USS Parche (SSN 683) History

USS Parche (SSN 683) underway USS Parche (SSN 683) Patch
  Parche fish

USS Parche (SSN 683) was the second U.S. Navy ship to bear the name of the small, four-eyed butterfly fish known as the Parche (chaetodon capistratus). The Balao class boat USS Parche (SS 384) was the first.  Butterfly fishes are found among tropical reefs around the world but are concentrated in the Indo-Pacific oceanic region. The Parche is known for its uncanny ability to swim in and around coral heads and reefs as the fish is able to find its way through the most intricate passages by swimming on its side or upside down.

SSN 683 was the 34th submarine of the SSN-637 / Sturgeon fast attack class and one of the later "stretch hull" variants of that group as built. The keel of the second Parche was laid December 10th, 1970 at Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries, Pascagoula, Mississippi. On January 13th, 1973 the wife of  Rear Admiral Phillip A. Beshany smashed the traditional bottle of champagne across the bow as she slid into the water for the first time. On August 17th, 1974 Parche was commissioned with Commander R. N. Charles in command. The boat was also assigned the naval radio call sign that would identify Parche for the rest of her years: "NEZW".

SSN 683 commissioning - Red Ramage

SSN 683 launch

 

The torch is passed. Former USS Parche (SS 384) CO VADM (ret) Lawson "Red" Ramage at the commissioning ceremony of USS Parche (SSN 683).
Launching of USS Parche (SSN 683) at Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula MS on 1/13/73
The Atlantic Fleet Years: 1974 - 1976
After extensive sea trials Parche joined the Atlantic Submarine force as a member of Submarine Squadron Four, stationed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1974. In the fall of 1975 Parche joined the Sixth Fleet in a six month operation patrolling the Mediterranean sea which included visits to Naples, Taranto, La Spezia, and La Maddalena, Italy.

In August 1976, Commander John H. Maurer, Jr. assumed command of the Parche. Commander Maurer is the son of John H. Maurer Sr. the former Commander of the Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC). The change of command ceremony was held on Pier November at the Charleston Naval Shipyard with the Submarine Tender USS Orion AS-18 as a backdrop. The next month Parche sailed out of the Cooper river from Charleston into the Atlantic Ocean for the last time - bound for the Pacific Ocean.

USS Parche (SSN 683) underway in the Atlantic

 

USS Parche (SSN 683) underway on the Cooper River in Charleston.
Parche in the Atlantic.

 

Mare Island Years: 1976 - 1994

On October 16th, 1976, Parche steamed into the Isthmus of Panama and then transited through the Panama Canal. After a short rest and swim call at Lake Gatun, the boat proceeded west through the Culebra Cut, and over the great Continental Divide to the mighty Pacific Ocean. After a three day liberty call in San Diego, California, Parche sailed into the San Francisco Bay on October 30th where she finally arrived at her new home port, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California. Here she began her new career with Submarine Development Group One (SDG-1). SDG-1 was established by the Chief of Naval Operations in 1967 as the operational focal point for all Navy deep submergence matters. Parche would now be tasked to undertake complex and highly classified "Ocean
CSDG-1 Logo CSDG-1 Engineering" operations. To support these new operational requirements, the 683 underwent the first of a series of modifications that would alter her appearance from her Sturgeon class counterparts. The most prominent of these was the addition of a "DSRV Simulator" mounted on deck aft near the engine room hatch. Captain "Black Jack" Maurer would serve as Parche's CO for the four year period ending in October 1980 during which she changed from the Atlantic to Pacific Fleets, underwent conversion at Mare Island, and then successfully executed her first Ocean Engineering assignments.

During the years she spent operating out of Mare Island, Parche conducted nine deployments for which she was awarded three Navy Unit Commendations and five Presidential Unit Citations. She had four Commanding Officers after Commander Maurer during this period. CDR Peter J. Graef was CO of Parche from October 1980 to December 1984. During his command, Parche conducted four deployments including a record setting 124 day operation in 1982. He was followed by Commander Richard A. Buchanan who was in command from December 1984 to May 1988. The boat completed two missions under CDR. Buchanan. One of these is purportedly described in the 1999 book Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew. Parche began an extensive refit in 1987 during which she would receive a 100-foot hull extension to the forward half of the submarine. This extension was expected to significantly impact her ship handling characteristics in a negative manner – so it was determined that larger fairwater planes were necessary to help control her depth. A pair of under ice capable 688 class fairwater planes that provided 50% more planes surface were mounted in a position higher up on the sail than normal.  The much larger hydraulic rams needed for the 688 planes demanded a larger sail and so a new sail was also added. Captain Miles B. Wachendorf relieved as CO in May 1988. He drove completion of the unprecedented modifications, sea trials and two subsequent missions. CDR Bruce E. Smith became Parche's new CO in December 1993. Under his command, Parche made two deployments and changed homeport from Mare Island, California to the Bangor Submarine Base in Washington. This was necessitated by the mandated closure of the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Parche departed Mare Island for the final time on 8/19/94.

SSN 683 passing under GG Bridge

SSN 683 on Napa River

683 leaving MINSY for last time

Parche outbound from Mare Island Naval Shipyard on the Napa River in the 80s. Note the "bustle", a step-like structure that was added to the aft end of the sail to support the Ocean Engineering mission - as well as the large DSRV simulator aft. It's August 19, 1994 and Parche is departing Mare Island for the last time. She is embarking on a mission that will culminate 90+ days later in her arrival at a new homeport - the Bangor Submarine Base in Washington. Shipyard worker's cars lined the waterfront and honked a forlorn "so long" as the 683 sailed away.

Bangor / Bremerton Years: 1994 - 2004

 

Parche operated out of the Marginal Wharf on the Bangor Base for the rest of her career while also spending significant periods at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. She went on to earn four more Presidential Unit Citations and seven more Navy Unit Citations. COs during this era included CDR Albert R. Hochevar (November 1995 - December 1997), CDR Mark R. Myers (December 1997 - July 2000), CDR Mark L. Gorenflo (July 2000 - September 2001), and CDR Charles A. Richard (September 2001 - October 2004). The boat transitioned to Submarine Development Squadron 5 during this period.

Photo to Right: Parche in the Hood Canal returning to the Bangor Submarine Base in the 90s. Note the raised feature forward of the sail that is reminiscent of an SSBN's missile deck - that is part of the 100 foot Ocean Engineering hull extension added during the 1987-1991 overhaul. The hump-like feature aft by the rudder is a sonar dome.

USS Parche was deactivated with great ceremony on October 20, 2004. Command was passed to CDR William A. Guerrero on that date and he would shepherd the boat and its nuclear power plant through the early phases of the submarine recycling program until the final actual decommissioning on 7/18/2005. At the deactivation, Parche was recognized as the most decorated naval vessel in U.S. history with 9 Presidential Unit Citations, 10 Navy Unit Citations and 13 Navy Expeditionary Medals. Her sail is preserved at the Puget Sound Navy Museum in Bremerton, WA.

683 - Hood Canal
683 in Straits of Juan De Fuca

"I send greetings to those gathered for the decommissioning of Parche (SSN-683). The Parche is the second United States vessel to bear the name of the French butterfly fish known for its remarkable navigation abilities. Like her famous World War II namesake, the Parche has earned a honored place in our nation's maritime history.


From the Cold War to the ongoing global war on terrorism, the Parche's achievements and resourcefulness have helped ensure our country's security and earned it the distinction of our Navy's most decorated submarine. The many crewmembers who have served aboard the Parche can take great pride in their contributions to our Navy and our nation.


As Parche lowers her colors after more than 30 years of faithful service, I salute her current officers and her crew for their hard work and commitment to excellence. I remember all of those who have served with courage, honor, commitment and dedication aboard this fine submarine through the years.


We also recognize the veterans of your predecessor, the Parche (SS-384), as you gather for your reunion. Decommissioning may be the end of a vessel's service, but the pride and tradition of service to America remain in the hearts of crewmembers and friends of Parche forever.


Laura joins me in sending our best wishes on this special occasion. May God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America."


Signed, George W. Bush,
Oct. 18, 2004.

This page last updated on August 22, 2010

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