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USS NAUTILUS (SS-168) departed Pearl Harbor on 24 May 1942 with the primary mission of participating in meeting the expected Japanese attack on Mufway. NAUTILUS was one of the old interwar V-class submarines, displacing nearly 4,000 tons, which was much larger (and more awkward) than the newer 1,500 ton Fleet boats.

Under the command of LCDR William H. Brockman Jr., NAUTILUS located and attacked the Japanese fleet as it approached Mulway. The submarine was spotted and had to endure a grueling depth charge attack, but they suryived and inflicted considerable damage on the enemy. Without a doubt, NAUI’/LUS had a great view of the battle which became the turning point of the Pacific War. …

USS NAUTILUS – First War Patrol

NARRATIVE: (all times local) June 4. 1942

0420 Submerged on course 04001′.

0544 Intercepted message that many planes were headed for Midway from a point 32001′ from Midway distance about 150 miles. This was on the northern boundary of NAUTILUS area and we were close to this point. Swept horizon continuously.

0658 Sighted a formation of six planes resembling Army Flying Fortresses dead ahead.

0710 Sighted bombing on bearing 331<7. NAUTILUS position Lat. 30-00 N, Long. 179-25 W. Changed course to 3400’f and went to battle stations submerged.

0755 Saw masts over horizon. While making this observation we were strafed by aircraft. Changed depth to 100 feel Echo-ranging first heard at this time.

0800 Sighted a formation of four ships. One battleship of ISE class and one cruiser drew toward the starboard bow, two other cruisers toward the port bow. Decided to attack the battleship and changed course to draw ahead. Sighted and bombed by plane. A cruiser of the JINTSU class approached to attack with depth charges. At least two ships were echo-ranging on the NAUTILUS.

0810 JINTSU class cruiser dropped pattern of S depth charges followed seven minutes later by pattern of 6 depth charges.

0819 Went to 90 feet to avoid scouting planes. Nine depth charges dropped at distance of about 1,000 yards. When attack ceased, planed up to periscope depth to observe.

0824 The picture presented on raising the periscope was one never experienced in peacetime practices. Ships were on all sides moving across the field at high speed and circling away to avoid the submarine’s position. Ranges were above 3,000 yards. The JINTSU class cruiser had passed over and was now astern. The battleship was on our port bow and firing her whole starboard broadside battery at the periscope. F1ag hoists were being made; searchlights were trained at the periscope. The exact position of the NAUTILUS may have been known by the enemy at this time because #9 deck torpedo was running hot in the tube as a result of the shearing of the torpedo retaining pin during the depth charging. Periscope estimate was made on the battleship and put on the Torpedo Data Computer. Range estimated as 4,500 yards, angle on the bow 80° starboard, speed 25 knots.

0825 Fired #1 tube at battleship followed by #2 tube with a 1° right offset. After firing #2 it was found that #1 had not fired. Battleship changed course to the left and headed directly away. Range to battle ship had now increased to 5,000 yards and track was 1800. Held further fire. During this time echo ranging by surface ships was continuous and accurate. Immediately after our firing at the battleship, the JINTSU type cruiser headed for NAUTILUS.

0830 Went to 150 feet. Depth charge attack began. 0846 Ordered periscope depth. Battleship and other accompanying ships, except JINTSU type cruiser, were well out of range. Echo-ranging by cruiser was still accurate.

0900 Raised periscope and sighted aircraft carrier bearing 013° relative. Carrier was distant 16,000 yards and was changing course continuously. She did not appear to be damaged, but was overhung by anti-aircraft bursts. NAUTILUS was on a converging course. While making this observation the JINTSU type cruiser began to close again at high speed.

0910 When cruiser reached 2,500 yards fired #2 torpedo tube. Cruiser was observed to change course.

0918 A cruiser attacked with 6 depth charges. These were more accurately placed than previous charges. Went to 200 feet, used evasive tactics at slow speed, but continued advance to close the carrier. Cruiser continued echoranging and at 0933 two of her depth charges landed close.

0955 Echo-ranging ceased. Ordered periscope depth to estimate the situation. On looking found that the entire formation first seen, including the attacking cruisers had departed. The carrier previously seen was no longer in sight.

1029 Saw 3 masts on the horizon bearing 005’T, distance 10 miles. Changed course to 005’T. Raised the vertical antenna and intercepted a radio message stating that a CV was damaged. Large clouds of grey smoke were seen at four places over the horizon. The nearest cloud of smoke had not previously been sighted, so continued to close it at the best speed that the condition of the battery and probable future operations for the day would allow.

1047 Sighted three planes approaching. Lowered periscope and vertical antenna and continued approach at periscope depth. 1145 Identified the source of smoke as a burning carrier. The carrier was still about 8 miles away and was in latitude 30°-13′ N., Longitude 179°-17′ W. Decided to overtake if possible and to attack.

1224 Range not having decreased appreciably, changed speed to two-thirds ahead on both motors after estimating that sufficient battery capacity just remained for operations until night fall.

1253 Range decreased. Sighted two cruisers escorting the carrier. Tentatively identified CV as a carrier of the SORYU class. The carrier was on even keel and the hull appeared to be undamaged. There were no flames and the fire seemed to be under control. Accompanying cruisers were about two miles ahead of the carrier.

1300 The CV, which bad been making 2-3 knots when the approach began, was now stopped. At closer range it was seen that efforts were being made by boats under her bow to pass a towing hawser and many men were seen working on the forecastle. The decision had to be made in which order to attack the targets presented. Attack on the cruisers and later on the carrier was considered, but the remaining capacity of the battery would not allow a further chase of several miles to catch the moving cruisers, even if it were possible to overtake them. The decision was therefore made to complete the destruction of the CV before she could be repaired or taken in tow. Approach continued at periscope depth. An approach course was chosen to give torpedo hits on the starboard or island side of the carrier. During the next hour a repeated check was made of the silhouettes of American and Japanese carriers in order to be certain of the identity of the target. The target was a carrier of the SORYU class.

1359 Fired three torpedoes at the carrier from periscope depth. Attempts to fire the 4th torpedo were unsuccessful. Immediately prior to firing each torpedo, the Torpedo Data Computer generated bearing was checked by a periscope bearing. Mean run of torpedoes was 2, 700 yards. The wakes of the torpedoes were observed through the periscope until the torpedoes struck the target. Red flames appeared along the length of the ship from the bow to amidships. The fire which had first attracted us to the attack had been underneath the demolished after flight deck and was nearly extinguished by the time the NAUTILUS reached the firing point. This fire again broke out. Boats drew away from the bow and many men were soon going over the side. All 5 officers in the conning tower observed the results of the torpedoing.

1405 Fired last of three torpedoes at the carrier. Cruisers began reversing course at high speed and started to echorange.

1410 Cruiser passed directly over the top of the NAUTILUS. Changed course to 190’7 and went to 300 feet. A prolonged depth charge attack now began.

1610 Came to periscope depth. Saw carrier, but the escorting cruisers were no longer in sight. They bad abandoned the carrier and she was afire along the entire length. 1800 Heavy black smoke enveloped the carrier and formed a cloud over the ship to a height of a thousand feet. The officer making this observation compared the cloud to the oil smoke which arose from the USS ARIZONA when that ship burned at Pearl Harbor, T.H., December 7-9. Nothing could be seen of the carrier’s hull.

1840 Heard heavy subsurface explosions and went to depth charge stations. A search by periscope failed to reveal any object in the vicinity except the still greater cloud of black smoke from burning oil. If the carrier was not found by patrol planes which searched the vicinity the following morning, the Commanding Officer believes that she was destroyed at this time by fire and internal explosions. He did not however actually see her sink.

1941 Surfaced with exhausted battery and returned to NAUTILUS patrol area. Fwe torpedoes expended, forty-two depth charges received. On surfacing no smoke or flame of any sort was seen.

{Editor’s Note: From War Under the Pacific, Time-Life Books, 1980; “Brockman reported that he had put the carrier down and was officially credited with the kilL But in fact, the carrier had been set afire and sunk by bombs from U.S. planes. Japanese survivors later testified that two of the three torpedoes fired had been misses and that the one that hit was a dud.”]

June 5

0414 Submerged.

0720 Surfaced in accordance with orders and proceeded at best speed for Midway. June9

1800 Departed Midway for patrol area. Made trim dive.

1530 Sound reported screws bearing 032 relative. Nothing in June 20

sight but thinking this might be submarine, dived lat. 3432.5 long. 141-49.5 E. Screws died out after they were heard to pass down our starboard side.

1600 Heard pinging.

1645 Sighted two ships from direction of pinging resembling the raider NARVIK. Started approach. Ships at first were heading in our direction but when range had decreased to 4,700 yards they reversed course and headed away.

1930 Surfaced.

0346 Submerged latitude 34-43, longitude 140-55 E. June 21

1934 Surfaced.

2021 Sighted flashing light believed to be Katsoora Wan Light. June 22

0345 Submerged latitude 34-48 N., Longitude 140-23 E. Periscope patrol.

0940 Heard echo ranging for about one hour. Could see nothing but visibility was bad.

1120 Sound reported screws bearing 170 relative. Nothing in sight.

1125 Sighted destroyer through mist and fog on starboard quarter distant about 1,020 yards. Started approach but depth control was momentarily lost and accurate set up on T.D.C. was not obtained until 1133 at which time one torpedo was fired. By the time torpedo had reached target track, target could not be seen due to visibility. Sound tracked torpedo to target and torpedo room reported hit. Seven minutes after torpedo was fired a loud explosion was heard and felt throughout ship. The Commanding Officer at that time had periscope trained on last bearing of target; visibility about 3,000 yards and nothing was in sight. From that time until 1210 screws were heard intermittently and then suddenly stopped and never heard again. The intensity of the explosion which was heard was the same as that of a depth charge SOO yards abeam. Except for a high noise level reported by sound and a cracking in the receiver nothing more was heard from this destroyer. In the opinion of the Commanding Officer a hit was made on this destroyer and she sank at 1210.

1722 Sighted a vessel with clipper bow probably 1,500 tons; tried to close for attack; could not get closer than 3,500 yards.

1935 Surfaced June 23

0345 Submerged latitude 34-37, longitude 140-03 E.

0841 Sighted 2 engine high wing monoplane. Went to 100 feet for about one hour then continued periscope patrol. Noticed an oil slick today. Decided to run south during night and renew number three main engine exhaust valve gasket and determine cause of oil slick.

1935 Surfaced. June 24

0345 Submerged latitude 34-19.5, longitude 140-20 E.

0900 Surfaced. Renewed exhaust valve gasket and discovered fuel oil must have come up through compensating line. Headed back to line which was supposed to be route between Marshalls and Sagami Nada. June 25

0330 Sighted a large vessel on our port quarter, angle on the bow about 50 degrees starboard. Unfortunately we were silhouetted against the dawn so dived to make approach. We had apparently been seen because a destroyer now moved from the port side of this vessel and then about 1,000 yards on our starboard quarter started a depth charge attack.

0345 Fired two torpedoes at this large ship and went deep because depth charges were getting closer. Sound tracked torpedoes to target then reported rumbling sound and crackling noise and screws stopped.

0439 Three loud explosions were beard which shook the boat more than depth charges and were longer in duration.

0512 At periscope depth, nothing in sight.

0522 Sighted destroyer, range about 12,000 yards, started approach. For the next hour we probably closed a little.

0710 While destroyer was on course 200 T. he went ahead about 18 knots and was soon out of sight.

0831 Sound heard pinging from 196 relative.

0835 Sighted destroyer and commenced approach. This was not the same destroyer sighted at 0522

0854 Fired first of 2 torpedoes. First torpedo was seen to be a hull’s eye and flame issued from number two stack and amidships portion raised a few feet, but no other damage was immediately apparent. Fifteen seconds later the second torpedo hit f01ward and the damage was terrific. She immediately started sinking by the bow and heeled over to starboard By 0858 the destroyer was seen to be sinking fast.

0905 Heard several explosions and destroyer sunk.

1930 Surfaced.

2018 Ran through a huge oil slick one mile across and several miles side. This was thought to be oil from the tanker which was attacked at 0345. June 26

0339 Submerged latitude 34-32 N., longitude 139-55 E.

0450 Sighted a destroyer heading up the coast; started approach but could not close. Decided to remain in this position in as much as he may come back. Nothing more seen of destroyer. June 27

0346 Submerged latitude 34-38, longitude 140-08 E. Further east than we had intended but weather conditions made navigation difficult.

0520 Fugi Yama in clear sight as well as the coast of Honshu, O’Shima and Niyaki Shima. Sea glassy calm.

1930 Surfaced.

2224 Sighted a Sampan about 1,500-2,000 tons headed in our direction. He was seen to change course once.

2226 Submerged to make periscope approach because visibility was at least 10,000 yards all around.

2244 Fired one stern tube.

2245 Saw flames aft and heard explosion of torpedo about same time. Sampan was seen to sink by stem.

2316 Surfaced, nothing in sight. June 28

0340 Submerged latitude 34-40, longitude 139-56.

0355 Sound reported hearing screws bearing 070 relative.

3403 Sighted large Sampan range 6,000 yards. Started approach but unable to close.

1604 Sighted two ships plus three stack cruiser. Started approach on largest and closest one which resembled the KAMAKURA MARU. 17,500 tons.

1621 Fired three torpedoes and found that the cruiser had apparently sighted air bubbles and was beaded in our direction. Ordered deep submergence.

1629 Depth charge attack which was the worst ever experienced by this vessel.

1745 Echo ranging ceased and started coming up slowly to periscope depth.

1815 Sound reported hearing crackling in receiver although not so loud as when destroyer was sunk.

1829 Periscope observation, nothing in sight.

1919 Just before surfacing heard and felt a heavy explosion as though from a great distance. 1935 Surfaced. Sighted several small Sampans during night. June 29

0343 Submerged in vicinity of Miyaki Shima, decided this would be a more quiet area where damage caused by depth charging could be appraised.

0750 Sighted masts and stack of a small freighter probably 2,500 tons. Started approach but could not close.

1930 Surfaced. June 30

0350 Submerged in vicinity of Miyaki Shima and found it impossible to run at periscope depth due to heavy swells. 100 feet was the shallowest depth that could be maintained. It is the opinion of the Commanding Officer that this ship should not be subjected to any more depth charge attacks due to damage.

1930 Surfaced in heavy swells. 8!!Il 0346 Submerged south of Inubo Saki. Heavy swells did not permit periscope patrol.

1930 Surfaced and made decision to return to Pearl due to material condition of this ship. Set course  093T.

LCDR William H. Brockman, Jr.,
USN Commanding Officer, USS NAUTILUS


William Herman Brockman, Jr. was born on November 18, 1904, at Baltimore, Maryland. He enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve Force on August 10, 1922, and in 1923 was appointed a Midshipman and entered the U.S. Naval Academy, upon appointment from the Sixth Ohio District.

In July 1929 he reported to the Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut, for instruction in submarines and upon completion of the course, in December 1929, was assigned duty with Submarine Division THREE, attached to the USS S-11.

He commanded the USS MALLARD from February 1938 to July 1939.

In September 1940, he reported as Operations, Gunnery and Torpedo Officer on the staff of Commander, Submarine Squadron TWO (later redesignated Submarine Squadron ONE) to serve until November 1941. He had two months’ duty as Prospective Commanding Officer of Submarine Squadron SIX, and in February 1942, assumed command of the USS NAUTILUS.

For meritorious services as Commanding Officer of the NAUTILUS he was awarded the Navy Cross for action in the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

On November 1, 1947, he was transferred to the Retired List of the U.S. Navy, and promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral. Rear Admiral Brockman died on 1 February 1979 in Boca Raton, Florida.

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