SHIP NOTES: (Gentile)
Name: TARPON (SS-175) Type: Submarine
Date Sunk: 8/26/1957 Cause: Foundered under tow to the salvage yard
Date Launched: 9/4/1935 Armament: One 4" gun/ Six 21" torpedo tubes
/2 .50 caliber machine guns/2 .30 caliber machine gunes
Size (ft.): 298 x 25 x 15 Tonnage: 1500 tons (surface)
1990 tons (submerged)
Propulsion: 4 diesel engines/4 electric motors
(19.5k surfaced/ 8.25k submerged)
Location N34° 45.195'/W75° 46.025'
Notes: There seems to be some conflict in the sources about what "class" the Tarpon belonged to: Porpoise (2) or Shark (8) class, the crew complement (50 or 73), and whether the deck gun was a 3" or 4";

Tarpon on patrol, 1937 (6)
The second TARPON (SS-175) was laid down on 22 December 1933 at Groton, Conn., by the Electric Boat Co.; launched on 4 September 1935, sponsored by Miss Eleanore Katherine Roosevelt, daughter of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Henry L. Roosevelt; and commissioned on 12 March 1936, Lt. Leo L. Pace in command.

TARPON operated out of San Diego and Pearl Harbor with Submarine Division (SubDiv) 13 for several years and was then assigned to SubDiv 14. In October 1939, SubDiv 14 was transferred to the Philippines, augmenting the six old S-boats at Manila. All submarines there were then reorganized into Submarine Squadron 5. In October 1941, SubDivs 15 and 16 were transferred from Pearl Harbor to Manila, increasing the Asiatic force to 29 submarines. They were divided into five divisions, and TARPON was assigned to SubDiv 203.

Two days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, 18 submarines departed the Philippines to begin their first war patrol. TARPON was assigned an area off southeastern Luzon. Since all the ships that she definitely identified as Japanese presented unfavorable firing angles, the submarine ended her patrol on 11 January 1942 at Darwin, Australia, without having fired a torpedo.

Tarpon at Boston Navy Yard circa late-1945; note "victims row" on the conning tower above the "5" (8) Tarpon service patch (8)
TARPON got underway on 25 January for her second patrol which took her to the Moluccas. On the 30th, she sighted a convoy; but, since the enemy ships were well escorted, the submarine abandoned the chase. On 1 February, TARPON fired a spread of four torpedoes at a freighter. One hit. She then fired two more, and both hit the target. Her victim was apparently sinking when the submarine left the scene of the attack, but postwar analysis of Japanese records did not confirm the kill. On 11 February, while investigating a surface contact, TARPON was illuminated by the enemy ship's searchlight. The submarine submerged and went deep but was severely jolted by four depth charges that knocked out her bow planes, rudder angle indicator, and port annunciator. On the night of 23 and 24 February, TARPON ran aground while attempting to navigate Boling Strait, west of Flores Island. Jettisoning ammunition, fresh water, fuel, and torpedoes failed to lighten the ship enough for her to back off. A native boat then took an officer ashore on the island of Adunara, later returning to the submarine with the only white man on the island--a Dutch missionary, Pastor H. von Den Rulst. He informed the submarine's commanding officer, Lt. Comdr. Lewis Wallace, that the next high tide would occur between 1600 and 1800. His warning that Japanese planes had been over the island during each of the past four days caused the crew a bit of uneasiness until flood tide. Then, with three engines backing, the submarine slid off the bottom. She returned to Fremantle on 5 March.

TARPON's third patrol began on 28 March and ended at Pearl Harbor on 17 May with no contacts except a hospital ship. Her next mission, which took her north of Oahu, lasted only 10 days, from 30 May to 9 June; but the submarine contacted no enemy shipping. She was then routed back to San Francisco for an overhaul which was completed on 30 September.

On 22 October, TARPON stood out of Pearl Harbor to begin her fifth war patrol which took her to waters north of Bougainville. She sighted many fishing boats which were not worthy of a torpedo and terminated the patrol at Midway on 10 December 1942.
Tarpon - Sept. 1942 - Mare Island Naval Yard, California (6)
TARPON then returned to Pearl Harbor for a refit and began her next patrol from there on 10 January 1943. Her assigned area was in Japanese home waters, south of Honshu. At 2130 on 1 February, approximately 27 miles south of Mikurashima, the submarine fired four torpedoes at a ship and scored one hit. A follow-up attack with two torpedoes broke the 10,935-ton passenger-cargo ship FUSHIMA MARU in two. Four days later, TARPON began patrolling the sea lanes leading to Truk. On 8 February, she made radar contact on a large, unidentified ship. She fired a spread of four torpedoes, and all hit the target. The submarine was forced to go deep by escorts and could not watch the 16,975 ton transport sink. The victim was the TATSUTA MARU, bound for Truk with a load of soldiers. TARPON made no further contacts before returning to Midway on 25 February.

TARPON's seventh patrol, conducted from 29 March to 15 May, produced no ship contacts; but the submarine did bombard the radio station at Taroa with her deck gun until shelling from Japanese batteries ashore prompted her to withdraw from the area.

On 30 July, TARPON again headed for Japanese home waters. On 16 August, she sighted a Japanese task force which included an escort aircraft carrier of the OTAKA (TAIYO) class, but its high speed prohibited an attack. On the 21st, the submarine contacted two large, escorted, cargo ships. She fired a spread of three torpedoes at each and damaged both targets. Seven days later, TARPON damaged another freighter as it was leaving Mikura Shima. On 4 September, she sank a patrol ship with all hands and then returned to Midway on 8 September.

TARPON conducted her ninth war patrol off the coast of Honshu from 1 October to 3 November. On the night of 16 October, she was patrolling the approaches to Yokohama when she sighted a ship which she tentatively identified as a large auxiliary. The submarine tracked the target until 0156 the next morning when she attacked it with four torpedoes which stopped it dead in the water. However, it soon got underway again and headed straight for TARPON. The submarine submerged, went under the ship, and attacked the target from the other side with three more torpedoes which produced one hit in the stern. The enemy still did not sink, so TARPON fired again with a torpedo which struck the target in the same place as the first. The vessel exploded and disappeared. Postwar examination of enemy records revealed that the victim was the German commerce raider MICHEL (Shiff-28) which had been preying on Allied shipping in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. MICHEL was the first German raider sunk by a United States submarine in the Pacific.

Tarpon - Stern View - Sept. 1942
Mare Island Naval Yard, California (6)
Tarpon - Bow View - Sept. 1942
Mare Island Naval Yard, California (6)

Four days later, TARPON contacted an aircraft carrier and a destroyer. She made a submerged approach and fired four torpedoes at the carrier. However, both ships speeded up and eluded the deadly missiles. On the morning of 23 October, the submarine made radar contact on two ships and fired five torpedoes at the larger target. All apparently passed under the freighter. The submarine returned to Pearl Harbor on 3 November.

TARPON's next war patrol, which lasted from 4 December 1943 to 12 January 1944, took her to the Marshall Islands. Besides photographing the various atolls--her primary mission--she fired two torpedoes at an inter-island tanker, but both missed. From 19 June to 8 August, TARPON performed lifeguard duty in the Truk area, but made no rescues. On 14 July, she fired three torpedoes at what was thought to be an inter-island freighter. All missed, and the ship turned out to be a disguised antisubmarine ship. TARPON went deep to evade the depth charges and cleared the area. On the 25th, she made radar contact on a small convoy and fired three torpedoes at the largest ship. All missed, and the submarine closed to engage with her deck guns. After the second shot, the gun jammed, and only the machine guns continued firing. TARPON withdrew to clear the gun and then returned to the attack. She inflicted considerable damage on the enemy ship before she was outgunned and forced to break off the engagement. TARPON's final war patrol, from 31 August to 14 October, consisted of lifeguard duty in the Truk area. When she returned to Pearl Harbor, she was ordered to the east coast of the United States. The submarine departed Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1944, and arrived at New London, Conn., on 17 January 1945. After operations on the east coast, TARPON was decommissioned at Boston on 15 November 1945. Early in 1947, the submarine was scheduled for duty as a Naval Reserve training ship. TARPON left Boston under tow on 28 March and arrived at New Orleans on 9 April and was placed in service there on the 17th. She served as a training submarine in the 8th Naval District until placed out of service and struck from the Navy list on 5 September 1956. She was later sunk in deep water, probably as a target, southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., on 26 August 1957. TARPON received seven battle stars for World War II service. [TARPON foundered while under tow to the scrap yard.

Tarpon underway, 1937 (6) Tarpon - Sept. 1942 - Mare Island Naval Yard, California (6)

Diving Depths: 130-140 ft.
Current: None to strong; generally appears to run from stern to bow
Visibility: Generally in excess of 60 feet
Summer Temperature: mid to high 70s
Points of Interest: It's a submarine!
Fish/Animal Life: The Tarpon was once known for the large number of sandtigers that used live in the waters surrounding the wreck. Those haven't been seen in over 15 years now, but the odd sandtiger o r two will occasionally show up. Be on the lookout for the very large southern stingrays that seem to be always cruising the wreck, particularly near the bow end. I have also spotted loggerhead turtles on the wreck. [Note: In 2004, the sandtiger sharks have made a return to the wreck.]
Description: This wreck either fascinates you (because it is a submarine) or bores you to death ("a sewer pipe on the bottom of the ocean"). In either case, the Tarpon caused much excitement when it was first discovered. When and who discovered it is the subject of much furor as there are at least two competing claims of "first dives" in two published books. I vote for anonymous! Anyway, the subs pressure hull is intact and lies on its keel, with only a slight list. The wreck is relatively small and can be covered easily in one dive. The conning tower has been pulled off/fallen and now lies in the sand on the port side of the wreck. The extreme bow point has been broken off and lies bent at about a 90 degree angle to the rest of the wreck. For the properly trained, the pressure hull can be penetrated at several points. As with other wrecks in this part of NC waters, the Tarpon often gets covered with a green algae until the water warms sufficiently in the summer.

Copyright © 1993 - 2004 by Paul M. Hudy
Photo composite of the pressure hull from the stern to just aft of the conning tower
The bow diving planes Diver over the pressure hull
Sandtiger over the pressure hull Stern/Rudder Section
Wreckage, Stern Stern Hatchway
Conning tower pressure hull remains - on port side Forward loading hatch - looking towards bow

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