This history is only an edited summary of the Cold War operations of the Bluegill. The "Crew Stories" section may expand on some of the unusual operations of the Boat, as experienced by some of the crew, that have remained untold for many years.
The Bluegill was re-commissioned on 3 May 1951 following the outbreak of the Korean action and was again assigned to the Pacific Fleet in San Diego, California, for training duty. On 7 July 1952, Bluegill was decommissioned for the purpose of being converted to an SSK submarine by the San Francisco Naval Shipyard. The conversion was completed and the ship re-commissioned on 2 May 1953. She was again assigned to the Pacific Fleet to operate out of her home port of San Diego, California.
On 2 November 1953, Bluegill was deployed to the Western Pacific where she participated in training exercises and operations with various United Nations Forces.
The ship returned to the San Diego area on 15 May 1954 after visiting the ports of Yokosuka, Atami, and Kobe, Japan; Subic Bay and Manila, Republic of the Philippines; Hong Kong, British Crown Colony; and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Bluegill then participated in intensive anti-submarine exercises with other fleet units in the San Diego area. On 1 July 1955, during a regular overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, the home port of Bluegill was changed to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where she arrived in December 1955. She participated in local ASW and submarine service type operations at Pearl Harbor until February 1956. She deployed to the Western Pacific for duty and returned to Pearl Harbor in August 1956. Bluegill operated locally until once again, in August 1957, she was ordered to the Western Pacific for duty with the United States Seventh Fleet. Her Western Pacific tour completed, Bluegill returned to Pearl Harbor for her regular yard overhaul period.
In 1958 a shakedown cruise found Bluegill south of the Equator at Pago Pago, American Samoa; the trip providing the needed opportunity to bring the crew to an operating peak, as well as a few pleasant liberty days in a little visited port. Before departing for the Western Pacific on her third deployment in four years, Bluegill operated with other Pacific Fleet units in the Pearl Harbor area. In March 1959, Bluegill again headed west for her fourth deployment since the end of World War II. While with the Seventh Fleet, Bluegill participated in anti-submarine exercises and visited the ports of Yokosuka, Kobe, and Beppu, Japan, and Hong Kong, British Crown Colony.
On 15 August 1959, Bluegill was re-designated an attack submarine and her hull number changed from SSK-242 to SS-242.
At the culmination of her cruise, Bluegill proceeded to Townsville, Australia, where she accomplished a feat of navigation by using the Magnetic Passage through the Great Barrier Reef; a passage which had not been attempted in eight years. Bluegill returned to Pearl Harbor on 2 October 1959 and resumed training operations with local units.
On 1 May 1961, Bluegill entered the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for regular overhaul. She completed on 15 September 1961 and following a short refresher training period, again headed west on 18 November 1961 for her fifth deployment in the Western Pacific since her conversion in 1953.
January 1962 found the Bluegill (SS-242) deployed in the Western Pacific with units of the United States Seventh Fleet. During the month of February, Bluegill participated in SEATO Operation Tulungan. On 1 April 1962, Bluegill made a three day good-will visit to Saigon, South Vietnam. Bluegill was the first United States submarine to visit Saigon since World War II.
While in Saigon, Bluegill was honored by an official visit from President Ngo Diem Bien Phu, who extended the greetings of the Vietnamese people to the officers and crew of Bluegill. President Diem awarded submarine Dolphins to eight newly qualified personnel of Bluegill. During the Western Pacific deployment, Bluegill visited the following ports: Hong Kong, British Crown Colony; Kaoshung, Formosa; Subic Bay, Manila and Sangley Point, Republic of the Philippines; Naha, Okinawa; and Yokosuka, Japan. Bluegill received a warm Aloha welcome on her return to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in May. After a period of leave and upkeep, Bluegill moved into a busy schedule of local operations. During this time, ASW exercises were conducted with HMAS Royalist and various U.S. Pacific Fleet units. Bluegill conducted amphibious exercises with the U.S. Marines from Kaneohe, Hawaii, which proved to be extremely interesting and provided excellent training for all hands.
In January 1963, Bluegill entered the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for a battery renewal. During the month of February 1963, Bluegill participated in the Eastern Pacific Slamex Operation "Golf Club". Upon completion Bluegill paid a good will visit to Mazatlan, Mexico. After her return to Pearl Harbor in March 1963, Bluegill began a busy schedule of local operations. During the months of June to August 1963, Bluegill played host to the Japanese submarine JDS Oyashio (SS-511). Excellent training and a chance to promote the people-to-people program was enjoyed by all hands.
Bluegill participated in local operations in the Pearl Harbor area from January to March 1964 when she departed for regular overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. On 1 April 1964, Bluegill’s homeport was changed to San Diego and was reassigned to Submarine Squadron three in Submarine Division thirty-one. On 1 July 1964, Bluegill was reassigned to re-commissioned Submarine Division thirty-three. Bluegill’s overhaul was completed in August and after a month of operations in the Puget Sound area, she reported to San Diego. The remainder of 1964 was spent in San Diego local operations and preparing for a late December deployment to the Western Pacific.
ON 28 December 1964, Bluegill departed for the Western Pacific to operate as a unit of the United States Seventh Fleet within Submarine Flotilla Seven. During the Western Pacific deployment Bluegill visited the following ports: Keelung, Formosa; Naha, Okinawa; Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines; Hong Kong, British Crown Colony; and Yokosuka, Japan. Bluegill departed the Western Pacific on 9 July 1965 and arrived in San Diego on 29 July 1965 having completed a highly successful seven month deployment. Upon completing a well deserved leave and upkeep period she commenced local operations in the San Diego area for the remainder of 1965.
From July 1965 to July 1967, the USS Bluegill (SS-242) made two deployments to WestPac, separated by a restricted availability in San Francisco, which means that she didn’t spend much time in San Diego. In her first deployment she spent most of her time in the Tonkin Gulf on lifeguard station waiting for some aviator to fall in the drink. None did. Her most exciting task was dodging Vietnamese fishing boats. The only part of the Vietnam war the crew could see was our planes dumping their live ammo on a big rock off the coast of Vietnam, before returning to their carrier. Her only combat experience came when some crazy American aviator got tired of shooting at the rock and came over and strafed the sea weed under which she was hiding. The crew could hear the bullets bouncing off her hull, but luckily there was no real damage.
Bluegill's last six-month deployment was spent on independent duty providing submarine services to the Asian countries of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, and Thailand under the Military Assistance Program (MAP). She would start by pulling into a designated port in each of the countries for a week’s R&R. While there, the crew met with their ASW force to plan ASW operations for the next two weeks. The crew particularly enjoyed their stay in Thailand. After four days at sea, all the sonars on the Thai destroyers crapped out, so Bluegill returned to Bangkok for an extra ten days.
Bluegill's stay in San Francisco to receive a new battery was quite routine except that the crew painted the interior of the boat a Bluegill blue instead of Navy green, which raised a few eyebrows.
During the final two years of Bluegill’s active military life, Bluegill completed a successful deployment to the Western Pacific in 1968 providing services as requested and met all of her commitments. Her final year was equally productive in the training of anti-submarine warfare forces along the western coast of the United States. Simultaneously, she very graciously attended the Rose Festival in Portland, Oregon and as always, looked her best and accommodated many of her local fans. Her officers and crew very reluctantly placed her out of commission at Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 28 June 1969.
In December 1970, with special permission from the Hawaiian Legislature, Bluegill was intentionally sunk in 140 feet of water, 3 miles from Lahaina, Maui, as a diving trainer, remaining on the bottom for thirteen years.
The agreement with the State of Hawaii required the raising and removal of Bluegill when no longer used for training purposes. During November 1983, Bluegill was raised, towed to a spot 23 miles southwest of Lahaina, and made a final dive in much deeper water for a well deserved rest.