The keel of the Balao-class submarine USS Lionfish was laid by Cramp Shipbuilding Corp. in Philadelphia on December 15, 1942. She was launched almost a year later on November 7, 1943, and was commissioned one year after that on November 1, 1944. She departed New England for the Panama Canal on January 8, 1945 and arrived at Saipan on March 30 ready for her first war patrol.
Lionfish left Saipan for enemy territory in the Yellow Sea on April 2, 1945. On April 11, the junior officer on deck “sighted a persistent white cap” heading toward them and got the boat turned away in time to watch two torpedo wakes run parallel to their new course. On May 1, she encountered a three-masted schooner carrying lumber, which she left “burning merrily” after attacking it with her deck guns. On May 9, she rendezvoused with USS Ray (SS 271) to take aboard 10 surviving crew members from a downed B-29 and, after a brief lifeguard duty, headed back for Saipan and then Midway.
On June 20, 1945, Lionfish got underway on her second and final war patrol, first to lifeguard duty and then to patrol west of the approach to Bungo Suido. Her crew spotted a Japanese I-class submarine on July 10 and fired torpedoes from tubes 1 through 5. One hit was heard followed by another, after which the target’s propellers stopped. Lionfish surfaced to see smoke where the target had been and heard breaking up noises that “sounded like a tin can being crumpled up.” The sinking could not be confirmed by post-war records, however. After two more attacks on enemy submarines, both unsuccessful, she patrolled off of Honshu on lifeguard duty until hostilities ended on August 15.
Lionfish returned to Mare Island in September 1945 and was decommissioned January 16, 1946. She was recommissioned in January 1951 to serve as a training vessel, first at Key West, Fla., and then at New London. During the latter half of 1952, she made cruises to the Bahamas and the Mediterranean and participated in four NATO exercises.
Decommissioned on December 15, 1953 at Boston Navy Yard, Lionfish joined the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She served as a reserve training submarine in Providence, R.I., from March 1960 to December 1971. Lionfish received one battle star for her WWII service.
Since 1972, USS Lionfish has been on permanent display as a memorial and National Historic Landmark at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Mass. Visitors to Battleship Cove can also tour the battleship USS Massachusetts (BB 59), the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (DD 850), a Soviet-built East German missile corvette, and two PT boats.