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USS Pampanito
SS-383

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by
Rob Mackie
San Francisco, CA.
Oct '97, Mar '99


USS Pampanito SS-383 was one of the later Balao class boats used in the Pacific war. Outwardly similar to the predecessor Gato class, they were capable of diving 100 feet deeper due to their being constructed of 7/8" high tensile steel plates rather than the 5/8" plate used in the Gato class. They also had a number of improved electronic and targeting systems.

sub50.jpg (42513 bytes)Pampanito completed six war patrols and was credited with 6 ships sunk and 4 damaged. She did not undergo any of the GUPPY (Greater Underwater Power and Propulsion)  changes postwar, so she largely retained her wartime appearance. Modelers should be aware that the external appearance of Gato/Balao class subs evolved as the war progressed. The conning tower was steadily cut down in size in order to reduce profile. Scuttles were added to speed flooding and diving, and armament varied considerably, depending on availability and the Captain's preference. It has been said that no two fleet subs were exactly alike, so consult your references if you are modeling a specific boat. Pampanito carried a 4"/50 deck gun (the same gun used on 4-stack Clemson class destroyers) during all 6 of her war patrols. However many pictures show her with the more powerful 5"/25 caliber gun. She was fitted with this 5"/25 during her last refit and was on her way back to the war zone when the hostilities ceased. She has been restored to her appearance during her war patrols, hence she carries a 4"/50 main gun. Pampanito is displayed in a Measure 32 scheme, two shades of gray on the vertical surfaces and black on the horizontal. This was a common late war paint scheme on fleet subs.

She is part of the San Francisco Maritime Museum and is on display at Fisherman's Wharf. She is in excellent condition, and almost all of her below-deck compartments are open to the visitor. I photographed her at different times over the course of 18 months. Pampanito underwent a dry-dock overhaul during this period, so her appearance changed somewhat. Note that the prominent hull number would have been painted out during wartime. During her January 1999 overhaul the hull number re-appeared on the conning tower. The Maritime Museum has an excellent web devoted to the Pampanito that I highly recommend. You can view it at http://www.maritime.org/pamphome.shtml and it should answer most of your questions about this sub in particular and the Balao class in general. Two excellent and inexpensive (less than US $10) references dealing with Gato/Balao class subs are "U.S. Subs in Action" (Squadron/Signal Publications) and "Fleet Submarines of World War Two" (Floating Dry-dock). Both include many clear photos, diagrams, camo schemes and explanations.

Included with this photo tour are some views of the USS Lionfish on display at Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA. She too is a Balao class sub. I was able to photograph some of her fittings - especially in the stern area - that I missed on Pampanito.

USS Pampanito
SS-383
Balao Class Submarine

Vital Statistics
Launched: July 12, 1943 Portsmouth N.H. Navy Yard 
Commissioned: November 6, 1943
Displacement: 1,525 tons surfaced, 2,415 tons submerged
Length: 311' 9"  Beam: 27' 3"   Draft: 15' 8"
Maximum Speed: 21 knots surfaced, 11 knots submerged

Cruising Radius Surfaced: 11,000 miles  Range Submerged: 95 miles @ 5 knots
Patrol Endurance: 70 days  Maximum Operating Depth: 400'
Torpedo Tubes: 6 forward, 4 aft
Deck Guns: 4"/50 main deck gun, one 40mm AA gun, one 20mm Oerlikon
Complement: 70 enlisted, 10 officers

War Record: 6 Pacific war patrols, 6 ships sunk, 4 damaged

Click thumbnail image to view full size picture

Conning Tower Views and Details

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Ready use ammo storage
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Hull Views
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Weaponry
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4"/50 caliber main deck gun
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40mm cannon
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20mm Oerlikon
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Forward torpedo room
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Torpedo innards
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Miscellaneous
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Stern view
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Note paint scheme
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USS Lionfish
Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA
(August 1998)
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Nice view of prop guards
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Aft deck details
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Looking forward from above stern
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Forward torpedo room
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  Home copper.jpg (2701 bytes)