Archer-Fish (SS-311) was laid down on 22 January 1943 by the Portsmouth Navy Yard. She was launched on 28 May 1943, sponsored by Miss Malvina C. Thompson, Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary. Lieutenant Commander George W. Kehl, USN, placed her in commission on 4 September 1943.

Following normal shakedown in New England waters, Archer-Fish (officially spelled out as a hyphenated name) departed that area in early November 1943 and sailed for Pearl Harbor, via the Panama Canal, arriving on 29 November.

Following voyage repairs and training, Archer-Fish departed Pearl Harbor on her first war patrol on 23 December 1943. She refueled at Midway on the 27th, then proceeded to her patrol area north of Formosa (Taiwan). She made three attacks during this patrol, but scored no kills before ending her patrol at Midway on 16 February 1944.

Her second war patrol, commencing at Midway on 16 March 1944, was uneventful, with no targets encountered. After 42 days, most spent in and around the Palaus, Archer-Fish returned to Pearl Harbor, by way of Johnson Island, on 27 April 1944.

Following refit, she departed Pearl Harbor on 28 May 1944 for her third war patrol, now under the command of William H. Wright. This patrol was conducted in the Bonin Islands, where Archer-Fishwas assigned lifeguard duty during the 4 July strikes on Iwo Jima. Rescuing one down aviator, she returned to Midway on 15 July. She was credited with sinking one 1,400 ton ship on this patrol. JANAC reduced the tonnage to 800 post war.

Following refit alongside Proteus (AS-19), and additional training, Archer-Fish set out on her fourth war patrol on 7 August 1944. Fifty-three days at sea, patrolling off Honshu, again resulted in an empty bag. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 29 September 1944.

Archer-Fish departed Pearl Harbor on 30 October 1944, now under command of Joseph F. Enright. On 9 November she arrived at Saipan, departing on 11 November following completion of voyage repairs. The primary mission of her fifth patrol was lifeguard duty for the first B-29 strikes against Tokyo.

On the evening of 28 November, Archer-Fish sighted a Japanese aircraft carrier, with four escorts, leaving Tokyo Bay. It required a six hour surface pursuit to get into attack position, at which timeArcher-Fish submerged to attack. All six bow tubes were fired, with two hits seen and four more heard at the proper time. Enright estimated the target to be a Hayataka class carrier of about 28,000 tons, and was credited with that tonnage, as it was clear that the carrier had sunk.

In fact, the victim of Archer-Fish‘s attack was the brand new Shinano, arguably the first true “super-carrier” ever built, and at 59,900 tons (standard displacement) also the largest target ever sunk by a submarine (or, quite possibly, by anything). Shinano had been laid down as a third Yamato class battleship, but converted to an aircraft carier during construction. Luck played a certain role in this spectacular sinking. Shinano wasn’t yet fully operational, and her crew was still only partly trained. At the time she was sunk, she was being moved from the Yokosuka Navy Yard, where she was built, to Kure for final fitting out. This because Kure was considered “safer” from aerial attack. Unfortunately forShinano, among the items that were to be attended to in Kure was installation of many of her watertight doors. When Archer-Fish‘s torpedoes struck, the inexperienced crew could do little to contain the flooding and the ship was doomed. (Attack Report)

Though Shinano was Archer-Fish‘s only victim on this patrol, that lone ship was enough to give her the record for tonnage sunk during a single patrol. The submarine received a Presidentila Unit Citation for this patrol, which ended at Guam on 15 December 1944.

Archer-Fish commenced her sixth war patrol from Guam on 10 January 1945. This patrol was conducted in the South China Sea area, off Hong Kong and Formosa. She was credited with damage to one ship. The patrol ended on 3 March. Stopping at Saipan and Pearl Harbor, Archer-Fish then returned to San Francisco on 13 March, for docking and overhaul at the Hunters Point Navy Yard.

Her overhaul completed, Archer-Fish was back at Pearl Harbor on 22 June 1945, whence she departed on her seventh war patrol on 10 July. This was conducted off the east coast of Honshu and the south coast of Hokkaido, where she provided lifeguard services for B-29 strikes against the Japanese home islands. She was still on station off Hokkaido when an end to hostilities was announced on 15 August. Along with 11 other subs, Archer-Fish entered Tokyo Bay on 31 August, mooring alongside Proteus near the Yokosuka Navy Yard. Following the signing of the surrender on 2 September, Archer-Fish returned to Hawaii, arriving on 12 September, where she was assigned to SubRon 1.

Post-war Service

Archer-Fish left Pearl Harbor on 2 January 1946, arriving at San Francisco on the 8th. On 13 March she proceeded to Mare Island Naval Shipyard, where she was decommissioned on 12 June and placed in reserve.

Reactivated in 1952 during the Korean War fleet buildup, Archer-Fish was recommission on 7 March and assigned to the Pacific Fleet. On 28 March, following a maneuvering room fire, Archer-Fish again returned to Mare Island for repairs. These were completed by 27 May 1952, and the boat continued her shakedown off the Pacific Coast.

By 3 July she had completed her shakedown, transited the Panama Canal, and joined the Atlantic Fleet. Attached to SubRon 12, she operated out of Key West. After three years of service with SubRon 12, Archer-Fish departed Key West on 25 April 1955, bound for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and decommissioning, which came on 21 October 1955.

In July 1957, she was again reactivated at New London, being recommissioned on 1 August. Once again she joined SubRon 12 at Key West.

In early 1960, Archer-Fish was selected for participation in Operation Sea Scan, a scientific study of marine weather conditions, water composition, ocean depths, and temperature ranges. This required the installation of special equipment, and she entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in January for modifications. At this time was redesignated as an auxialiary submarine, AGSS-311. With civilian scientists embarked, Sea Scan commenced on 18 May 1960. In all, this project would keep her busy through the end of 1964.

Following the end of Sea Scan, Archer-Fish continued to perform various research assignments in the eastern Pacific region. In early 1968 she was declared unfit for continued service and stricken from the Navy list on 1 May. On 19 October 1968, Archer-Fish was sunk as a target by a torpedo from U.S.S. Snook (SSN-592).

HISTORY FOR U.S.S. Archer-Fish
Launched:Builder:Sponsor:Commissioned:First Captain:Stricken/Lost:
5/28/1943PortsmouthMiss Malvina C Thompson9/4/1943LCDR G.W. KehlTarget 1968
No:Captain:From:Date:Duration:Score (WT):JANACReturn:
1George W. KehlPearl Harbor12/23/43531/9,0000/0Pearl Harbor
2George W. KehlPearl Harbor3/16/44420/00/0Pearl Harbor
3William H. WrightPearl Harbor5/28/44481/1,4001/800Midway
4William H. WrightMidway8/7/44530/00/0Pearl Harbor
5Joseph F. EnrightPearl Harbor10/30/44431/28,0001/59,000Guam
6Joseph F. EnrightGuam1/10/45491/1,1000/0Saipan
7Joseph F. EnrightPearl Harbor7/10/45590/00/0Off Hokkaido



Recommended Reading

Shinano: The Sinking of Japan’s Secret Supership Gallant Lady: A Biography of the USS Archerfish