May 8

Saturday Ship cover: USS Finback (SS-230)

Saturday, May 8, 2010 12:01 AM


Finback received 13 battle stars for World War II service, and is credited with having sunk 59,383 tons of enemy shipping.

For more about the Finback, click here.

  • Capt Lawrence B. Brennan, USN Ret.

    Finback is a famous WW II submarine with a remarkable wartime record. Moreover, the cover is postmarked on board USS Falcon, an early submarine rescue ship which also had a remarkable service history. The habit at that time was to have covers postmarked on board other ships for keel layings and launchings while the current practice is to obtain a shoreside postmark for the city near the building year for these event. After WWI she was involved in minesweeping in the North Atlantic. She also participated in some of the well-publicized salvage efforts
    S-51, Squalus, and O-9.

    The third Falcon was launched 7 September 1918 by Gas Engine and Power Co., and C. L. Seabury Co., Morris Heights, N.Y.; sponsored by Mrs. W. J. Parslow; and commissioned 12 November 1918, Lieutenant B. E. Rigg in command. She was reclassified ASR-2 on 12 September 1929.

    From December 1918 to May 1919, Falcon served on temporary duty in the 4th Naval District as a lightship. After towing targets and various craft along the east coast, an occupation with salvage duty which was to be her major employment for many years, she sailed from New York 8 August 1919 for Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland. For 2 months she aided in clearing the North Sea of the vast number of mines ‘laid there in World War I, returning to Charleston, S.C., 28 November 1919.

    Falcon made a second voyage to European waters between March and August 1920, visiting Rosyth, Scotland, and Brest, France, and returning by way of the Azores with a captured German submarine in tow for the Canal Zone. Back at Hampton Roads 18 October 1920, she returned to towing, salvage, and transport duty along the east coast. After conducting salvage operations on S-5 (SS-110) through the summer of 1921, she was assigned permanently to submarine salvage work, based at New London. She continued to perform occasional towing duty, and from time to time sailed to the Caribbean on both salvage and towing duty.

    In 1925, Falcon joined the Control Force for operations in the Canal Zone, along the west coast, and in the Hawaiian Islands. She returned to home waters in September, and began her part in the salvage operations on S-51 (SS-162), in which she joined that fall and the next spring. After the submarine was raised through determined and ingenious efforts, it was Falcon who towed her to New York in July 1926, providing air pressure for the pontoons supporting the submarine, as well as her compartments.

    Acting as tender as well as salvage ship for submarines, Falcon accompanied them to fleet exercises in waters from Maine to the Canal Zone, and conducted many operations to develop rescue techniques, as well as training divers. She stood by during deep submergence runs and other tests of new submarines, and played an important role in raising Squalus (SS-192) in the summer of 1939, and in the rescue operations on O-9 (SS-70) in June 1940.

    Throughout World War II, aging but still able, Falcon sailed out of New London and Portsmouth, N.H., on salvage, towing, and experimental operations. When at New London, she usually served as flagship for Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet. Her only deployment from New England waters during the war came between July and October 1943, when she conducted diving operations and laid moorings in the anchorage at Argentia, Newfoundland. One of her most important activities during the war was training divers, search, salvage, and rescue workers to man newer submarine rescue ships. Falcon was decommissioned at Boston 18 June 1946, and sold 12 March 1947.

  • Thanks so much CAPT Brennan! Great insights as always! Thanks again! Only 2 more days until the next installment!!

  • Chris Waymire

    My father, Chief Torpedoman Walter C. Waymire served on the USS Finback during WW II. He ofter told me stories about life on the sub during the war. Many of the crew of the Finback and he remained close friends for the remainder of his life. He particularly enjoyed the sub vet reunions that he attended until his death in 1995.