Museum documentation of operational US built diesel submarines in Turkey

Turkey has the only two operational Tang Class submarines in the world. Both ex-USS Tang (SS-563), and ex-USS Gudgeon (SS-567) were first commissioned in 1951 and 1953 and were sold to Turkey in the early 1980s. These are the 3rd and 4th oldest working US submarines (The oldest are in Taiwan). Although only a few Tang class boats were built, they where important boats. The Tang class was the first new class of submarines designed and built by the USA after World War II and they incorporated the lessons learned from the remarkably successful fleet submarines. They became the prototypes for the first three classes of US nuclear submarines.

There are numerous sights and sounds unique to these submarines that will be lost forever when these last two boats are retired. For security reasons, very little color film has been created of the interior operations of these boats, and almost no sound recordings. During 2003/2004, we requested and received permission to document these historic boats.

With the generous cooperation of the Turkish Navy, in January of 2004, volunteers Carl Nolte and Rich Pekelney visited Turkey to document the historic boats. We were given unprecedented access to the boats, including the opportunity to take photographs and video. All the photos and video were subjected to security review by the Navy, none was deleted or modified.

We are very thankful to the Turkish Navy. Everyone we worked with exceeded all reasonable expectations at every step of the process. The level of cooperation was extraordinary. The high level of professionalism, skill and spirit of the officers and crew was matched only by their hospitality, flexibility and "can do" attitude. The fine material condition of these 50+ year old vessels is a testament to the care they have received from there crews and shipyards.

Both submarines are used primarily for special operations missions, they are also used for mining. The spirit of the crew, the "soul" of the boat is as strong now as ever. The crews of both boats feel their 50+ year old boats are well suited to their missions. We learned during the visit that Hizirries is expecting orders for decommissioning sometime very soon. We experienced the passion her crew has for her when they expressed their opinion that she should get new batteries and be kept operational for another 10 years.

On 12 Jan 04 at Naval base Golcuk, and 13 Jan 04 underway these pictures were taken of TCG Pirireis (S-343), ex-USS Tang.
We also created a 35 minute film that shows the underway operation including damage control drill, diving, snorkel operation, sonar operation and surfacing.

On 14 Jan 04 at Naval base Golcuk we had a brief time aboard TCG Hizirries (S-342), ex-Gudgeon.

On 11 Jan 04 at the Rahmi M Koc museum in Istanbul (, we had the opportunity to take pictures aboard the TCG Ulucalireis (S-338), ex-USS Thornback (SS-418). She is now a museum ship open to the public.

On 14 Jan 04, we also took a quick visit to TCG Gayret (D352), ex-USS Eversole (DD-789) a 1946 built Gearing class (FRAM upgrade) destroyer. She was operated by the Turkish Navy from 1973 until 1995. She is now a museum in Izmit, Turkey. This is about 1.5 hours from Istanbul, and very close to the Naval base at Gulcuk.

Rich Pekelney, 29 Jan 2004


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