National Archives via Jim Mandelblatt
Photo courtesy of Jerry Bliss
ROCK was authorized on 09 September 1940. On 23 December 1942, the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin laid the keel of the ROCK. She was launched 20 June 1943 (note: all of the 28 subs built by Manitowoc were launched SIDEWAYS). ROCK was commissioned with CMDR John Jay Flachsenhar, USN, commanding on 26 October 1943.
After a month of intensive training in Lake Michigan, ROCK passed through the Chicago Drainage Canal to Lockport, Illinois. There she entered a floating drydock for her voyage down the Mississippi river, her ultimate destination being New Orleans. She arrived 29 November 1943 and departed for Panama six days later. there she received two weeks of intensive operational training before sailing for Pearl Harbor on 2 January 1944. Following voyage repairs and further training, ROCK departed from Pearl Harbor for her first war patrol on 8 February 1944.
On 29 February 1944, ROCK contacted a large enemy convoy enroute to Truk. While making a night surface approach on the convoy, she was detected by an enemy destroyer. ROCK attempted to evade the pursueing destroyer while on the surface. She fired a salvo of four torpedoes from her stern tubes at the destroyer, all of which missed. ROCK was then illuminated by the destroyers searchlight, and came under fire from the destroyers 5-inch guns. ROCK then submerged and experienced four hours of random depth charge attacks. When she surfaced that night it was found that the periscopes had been extensively damaged, and the bridge had been riddled with shrapnel. ROCK had to return to Pearl Harbor after a 34 day unsuccessful war patrol.
ROCK began her 2nd war patrol on 4 April 1944. Her destination was the Tokyo Bay area. She spent 34 days in the Bunfo Suido and Sagami Bay area without gaining one contact. ROCK then returned to Majuro Atoll in the Marshall's group for a refit by U.S.S. Sperry.
On 22 June 1944, ROCK, TILEFISH, and SAWFISH left Majuro in company as a coordinted attack group under the command of CAPT W. D. WILKINS,USN, embarked in the TILEFISH. They were to patrol the Luzon Straits. On 18 July 1944, ROCK contacted a Japanese convoy of seven large ships and three escorts. At 0536 on 19 July 1944 she attacked submerged, firing ten torpedoes, six of which hit their mark. She was subsequently depth charged, but escaped undamaged. On 21 July, another enemy convoy was contacted. Th convoy consisted of six large ships and four escorts. ROCK fired four torpedoes, 2 of which were hits. Again ROCK was hammered by depth charges and again she escaped undamaged. The remainder of the time on station was uneventful for the ROCK with the exception of weathering a severe typhoon and witnessing the sinking of a Japanese submarine by SAWFISH. on this successful patrol the ROCK was creditied with damaging two tankers, two transports, and a freighter. On 27 July 1944 the ROCK left the area and returned to Pearl Harbor.
On 9 September 1944, ROCK left Pearl Harbor enroute to the South China Sea for her fourth war patrol. On 26 October 1944 she attacked a tanker, which had three escorts. She fired a salvo of six torpedoes and scored three hits. On 27 October 1944, ROCK fired 9 torpedoes at DARTER, which had been stranded on Bombay Shoal, to prevent the Japanese from examining her. Due to shallow water the torpedoes did not find their mark. This patrol ended when ROCK left the area and sailed for Fremantle, West Australia, for her refit.
On 14 December 1944, ROCK left Fremantle on her fifth patrol, which lasted 64 days. The rescue of a downed pilot from the LEXINGTON was the only event of note during this very unsuccessful patrol which ended in Fremantle on 17 February 1945.
On 23 February 1945, CDR Flachsenhar was relieved by CDR Robert A. Keating USN. On 7 March 1945,ROCK left Fremantle on her sixth patrol. Enroute to Exmouth Gulf, she picked up 15 merchant seaman, whose ship had been torpedoed in the Indian Ocean. They had been adrift in a lifeboat for 32 days. The survivors were landed at Exmouth Gulf. The following day ROCK was bombed by a fighter plane and that night was struck by a dud torpedo. Neither event cause any critical damage. On 27 March 1945, ROCK attacked and presumably sank an enemy destroyer escort in a night action. The following day ROCK sighted an enemy convoy and in the subsequent chase that night she lost contact. On 18 April 1945, ROCK joined forces with TIGRONE in the bombardment of Bataan Island. They left the Japanese radio station in ruins. ROCK arrived at Saipan after completing a successful 54 day patrol.
On 14 May 1945, ROCK arrived at Hunters Point, San Francisco, California for an overhaul. At this time LCDR T.M. Ustick USN, relieved CDR Keating as commanding officer.
On completion of her overhaul on 7 August 1945, ROCK sailed for Pearl Harbor. The cessation of hostilities brought an end to the proposed seventh patrol for the ROCK, and she was ordered to New Orleans via the Panama Canal to participate in the Navy Day festivities in that port. It was a twist of fate that placed ROCK in the same port at the end of her career as that in which she had begun her war record.
ROCK was officially credited with damaging 42, 282 tons of enemy shipping during her six war patrols. She was decommissioned on 1 May 1946 and placed in mothballs at New London, Connecticut.
In early 1951, ROCK was towed from New London to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Work was commenced at that time to convert her to a MIGRAINE III type Radar Picket submarine. To accomplish this, she was bisected at the forward bulkhead of the control room. A new thirty foot(some sources say 24 foot) section was inserted between the control room and the forward battery and housed the majority of the electronic equipment necessary in fulfilling her mission as a radar picket submarine. The After Torpedo room was converted to a berthing space. Her status was changed to SSR on 18JUL1952.
On 12 October 1953, ROCK was recommissioned at Philadelphia under command of LCDR Philip B. Taliaferro USN. After a short period of training with Submarine Squadron SIX at Norfolk, Virginia, she proceeded via the Panama Canal to her new base, San Diego California, as a unit of Submarine Squadron FIVE. On 23 July 1954, she departed from the San Diego area for the Western Pacific area. During this tour she operated as a part of a carrier striking force in defense of the Formosa Straits. ROCK returned to San Diego on 17 February 1955. On 17 July, LCDR John D. Eaton relieved LCDR Taliaferro as Commanding Officer. During the remainder of 1955, ROCK participated in normal training exercises as well as a reserve cruise in the San Francisco Bay area.
ROCK subsequently made 6 month WESTPAC deployments in 1956 and again in the winter of 1958-59. On 31 December 1959 there no longer existed an operational requirement for a radar picket submarine in the Fleet., and on that date the Air Control Center on ROCK was decommissioned. ROCK was then designated AGSS, an auxiliary general submarine. Following operations off the Pacific coast and an overhaul, ROCK again deployed to WESTPAC in November 1961. She made subsequent 6 month deployments in 1963, 1965, 1966-67, and 1968.
Operating in the Eastern Pacific during the first half of 1969, ROCK
departed San Diego 11 July and conducted operations in support of fleet
training in the Hawaiian operating areas until steaming for the Pacific
coast on 16 August. Less than a month later, on 13 September 1969,
decommissioned and struck from the Navy
list on the same day at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She was sold for scrap on 17AUG1972 to Nicolai Joffe Corp., Beverly Hills.
ROCK earned 4 Battle Stars for World War II service.
Information compiled from DANFs, Ships History (1944-1960), and "The Fleet Boat in the U.S. Navy" by John Alden.
My sincere thanks to John Parker RMCS(SS) USN RET. for providing
the above information. And to Jim Mandelblatt for supplying the pictures.
I remember the ROCK SSR274........ Ken Trujillo's life and times on ROCK 1956-58. And a few Hair raisers from Charlie Gipe who was aboard during WWII!
ROCK CREW PHOTO's
2003 ROCK Re-union, RENO NEVADA <
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