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Subsequent to World War II, the Bureau of Ships issued a series of four confidential-since declassified-publications which summarized the war damage to U.S. battleships, carriers, cruisers and destroyers; and two appendices related to submarine war damage and losses respectively. Appendix I resulted from a survey of war patrol reports and other available information which indicated that during World War II there were 110 separate instances in which United States fleet type submarines survived damage from attack by the enemy or friendly forces where the damage received may have been more than negligible or where the circumstances of the attack or the nature of the damage was of sufficient interest to warrant reporting. 1 Of the 110 cases, the survival of USS SALMON (SS 182) has to have been one of the most harrowing.

On the night of 30 October 1944, about 100 miles south of Japan, USS SALMON (SS 182), Commander H.K. “Ken”Nauman commanding, attacked a tanker previously damaged and stopped by TRIGGER. At the time, the tanker was being closely guarded by four alerted A/S vessels. Nauman fired a spread of four fish, got two hits and went deep to evade the inevitable counter-attack. As SALMON leveled off at 310 feet-she was a thin-skinner, safe operating depth 312 feet-the escorts launched a ferocious barrage of some 30 depth charges. One of the last almost had her number on it.

Estimated to have been a Type 2 with 357 pounds of Type 98 explosive, it exploded an estimated 45 feet above the after engine room (A.E.R.). With the main induction piping crushed flat, the pressure hull indented as much as two inches over the A.E.R. and taking on water rapidly from a score of sources, SALMON’s crew spent the next 17 harrowing minutes attempting to stem the flooding and repair machinery in order to regain depth control. During that time, SALMON sank out of control three times to depths far beyond her designed operating depth. Finally, with the battery depleted, limited high pressure air remaining, water in the A.E.R. reaching the main motors and increasing, depth control impossible, and the boat at 578 feet and still sinking, the decision was made to battle-surface and shoot it out by gun action.

Those harrowing 17 minutes are depicted in the accompanying brief descriptions as SALMON alternated between safe operating depth and supposedly crush depths.

  • A total of 30 depth charges were dropped on SALMON while she was running at 310 feet-safe operating depth 312 feet. One or more charges detonated close over the after engine room and caused the complete collapse and flooding of the engine air induction piping and possibly some or all of the pressure hull deformation between the tank tops over the engine rooms. The closest charge is estimated to have detonated about 45 feet above the after engine room as shown.
  • Depth control was lost and the boat started to settle fast for the following reasons: (a) loss of buoyancy due to the collapse of the main engine air induction system, (b) flooding of three after deck access hatch trunks, plus profuse leakage into various compartments, (c) jamming of the stern planes on the hard dive position, (d) loss of 7000 gallons of fuel oil from F.O.B. No. 7 and (e) downward flow of water from the detonations of depth charges. The decent of the boat was initially checked at about 400 feet [safe operating depth (SOD) 312 feet] by going ahead at emergency speed, with a 20 degrees up angle, and pumping the auxiliary tanks.
  • Salmon then rose to about 300 feet, but when an attempt was made to level off and reduce speed to standard, the boat again settled rapidly.
  • Emergency speed and a 20 degree up angle were again ordered. In addition, safety tank was blown. This time descent was not checked until SALMON sank to about 500 feet (SOD 312 feet].
  • Once again SALMON started to rise and reached 150 feet. But she started to drop again when another attempt was made to level off and reduce speed.
  • This time the boat went quickly to about 500 feet, in spite of again resorting to emergency speed ahead and a 20 degree up angle. She then gradually settled to a reported depth of 578 feet and still increasing [SOD 312 feet]. At that point, with batteries depleted, water in the after engine room still rising and having reached the main motors, and depth control impossible, the decision was made to surface and shoot it out by gun action against the escorts.
  • SALMON battle-surfaced 17 minutes after first being attacked. On surfacing, the boat assumed a 15 degree starboard list with the main deck awash due to leaking ballast tank vent valves and the inability to start the low pressure blowers. High pressure air remaining on surfacing was 1,200 pounds in one bank only and could not be recharged since the motors fur the H.P. air compressors had been flooded out.

Subsequent surveys at Saipan, Pearl Harbor and Mare Island Navy Shipyard determined that SALMON had suffered the following major damages:

  • The main induction piping was completely collapsed [flattened] causing an increase in weight of 13,500 pounds.
  • The pressure hull plating between tank tops was generally depressed between frames 95 and 170. The area of heaviest deformation occurred between frames 130 and 145, with a maximum deformation of about two inches at frames 137 and 139 [over A.E.R.].
  • The master vent valves for Safety Tank and M.B.T. Nos. 2A, 2C and 2G could not be closed. The vent risers for M.B.T. No’s. 2C, 2E and 2G, and F.B.T. No. 7 were ruptured. All starboard emergency vent valves leaked. The low pressure blow lines to F.B.T. No’s. 7 and 9 were ruptured. This damage caused SALMON to assume a 15 degree starboard list on surfacing.
  • Seven thousand (7000) gallons of fuel escaped from F.B.T. No. 7 through a ruptured vent riser and was displaced by heavier sea water, thus tending to make the boat heavy aft.
  • The upper hatch of the After Torpedo Room access trunk was forced open to a 30 degree angle. The trunk flooded but the lower hatch held and saved the ship. Similarly, the upper hatches of the Forward Engine Room and the Crew’s Mess were sprung and the trunks flooded. But the lower hatches held. [These lower hatches served a second purpose: the trunks served as vegetable lockers, e.g., spuds. Fortunately, none of these back-up hatches, particularly the one in the A.T.R., had been removed for spuds at the time of the action.]
  • Power steering was lost due to the rupture of the supply piping at the steering hydraulic manifold in the After Torpedo Room. Manual steering control was not regained until the shift was made to hand operation four minutes later.
  • • The stem planes were jammed in the hard dive position because the hand-tilting shafting along the top of the After Engine Room was frozen by the local indentation of the pressure hull on top of it; and the stem plane drive shaft coupling in After Torpedo Room was shattered.

    • The bilges were flooded in both engine rooms, primarily through damaged fuel ballast tank riser inboard vent lines, which could not be controlled because the stop valves had been torn [loose] from their holding studs. Water reached the main motors and the main generators (at a 20 degree up angle) and could not be controlled by pumping because the bilge drain line suction strainers were clogged by debris.

  • No’s. 1 and 2 main engines flooded through the exhaust piping system. No. 2 generator flooded by water in the bilge.
  • All of the main engine outboard double-seal conical type exhaust valves leaked.
  • Both periscope head staunching plates fractured and the tubes flooded.
  • At depths below 200 feet, profuse leakage occurred into the Conning Tower through the stuffing boxes of both periscopes, the steering wheel shaft packing, and from around the upper Conning Tower hatch. The Conning Tower bilges overflowed and the water drained into the Control Room and the Pump Room.
  • The Pump Room flooded waist-high at the after end (at a 20 degree up angle) from the Conning Tower and hull ventilation drains.
  • Various auxiliary motors in the Pump Room flooded out. The low pressure blower volume tank flooded.
  • The main hydraulic plant was secured due to excessive leakage in the hydraulic system pipping and fittings throughout boat.
  • There was a small amount of flooding in the Crew’s Mess from hull ventilation which flooded out the electric ranges.
  • All of the bridge instruments were damaged and flooded.
  • The bow planes rigging motor panel was damaged. On surfacing, bow planes had to be rigged in by hand.


The courage and fighting spirit of SALMON’s crew after surfacing in the face of overwhelming odds-4: 1-is a stirring tale in of itself that warrants a separate accounting. For now, however, it deserves at least a summary account. SALMON surfaced with a 15 degree starboard list, no engines immediately available and limited battery propulsion. For some unknown reason the escorts did not attack aggressively. SALMON took advantage of this to correct the list while holding the escorts at bay with her 4-inch deck gun and 20-mm machine guns. Then, after some three hours, with trim, main engines propulsion and communications restored, SALMON turned on her tormentors and took the offensive. Leaving one escort ablaze and DIW, she raced into a rain squall and made good her escape, bound for Saipan, later joined by TRIGGER, STERLET and SILVERSIDES as escorts. At Saipan she received voyage repairs, thence on to Pearl for additional repairs to make her seaworthy, and thence on to Mare Island Navy Shipyard where she was declared too damaged to justify restoration as a fighting unit and was retired from active service. But the crew was not through fighting-not yet at least.

At their request, Captain Ken Nauman, requested and the Bureau approved the transfer of the crew as a whole to new construction rather than ordering them individually as replacements to other submarines in accordance with then current policy. And so it was that when the war ended, the SALMON crew was again on patrol in their new boat STICKLEBACK, Commander H.K. Ken Nauman again in command, in the last bastion of the Empire, the Sea of Japan, as part of Operation Barney. Such was the breed of fighting men who served in our silent service during World War II.”

CAPT Roy E. Goldman, USN(ret.)
Mr. John E. Logsdon
Dr. Waldo Lyon
VADM Harry C. Schrader, USN(Ret.)

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