The history of the USS Irex SS-482:
Mar 1968 to decommissioning in Nov 1969
Under Captain Koehler

[ Irex at sea ] Captain Denbigh was relieved of command by CDR Robert L. Koehler, Jr. on 12 March 1968.

I learn from Grant Chambers QM2 (SS), who was aboard from 1967 to 1969, that the boat visited the Mediterranean twice and also the Caribbean, where he took some swimming party photos. Ken “Pete” Peters QM2 (SS) fondly recalls John Cressman, Vic Alverado, Grant Chambers, Bob Ball, Ed Houde, Fred Chicowski, Manny Sanchez, Jim McCarthy, and many others. Grant offers a nice set of photos, apparently from this Med cruise, showing the boat tied up in France and in Naples, and back in New London.

Victor Alvarado reports that the Med trip started in January 1968 under the command of R. L. Koehler, although I have good information that Koehler only assumed command in March. The boat visited Nice and tied up at the Douane pier to spend a week for a routine port of call. The final two XOs were Roy Springer and Robert K. Slavin, Jr. The final COB was TMC Zangarelli.

The boat returned in the Spring. Anthony Skrzat TM2 (SS) reports that the Irex was returning from the Mediterranean with the Scorpion when that boat went down.

I have no further information on operations for the rest of 1968. However, I obtained a “Command History” for 1969 from the Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center, in Washington, from which most of the following dated events derive or are confirmed.

From 1 January, there was a holiday leave and upkeep in Groton. Apparently at this time, the COB, EMC (SS) Frederick Allcorn, participated in a ceremony to mark his retirement from active duty. He had served as COB on the Irex for the previous two years.

On 12 January, the Irex left port to participate in SPRINGBOARD exercises in the Caribbean and arrived in San Juan for a port visit on the 26th. Then on 28-31 January, she provided ASW services to aircraft. After this, on 1-2 February, a port visit to St. Thomas, and she then she provided services to destroyers. On 7-8 February, there took place another port visit to St. Thomas.

On 9 February, the Irex made her 11,000th dive. Cook Bruce Keswick reports being present and being a member of the Eleven Grand Club. However, he reports the date as being 8 February.

Again, on 9-17 February, the Irex provided ASW services to aircraft, after which was a port visit to San Juan that lasted to the 21st. Then she returned to Groton, arriving there on 28 February.

March 1 to 20th was upkeep, and then on 21-23 March the Irex provided services to the USS Seawolf. Then apparently some other local operations, followed by services to ASW aircraft on April 1-11. For the next two days there was upkeep in Groton. Then on March 15-17, she provided services to Officers' Submarine School, followed, again by upkeep.

On 28 April, she headed out to Bermuda to participate in BERMUDEX II and then paid a port call in Bermuda on May 3-5, after which she headed back to Groton, arriving on 9 May 1969.

For the remainder of May, The Irex had upkeep and provided services to COMPHIBLANT and to NATO destroyers.

In June, 1969, there was pre-Mediterranean deployment upkeep, during which time there was an INSURV inspection and the annual Administrative Inspection. The #2 generator had to be replaced.

On 30 June, the CNO designated the Irex as an auxilliary submarine with the designation AGSS-482. The Irex was showing her age, and the handwriting was on the wall.

By 7 July, the pre-Mediterranean upkeep was finished and she headed out for Rota, Spain. Along the way she provided services to a Coast Guard cutter on Ocean Station Delta (the Coast Guard provided assistance to transatlantic shipping and aircraft by maintaining ships at strategic locations in the Atlantic Ocean. These locations were known as Ocean Stations. Ocean Station Delta was located some nine hundred miles east of St. John’s, Newfoundland).

The Irex arrived at Rota on July 7 to relieve the USS Trumpetfish (SS-425), and then on the 22nd she headed to Naples to provide ASW services for aircraft in the Tyrrhanian Sea for 14 days and pay a port call in Naples on August 2-5. Then came services to various air and surface units of the Sixth Fleet, and a port call to Palma, Mallorca, on August 15-21.

A set of photos provided by Grant Chambers shows the boat recovering a torpedo in the Straits of Messinia in Greece. I'm guessing the photos belong to this cruise rather than the one to the Mediterranean in January 1968 (can anyone help me out here?).

On August 22-31, the Irex participated in Exercise National Week IV (whatever that is. Anyone know?), and on the last day of the exercise she made her 11,192nd, and last dive as it turned out.

On 1-5 September there was a port visit to Nice, and while there she received a message much to the surprise of the crew, that the Irex was to cut the Mediterranean cruise short and return for decommissioning. On the way back, she paid a one-day port call again in Rota and arrived back in Groton on the 18th.

Charles Hall QMC (SS) reports that the Irex sailed up the Thames with a “For Sail” sign on the side and a twenty-foot weather baloon trailing behind.

Captain Koehler ended his tour as the Irex's last captain on 13 September 1969. However, he apparently remained a ceremonial captain until the decommissioning in November.

On 13 September 1969 there is said to have existed a contract ultimately to sell the Irex as scrap to the North American Smelting Company in Wilmington, DE, for $80,676, but I have doubts about the date, for a list of boat dispositions dated 19 September says that the ultimate disposition of the Irex had yet to be decided.

This is a list of boats to be decomissioned that is dated 19 September and is presently at the Sub Museum in Groton. It includes the Becuna and the Irex. According to this list, most of the boats (but not the Irex) were being decommissioned because of budgetary cut-backs. The list identifies the Irex as “ex-AGSS482”, an ex-Auxiliary Submarine. And as mentioned, the list indicates that the Irex hull's ultimate disposition would be decided at a later date.

It was on September 19th that pre-decommissioning procedures were begun. Indeed, according to the cited list, the Irex was on 19 September being “non-industrially stripped” at its birth in New London (Groton). I suspect this refers to the removal of any military equipment. The pre-decommissioning process finally reached a point that on 1 October, the Irex acquired a “Reduced Operating Status”.

Once stripped of military gear, the Irex AGS-482 was stricken from the Navy inventory (decommissioned) on 17 November 1969. The decommissioning ceremony on that date at the Groton base involved lowering the ensign (the colors and commissing penant), and the captain, CDR Robert L. Koehler, painted over the hull number on the sail. The disposition of the ship's bell is unknown. The Irex had provided twenty four and a half years of naval service.

[ Irex stripped ]

The Irex stripped of sonar hydrophones, presumably in about October 1969

The (industrial?) stripping was done, according to Ron Reeves, who worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard at the time, in Philly. He says the plastic sail was still on the boat when it arrived there, although probabably somewhat changed from its original state by minor SHIPALTS. After stripping in Philadelphia, the scrapping of the hull was to be done in Burlington, NJ (where Hitler's yacht was also cut up, it is said, but dubious, for Hitler's sailing yacht, the Ostwind, ended up being sunk in Florida).

While the hull disposition list anticipated that the hull would be disposed of in 1970, apparently it was actually scrapped (in Burlington, NJ) only in April 1971 and the scrap subsequently sold to the Delaware smelting firm.

The boat's demise is reported in Commander John D. Alden, The Fleet Submarine in the U.S. Navy (Naval Institute Press).

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