USS BARB – Report of Eleventh War Patrol Period 19 December 1944 to 15 February 1945
Arrived Midway from 1Oth war patrol 25 November 1944 for second successive advanced base refit.
19 December 1944
Departed Midway. Enroute Guam or Saipan.
27 December 1944
Arrived Guam. Received an excellent welcome and voyage repair from Sperry and Sub Div 101.
29 December 194
Underway in company with QUEENFISH and PICUDA. ComWolfPack, Commanding Officer QUEENFISH.
3 January 1945
Passed through Tokara Kaikyo. Decided to run surface patrol through Area Nine, since we were astern of rest of pack who had submerged.
7 January 1945
0540 Surface patrolling off Tungyung Tao. Radar contact at 20,000 yards.
0601 Finally established contact as a definite convoy of seven ships. Sent out contact report. Commencing end around at full speed. Dawn has arrived. Sky is heavily overcast. Horizon hazy with about 12,000 yards visibility, varying. Ending around at 15,000 yards. Enemy appears to be enroute Keelung at 11 knots. Sea state 5.
0746 Ahead of convoy. Contact reports going out every 20 minutes. PICUDA will be able to get in; QUEENFISH probably not.
0803 Submerged 14,000 yards ahead of convoy·
0829 Commencing approach. Nothing in sight.
0845 Rain squall has reduced visibility to about 4000 yards. Making continuous periscope exposure at 59 feet with over 10 feet of scope out half the time.
0902 Haze lifting. Sighted a large tanker broad on starboard bow, range 850 yards with 130 starboard angle on bow. Made ready bow tubes. Nearly whole formation is now in sight. A large freighter is about 1500 yards beyond the tanker. Escorts are five destroyers, two stack, with white bands around stacks.
0905 Tubes are ready. Tanker is zigging away. Definitely a poor shot which would not be worth the value of an unalerted convoy to the PICUDA.
0941 Surfaced. Convoy at 12,000 yards. Commenced end around at 10-14,000 yards depending on the visibility of the port screen. Base course 11T.
1115 Convoy changed base course to 150″1′. Visibility increasing. Destroyers in sight. Secured end around. Impossible to beat them to Formosa now that haze has cleared. Heading back to China Coast.
8 January 1945
Patrolling in wolf pack along convoy routes.
0600 Eased in towards coast in event convoy hugged coast.
1300 Sighted smoke of convoy towards the coast. Commenced closing. At least five ships.
1312 Sent out contact report to pack.
1350 Sent out contact report of convoy course 140. Seven or more large ships.
1415 Commencing end around on port flank of convoy at 22,000 yards. Visibility excellent. Sent out contact report of enemy base course 160, speed 12. The pack is closing.
1549 In position ahead of convoy. Sent out contact report giving enemy zig plan. Have been ending around at 20-23,000 yards with funnels and masts of most ships clearly in view from bridge some of escorts masts tops barely visibly. If we had not been in wolf pack, end around would have been made at greater range. However I estimate the situation as follows:
(a) Convoy is evidently heading for Takao which will allow the pack only the early evening for attack, at best, before getting too deep in blind bombing zone and too close to minefields.
(b) Our job is to bring pack into contact as expeditiously as possible, then make a daylight submerged attack from coastal flank and slow or tum the convoy into the QUEENFISH and PICUDA.
(c) The above will require an accurate flow of information. This can only be obtained by close-in tracking.
1612 PICUDA has contact.
1616 Informed pack we were diving to attack starboard flank. We are now well into blind bombing zone.
1618 Submerged. Sea force 5; making attack at 60 feet.
1655 Echo ranging. A plump convoy of eight good sized ships. All better than 6500 tons and many of those coal burners. Ships are in several echelon groups. The leading echelon to port consisting of a KAGA MARU class freighter with a destroyer about 1500 yards ahead. About 500 yards on the starboard quarter of this freighter is a transport surrounded by four spit-kit escorts. A large freighter straggles about 1200 yards astern of the transport. The starboard echelon is about 1000 yards on the starboard quarter of the above echelon. It consists of three brand new large engine-aft freighters or tankers. A small escort is close on each bow of the leading ship in the starboard echelon. Two escorts are about 3000 yards out on the starboard flank. Between the two echelons and straggling about 3500 yards astern are two more large freighters. There seems to be escorts everywhere. All ships are painted grey and are heavily laden.
It would be a snap to get in the center of this outfit. However it is imperative that we bend them to port, and prevent them from heading towards the shallow China Coast. Holding off on starboard bow. Plan to smack the transport with the four escorts in the port echelon since she is probably the most important ship, then use the other three bow tubes on the leading engines-aft job.
1718 Coming in nicely. Made ready all tubes.
1723 Fired tubes 1, 2, 3 at the large transport on a 70 starboard track, range 2700 yards, gyros zero. Can see KAGA MARU class ship exposing itself from superstructure forward in a bow overlap. Shifted targets to engines aft ship.
1724 Fired tubes 4, 5, 6 at the engines aft ship on an 80 starboard track, range 1700 yards, gyros so left.
1725 Left full rudder. All ahead standard. Swinging for stem shot.
1726 Four torpedo hits close together, the third of which was a tremendous explosion. The ship had been forced sideways and down, personnel had grabbed the nearest support to keep from being thrown off their feet, and cases of canned goods had burst open in the forward torpedo room. QUEENFISH later told us this last ship hit blew up and was obviously an AE.
1728 Sound reporting high speed screws all around. Rig ship for depth charge. Steadying up and attempting to climb back to periscope depth at 2/3 speed. A look at our results is paramount. Breaking up noises.
1737 Periscope depth. A smoke cloud where the engines aft had been. The stern of the transport sticking up at a 300 angle with two escorts close aboard. Her bow is evidently resting in the mud. Depth of water 30 fathoms. The KAGA MARU class ship is on fire amidships just above the water line. The whole formation has turned away and appears to be stopped. All escorts have scampered over to the unattacked side of the formation. The destroyer has reversed course, and now has a 90 port angle on the bow.
1747 Can feel aggressiveness surging through my veins, since the escorts are more scared than we are. Commence reload forward. Heading towards convoy with another engines-aft in our sights. Destroyer suddenly turned toward and shifted to short scale.
1748 Maximum relative movement between destroyer and BARB. Nice spot for a down the throat shot, but no torpedoes forward.
1749 Aggressiveness evaporated. Assumed deep submergence of
140 feet, mud below.
1815 Completed evasion. No depth charges. Reloaded forward.
1856 Surfaced with breaking up noises still being clearly heard. No contact.
1914 QUEENFISH reported attacking.
1934 PICUDA reported attacking. Reported six ships in convoy.
That checks, unfortunately, with KAGA MARU still afloat.
1945 Reported having contact and taking position on starboard flank.
1956 Two explosions. PICUDA has probably attacked. We are now about 8000 yards abeam of last ship. Inasmuch as QUEENFISH would be anxiously awaiting completion of our attack so she could get in again, decided to try our radical new system of continuous attack. Commencing our normal screaming surface approach on last ship in the formation from the starboard flank. Another ship about 600 yards on his port bow overlapping. Two more ships about 3000 yards ahead. Formation plot indicates five escorts around this tail group. One forward, one on his starboard bow, one on starboard beam and two astern. Since we intend attack from starboard quarter these will not bother us (we pray). Night is very dark and visibility poor. Sea state 4.
2012 Fired tubes 1, 2, 3 at trailing large AK on a 145 starboard track, range 2180 yards, gyros zero, own ship speed 16.5 knots, torpedoes sounded like motor torpedo boats going out. Overlap-ping ship is a large AO or AK. All ahead full, right rudder, swinging out to commence approach on the next ship up the line. 2015 Two hits observed and timed.
2016 One hit observed and timed in overlapping ship. First ship disappeared from view and radar-sunk.
2025 Remaining two targets maintained formation but increased speed. These two ships were in column about 2000 yards apart. Making approach on starboard flank of trailing ship. Formation plot showed nine escorts within 5000 yards. One about 1000 yards on starboard beam, two close aboard, others scattered with apparent confusion. Having only eased out to 4000 yards abeam for a setup this would be quick.
2033 Fired torpedoes 4, 5, 6 on a 127 starboard track, gyros 1 right, range 1590 yards.
2034 Swinging right to ease out and then attack target ahead with stern tubes.
2035 Three hits timed and observed followed by a stupendous, earth shaking eruption. This far surpassed Hollywood and was one of the biggest explosions of the war. The rarefaction following the first pressure wave was breathtaking. A high vacuum resulted in the boat. The target now resembled a gigantic phosphorous bomb. In the first flash as the torpedoes hit, all we could ascertain was that the target had a long superstructure and a funnel amidships. The volcanic spectacle was awe inspiring. None of the escorts close to the ammunition ship could be seen. Those were probably blown up and we would claim them as probably sunk except that I figure that four ships sunk, one pro-bably sunk and one damaged is about all the traffic will bear from a 12 torpedo expenditure.
At this point of the game I was ready to haul ashes. However, the new TBT operator (the Engineer Officer who had never seen a shot fired or a ship sunk in five runs from his diving station) really had his guns out. Frantically he pleaded that we couldn’t let the last ship go. Good sales talk. Commenced the approach for a stern tube attack on the ship ahead. No pip from our probably sunk ship on radar. From this and information from rest of pack, her classification is now SUNK.
2055 QUEENFISH said she wanted to attack. PICUDA said she would follow the QUEENFISH. The BARB could continue her attack as long as there were ships and torpedoes left. However we have our share, so gave them the green light. Passed our new target abeam to port at 2160 yards, (what a temptation) and headed down towards pass between Formosa and minefield to make sure nothing escaped.
16 January 1945
Surface patrolling approaches to Formosa Straits.
1355 Cruising among large junk fishing fleet closing coast for night traffic search.
19 January 1945
Surface patrolling Formosa Straits. PICUDA and BARB decided to blockade the Straits. BARB covering to east; PICUDA to west.
20 Januaor 1945
1802 Have searched for all aircraft-reported ships covering all possible speeds and courses. Since nearly all are reported from Lam Yit, and we are positive they do not pass Turnabout Light, these ships must go by an unknown route. Study of charts indicates that the passage of these ships could be effected without sighting by pack, if the Japs have dredged the long 1-1/2 fathom stretch through Haitan Straits. Requested China Air Group obtain information on Haitan Straits.
21 January 1945
1900-2400 Received information from China [Editor’s Note: Naval Group China, commanded by Commodore Milton E. Miles, USN. See Every Man a Tiger, Naval Hfswrv, December 1994.] that large ships are using Haitan Straits. From Lam Yit to Formosa ships pass through blind bombing zone. This completes our analysis of shipping. While our own forces are hammering Formosa no shipping is moving around Keelung. All traffic is now running the inshore route along the China Coast. No lights have been observed burning along the coast. Consequently the Japs are running only in the day time, when it is impossible to make a submarine attack with their now close coast route. Anchorages being used are probably Shanghai, Wenchow, Samsa Inlet, Foochow, and Lam Yit, all of which are well mined and a day’s run apart. Seas are continually state 5-7. In conclusion, our prospectus appears poor, unless we can find a suitable opportunity at night to resort to torpedo boat tactics.
Basing the remainder of our patrol on the latter assumption, made a complete study of the China Coast from Wenchow south to Lam Yit. Recent unknown mining has taken place north of Wenchow. If our assumptions are correct, the present convoy, for which we are searching, is anchored at Foochow tonight and will be enroute to Wenchow tomorrow. To substantiate our conclu-sions, plan to mingle with the junk fleet north of Seven Stars tomorrow afternoon at a point 10 miles inside the 20 fathom curve and 15 miles from the coast where we can observe the passage of our convoy.
22 January 1945
1203 Maneuvering among junk fleet. Crossed 20 fathom curve. 1900 Passed edge of junk fleet. Approaching 10 fathom curve. Sorry to clear the junks even though they provide an obstacle race, for we depend upon their routes to keep us clear of minefields. 2100 Still no coast lights burning and no ships. Requested PICUDA by radar to patrol off Tungyung Island in event ships had departed coast north of Piseange Islands. Informed her that convoy had not passed our position. 2120 Have now covered route for convoy speeds 13-16 knots. Ships must have anchored. Decided to search coast. 2257 PICUDA reported negative contact.
23 January 1945
Conducting inshore surface search for convoy anchorage. Maneuvering constantly to avoid collision with junks. Present entourage consists of several hundred darkened junks. 0112 Chart plot matching showed an uncharted smear northwest of Incog Light. Checked this on A-scope with showed saturation pips at 29,800 yards.
0240 Cleared junks. None ahead. Much prefer to have them~ or know the reason for their absence.
0300 Rounded Incog Islands and had radar contact on a very large group of anchored ships in the lower reaches of Namkwan [Editor’s Note: Current name is Shacheng Gang.] Harbor. Slowed to take stock of the situation.
Fully realize our critical position and the potential dangers involved. Estimate the situation as follows:
(a) Recent uncharted mining in this vicinity is a known fact. Mines could be laid from Incog Island to Tam Island. However, a more effective minefield would be from Incog Island to Pine-fang, the eastern entrance to Namkwan Harbor, which would provide a protected anchorage behind it. Since the position of the anchored convoys is too close to this line, assume the latter minefield does not exist. The former though doubtful~ must remain a possibility, particularly in view of the absence of junks.
(b) Jap radar interference is showing up on the A-scope and PPI, sweeping. One escort appears to be patrolling several thousand yards northeast and a second escort to the east of the anchored ships covering the most logical position for entry and attack. A third escort is working close to Incog Light apparently more concerned with using his radar to keep himself off the rocks. Visibility is very poor.
(c) Assumed the closely anchored columns would be beading about 050’7 heading into the wind and seas with a current of 1 knot. Plotted the navigational position from which we would attack, making our approach from the southeast. The attack would be made on approximately a 60′” track so that our stern tubes would be fired with zero gyros on our selected retirement course.
(d) Elected to retire through an area marked unexplored on our large scale chart which contained sufficient rocks awash and rocks, position doubtful to make any overambitious escorts think twice before risking a chase. This course would also cross the mass of junks which would be a defite and final barrier to all pursuit. While retiring radar will only be used sweeping quickly from broad on one bow to broad on the other. All damage must be assessed without it.
(e) Countermeasures expected will be searchlights, gunfire, and hot pursuit. Against this we will have a stem tube salvo, 40mm and automatic weapons.
(f) Inasmuch as our attack position will be six miles inside the 10 fathom curve and 19 miles inside the 20 fathom curve, we will require an hour’s run before being forced down. Consequent-ly our attack must be a complete surprise and the force of our attack must be sufficient to completely throw the enemy off balance. We have four torpedoes forward and eight aft. No time will be available for reload; for a speedy, darting, knife thrust attack will increase the probabiJity of success.
0320 Figure the odds are 10 to 1 in our favor. Man battlestations torpedoes.
0325 Fortunately we have a flexible control party and at this point we flexed it. CO secured the bridge and took over the conning tower; target plot was secured and the Assistant Approach Officer was shifted to navigational plot; Plotting Officer was shifted to PPI; and another officer was shifted to the bridge.
Seriously considering placing crew in life jackets, but the atmosphere throughout the boat is electric. The men are more tense than I’ve ever seen them. Save for an occasional report of “single ping sounding, 6 fathoms,” the control room is so quiet the proverbial pin would have sounded like a depth charge. Discarded the idea of life jackets as definitely alarmist, with so many hearts doing flip flops.
Do not consider it advisable in our present precarious position to send a contact report to PICUDA. She could not possibly attack before dawn and get out. Wilt send one after the attack when our presence is known.
0352 Range 6000 yards. Made ready all tubes. Ships are anchored in three columns about 500 yards apart with a few scattered ships farther inshore. This, frankly, must be the most beautiful target of the war. Actual measurement of target length is 4200 yards. Ships are banked three deep. Even an erratic torpedo can’t miss. Radar Officer counts 12 ships on one bearing. Estimate at least 30 ships present. Our biggest job will be to prevent too many torpedoes from hitting one ship. For purposes of set up chose one of the large ships to left of center of the near column as target. Using TBT bearings.
0402 Fired tubes I, 2, 3, 4 with 150 percent spread, track 65 starboard, gyros 30 left, torpedo run 3225 yards, depth set 6 feet, target speed 1-114 knots, target course 040″1′.
Right full rudder, all ahead standard. Sounding 5 fathoms. Shifted target to right for ships ahead in near column. 0404 Fired tubes 7, 8, 9, 10 with 300 percent spread, track 65 starboard, gyros 3 right, range 3020 yards, depth set 6 feet.
All ahead flank! Commanding Officer manned bridge.
0406-02 Torpedo #2 hit on target. Timed and observed.
0406-09 Torpedo #3 hit on target. Timed and observed.
0406-27 Torpedo #1 hit in 2nd column. Timed and heard on bridge.
0407-27 Torpedo #4 hit in 3rd column. Timed and observed.
0408-16 Torpedo #6 hit in 1st column. Timed and observed.
0408-31 Torpedo #8 hit in 1st column. Timed and observed.
0408-36 Torpedo #5 hit in 2nd column. Timed and observed.
0409-41 Torpedo #7 hit in 3rd column. Timed and observed
Main target of attack, large AK in first column was hit by torpedoes #2 and #3. Target observed to settle and undoubtedly sink.
Unidentified ship in second column was hit by torpedo #1. This was not observed since shielded by main target after tum to right. Damaged.
Large AK, in third column, hit by torpedo #4, shortly thereafter caught on fire. Fire later flared up 5 or 6 times then went out in a manner similar to a sinking ship. Probably sunk.
Torpedo #6 hit in the first column. Believed to have hit in main target or ship close to this target. Observation not sufficient-ly accurate to enough to claim additional damage.
Large AK, in first column, to right of main target of attack hit by torpedo #8. Ship belched forth a huge cloud of smoke. Damaged.
Unidentified ship, in second column hit by torpedo #5. The whole side of this ship blew out in our direction in a manner similar to an AE or the magazine of a large warship. Ship sank.
Tracers of all descriptions flew out from the two ships which exploded. At the same time several large-caliber projectiles, estimated 6-12 inches, with tracers hurtled through the air. A moment after this, searchlights were seen sweeping about for a short while.
0413 Smoke from the ships hit, on fire, and exploding completely obscured all ships and prevented any further observation of other damage.
The BARB is now high balling it for the 20 fathom curve at 21.6 knots, broken field running through the junk fleet, with the radar sweeping rapidly 30″ either side of the bow, wildly maneu-vering when some of the junks are inside the sea return. Expect to see a junk piled up on the bow at any second.
0436 Gun fire from well astern. Some poor junks getting it.
0438 Some form of navigational light lighted on Tae Island. Probably to aid the escorts navigation.
0445 Sent contact report to PICUDA.
0511 The Galloping Ghost of the China Coast crossed the 20 fathom curve with a sigh. Never realized how much water that was before. However, life begins at 40 (fathoms). Kept going.
0512 Slowed to 10 knots.
0550 Dawn. Assume the Japs will expect us to submerge, so will stay on the surface.
0633 Aircraft contact. SJ radar picked up plane at 7 miles coming in fast. A CO’s privilege to change his mind. Dived. Range closed to 2-1/2 miles.
1220 Surfaced. Retiring to east. Requested China Air Force obtain information as to damage inflicted in harbor.
1621 Periscope sighted. Maneuvered clear. Doubtful sighting.
28 January 1945
Surface patrolling off Lam Yit. Seas state 6.
1200 Invaded blind bombing zone during afternoon in hopes of picking up Amoy traffic.
2000 Investigating Lam Yit Harbor. Empty.
29 January 1945
Surface patrolling along coast off Lam Yit. 0345 China aircraft reported 1 AK, 1 AP, 1 escort leaving Amoy at 1750 headed northeast.
0450 SJ contact at 17,500 yards. Commenced approach. Convoy consists of 1 large AK, 1 medium transport in column with 1 escort on starboard flank of transport which is loading. Heavy rain. Visibility is poor. Sea in Lam Yit about state 4. Targets on steady course 060″1′, speed 7.8 knots. Sent contact report to PICUDA.
0537 Range to large AK 1600 yards. Swinging right for stern tube shot. TBT bearings inside 3000 yards. Fired tubes 7, 8, 9, 10 on 118 starboard track, gyros 2o right, range 2010 yards,
torpedoes set at 8 feet. Spread coverage 200 percent.
0543 Convoy no longer visible in rain squalls.
0544-10 One timed hit. Not observed.
0544-35 Second timed hit. Not observed.
0555 CO in conning tower watching A-scope and PPI when target suddenly disappeared from A-scope and PPI at 8800 yards. At this time AP and escort pips were 4′ to right of target.
Frankly, assessment of damage in this attack from our stand-point can only be classed as unknown. The timed hits were over one minute late which is incomprehensible unless those torpedoes run very slow up heavy sea. Tracking the target after the attack showed no apparent damage until the pip disappeared. Seas off the coast were state 7 and one hour after the attack we were forced to slow to 8 knots. Cannot understand how we could possibly miss. The approach on a steady course, steady speed target was the simplest we·ve ever been offered. Even my conscience bothered me with the thought that I was practically jettisoning our last four torpedoes on such a simple set up, when I could have fired a split salvo of two torpedoes at the AK and two at the AP. Hit times, however, do not jibe and yet are much too early for end of run. Analysis is a mystery. 1000 Departing area in heavy seas. Making good 2 knots. Inductions closed.
30 January 1945
Surface patrolling Enroute Midway, seas state 6, decreasing.
9 February 1945
Arrived Midway, channel closed. Patrolled south during night.
10 February 1945
Commenced search for MIDWAY which had moved northward at 4 knots during night.
1130 Finally overtook MIDWAY and moored.
15 February 1945