"This engagingly written book is a captivating biography of the Archerfish, its accomplishments, and its crews." -- WARFARE HISTORY NETWORK/MILITARY HERITAGE MAGAZINE


GALLANT LADY by Don Keith and Ken HenryIt was the Archerfish that sank the biggest ship ever sent to the bottom by a submarine. She also discovered the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean and sent two men up from the bottom of the sea in the longest human free ascent in history...an amazing event chronicled by everyone from Time Magazine to the Guinness Book of World Records.


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And at one point, because of the long period she was away from home port on a crucial, top-secret Cold War mission, she had the only all-bachelor crew in US Navy history, a group accurately dubbed "The Playboys of the Pacific."


The stalking of the Japanese aircraft carrier Shinano is one of the most riveting stories of World War II, and Archerfish's amazing actions that night on a moonlit sea south of Tokyo Harbor will leave you breathless. The bravery of Captain Enright and his crew (after Enright had "won" his command in a poker game) is an inspiring bit of military history.


If you liked the drama of RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP, or thought the antics of the crew of television's MCHALE'S NAVY were farfetched, you'll have to read this story by author Don Keith and meet the decidedly different crew that sailed the world aboard Archerfish. You'll ride along on their amazing voyage as they perform a top-secret mission, crucial to the stare-down with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but one that took her all-bachelor crew to exotic ports-of-call all over the world...many of which had never seen a submarine before.


They certainly had not seen the likes of the A-fish crew!


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"Gallant Lady is an exciting, fast-reading chronicle of the legendary sub. Every submariner wanted the Archerfish. At one point, a waiting list for billets on the sub surpassed 300. Read Gallant Lady and you'll understand why."
-- Jay Franco, Military Book Club


"The next best thing to serving on the Archerfish is reading this book. It's a great Navy story about a great ship and crew."
-- Stephen Coonts, author of Flight of the Intruder, Hong Kong, and a total of nine New York Times bestsellers.


"...moving and worthwhile reading."
-- Norman N. Brown, the Associated Press


"...a never-to-be-forgotten breathtaking saga...we episodically discover why the 'Silent Service' and especially this one submarine totally captivated so many of her postwar crews..."
-- Rod E. Redman, CAPTAIN'S LOCKER


"Gallant Lady doesn't sugarcoat a damn thing... serves it to you barnicles, rust stains and all... and kickstarts your memory cells every other page. Horsefly, I give the damn thing six stars on a five-star scale."
-- Dex Armstrong, respected submarine storyteller


"I got a real sense of the men who served aboard (Archerfish). the difficulties she faced even in peacetime, and what she and her crew experienced. I agree the book is a 'biography.' As anyone who has been to a commissioning knows, a ship is a living thing. The book has everything going for it: great characters, good plot, and best of all, it's true. A great story!"
-- Larry Bond, co-author (with Tom Clancy) of Red Storm Rising as well as Red Phoenix and four other bestsellers


"The authors have caught the full range, the essence, and the spirit of a near-unbelievable saga of real men doing their duty first, then savoring liberty's rewards to the maximum. The entity unfolds with crisp style and good humor."
-- Captain Gordon W. Engquist (U.S. Navy Retired), commanding officer of USS ARCHERFISH (AGSS-311) in 1964-65


"Three stars: recommended. A solid effort."
-- Tin Can Sailor website



Copyright 2004 by Don Keith and Ken Henry. All rights reserved.

The archerfish…found in the islands between Australia and India…does not appear to be all that different from any other fish. Once you learn more about it, though, you find it is quite a unique critter. This adept predator has the ability to hover just beneath the surface of the water as it watches its prey sitting on a stem or branch above. It waits patiently for just the right moment. When it's ready, it spits an arrow of high-pressure water, stunning its victim, knocking it from its perch. It then devours it and moves on in search of other quarry.
Archerfish was an apt name for a submarine. A sub also has the ability to lurk beneath the ocean's surface, to patiently stalk its prey, then to sneak up and shoot. But it's an especially appropriate name for one particular sub.
The USS Archerfish (SS-311) didn't look any different than many of the other diesel-powered, Balao-class submarines that were being hastily assembled and launched in the Portsmouth Navy Yard during World War II. She was about the same size, had the same engines and was equipped with the same weapons as the majority of her class. She carried the same complement of crew, and, at least in her first commissioning, had similar missions assigned to her as did her sisters that were being constructed in Portsmouth at that same time.
Once you learn more about this rather unique boat, though, you'll see that the comparison to other submarines ends there.
Like Forrest Gump or Woody Allen's Zelig character, Archerfish had a knack for edging herself into the frame whenever history was being photographed. Her war record was not necessarily that remarkable, yet she had the distinction of sinking the largest ship ever sent to the bottom by a submarine. When the Japanese surrendered, there was Archerfish, proudly sitting in Tokyo Harbor, her crew sipping "Tokyo Bay joy juice" (a mixture of grapefruit juice and medical alcohol) in celebration. She sat out most of the Korean War and, so far as we know, never played a single game of "blind man's bluff" with the Russians during the Cold War. Still, her super-secret mission during that period probably contributed as much to the end of the stare-down with the Soviet Union as anything else did. It was some of the members of Archerfish's crew who had a close encounter with Fidel Castro's guerillas when the revolutionaries came down from the mountains of Cuba near Guantanamo Bay. Then several other Archerfish sailors were there to party with Castro's men when they claimed Havana on New Year's Day, 1958. When a pair of divers set the record for the longest buoyant free ascent from the ocean's bottom, it was Archerfish who regurgitated those two brave men and sent them on their impossibly long float to the surface. And with her role in that successful experiment, she gave new hope for submariners everywhere that they might survive a catastrophic accident aboard their boats. One day, while routinely doing her job, it was Archerfish who glided over and documented the deepest trench yet found in the Atlantic Ocean.
Like their boat, Archerfish's crew was a reasonably good metaphor for the all the others who rode the diesel submarines. At first glance, they were no different from any of the brave men who have become submarine sailors down through history, who have chosen to serve their country in the cramped, claustrophobic confines of a boat that's actually designed to sink. They were sons of fishermen and sailors, but they were also sons of steelworkers and dirt farmers and big-city cops. They came from cities near the ocean, where they grew up breathing the sea air, and from the nation's heartland, where the only waves came when the prairie wind blew across vast fields of wheat.
But if you will take a closer look, you'll see that these men were as unique as their beloved boat and its namesake fish.
They were the ones who broke the standard rules of engagement and, in the process, broke the back of the Japanese Navy. Against all odds, they sent the aircraft carrier Shinano to the ocean floor, the vessel's Japanese captain voluntarily going down with his ship, dying in disgrace. They were members of the Navy's only all-bachelor crew, whose antics rivaled anything on the television show "McHale's Navy," and who were later dubbed the "Playboys of the Pacific." It was a moniker they richly deserved. They were the ones who steered their boat into exotic ports all around the world, many of which had never seen a submarine before. The people in those ports had certainly never seen the likes of the Archerfish crew. With equal hospitality, the submarine and her crew welcomed on board dignitaries, B-girls, royalty, surviving crewmembers of the Shinano, school kids, a goat, members of the press, and Playboy Bunnies, among others. They shot skeet off the bow, barbecued on the "cigarette deck," and drew a tongue-lashing from John Wayne for not showing him proper respect. They outlasted Japanese destroyers and survived a treacherous fire. They worked hard and lived even harder.
The men who became crewmembers of Archerfish were the lucky ones. At one point in the 1960s, there were over 300 names on the waiting list seeking a billet among the 60 or so who were fortunate enough to crew Archerfish then. And also in the 60s, they were the ones whose "home port" was moveable, a mere formality to keep the paperwork straight as they steamed off for over a year at a time, dodging icebergs and tropical atolls along the way.

Follow along as we track Archerfish from her birth in New Hampshire in 1943 until she died an explosive but noble death in 1968, still characteristically serving her country by doing whatever she was asked to do. Look at her more closely and you'll see how exceptional this "typical" submarine was. You may well come to know and respect her as her crewmembers did. As many of them still do.
Biannual reunions draw scores of former shipmates and their families. Her alumni, most of whom also served on other subs or ships, choose to attend the Archerfish gathering, even if they pass up get-togethers for their other ships. Somehow, they still manage to dredge up new stories each time that no one has yet heard and produce the photos and documents and corroborating testimony to prove them true. Their well-maintained and extensive Internet site attracts thousands of visitors. The shipmates who are still around keep in touch with each other as if their service together was only last year or a decade ago, not most of a lifetime past.
One other thing. If you listen to them talk, they speak of Archerfish as if she was as much a living entity as they. That's why this is a biography. Her memory is still as alive with them as that of their departed shipmates. She may have been made of steel and aluminum, wires and pipe, but she lived and she died, just as so many of her crew have.
They are determined that neither she nor they will ever be forgotten. But just like those submarine sailors whose remains are forever lost in the deep, there is no solid ground above Archerfish's head for a granite marker, no grave where wreaths can be reverently laid in remembrance.
No matter. Those who knew her well believe the best way to remember her is to make certain her story is told. Told for the Archerfish crewmembers still alive as well as for those on "eternal patrol." Told for the thousands of submarine sailors who preceded them and for those who still ply the planet's seas on the "boomers" and "fast attacks," the nuclear boats. Told for those who admire and appreciate the skill and bravery of those who choose the all-voluntary "Silent Service," even as they wonder about the manner of man who would do so.
And told for anyone who loves a damn good story populated by remarkable characters.
We agree. This is the biography of a gallant lady, a diesel boat, a gloriously unique submarine, and of her exceptional crew.
This is the biography of Archerfish.

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