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Task Goup Alfa | Historical Notes | Movie Star Cubera
Sea Stories | My Navy Bio | Final Disposition

Task Group Alfa

CUBERA was born too late to see action in WWII, but did participate in the 1960's Cuban blockade force, as well as performing in training activities. Submarine Squadron Six (SUBRON6), assigned to the U.S. Navy's cold war tactics school (Task Goup Alfa), became the collection unit for many examples of various submarine types.

The main purpose of Task Group Alfa was to find and track Russian subs, develop effective anti-submarine tactics and train surface skippers in those tactics. The variety of subs in SUBRON6 gave surface commanders and crews experience in identifying and tracking the different types.

X-1 on surface in Chesapeake Bay
While I was aboard CUBERA (affectionately called the "Cubby-Bear"), a prime example of a Guppy-II snorkel boat, the squadron included the X-1 (a tiny, orange, experimental "pocket" sub that ran on a closed system of hydrogen peroxide and diesel fuel, a technology the Germans toyed with at the end of WWII), the huge 447-foot USS TRITON(SSN586) (first dual-reactor nuke radar picket boat - first boat to circle the globe submerged!), the nuclear fast attack USS SHARK(SSN591), an old WWII boat converted to a troop carrier, the USS SEALION(APSS315), the missile sub USS CASIMIR PULASKI(SSBN633), other Guppy boats like the REQUIN(SS481), CUTLASS(SS478), SIRAGO(SS485), CARP(SS338), ARGONAUT(SS475), REDFIN(SS272), RUNNER(SS476) and the surprisingly diminutive "atomic-powered"1 USS NAUTILUS(SSN571). I and some of my shipmates were privileged to become acquainted with all of these boats in the mid-1960's.

ALFA also included the USS ORION(AS18), the submarine tender assigned to SUBRON6. Orion, like other FULTON-class tenders, was designed to support many submarines. She had machine shops, electronics labs, periscope and torpedo service facilities, in addition to medical and logistical (supply) capabilities.

She had a store where sub crews could purchase cigarettes, wristwatches, uniforms, magazines and other personal items at Navy Exchange prices. No price gouging allowed.

In the words of Dex Armstrong:
"Something that all true boat sailors know is that we only rag those we love. In our hearts we know that Orion left the light on for us and met each arriving wayward child with fresh milk and mail. She nursed us when we were sick... Put money in our wallets... Scolded us when we were naughty and turned a blind eye to having her pockets picked."

In the trailing years of the Cuban Missle Crisis, Cubby was one of the radar/sonar picket boats assigned to patrol Cuba while that island nation and her friend Russia teased the U.S. State Department by sneaking missiles in. As a sonar and ECM watchstander, I recorded the passing of submerged Russian subs and the radar signatures of several trawlers. The trawlers carried spy radio gear and experimental surface-to-air firecontrol types to measure signatures of our planes.

1 Older term for "nuclear-powered"


made a second Med-cruise in the fall of 1964, taking part in an enormous NATO war game called Operation Steelpike. Hundreds of ships of all types converged on a long deserted section of the coast of Spain and assaulted the beaches in the early hours of the morning. I was on lookout duty when Cubby debarked a UDT team to "clear beach fortifications".

At a designated instant all ships turned on their lights. I am not afraid to admit now, that the sight of all those powerful ships suddenly illuminated in the darkness absolutely thrilled me to tears with excitement and pride.

Rota Spain - October, 1964

This photo was contributed by Jim McCoy, who was aboard the USS RIGEL, a supply ship docked across the slip when we pulled into Rota. The CUBERA is mooring outboard another SUBRON6 boat, the USS SIRAGO (SS-485), a TENCH-class boat launched almost a year later than Cubby, in May 1945. She sports a recently-acquired distinctive Guppy-III straight fiberglass sail and superstructure. (on the right, CUBERA's is a Guppy-II aluminum-alloy sail.) I was aft capstan phone-talker on the Special Sea Detail (on-deck line handling crew for entering and leaving port) so it is a good chance I'm in the group near the stern on the far right.

Historical Notes:

Sometime during this operation or afterwards, on the way home, the CUBERA was high-line refueled from the carrier CVS-15 RANDOLPH while underway at sea, a maneuver pioneered by CUBERA under Captain J.J. Herzog.

As recalled by Patrick Hogan:

During the summer of 1964, Cubera went up the St. Larence Seaway to Montreal, Canada, for a week. On the way out the ward room realized that the fuel levels had been below minimum set by the Navy and arraingments were made with the carrier Randalf(hope I spelled it right). In the Atlantic, seas were rough and four people had to go on deck with only two track belts. We took on 3000 gallons of JP5 and every one in the ward room was worried the JP5 would burn too hot and burn exhaust valves in the main engines. I had goen thru this on the Sea Cat(SS399) a couple of years before and even thought the thermal rating of JP5 is higher than diesel it actually burned some 70 degrees cooler, but no one believed me. They mixed the JP5 and diesel 50/50, one engineman did tell me the mixture did burn cooler, the rest denied checking it. I went aboard Cubera in October 1963 and transfered off a year later. Because I was not an EB throttleman I went to the AUX gang, but had a lot of friends in the ER's. I transfered to the USS Tirante(SS420) in Key West and got out in October, 1966, with seven years under my belt. I would not trade that seven years for a million dollars but I would not do it again for a million dollars. Don't know if you remember me, but in the event you do and have any pictures of me, I'd appreciate copies. I lost all my pictures in the Katrina flooding in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. Thanks.
--Patrick J. Hogan MM1(SS)

Navy and CUBERA life as recalled by Carlos "Andy" Andaya

I just came across your Cubby Bear stories and truly enjoyed them. They sure brought back a lot of fond memories. My name is Carlos Andaya (nicknamed "Andy" Andaya throughout my navy career) and I was onboard USS Cubera from Feb 64 to May 65. I was a young Steward Striker (TN), worked in the Fwd Battery Comp and slept in the Honeymoon Suite (2 racks side-by-side right under the Fwd Torpedo Loading Hatch). LCDR Shanahan was CO, Dusty Dean was COB, and my Qualifying walk-through Officer was LT Andrew. I remember the Med Cruise and the ton of fun I had in the many ports we visited, the qualifying watches I stood on the bridge strapped down during rough weather, as well as the "stills watch" I had to stand as punishment for using too much water while washing dishes in the Wardroom pantry. I joined the Navy from Sangley Point Naval Station in the Philippines. Went to boot in San Diego then was briefly assigned to ComServLant in Norfolk. 3 years in NavFac Cape Hatteras, NC followed before being transferred to USS Albert T. Harris DE-447 in Flushing, NY. Then it was on to USS Cubera in Feb 64 until May 65 when I crossed the brow over to USS Runner SS-476 till Mar 67. I then served on USS Patrick Henry SSBN-599 Gold and made 6 patrols. I made Chief Personelman on shore stations, and then also served on USS Tecumseh SSBN-628, USS Independence CV62, and USS Ranger in San Diego, as a Commissioned Warrant Officer 2 (Ship's Clerk). After 2 West Pac Cruises (one was 9 months long during the Iran Crisis), As a CWO3, I was ordered as Assistant Officer-in-Charge of Personnel Support Detachment (PSD) Naval Training Center San Diego in 1981. The following year, I switched over to the Limited Duty Officer Program and was promoted to LTJG in the Administration Specialty. In 1984 I was promoted to LT and was then transferred as Officer-in-Charge of PSD ASW Base, also in San Diego. I retired with the rank of LT and the retired pay of CWO4 with 28 years of service. It was a full and very satisfying career. I went from Destroyer Escort, to Submarines, to Carriers and to various shore installations and met many unforgettable characters and made countless friends. Served my country and got to see the world while doing it. Who could ask for anything more? Growing up poor in a small provincial town in the Philippines, who wouda thunk?

My wife Betty who has worked as a Registered Nurse since 1965, started working at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital while we were in the Bay Area in 1976. Last year she completed 30 years of Federal Service as a Civilian Navy Nurse yet she does not plan to retire for 3 more years. What a gal!

Movie Star CUBERA

Movie titleThe wife and I enjoy old sci-fi movies. Imagine my surprise one night, when towards the end of the 1955 monster-flick "It Came from Beneath the Sea", there was the SS347 sailing back to San Francisco after dispatching the "giant" stop-action animated octopus that Ray Harryhausen created for the film. Watching it again, I saw more shots of CUBERA in other scenes. Immediately after the opening launch of NAUTILUS, the GUPPY sub on the surface at sea is clearly numbered "347." Interior shots were probably filmed aboard the PAMPANITO in San Francisco.

Our newly converted sleek Guppy sub was supposedly the latest "atomic" sub, and locked out through the forward escape trunk two aqualung divers who delivered the knockout punch up-close and personal.

Why was CUBERA used for these scenes? Here's my thinking: Columbia Pictures knew we had an atomic-powered Nautilus, launched in 1954. A shot of the launch is in the film. Hell, it was all over the news. Any suitable footage of NAUTILUS underway was probably not available from the U.S. Navy at the time, for reasons of secrecy during her 1955 sea trials. Now, CUBERA (being the first Guppy-II) was probably filmed in 1947 for archive footage as part of the Guppy program documentation by the Bureau of Ships, and that footage was no doubt de-classified by 1955, when the film was made. So when Columbia Pictures' film editors called the Navy and asked for "atomic submarine footage", CUBERA's footage was what they were offered.

Rent the film if you don't believe it!

P.S.: I've since seen this same CUBERA film clip on The History Channel, used in the segment on U.S. submarines.

UPDATE 31MAR11: I think I found the source of the film clip--it's used in a 1954 USN promotional film called "Take'er Down". It's posted on YouTube here.

Now T.A.N.S. ... *
(Sea Stories)

At an officer's party in our first port-of-call, Barcelona, Captain Shanahan (slightly under the influence) wagered the Admiral in command of the U. S. naval forces that the silent Guppy sub CUBERA could "sink" the then brand-new nuclear carrier Enterprise (CVN65), the Admiral's flagship.

A week later, at the close of the NATO operation, Commander/Enterprise called "Tommy-Lee's" bluff. The bet was a case of Jack Daniels for the Admiral against an equal amount of booze for each hand of the CUBERA!

We maneuvered to the safe-distancing point, and submerged at an early hour several miles from the Enterprise and her destroyer screen. I don't recall how many DDs and DEs there were, perhaps five or six total.

We found and hid below a thermocline (layer of colder water) for over 18 hours. We planned ahead for heavy carbon dioxide build-up and spread the conversion chemicals that would convert that poisonous gas back into oxygen on the mattress covers of the forward and aft torpedo room berths. Above us the skimmers** milled around, demonically possessed with the desire to locate and "destroy" us symbolically with a PDC ("practice depth charge" - like a grenade).

We plotted and tracked each ship. I was on sonar watch. Captain Shanahan and I listened and waited and finally they gave us an opening. We poked the sail far enough above the thermocline to use the transducers mounted at the cardinal points of the sail to confirm our suspicions, then headed quietly for the carrier, not a half-mile away.

We closed to 150 yards off the carrier's port quarter, broached, and T. L. popped the conning tower hatch, leaped to the bridge and fired a green flare onto the flight deck looming far overhead. "That's the biggest S.O.B. I ever saw!" he exclaimed, dropping with a crash to the deck of the conning tower as we crash-dived. I was manning the ST periscope radar - I was there to hear it.

We disappeared below the thermocline again, circled beneath the task group and headed for Rota. The Enterprise and escorts stayed on location for another week, trying to figure out what went wrong!

OK, remember I said this was a "sea story"? Here are the deviations from "truth": 1) the carrier was actually the USS RANDOLPH (CVS-15), and 2) it was actually Al Sabatino, our token missle tech, who fired the flares. As part of operation Sea Orbit, the USS ENTERPRISE (CVAN-65) was in Cannes, France at the time, where we eventually went for some GREAT liberty!

* T.A.N.S. ("This ain't no s__t")... the proper beginning to a good sea story; roughly translating to: "You're never gonna believe this in a million years..."; take whatever follows with a grain of salt!

** "Skimmers": surface craft, or... targets, if you like.


Ah, the Cubby-Bear; This little lady was my sea-going home for three and a half years. I enjoyed most of that time, although there were moments when I wished it was over. From age ten on, I had collected and studied every submarine book, picture, and magazine article I could find. Submarines and diving were the most enduring preoccupations of mine until the Russians orbited Sputnik, when I shifted for a time to a strong desire to take part in the space exploration effort.

After high school graduation, faced with the fact that there were few jobs paying well enough to finance a first year at ASU in Tempe, my buddy Steve and I enlisted in the U.S. Navy one Friday, much to the chagrin of our mothers. Our fathers were ecstatic.

After boot training in San Diego, I was selected for ET school at Treasure Island. Steve's skill with a camera landed him in Navy aerial photography. He was sent to the training center at Great Lakes, and I haven't seen or heard from him since then.

In late April, 1963 during a morning class in AC circuit theory, some forms were distributed that asked for volunteers for various special Navy forces, including submarine service. It stated that electronics rates were critical to the modern Navy and that every effort would be made to provide "special" considerations in duty station selections.

I called home and told Mom the news of my volunteering for subs. My ear rang for an hour from the sound of the phone hitting the floor beside her. "Are you crazy? Didn't you hear about that sub (USS Thresher) sinking off the Atlantic coast last week?" , she shrieked. I had, but I'd been too busy chasing girls and learning to drink in the south bay area of San Francisco for it to register as something threatening. It was sad, but far away, and I was only seventeen and a half.

I finished ET school at the end of November. My orders had not yet arrived, and through a personnel error I was assigned temporarily to the base command as a mess cook. After a week this was corrected, but one evening during this time I met my future first wife, Penelope Anne, on a blind date.

Finally the orders came and I had a week to say goodbye to Penny before taking off to New London. After sub school, orders said, I was to report, along with twenty other graduates, to the USS CUBERA (SS347) in Norfolk, VA. In the military, a new billet assignment is like starting a new chapter in a book. U.S. Navy Submarine School was a three-month chapter in which I made yet a new set of friends, learned how a sub works, and was physically and psychologically assessed capable of duty aboard a sub. We went to classes and roll-played various situations, ascended in the famous 100-ft escape tower, first from the 50-foot chamber, then from the 100-foot level using the new Steinke Hood. Later we actually went to sea in a boat one day, experiencing operations in each of the 8 compartments.

I arrived in Norfolk on a Friday, found my barracks and stowed my gear. None of my classmates had yet appeared, so I went on down to the pier to see my new boat; well, she was new to me. Chief "Dusty" Dean, the COB (Chief of the boat), a career navy man on his fifth hitch, had the duty that night and out of boredom, he showed me around. I must have exuded too much enthusiasm, though, because he decided right away that I was perfect to take over as lead of the deck gang.

The deck gang is the closest the Boats come to having a Bosun's Mates division; it's typically made up of all the newest unqualified seamen below petty officer rank unless there aren't enough, in which case the junior petty officers are included, too. Their responsibility is to maintain the exterior of the submarine, from the waterline up to the top of the snorkel masthead.

For the next seven to nine months we scraped, primed and painted the superstructure, sail and deck; maintained the safety lines; handled the mooring lines; stood lookout watches; and in our spare time, studied every switch, valve, and pipeline in every compartment in order to earn our dolphins signifying, similar to a pilots wings, that the wearer is "qualified in submarines".

I finally got up the nerve to say I was ready for my qualification walk-through. The officer assigned to administer the test was chosen at random by the exec, but I had heard that the engineering officer, a large, quietly powerful Lieutenant who had worked his way up through the enlisted ranks, loved to rake the non-engineering strikers over the coals, expecting them to come up lacking in all things mechanical. It was he that I drew. Unknown to him, I had been fascinated with the workings of the enginerooms, hydraulics, and electrical propulsion systems. So, with a cursory start in the forward torpedo room, he quickly worked us through the forward compartments to the enginerooms.

Like Br'er Rabbit in the thorns, it was here I was most at home. During those nine months, I had spent many hours there while at sea, feeling the throb and listening to the clatter of those great sixteen-cylinder diesels. Lt. Andrew told me to cold-start an engine...and I did it, as I had helped the engine men do many times before. As I efficiently worked my way about the compartment, starting lube oil systems, checking hull valves, setting up the exhaust cooling, and so on, he began to realize I knew what I was doing, and a smile crept across his broad face. When number one roared to life, he was chuckling merrily. We sat across from the gauge panel and listened to the big Jimmy rumble. Lt. Andrew fondly gripped my shoulder in his beefy hand and said, "Now I've seen it all - I wouldn't have washed you out if you needed a little help, but I never expected you to get it going all by yourself!" He was so proud, he gave me a set of Dolphins that night, that hard-earned badge. I had to promise not to show them until after the formal presentation at morning muster on Monday. The presentation by the Captain was a proud moment, and was followed by the mandatory toss over the side after changing back into work dungarees. That evening ashore, of course, the newly qualified had to "drink their Dolphins"; a less-than-solemn ceremony in which the pin is dropped into a pitcher of beer which is then emptied in one drink until the Dolphins drop into the initiate's mouth!

During Hurricane Isabell in 1964, Lt Andrew and I rode it out on the bridge, chained to the gryo repeater stand. Remember the storm scene in "Das Boat"? That was me -waves would smash over the foredeck, come up through the bridge deck slats and up through the legs of our foul-weather gear. The swells were a mile apart and over 100 feet deep. In the bottom, it was relatively calm, and gulls collected there to feed and shelter. Cubby would surf down the sloping sea, then coast up the next wave almost up to the crest before plunging through. The Leutenant and I had to hold our breaths for thirty seconds until we broached on the other side. We could see kelp and fish in the green water of the thinning wavetops. On the other side the 100-mile-an-hour wind screamed and pelted us with rain and spray that felt like handfuls of gravel. I have to say, once you have ridden a category 3 Atlantic hurricane for six hours on a 300 foot steel log, nothing else life can throw seems to worry you!


Final Disposition:

USS CUBERA was decommissioned and sold to Venezuela January 5, 1972. The Venezuelan Navy renamed her S-12 TIBURON (Tiburon means "Shark" in Spanish). USS SIRAGO was also decommissioned in June of that year.

I have heard two stories regarding her final disposition: According to ex-Engineman Merrill ("Gus") Negus and Norman Friedman's "U.S.Submarines Since 1945", she was subsequently scrapped by Venezuela in 1989.
Neil J. Logue Jr., a yeoman aboard CUBERA in 1949, heard from a USS SALMON sailor that the Navy towed her back to the West Coast and she was sunk by the SALMON (SS-573). This image shows [a sub] taking a hit in the enginerooms, but the resolution is insufficient to confirm the hull number. The last digit looks like a "7" and the boat is a Guppy-II, but... ?
(UPDATE: July, 2006 -- I received a better version of the above photo from Steve Hough today, with a note embedded in it that the boat blowing up from a Mark 16 in the engine room was the USS GAVINA (SS-362), and was sunk BY the CUBERA on November 11, 1967 prior to CUBERA being loaned to Venezuela. An additional note states that CUBERA was towed back and sunk off San Diego by the USS SALMON (SS-573), confirming the earlier report from Neil Logue Jr.)

(UPDATE: February, 2009 -- From Leoncio Silveira , Capt.(ret.) of Venezuela: "I formed part of the Venezuelan crew, as Chief Engineer, that took over the USS Cubera when she was recommissioned as ARV Tiburon on Jan 5, 1972 at Key West. Regarding the ship's bell, just after the transfering ceremony, the former Cubera Commander, Cdr Gerald Sullivan (just promoted to that rank) received the bell from the new Venezuelan C.O Cdr. Castor Rolas. It was a very formal ceremony with the Venezuelan ambassador Mr. Julio Sosa, the Venezuelan navy chief of staff, some other Venezuelan personalities, the Naval Station commander DADM J. M. Maurer, the Submarine Squadron Commander, Capt J.C. Bellar, We then received from the former crew, a brass dolphin which was welded to the bow. The problem that lead to the decision of decommissioning her was a bad short circuit caused by a tear in the insulation of the auxiliary power cables crossing the aft bulkhead in the aft battery well (not sure of the date but was around 1980). We kept using her for training purposes but the cost of correcting that problem were too high. She was scrapped around 1989 in Venezuela.")

Joe Morel dug up this shot of Cubera with a Guppy-III sail indicating the poor pig-boat in the shot above was apparently not Cubby; I doubt the Navy would have back-retrofitted a type II sail. In this cleaned up, streamlined condition with her full rakish agressive fairwater sail, her looks almost hide her modest WWII fleet boat reality.

Here's another, later shot of Cubera, shortly after being turned over to the Venezuelan's, as evidenced by their headstaff pennants. Cubera is the one on the right in the photo, at that point known as the "Tiburon" (shark). The outboard boat is Grenadier(SS525), Spanish name unknown. Photo courtesy of John Hummel.

If you have other evidence concerning Cubby's final disposition, please