- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2004

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The USS Razorback, a World War II submarine that is the world’s longest-serving, is back in U.S. water, starting a voyage up the Mississippi River to become an inland museum in Arkansas.

The Navy decommissioned the 312-foot vessel on Nov. 30, 1970, and handed it over to the Turkish navy, which recently agreed after 2 years of negotiations to sell it to North Little Rock, Ark., for $1.

“This has never been done before, bringing a submarine back to the U.S.,” said John Adams, a retired U.S. Navy officer and the project manager of the operation.

The rusty, barnacled Razorback entered the Mississippi on Saturday, towed by the same oceangoing tugboat that has been with it since its departure from Istanbul on May 5, and docked in New Orleans.

In about 2 weeks, it is scheduled to get under way again, pushed up the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers by tugboat to North Little Rock, where it will become the centerpiece of a planned maritime museum.

Submarine veterans in decorated vests and caps snapped photographs as it came upriver.

“It really looks good. It’s like going back home when you look at that thing,” said Edward Monroe-Jones, a submarine historian and author of a history of the Razorback. He served on the Razorback for seven months as a seaman in 1953.

The Razorback, also known as the SS-394, was launched in 1944 and took part in the surrender of Japan on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay. It was awarded five battle stars during World War II and four during the Vietnam War.

After World War II, the Razorback was streamlined and became a “Guppy” — a Greater Underwater Propulsion Power vessel.

“They hopped them up, just like we did with our Model A’s back in the 1940s and 1950s,” Mr. Monroe-Jones said.

Max Bassett was the only veteran who made the entire trip from Turkey.

“How many guys who are 69 years old get a chance to do this?” Mr. Bassett said.

He was a machinist and engineer on the Razorback from 1959 to 1962, and was in the engine room when the Razorback was involved in hydrogen bomb tests at Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean.

During the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, the vessel picked up an extra passenger, an injured bird that Mr. Bassett and other crew members fed.

“He just crash landed on the deck one night — the night we left Gibraltar,” Mr. Bassett said.

“Hopefully he’ll make it on to Arkansas,” Mr. Bassett said. “He’s free, he’s wild, he comes and goes.”

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