|History of the USS Parche|
The picture above of the USS Parche is the second United States ship to bear the name of the small, gorgeously colored, four-eyed butterfly fish, the chaetodon capistratus. Butterfly fishes are found among tropical reefs around the world but are concentrated in the Indo-Pacific oceanic region. Butterfly fishes are deep-bodied and thin from side to side, with a single dorsal fin and a small mouth with tiny, bristle like teeth. The butterfly fish mates for life and therefore you will often see two of them.
The four-eye gets its name from the large, dark spot on the rear portion of the body. This spot is surrounded by a brilliant white ring. This spot acts as a false eye. A black, vertical bar on the head runs down the true eye, making it nondescript. This may result in a predator confusing the back end of the fish for the front end. The four-eye's first instinct when threatened is to flee, putting the false eye spot closer to the predator than the head. Most predators aim for the eyes, and this false eye spot tricks the predator into thinking that the four-eye will flee tail first. When escape is not possible, the four-eye will sometimes turn to face its aggressor, head lowered and spines fully erect, like a bull about to charge. This may serve to intimidate the other animal or may remind the predator that the butterfly is much too spiny to make a tasty meal. Butterfly fishes usually frequent shallow inshore waters, where they feed on a variety of crustaceans and on coral polyps. The Parche is known for itís uncanny ability for swimming in and around coral heads and reefs. The fish is able to find itís way through the most intricate passages by swimming on its side or upside down.
The first USS Parche, the SS-384, was built by the Portsmouth, New Hampshire Navy Yard. Her keel was laid on the 9th of April 1943 and on the 24th of July, Miss Betty Russell smashed the traditional bottle of champagne across the bow as she slid into the water for the first time. Miss Russell is the daughter of the U.S. District Judge Robert Lee Russell, formerly Judge Advocate General of the Navy. Parche was later commissioned on November 20th, 1943 with Commander Lawson P. Ramage commanding. One of the most highly decorated ships of the famous World War II Pacific Submarine Force, she made six war patrols, earning five battle stars and two Presidential Unit Citation awards.
During the Parche's second war patrol, she engaged in a predawn attack on a Japanese convoy on July 31, 1944. During this daring night surface action Parche worked her way in inside two escorts and began an approach on a medium AK at 0354. The target slid by about 200 yards away and then turned to avoid two torpedoes Parche had fired at her. That move effectively blocked an escort who had sneaked in behind her and also opened up an opportunity for shots at two tankers and the AK. A stern shot took care of the cargo carrier and four bow tubes knocked out a tanker. CDR Ramage ordered "Right-Full Rudder" to bring the stern tubes to bear on the second oiler and fired three torpedoes. One missed ahead of the ship but the other two fish hit the forward section slowing down the tanker but not stopping her completely.
The escorts opened up with deck guns, machineguns and flares firing in all directions. The convoy started to mill about smartly with Parche in the middle. Suddenly a medium sized merchant-man with a sizeable superstructure came in sight. The torpedo reload crews forward and aft reloaded tubes as fast as they could and Parche fired two tubes as soon as the outer doors were opened. The two torpedoes broke the merchant-mans back, which sent her down within a couple of minutes.
With the merchant-man out of the way Parche came back after the first tanker to finish her off. Parche crossed her track astern at only 200 yards. At 500 yards the tanker opened up on Parche with everything she had, but her trim down by the bow kept her from depressing her guns enough to do any good. The small arms fire was peppering the bridge enough that Ramage sent all hands below except the quartermaster, who stuck to the after TBT until he had the set-up. At 800 yards Parche fired three torpedoes from the stern tubes at the tanker. All hit the tanker with terrific explosions effectively silencing the gunfire from that quarter. With five torpedoes in her the big tanker gave and went down leaving only a small oil fire.
The two escorts on the port quarter were now concentrating their machine gun fire on Parche. Ramage was about to come right to put them astern and head for the prize of the evening, a huge transport, when she spotted a ship coming in sharp on the starboard bow apparently intent on ramming. Ordering a full bell, Ramage sent the boat shooting across in front of the on-rushing enemy, then halfway across its track he ordered "Right-Full Rudder" swinging right the stern of the boat out of its path. The Japanese were screaming like a bunch of wild pigs as Parche barely missed being rammed by less than 50 feet. All hands exchanged mutual cheers and jeers.
Parche, now boxed in on both sides by several small craft and the big transport dead ahead had no alternative but to fire straight down the transports throat. The first fish started off to the right, so Ramage checked fire, spotted on, and fired two more. These were right in the groove and both hit the transport stopping her cold. Closing in on her starboard bow, the Parche swung hard left and fired one stern shot at 800 yards for a bullís eye.
Stopping to take account of the situation, Ramage counted eight ships still visible on her RADAR screen. The bewildered escorts were still busy firing weapons in the darkness at Parche and at each other. The big transport was stopped and down by the bow, but showed no further signs of going down. Just as Parche started back to deliver the felling blow, the transport suddenly raised its stern into the air and went straight down, head first into the cold depths of the ocean. Parche then began an egress from the area yet one of the escorts continually challenged her with weapons fire amid the sounds of loud explosions in the darkness. The entire attack took 46 minutes.
When Parche was finished, she had gotten the Japanese ships to open fire at one another, and had sunk a 10,238 ton tanker, a 4,471 ton passenger-cargo ship, damaged several thousand tons of Japanese ships ,and had disrupted yet another convoy. She also worked together with Steelhead in sinking an 8,990 ton transport. Steelhead sank two other ships, a transport and a cargo vessel. What made this more incredible was that this all occurred from the middle of a convoy of ships, on the surface, and at night. For this action Parche received the Presidential Unit Citation and Commander Ramage was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Submarine Combat Insignia was also authorized for the patrol.
After World War Two Parche continued her adventures and was assigned to "OPERATION CROSSROADS" as a target ship for the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. Parche survived both the airburst and the underwater burst, coming through relatively undamaged.
After decontamination, she proceeded to Mare Island Naval Shipyard at Vallejo, California. She was then decommissioned on December 10th, 1946 and in March 1947 was moved to Alameda, California and joined the moth ball fleet. On December 1st, 1962 her classification was changed to Auxiliary Submarine, AGSS-384 and assigned as a Naval Reserve Training Submarine in Oakland, California.
Parche's proud name was stricken from the Navy list on November 8th, 1969 and sold on June 18th, 1970 for scrap. All that remains of her is the original conning tower barrel, bridge structure, shears, and upper gun from the war which remain enshrined at the Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
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. Parche's chief mission in the advent of war is to detect, track and destroy enemy submarines. In order to achieve this capability she has been equipped with an elaborate sonar system, a highly advanced installation capable of searching for and detecting targets on the surface and submerged at great ranges. To utilize the increased capabilities of her sonar, Parche had installed a modern computer controlled submarine weapon system, designed to permit the attacking and sinking of submarines at great distances. Her weapon system is capable of firing the latest in this country's arsenal antisubmarine weapons.
Submarine Development Group One established in 1967 by the Chief of Naval Operations, was the operational focal point for all Navy deep submergence matters.
More To Come!
This page last updated on Sunday, October 15, 2006
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