Keel Laid: 18 April; 1949 at Portsmouth Navel Shipyard,
Ports mouth, N.H.
Launched: 19 June 1951
Commissioned: 25 October 1951

Commanding Officers

OCT 1951- MAY 1953
MAY 1953- APR 1955
APR 1955- MAY 1957
MAY 1957-DEC 1958
DEC 1958- APR 1961
APR 1961- JUL 1963
JUL 1963- SEP 1963
SEP-1963- AUG 1965
AUG 1965-MAY 1967
MAY 1967-AUG 1969
AUG 1969- JUL 1971
JUL 1971- JUL 1973
JUL 1973- JUL 1975
JUL 1975- JUL 1977
JUL 1977- JUL 1979
JUL 1979- MAR 1980

The Diesel Boat Named Tang

    The diesel submarine first recognized as offensive predators during World War I, the gray shapes stalked the enemy over the high seas. By the close of World War II, they had wreaked havoc with their deadly stings in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
    On Feb. 8, 1980 the oldest diesel-electric submarine in the Navy and the last operational one in the Atlantic Fleet, USS Tang (SS 563), was decommissioned and the famous name retired from the Navy's list of ships.

    However, unlike the dinosaurs whose fossilized bones are their epitaph, the diesel boats' sea-battered hulls won't be their epitaph. Instead, the submariners who served in them will be. In Tang's case, the submariners are those who served in two boats bearing the name. The first was USS Tang (SS 306), now lying 180 feel below the surface in the Straits of Formosa. Most of its gallant crew perished when an erratic torpedo from its own tubes sunk the boat shortly before midnight on Oct. 24, 1944, during a daring surface attack on a Japanese convoy. Seven years later on October 25, 1951, the second USS Tang (SS 563) was commissioned and was the first of the modern fast attack submarines and surrogate parent of the U.S. Navy's nuclear power submarine force.

    Both submarines have left indelible records for future submariners to follow, to recall the fading, silent warriors of the deep. The SS 306 served only one year before its untimely loss but etched into the annals of naval history a record unmatched.

    By 1948, the Navy's submarine force saw the development of a new hybrid submarine. The U.S. diesel boat and German U-boat yielded the first fast attack submarine USS Tang
    (SS 563). From its initial planning, the new Tangintroduced the fast attack concept to the submarine community with its streamlined hull, integrated snorkel system, and increased speed and depth. The SS 563's design incorporated the total submerged operation concept from the U.S. Navy's World War II submarine experience as well as the submarine experience of our enemies.

    At the SS 563's commissioning, seven years after its namesake's sinking, a passage in the program by W. R. Anderson, the executive officer, interlocked the soul of both boats. "We pay tribute in assuming duties on the new Tang to our valored comrades, most of who lost their lives on Oct. 24, 1944. Fate cut down your fighting submarine at the very hour you deserved the greatest laurels of victory. We cannot replace you, rather, we hope that we shall capture some of your skill, some of your devotion to duty and country, and some of your gallantry. We shall endeavor to be a credit to your memory and we shall strive to justify our affiliation with the name you and your heroic commanding officer have enscrolled in the history of fighting ships of the Navy.... "

    Thus began the 30-year career of a submarine that provided shipbuilders with the pattern for the first eight U.S. nuclear powered submarines of the Nautilus, Seawolf, and Skate class. Tang outlasted four of those submarines before being decommissioned.

    The Tang quickly established itself as a submarine capable of meeting operational commitments while remaining flexible. Even a fire in the pumproom didn't prevent the crew from setting a diving record on their first deep dive. After the initial sea trials and while in the midst of its shake-down cruise, Tang's submariners showed how flexible they could be by making an unexpected transit from Panama to Pearl Harbor. The crew of 563 was pretty proud of going from Panama to Pearl Harbor without any major problems. Tang continued to answer all bells from its Hawaiian home port and conducted the full range of multifaceted submarine operations for 20 years. During those years, its submariners completed 11 Western Pacific deployments, 18 special missions including the initial polar exploration for the Nautilus' Trans-Polar voyage, and four Vietnam patrols. Tang earned six battleship efficiency "Es," four ASW "As," and four engineering "Es." The last engineering "E" was won in 1979 after 30 years' service, and almost four Years out of overhaul. In addition, the SS 563 served briefly as the flagship of the Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force. As Tang matured, advanced technology brought vast sophistication to submarine warfare. Tang constantly incorporated the improvements into its hull including replacing the original 'pancake style' engines with the present three Fairbanks-Morse engines. It also underwent extensive sail modification and modernization and two 'hull stretches' to provide space for an extensive sonar, electronic and ventilation modernization. The 'hull stretches were engineering marvels in ship overhauling as the boat was severed in half, pulled apart, and new sections dropped into place. Tang measured more than 292 feet in length and displaced more than 2,000 tons, making it 600 tons heavier and more than 22 feet longer than the boat that slid into the New Hampshire waters in 1951.

    In 1972, Tang 's crew found their boat and themselves in a new home port San Diego, and with a new mission: antisubmarine warfare (ASW) research and training. The new job brought with it a new designation "AGSS" for the 563. Under a heavy operational tempo, Tang dedicated itself to ASW training and several special CNO research and development projects for the next six years. But in 1978, Tang shifted home ports once again. This time it went to New London, Conn., where the 563 was redesignated SS" and became the only operational diesel submarine in the Atlantic Fleet and was once again heavily used in ASW training. With more than 5,000 dives, Tang's 'twilight cruise' had been anything but slack. For two years, SS 563 and its 79-man crew have lived day-to-day under a constantly changing operational schedule and an unknown future.

    Once Tang retired from the U.S. Navy, it began a new career with the Turkish Navy as the First modern class U.S. submarine in their navy. The main significance of Tang's retirement is that it is the first ship of the U.S, Navy's modern-designed submarine force, and it marks the end of the diesel submarine era for the U.S. Navy." For the past crew members of 563, Tang's retirement marked the disappearance of the diesel boat. On Tang, everybody was primarily a diesel boat submariner first and their job specialty second."

    The slogan "Diesel Boats Forever" seems dated now, but the diehard diesel submariners won't let it die.

    Nevertheless, the era of- diesel-electric submarines has drawn to a close. Only their contributions in war and peace and the men who served on them are their legacy as the nuclear-powered submarine has emerged as the future of the U.S. Navy's submarine force.

    But, even so, they were sired by a diesel boat called Tang.

Excerts from: April 1980 ALL HANDS article by JO1 James R. Giust

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