Time The dramatic underside of the Pacific War, as told by a veteran submariner.
Submarine!by Edward L. Beach
The classic nonfiction World War II submarine combat thriller, written by a man who actually fought the battles.
The war beneath the waves.
For the World War II submariner, every day was a life-or-death trial: going to sea for months at a time; existing in dank, claustrophobic conditions; enduring long stretches of monotonous silence punctuated by… See more details below
The classic nonfiction World War II submarine combat thriller, written by a man who actually fought the battles.
The war beneath the waves.
For the World War II submariner, every day was a life-or-death trial: going to sea for months at a time; existing in dank, claustrophobic conditions; enduring long stretches of monotonous silence punctuated by adrenaline-spiked episodes of paralyzing fear and victorious elation. It was a duty few men could handle—and even fewer would survive.
This is the true story of those brave men who served and too often died under the ocean surface, written by a man who was there. Edward L. Beach masterfully weaves his gripping experiences aboard the USS Trigger with those of other boats fighting the war in the Pacific. Part action-packed combat chronicle, part testament to the courageous sacrifices made by those who never came back, this is a compelling eyewitness account of the war as few have seen it.
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Chapter One: Trigger
My story begins on January 1, 1942. Two and a half years out of the Naval Academy, and fresh out of Submarine School, I reported to Mare Island Navy Yard for "duty in connection with fitting out USS Trigger (SS237), and on board when commissioned." Before presenting myself at the office of the commandant I drove down to the submarine outfitting docks looking for my future home. There she was, a great black conning tower sticking up over the edge of the dock, with a huge white 237 painted on her side. A swarm of dusty nondescript men were buzzing around her, and wood scaffolding, welding lines, hoses, temporary ventilation lines, and other miscellaneous gear hung haphazardly about.
"There's my new home," I thought, "wonder if I'm looking at my coffin." To me, she certainly wasn't impressive, beautiful, or anything at all but an ugly chunk of steel. "No life, no spirit, no character," I thought.
I remembered my old "four piper" destroyer, which I had left three months before after two years of steaming up and down and across the Atlantic on Neutrality Patrol. She was old launched within a week of the day I was born and ungainly, but she was a lovely thing to me. I knew and loved every part of her. I'd cussed at, slaved over, and stolen for her, and when orders arrived for me to report to Submarine School I'd sent back a dispatch saying I wished to remain where I was. But the Bureau of Navigation had insufficient applications for Submarine School and had decided to draft a few. One of the draftees was Ensign Beach, and here I was.
As I turned my back on number 237, I did not know that two and a half of the most crowded and thrilling years of my life were to be spent with her. She was to become the ruler of my life, and the most beautiful and responsive creature I had ever known; a hard, exacting mistress, but loyal, generous, and courageous. All ships have souls, and all sailors know it, but it takes a while to learn to commune with one. It took me a long time, for Trigger had to find her own soul, too, but in the end she was my ship, and nobody else's. I never became her skipper, but I spent nearly a year as her exec, and when finally I left her I was the last "plank owner" left except for Wilson, the colored mess attendant. Having three times failed to cajole Wilson into taking a transfer and a rest, I finally booted him off ahead of me, with the remark that nobody was going to be able to say he'd been aboard longer than I. Five hours after I left, good old competent Wilson was back aboard. He is the only man alive who can say he served with Trigger from her birth to just before her death.
On January 30, 1942, Lieutenant Commander J. H. Lewis read his orders, and put submarine number 237 in commission. From that moment Trigger was a member of the United States Fleet. In no other type of ship is it so vital that all hands know their jobs and be constantly alert. A submarine operates in three dimensions, and her very ability to float, submerge, or surface is an expression of the will and effort of her personnel. Neptune is her medium, her friend, her protector, and she embraces the sea eagerly at every opportunity carefully, with wholesome respect. You never hear a submariner speak of the sea as his enemy, for subconsciously he recognizes this peculiar relationship. He uses the sea and knows its properties. The effect of bright warm sunlight on it, for example, interests him greatly. The type of bottom, far down though it may be, affects him and what he does. The temperature of the water, the depth, and the amount of marine life all are of consuming importance. All sailors submarine or surface know one great experience in common. They have a certain feeling of identity with their ships, and in extreme cases may even be said to be possessed by them. In analyzing the submariner you are invariably struck by these two traits: the sense of loyalty to his ship, and an indefinable oneness with, and deep understanding of, the sea.
Naturally, this temperament is rare. The men who have it are hard-working, thorough, and idealistic. The submariner is always aware that an error during underwater operations jeopardizes everyone's life. Always present, too, is the realization that any slip, any mistake, is unworthy.
Because a ship, no matter how modern and fine, is only as good as her crew, the United States Navy concentrates on its men as the most important factor affecting over all efficiency. If they lack judgment and initiative, so does the ship. If they lack the indomitable spirit, the absolute determination to succeed, so will the inanimate steel. But if they possess these attributes, they and their ship are unbeatable.
The embodiment and personification of this perspective is the captain. His men and his ship reflect his will, and a properly organized crew operates with the unity of purpose of an ant colony. Whatever the state of the individual and of internal affairs, the composite exterior is smooth, unruffled; it acts under a single directive force a single brain the captain's. It is in tacit recognition of this basic understanding that a sailor, in speaking of a ship other than his own, frequently will use the pronoun "he" instead of "she."
Weeks and months of strenuous training and organization go into a new submarine before she is considered ready to venture against the enemy. All our crews are organized into three sections, each able to dive and surface the ship, fire torpedoes, and run all machinery in fact, operate the entire mechanism of the vessel. On patrol each section customarily stands watch for a period of four hours in rotation. While off watch the members of a section eat, sleep, make necessary repairs, and, if there is nothing else to do, read magazines, play cards, or write letters.
The progress of Trigger from building yard to Pearl Harbor is slow. First come the builders' trials, including the testing of all machinery to be sure that it operates as designed; then the first few dives, slowly and carefully; then more dives, gradually increasing the tempo of the operations. Finally, when the crew becomes quite expert in diving against time, try to catch them by surprise! Eleven seconds for all bridge personnel to get below and shut the hatch! By this time the vents are opened, and water is pouring into the tanks. Also by this time the engines are shut off; inboard and outboard exhaust valves are closed; motors are disconnected from the engines and connected to the batteries; the bow planes are rigged out; and the ship is half under water. In twenty seconds water pours around the bridge plating and covers the hatch, now tightly shut, through which, just a moment before, eight men had scrambled. Fifty seconds, and all that may be seen of the submarine is the top of the tall towerlike periscope support structure. Sixty seconds, and the ship is completely out of sight, cruising under water with possibly a little foam to mark the place where she disappeared. If you look hard enough you might notice a thin rod the size of a broom handle project vertically out of a wave for a moment and then disappear. Sixty seconds, and a ship displacing 1,800 tons, more than 300 feet long, rushing across the waves at a speed of 20 knots, has completely submerged. No time for error, no time to wait for the flash of genius to tell you what to do. Only by constant repetition of each tiny operation leading to accomplishment of the great operation is it possible to perform this tremendous feat.
Trigger's first test dive was in San Francisco Bay. After the first few weeks of tests in the shallow waters of the Bay, she left for San Diego, where she remained for a month completing her training. Then back to Mare Island for final loading for war.
Fill her up with torpedoes, diesel oil, food, and spare parts. Make any necessary repairs and take care of the many last-minute items which always come up. Then, one May afternoon about two o'clock, good-bye this is it! The admiral comes down to the dock, shakes hands with the skipper, wishes him good luck and good hunting. The ship backs into the Mare Island Slough, twists gracefully, and is gone, through Carquinez Straits, past Alcatraz, and under the Golden Gate Bridge. Trigger probably had a soul already, but we were too new to each other, too much taken up with the details of operating her complicated mechanism, to appreciate it.
No one who saw it will ever forget the awful vista of Pearl Harbor. Although we had been prepared for it, the sight of four of our great battleships lying crushed into the mud staggered us. That day I first sensed a more purposeful note in the gentle throb of the Trigger's diesels, but she was only a neophyte, just joining up, and almost apologetically nosed her way into her berth at the Submarine Base.
We expected to get additional training and indoctrination at Pearl Harbor such, we understood, was the normal routine for a new arrival. But all we received was an additional officer another ensign, Dick Garvey and next day Trigger was at sea again, bound for Midway to join a group of boats on station off that island. Things were tense in Pearl Harbor, and "strategic planning" was in an uproar although it seemed to know fairly well what it was doing. The Jap fleet was coming, that we knew, and maybe maybe we'd get a shot at it!
Our chance came suddenly. A dispatch addressed for action Trigger said: MAIN JAP LANDING EFFORTEXPECTED JUNE SIXTH X CLOSE MIDWAY AND PATROLSUBMERGED TWO MILESOFF SHORE BEARING ZERO SIX ZERO. All night long we raced through the darkness, and shortly before dawn sighted the lights of Midway, dead ahead. With just an hour to go before daylight would force us to submerge, we had to cut the eastern reef much too close for comfort, and suddenly, catastrophically, with a horrible, shattering smash, Trigger ran head- on into a submerged coral wall! Her bow shot skyward. Her sturdy hull screamed with pain as she crashed and pounded to a stop.
When all forward movement had ceased we hurriedly took soundings. Plenty of water aft, but only six feet or so under our bow, with zero feet a few yards ahead, where the malevolent coral mass alternately glistened in the starlit blackness and gurgled as a wave washed over it. Apparently this reef had very steep sides; that was a break maybe we could get her off. We backed emergency no luck. We were much too firmly aground. Only one thing to do: lighten ship, and this task we feverishly began. We also sent a message to ComSubPac telling him of our trouble, and one to Midway, asking for help.
And then came dawn the day the Japs were to land and here poor Trigger lay, bruised, battered, and hors de combat. At any moment we expected to see the enemy fleet, and high and dry as we were, our complete destruction was inevitable.
As it grew light a pint-sized tug steamed out of the channel from Midway lagoon, put a hawser on our stern, and nonchalantly began to pull. We backed with everything we had no luck. We didn't budge. Then, to our dismay, the hawser broke. Surely this was the end!
But as the tug maneuvers to get the remains of the hawser to us again, Gunner's Mate Third Class Howard Spence, one of the lookouts, suddenly shouts, "She's moving!" Incredulously we look over the bow at the reef, and if you look hard enough, the slightest movement is discernible. No time to figure it out. All back emergency! Maneuvering, make maximum power! The four faithful diesels roar. Clouds of smoke pour out of the exhaust trunks. The reduction gears whine in a rising crescendo, and the propellers throw a boiling flood of white foam over our nearly submerged stern. Line up your eye with the bow and the reef. She trembles. The water foams along her sides and up past her bow. Her stern is now completely submerged. She feels alive! Is that a slight change? Yes yes she moves! She bounces once and is off the reef. She is free! Thank God!
For the second time I sensed a quick, live spirit in the Trigger. It seemed as though she responded just a little more when the chips were down.
It wasn't until several days later that we learned the Japs had been thoroughly beaten the day before, and what was left of their fleet had been in headlong flight.
Although we knew Trigger had a gaping hole in number one ballast tank, we remained on patrol for a few days, in case some Jap ships might still be around. Finally we returned to Pearl for repairs, and after dry-docking we started the training period we should have had when we first arrived.
The Grunion had just arrived from New London, and she and Trigger went through their training together. My classmate and close friend, Willy Kornahrens, whose wedding I had attended in New London a few months before, was aboard Grunion. And when Trigger set forth on her first patrol, bound for Attu, Grunion followed a few days later. When she reached Attu, we were shifted to Kiska, and then after about a week Grunion and Trigger exchanged areas.
As we were heading back to Attu, we sighted a submarine and instantly submerged. The other submarine must have dived also; Captain Lewis couldn't see her through our periscope.
We could not be sure whether it was a Jap submarine or Grunion, and I made a mental note to ask Willy next time I saw him. It's one of the things I shall never find out. A week later we intercepted a message from Grunion, which I decoded out of curiosity:
FROM GRUNION X ATTACKED TWO DESTROYERS OFF KISKA HARBOR X NIGHT PERISCOPE SUBMERGED X RESULTS INDEFINITE BELIEVE ONE SANK ONE DAMAGED X MINOR DAMAGE FROM COUNTERATTACK TWO HOURS LATER X ALL TORPEDOES EXPENDED AFT...and then the message, which until that moment had decoded perfectly, turned into an unintelligible jumble.
GRUNION was never heard from again. For several days we intercepted messages addressed to her, but she never acknowledged any of them.
Years later I read an account of an interview with a Japanese submarine skipper, now master of an American-owned merchant ship operating out of Yokohama. As skipper of the I-25 he had made three patrols from Japan to California. On one return trip, when passing the Aleutians, he had torpedoed a surfaced submarine. The date he gave was July 30, 1942, which tallied exactly with our interception of Grunion's last transmission.
We sank no ships on this first patrol, and returned to Pearl Harbor for reassignment. Upon our arrival Captain Lewis was hospitalized with pneumonia, and Lieutenant Commander Roy Benson, irreverently known as "Pigboat Benny" during his days on the Naval Academy faculty, took command of Trigger.
It took Trigger a long time to develop her personality. I felt the impact of her rowdy, brawling, fierce spirit a third and fourth time, and after that it was as if we had always been together. In a way, I suppose, I became a sort of slave to her rather terrifying presence, but she gave me far more than she received.
That third time was when I watched her first ship sink, and heard her snarl. It was on her second patrol.
A day or so after arriving off the eastern coast of Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan, shortly after 0100, we sighted a large black shadow, blacker than the night. A few true bearings indicated that the shadow moved, and we knew it for what it was a cloud of smoke from the funnel of a ship. So we commenced to close this unwary fellow, went to battle stations, and soon made out the silhouette of a moderate-sized freighter. Although he was darkened, Captain Benson and I could see him plainly from the bridge at about four thousand yards' range. He was steaming along steadily, puffing out a fair-sized cloud of dense black smoke, with not so much as a hint of a zigzag, or of having sighted us.
Here was one of the reasons for American supremacy over the Jap whenever they met. Undeniably, our low black hull was harder to see than the lofty-sided merchantman, but nevertheless he was so plainly visible that his inability to see us was then, and continued to be, astounding. We turned Trigger's bow toward him, and ghosted in, presenting at all times the minimum possible silhouette.
He sees nothing, steams blindly and confidently along. Closer and closer we draw. Make ready the bow tubes! Estimated range, 1,500 yards. Track, ninety starboard. Gyro angle, five left. Stand by! He's coming on coming on Fire One! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Fire Two!
Two white streaks leave the bow and, diverging slightly, arrow for the point ahead of the freighter where our calculations say he will be at the instant the torpedoes get there. This is the longest minute in the world. Depending on the range, of course, the torpedoes must travel about a minute before they reach a target, and during that minute a target making 15 knots goes 500 yards, or a quarter of a nautical mile. Few ships are as long as 150 yards.
So we watched our two white streaks of bubbles. "Torpedoes running all right, looks good!" Suddenly we are galvanized into action. If those torpedoes stop the target, on our present course we will run right into him! If they miss, he'll be sure to see us passing so close under his stern and make a follow-up shot immeasurably more difficult by radical maneuvers, to say the least. Besides, he might happen to have a well-trained armed guard aboard.
Left full rudder! All ahead full! Trigger's bow commences to swing left as she gathers speed. The ship is just crossing in front of the torpedo wakes now. Will they get there or will he skin by? All hands on the Trigger's bridge watch tensely. Let's go what's wrong with those torpedoes?
Wham!...Wham! Two perfect geysers of water rise alongside the freighter's bow. Almost immediately he slows down, his bow sinks deep, his stern rises. Lights flash on and off about the decks. A cloud of smoke and escaping steam envelops his bridge and center section. Some hardy soul finally unlimbers a gun on the stern and shoots about wildly.
Trigger slid past the now-stopped and crazily canted stern, at a distance of about two hundred yards, and that's when I heard her snarl. All right, it was just the rumble of the hydraulic plant, or the echo of the diesel exhaust returning from the hull alongside so say you land lovers. I know better. She snarled a message of hatred for all things Japanese, and a warning that this was but the beginning.
We circled slowly about half a mile away, waiting for our victim to sink, debating the advisability of hitting him again. Morning twilight began to seep in from the east, softening the darkness into a musty, unhealthy greenishness, tinged with the dampness of the unhappy sea. Two lifeboats were in the water, long oars sticking out in every direction, the round black heads of their crews bobbing jerkily back and forth as they frantically plied their oars and caught innumerable crabs.
They were ludicrous and pathetic, but we felt no pity. Only twenty miles from land, these fellows would probably cause trouble for us when they got ashore. Besides, well we knew what had happened to certain of our people who had fallen into the clutches of the Jap. Why shouldn't we sink the two boats and make sure there was no one to tell the tale? But of course, we couldn't.
So we circled, and our target, still barely under way, also circled, bow now at the water's edge. Suddenly a cry, "He's going!" Slowly at first, irresistibly, then more quickly, his bow plunged down and his stern swooped into the air, until he was straight up and down in the water, his long, dusty stack flat on the greedy, splashing sea. The old-fashioned counter stern, crude square rudder, and massive propeller, still slowly revolving, hung high above us, dripping and gleaming. Loud rumblings and crashing noises his cargo tearing loose from its stowage and falling through the forward bulkheads came loudly to us as we stared from the bridge of the Trigger. He dipped a little lower, the stack disappeared, and the great steel fabric began to swing back and forth, about ten degrees from the vertical. Then, as though in the grip of some playful Gargantuan monster, the hull commenced to lurch, and twice spun completely around, accompanied by squeaks and groans of tortured steel and a bewildered cacophony of internal crashings and bangings. Still lower he sank, till only his propeller and after deckhouse were out of water. At this juncture some shred of lost dignity returned, the lurches ceased, the stern remained momentarily poised about fifty feet in the air, and then quietly, without fuss, slipped swiftly beneath the sea.
Just as the stern disappeared we heard a loud explosion and felt a heavy shock through the water. Evidently his boilers had finally exploded. The water boiled a bit as the tip of the wreck went down, and then, as if to eradicate all signs of the tragedy, hurled itself from all directions upon the cavity suddenly formed in its midst. It met itself in the middle of the whirlpool and, having overdone its enthusiasm, unavoidably bunched up, forming an idiotic topknot surmounted by a little plume of smoke, to mark the grave.
Dawn was approaching, so we dived.
The next night we surfaced even closer to the shore near the Bungo Suido, the southern entrance to the Inland Sea, hoping for another contact. We got one almost immediately.
"Object bearing zero eight zero!" from a lookout. We look, and there against the gloomy hills flanking the Bungo Suido we see a peculiar white V. No radar in these early days.
"What is it? Can you make it out?"
"No, sir. It looks mighty funny, though!" The V gets bigger.
"What in the Sam Hill ?"
The explanation, when it hits, is blinding. "My God! A destroyer coming right at us!"
"Clear the bridge!" "Dive! Dive!" The diving alarm sounds. "All ahead emergency! Two hundred feet! Rig for depth charge! Rig for silent running!" Down we go, but with maddening slowness. Trigger, in common with her sisters, always "hangs" on a dive at about thirty-five feet. Full dive on everything, making emergency speed, we can do no more.
We can hear it now. A throb, throb, throbbing noise coming from outside the hull, steadily and rapidly increasing in volume thum, thum, thum, thum, thum, thum, THUM, THUM! Only one thing it can be! Pray we can get under! Shut all watertight doors and bulkhead flappers, secure all unessential machinery. "What's the depth now?" "Thirty-six feet." Will she ever break through? All hands are out of their bunks, all officers in the control room, startled by this unexpected dive.
"What is it? What is it?" Then they hear this horrible drumming noise, THUM, THUM, THUM, THUM, look at the depth gauges, and fall silent.
Forty feet. She's going through at last. Fifty feet. We're under! And not a split second too soon, for the drumming at that moment increases to an unbearable pitch, resounding through Trigger's thick hull until all other noise is drowned out, and thinking is frozen in the hypnotic rhythm which rises to an incredible, screaming, maddening horror of sound that stops the heartbeat, then abruptly drops in tone, continues loud, but evidently dimishing now.
We look at each other and smile weakly. Click...WHAM! swish! click, WHAM! swish! click WHAM WHAM WHAM! swish swish swish. We knew that was coming. This little evening is just starting. These are the first Japanese depth charges we've heard, but we knew what they'd sound like. First the click, as the first concussion wave hits you. Then the noise of the explosion, and afterward a prolonged swishing of water through your superstructure. The length of time between the "click" and the "wham" is a rough measure of the distance of the depth charge. If the click and explosion come close together, he's getting warm. If they come almost simultaneously, he's hot.
Trigger was strong and ruggedly built, but the shock of the exploding depth charges shook her sturdy hull as though it were made of light sheet metal. The noise was as if a giant were swinging a thousand-pound sledge hammer time after time against her side. We inside were flung about by each succeeding shock, until we hit upon the idea of not leaning heavily upon any piece of gear secured to the ship. With each charge the whole hull whipped, the great steel frames bent, and piping, ventilation lines, and other internal gear set up a strong sympathetic vibration, until we thought they would fall off the bulkheads and overhead. We had something new light bulbs separated from the overhead light fixtures by two-inch pieces of insulated wire hence few bulbs were broken although they danced around crazily. Broken bits of cork and dust flew through the air and carpeted the deck. With ventilation and air conditioning secured, the temperature shot up to 120 degrees, and all hands began to shed clothes; our uniform became sandals and skivvy-shorts with towels or rags flung around our necks.
Leveling off at sixty feet, finding we had successfully withstood the initial salvo of depth charges, "He can't get away with this!" Benson said. "We have tubes full of fish. We can play rough too!" So began one of the war's strange battles. Since he had only moonlight, the enemy destroyer could probably not see our periscope, but it was light enough to see him through it.
Battle stations! We'll fix this bastard! He has contact on us by sound. We'll have to wait him out, wait till he lines himself up for a shot. Up periscope. Bearing 045. Angle on the bow five starboard. Oh, oh! He's starting a run. Pass astern this time, but close. No chance to shoot. Here he comes! Hang on! click WHAM swish-swish-swish, click WHAM swish, WHAM, WHAM, WHAM, WHAM! swish, swish, swish, swish, swish! Trigger shivers and reels from the pounding, but all still seems well. Check through the boat. Report all damage. Now is the time to find out if, indeed, she is "well and truly built." One area in the after end of the forward engine room seems to be the center of shock effect. When you stand there on the deck plates each explosion throws you a foot into the air. A weak spot? Hope not, but we'll soon find out.
Back in the conning tower. Bearing 285, range 1,500, angle on the bow zero. Here he comes! Still no shot. Down periscope! Coming right overhead this time. The fast Thum Thum thum of his screws is the same as before. Here it is! WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM! Really close that time! Locker doors burst open to strew their contents on the decks running with human perspiration. One man gets sick and vomits into a slop bucket, but the bucket overturns and the slop gets all over its sides and on the deck. Someone throws a rag on the mess on deck, leaves it. A valve wheel flies off a gauge in the conning tower, bounces twice on the deck plates, ringing fantastically loud in the silence between charges, then drops into the periscope well, ringing as it caroms off the steel sides of the well until it splashes into the bilge water at the bottom. A hoarse whisper more like a cry from below, "Pump room's flooding!" We stare at one another, aghast. "How bad?" Penrod Schneider, our executive officer, dives down the pump room hatch. It must not be too bad water hasn't welled out of that hatch yet. It never does. "Grease fitting in negative tank flood valve operating gear carried away, sir. We put a plug in it. Not much water come in." The speaker is covered with grease, sweat, and salt water. He glares indignantly. Somebody got excited down below, panicked. Evidently not this guy. "Very well," says the skipper.
"Screws slowing down bearing zero seven zero," says the sound man.
"Up periscope! Yes, he's turning. Bearing mark! zero six five. Angle on the bow ninety port. Range, two oh double oh. As soon as he swings toward us, we'll swing toward him, let him have a whole salvo, set shallow, down the throat! Bearing mark! zero two five. Angle on the bow thirty port. He's swinging toward. Right full rudder, port ahead full. Steady on one six five....All ahead one third. Where is he, Sound? Keep the sound bearing coming!"
"Zero one zero, screws speeding up. Shifting to short scale!"
"Stand by forward! I see him! Bearing, zero zero seven-a-half, range, one two double oh, angle on the bow five port. Here he comes again. Bearing, zero zero seven. Bearing, zero zero six-a-half. Gyro angles, one right. Stand by zero zero six five-a-half Fire ONE! Fire TWO! Fire THREE! Fire FOUR!"
"Forward room reports all torpedoes fired electrically, sir."
"Torpedoes running on zero zero zero, sir. Merging with target's screws."
WHAM! WHAM! We look around unbelievingly. Can those have been hits? Impossible. Prematures!
What about the other two? Thirty seconds. Any time now. Thirty-five seconds. Forty seconds. Forty-five seconds. Oh, God! We've missed!
"He's seen the fish! He's turning away! That explosion dead ahead must have worried him, anyway. We've spoiled this run for him. Here's a sixty-starboard angle on the bow. Chance for another shot! Bearing zero zero five. Stand by forward! Bearing zero one zero. Gyro forty right. Stand by...fire FIVE! Fire SIX!"
But we hear no explosions even though we see one torpedo pass directly beneath him.
"Take her deep, boys. We're dry forward now, and there's nothing else to do."
Down we go and prepare for a beating.
We got it, too, but after a while the Jap went away, and a little later so did we. No doubt he enthusiastically reported destruction of one United States submarine for a night or two later Tokyo Rose said she regretted to inform all American submarines that off the Bungo Suido one of their number had recently fallen victim to a destroyer of the Imperial Japanese Navy. And then she played a recording of "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep!"
Plagued with more bad fish, we sank one other ship, a large tanker, and damaged still another before running out of torpedoes and having to return to Pearl Harbor. There we found to our dismay that since we had not seen our tanker sink, we could not get credit for him. We vowed that we would not make this mistake again!
Copyright © 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952, by Edward L. Beach
Copyright renewed © 1980 by Edward L. Beach
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