Launched 25 August 1941 at Portsmouth Navy Yard, the SS-230 U.S.S. Finback was placed in commission on the last day of January 1941, with Lieutenant Commander Jesse L. Hull commanding.

Finback departed Pearl Harbor on 31 May 1942, joining the large submarine force that participated in the Battle of Midway. She then returned to Pearl to reprovision and departed on her first war patrol on 25 June. Patrolling in the Aleutians, she encountered a pair of Japanese destroyers. Finback attacked, but was driven down, suffering a heavy counter attack before escaping. After reconnoitering Vega Bay, on Kiska, and conducting survey operations at Tanaga Bay, Finbackended her first patrol at Dutch Harbor before returning to Pearl Harbor for refit.

Completing her refit, Finback departed Pearl Harbor on 23 September 1942, patrolling off Formosa (Taiwan). She sank one freighter from a four-ship convoy on 14 October. Japanese destroyers prevented a continued attack on the remaining ships. On 18 October she damaged a large freighter, then sank another on 20 October. The final encounter of Finback‘s second war patrol was a surface gun action with a large sampan, which was sunk on 3 November.

Finback‘s third war patrol commenced on 16 December 1942. Part of this patrol was spent as an escort for a carrier task force, during which time she was required to remain covert and not make any attacks that would reveal her presence. On 17 January 1943 she attacked a 200-ton patrol boat, leaving it abandoned and sinking. She was credited with the sinking during the war, but JANAC disallowed it postwar. She concluded her patrol at Midway, where she underwent another refit. At this time Hull was relieved as commanding officer by John A. Tyree, Jr.

Tyree’s first patrol as commanding officer involved a long, frustrating pursuit of a convoy. He was able to attack, but the escorts drove Finback deep, where the Japanese commanders did their best to disprove pre-war American myths of ineffective Japanese anti-submarine capability. After escaping from the severe attack, Finback found a beached freighter near Wake. Eluding both aircraft and a Japanese patrol boat, Finback managed to put a torpedo in the beached ship, completing her destruction. She received credit for half of the 10,672-ton ship, sharing the credit with Tunny.

Finback spent most of her fifth war patrol off Formosa, and patrolling the shipping lanes between the Japanese home islands and the Marshalls. During this patrol, she sank three Japanese vessels, for a total of 13,000 tons. (Wartime credit was four ship and 23,200 tons.) She concluded her patrol at Fremantle, Australia, departing on 18 July 1943 on her sixth war patrol, which also resulted in a three-ship bag.

Finback‘s seventh war patrol netted at 10,000-ton tanker, sunk in a surface attack on 1 January 1944. She shot up and sunk a fishing trawler on 30 January, inflicting heavy damage on another the next day. Official credits included only the tanker.

Her eighth war patrol, which would be Tyree’s last in command, took Finback to Truk. During most of this patrol she was involved in lifeguard duties during carrier attacks on the Carolines. An attack on a convoy on 12 April brought no results.

James L. Jordan came aboard as commanding officer for Finback‘s ninth war patrol. Once again, this was mostly spent on lifeguard duty. this was Jordan’s only patrol in Finback. The submarine ended her patrol at Majuro on 21 July. When she departed on her tenth war patrol on 16 August, Robert R. Williams, Jr., who would command her on her remaining patrols, was on the bridge.

Finback‘s tenth war patrol was the most historically significant, though no one aboard would be aware of it for many years. Assigned to lifeguard duty in the Bonins, she rescued a total of five downed pilots. One of them, rescued on 2 September 1944 after four hours in a rubber raft, was Lieutenant (JG) George Bush, who would be elected President in 1988. Later in the patrol she sank two small freighters.

Her eleventh war patrol was again spent on lifeguard duty in the Bonins. She sank one freighter on 16 December, concluding her patrol at Midway on the 24th. Total wartime credit was 5,000 tons, but JANAC reduced this to 2,100 after the war.

Finback found no targets during her twelfth and final war patrol in the East China Sea. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 25 March for a complete overhaul.

Finback sailed for New London on 29 August 1945, by which time only a few days remained in the war. She would be homeported there, mostly as a training boat at the Submarine School, until she was decommissioned and placed in reserve on 21 April 1950. Finback was scrapped in 1959.

Launched:Builder:Sponsor:Commissioned:First Captain:Stricken/Lost:
11/25/41PortsmouthMrs A.E. Watson1/31/42LCDR J. L. Hull1959
No:Captain:From:Date:Duration:Score (WT):JANACReturn:
1Jesse L. HullPearl6/25/42480/00/0Dutch Harbor
2Jesse L. HullPearl9/23/42582/14,1003/22,000Pearl
3Jesse L. HullPearl12/16/42521/2000/0Midway
4John A. Tyree, Jr.Midway2/27/4344½/5,300½/2,500Pearl
5John A. Tyree, Jr.Pearl5/43444/23,2003/13,000Fremantle
6John A. Tyree, Jr.Fremantle7/43563/17,1003/11,000Pearl
7John A. Tyree, Jr.Pearl12/43581/10,2001/10,000Pearl
8John A. Tyree, Jr.Pearl3/6/44550/00/0Pearl
9James L. JordanPearl5/30/44500/00/0Majuro
10Robert R. Williams, Jr.Majuro8/16/44502/1,9002/1,390Pearl
11Robert R. Williams, Jr.Pearl11/44501/5,0001/2,100Midway
12Robert R. Williams, Jr.Midway1/20/45620/00/0Pearl


USS Finback Memorabilia: