book cover
Cover Page




Aircraft Carriers






Torpedo Boats

Liberty Ships

Foreign Warships

Warships Associated With
World War II in the Pacific



Balao class

USS Bowfin
USS Bowfin, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
(Photo by Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association, 1984)

Name:USS Bowfin (SS-287)
Location:11 Arizona Memorial Drive, Honolulu, Hawaii
Owner:Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association
Condition:Excellent, unaltered

Displacement:1,525 tons (surface) / 2,415 tons (submerged)
Length:312 feet
Width:27 feet
Machinery:Diesel-Electric, General Motors/General Electric
Fuel Oil Capacity:118,000 gallons
Maximum Speed:21 knots (surface) / 10 knots (submerged)
Cruising Range:22,000 miles
Maximum Depth:400+ feet
Armament:Ten 21" torpedo tubes (6 forward, 4 aft), Twenty-four torpedos total (Mark 14 or Mark 18s used), one 5"/25 caliber deck gun, plus various combinations of antiaircraft guns.
Crew:63 enlisted, 7 officers

Builder:Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Launched:December 7, 1942
Commissioned:May 1, 1943


USS Bowfin (SS 236) was launched at Portsmouth, New Hampshire on December 7, 1942, and was commissioned there on May 1, 1943. She is a fleet type submarine of the Balao class. The pressure hull of USS Bowfin is reinforced with high tensile steel to enable her to operate at depths in excess of 400 feet. Since the maximum depth setting of Japanese depth charges at the beginning of the war was only 300 feet this extra margin of safety represented an improvement of the Balao class over the previously designed Gato class of fleet submarines. [1] USS Bowfin has an exterior coat of haze gray paint on the surface that would normally be seen fron a side view. Surfaces that would be seen from an above or aerial view are painted black. This particular paint scheme was common in World War II submarines as a means of camouflage: the side view of light gray blended with the horizon while the aerial view of black blended in with the dark ocean and may even have appeared as a whale in the water to enemy aircraft. [2]

The superstructure of the boat has several antennae and periscope shears as well as two antiaircraft gun emplacements mounted on the bridge portion. A dual-purpose 5"/25 caliber gun is mounted aft of the superstructure on the main deck. There are two hatches on the main deck that give visitors access to the interior of the boat. A 35' walkway provides access to the boat from the shore line. [3]

USS Bowfin is in excellent condition and retains her World War II integrity.

Role of the Submarine in World War II

In the conflict against Japan in World War II, the role and importance of the submarine forces of the United States cannot be overestimated. American submarines sank more than 600,000 tons of enemy warships and more than 5,000,000 tons of merchant shipping, thus destroying much of Japan's ocean commerce. This was accomplished by a force that never numbered more than two percent of naval personnel engaged in the war. The American submarine war against Japan created a blockade that denied her the oil, iron ore, food, and other raw materials she needed to continue to fight. By 1945 this submarine war made it all but impossible for any Japanese ship to sail the ocean. Without this commerce and the raw materials it supplied to her war effort, Japan found it impossible to continue the war outside of the homeland. [4]

USS Bowfin represents U.S. submarine forces that fought against Japan in World War II for the following reasons:

  1. USS Bowfin is credited with sinking 16 enemy vessels for a total of 67,882 tons. She ranks 17th in tonnage sunk and 15th in number of ships sunk for all World War II American submarines. USS Bowfin received the Presidential Unit Citation for her second war patrol, the Navy Unit Commendation for her sixth war patrol, and eight battle stars for her World War II service. Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz and Admiral William F. Halsey boarded USS Bowfin at Pearl Harbor to present her Presidential Unit Citation after her second war patrol.

  2. USS Bowfin took aboard Rear Adm. Ralph W. Christie, Commander of the U. S. Submarine Force, Southwest Pacific for part of her third war patrol in January 1944. Admiral Christie had twice previously requested permission to go out to sea on a war patrol. He was refused permission by higher authorities who feared the consequences of losing an officer of Christie's rank to the Japanese. Admiral Christie decided to take matters into his own hands and met USS Bowfin when she came in for fuel and torpedoes and made his war patrol. He only reported his decision after USS Bowfin returned to port. Admiral Christie thus became the only U.S. Navy Flag officer to have been on board a submarine during war patrol.

  3. USS Bowfin is the only World War II submarine now at Pearl Harbor. Although USS Bowfin operated primarily out of Australia during her wartime career she did sortie from Pearl Harbor for some of her war patrols and she did use the submarine repair facilities there during the war. USS Bowfin represents the role of Pearl Harbor in the submarine war against Japan.

  4. USS Bowfin is in excellent condition and retains her World War II integrity.


1. Edwin P. Hoyt, Bowfin (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1983), pp. 6-7.

2. Harvey Gray, "National Register of Historic Places Inventory USS Bowfin" Honolulu, Hawaii: Pacific Fleet Memorial Submarine Association, 1982).

3. Ibid.,

4. Drew Middleton, Submarine--The Ultimate Navy Weapon-Its Past, Present, and Future (Chicago, Illinois: Playboy Press, 1976), pp. 109-12.

Edwin P. Hoyt, Submarine at War--The History of the American Silent Service (New York: Stein and Day, 1983), pp. 297-98.

Richard H. O'Kane, Clear the Bridge (New York: Bantam Books, 1981), pp. 465-67.


Alden, John D. The Fleet Submarine in the U.S. Navy--A Design and Construction History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institution Press, 1979.

Blair, Clay Jr. Silent Victory--The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1975.

Gray, Harvey. National Register of Historic Places Inventory USS Bowfin." Honolulu, Hawaii: Pacific Fleet Memorial Association, 1982.

Hoyt, Edwin P. Bowfin. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1983.

Hoyt, Edwin P. Submarines at War--The History of the American Silent Service. New York: Stein and Day, 1983.

Middleton, Drew. Submarine--The Ultimate Naval Weapon-Its Past, Present, and Future. Chicago, Illinois: Playboy Press, 1976.

O'Kane, Richard. Clear the Bridge. New York: Bantam Books, 1981.

Roscoe, Theodore. United States Submarine Operations in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute, 1965.


USS Bowfin USS Bowfin USS Bowfin

USS Bowfin USS Bowfin USS Bowfin

(click on the above photographs for a more detailed view)

USS Pampanito Continue


Last Modified: Fri, Aug 25 2000 12:00:00 pm PDT

ParkNet Home