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[Editor’s Note: Taken from the DEAR ABBY colwnn by Abigail Van Buren c UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.]

DEAR ABBY: In light of all the negative publicity given to some of the American servicemen with regard to their ungentlemanly behavior, I would like to share an experience I had recently.

I am a female American college student studying abroad at a program in Spain. Recently, three girlfriends and I went down south to the British colony of Gibraltar to sightsee. There, in a lively bar, we encountered about 40 U.S. Navy submarine men who were temporarily stationed there.

We four girls started a conversation with these Navy men centered around the men’s families-they all carried pictures of their girlfriends or wives back home; some even had snapshots of their babies.

While my father may have been leery about his daughter sitting with 40 men, I felt entirely at ease. Not once in the course of the evening was there a lewd remark or an inappropriate gesture directed at us girls. After spending a few hours at this bar, we all went dancing. Again, not a disrespectful hand was laid on my friends or me. To top off the night, when we girls were ready to go back to our hotel, the entire group walked us through the dimly lit streets and saw us safely to our doorstep.

Abby, without a doubt that was one of the most remarkable nights I had in my four month stay in Europe. The U.S. Navy is to be commended for grooming its men to be respectable, honorable and chivalrous gentlemen. Thank you to the submarine crew of JAMES K. POLK.

Lora Wilson


(Another Perspective on the Battle or Midway)

21 February 1997

Rear Admiral Metcalf has set the record straight on the lack of effectiveness of the single torpedo attack by a U.S. submarine, NAUTILUS, at Midway (THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, January 1997). It may be interesting to look at the enemy’s viewpoint of the NAUTILUS attack, the only part played by any of the 15 U.S. submarines deployed in the pivotal battle.

As early as 1955, Captain Mitsuo Fuchia, UN and Commander Masatake Okumiya, UN, in Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan wrote of the battle:

“Some three and a half hours after the bombing attack, a new menace appeared. The flame-racked carrier [AKAGI] now Jay dead in the water and had begun to list. Commander Amagi, scanning the adjacent sea, suddenly discerned the telltale periscope of a submarine a few thousand meters from the ship. Minutes later, at 1410, Lieutenant Commander Yoshio Kunisada, a damage control officer, saw three white torpedo wakes streaking toward the carrier. They seemed sure to hit, and Kunisada closed his eyes and prayed as he waited for the explosions. None came. Two of the torpedoes barely missed the ship, and the third, though it struck, miraculously failed to explode. Instead, it glanced off the side and broke into two sections, the warhead sinking into the depths while the buoyant after section remained floating nearby. Several of KAGA’s crew, who were swimming about in the water after having jumped or been blown overboard when the bombs struck the carrier, grabbed onto the floating section and used it as support while awaiting rescue. Thus did a weapon of death become instead a lifesaver in one of the curious twists of war.” (p. 185)

Following interviews with Japanese veterans of the battle, Samuel Eliot Morison, in his volume Coral Sea. Midway and Submarine Actions. May 1942-August 1942, (1961) wrote:

“Commander Amagi, flight officer of KAGA, swimming near the burning carrier, saw a periscope rise above the surface. The submarine, which has never been identified, [believed to be NAUTILUS] fired a torpedo at KAGA which hit. ‘But,’, said Amagi, ‘it was such a glancing blow fired at such an angle that the torpedo bounced off the side of the ship and circled slightly, after which the warhead dropped off and sank, although the body of the torpedo remained floating near me… Several of our sailors clung to the floating after part of the torpedo’ -a use of American torpedoes not anticipated by the Bureau of Ordnance.” (p. 126)

To again quote Fuchida and Okumiya:
“Not one of the many observers who witnessed the last hours of this great carrier [SORYU] saw any sign of an enemy submarine or torpedoes. There was a succession of explosions in the carrier before she sank, but these were so unquestionably induced explosions that they could not have been mistaken for anything else. It seems beyond doubt, therefore, that American accounts which credit U.S. submarine NAUTILUS with delivering the coup de grace to SORYU have confused her with KAGA. Nor, as already related, did the submarine attack on KAGA contribute in any way to her sinking.” (p. 189)

An Editor’s Note to this passage in the Fuchida-Okumiya book states:

“Since NAUTILUS’ claim to have finished off SORYU has hitherto been accepted in all U.S. accounts of the Midway battle, the American editors (i.e., U.S. Naval Institute] have carefully reexamined the available evidence and are satisfied that it overwhelming supports the accuracy of the story as given here, indicating KAGA rather than SORYU to have been the target of the NAUTILUS attack and further indicating this attack to have been ineffectual … The Japanese battle report records no submarine attack on SORYU at any time … records for destroyer HAGIKAZE confirm that, while she was standing by crippled KAGA on 4 June, she carried out a depth charge attack on an enemy submarine [NAUTILUS]. Records for destroyers HAMAKAZE and ISOKAZE, which was standing by SORYU, mention no encounter whatever with an enemy submarine .

Thus. details of the NAUTILUS attack have been in print, in English, for more than 40 years. Hopefully. NAUTILUS (SS 168) can now be remembered for her many accomplishments, especially pre-invasion reconnaissance and as a commando carrier, and not for the myth of her accomplishments at Midway.

Norman Polmar


February 23, 1997

This letter is further to my ongoing controversy with Mr. T .J. Pelick, about production and usage of certain WWII submarine torpedoes.

I continue to disagree with his statements concerning lack of usage of the Mk 23 as opposed to the Mk 14.
I have conferred with those of my colleagues who are nearby; their qualifications and mine are listed below:
W.J. Germershausen – 9 ships. including 6 in the Japan Sea
W .P. Gruner – 5 ships. including ICL and IDD
R.M. Metcalf – 10 ships. including IDD and lSS

We agree as follows:

None of us ever fired a Mk 14 in low power.
None of us ever knew or heard of a producing skipper who chose to fire a Mk 14 in low power.
Firing a Mk 14 in low power was almost invariably a last chance, desperation shot at heavy warships that had got by at long range.

We estimate that not more than one percent of all Mk 14 warshots were fired in low power.

The development of the Mk 23 and the production of 9500 units reflected the foregoing. Deliveries to boats (i.e., the split between 14 and 23) were probably determined by base and tender torpedo shops schedules and deliveries into stock. As far as we skippers were concerned, the only choice to be made was steam or electric; we neither knew or cared whether Mk 14 or Mk 23, because we never intended to fire a Mk 14 in low power.

RADM R.M. Metcalf, USN(Ret.)
February 24, 1997

I would like to thank all those, especially Dr. Fred Milford, for his review of my articles. For example, in the July 1996 THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, I indicated (based on the memoirs of the developer) that the Mk 27 Mod 4 was initially developed because the Russians held the fast German Type XXI U-boats at Vladivostak and the Navy was concerned that the Russians may enter the Korean War.

Fred aptly pointed out that the Korean War came a few years later after initial development began on the Mk 27 Mod 4 and the Mk 34-1 torpedoes. Apparently, the developers memoirs which were recently written had a time error relative to the Korean War. However, as stated, the fast German Type XXI U-boats at Vladivostalc were a driving force in the initial development of the Mk 27 Mod 4 and the Mk 34-1 torpedoes. Later during the Korean War, the Navy accelerated the development of the Mk 27 Mod 4 and the Mk 34-1 torpedo because of potential Russian involvement with the German Type XXI U-boats.

Reconstruction of events are somewhat difficult and can be subject to errors depending on the amount of available data and the source. Constructive responses to these articles are welcome if they contribute to historical accuracy. It takes considerable time to research and write these articles. Since I was not a part of the activities during WWII, I rely on documents, scientists, engineers, developers, Navy personnel, and others for some of the information. Most comments I received were favorable. There was a dissenting opinion by Admiral Metcalf on the use of low speed for the Mk 14 torpedo. Admiral Metcalrs opinion is important since it differs from the statement made by E.W. Jolie in his compendium· on torpedoes. Since it would be interesting to assess this difference, I would appreciate hearing from other submariners, especially in the late parts of WWII when there were many submarines in the Pacific. These will be added to the data bank of knowledge to ensure adequate representation.

Tom Pelick


3 March 1997

I am pleased that Hank Chiles and I are in agreement concerning the viability of the submarine arsenal ship concept {January 1997 THE SUBMARINE REVIEW). However, I would call attention to his last sentence: “This concept deserves rigorous analysis.”

I hope by that he means that alternatives of the SSN 688 and Trident SSBN should both receive rigorous analysis. Further, that analysis should not address only the technical issues {conversion, logistic support, etc.), but also operational issues (what are comparative manning costs, are more than four such undersea craft required, should the arsenal ship and special forces transport be combined in a single hull, does size affect maneuverability in probable operating areas, etc.).

The arsenal ship is a viable concept and the stealth feature of submarines-albeit acquired at a high cost-could be attained through conversions of existing submarines that would otherwise be retired. Such conversions, however, must make use of the optimum platform.

Norman Polmar

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