Named for an old term for the great white shark, the Requin, SS 481, was a U.S. Navy diesel-powered submarine built during World War II but soon made basically obsolete by nuclear submarines and later put on public display.
One of 25 Tench-class submarines built, the 312-foot-long Requin was commissioned at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire on April 28, 1945. She carried 10 torpedo tubes and 24 torpedoes, plus two deck guns, two rapid-fire 40-millimeter cannons, and two rocket launchers that were intended for use for offshore bombardment during a possible invasion of Japan.
After her commissioning, the Requin sailed west to the Panama Canal Zone for training, then continued on to Hawaii to join the Pacific Fleet. However, while the Requin was in port at Pearl Harbor waiting to depart on its first mission, VJ Day made that mission unnecessary.
The Requin sailed back east and briefly served as a trainer for anti-submarine missions, then in late 1946, was converted to become the Navy’s first radar picket submarine. In 1948, a more complete conversion took place under the Migraine II program, with several of the torpedo tubes removed to provide more space for both early warning radar equipment and crew berths.
In the late 1950s, the Navy began to equip aircraft such as the P2V Neptune with early warning radar, and the submarine radar picket program came to an end. In 1959, the Requin was converted to an attack submarine, this time at the Charleston Naval Shipyard in South Carolina. The radar equipment was removed and the look of the conning tower was modified with a new sleek steel-and-fiberglass outer skin.
During the 1960s, the Requin alternated between patrols off the Virginia coast and deployments to the Mediterranean with the Sixth Fleet, plus several NATO exercises and 1966’s UNITAS VII, a cooperative exercise with the navies of several South American countries. The Requin’s last major deployment was as part of the search for the USS Scorpion in May 1968, and following some minor local operations, the Requin was deactivated in October 1968 and decommissioned on December 3, 1968.
The Requin was then towed to St. Petersburg, Florida to serve as a Naval Reserve training ship for a couple of years. Most World War II submarines which had followed the same path were eventually scrapped, but the Requin was purchased by a non-profit organization and towed across Tampa Bay to downtown Tampa, where she was berthed near the mouth of the Hillsborough River and open to the public for tours.
Attendance eventually dwindled, though, and in December 1986, the Requin was closed and essentially abandoned. She sat rusting in the river until Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center became interested. In May 1990, the Requin was towed to International Ship Repair in Tampa where she was repaired and repainted; on August 7, 1990, she left Tampa and crossed the Gulf of Mexico, then was attached to four barges and went up the Mississippi and the Ohio rivers, finally arriving at her new home next to the Carnegie Science Center’s new location, near the confluence in downtown Pittsburgh on September 4. The Requin was rededicated on October 20, 1990, and briefly opened for tours before undergoing some interior renovations during the winter of 1990-91 and some more the next winter. Now open year-round, the Requin benefits from being part of a science museum, rather than being a standalone attraction as she was in Tampa.
References: www.geocities.com/uss_requin/ and www.carnegiesciencecenter.org, plus being dragged by my parents to see the Requin in Tampa on a couple of occasions in the early ‘80s when relatives were in town.