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USS Halibut (SS-232)

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Launched:3 December 1941
Commissioned:10 April 1942
Fate:scrapped due to battle damage
General Characteristics
Displacement:1526 tons
Length:311 feet 8 inches
Beam:27 feet 4 inches
Draft:15 feet 3 inches
Speed:20 knots surfaced, 9 knots submerged
Complement:60 officers and men
Armament:one three- or four- or five-inch/50-caliber gun, six bow and four stern 21-inch torpedo tubes, 24 torpedoes
USS Halibut (SS-232), a Gato-class submarine, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the halibut, a large species of flatfish found on both sides of the Atlantic. Her keel was laid down by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She was launched on 3 December 1941 sponsored by Mrs. P. T. Blackburn, and commissioned on 10 April 1942 with Commander P. H. Ross in command.

Halibut completed her outfitting and shakedown cruise 23 June 1942 and departed for the Pacific, arriving Pearl Harbor on 27 June. Assigned to the Aleutian Islands area for her first patrol, she departed 9 August from Hawaii. After searching Chichagof Harbor and the waters off Kiska Island, the submarine engaged in an indecisive gunnery duel with a freighter on 23 August. Finding few targets, she terminated her patrol at Dutch Harbor on 23 September.

Her second patrol was also off the Aleutian Islands. She departed Dutch Harbor on 2 October 1942 and surfaced for a torpedo attack on what appeared to be a large freighter on 11 October. The ship, a decoy "Q-ship" equipped with concealed guns and torpedo tubes, attacked Halibut with high explosive shells and a torpedo as the submarine took radical evasive action to escape the trap. After eluding her assailant she returned to Dutch Harbor on 23 October and Pearl Harbor on 31 October 1942.

Halibut departed Pearl Harbor 22 November for her third war patrol, off the northeast coast of Japan. She began stalking a convoy the night of 9 December and early the next morning closed for the attack. A hit amidships sank Genzan Maru; swinging to starboard, Halibut put two torpedoes squarely into Shingo Maru, sinking her as well. Her success continued as Gyukozan Maru was sent to the bottom on 12 December. Halibut made two more attacks on this patrol, each time being closely pursued by escort vessel, before returning to Pearl Harbor on 15 January 1943.

The submarine sailed from Pearl Harbor again on 8 February 1943 on her fourth war patrol. Heading for the Japan-Kwajalein shipping lanes she tracked a freighter the morning of 20 February and closed to sink her that night. While northeast of Truk on 3 March she detected a large ship and attacked, but was driven off by the fire of deck guns. Halibut returned to Pearl Harbor from this patrol 30 March.

Halibut began her fifth war patrol 10 June and made her first attack 23 June. No hits were scored and the submarine was forced to wait out a severe depth charge attack. She damaged an escort aircraft carrier off Truk on 10 July, and finally returned to Midway Island on 28 July 1943.

The coast of Japan was Halibut's cruising ground on her sixth war patrol. Departing Midway Island on 20 August she sank Taibun Maru on 30 August with three bow shots. Pressing home another attack on 6 September, she was sighted but completed the approach to sink the freighter. Halibut completed this patrol on 1 September, arriving at Pearl Harbor.

Halibut sailed from Pearl Harbor on her seventh war patrol on 10 October. She made an unsuccessful attack on a convoy on 31 October, was held down temporarily by escorts, and finally caught up with the same ships on 2 November to sink Ehime Maru. She returned to Pearl Harbor 17 November.

On her eighth war patrol, beginning at Pearl Harbor on 14 December, Halibut formed a coordinated attack group with Haddock and Tullibee. Cruising in the Mariana Islands the submarine scored no hits, returning to Midway Island on 2 February 1944.

Halibut departed on her ninth war patrol 21 March. Cruising eastward of Okinawa on 12 April she sank passenger-cargo ship Taichu Maru, and fired six torpedoes to separate a convoy 27 April. Closing in on a ship separated from the group, Halibut sank Genbu Maru, then shifted her attack to coastal minelayer Kanome, sinking her also. The submarine was then forced into evasive action as some ninety depth charges were dropped close aboard. Surfacing off the northeastern shore of Kume Shima on 29 April she bombarded two warehouses and other buildings with her deck gun, and made an attack on a group of sampans with gunfire on 3 May. With men critically wounded in the gun battle she returned to Pearl Harbor on 15 May 1944. She then sailed for overhaul to San Francisco, California, from which she returned to Hawaii on 20 September 1944.

On her tenth war patrol Halibut again joined a coordinated attack group, this time with Haddock and Tuna. While proceeding to Luzon Strait, the submarines were ordered to set up scouting lines to intercept crippled units of the Japanese fleet retiring after the Battle of Cape Engano. Halibut encountered the remnants of Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa's force 25 October and attacked inflicting some damage. After pursuing other units until the following day, Halibut returned to station. The sub's next contact came on 14 November when she attacked a convoy in Luzon Strait. She was immediately attacked in turn by planes apparently using magnetic airborne detectors. A short but effective depth charge attack directed by the aircraft left Halibut severely damaged but still under control. Her crew made temporary repairs and she steamed into Saipan on 19 November. The gallant submarine received the Navy Unit Commendation for her performance on this patrol.

Halibut arrived at San Francisco, California, via Pearl Harbor on 12 December 1944. Later she sailed 16 February 1945 for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where it was found that her damage was too extensive to justify repair. She decommissioned 18 July 1945 and was sold for scrap on 10 January 1947 to Quaker Shipyard and Machinery Company of Camden, New Jersey.

Halibut received seven battle stars for World War II service. War patrols 3 through 7, 9 and 10 were designated successful.

See USS Halibut for other ships of the same name.


This article includes information collected from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.