for the trip to Darwin.

On her tenth war patrol (16 February-20 March), Narwhal delivered more ammunition to Butuan Bay 2 March. With 28 new people on board, she departed 3 March for Tawi Tawi. That evening she damaged 560-ton river gunboat Karatsu, the captured American gunboat USS Luzon, and was heavily bombarded with depth charges by enemy escorts for her trouble. On the night of 5 March two small boats, assisted by rubber boats from Narwhal, put off for shore with cargo. Three Japanese destroyer types closed in later; she eluded them and transferred her passengers, now a total of 38, to RAN tug Chinampa 11 March before docking at Fremantle.

Narwhal, Comdr. Jack C. Titus in command, departed on her eleventh war patrol (7 May--9 June) for Alusan Bay Samar, where she landed 22 men and supplies, including electric lamps, radio parts, and flour for the priests, the night of 24 May. By 1 June the submarine was unloading 16 men and stores on the southwest coast of Mindanao. She ended this patrol at Port Darwin.

The twelfth war patrol (10 June-7 July) gave Narwhal a chance for some action. On 13 June she submerged for reconnaissance of Bula Ceram Island, a source of enemy oil. That night the submarine closed the shore and fired 56 rounds of 6-inch projectiles to destroy several gasoline storage tanks and set fires around a power house and pumping station area before she had to retreat from the salvos directed at her. Three minutes before sunset the 20th she rendezvoused with native boats to send her cargo ashore during a suspenseful nine and one-half hours. Within 30 minutes after she had completed unloading and taking on 14 evacuees, a submarine chaser was in her wake. Narwhal evaded him to do some shooting herself the next day at a Japanese sea truck and on the 22nd at an unidentified tanker. After putting her evacuees ashore at Port Darwin (29-30 June), she continued on to Fremantle.

Her thirteenth war patrol (12 August-10 September) started at Fremantle and ended at Port Darwin. The night of 30 August Narwhal surfaced in Dibut Bay on the east coast of Luzon for her usual debarking procedures, greatly speeded this time by the use of bamboo rafts built by the shore party under direction of Comdr. Charles Parsons, a liaison man in the Philippine supply and evacuation missions. Before midnight 2 September Narwhal sent a party and supplies ashore to a beach off the mouth of the Masanga River and received four evacuees in return to complete the patrol.

On her fourteenth war patrol (14 September-5 October), Narwhal deposited men and stores on Cebu, 27 September; then took off for Sairi Bay, where on the 29th she received 31 liberated prisoners-of-war rescued from the sea after Paddle (SS-263) sank several Japanese transports off Sindagan Point 6 September. Narwhal found herself in danger the afternoon of 30 September, when she submerged to avoid a Japanese antisubmarine patrol plane, her stern planes locked in a 20 degree angle. Forced to blow her main ballast to stop the steep dive Narwhal reversed direction and popped out of the water stern first just 2 minutes after she went down. Luckily the patrol plane could not maneuver fast enough to return before she again dove.

Narwhal based at Mios Woendi, Dutch New Guinea, before starting on her fifteenth and last war patrol (11 October-2 November) with Comdr. William G. Holman, USNR, in command. Friday, the 13th brought a near attack by a PBY. Once the submarine was recognized, the plane signaled "good luck" -- Narwhal and crew felt they might need it after that. The evening of 17 October she was off a Tawi Tawi beach to deliver 11 tons of food stuffs. Two days later she unloaded the rest of her cargo and 37 men at Negros Island and took on her last passengers, 26 in all, for the trip to Brisbane.

Narwhal departed Brisbane 6 January 1945 for the east coast via the Panama Canal, entering the Philadelphia Navy Yard 21 February, where she was decommissioned 23 April. She was struck from the Navy List 19 May 1945 and sold for scrap. Narwhal's two 6-inch guns are permanently enshrined at the Naval Submarine Base. New London, at Groton, Conn.

Narwhal received 15 battle stars for World War II service.

Transcribed by: 3/28/1998