The history of the USS Irex SS-482:
April 1951–August 1954
Under Captains McCarty and Phipps

[ Captain McCarty ] On 28 April 1951 or 2 May 1951, LCDR Lindsay Crabbe McCarty assumed command of the Irex from Captain Robinson, and he would serve for two years until 14 April 1953.

As Charlie Haury reports in the Irex newsletter of August 2009, when the new captain held his first quarters on deck, he had the reports of his crew's petty chicken-shit offenses from the Upper Base. He tore the stack into pieces and threw them over the side, saying, "The Submarine Base is for Submarine 'Sailors.'"

In this period, the XO (?) was Tom B. Brittain. His daughter reports his having passed in 1998. He is the hero of the story, “Submarine Runs over Car” for which I'll try to get the specifics. On the other hand, Roy E. Standard may have been the XO at this time.

[ Irex in about 1953 ] For the remainder of 1951 the Irex worked out of New London and off the Virginia Capes, engaging in training exercises. In May 1951 she was assigned to patrol duty in the North Atlantic, and in August and September of that year she commenced operations out of Key West and Cuba, returning to New London in the fall.

Toward the end of 1951, LTJG James R. Sweeney came aboard and remained until September 1953. In a letter to Wally Krupenevich he recalls some of his fellow crewmates.

He mentions that Yeoman Lloyd Safford was there when he came aboard. Sweeeny says that “Safford was a second class Yoeman at the naval unit at Notre Dame...[and] gave us a very bad time and when I reported to the IREX...”. Sweeney helped him get promoted to Chief Yeoman and to get his qualification on submarines. Safford eventually was transferred to Squadron.

From January to March of 1952, the Irex made a northern cruise during which rough seas damaged the teak-wood deck, the sail and the antennas. As a result of loss of contact with the Sea Robin, antennas had to be fashioned out of odds and ends. The battery shook loose, and so it was necessary to head to Halifax for emergency repairs and re-wedge cells. Upon return to New London, the boat went into upkeep to repair the remaining damage.

Apparently it was after this northern cruise that the Irex participated in SPRINGBOARD exercises. During an operation off St. Thomas, the USS Tringa simulated a diving bell rescue from the Irex.

On 14 June 1952 the Irex represented the fleet snorkel type submarine in the ceremony for laying the keel of the USS Nautilus. The five types of submarine then in operation lined up off EB while their crews manned the rail.

According to James Sweeney, C. C. Brock came aboard as XO in about June 1952. He left sometime after September 1953.

In 1952, Irex was cited by ComSubLant for the highest battle efficiency in Squadron 8 during the 1951–1952 fiscal year.

In 1952, the Irex participated in LANTFLEX exercises, and in this and the following year also in CONVEX II and PACKEX I. I lack more specific information for patrol duty operations in 1951 and 1952, but I gather that the Irex went into the Portsmouth yards at the end of 1952 for a battery replacement. The boat returned to New London just before Christmas 1952, and so the SPRINGBOARD operation that ran from December to January was in effect a shake down cruise.

The point of SPRINGBOARD was to get half of the boats in New London and in Norfolk out of the bad weather, and so right after the Christmas holiday they headed for the old St. Thomas sub base in the Virgin Islands. While there was no longer actually a base there, the tender tied up at the pier with the boats outboard. From this location there were trips for a day or two to Havana and other Caribbean locations.

[ sail in 1957 ] It was apparently sometime in either August to November of 1952 or 1954, that the Irex went into dry dock in Portsmouth. I believe it was at this time that the metal sail was redesigned. The chin gun mount below the bridge was removed along with the gun, and it was replaced with a larger “chariot bridge”, which continued its extension to the “cigarette deck” as before. The deck gun was also removed, perhaps to lower the boat's center of gravity. Also at that time the side-mounted TBT's were eliminated.

Being exposed to a shipyard was always a risky business for submariners. While you might get some custom storage cabinets made or your tools chromed, it took weeks before the boat felt comfortable and safe again. There were always mistakes made in the yards that could have dangerous consequences such as Michael Richards has chronicled. LT Fred Schuler was Diving Officer when a ballasting miscalculation by the yard prevented the boat from submerging.

In January of 1953, while returning from SPRINGBOARD fleet exercises off North Carolina, the after battery shifted in the rough seas. Two cells were crushed with acid leaking intermittently. Despite the terrible circumstances, EM1 Jim Mudd went down into the battery well to clear the grounds and jumper out the bad cells. The New London Day had the story, with a photo of Ken Johnson struggle with a cell.

Upon return to port, inspection showed that the batteries would have to be taken out right away and re-wedged. Normally one would head downstream to Electric Boat for a six-week battery job, but instead it was decided the Irex would dock at the State Pier in New London and have the crew attempt the work itself.

This was carried out from 29 April until 30 May of 1953. Having the crew of a fleet type boat replace a battery had never before been attempted. Some crew members travelled up to Portsmouth to witness the installation of a battery in the Becuna SS-319.

The work began. All cells were disconnected, the battery ventilation removed, the overhead cleared, and the hull cut open to the main deck above each battery, making the ward room and after battery sleeping quarters uninhabitable. The 1700-pound cells were then lifted out by a dock crane onto the deck, where they were inspected. Defective cells were taken to the battery shop by flat car and repaired and wedged.

It took 24 crew members working three shifts took only three weeks (rather than the anticipated months) to replace the 252 cells that altogether weighed 318 tons. The aim was apparently just to see if it could be done rather than set a precedent, for batteries were not standardized, and so replacement required special expertise.

[ Captain Phipps ] On April 14, Captain McCarty was relieved by LCDR Richard “Dick” Wright Phipps.

[ Dutch Larch ] In 1953, “Dutch” Larch became the Chief of the Boat—a post he filled for over three years. To him is due much of the credit for the Irex's being the best of the boats in New London. It seems that he took on that responsibility from Howard Coursey, although James Sweeney suggests the opposite order of succession.

Sometime after September 1953, C.C. Brock was replaced as XO by Roy E. Standard, although the date not certain. Standard was XO from 1953 to February 1954 and then went on to be the CO of the Becuna and eventually Division Commander.

On 26 October 1953 the Irex set sail for the Mediterranean to join with the 6th Fleet. The boat returned to New London on 3 February 1954. Milton Speer saved the newspaper clippings for the homecoming, which was accompanied by Sousa marches blaring from a phonograph. These clippings include details of the trip and a photo of Captain Phipps.

Once back in New London, the Irex resumed training cruises or patrols along the US East Coast and in the Caribbean in 1954 and 1955. At some point she visited Halifax, Havana, and San Juan.

On 26 February 1954 the Irex crew threw a cocktail and dance party. Also in February C.C. Brock was replaced as XO by Lando W. Zech, although this order of succession has been questioned.

On 7 (?)June 1954, 25 reservists cruised for a weekend on the Long Island Sound and paid a visit to Bridgeport. The reservists ran the boat with only a skeleton regular crew. This was the first of a series of summer instructional cruises. The New London Day has the story along with a photo of Capt. Phipps.

On 10 August 1954, Captain Phipps was relieved by CDR Snyder.

History index
History 1954–1956