Surveying Tarawa, USS Nautilus, SS-168, Narwhal class submarine

With her home-ported at Pearl Harbor, she maintained a regular schedule of training activities and fleet exercises and problems throughout the decade. In July 1941 she entered the Mare Island Naval Shipyard for modernization, radio equipment, re-engining, and air conditioning. She departed San Francisco April 21, 1942, reaching Pearl Harbor on the 28th. On 24 May, Nautilus got underway for her first war patrol, destination Midway; mission, to help repel the expected attack by the Japanese Fleet.

Overhaul at Mare Island occupied most of the summer of 1943 and on September 16, Nautilus slipped out of Pearl Harbor to spend her sixth war patrol conducting photo-reconnaissance of the Gilberts, concentrating on Tarawa, Kuma, Butaritari, Abemama and Makin; all of which had been reinforced, particularly Tarawa, since the sub`s 1942 excursion into those waters. The information, including continuous panoramic pictures of the coastlines and chart corrections, which she brought back to Pearl Harbor on October 17, proved to be among the most useful intelligence gathered of the area.

She returned to Tarawa November 18, to obtain last minute information on weather and surf conditions, landing hazards and the results of recent bombardments. At 21:59, on November 19, mistaking her as an enemy, USS Ringgold fired at Nautilus, sending a five inch shell through the Conning Tower damaging the main induction drain. Diving as soon as the topography permitted, the boat was rigged for depth charges and the damage control party went to work. Within two hours repairs were sufficient to allow Nautilus to continue with her primary mission: landing a 78 man scouting party, composed of 5th Amphibious Reconnaissance Co. marines and an Australian scout, on Abemama.

At midnight, 20-21 November, Nautilus lay-to 3000 yards off Kenna to discharge her passengers. On the afternoon of the 22nd Nautilus was called on for, and provided, gunfire support against the minute, 25-man, but game enemy garrison. Rather than sacrifice marines in bringing the Japanese out of their bunkers, naval gunfire had been requested. The gunfire proved accurate, killing 14; the remainder committed suicide. Thus, by the time the main assault force arrived on the 26th, Abemama had been secured and preparations to turn it into an air base for the Marshall`s campaign had begun.

completed her 14th, and last, patrol at Darwin, 30 January 1945. From Australia, she was routed on to Philadelphia, where she arrived May 25, for inactivation, struck from the Navy List, July 25,  and sold 16 November, to the North American Smelting Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for scrapping.

Specifications, Narwhal class:
The Nautilus, SS-168, a Narwhal class submarine, was laid down by the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Conn., August 2, 1927; launched March 13, 1930; and commissioned July 1, 1930.

Displacement (srf/sub tons):
Dimensions (L*B*D feet): 371`0*33`3*16`1
Propulsion: 2*2,350hp diesel engines, 2*450hp diesel/generators, 2*800hp electric main motors, two propellers
Speed (srf/sub knots): 17/8.5
Range (srf/sub n/miles@knots): un known
Diving depth (feet): 300
Complement: 9 officers 80 enlisted
Torpedo: 4*21" bow torpedo tubes, 2*21" stern torpedo tubes
Mines: none
Armament: 2*6"/53 main deck gun (one fwd. And one aft), 2*0.3 machine gun


Two boats were built under Narwhal class: USS Narwhal, SS-167 as lead boat of the classand USS Nautilus.

Back to History Index

Image Country Year Description
Kiribati 1993 Submarine USS-168 Nautilus surveys Tarawa Atoll
Kiribati 2005 Carlson Raid USS Argonaut & USS Nautilus land US marins at Butaritari 16.08.1942
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