History of the USS Darter (SS 576)
On October 20, 1956, thirteen years after the original Darter (SS 227) was commissioned, the new Darter (SS 576), build by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics, Groton, Conn., was commissioned.
The second Darter was built to go deeper and faster than her World War II namesake. She was built with sophisticated acoustic, electronics and fire control equipment to detect, classify and destroy enemy submarine and surface vessels.
From her construction through the 1970’s Darter continually underwent modification and conversion in an attempt to make her performance more compatible to the newer submarines as they were placed in service.
Because of fiscal constrictions and the fast that support requirements for further modifications outgrew the space available within the confines of the ship, no major improvements were made after the min 1970’s.
Darter remained, however a very capable submarine and formidable foe for the various ASW forces that she has faced, as she has consistently and recently demonstrated in a wide spectrum of services, exercises and special operations.
The most dramatic modification effort was during an overhaul in 1966 when Darter was cut in half by the Charleston Navel Shipyard. The cut was made at the forward end of the engine room and a 16 ½-foot section, referred to as the “plug” was added.
This extra hull section was in preparation for the planned fast attack conversion, which was to take place during the next scheduled overhaul.
The new hull section allowed room for the new fresh water tanks and storage location for spare parts. During this same overhaul, the main engines were replaced with more reliable engines.
The ship also received a new better battery, higher capacity distilling plants and more reliable high-pressure air compressors.
The ship also got a complete subsafe package, which included an emergency main ballast tank blow system. Various communications ad crypto equipment improvements were also made.
After commissioning Darter was home ported in New London. Her menu of operations includes torpedo firings, fleet exercises, NATO exercises and Springboard operations in the Caribbean Sea.
In 1959 Darter received a regular overhaul at the Navy shipyard in Portsmouth, NH, and changed home ports to Charleston in support of FBM submarines refresher training, providing services to ASW forces supporting the fleet in training exercises in the Caribbean and in the Key West local operating areas, serving as platform for various CNO projects and deploying to the Mediterranean in 1963 and 1967.
While in Charleston she was also used as one of the submarines for training PCO classes as well as for certifying special sonar equipment on SSNs.
In 1970 Darter once again changed homeport, this time from Charleston to Pascagoula MS, where she underwent another shipyard overhaul. In 1971 Darter changed homeports to San Diego. While in San Diego she supported various fleet ASW exercises, COMPTUEXs and a deployment to the western Pacific in 1971 where she operated with units of the Seventh Fleet in the Gulf of Tonkin on Yankee Station.
Darter was overhauls at hunter’s Point Navel Shipyard, San Francisco, in 1973 and after the overhaul once again deployed to the Western Pacific. She made another deployment to WestPac in 1975 and entered Mare Island Navel Shipyard in Vallejo for a regular overhaul in 1976.
After that overhaul she conducted local operations in support of fleet training and deployment for WestPac again in 1978.
In 1979 Darter once again shifted home ports. This time she moved to Sasebo, Japan. Sasebo is located on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.
Darter arrived in Sasebo on May 8, 1979 and a week later she put out to work again. During her years home ported overseas she was involved in a multitude of operations. She has conducted joint operations with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. Republic of Korea Navy, Royal Thai Navy, Royal Malaysian Navy, Australian Navy and U.S. Seventh Fleet.
She was a perennial participant in all the major fleet exercises held in the Western Pacific. Darter has been a veteran as a submarine platform for special warfare exercises conducted with the U.S. Navy SEALS, Recon Marine Units and the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Darter was the first U.S. submarine to visit several ports in the Western Pacific, including Sogwipo on the southern shore of the island of Chejudo, Republic of Korea; Patong Beach on the island of Phuket, Thailand; Cebu City, Republic of the Philippines, and Lomont and Penang, Malaysia.
Darter was also the first submarine to conduct a Tactical Readiness Exercise in Guam.
On August 18, 1989 Dater left Sasebo for the last time, enroute to Pearl Harbor for her deactivation and decommissioning. Before she left the Western Pacific, Darter achieved a milestone. Between Subic Bay and Hong Kong she conducted dive number 4000.
Dater’s last dive was conducted on September 26 in Hawaiian waters with members of the Bowfin Memorial association aboard for the occasion.
In her long career Darter had collected seven Battle
“E” Awards and numerous departmental excellence awards. She had been a
Navy Award nominee for food service excellence for her last three years.
Blueback Darter Grayback
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