Ms. Noreen Martin lists herself as an “ex-shipyard worker. “She contributed several articles to THE SUBMARINE REVIEW in 1996 and 1997.
While cleaning out some old papers, I came across a story which I had written for the Charleston Naval Shipyard Pride and the history part of the article was in the Goose Creek Gazelle in 1995. This year marks the 1O’h anniversary of the closing of the squadron. Hopefully, you will enjoy the squadron ‘s history and the wonderful war stories of Submarine Squadron Four Submariners.
Sixty-four years of defending freedom came to an end on 17 Mar 1995 at Charleston Naval Station Pier Mike with the deactivation of Submarine Squadron Four.
The ceremony was held pier side and topside USS L. MEN-DEL RIVERS. Vice Admiral George W. Emery, Commander Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Commander Submarines Allied Command Atlantic, Rear Admiral Winford G. “Jerry” Ellis, Commander Submarine Group Ten and Captain Stanley R. Szemborski, Commander Submarine Squadron Four were the distinguished guest speakers.
Guests include Mrs. L. Mendel Rivers, members of the community, current and former squadron personnel and Submariner Veterans of World War Il who represented several states.
Rear Admiral Ellis praised the squadron’s spirit of volunteerism to community projects to include trips and donations to local schools, food drives for charity and participation in the adopt-a-highway program. The squadron’s generosity was worldwide with the time donated to orphanages in other countries.
The principal speaker, Vice Admiral Emery, reflected on what submarines are all about, stressing four key points:
1. Submarines are ambitiously conceived and are among the most complex machinery built by man. Their complexity includes nuclear propulsion, sophisticated weapons, metal-lurgy, mobility and stealth. Our submarines are the best in the world.
2. Our submarines are operated and supported by the finest young people in the nation. They sacrifice much and operate in an unforgiving environment.
3. Our young people are lead by a magnificent core of Chief Petty Officers and Officers.
4. What do we do with a wonderful team and with outstanding people who man the submarines? With wonderful ma-chines and great personnel we grow, develop and train.
We do what we do, better than anyone else. Vice Admiral Emery saluted all for a job well done and for the pursuit of peace to the nation for six and one-half decades. It was an era of unequaled excellence and commitment by thousands of men and women.
Captain Szemborski retold some humorous stories from the squadron’s past, one being the famous letter from a submarine commander to the supply department during World War Il who was having trouble with a requisition for one-hundred-fifty rolls of toilet paper. Eleven and one-half months after the initial request, came the reply that their request was canceled, cannot identify item. The commander sent a letter back to the supply department with a sample and asked what they were using as a sample for something that was once so well known to this command. The commander stated that this was a necessary item to have on board especially during depth charge attacks by the enemy. In the mean time the submariners would comply with the directive to eliminate unnecessary paperwork and thus kill two birds with one stone! Captain Szemborski also touched on the history and accomplishments of the past 64 years.
Following the ceremony was an impressive luncheon on the pier and beautiful, artistic, life-like, ice sculptures of the dolphin insignia of a submariner were displayed.
USS L. MENDEL RNERS and USS SAND LANCE graciously hosted tours for interested personnel.
Submarine Squadron Four was established in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1930. During World War 11, the squadron sunk thousands of tons of Japanese merchant ships, evacuated refugees and POW’s, landed troops, rescued downed pilots, participated in shore bombardments and photographic reconnaissance and sup-plied guerrillas in the Philippines.
In 1946 the squadron was moved to Key West, Florida, thus acquiring the nickname Sunshine Squadron. On 28 Jul, 1959, thanks to the efforts of our great and honor-able Congressman L. Mendel Rivers, Squadron Four was relocated to our historic city. The squadron’s new nickname was the Swamp Fox Squadron.
Between 1964 and 1965, Charleston entered the nuclear age with two attack submarines and in 1975 all our submarines were nuclear. During the 1980s and 1990s, the squadron’s mission adapted to world changes and the end of the cold war.
During the 64 years of operation, one-hundred and fifty-four ships were assigned to the squadron which included the following:
|6||ASR||Submarine Rescue Vessel|
|2||TWR||Torpedo Weapon Retriever|
|1||ARDM||Auxiliary Repair Docking (Medium)|
|25||SSN||Nuclear Attnck Submarine|
|4||SSBN||Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine|
One DSRV (deep submergence rescue vehicle) was available for rescuing crews from downed submarines. The rescue vessel is shaped like a torpedo and is capable of being transported anywhere it may be needed.
Turning the last page of the history of Submarine Squadron Four, we mustn’t forge the Silent Submarines with crews on eternal patrol:
S-26 (SS 131) sunk 24 Jan 1942 after colliding with submarine chaser PC-460 in Gulf of Panama.
USS SHARK (SSl 74) sunk by Japanese warship 11 Feb 1942 east of Menado, Cele bes.
USS Pickerel (SS 177) missing off northern Honshu, Apr 1943.
USS POMP ANO (SS 181) missing east of Honshu, Aug 1945.
SS-44 (SSl55) sunk by Japanese destroyer 7 Oct 1943 off Paramushiru.
USS SCULPIN (SS 191) sunk by Japanese destroyer YAMAGUMO 19 Nov 1943 off Truk.
S-28 (SS 133) failed to surface during training off Pearl Harbor 4 Jul 1944.
USS SEA WOLF (SS 197) sunk by mistake by destroyer escort RICHARD M. ROWELL 3 Oct 1944 off Morotai.
USS SWORDFISH (SS 193) missing south of Kyushu, Jan 1945.
One submarine, S-27 (SS 132) was lost by grounding on a reef on 19 Jun 1942 at Amchitka Island, Aleutians. However, the men managed to escape.
Data was taken from U.S. Warships of World War II by Paul H. Silverstone.
Before and after the Deactivation Ceremony, I had the pleasure to speak with many of the World War II submarine veterans. They proudly wore vests which displayed their name, state chapter and colorful patches of submarines and vessels which they served aboard. They were proud and eager to tell their war experiences. To place in perspective when these veterans served our country, the following were the current events on 7 Dec 1941: Franklin D. Roosevelt was President and Henry A. Wallace was Vice President. Joe Lewis was the heavyweight champion of the world. Top songs of the day were Blues in the Night, Chattanooga Choo Choo and by the Light of the Silvery Moon. The top movie was How Green was My Valley, starring Walter Pidgeon and Maureen O’Hara. A 5 pound bag of flour was $.23, half gallon of milk was $.27, pair of boots $5.85 and a pair of pants were $4.98. News headlines of 1941 included: The Establishment of the USO, Germany Invades Russia and the United States Declares War on Japan.
Mr. William Jones from St. Stephens, S.C. was aboard USS ESCOLAR (SS294) bound for Pearl Harbor. He reached his destination and went ashore. When the submarine went out again, it sank with a loss of 72 crewmen. Mr. Jones also served aboard USS BARB (SS220) and USS SENNET (SS408). He stated that is was wonderful to be around shipmates again. Mr. Bruce Wright from Aiken, S.C., w
Mr. Bruce Wright from Aiken, S.C., was assigned to USS BASS (SS164), USS QUILLBACK (SS424) and USS SELFRIDGE (DD367). On the evening of 6 Dec 1941, USS SELFRIDGE returned to Pearl Harbor from a 30 day cruise. They were low on fuel, ammunition, food, water and supplies. On Sunday, 7 Dec 1941, the Japanese bombers flew near USS SELFRIDGE on the way to their targets. During the bombing attacks, the destroyer was restocked and it dropped depth charges near Diamond Head Point for 24 hours. It then joined USS SARATOGA (CV3) and the Joint Task Force and proceeded to Midway and Wake Island.
Terry and Oliver Thompson are residents of Charlotte, N.C. Mr. Thompson is a past commander of the Tarheel Chapter of Submarine Veterans of World War II. He served aboard USS SEA LEOPARD (SS483), USS MEDRAGEL (SS480) and the U-2513 German U-boat (U-2513). In August 1946 the U-2513 underwent an extensive overhaul at the Charleston Navy Yard. We obtained possession of it and our crews manned the U-boat and studied the German technology. The snorkel was an advancement that we did-n’t have but our electronic and sonar equipment was superior.
Mr. Thompson and the crew of-2513 had the honor of taking President Truman for a cruise to show him the U-boat and areas of our technology that needed to be updated.
Mr. Thompson also told about the time that he was serving on USS SEA LEOPARD on a cruise in the Bermuda Triangle. USS DOGFISH (SS350) was also in the same vicinity. They were supposed to be 2 miles apart. Somehow USS SEA LEOPARD rammed USS DOGFISH. This mishap knocked USS SEA LEOP-ARD’s hydraulic power out and caused their buoyancy tank to flood. The submarine was sinking out of control. They went past their test depth before they could reverse the screws, bring the sub back up and get the hydraulic accumulator working again. Both submarines proceeded to port for repairs. USS DOGFISH sustained only minor damage.
In Nov 1994 Mr. Thompson and 9 fellow World War Il Submariners had the privilege to go on a 3 day trip aboard USS TENNESSEE (SSBN 734). All the men were required to requalify, pull mess duty, find the ship’s bell and the ship’s goat (garbage compactor) and fire torpedoes. One of the men celebrated his 741h birthday while on board and the crew presented him with a cake. They also fulfilled the last request of a World War Il Submariner-burial rites were performed at sea.
Dot and Dana Raley made the trip to Charleston from Rome, GA. Dana Raley is the Georgia State Commander of U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II. Mr. Raley served aboard USS NARWHAL (SS167), USS CHIVO (SS341), USS CORPORAL (SS346), USS CUTLASS (SS478), USS TRUPETFISH (SS477), USS SEA LEOPARD (SS483) and USS CONGER (SS477).
Mr. Raley had numerous stories to tell of rescue missions by USS NARWHAL of pilots, soldiers, families and agents. He told of the rescue of Mr. Bill Williams from the Philippines. Mr. Wil-liams was aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress that had crashed-landed on the island sustaining over 1,200 bullets. One crew member was killed and four were wounded. They were taken prisoner at an enemy hospital where Mr. William managed to escape and hide in the jungle for a year before he was rescued.
On another rescue mission, USS NARWHAL took aboard an American family, Mr. McKinley, his wife and three daughters who were ages 4, 9 and 13. Mr. McKinley had been the President of Spellman University in the Philippines when the war broke out.
He and his family successfully hid from the Japanese for 27 months until being rescued on 8 Feb 1944.
Mr. Raley explained their rescued personnel were taken to Australia for extended periods of debriefing and were not allowed to tell what had happened to them or how they were rescued.
One of the saddest stories that he relayed was about a Japanese cargo vessel with approximately 700 POW’s on board. USS PAD-DLE (SS263) was on patrol and spotted the cargo vessel. She fired her torpedoes and the vessel sank. Only 82 of the POW’s survived. They were rescued and one radioman was returned to the Philippine Islands to continue with the war effort.
The final story that Mr. Raley retold was the rescue of 10 aviators from a downed B-17. The flyers had been picked up when USS NARWHAL discovered an unescorted Japanese freighter virtually on top of them. USS NARWHAL sank the freighter which brought the attention of a Japanese sleeper (small sub chaser). The sleeper unloaded her depth charges, ten in all. The noise was extremely loud and nerve racking. Light bulbs were exploding and lights were going out aboard the sub. After surviving the attack, the next morning, the pilots told the commander that they wanted off the sub. They would rather take their chances back on the island fighting the Japanese!
After witnessing today’s ceremony, hearing the veterans’ war stories, and seeing the camaraderie of this elite group, it was in-deed evident that the Submariners’ Pride Runs Deep! We owe a great deal of gratitude to these men, the Silent Heroes, who sail the seas to protect our freedom.