USS Razorback celebrates 75 years

Now docked at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, barely rocked by the passing barges and dutifully cared for by a dedicated group of staff, volunteers and veterans, USS Razorback seems to be enjoying retired life. The longest-serving submarine in the world, USS Razorback participated in World War II, the Cold War and Vietnam War.

She was commissioned on April 3, 1944, sponsored by Mrs. Henry Frederick Dillman Davis with Lieutenant Commander Albert M. Bontier in command.  She was in Tokyo Bay during the surrender of Japan. Mr. H.F.D. Davis oversaw construction of Razorback, among other boats as the Shipyard Manager at Portsmouth where she was built.

“People believed that his H.F.D. initials stood for “Hell-Fire and Damnation” Davis rather than “Henry Frederick Dillman” Davis. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1908 and got a master’s degree from Columbia while working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In the late 1920s he, Hazel, my dad and uncle were living in Shanghai while HFD oversaw construction of gunboats for Chang Kai-shek! In the early 1930s he was in DC at BuShips. In the later 1930s, he was Plans Officer at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard focused among other things on flying boats, especially perfecting the famous Catalina PBY. In 1940 he took over the Industrial Department at Portsmouth.” 

Stan Davis, grandson of Mr and Mrs. H.F.D. Davis

During World War II, she conducted five combat patrols, sinking Japanese vessels, capturing POWs and rescuing pilots who had been shot down. At the end of WWII, she was one of only 12 submarines selected to be present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese officially surrendered.

USS Razorback

During the Cold War, Razorback conducted surveillance patrols around Russian ports, photographed Russian vessels and conducted training missions. In 1949, she received the coveted Navy “E” for overall excellence.

For her service in the Vietnam War, she received many awards including five battle stars. Many of the details of her Vietnam-era service remain classified.

On November 30, 1970, Razorback was decommissioned and transferred to the Turkish Navy, where she served as front-line combatant submarine until 2001. In 2004, the Turkish Navy officially transferred her to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum Foundation, which brought her to North Little Rock, Arkansas.

USS Razorback homecoming to North Little Rock
USS Razorback welcomed “home” to North Little Rock in 2004.

USS Razorback, which has been kept as authentic as possible, is open for tours for ages 5 and up and is an incredible experience. During the spring, the museum is open Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum is located at 120 Riverfront Drive in North Little Rock.

USS Razorback tour
Stop in the control room on your tour of USS Razorback

The museum will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the USS Razorback’s commissioning April 3 at noon. It is free and open to the public. The keynote speaker will be Retired Vice Admiral Kenneth Floyd and Charlie Duveen will tell the story of his father being rescued by USS Razorback in World War II.