I still think it is ironic that me an Army guy studies Navy history. I remembered reading about our subs going up to the Soviet bases and tapping their cables and reading their classified correspondences. This can't be underestimated, this allowed us to know the thoughts of the Soviet military hierarchy and if they were actually preparing for war. This ship probably spent more time in Soviet waters than most of the ships in the Soviet Navy.
It’s pretty likely that you have never heard of the US Navy’s most
decorated warship. That’s because the Navy did not want you to hear of
it while it was in service. What may be more fantastic is that it
received all of those decorations without once firing a weapon in attack
The USS Parche was built in 1970 as a hunter/killer submarine. No
one, not even the shipbuilders that worked on it, knew what was in store
for this special ship. The Parche was built to be a nuclear submarine
which would follow enemy vessels both above and below the sea and then
destroy them. Part of the Sturgeon class as built, it received its
commission in 1974 and served two years in the Atlantic Fleet as
In 1976, the Parche was retrofitted for the first time. There is not
much information about what changed but after the work was complete, the
Parche was rarely heard of by the public. The Navy had chosen the
Parche to support the National Underwater Reconnaissance Office (NURO).
NURO was a secretive joint effort between the Navy and the CIA.
At the end of the 1970s, the Parche had traveled into the Sea of
Okhotsk multiple times with the USS Halibut and the USS Seawolf in order
to wiretap Soviet communications over the cables running across the
seabed. Known as Operation Ivy Bells, the surveillance went undetected
until the National Security Agency (NSA) accidentally leaked details of
the operation in the mid-1980s.
Along with the invaluable intelligence gained from the wiretaps, the
Parche recovered fragments of the USSR’s anti-ship rockets. This allowed
the Navy to analyze them and develop countermeasures to protect US
The Parche received numerous additional retrofits throughout the
1980s and 1990s. These overhauls improved the sytems used on the ship,
adding cameras and a longer hull to fit more equipment and more crew –
amongst other things.
The Seawolf and the Parche also received skegs. These legs on the
bottom of the ships allowed them to sit directly on the ocean floor and
allow divers to exit the vessel to perform their wiretap and debris
In the 2000s, it was determined that the Parche had reached the end
of her lifespan. It was already one of the last Sturgeon-class vessels
in the Navy – having been replaced by the Los Angeles and Seawolf
classes. In 2004, the decision was made to decommission the Parche.
After serving for thirty years, the Parche was scrapped. The sail
with her markings was retained and is on display in Bremerton,
Washington. The USS Jimmy Carter serves the same purpose as the Parche
The Parche received nine Presidential Unit Citations, ten Navy Unit
Commendations and thirteen Navy Expeditionary Medals, a total unmatched
in the entire history of the US Navy. It will be decades before the
public is informed of all that the Parche did while in service. But the
number of citations and commendations received during her service is
proof that she served her country well.