The USS Razorback (SS-394) is a Balao-class submarine that saw service in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The name “Razorback” came from the Rorqual family of whales, which are characterized by throat grooves that extend from the throat to the flippers. This submarine, after a long and varied service, is now docked in the Arkansas River in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), as part of the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.
The USS Razorback was constructed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine in 1943–44 and was launched on January 27, 1944. Between 1944 and 1945, the Razorback completed war patrols in the Pacific, which included being a member of an offensive group conducting patrols east of Luzon in the Philippines in support of the mid-September 1944 landings on Palau. It also operated in a group of submarines that patrolled in the Luzon Straits, where the Razorback damaged a 6,933-ton freighter on December 6, 1944, and sank an 820-ton destroyer and damaged another freighter on December 30. On February 1, 1945, the Razorback set out for the East China Sea, accompanied by the Segundo and the USS Sea Cat (SS-399), where it sank four wooden ships in three separate surface gun actions.
As a result of its World War II patrols, the Razorback won five battle stars, and it is also one of only two surviving submarines that took part in the formal surrender of Japan at Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Following World War II, the Razorback remained active with the Pacific Fleet, participating in patrols off Japan and China. After being modified in the early 1950s to make it more modern and competitive against possible Soviet submarine threats, it provided antisubmarine training services for surface and air units off the West Coast through 1956. From 1957 until 1970, the Razorback returned to duty in the Far East, earning its first Vietnam Service Medal in 1965.
Following its final deployment, it was decommissioned on November 30, 1970, transferred to the Turkish Navy, and renamed the TCG Muratreis (S-336). Due to their classified nature, little information is available about the Muratreis’s duties while in the Turkish Navy, though it is known that it was involved in the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island of Cyprus.
The Muratreis was decommissioned in August 2001. The city of North Little Rock succeeded in buying the submarine for $37,500 in 2004 (with the sale being finalized on March 25, 2005), following the intervention of city officials and submarine veterans groups, specifically the United States Submarine Veterans, Inc. The city of North Little Rock arranged for it to be towed from Turkey at a cost of about $500,000, most of which came from private donations; it arrived at the Port of Little Rock on August 29, 2004. A celebration, called an “American Homecoming,” was held for the Razorback later that month to celebrate its return to the United States.
The submarine was opened for tours on May 15, 2005, at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 1, 2005.
For additional information:
“Arrival of USS Razorback submarine delayed.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 11, 2004, p. 1B
Jensen, Van. “Razorback ends latest ‘adventure’ at LR Port.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 4, 2004, pp. 1A, 12A.
Sandlin, Jake. “Gathering Marks Sub’s 75th Year.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 4, 2019, pp. 1B, 3B.
———. “NLR sub docks in New Orleans.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 20, 2004, pp. 1B, 3B.
Wilcox, Ralph S. “USS Razorback (SS-394), North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. 2004–2005. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PU8144.nr.pdf
(accessed December 18, 2019).
Ralph S. Wilcox
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Last Updated: 10/14/2020