Archive for July, 2014

If They Don’t Get You One Way…

In the midst of the fourth war patrol of USS APOGON (SS-308), on 12 July 1944, her crew discovered that enemy vessels didn’t have to employ explosives in order to cause serious damage.

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The Loss of USS GRUNION (SS-216)

On 11 April 1942, USS GRUNION (SS-216) was commissioned at Electric Boat Company in Groton, CT. It would have been difficult to imagine on that day of new beginnings that the new sub had less than four months to live.

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GRUNION to the Rescue

On 12 April 1942, the German U-boat U-558 stood out from Brest, France, to begin her seventh war patrol. Exactly one month later, her reign of terror began when she sank the British armed trawler HMT Bedfordshire, which was assisting the United States Navy with antisubmarine patrols off the coast of North Carolina. Between 18 and 21 May, U-558 sank three more vessels, all steamers; the first belonged to Holland, the second to Canada, and the third to the United States. She tried to sink a fifth vessel, an American tanker, near Jamaica on the twenty-third, but the target survived despite being torpedoed. Two days later the submarine was more successful, sinking an American merchant with her deck gun. On 27 May, U-558 set her sights on the United States Army transport ship JACK, sending her quickly to the bottom. She sank her final victim, a Dutch steamer, on 2 June before returning to Brest.

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Another Exciting Day on Patrol

American submarines proved to be a devastatingly effective fighting force during World War II. Although they made up less than two percent of the U.S. Navy, they sent more than thirty percent of the Japanese Navy and sixty percent of the nation’s merchant marine to the bottom. It is safe to say that these accomplishments were a critical part of the path to victory.

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The Loss of USS ROBALO (SS-273)

USS ROBALO (SS-273) was built at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and commissioned on 28 September 1943. She was soon on her way to Pearl Harbor. Her first patrol, 57 days long, yielded only a single unsuccessful attack. Perhaps hoping for a better performance in subsequent outings, naval authorities gave command of the boat to a new officer, Lieutenant Commander Manning Kimmel.

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Eugene Bennett Fluckey was born in Washington, D.C. on October 5, 1913 to Isaac Newton and Louella Snowden Fluckey. A bright child, 10 year old Eugene heard a speech by President Calvin Coolidge, in which he told the Nation:

“Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
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Medal of Honor Recipient George L. Street, III

George Levick Street, III, was born in Richmond, Virginia, on 27 July 1913. He joined the Naval Reserve in 1931 and was chosen to attend the Naval Academy in 1933, graduating in 1937. He served aboard a light cruiser and a battleship before volunteering for submarine duty. Street spent the next three years aboard USS GAR (SS-206), during which time he completed nine war patrols and was twice awarded the Silver Star.

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SEALION’s Sounds

December of 1941 found USS SEALION (SS-195), commissioned in 1939 and the veteran of one war patrol, in the midst of a routine overhaul at Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines. But she would never make it back to sea. On 10 December the Japanese struck, pounding the facility with bombs dropped by waves of aircraft. SEALION was hit twice. The first bomb landed on the aft section of the conning tower, exploding just over the control room but outside the hull. The second hit was far worse. The bomb sliced through a ballast tank and the pressure hull and blew up in the aft engine room. The four men who were working there—Chief Electrician’s Mate Sterling Foster, Chief Electrician’s Mate Melvin O’Connell, Machinist’s Mate First Class Ernest Ogilvie, and Electrician’s Mate Third Class Vallentyne Paul—were killed. (Another crewmember, Chief Machinist’s Mate Howard Firth, would end up being captured by the Japanese after they occupied the facility the following month; he would die in a POW camp.) Water poured in through the gash in the sub’s side, submerging nearly half her main deck and causing her to list to starboard. The yard, devastated as it was by the attack, could do nothing to fix her, so workers stripped the sub of all useable equipment and set up explosive charges. On Christmas Day, SEALION was destroyed.

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PLUNGER’s Pick-up

Three days after they attacked Pearl Harbor, the Japanese occupied the Gilbert Islands, sixteen small atolls in the Pacific Ocean which comprise the main part of the Republic of Kiribati. This was a strategically brilliant move. It quickly became clear that the United States and its allies would have to topple a series of islands like dominoes before they gained a position from which air forces could take off to bomb Japan. The Mariana Islands were the optimal location for forward air bases, but the Japanese were aware of this fact and consequently guarded the islands jealously. So before the bombers could move to the Marianas they had to first bomb them; the Marshall Islands were the best place from which to launch such an air assault. But the Marshalls had their own problem: they were cut off from direct contact with authorities in Hawaii by a contingent of Japanese soldiers on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Thus, the Gilberts became the first domino on the path to attacking the Japanese home islands.

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Just over a week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, USS SILVERSIDES (SS-236) set out for Hawaii, eager to get into the fight. The very first page of her very first patrol report details the boat’s maiden encounter with an enemy vessel, as well as a moment of tragedy.

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