The history of the USS Irex SS-482:
July 1960–July 1962, under Captain Apthorp

[ Irex 1960 ] The Irex went into the Philadelphia Naval Yards in June 1960, and while there on 22 July 1960, LCDR Grant Barney Apthorp assumed the command from Captain Braley. He came from the Becuna, and is deceased.

Captain Apthorp was the senior skipper in New London and very concerned for his crew. Capt. Gallemore knew Captain Apthorp from PG School in Montery and suspects the unlocated document known as "Irex History" might well have been his project.

The Engineering Officer JG Bruce Schick offers an assessment of his character. Schick retired to a farm in Virginia and has written a book, Whale's Tales: Recollections of a Diesel Submariner (Dbf, 2005). This collection of sea stories has a chapter on the Irex and may be available from The Submarine Store.

The XO, LCDR Bob Groder was known as “Uncle Bob”. Scott VanWhy MM3, who worked in the auxiliary gang with Charlie Ames, Jim Plunkett and Joe O'Brien, was discharged from the Navy in September while the boat was in the Philadelphia yards. He notes that it was there for repairs and having the sail fixed. It seems there was also a battery replacement and a complete engine and motor overhaul.

Bob Souden reports that the boat was in the Philadelphia yards from June to December, 1960. After the yard work, the boat went out for sea trials, and since all was well, it returned to Philadelphia to complete the loading and then returned to New London just before Christmas.

After a short refresher training period in New London, the Irex resumed operations with the Atlantic Fleet, sailing to Bermuda in late January 1961. After her return, she made an Armed Forces Day visit to Salem MA, and then carried on local operations in the Atlantic until August.

On 1 August 1961, the Irex under the command of Captain Apthorp left for four months of submarine warfare training with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, to participate in AMPHITRITTI, CHECKMATE, DEVILSPREAD, and MEDSUBASWEX. We are fortunate to have the six “Family-Grams”: written by Captain Apthorp to the crew's families during the cruise: 15 July, 15 August, 1 September, 19 September, 12 October, and 17 November. These provide a rich daily account of the cruise.

Bruce Schick, in the book cited above, provides interesting details concerning this Mediterranean trip: the skipper's secret cache of fresh water; swim call; water skiing behind the Irex; kite flying; with the Green Berets in rafts; the skipper's bright blue custom uniform; why stewards were Philippine and the old story of getting a full cup of coffee up to the bridge; being placed on top of the snorkel to photograph the boat submerging; being tattooed with silver nitrate.

The boat returned to New London in about 22 November 1961 for “upkeep”, and the crew enjoyed holiday leave until January 1962.

This upkeep was followed by by operations in the Atlantic from January to March, that included visits to New York and Boston as well as a visit to Bermuda early in February 1962.

Upon her return from Bermuda, the Irex entered dry dock in New London until early March, after which she resumed local operations, which included yet another trip to Bermuda late in the month.

Then came local operations and training reservists and Sub School students.

Bob Groeder was replaced by Charles Middleton III as XO sometime in the course of 1962. And Pat "'Mallley replaced Andrew Feindt as COB.

In May of 1962, local operations ended and the Irex participated in LANTBEX Cold War exercises, for which she spent four weeks at sea in the North Atlantic, including a four day visit to Portsmouth, England, where there was shore leave. For reminiscences of that trip, see the memoir of Gill Frydell.

Upon her return to New London, the Irex was awarded the Submarine Division 81 Battle Efficiency pennant. Local operations were resumed.

Captain Apthorp was relieved of command by CDR Portnoy on 9 July 1962. He died on 19 April 2001.

History index
History 1962–1964