Inside the USS Blueback Submarine


Recently, hubby and I went to have brunch in downtown Portland and on our way there we saw a submarine parked on the other side of the Willamette river. We decided to go take a look after eating.

We drove towards it and we ended up at OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, where you can take a tour inside the U.S. Navy’s last non-nuclear, fast-attack submarine, the USS Blueback (SS-581)!


Blueback was laid down on 15 April 1957. She was launched on 16 May 1959 and commissioned on 15 October 1959.

Blueback was decommissioned on 1 October 1990 and laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet in Bremerton, Washington. In 1994, OMSI towed her to Portland, Oregon and now rests as a memorial and interactive part of the museum. Guided tours are offered several times a day.


The tour lasts about 45 minutes and tickets cost $6.75.

It was quite fun to be inside this historical piece and peer through a periscope, walk up and down the narrow aisles, see the torpedo room, the crew rooms, the kitchen and dining rooms, the engine room and more.

Disclaimer: Since this was a spontaneous tour, I did not have my camera on me and had to resort to my crappy phone camera.

About to go in.

The Blueback was the first battle-ready class of submarines to use the teardrop hull.

It was in official operation throughout the Pacific Ocean for 31 years.

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The USS Blueback was one of three in its class, the last diesel-electric propelled submarines built by the U.S. Navy. They incorporated numerous, radical engineering improvements over previous classes and were the first production warships built with the teardrop-shape hull and “attack center” within the hull rather than a conning tower in the sail.

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Blueback is the common name for the Sockeye Salmon. When the Blueback was commissioned, submarines were named after fish. Since the 1970s, most U.S. Navy submarines have been named after cities or states.


The torpedo room.
The torpedo room.
On the top right you may be able to see a small mattress. Some of the crew chose to sleep/nap in the torpedo room because it was the most ventilated room in the submarine.
On the top right you may be able to see a small mattress. Some of the crew chose to sleep/nap atop the torpedos in the torpedo room because it was the most ventilated room in the submarine.

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The USS Blueback earned two battle stars for her Vietnam War service.

Blueback served in the entertainment industry too. It appeared in the hit movie The Hunt for Red October and an episode of Hawaii Five-O and has been used as a location for a Discovery Channel documentary and various commercials.


The last part of the tour was the engine room which according to the guide was hell to work in. I happen to have accidentally recorded the explanation about the engine room before we went inside, here it is:

The ramp that leads to and from the submarine and OMSI.


Have you ever been inside a submarine?

6 thoughts on “Inside the USS Blueback Submarine

  1. How claustrophobic is a submarine? I feel hemmed in just by your pics! What an interesting tour.


    1. Depends I guess. I didn’t feel even a tad of claustrophobia, but I never do. In fact I love being in small dark places like caves, dark labyrinths, etc. I find it really fun. But if you suffer from some claustrophobia then it might be a little claustrophobic hehe. There were people of all ages in the tour and they were all fine.


  2. Hard to imagine months inside such cramped quarters!


  3. Hard to imagine months inside such cramped quarters!


  4. I served on USS Blueback it was a fun time I enjoy the time. I did not rolling out of the bottom rack which was full of #10 cans.


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