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USS Grampus

Seven ships of the United States Navy have borne the name USS Grampus, for two members of the dolphin family (Delphinidae[?]): Grampus griseus, also known as Risso’s dolphin[?], and Orcinus orca, also known as the killer whale.

See also HMS Grampus and CSS Grampus.


The first USS Grampus, 12, a schooner built at the Washington Navy Yard[?] under the supervision of naval constructor William Doughty[?] on a design by Henry Eckford[?], was laid down in 1820 on a 73-foot keel, and launched in early August 1821. The need to suppress piracy and to maintain ships to catch slavers led to the building of five such schooners, largest of which was Grampus. This was the first building program undertaken by the Navy since the War of 1812.

Lieutenant F.H. Gregory commanded Grampus on her first cruise, which took her to the West Indies in pursuit of pirates. In the company of Hornet, Enterprise, Spark[?], Porpoise[?], and Shark[?], Grampus engaged in convoying merchant vessels throughout 1821, the presence of the squadron having a marked effect on piratical activity among the islands.

On 16 August 1822, Grampus gave chase to a brig flying Spanish colors, but which Lieutenant Gregory suspected was a pirate. When he called upon her commander to surrender, he was met with cannon and small arms fire. Grampus answered in turn, and reduced the bogus Spaniard to a floating wreck in 3½ minutes. The brig struck her colors and Lieutenant Gregory discovered that she was Palmyra, a Puerto Rico-based pirate carrying the papers of a privateer as a subterfuge.

Grampus had a small part in the Amistad trials: in November and December 1839, the United States government had Grampus standing by in New Haven harbor, so that if the court ruled in favor of the slaves' Spanish "owners," they could deport the Africans to Cuba before they could file an appeal. However, the district judge ruled that the Africans had been illegally enslaved and must be returned to Africa. It was the government that appealed on behalf of the slaveholders, and Grampus was not needed.

Grampus continued her duties in the protection of shipping in the Caribbean Sea and in the South Atlantic Ocean[?] until August 1841, when she was detached from the African Squadron while lying at Boston Navy Yard and attached to the Home Squadron at Norfolk, Virginia on 23 January 1843.

Grampus was last spoken by USS Madison off St. Augustine, Florida, on 15 March 1843. She is presumed to have foundered in a gale off Charleston, South Carolina with all hands. Because of that location, some credit her otherwise unremarkable loss to the Bermuda Triangle.

Table of contents

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 171.5 feet
  • Length: 97 feet
  • Beam 23.5 feet
  • Draft: 9.5 feet
  • Complement: 64


The second USS Grampus was a side-wheel steamer, originally Ion, purchased by Rear Admiral D.D. Porter for the U.S. Navy on 22 July 1863, at Cincinnati, Ohio, for US$9,750.00. She was stationed at Cincinnati and used as a receiving ship for the Mississippi Squadron. By 14 November 1863, with Acting Master Elijah Sells in command, she was recognized as a "nice little receiving vessel in first-rate order," but contained no furnishings or weapons other than ten cutlasses and revolvers.

With Acting Ensign C.W. Litherbury in command, Grampus remained at Cincinnati, assisting in stripping of ships for conversion to gunboats[?], and effecting their delivery to fleet staging points for the Mississippi Squadron, principally Cairo, Illinois, and Mound City, Illinois.

Grampus was sold to D.D. Holliday & Brothers on 1 September, 1868, at Mound City.

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 230 tons
  • Length: 180 feet

  • Beam: 27 feet
  • Draft: 5 feet


The third USS Grampus was a stern-wheel gunboat, originally CSS Grampus, scuttled by the Confederates on 7 April 1862, to prevent her capture. However, the Union Gunboat Flotilla raised her during May 1862, and she is believed to be the Grampus No. 2 that burned the following 11 January.

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 352 tons
  • Armament: two brass 12-pounders


The fourth USS Grampus (SS-4) was Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 4, whose keel was laid down on 10 December 1900, at San Francisco, California, by Union Iron Works[?], a subcontractor for the John P. Holland Torpedo Boat Company[?] of New York City. She was launched on 31 July 1902, sponsored by Mrs. Marley F. Hay, wife of the Superintendent of Construction at Union Iron Works, and was commissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 28 May 1903, with Lieutenant Arthur MacArthur -- the older brother of future General of the Army Douglas MacArthur -- in command.

Over the next three and a half years, Grampus operated out of the San Francisco area, principally in training and experimental work. On 18 April 1906, men from her crew participated in relief efforts which followed the devastating earthquake and fire in the city of San Francisco. Decommissioned at Mare Island on 28 November 1906, Grampus remained inactive until recommissioned on 13 June 1908. Subsequently assigned to the First Submarine Division, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla, in January 1910, and to the Pacific Fleet in March 1911, the submarine torpedo boat operated locally off the California coast until assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet on 28 June 1912. On 17 November 1911, Grampus was renamed A-3.

A-3 remained inactive, at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, into 1915. On 16 February 1915, she was hoisted on board the collier[?] Hector[?], which sailed soon thereafter for the Philippine Islands with A-3 and her sister ship, A-5 (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 6, ex-Pike), as deck cargo. Hector arrived at Olongapo[?] on 26 March 1915, and launched A-3 on 10 April.

Commissioned at Olongapo[?] a week later, on 17 April, A-3 was assigned to the First Submarine Division, Torpedo Flotilla, Asiatic Fleet, and remained in active service with that unit until decommissioned at Cavite on 25 July 1921. During World War I, A-3 patrolled the waters off the entrance to Manila Bay. On 17 July, 1920, A-3 was given the hull classification symbol SS-4.

Dismantled and used as a target by ships of the Asiatic Fleet, A-3 was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 16 January 1922.

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 107 tons
  • Length: 63.9 feet
  • Beam: 11.9 feet
  • Draft: 10.5 feet
  • Speed: 8 knots surfaced, 7 knots submerged
  • Complement: 7
  • Armament: one 18-inch torpedo tube


The fifth USS Grampus, originally Boothbay, was built by Neafie and Levy[?], of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was purchased from the Eastern Steamship Line of Boston, Massachusetts and commissioned 14 December 1917, at the Boston Navy Yard. Her name was changed to Grampus in November 1920. She was assigned to ferry service between the Washington Navy Yard[?], Indian Head, Maryland, and Dahlgren, Virginia. Grampus decommissioned 11 December 1930. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 December 1930, and she was later sold to the Buxton Line of Norfolk, Virginia.

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 1708 tons
  • Length: 126 feet


The sixth USS Grampus (SS-207), a Tambor-class submarine[?] built by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut, was launched 23 December 1940, sponsored by Mrs. Clark H. Woodward. She was commissioned 23 May 1941 at New London, Connecticut, with Lieutenant Commander Edward S. Hutchinson in command.

After shakedown in Long Island Sound, Grampus sailed to the Caribbean with Grayback[?] on 8 September to conduct a modified war patrol, returning to New London 28 September. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor found Grampus undergoing post-shakedown overhaul at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but soon ready for war on 22 December, she sailed for the Pacific, reaching Pearl Harbor on 1 February, 1942, via the Panama Canal and Mare Island[?].

On her first war patrol, from 8 February to 4 April 1942, Grampus sank an 8636-ton tanker, the only kill of her short career, and

reconnoitered Kwajalein and Wotje[?] atolls, later the scene of bloody but successful landings. Grampus second and third patrols were marred by a heavy number of antisubmarine patrol craft off Truk and poor visibility as heavy rains haunted her path along the Luzon and Mindoro coasts. Both patrols terminated at Fremantle, Australia.

Taking aboard four coast watchers, the courageous men who were stationed on Japanese-held islands to radio back vital information on shipping, military buildup, and weather, Grampus sailed on 2 October 1942, for her fourth war patrol. Despite the presence of Japanese destroyers, she landed the coast watchers on Vella Lavella[?] and Choiseul islands while conducting her patrol. This patrol, during the height of the Guadalcanal campaign, took Grampus into waters teeming with Japanese men-of-war. She sighted a total of four enemy cruisers and 79 destroyers in five different convoys. Although she conducted a series of aggressive attacks on the Japanese ships, receiving 104 depth charges for her work, Grampus was not credited with sinking any ships. She returned to Australia 23 November.

Grampuss fifth war patrol, from 14 December 1942, to 19 January 1943, took her across access lanes frequented by Japanese submarines and other ships. Air and water patrol Or this area was extremely heavy and although she conducted several daring attacks on the 41 contacts she sighted, Grampus again was denied a kill.

In company with Grayback, Grampus departed Brisbane on 11 February 1943, for her sixth war patrol from which she failed to return; the manner of her loss still remains a mystery today. Japanese seaplanes reported sinking a submarine on 18 February in Grampus patrol area, but Grayback reported seeing Grampus in that same area 4 March. On 5 March the Japanese destroyers Minegumo and Murasame conducted an attack in the Blackett Strait[?], near Kolombangara Island[?], on 5 March 1943. A heavy oil slick was sighted there the following day, indicating that Grampus may have been lost there in a night attack or gun battle against the destroyers. The destroyers were soon sunk in a night action with U.S. cruisers and destroyers.

When repeated attempts failed to contact Grampus, the valiant submarine was reluctantly declared missing and presumed lost with all hands. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 21 June 1943.

Grampus received three battle stars for World War II service. Her first, fourth, and fifth war patrols were designated successful.

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 1476 tons surfaced, 2370 ton submerged
  • Length: 307.2 feet
  • Beam: 27.3 feet
  • Draft: 13.3 feet
  • Speed: 20 knots
  • Armament: ten torpedo tubes, one three-inch gun
  • Complement: 59 men


The seventh USS Grampus (SS-523) was a Tench-class submarine[?]. Her keel was laid down, 8 February 1944, at Boston Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts. She was launched 16 December 1944, and commissioned 26 October 1949.

Grampus was decommissioned, struck from the Naval Register 13 May 1972, and sold under the Security Assistance Program to Brazil, where she was renamed Rio Grandedo Sul. Her final disposition is unknown.

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 1570 tons surfaced, 2414 tons submerged
  • Length: 311.7 feet
  • Beam: 27.3 feet
  • Draft: 15.3 feet
  • Speed: 20.25 knots surfaced, 8.75 knots submerged
  • Range: 11,000 miles surfaced at 10 knots, 48 hours submerged at 2 knots
  • Test Depth: 400 feet
  • Complement: 7 officers, 69 enlisted
  • Armament:
    • ten 21-inch torpedo tubes (six forward, four aft), 24 torpedoes
    • one five-inch/25-caliber deck gun, two single 20mm guns, two 30-caliber machine guns
  • Endurance: 75 days
  • Propulsion:
    • Fairbanks-Morse[?] diesel engines, 5400 horsepower
    • Fuel Capacity: 113,510 gallons,
    • four Elliot[?] electric motors, 2740 horsepower
    • two 126-cell main storage batteries
    • two propellers



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