Operation Petticoat*
Directed by Blake Edwards
Academy Award Nominations: Best Screenplay.

"Cary Grant and Tony Curtis star as naval officers in this service comedy, one of the director's favorite genres. When Capt. Matt Sherman's (Grant) submarine, the Sea Tiger, is damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor, he needs to find spare parts to have it recommissioned. Into the breach steps aide Lt. Nick Holden (Curtis), a master con man and wheeler-dealer who begins scheming to acquire the materials needed to fix the sub while the appalled Sherman looks the other way. Once the sub is deemed seaworthy, they stop at an island where Holden picks up a couple of Filipino families and five navy nurses who have been stranded there. The arrival of the extremely attractive nurses in the sub's cramped quarters has the predicted effect on the young, all-male crew, who soon find concentrating on their work to be an impossible task. The women also have their own ideas about the renovation of the submarine, one of which involves painting it pink. Despite the dated 1950s gender stereotypes, the comic genius of Grant and the energy of Curtis, in addition to a script witty enough to have been nominated for an Academy Award, keep the film afloat. Among the talented cast are Dick Sargent, Arthur O'Connell, Dina Merrill, Gene Evans, and Gavin McLeod, who would later return to the seas as the captain of THE LOVE BOAT."

*Released on DVD by Republic Pictures Home Video 10/15/2001. DVD cover and videography ©Republic Pictures Home Video. More info at http://www.cduniverse.com/

Of all the questions I get asked from visitors to the Web site, one of the most asked are about the Movie Operation Petticoat.  This is true also for Harry Hall keeper of all things related to the SS393 boat. I Have found no one single place were you can find coherent information about the movie. But, this site, http://www.submarinesailor.com/history/Trivia/MovieBoats.htm, has most of the raw information.

I have taken this raw information, and some from Harry Hall's emails, and placed it in a nut shell context that can be easily read.

USS Archerfish (gray) and USS Balao (pink) at USNS Key West, FL
Operation Petticoat was filmed in various locales in Florida and San Diego in February 1959, released in late 1959.

A great controversy has arisen among sub vets, as to what boats were used in the film.

Three boats were used in the making of the movie:

  1. USS Balao SS285, was painted pink and was used for exterior shots in and around Key West.1,3
  2. USS Archerfish  SS311 wore the standard colors of grey and black, and was used for interior and exterior shots in and around Key West.1,3
  3. USS Queenfish SS393 was used in opening and closing scenes and was used for at sea shots filmed in and around San Diego.2

Pier side Line handlers, seen in the Key West shots, were from US Naval Station, Key West (Balao) and USN Sonar Operators School, Key West (Archerfish). Ship board line handlers where from ship's company.3

1. Confirmed by the deck logs of USS Archerfish and Balao. Interior scene filming on Archerfish confirmed by Ken "Pig" Henry, a crew member at the time. Further confirmation of the Balao's pink paint job was by Tim "Steamboat" Spoon, who was still chipping pink paint from the then USS Balao AGSS-285 in 1962.

2. Confirmed by former crew members and the fact that  on the fleet boats there were flat metal numbers (and sometimes the boat's name as well), welded to the side of the superstructure, and usually always painted over (sometimes also painted white for contrast)....you can see the 393 in some scenes.

3.Confirmed by Fr. Aaron S. Peters, O.S.B., who was a line handler from the Sonar School.

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