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USS Bass - V-2 / SS-164

LI East Chart

Shipwreck USS Bass

Type:
shipwreck, submarine, U.S. Navy
Built:
1924, Portsmouth Navy Yard, NH USA
Specs:
( 341 x 28 ft ) 2000 displacement tons, no crew
Sunk:
Monday March 12, 1945
deliberate - weapons test
Depth:
155 ft - sand ; 140 ft - deck ; 120 ft - conning tower

The Bass was an unsuccessful design. Her three-ship class was envisioned as long-range, long-endurance attack craft, designed to patrol in distant waters, and sported a number of very advanced features for their day. However, many of these features did not work as well as hoped, and the boats were plagued with mechanical difficulties, unreliable propulsion systems, and poor handling characteristics, both at the surface and submerged.

The Bass and her two sisters were huge - 340 ft, 2000 tons - over twice the size of most contemporary boats. For some idea of her size, the Bass dwarfs the nearby U-853 of almost twenty years later - 251 ft, 1051 tons. In fact, the U-853 would probably fit inside the Bass. The Gato class submarines that were the WWII workhorses of the US Navy in the Pacific were actually smaller than the Bass, at 311 ft, 1816 tons. Even the modern Los Angeles class nuclear attack submarines, largest of their type, are only some 20 ft longer, although considerably heavier.

Shipwreck USS Bass
Bass (right) and a sistership. Evidently, the forward diving planes retract into the hull, which explains their absence on the wreck.

Because of her shortcomings, the Bass was forced into early retirement less than 15 years old, but called out again for wartime service in 1940. Her duties were mostly patrol and training, and she never saw combat. After a devastating internal fire, she was converted to cargo duties, and was eventually used as a test target, a fate similar to several previous submarines.

The first Bass (SF-5) was launched as V-2, 27 December 1924 by Portsmouth Navy Yard, sponsored by Mrs. Douglas E. Dismukes, wife of Captain Dismukes, and commissioned 26 September 1925, Lieutenant Commander G. A. Rood in command.

V-2 was assigned to Submarine Division 20 and cruised along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean through November 1927 when the Division sailed for San Diego arriving 3 December 1927. V-2 operated with the fleet on the west coast, in the Hawaiian Islands, and in the Caribbean until December 1932. V-2 was renamed Bass 9 March 1931 and in April was assigned to Division 12. On 1 July 1931 her designation was changed from SF-5 to SS-164. On 2 January 1933 she was assigned to Rotating Reserve Submarine Division 15, San Diego. Bass rejoined the fleet again in July 1933 and cruised along the west coast, in the Canal Zone, and in the Hawaiian Islands until January 1937. She then departed the west coast and arrived at Philadelphia 18 February 1937 where she went out of commission in reserve 9 June.

Bass was recommissioned at Portsmouth, N. H., 5 September 1940 and assigned to Submarine Division 9 Atlantic Fleet. Between February and November 1941 she operated along the New England coast and made two trips to St. Georges, Bermuda. She arrived at Coco Solo, C.Z., 24 November and was on duty there when hostilities broke out with Japan.

During 1942 Bass was attached to Submarine Division 31, Squadron 3, Atlantic Fleet. Between March and August, while based at Coco Solo, she made four war patrols in the Pacific, off Balboa. On 17 August 1942, while at sea, a fire broke out in the after battery room and quickly spread to the after torpedo room and starboard main motor, resulting in the death of 25 enlisted men by asphyxiation. The following day Antaeus (AS-21) arrived to assist the submarine and escorted her into the Gulf of Dulce, Costa Rica. Both vessels then proceeded to Balboa.

Bass remained In the Canal Zone until October 1942 when she departed for Philadelphia, arriving on the 19th. After undergoing repairs at Philadelphia Navy Yard Bass proceeded to New London, Conn., where she conducted secret experiments off Block Island in December 1943. She was again in Philadelphia Yard for repairs from January to March 1944. During the remainder of the year she was attached to Submarine Squadron 1, Atlantic Fleet, and operated out of New London in the area between Long Island and Block Island. Bass was decommissioned at the Submarine Base New London 3 March 1945 and "destroyed" 12 March 1945.

-- from Navy historical records

Shipwreck USS Bass

Today the Bass lies in two pieces. The forward third of the hull broke off during sinking, and lies about 50 ft south of the main wreckage, skewed off at an angle and listing 45 degrees to port. There is usually a rope between the two pieces. The break occurred just forward of an internal bulkhead, so the bow section is wide open for penetration. The forward diving planes are not evident, but the torpedo doors are large and obvious. The anchor bit in the bow is of an odd shape that gave the boat a distinctive forward profile, and is worth a look.

The upright aft section, with the conning tower intact, is more interesting. Penetration of the hull at the break is possible through the hatches in the bulkhead. Penetration of the conning tower is also possible. Most of the decking has rusted away, revealing a maze of pipes below, and the cylindrical pressure hull beneath. Swimming back to the stern, you will find the most interesting area of the wreck. The dual propellers lie half buried in the sand, with the aft diving planes just behind, set permanently at a hard down angle. Above these are the large frames that guarded against entanglement, and behind and mostly buried is the rudder.

Large schools of Ling swarm over the bottom around the wreck. Higher up, cunners are dominant. Owing to the depth, this is usually a dark dive, with little ambient light.


Underwater photographs courtesy of James Lee / DeepScape.com.

Shipwreck USS Bass
The periscope sheers


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I make no claim as to the accuracy, validity, or appropriateness of any information found in this website. I will not be responsible for the consequences of any action that is based upon information found here. Scuba diving is an adventure sport, and as always, you alone are responsible for your own safety and well being.

Copyright © 1996-2016 Rich Galiano
unless otherwise noted

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