Launched 21 November 1933 at the Electric Boat Company yard in Groton, CT, and sponsored by Mrs. B.S. Bullard, the SS-171 U.S.S Cuttlefish submarine was placed in commission on 8 June 1934 under the command of Lieutenant Commander C. W. Styer.
Cuttlefish departed New London on on 15 May 1935 for San Diego, where she arrived on 22 June. She operated mostly off the west coast until 28 June 1937, when she returned to New London via the Panama Canal, Miami, and New York.
Arriving in New London 28 July 1937, she conducted experimental torpedo firing, sound training, and other operations for the Submarine School. On 22 October 1938, she sailed from New York for Coco Solo, in the Panama Canal Zone, where she conducted training operation until 20 March 1939. At that time she sailed through the Canal bound for Mare Island.
Cuttlefish arrived at Pearl Harbor on 16 June 1939. In the autumn of 1939 she cruised to the Samoan Islands, and in 1940 to the west coast. On 5 October 1941 she departed Pearl Harbor for Mare Island Navy Yard, where she was to undergo an overhaul.
With the outbreak of War, Cuttlefish returned to Pearl Harbor following her overhaul, departing on her first war patrol on 29 January 1942. On 13 February she performed a reconnaissance of Marcus Island, and after patrolling the the Bonins, she returned to Midway on 24 March.
Following the normal post-patrol refit, Cuttlefish departed Midway for her second war patrol on 2 May 1942. Between 18 and 24 May she operated off Saipan and the northern Marianas islands. On 19 May 1942 she attacked a patrols ship, but while maneuvering for a second attack was detected and forced deep and depth charged for four hours.
On 24 May she challenged three Japanese destroyers. The next day she was caught on the surface by an enemy aircraft, which dropped two bombs as she was diving. Both missed.
Cuttlefish was then ordered to patrol about 700 miles west of Midway, where she remained on station during the Battle of Midway. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 15 June 1942.
She departed on her third, and last, war patrol on 29 July 1942. On 18 August, patrolling in Empire waters, she attacked a destroyer, resulting in no damage to the target and a sever depth charge attack.
On 21 August 1942, Cuttlefish fired a spread of torpedoes at a transport and escort. Cuttlefish claimed a freighter sunk, but subsequent researched indicated she actually inflicted only light damage on the 6,534 ton Japanese naval transport Nichiro Maru. She also claimed damage to the destroyer, but Japanese sources indicate otherwise.
On 5 September Cuttlefish reported attacking and sinking a 19,600 ton tanker with three torpedoes. Post war analysis indicated no Japanese vessels were sunk or damaged at that position.
As a result of her third patrol, which was designated “successful,” Cuttlefish was credited with a wartime record of two ships sunk for 29,600 tons. JANAC disallowed these post-war.
Cuttlefish returned to Pearl Harbor on 20 September 1942, after which she was ordered to New London, where she would perform training duties at the Submarine School until October 1945. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 24 October 1945, and sold for scrapping on 12 February 1947.
Cuttlefish received two battle stars for her wartime service.
Builder: Electric Boat
Sponsor: Mrs. B.S. Bullard
First Captain: LCDR C.W. Styer
Stricken/Lost: Scrapped 1947