I was stationed at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in the Summer of 1974. I had the duty one weekend evening and received a phone call from one of the civilian yard personnel.
He informed that he had been aboard and old diesel submarine that afternoon. The boat was moored along side a pier in the Richmond area of the San Francisco Bay.
He described the submarine and told me that he went aboard and looked around above and below the main deck. His description fit CHARR perfectly.
I had been a member of the 1969 decommission crew and knew that CHARR had become a Navy Reserve Division in the Alameda area.
The next weekend, I packed up the family in our 1967 Pontiac Station Wagon and went looking for my old home.
Soon after driving on the water front access road, I spotted the familiar sail area of a diesel submarine.
The numbers, 328, painted on the sail were covered with paint and were not visible. I spotted other features, dents, repairs and equipment that convinced me that this boat was the former USS CHARR SS-328.
I took the above photo to back up my observation.
RATON BLUEGILL BREAM TUNNY CHARR
PETTY OFFICERS MCGEE AND WEBSTER
MANEUVERING ROOM PROPULSION CUBICLE
SILVER FOX PROCLAMATION
A TEAM THAT IS HARD TO BEAT
LCDR DRADDY PO JARDINE PO ANDERSON PO JOHNSON CDR HARRIS
USS CORAL SEA GULF OF TONKIN USS CHARR
On March 26, 1965 units of the US Seventh Fleet began their participation in Operation Rolling Thunder, a systematic bombing of military targets throughout North Vietnam. Pilots from the USS Coral Sea CVA 43 struck island and coastal radar stations in the vicinity of Vinh Son.
On that date Carrier Air Wing 15 embarked in USS Coral Sea was tasked with an ALPHA strike against North Vietnamese air search radar facilities on Bach Long Vi Island, which is located about 70 miles offshore roughly midway between Haiphong and the Chinese island of Hainan. The raid failed to knock out the radars and lead to the loss of three aircraft. However no pilots were loss.
The USS Charr began conducting surveillance operations of such radar stations in February of that year and was on station at Bach Long Vi Island during that raid.
The air wing tried again on 29 March 1965, dispatching 70 aircraft against the target. As usual, the flak suppression aircraft went in first and took the brunt of heavy anti-aircraft fire. Three and a half aircraft were shot down with one pilot being loss.
CDR Jack H. Harris, CO of Attack Squadron 155 flying A-4E BuNo 150078, lost his engine to enemy fire while over the target and ejected just offshore the island. The USS Charr surfaced and picked him up within a matter of minutes.
LCDR Kenneth E Hume of VF-154, flying F-8D BuNo 148668, was hit while making a ZUNI rocket attack against an AAA site. Although a small fire was visible, Hume decided to try to get to Danang, but within minutes his F-8 suddenly went into a dive and plunged into the sea. His escort saw the canopy separate before water impact but Hume did not eject. After picking up CDR Harris and with the air raid still in progress the USS Charr remained on the surface in search of Hume without success. An oil slick from his aircraft was all that was visible. His remains were never recovered.
The “half” aircraft was CDR Pete Mongilardi, CO of Attack Squadron 153, whose A-4 was hard hit and bleeding fuel. He was able to meet up with a tanker aircraft which “dragged” him back to the USS Coral Sea, pumping jet fuel into the A-4 as fast as it bled out. CDR Mongilardi was recovered safely aboard Coral Sea.
CDR William N. Donnelly, CO of Fighter Squadron 154 flying F-8D BuNo 148642, had his controls shot out while in a dive-bombing run against an AAA site. He ejected while inverted at 450 knots and 1000 feet altitude, landing about 4 miles from the island. On the night of March 30th upon becoming aware that transmissions from CDR Donnelly’s emergency radio were being received the USS Charr surfaced and conducted a grid search but was unsuccessful in finding him. Later that day during the mid-watch, (12 noon to 4 p.m.) CDR Donnelly was sighted floating in his survival raft by aircraft which were in route to another bombing raid. His location was about 14 miles from the Charr which was submerged at the time. Once in receipt of this information LCDR John M. Draddy, CO of the Charr, surfaced and proceeded to CDR Donnelly’s location. Upon arrival at the site a fleet of Chinese junks were already there with no sight of CDR Donnelly or his raft. With belief that the junks had gotten to him first, LCDR Draddy quickly assembled an armed boarding party with the intention of rescuing him. However, before any action was taken LCDR Draddy received word that CDR Donnelly had already been picked up by a US Air Force HU-16 amphibian and the boarding party was dismissed. In his raft CDR Donnelly had successfully evaded North Vietnamese patrol boats for some 45 hours.
CDR Harris remained on the USS Charr for several days and was eventually high-lined to a Navy destroyer for return to the Coral Sea.
In appreciation of his stay on the Charr, CDR Harris made each crewman an honorary member of his squadron. Sadly CDR Harris was killed on 26 October 1966 in a fire aboard the USS Oriskany.