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The S-34 began operations out of Dutch Harbor in April of 1942. After an initial 14-day
uncounted patrol to Amchitka Island and back – without incident — repairs were made and the 34
boat shoved off for a first patrol to the Paramushiru Islands, south of the Kamchatka
Peninsula. With the Div Com, Comdr. B.G. Lake, aboard, Lieutenant Tom Wogan the 34’s Captain had
orders to intercept traffic between Attu and Paramushiru and then stop off at Holtz Bay in
Attu on the way back to Dutch Harbor, to transport any or the Aleut Indians who might wish
to return to Alaska. May was supposed to be a good month for Bering Sea operations but S-boats
were apparently not designed for the North Pacific storms encountered. The winds ranged up
to 100 knots and crest to crest distance between waves was over 1000 yards. While cruising on the
surface, the control room barometer varied at least three inches in pressure due to the low
pressure in the trough and higher pressure on the wave crests. No baths were taken because or the
danger or getting pneumonia. Drop-seat underwear had been donned on leaving Dutch Harbor, not to
be removed until return to the barracks at the end of the patrol. A hundred miles short of
Paramushiru, contact was made on two unescorted freighters or about 2000 tons each. Despite no
radar, no echo-ranging gear and a badly fogged periscope the S-34 reached a good firing
position. With a range of 900 yards, three MK10 torpedoes were fired. They ran hot, straight and
normal for 500 yards and then the engines stopped — the freighters moving past the 34 unharmed.
Later it was learned that these torpedoes were unstable in water temperatures below 30oF and the
recorded ocean temperature that day was 280F. Paramushiru proved a weird place with continual
fog and a yellow-tinge to the sky from all of the sulfur pouring out of the volcanoes on the
Islands. The harbor was clogged with icebergs and floe ice, and the 34 boat moved around inside
the harbor without finding anything. On the way back to Dutch Harbor, the S-34 stopped at Holtz
Bay in At tu where the Di v Com fell overboard and although rescued in 20 seconds he turned blue and never warmed up until back in the barracks. Also, the Aleut Chief, Mike, was contacted, but he
declined an offer to take his people back to Alaska. Next day, after the 34 left, the Japs invaded Attu. So Mike and his tribe spent most or the war with the Japs.

The S-34 ‘s second patrol, and the reason for this story was a different matter!

The S-34 departed Dutch Harbor in June 1942 to intercept shipping and report on action in the
Attu area. No contacts were made to the west or Attu where Japanese landing forces were expected.
On 20 June while patrolling just north or Attu, contact was made on a pinging destroyer to the
south of the 34 boat. The skipper headed for the sound source. Just east of Sarana Bay he sighted
a DD patrolling off the entrance. Battle Stations were manned and an approach was commenced. The DD reversed course and disappeared in the fog toward Sarana Bay. The seas were calm for a change, and the fog was patchy. The bearing on the DD’ s screws changed to the north. During a quick
periscope exposure, Captain Wogan yelled, “We’ve hit the jackpot I • ” On my fast look through the
scope I sighted the DD’ s stern going away, but when I swung to the harbor entrance there was an
anchored tanker fueling two DDs port side. The range was 6000 yards. Attack was broken off on
the first DD and an approach started on the tanker. Our charts were obsolete but indica ted
that there would be good depth right up to the firing point. During the approach, the sonar man
kept track of the patrolling destroyer. Twice the 34 changed course to show the continually pinging
DD a stern profile. The Captain conducted a text book approach. Quick exposures of the periscope
were used, making it doubtful that the enemy suspected the presence of the 34. However, the 34
acted oddly. I sensed we were in shallow water – but after checking the dead reckoner and the charts, it appeared that we had at least two fathoms under the keel. A final ISWAS solution, with a range of 1 000 yards, torpedo run of 1000 yards and a goo starboard angle on the bow, was obtained. It was a perfect set-up for a no-speed target. The skipper ordered, “Fire three fish on the next look.” With the order “up scope, 11 a tremendous noise like an explosion occurred which sounded like depth charges , although none on the S-34 had ever heard underwater explosions before. The boat rocked and bumped. The skipper ordered, 11 All ahead full, take her down to 100 feet. 11 Nothing happened. Then “up scope.” When the periscope unfogged he muttered, “We’re aground.” Then “All back emergency.” Nothing moved. Then “All stop •11 Chief Electrician’s Mate Leonard called out, “If we’re aground, I suggest that you blow all the fuel out of #3 Main Ballast Tank. That will make us light enough to float off the reef.” He offered to unwire 1#3 MBT vent so that the tank could be flooded for diving. All Shoats making long patrols carried their 13 MBT full of fuel and had the vent wired shut to
prevent accidentally opening it, releasing the oil. 13 MBT was blown. The Captain, on the scope, reported, “I can see our bow out of water. They are shooting at us, 11 — and this could be heard through the hull. “The outboard DD has cut her lines and is heading our way. The DD astern has reversed course and is heading for us.” This running account spurred faster blowing and faster
venting. The Skipper finally announced, “We’re levelling off. There’s oil all around us. All
back emergency.” With a great grinding sound, the 34 boat backed clear of the reef. “Right
full rudder, flood 1#3 MBT,” was then ordered. With DD projectiles landing all around the 34 she
headed for the bottom. At the last instant, before ducking the scope, the Captain got two Mk
X torpedoes off towards the DD which had broken away from the tanker. There was one final
glimpse of the DD as it passed down the 34’s port side at an estimated range of 30 yards. The
Skipper’s last remark before lowering the scope was, “Stand by for depth charges close aboard, our torpedoes were near misses.” Just as the periscope was housed, seven depth charges at three
second intervals knocked everyone off his feet. The boat was driven bodily sidewise through the
water. Then she hit bottom in 178 feet of water. Virtually all gear was secured in order to listen
and evaluate the situation. As the 34 bottomed, the diving officer Lt. (j.g.) Thompson bit the
stem off the pipe he chewed on. Compartments reported no major leaks or damage. The 34’s
riveted hull could take more than the designers knew. The CO said he’d seen the destroyer’s depth
charge crew, dressed in white, pushing over depth charges. The sound man reported that the DD after
depth charging the 34 had gone aground on the same reef which the 34 had just vacated. Their charts
were no better than oursl The first DD we had seen, closed the 34 but did not try to attack
since her sister ship was on the reef. The huge oil slick left by the 34 could have tricked the DD
into thinking that the 34 was sunk. A quick council of war between the three senior officers –
– one Lieutenant, and two JGs — arrived at a decision to remain bottomed for a while to see
what the enemy would do. The picture conjured up provided the following scenario: No. 1 DD was
patrolling off the entrance to Sarana Bay; No. 2 DD was aground on a reef; No. 3 DD and the tanker
were in the same relative position where we first found them. Within ten minutes after bottoming,
small high speed screws were heard from the tanker’ a direction. They were heading for the
grounded DD, presumably to help free her. The Skipper decided to play dead for the next couple
of hours. All machinery was shut down, the gyro as well. It seemed to make an awful racket when
it was the only motor running. The 34 ‘s at tack was at 0930 on 20 June. There was no way of
knowing how long the 34 would have to stay down. All were optimistic about getting out of this
situation. All hands were told to hit their bunks and try to relax. Time went by slowly. During an
attempt to play cribbage on the gyro table, I announced, “this is my sixth wedding anniversary.”
All that I got were a few looks of sympathy. DD #3 could be heard trying to pull #2 DD off the
reef. At about 1600 they seemed to have succeeded. The twenty to thirty foot rise and
fall of the tremendous tides in the Aleutians were helping. The tanker also got underway, and
as it passed overhead the soundman imagined that they were dumping their garbage on the 34. After
another hour the clanking sounds of chains or cables being dragged over the rough volcanic
bottom were heard. The sounds became louder and louder and then shifted to the other side of the
boat and diminished in volume. The Japs were dragging for the 34 but had missed. By 0300 on
21 June, the activity diminished, although one of the destroyers could still be heard, pinging in
the distance. By this time, Chief Torpedoman Yutz, the Chief of the Boat, had provided
calculations for spreading C02 absorbent throughout the boat and in determining the proper
mixture of C02/man/cu.ft. to compensate for the amount of carbon dioxide given off by the
exhausted crew. At about 0330, 19 hours after bottoming, and with no sound of pinging or
screws, the CO decided to start the gyro and to let it settle down, then take a heading to get
out of Sarana Bay. When the gyro motor-generator set was started, it sounded like a B-25 bomber
engine. This also started DD activity, so “Shut the gyro down” was good news. Then Chief
Machinist Mate Wiggins reported sounds on the hull over the after battery compartment. The
squishy sound of something moving across the 34’s topside could be heard in the control room.
Someone guessed it was a diver attaching a line to the 34’s after battery hatch. Then he’d be
able to slide a depth charge down to the 34. A second guess was that the diver was attaching a
bouy to the 34 which would let the destroyers track the 34 if she managed to get off the bottom. Another joker said he was trying to open the after battery hatch. Wiggins then reenforced the cables which held the hatch closed. The noises lasted for twenty minutes, then ceased. At about 0430, Electricians Mate 3/c Bonine reported that he could get no readings of specific gravity on the battery. This convinced the Skipper that shortly he’d have to get the 34 underway and out of the harbor. The pressure inside the boat was almost seven inches. All co2 absorbent was used up and a number of the crew were passed out. In another hour the skipper felt he wouldn’t have anyone left to do even the
simplest task. The gyro was started at 0600, and let to settle for twenty minutes. The Main
Ballast Tanks were then gently blown, just to get the 34 off the bottom. The motors were started
with the batteries in parallel. Only a handful of the crew were available for duty. A Battle Surface Gun party of four groggy men was formed, because surfacing was necessary — DDs or not. “Let’s go,” said the Skipper, and up the 34 started, sounding like a threshing machine. She was leveleed off at 150 feet on a heading of 0600T while crawling for the harbor entrance at a speed of about 1l knots. No pinging was heard, so for the next three hours, taking constant gravity readings on the batteries, the 34 moved to the northeast, fortunate not to go aground again. At 1030 the skipper brought the 34 up to periscope depth to take a look around. After levelling off at 36 feet, he ordered 11Up scope.” It wouldn’t move; it was jammed. He then ordered No. 2 periscope raised, but then couldn’t see a thing
through it because it was totally fogged. “Stand by for Battle Surface” he ordered anyhow. With a
half-conscious crew at their battle stations, the Captain ordered, “All ahead full, down angle on
the bow and stern planes.” The boat was sluggish; full speed with a dead battery produced only a few
knots. So the skipper ordered all planes on full rise, all main ballast tanks blown and as the boat
passed 30 feet, “open the hatch.” With excessive pressure in the boat it was difficult for Benny Allen, the No. 1 man out, to undog the hatch even though he swung a leather mallet backed by his 220
pounds of brawn. The hatch finally popped open and the pressure blew the first three men out of
the conning tower like corks. Benny landed in the water, No. 2 landed on deck, No. 3 hung on to the
forward antenna, and I, as No. 4 lost my shirt. But, there was no need to pursue the Battle Surface Gun Action. A super pea-soup fog enshrouded the S-34. The Skipper then headed northwest for the Commandorski Islands — just in case the enemy was hoping to intercept the 34 out to the east. The S-34 had been submerged for 25 hours, used up all her C02 absorbent, bottled oxygen, and battery and almost all the energy of her crew. After two hours of running on the surface at maximum speed in the fog, the 34 was headed for Dutch Harbor at slow speed with one engine on battery charge. The crew recovered rapidly with fresh air circulating through the boat. Soon all were in good shape. The 34’s
speed had been drastically reduced by bent propeller shafts and nicked propellers. In addition, the boat could not be pumped up to its normal draft because the ballast tanks would not pump dry. We finally did reach Dutch Harbor, however, and all of us rushed to the barracks for a shower and a change of underwear.

Squeak Anderson had arranged for a floating crane to lift the stern of the S-34 for damage inspection and found that the two propeller blades looked like tulips. Divers found jagged holes in all MBTs, and they said the boat’s stem looked like the letter S from contact with the bottom of Sarana Bay. There were also the marks of five suction discs about six inches in diameter, spaced about eighteen inches apart, which had completely taken the paint off the hull over the after battery compartment. The “squishy sound” seemed to indicate that a giant squid had been wrestling with the 34 boat while she was playing dead (well why not?). Within days, the S-34 was patched up and sent to Bremerton NSY for a complete overhaul. Lieutenant Commander Wogan went to the Tarpon, after being relieved by
Lieutenant R.A. Keating, who took the S-34 on four more patrols in the Aleutians.

Hike Sellars

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