The Champion Submarine-Killing Submarine of World War Two


Pre-War History

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Courtesy of John Parker

During the planning stages, its was named Acoupa. But on September 24, 1942, prior to her keel laying on December 27, 1942, she was renamed Batfish after a "small, pediculate fish resembling the stingray, which sits on the bottom, supported by its fins, waiting for its prey which consists of almost everything coming within its reach." Although the physical comparison was unflattering, the implication of the expected performance came through loud and clear. Batfish was constructed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine, launched May 5, 1943 under the sponsorship of Mrs. Nellie W. Fortier, and commissioned on August 21, 1943.

Launching of the Batfish at Portsmouth, ME, May 5, 1943


Upon commissioning on August 21, 1942, Lieutenant Commander Wayne R. Merrill, USN, assumed command of Batfish. The crew stood rigidly proud in salute as the United States flag was hoisted above the Batfish's stern. Then Captain Merrill read his orders. Shakedown training began the next day.

Post-commissioning shakedown was held around Portsmouth, New Hampshire. During the month of training exercises included in the shakedown cruise, about 66% of the crew had to be qualified in submarines and also learn the war time procedure of submarines.  Diving, gunnery and seamanship drills were held daily.  In mid-September, Batfish sailed for Newport, Rhode Island for torpedo exercises and then on to New London, Connecticut, arriving on September 26, where gunnery drills took priority. While in New London,  Batfish had to pass the rigid operational readiness inspection

and prove to Commander Submarines Atlantic that the submarine was ready to go to war. On October 9, Batfish passed her exams and went back to New London for minor repairs and to take on fuel, provisions, and a full load of live ammunition. On October 14, Batfish was pronounced ready for battle and embarked towards Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal.

En route, on October 31, a periscope of a German U-boat was sighted. Batfish avoided the submarine and in the process, fired one stern torpedo. The torpedo missed and the U- boat was never heard or sighted. On November 8, Batfish entered the Bay of Panama and began the journey westward across the Pacific to Pearl Harbor. On November 19, the rendezvous point off Oahu was reached and Batfish was met by her escort, YMS 286 which led Batfish into Pearl Harbor. At 1 p.m. on December 11, 1943, Batfish backed from the dock, departing on her first war patrol.


Crew Training off Long Island, August, 1943


Physical Properties (Balao-class Submarines)

Class Balao
Length (ft-in) 311-9
Beam (ft-in) 27-3
Draft (ft-in) 15-3
Pressure Hull Thickness (lb/sq in) 35-35.7
Surfaced Displacement (tons) 1525
Submerged Displacement (tons) 2415
Complement 10/70-71
Surface plant  4 X 1350 BHP (brake horse power)
Submerged plant 4 X 685 HP
Auxiliary plant 1 X 300 Kw
Battery (cells) 2 X 126 Sargo (Battery Type)
Capacity (amp-hr) 2 X 9300 (war)
Surface speed (kt) 20.25
Surface endurance (nm/kt) 11000 / 10
Submerged speed (kt) 8.75
Submerged endurance 48 hr at 2 kt
Test Depth (ft) 400
Tubes (bow) 6 X 21 in
Tubes (aft) 4 X 21 in
Torpedoes 24

Weights (tons)

Hull 697.06
Hull Fittings 149.15
Machinery 448.65
Engines (dry) 52.43
Batteries 192
Motors 24.30
Armament 41.05
Ammunition 40.88
Equipment and Outfit 54.19
Stores and Fresh Water 37.99
Complement 6.47
MBT Capacity 615.72
Lead Ballast 87
Standard Displacement 1545.29
Fuel Oil 175.94 / 300.91
Lubricating Oil 19.33 / 22.63
Design Displacement 1804.1


Main Engines No. / Mfg.: 4 / Fairbanks, Morse
Type: Opposed Piston
Cylinders: 9
Model: 38D8 1/8
BHP: 1535
Main Generators No. / Mfg: 4 / Elliott
KW: 1100
Auxiliary Engine No. / Mfg.: 1 / General Motors
Type: ?
Auxiliary Generators No. / Mfg.: 1 / ?
KW: 300
Main Motors No. / Mfg.: 4 / Elliott
HP: 1375
Reduction Gears Mfg.: Westinghouse
Ratio: ?
Arrangement E5

E=Engine, M=Motor, G=Generator, R=Reduction Gear

Storage Batteries No.: 2 X 126
Mfg.: Gould Storage Battery Co.
Model: OWTX49B
Propulsion Controls Westinghouse
Total Shaft HP Surface: 5400
Submerged: 2740
- Alden, The Fleet Submarine in the U.S. Navy: A Design and Construction History
- Friedman, U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History