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U.S.S SAILFISH – Report of Tenth War Patrol
Period from  17 November 1943 to 5 January 1944

[Ed. Note: LCDR R.E.M. Ward, USN relieved as Commanding Officer on 21 October 1943. He had previously served as Executive Officer of GURNARD. LCDR Ward received the Navy Cross for this patrol. He retired as a Rear Admiral. It may be recalled that SAILFISH was the ex-SQUALUS.]

NARRATIVE:                                                                                                                                                          17 November 1943

1315 VW     Departed Pearl Harbor.

25-29 November 1943

Heavy  seas  and  winds  with  a  continuous succession of storm centers.

30 November 1943

1500 L           Hot run in No. 8 tube while checking torpedoes .

1730 L Lieutenant W.P. Murphy, Jr., U.S . Navy, went over the side in a very rough sea to inspect No. 8 tube and found the torpedo partially ejected. Expended this torpedo by tiring with 375 lb. impulse pressure. No. 8 tube out of commission for remainder of patrol.

1-2 December 1943

Patrolling submerged across Wake, Marcus, Truk-Empire routes.

3 December 1943

1745 K  Surfaced in typhoon weather. Tremendous seas, 40-50 knot wind, driving rain, and visibility, after twilight, varying from zero to 500 yards.

2348 K   Radar  contact  bearing   114″1′,  range   9,500  yards.Commenced tracking.

2351 K   Estimated target course 320″T, speed 18 knots.

2352 K Radar contact on another and smaller target just to right of and 900 yards closer than first contact.

2353 K Radar contact on a third target about same size as first contact and located 1tooo yards beyond the first contact.

2355 K Radar contact on a fourth target smaller than the other contacts and 900 yards closer than No. 2 contact.

2356 K Have still only managed to build up speed to twelve knots since initial contact. With these fast targets at close range, have abandoned any idea of a methodical approach. The seas are mountainous with a driving rain. Can’t see a thing but blackness and water with the water mostly in my face.

2358 K   Came left to 300’1″ to get off the track of the near target.

4 December 1943

0001 K   Dove to 40 feet and came right to course 340″1′ for bow shot at biggest pip.  We are 500 yards off track of near destroyer. All targets seem to be in line of bearing, roughly 280-100 degrees true with 900-1 ,000 yards between targets.   Although initial radar contact was not made until a range of 9 ,500 yards the picture looks as though we are on the left flank of a fast group of men of war,  consisting of a destroyer,  then possibly a cruisert  then a carrier  or  battleship,  then  another  carrier  or   battleship  with possibly  something  beyond  that.  Selected nearest  of the two largest pips as our target.

0009 K Near destroyer passing close aboard to starboard and ahead.

0012 K Fired tubes It 2, 3, and 4, by radar setupt range 2,100 yards. Times of hits indicate torpedoes one and four were the hitting torpedoes. Commenced swinging left to bring stem tubes to bear. Heard two torpedoes hit.

0016 K Two depth charges fairly close. Went deep and started crossing astern of target.

0017-       Nineteen depth charges, none very close.     Completed

0152 K   reload.

0158 K Surfaced and commenced running up target track to intercept possible cripple. Unable to make much speed without shipping black water.

0230 K   Radar   contact  bearing   310″T,  range   8,400   yards. Commenced tracking.

0240 K Tracking shows target to be circling. The pip is small, yet can’t believe radar would pick up a destroyer at 8,400 yards tonight. Commenced easing in slowly. At times the pip has an edge on it giving a momentary indication of another target verJ close to the one we are tracking.

0550 K Morning twilight and visibility improving fast, rain has stopped, but bridge is still shipping water, targets tracking with speed varying from 1 to 3 knots, range 3,500 yards. With visibility improving so rapidly must fire soon, hence have decided to fire three bow tubes on the surface and then attack again in daylight by periscope, making reload during approach.

0552 K  Fired tubes, 1, 2, and 3, range 3,200 yards.

0557 K Observed and heard two torpedo hits. First hit looked like a momentary puff of fire, second hit looked like and sounded (on the bridge) like a battleship firing a broadside-even with the locomotive rumble so characteristic of sixteen inch shells. Commenced swinging ship to bring stem tubes to bear in case target started going somewhere.

0558 K The Nips started celebrating by firing star shells and heavy AA tracers from at least a dozen guns located at the point of the torpedo explosions, but didn’t seem to know where we were because the shooting was directed everyplace but towards us. It’s a good show but despite the illumination I can’t see the target.

0601 K Submerged. Commenced checking torpedoes and reloading.

0748 K Finally see something-aircraft carrier, range about 10,000 yards, dead in water. Nothing else in sight. Impatiently continuing check of torpedoes.

0912 K Momentarily sighted tops of a destroyer apparently standing by the ‘carrier. The picture now indicates that we have a badly damaged carrier plus one destroyer. Depth control is extremely difficult due to mountainous seas. When we are at 60 feet there is nothing but green waves with the scope looking into or under a wave most of the time. At 55 feet we damn near broach and still can only see about twenty percent of the time. Am passing carrier down port side from aft forward, range about 1,500 yards. He has many planes on deck forward and enough people on deck aft to populate a fair size village. The number of people on deck indicates they are prepared to abandon ship-a reassuring picture.

0937 K   Abeam  of the carrier  and still  nothing  else  in  sight. Came around for a straight stem shot.

0940 K   Fired tubes, 5, 6, and 7.     T.D.C. range 1,700 yards. All torpedoes heard running normal.

0942 K Two hits (time indicates 2,700 yard torpedo run) heard on sound and throughout the boat, followed by a very heavy swish on sound then by exceptionally loud breaking up noises heard not only on sound but also very clearly throughout the boat. Although I had the periscope up anticipating the pleasure of watching the hits, depth control was so lousy that we were at 60 feet when the torpedoes hit and all I could see when the scope was out of the waves was a skyfull of tracers being shot up into the air from the carrier·s bearing. Ordered right full rudder and 70 feet to come around for bow shots. Can’t figure how I made the range error. Have been using a carrier flight deck height of 60 feet on the stadimeter.

0951 K At 55 feet for a look. Nothing in sight on, or either side of, generated bearing. Made sweep to look for the destroyer and sighted a heavy cruiser of the TAKAO or NACHl Class. Bearing 290″ relative, angle on the bow 40 starboard decreasing rapidly, making high speed, with his bow biting over the top of the waves, range 4,000 yards. Conunenced swinging bard left to bring bow tubes to bear.

0952 K Angle on the bow 10 starboard and be is still swinging towards, range 3,300 yards. Between my surprise at having underestimated the range to the carrier (2, 700 yard torpedo run instead of 1,700), the fairly close depth charges from a destroyer I still hadn’t been able to see, the surprise sighting of the cruiser racing our way with her forefoot showing over the waves, and the boat starting to broach with her left full rudder, I ordered 90 feet, and thus threw away the chance of a lifetime. The Monday morning quarterbacks can have a field day on this attack! To top it all off, I have personally criticized the sinking of the SORYU, where the towing cruiser could have been gotten first, then the carrier at leisure-yet, I didn’t go up ahead of the carrier and make absolutely certain that this wasn’t a similar set up. This cruiser was undoubtedly on the off bow of the carrier.

1330 K Periscope depth. A careful fifteen minute look at depths between 52 and 60 feet reveals nothing. If the cruiser (or carrier) were in the vicinity they would be seen. I am convinced the carrier has been sunk and the cruiser has gotten clear.

7 December 1943

1440 K  Strafed and bombed (2 bombs) by ZEKE type fighter plane.  This plane was not picked up on radar nor was he seen until he dove out of low hanging clouds with his wing machine guns chattering.   Fortunately no one was injured but the second bomb which fell  close aboard on the starboard side abreast the after machinery space lifted the deck gratings, knocked a secure dheater six feet in the air, caused loss of main power for a minute during the dive, and in general was too damn close.  As a result we have lost the use of #1  main motor due to a flash over and have a jack inserted on top the boMet of the main motor circulating water suction sea valve to insure that the valve will  not come off the hull flange should a depth charge shear the studs which were elongated by this bomb.

13 December 1943

1154 I Sighted light smoke bearing 282’1′, distant about 30,000 yards and drawing to south. Commenced approach on normal approach course at six hour rate.

1333 I Sound picked up echo ranging in direction of target. This echo ranging assisted our tracking since someone in the target group conscientiously used echo ranging on 19.5 KCs for five minutes every half hour.

1408I With ten feet of periscope exposed sighted the tops of two sets of masts plus an additional set of black smoke puffs. This looks better but can’t get to them submerged and we can’t surface now because of their plane coverage. We are going to have to make a high speed end around and catch them tonight. They are tracking on a course of 170″1′ at a speed of 9 knots.

1747 I Surfaced and commenced chase at 16 knots while charging a very flat can (1140 gravity).

1917 I     Radar contact on single small pip bearing 195’1′, distant 20,000 yards.

1920 I We have plenty of time to get the picture down well before attacking so will cross over the westward (down moon) side and put around to his starboard bow. The moon is only one hour up and bas been hidden by clouds but it is now beginning to break through making visibility variable from good to excellent.

2003 I      At a range of 14,100 yards we can see two AKs.

2220 I Unfortunately two basic fundamentals (or rather the lack of them) marred this approach. First, the radar operator who is otherwise a superb technician and operator had practically no previous experience at convoy tracking-hence he has more often than not been on a different AK each time he was told to mark a range and bearing. Second, the T.D.C. operator and plotter who are both exceptionally good on single targets were not experienced in the problem presented by tracking multiple targets. Hence, the true picture of what the zig zag plan was did not materialize until the data was all rehashed on the following day. A P .P .1. could have been used very advantageously.

2222 I We are dead ahead, due south, of the convoy and on their track. Stopped and flooded down to reduce our silhouette, while offering tracking party opportunity to make very accurate check of speed solution.

2224I At a range of 13,000 yards four ships are visible from the bridge, two AKs, one fair sized escort and one small escort.

2229 I Range 11 ,500. The picture is as follows – Two good sized AKs with the biggest on the west flank, one escort who looks as though he might be a large destroyer or 1,500 ton A/S vessel and a small escort who looks no larger than 700-800 tons, are steaming on a line of bearing 220°-040°. They are zigging with ship movements. The two escorts are working one on either flank moving up and down along their flanks covering area 1,500-2,000 yards between bow and beam of convoy. Distance between AKs 900-1,000 yards. Base course 185~. speed 9 knots. The larger escort is on the east side.

2245 I Targets have been in sight since 14,000 yards and small escort since II ,500. Range is now 7 ,800. Submerged-45 ft.

2248 I Targets are visible in periscope, range 7,000 yards. Radar has picked this time to start going sour because of poor voltage regulation. We can continue without the radar for our speed dope is excellent.

2258 I At 50 feet using #1 periscope. Have swung right to course 3200. We are now on the track of the eastern escort with his angle on the bow zero and the expected left zig should put us in the ideal spot.

2302 I Targets zigged to their right instead of left. Their course now is 200~, putting us on the port bow of the east AK. We cannot get between the AKs. However, our present relative position will be satisfactory for a 70 port track, zero gyro, if the east escort doesn’t bother us.

2304 I Targets are going to overlap. The east escort will pass about 400 yards ahead of us. Can’t resist the overlapped targets so selected point of aim as point of overlap of near ship on the far ship and ordered spread of four torpedoes for 500 foot target at 2000 yards.

2306-10 !Fired four bow tubes with actual spreads of 0, 0, 2R, and 2L, tracks 67-70 port. T.D.C. range, 2,500 yards.

2307 I Swinging hard right to bring stern tubes to bear. Near escort (500-800 yards) turning this way.

2308 I Escort too close for comfort, went deep and commenced evasion.

2308-16 ITwo good solid hits, each followed by an explosion.

2310 I Two depth charges, heavy charges but not close. Escort is echo ranging on 19.5 KC .

2315 I Continuing characteristic breaking up noises of sinking target.

2359 I Escort is getting an echo on us. We are deep and running silently if our extremely noisy bow and stern planes, reduction gears, and rudder can be called silent.

14 December 1943

0125 I      Surfaced and began to close attack point.

0220 I Can see one AK bearing 285’7 and one smaller ship, probably the larger escort. Range 12,500 yards. From the bridge I believe the AK remaining afloat is the larger of the two AKs of the convoy.

0245 I Can now make out one stopped AK, the medium sized eastern escort plus four others about the same size as the convoy’s western escort. Radar cannot pick up the nearest fellow who has a zero angle on the bow and is signalling at us. Range 6,000 yards.

0246 I Near patrol boat still signalling with a light near top of his foremast and we read it as KKK then AA AA AA . Can see no one astern of us so guess he’s trying to tell us to join the party. Had half a notion to send for the blinker lamp.

0250 I     Reversed course and opened out.

0251 I Have one fish remaining forward and three aft, plus one reload for #7 tube aft. Would like to go in and finish off the damaged AK but with twilight not too far off and with that mess milling around, prudence appears to be the better part of valor.

0515 I     Submerged.

1120 I Sighted OTORI type destroyer bearing 330’1′, distant 4,000 yards. He is making 23 knots on course 34SOT which heads him for the scene of our attack.

21 December 1943

0240 I     Set course to close entrance to BUNGO SUIDO.

0545 I Submerged to patrol OKINO SHIMA – SHIMANOURA line.

1020 I     Sighted  smoke bearing 300″T,  distant about  10 miles. Commenced approach.

1040 I Sighted tops of four ships under the smoke. This looks like a jackpot and we’ve only five torpedoes-three aft and one forward, plus one reload for #7 tube aft.

1054 I Now have the complete picture. We have a convoy of six heavily loaded AKs with an escort of two CHIDORI DDs plus a light draft, stack aft, Maru type A/S vessel. The formation is made up of two columns of 3 AKs each, a CHIDORI Class DO on the outboard bow of each column and the patrol boat astern and to port. The AKs are all goal posters, probably none of them are less than 5,000 tons, but the fellow who really stands out in the crowd is middle ship of the southern column. There are several possible solutions to the problem of unloading all our fish on this beautiful convoy. Am tempted to fire one torpedo at each of three ships then reload aft while firing the single fish forward . Another solution is to tire two aft then one forward then two aft.

1112 I The CHIDORis are keeping their same positions relative to the convoy columns and echo ranging but the trailing patrol boat is shifting from astern to the port quarter. The near CHIDO-RI will pass ahead but we are going to be almost on the track of the patrol boat (his angle on the bow 5″ port).

1122 I Swung hard left to course 340″ for stern shot. Have decided to use all three fish aft on the big fellow in the far column. He is worth it. Then wiJl take what we can with the bow tube on the near column while we reload #7 aft.

1133 I     With the  near CHIDOR1  nicely clear of us  and a  big  wide gap between #1 and #2 in near column giving a clear shot between them at our target, fired a three torpedo salvo at the large AK (second ship in far column), torpedo run of 2,800 yards. Commenced swing hard left to bring bow tube to bear and started reloading #7.

1135 I Heard two good hits on target followed by the character-istic breaking up noises.

I 136 I Lost depth control and started to broach with so up angle. Flooded negative. Ordered all idlers forward and opened flood and vent valves on variable tank manifold. Caught ourselves at 52 feet then started deep fast like a rock but regained control. Commenced evading the near CHIDORI whose screws are coming in fast.

1138 I     Heavy depth charge-close.

1141 I Finally caught the boat at 327 feet with 10″ up angle blowing auxiliary to sea. Eased up to 280 feet under the negative break in the temperature gradient.

1141-46 !Fifteen depth charges in salvos of two and three.

1148 I Continuing loud noises of ship breaking up on bearing 168’1′. This is my fifth attack and I still haven’ t been able to visually check the accuracy of our shooting.

1310 I     Starting up for a look.

1325 I Here they come again. Two sets of screws, one coming in fast. Eased back down to 200 feet.

1550 I All clear on sound. Commenced running out to the southeast to take advantage of easterly current and get closer of tiring area before dark.

1815 I     Surfaced.

22 December 1943

0130 I     Starboard steady bearing running hot (168°).  Slowed and began forcing oil to the bearing while cooling it externally.

0330 I Steady bearing appears to be partially wiped. Our material condition is not bad but it isn’t worth playing off BUNGO just to get two single torpedo salvos off.

5 January 1944

0630 VWMade rendezvous with PC 1081 and proceeded to moor Subase Pearl Harbor.

From:      The Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet

To:            The Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet

Via:          The Commander-in-Chief, U.S . Pacific Fleet

Subject:  U.S.S. SAILFISH (SS192)- Report of Tenth War Patrol (17 November 1943 to 5 January 1944)

  1. The tenth war patrol of the SAILFISH was the first for the new Commanding Officer, as such. The patrol was conducted in an area south of the Empire.

2 . This patrol can be considered one of the outstanding patrols of the war, primarily because of the most aggressive and tenacious attack made on the large aircraft carrier the night and following day of 3-4 December. In spite of typhoon weather and the inability to see the target, the SAILFISH made two separate attacks at night which resulted in two hits out of four torpedoes fired in each case and which succeeded in stopping the carrier. The following morning the SAILFISH conducted a submerged approach and fired the final four torpedoes of which two were successful in making the kill. These brilliant attacks were driven home in spite of the destroyers and cruiser escort. This is the first known unassisted sinking of any enemy carrier by a submarine of this force. In addition to the above attacks, the SAILFISH conducted two other aggressive and successful attacks resulting in sinkings of enemy ships. It is of note that most of the patrol was made even though the SAILFISH had suffered material damage from an unexpected severe enemy bombing.

C.A. Lockwood, Jr

Naval Submarine League

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