Mr. Steffane/Ii qualified in submarines in CATFISH. He lives in San Francisco, CA., and is a Life Member of the USSVI, a member of the Holland Club and ve1y active in the preservation of the USS PAMPANITO. SS-383.
Some months past I had an unexpected and rewarding experience which I thought Submariners would enjoy. My Shipmates and I refer to the PAMPANITO effort, as the Three Ps, i.e. Protect, Preserve and Perpetuate the life of this magnificent piece of American Naval History, the men who served and those on eternal patrol.
Part of the Three Ps program was the success in getting the PAMPANITO into a long overdue dry docking in Alameda. After two weeks of cleaning, painting, new zinc plating etc., she was scheduled to return to her pier at Fisherman’s Wharf at 0300 to accommodate tide and ship traffic.
I was privileged to be part of her crew on the return voyage powered by two tug boats. Aside from the inconvenience of the early hour, we experienced strong winds, pouring rain and, to complicate the problem, when the dry dock was flooded, PAMPANITO took on a decided list to port. This was caused by water and/or fuel still remaining in a couple of the ballast tanks. The problem was compounded by the fact that the balance of the tanks were empty and no batteries were aboard so PAMAPNITO was riding high in the water.
In either case, the list could not be corrected because there was no air pressure or hydraulic power available as we left the dry dock. At one point crossing the bay, in a raging wind and rain, the forward tug was on the port side and between the list, weather and the tug pulling on the port, the list increased. It was so severe gear was falling on the decks and if it were not for the efforts of one Jim Adams, who radioed the forward tug to get over to the starboard side, we felt we were close to capsizing. Sinking PAMPANITO in San Francisco Bay would have been a disaster; not to mention the loss of reputation of the alleged experienced crew bringing her home.
After some seven hours, PAMPANITO was back at her home, anchor chains installed and power restored. Once that was completed, a well deserved cocktail hour was sought by several shipmates who served as crew on a somewhat trying and memorable seven hour voyage.
In lieu of a local watering hole, we elected to go to a new one and upon arrival, we were greeted by a young man by the name of Bo Fox. Bo was clearly a pleasant and smart young man and we were chiding him in a friendly manner about an earring and his somewhat long hair, at least by naval standards. After a time, he noted our caps and asked if we served in the Submarine Service, and of course the response, “Once a Submariner, always a Submariner …. ”
He casually responded that his grandfather was in the submarine service but he hardly knew him and he had passed on some years ago. We asked what boat he served on but Bo did not know. He did, however, call his Mom in Southern California to find out.
He came back, stating that she also could not remember the name of the boat but what he did know was that his grandfather had served in the Submarine Service during World War II and retired as an Admiral, but knew not much more about him.
Needless to say, his grandfather was clearly something special. I asked for his grandfathers name, which he responded as Henry Monroe. When I got home, I looked up his name in Roscoe’s US Submarine Operations in World War II and there was Lt. Commander Henry Monroe, who served in 1942 as Captain of the S-35, a boat built in 1918, yet with this very old boat, had success in wartime against Japan in the early days of the war.
According to the record, in 1944, Henry Monroe became Plank Owner and Captain of USS RONQUIL (SS-396) and continued a successful career as a combat commander. He subsequently retired as a Rear Admiral and as noted, he must have been something special. As all Submariners in Wold War II were Heroes regardless of rank, as far as this writer is concerned.
Although the name of Henry Monroe does not rank in the annals of Submarine Legends such as Mush Morton, Richard O’Kanc, George Street and many others, his contributions to his country were comparable as most other submarine Captains, especially when you consider the records.
However the more I read about Admiral Monroe, with added data from the internet, I was so overwhelmed about this man’s history in the Submarine Service and that coupled with my introduction to his grandson and his daughter, I felt obligated to provide Bo Fox a comprehensive history of his grandfather’s contributions and sacrifices to the American Way of Life which I did by way of a 40 page report and pictures of his Grandfather. History that he never knew existed before I brought it to their attention, with the intent to allow them to understand and respect the sacrifices he made.
I apparently succeeded, as this young man now, as well as his Mom, have a new found respect and pride for her father and his grandfather, for the sacrifices he has made to his family and Country, by their comments back to me.
However that is another story for another time and not the purpose of this memo. He apparently never discussed some of the incidents in his service with his family, following the traditions of the Silent Service
Now, to the point of this memo, in Roscoe’s book, he gives almost three pages (page 141, 142 & 143) to an incident that occurred just before Christmas Day, 1942. Titled Fire and Ice, he relates an incident in the Aleutians where the S-35 was charging batteries in a raging storm, and a huge wave overwhelmed the bridge and flooded the Control Room.
As a result, a significant electrical fire occurred that took 50 hours to put out, putting boat and crew clearly in harms way. They lost power, could not submerge and smoke filled compartments required much of the crew to go on deck and endure a fierce ice driven storm. Eventually the fire was controlled after 50 long hours, electrical repairs were made and the engines were started. S-35 staggered into Kuluk Bay, Adak Island for repairs.
Captain Monroe, wrote in his Log Book a summary of the event, which in this writers humble opinion, represented the basic philosophy, spirit and commitment of the extraordinary breed of man who volunteers to serve in the Submarine Service and especially those men who served in World War II. He wrote:
“I had opportunity to observe the reactions of numerous occasions of submarine personnel under various condition of strain, both physical and mental, which attended the counter
measures employed by the enemy following an attack.
None of the conditions prevailing during and after encounters with the enemy could compare with the hardships met during this patrol, in a three day storm….”
“In spite of the seemingly hopelessness of our condition, there
was, throughout the entire return trip, an outward calm, an efficient, tireless performance of duties by all hands …”
While researching Henry Monroe’s naval service and coming across this log entry, I felt that I knew him personally. I presented the document I had prepared for Bo Fox (his Grandson) who subsequently shared it with his Mother.
After taking the time to consider his thoughts that gave cause for Captain Henry Monroe to write such a memo, regarding his crew on the S-35 during this extremely difficult patrol, written almost 70 years ago, clearly represents his personal pride for his crew.
However, I believe that his thoughts, representing only one crisis of how many unknown incidents that all submarine crews encounter, especially during war time conditions, his words do in fact represents the dedication, spirit, commitment and service of all the special men who have served in the past, present and will serve in Submarine in the years to come.
I thought it appropriate to share his thoughts with all of you from clearly a very special man who acknowledged and respected the men for their combined contributions as a submarine crew.