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  • Writer's pictureNatalija Ugrina

Step Aboard the USS Razorback Submarine: Little Rock's Naval Treasure

On my recent road trip, I made an intriguing stop in Little Rock, Arkansas. Among the many fascinating sights this city has to offer, one that stood out was the USS Razorback Submarine, a Balao-class submarine with a rich history and a remarkable presence.


USS Razorback Submarine in Little Rock Arkansas
USS Razorback Submarine

A Glimpse into Naval History

The USS Razorback Submarine (SS-394) was commissioned on April 3, 1944, during the height of World War II. Named after the razorback whale, this submarine was part of the formidable Gato-class design, which later evolved into the Balao-class due to its superior design and greater operational depth.


submarine radio room uss razorback
The Radio Room

World War II Service: The USS Razorback Submarine embarked on its maiden war patrol in the summer of 1944. Throughout the war, it completed five war patrols, operating mainly in the Pacific Theater. Its primary missions included reconnaissance, laying mines, and attacking enemy ships. Notably, the Razorback was present in Tokyo Bay during the official surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, marking the end of World War II. This historic event placed the Razorback among the few submarines to witness both combat operations and the war's conclusion.




Post-War and Cold War Era: After World War II, the Razorback Submarine underwent several overhauls and modernization processes to keep up with technological advancements. During the Korean War, it played a significant role in intelligence gathering and surveillance operations. The Cold War era further saw the Razorback being equipped with improved sonar and radar systems, ensuring it remained an integral part of the U.S. Navy's submarine fleet.


Vietnam War Service: The USS Razorback Submarine was also active during the Vietnam War. Its missions primarily involved patrolling the waters around Vietnam and conducting covert operations. The submarine's stealth capabilities made it an invaluable asset in monitoring enemy movements and gathering crucial intelligence.


the control room inside USS Razorback Submarine in little rock arkansas
The Control Room

Service with the Turkish Navy: In 1970, the Razorback was decommissioned from the U.S. Navy and transferred to the Turkish Navy, where it was renamed TCG Murat Reis. It served another 30 years under the Turkish flag, continuing its legacy of maritime excellence. During this time, it participated in various NATO exercises and continued to serve as a testament to the enduring design and capability of the Balao-class submarines.


Return to the United States: In 2001, the submarine was decommissioned by the Turkish Navy and returned to the United States. After much effort and coordination, the Razorback found its final home at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in Little Rock. It opened to the public as a museum ship in 2004, offering visitors a unique glimpse into its storied past.


Overcoming My Fears

I have to admit, the idea of climbing down into the confined quarters of a submarine was daunting. The narrow hatch and steep ladder leading into the depths of the USS Razorback Submarine triggered a sense of claustrophobia. It took me a moment to muster the courage to descend, but I knew the experience would be worth it. Once I took that first step, the initial fear melted away, replaced by a sense of wonder and admiration for the men who served aboard this remarkable vessel.


inside the USS Razorback Submarine

The Experience

The Crew’s Quarters inside the USS Razorback Submarine
The Crew’s Quarters

Stepping aboard the USS Razorback Submarine was like taking a journey back in time. The first thing that struck me was the compactness of the submarine. It’s hard to imagine the 80 crew members who lived and worked in such confined quarters for extended periods. The narrow passageways, steep ladders, and tiny sleeping bunks all highlighted the challenging conditions these sailors endured.

As I explored the different sections of the submarine, I was amazed by the complexity of the machinery and the ingenuity of its design. The control room, with its array of dials, switches, and periscopes, was particularly fascinating. It was here that crucial decisions were made, often under immense pressure.



Highlights of the Tour

1. The Torpedo Room: One of the most impressive areas was the torpedo room, where massive torpedoes were loaded and fired. The guide explained the intricate process of loading, aiming, and launching these powerful weapons, providing a deeper appreciation for the skill and precision required.

2. The Crew’s Quarters: Seeing the crew’s quarters was a humbling experience. The bunk beds, stacked three high with minimal space between them, were a stark reminder of the submarine’s operational demands. Personal space was a luxury these sailors didn’t have.

3. The Engine Room: The heart of the USS Razorback Submarine, the engine room, showcased the engineering marvel that powered this vessel through countless missions. The diesel engines, though now silent, still exuded an aura of strength and resilience.

The Torpedo room uss razorback submarine
The Torpedo Room

The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum

Adjacent to the USS Razorback Submarine, the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum offers an array of exhibits that complement the submarine tour. The museum houses artifacts and displays that provide a broader context of naval history, including the role of submarines in warfare and the technological advancements over the years.

One of the standout exhibits is the memorial wall dedicated to the submarines and their crew lost during World War II. It’s a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by so many to ensure the safety and freedom we enjoy today.


The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum uss razorback

Reflections

Visiting the USS Razorback Submarine was not just an educational experience but also a deeply moving one. It’s easy to overlook the human element in historical artifacts, but walking through the submarine and seeing the living conditions brought the stories of bravery and endurance to life. It made me appreciate the significant role these vessels played in shaping our world’s history.

If you ever find yourself in Little Rock, Arkansas, I highly recommend visiting the USS Razorback Submarine. It’s a unique opportunity to step into the shoes of the past and gain a deeper understanding of the naval heritage that continues to influence the present.



Call to Action

Curious to see more about the USS Razorback Submarine and my other adventures? Check out my latest video for an immersive look at this incredible submarine and the rich history of Little Rock. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more travel insights and fascinating stories!

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17 Comments


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Jun 14

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Jun 11

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Jun 04

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Jun 02

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Jun 01

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Jun 02
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