Category Archives: hero

75 Years Ago: End of the Trail

28 August 1947. Retirement ceremony of the last four U.S. Army Indian Scouts at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

Photo from the LIFE Magazine Archives – Allan Grant Photographer

The four Apache Indian Scouts are from left to right: Sinew Riley, William Major, Kessay, and Antonio Ivan. The Officer is Col. William L. Roberts.

In his book, Fort Huachuca: Story of a Frontier Post, historian Cornelius Smith recorded Sgt. Sinew Riley’s moving words at the conclusion of his service:

We were recruited from the warriors of many famous nations. We are the last of the Army’s Indian scouts. In a few years, we shall be gone to join our comrades in the great hunting grounds beyond the sunset, for our need here is no more. There we shall always remain very proud of our Indian people and of the United States Army, for we were truly the first Americans and you in the Army are now our warriors. To you who will keep the Army’s campfires bright, we extend our hands, and to you, we will our fighting hearts.

On 1 August 1866, Congress authorized the enlistment of up to 1,000 American Indians to serve as scouts for the U.S. Army, although, as noted by the service, “Native Americans had been utilized as Scouts as far back as white men had been settling the American continent.”

It was not uncommon for Native Americans to be enlisted as Indian Scouts for very short terms, usually three or six months at a time.

Sharp Nose enlisted more than 20 times, serving between 1876 and 1890. Here, one of his six-month tours, in 1890 with the famed Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry Regiment, is enrolled. (National Archives)

With the retirement of the four above-mentioned scouts at Fort Huachuca, the Army’s Indian Scout program came to a close after 81 years.

For more information on the Scouts, check out the National Archives.

75 Years Ago: Back-to-Back Skystreak Records

Pre-dating Chuck Yeager’s ride in X-1, U.S. Navy CDR Turner Foster “Stinky” Caldwell set a new world air-speed record of 640.663 mph while flying Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak #1 (Bureau No. 37970-NACA 140), on this day in 1947, earning the Weatherhead Award.

Just five days later, Marine Major Marion Eugene Carl bested CaIdwell’s record, hitting 650.796 mph in Skystreak # 2 (Bureau Number 37971-NACA 141).

The two pilots—Caldwell (right) and Carl (left)—are pictured here. Although both NACA 140 and 141 had been painted scarlet for improved visibility, in flying the aircraft both Douglas and NACA personnel discovered that the scarlet color was difficult to discern against the dark blue desert sky. U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo No. 2012.004.090

D-558-1 in flight. During the winter of 1947-1948, NACA repainted NACA 141 with white color. Credits: NACA / NASA Photo

Caldwell, USNA 1935, was skipper of “Shademaids” of CVLG(N)-41 and, likewise, of VF(N)-41 while aboard the light carrier USS Independence (CVL-22), the Navy’s first dedicated night combat aircraft carrier. He also had a Navy Cross, thrice. 

Navy Cross:” For…the sinking or damaging of at least eight enemy Japanese vessels at Tulagi and in the sinking or severe damaging of another in the Coral Sea…”

Gold Star in lieu of the Second Navy Cross: “For extraordinary heroism…as Commanding Officer of a detachment of his Bomber Squadron in action against enemy Japanese forces during their assaults on our Guadalcanal positions in the period August 24 to September 23, 1942…”

Gold Star in lieu of the Third Navy Cross: For contributing to the destruction of three enemy ships at Salamaua and Lea, New Guinea, on March 10, 1942. 

Caldwell retired as a Vice Admiral in 1967, presumably to get a hearing aid so he could make out what people were saying over the sound of his balls clanging together. 

Carl earned his wings in December 1939 and was the Marine’s first World War II fighter ace, with 18.5 confirmed aerial victories with VMF-221 (at Midway) and later VMF-223, flying with the Cactus Air Force from Guadalcanal. He famously ended Japanese Navy Tainan Kōkūtai ace Junichi Sasai’s career over Henderson Field. Carl, with two Navy Crosses to his credit, went on to fly tense recon missions over Mainland China in the 1950s, command the 2nd MAW in Vietnam– where he once again flew combat missions– and served as Inspector General of the Marine Corps until retiring in 1973. By then he had logged a massive 13,000 flying hours in everything from Brewster Buffalos to F-4 Phantoms. Sadly, he was killed in a home invasion in 1998, aged 82.

As for the D-558-1 Skystreak, just three were produced. D-558-1 #1 – BuNo 37970 NACA-140, flew 101 flights and today rests at the National Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola. Carl’s bird, Skystreak #2, made a total of 19 flights with the NACA before it, sadly, crashed on takeoff due to compressor disintegration on May 3, 1948, killing NACA pilot Howard C. Lilly. Skystreak #3 is owned by the Carolinas Historical Aviation Museum located at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.

Pensacola’s D-558-1 Skystreak is on display restored to its original scarlet. Displayed on a wall in the museum as if in a tight turn, D-558-1 (Bureau Number 37970) was the first Skystreak produced and the one in which Commander Turner F. Caldwell established a world speed record of 640.743 M.P.H. on August 20, 1947, followed immediately after by Major Marion Carl in Skystreak 2

Starvation Island

Via the National Museum of the U.S. Marine Corps:

The decision by the Navy to remove all transports and cargo vessels around Guadalcanal on 9 August 1942 [following the slaughter of TG 62.6 in the Battle of Savo Island on D+3] left the Marines perilously short supplied. Marines subsisted on two meals a day to stretch out their meager stock. Guadalcanal would become known as “Starvation Island.”

In the months after the battle, Marine veterans created an unofficial medal, which poked fun at their Navy comrades. Known as the “George Medal”, it depicts an extended arm with admiral rank on its sleeve, dropping a literal “hot potato” to a scurrying cartoon Marine. The rear includes “remembrance of happy days” and the Two examples of these “awards” can be seen in the Museum’s current WWII Gallery.

The men purposefully chose the heraldry of the medal to reflect their dark humor. The outstretched hand, displaying the rank of a U.S. Navy admiral is depicted dropping a literal “hot potato” into the scrambling hands of a small Marine. The island itself is represented with a small cactus and sliver of land denoting the codename for the island of Guadalcanal. Under the scene, inscribed in Latin is the term Faciat Georgius, an approximate translation of “Let George Do It”.

The reverse of the medal was even more direct. Recalling the well-used expression “Sh-t had really hit the fan!”, the officers designed a cartoon showing the posterior of a cow pointed directly at an electric fan. Beneath it is the sarcastic script, “In fond remembrance of the happy days spent from Aug. 7th 1942 to Jan. 5th 1943. U.S.M.C.”

Certificate #2 awarded to MGEN William H. Rupertus

An initial purchase of 100 crude medals was from a small engraving shop off Little Collins Street, in Melbourne, Australia. A deliberately pretentious and humorous certificate was also printed by the Division’s lithographic branch to accompany each award. According to 1st Marine Division veteran Vernon Stimpel, the popularity of the medal soared and a second order was soon made for an additional 400 medals. These were to be presented with a large laundry bag pin, furthering the absurdity of the division’s award. Lore also has it that the manufacturing mold broke during this period. This made the determination of exactly how many original medals were produced in Australia forever unknown. In later years another mold was created and new versions were made and distributed more widely among all veterans of the 1st Marine Division. 

Brown Shoes of Fighting Six

80 years ago: Four aviators of Fighter Squadron Six (VF-6) — two of which are enlisted “silver eagle” NAP pilots– pose beside a Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat (Bureau # 5126) on board the Yorktown-class carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6), 10 August 1942. The quartet were credited with shooting down eight Japanese aircraft during the Guadalcanal-Tulagi operation a few days earlier.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-11092

The men are (from left to right): NAP Machinist Donald E. Runyon, credited with four planes at the time; NAP Aviation Pilot First Class Howard S. Packard (one plane); Ensign Joseph Donald “Joe” Shoemaker (one plane); and Ensign Wildon M. Rouse (two planes). Note the shoulder holster rigs for GI .45 pistols worn by the three in khaki while Packard, in dungarees, is armed with a utility/fighting knife on his belt.

Runyon was one of the leading Wildcat Aces, credited with shooting down 8 Japanese aircraft while flying F4Fs.

NAP Machinist Donald E. Runyon, USN of Fighting Squadron Six (VF-6) On board USS Enterprise (CV-6). He is standing by the tail of his F4F-4 (Bureau # 5193, VF-6’s # 13), which is decorated with a tombstone containing 41 meatballs, each representing a Japanese plane claimed by the squadron. During his second combat tour in the Pacific in 1943 as a commissioned officer, he scored three more victories while flying F6F Hellcats with VF-18 off of USS Bunker Hill. 80-G-11103

Ensign Wildon M. Rouse, USNR of Fighting Squadron Six (VF-6) In the cockpit of an F4F-4 Wildcat fighter, on board USS Enterprise (CV-6), 10 August 1942. Ensign Rouse was credited with shooting down two Japanese aircraft during the Guadalcanal-Tulagi operation a few days earlier. These victories are represented by two flags painted below the cockpit. Rouse would survive the war but never make it home, dying in a crash in the Philippines on 4 Dec 1945. LT(JG) Rouse is buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. Catalog #: 80-G-11089

Soon after the above pictures were taken, on 24 August, Enterprise would suffer bomb hits off during the Guadalcanal campaign that would force her back to Pearl Harbor where the famed Enterprise Air Group, with which the carrier had fought her first five WWII deployments, was disestablished on 1 September 1942.

When she emerged again in October, she would be carrying the newly formed Air Group 10, whose fighter squadron was the Grim Reapers of LCDR William R. “Killer” Kane’s VF-10, the first time Enterprise would sail without the cover of “Fighting Six,” although NAP aviator Howard “Pack” Packard, pictured in the first image wearing dungs, would be with them. 

As for Ensign Shoemaker, standing next to Packard in the top image, he would be killed in action on 29 September 1942, aged 22.

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022: Savo Pig Boat Avenger

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2022: Savo Pig Boat Avenger

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-33750

Above we see the bearded and very salty-looking crew of the S-42-class “Sugar Boat” USS S-44 (SS-155) manning the submarine’s 4″/50 cal Mark 9 wet-mount deck gun, circa January 1943. Note the assorted victory flags painted on the boat’s fairwater, she earned them.

The S-class submarines, derided as “pig boats” or “sugar boats.” were designed during the Great War, but none were finished in time for the conflict (S-1 was launched by the builders on 26 October 1918, just two weeks before the Armistice). Some 51 examples of these 1,000-ton diesel-electrics were built in several sub-variants by 1925 and they made up the backbone of the U.S. submarine fleet before the larger “fleet” type boats of the 1930s came online. While four were lost in training accidents, six were scrapped and another six transferred to the British in World War II, a lot of these elderly crafts saw service in the war, and seven were lost during the conflict.

The six boats of the S-42 subclass (SS-153 through SS-158) were slightly longer to enable them to carry a 4-inch (rather than 3-inch) deck gun with its own dedicated gun access hatch in the deck. Some 225 feet long overall, their submerged displacement touched 1,126 tons, making them some of the largest of the breed. Armed with four forward tubes (and no bow tubes), they had enough storage space to carry 10 21-inch torpedoes but were restricted in size to 16-foot long WWI-era fish as their tubes were shorter and couldn’t handle the newer 21-foot long Mark 14 torpedo which was introduced in 1931.

The Mark 10 of the 1920s, compared to the Mark 14, was slower and had shorter legs, but still carried a 500-pound warhead. The older torps were simple and dependable– provided you could get close enough to make them count.

It was thought the Sugar Boats, after testing, had enough fresh water for their crews and batteries to enable a patrol of about 25-30 days, and provision and diesel/lubricants for slightly longer.

S-42 subclass. Drawing & Text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman. Naval Institute Press. Via Navsource

Referred to as the “2nd Electric Boat/Holland” type of the S-boat series, all six were built at Bethlehem’s Fore River yard.

Commissioned on 16 February 1925 (all six of the class were similarly commissioned inside 10 months across 1925-26) S-44 completed her shakedown in New England waters and then headed south for Submarine Division (SubDiv) 19, located in the Canal Zone, where she joined her sisters. For the next five years, homeported at Coco Solo, they ranged across assorted Caribbean, Pacific, and Latin American ports. This idyllic peacetime life continued through the 1930s as the Division’s homeport shifted to Pearl Harbor, then to San Diego, and back to Panama.

USS S-44 (SS-155) In San Diego harbor, California, during the later 1920s or the 1930s. Note how big her deck gun looks and her high-viz pennant numbers. NH 42263

USS S-44 (SS-155) Underway during the later 1920s or the 1930s. NH 42262

USS S-44 (SS-155) Leaving Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 1929. Photographed by Chief Quartermaster Peck. NH 42264

With the “winds of war” on the horizon and the realization that these small and aging boats may have to clock in for real, sisters S-42, S-44, and S-46 were sent to Philadelphia Naval Yard in early 1941 to be modernized. By August 1941, S-44 was on a series of shakedown/neutrality patrols along Cape Cod and Rhode Island, conducting mock torpedo runs on the destroyer USS Mustin (DD-413), a tin can that would go on to earn 13 battle stars in WWII. Still on the East Coast when news of the attack on Pearl Harbor hit, she soon got underway for Panama.

S-44’s principal wartime skipper, from October 1940 through September 1942, covering her first three War Patrols, was Tennessee-born LT. John Raymond “Dinty” Moore (USNA 1929).

While most Sugar Boats still in the fleet in 1942 were relegated to ASW training and new submariner school tasks as well as defense of the Panama Canal Zone and Alaska, some were made ready to go to the West Pac and get active in the war. Though small and armed with obsolete torpedoes, a handful of Sugars– our S-44 included– were rushed to block the Japanese progress in the Bismarck Archipelago and the Solomon Islands, until larger and more capable Fleet Boats (Balao, Gato, Tench classes, etc.) could be sent to the area.

First Patrol

Assigned to SUBRON Five, S-44 got underway from Brisbane for her patrol area on 24 April 1942, she haunted the Cape St. George area of New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago for three weeks and reported a successful hit on a Japanese merchant of some 400 feet/4,000 tons on 12 May after a four-torpedo spread.

From Moore’s report: 

Post-war, this was confirmed to be the Japanese repair ship Shoei Maru (5644 GRT) returning to Rabaul after coming to the assistance of the minelayer Okinoshima, sunk by S-44′s sistership S-42 earlier in the day. Talk about teamwork.

USS S-44 returned to Brisbane on 23 May, just shy of being out for a month.

Second Patrol

After a two-week refit and resupply, S-44 left Brisbane again on 7 June 1942– just after the Battle of Midway– ordered to patrol off Guadalcanal where local Coastwatchers reported a Japanese seaplane base to be under construction. There, she compared the coastline to old Admiralty charts of the area and watched for activity, noting fires and shipping traffic. Midway into the patrol, the Sugar boat fired three torpedoes at a 200-foot/2,000-ton freighter with “69” on the side of her bridge and one visible deck gun.

From Moore’s report: 

This was post-war confirmed to be the Japanese auxiliary gunboat Keijo Maru (2626 GRT, built 1940) sent to the bottom about 12 nautical miles west of Gavutu, Solomon Islands.

As noted by DANFS:

The force of the explosion, the rain of debris, and the appearance and attack of a Japanese ASW plane forced S-44 down. At 1415, S-44 fired her torpedoes at the gunboat. At 1418, the enemy plane dropped a bomb which exploded close enough to bend the holding latch to the conning tower, allowing in 30 gallons of sea water; damaging the depth gauges, gyrocompass, and ice machine; and starting leaks. Her No. 1 periscope was thought to be damaged; but, when the submarine surfaced for repairs, a Japanese seaman’s coat was found wrapped around its head.

Two patrols, two kills under her belt, S-44 arrived back at Brisbane on 5 July.

Third Patrol

After three weeks of rest and airing out, S-44 headed North from Brisbane on 24 July, ordered to keep her eyes peeled off the New Britain/New Ireland area. After stalking a small convoy off Cape St. George in early August but unable to get a shot due to heavy seas, she began haunting the Japanese base at Kavieng Harbor on New Ireland. This, likewise, proved fruitless and she ranged the area until when, on the early morning of 10 August 1942 (80 years ago today), some 9,000 yards away, she sighted four enemy heavy cruisers steaming right for her.

What a sight it must have been!

Just 18 minutes later, having worked into a firing position for the oncoming column– over 30,000 tons of the Emperor’s bruisers in bright sunlight on a calm sea — S-44 fired all four tubes at the heavy bringing up the rear then dived deep to 130 feet. Four old reliable Mark 10s launched from just 700 yards did the trick.

Moore would later detail, “We were close enough to see the Japanese on the bridge using their glasses” and that the looming cruiser looked bigger than the Pentagon building. While submerged and listening, Moore would later say, “Evidently all her boilers blew up…You could hear hideous noises that sounded like steam hissing through the water. These noises were more terrifying to the crew than the actual depth charges that followed. It sounded as if giant chains were being dragged across our hull as if our own water and air lines were bursting.”

The details of action from Moore’s official report:

Post-war, it was confirmed this target was the Furutaka-class heavy cruiser HIJMS Kako, one of the four heavy cruisers of Cruiser Division 6 (along with Aoba, Furutaka, and Kinugasa) which just five hours before had jumped the Allied cruisers USS Astoria, Quincy, Vincennes, and HMAS Canberra off Savo Island, leaving all wrecks along Iron Bottom Sound. During that searchlight-lit surface action, Kako fired at least 192 8-inch, 124 4.7-inch, and 149 25-mm shells as well as ten Long Lance torpedoes, dealing much of the damage to the Allied vessels.

Furutaka Class Heavy Cruiser Kako pictured at Kure Naval Arsenal on March 30th, 1926

While Kako had received no damage at Savo, her meeting with S-44 was lopsided in the other sense.

As told by Combined Fleet: 

The Kawanishi E7K2 “Alf” floatplane from AOBA, patrolling overhead, fails to send a timely warning and at 0708 three torpedoes hit KAKO in rapid succession. The first strikes to starboard abreast No. 1 turret. Water enters through open scuttles of the hull as the bow dips and twists further within three minutes of being hit. The other torpedoes hit amidships, in the vicinity of the forward magazines, and further aft, abreast boiler rooms Nos. 1 and 2. KAKO rolls over on her starboard side with white smoke and steam belching from her forward funnel. An enormous roar ensues as seawater reaches her boilers.

At 0712, the Japanese start depth charging the S-44, but without success. S-44 slips away.

At 0715, KAKO disappears bow first in the sea to the surprise and dismay of her squadron mates. She sinks off Simbari Island at 02-28S, 152-11E. Sixty-eight crewmen are killed, but Captain Takahashi and 649 of KAKO’s crew are rescued by AOBA, FURUTAKA and KINUGASA.

“The S-44 (SS-155), vs HIJMS Kako. Patrolling off New Ireland, the veteran S-boat ambushes the enemy cruiser division at the entrance to Kavieng Harbor. Four torpedoes (range 700 yards) send Kako to the bottom, an 8,800-ton warship sunk by an 850-ton sub. This sinking of the first Japanese heavy cruiser avenged the defeat at Savo Island.” Drawing by LCDR Fred Freemen, courtesy of Theodore Roscoe, from his book “U.S. Submarine Operations of WW II”, published by USNI. Original painting in the LOC. 

S-44 returned to Brisbane, Australia, on 23 August 1942, where the sinking of Kako was a big deal for a Navy that had just suffered its worst night in history.

Truth be told, it was a big deal for the American Submarine Force as well.

In the first 245 days of the Pacific War, suffering from a mix of bad torpedoes (mostly the vaunted new Mark 14s) and timid leadership, U.S. subs had only accounted for nine rather minor Japanese warships, even though the Navy had no less than 56 boats in the Pacific at the beginning of the war and soon doubled that number:

  • Submarine I-73, sunk by USS Gudgeon, 27 January 1942.
  • Destroyer Natsushio, sunk by USS S-37, 9 February 1942.
  • Seaplane carrier Mizuho, sunk by USS Drum, 2 May 1942.
  • Minelayer Okinoshima, sunk by USS S-42, 11 May 1942.
  • Submarine I-28, sunk by USS Tautog, 17 May 1942.
  • Submarine I-64, sunk by USS Triton, 17 May 1942.
  • Destroyer Yamakaze, sunk by USS Nautilus, 25 June 1942.
  • Destroyer Nenohi, sunk by USS Triton, 4 July 1942.
  • Destroyer Arare, sunk by USS Growler, 5 July 1942.

Indeed, by that time in the war, the Japanese had only lost one heavy cruiser, Mikuma, which was finished off by carrier aircraft at Midway after she was crippled in a collision with another ship.

So of course, Dinty Moore earned hearty congrats and would eventually pin on a Navy Cross for S-44s action against Kako.

Captain Ralph W. Christie, USN, Commander Task Force 42 and SUBRON5 (left) Congratulates LCDR John R. Moore, USN, skipper of USS S-44 (SS-155), as he returned to this South Pacific base after a very successful week of patrol activity. (Quoted from original World War II photo caption) The original caption date is 1 September 1942, which is presumably a release date. 80-G-12171

Fourth Patrol

Dinty Moore would leave his first command to take control of the more advanced Sargo-class boat USS Sailfish (SS-192) and S-44 would head back out from Brisbane on 17 September with LT Reuben Thornton Whitaker as her skipper.

Dogged by Japanese ASW patrols as well as a persistent oil leak and a battery compartment fire, S-44 returned to Australia on 14 October after a 4,262-mile patrol with nothing to add to her tally board despite a claimed attack on an Ashashio-class destroyer that was not borne out by post-war analysis.

The boat needed some work, that’s for sure. She had spent 150 of the past 220 days at sea, with 120 of that on war patrol. She leaked and had numerous deficiencies, all exacerbated by repeated Japanese depth charging. Her crew, which was largely original men that had shipped out with her from Philadelphia in 1941, had lost up to 25 pounds apiece, and nerves were frayed.

Refit

On 4 November 1942, with LT Whitaker sent on to the Gato-class fleet boat USS Flasher (SS-249), S-44 was sailed for the East Coast via the Panama Canal under the command of LT Francis Elwood Brown (USNA ’33) (former CO of USS S-39) and slowly poked along until she arrived at Philadelphia Navy Yard in April 1943.

USS S-44 (SS-155) Underway off the Panama Canal Zone, circa February 1943, while en route to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for overhaul. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. 19-N-41382.

At PNSY, S-44 was reworked over the summer and picked up a 20mm Oerlikon as well as a JK passive sonar and SJ/ /SD radars.

USS S-44 (SS-155) Underway off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, after her last overhaul, on 11 June 1943. 19-N-46194

Same as above, 19-N-46193.

“S-44 (SS-155), was one of six E.B. boats extensively modernized during WW II. The refit included the installation of air conditioning, with the unit installed in the crew space abaft the control room, alongside the refrigerator. S-44 was fitted with radar (SJ forward, SD abaft the bridge), a loop antenna built into the periscope shears for underwater reception, & a free flooding structure carrying a 20-mm anti-aircraft gun, with a box for 4-in ready-service ammunition below it. A JK passive sonar, probably installed at Philadelphia during a refit between November & December 1941, was located on the forward deck. On the keel below it was a pair of oscillators.” Drawing by Jim Christley. Text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman. Naval Institute Press, via Navsource.

Fifth, and Final, Patrol

Departing PNSY on 14 June 1943, S-44 transited the Ditch once again and arrived at Dutch Harbor, Alaska on 16 September, with Brown still in command. After 10 days of making ready, S-44 sortied out past the Russian church on her 5th War Patrol on 26 September, bound for the Kuriles, where she never came back from, although two survivors eventually surfaced in 1945.

The story of what happened to her was only learned after VJ Day.

It is believed that S-44 was sunk east of the Kamchatka Peninsula by the Japanese Shimushu-class escort vessel Ishigaki.

As detailed by DANFS:

On the night of 7 October, she made radar contact with a “small merchantman” and closed in for a surface attack. Several hundred yards from the target, her deck gun fired and was answered by a salvo. The “small merchantman” was a destroyer. The order to dive was given, but S-44 failed to submerge. She took several hits, in the control room, in the forward battery room, and elsewhere.

S-44 was ordered abandoned. A pillowcase was put up from the forward battery room hatch as a flag of surrender, but the shelling continued.

Possibly eight men escaped from the submarine as she went down. Two, Chief Torpedoman’s Mate Ernest A. Duva and Radioman Third Class William F. Whitemore, were picked up by the destroyer. Taken initially to Paramushiro, then to the Naval Interrogation Camp at Ofuna, the two submariners spent the last year of World War II working in the Ashio copper mines. They were repatriated by the Allies at the end of the war.

Epilogue

S-44 remains one of the Lost 52 U.S. submarines from WWII still regarded on eternal patrol.

S-44 was one of six Sugar Boats lost during WWII. Their names here are inscribed on a memorial at the USS Albacore Museum in New Hampshire. Similar memorials are located in all 50 states. (Photo: Chris Eger)

Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery USS S-44 memorial in Illinois, installed in 2003 by Members of U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War Two

Thus far, her wreck, believed off Paramushir (AKA Paramushiro or Paramushiru) Island, has not been located and as that windswept volcanic rock has been occupied by the Russians since August 1945, she likely will never be discovered.

S-44’s war records from August 1941 – October 1942, including her first four War Patrols, have been digitized and are in the National Archives. She earned two battle stars during World War II.

She was remembered in postal cachets on the 40th anniversary of her loss when the USPS issued an S-class submarine stamp in 2000, among others. 

For what it is worth, her killer, the escort Ishigaki, was herself sent to the bottom by the American submarine USS Herring (SS-233) in May 1944.

S-44’s most famous skipper, Dinty Moore, would command Sailfish on that boat’s 6th, 7th, and 8th War Patrols, sinking the Japanese merchant Shinju Maru (3617 GRT) and the Japanese collier Iburi Maru (3291 GRT) in 1943. He would join Admiral Lockwood’s Roll of Honor in 1944 and ultimately retire as a rear admiral in 1958. The Navy Cross holder would pass at age 79 and is buried in Georgia. 

RADM Dinty Moore 11 Oct 1905-10 June 1985.

Of S-44’s five Fore River-built EB-designed sisters, all survived the war and gave a full 20+ years of service in each case. They conducted over 25 patrols, mostly in the West Pac, and claimed a half dozen ships with class leader S-42 being the most successful (besides S-44) with the aforementioned minelayer Okinoshima confirmed as well as an attack on a destroyer logged. All these sisters were paid off just after the war and sold for scrapping or sunk as a target by the end of 1946.

None of the 51 Sugar Boats are preserved. Those ancient bathtubs held the line in ’42-43 during the darkest days of the Pacific War and proved their worth.

The Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee post-war attributed 201 Japanese sunken warships, totaling some 540,192 tons, to American submarines.

Specs:

Displacement: 906 tons surfaced; 1,126 tons submerged
Length: 216 feet wl, 225 feet 3 inches overall
Beam: 20 feet 9 inches
Draft: 16 feet (4.9 m)
Propulsion: 2 × NELSECO diesels, 600 hp each; 2 × Electro-Dynamic electric motors, 750 horsepower each; 120 cell Exide battery; two shafts.
Speed: 15 knots surfaced; 11 knots submerged
Bunkerage: 46,363 gal
Range: 5,000 nautical miles at 10 knots surfaced
Test depth: 200 ft.
Crew: 38 (later 42) officers and men
Armament (as built):
4 x 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 10-12 torpedoes)
One 4″/50 deck gun


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The Old Man Returns to Manage the Joint

In July 1937, some 85 years ago this month, otherwise surface warfare-qualified Capt. William Frederick Halsey Jr. (USNA 1904) arrived at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola– where he had just earned his own wings of gold two years prior, at the age of 52, the oldest person to do so in the history of the U.S. Navy– to assume command of the Cradle of Naval Aviation.

Of course, Halsey would achieve his first star in 1938 and go on to bigger and better things just a few years later, but it was easy to see that, had the events of 1941 not gone the way they did, “Bull” may have been only a quiet command or two away from retiring in the peacetime Navy, and faded into a footnote. 

History is funny like that.

Recalled!

80 years ago today, official caption: “CPO George Sanderson. View was taken in 1942. Sanderson held the distinction of being the oldest man in the armed forces on active duty. Joined (sloop-of-war) USS Iroquois on 7 July 1882, recalled to active duty on 15 July 1942. Born 3 January 1862.”

Original print signed: Admiral Harry E. Yarnell, best wishes, George Sanderson. Naval History and Heritage Command, Yarnell collection NH 81981

The Chief Boatswains Mate has 10 (gold) hash marks on his sleeve, denoting at least 40 years of active service.

Mustachioed Gunners Mate First Class (Gun Captain) George Sanderson in the center with his gun crew, USS Oregon (BB-3) before the battle of Santiago, 1898. LOC LC-D4-32321 det 4a16563

As described over at the US Militaria Forum:

After a life of service on Civil War Sloops of War, a Coast Survey Ship in the Arctic, Screw Gunboats, Screw Sloops of War, Protected Cruisers, the first Battleships, a prize Spanish Gunboat, Hospital Ship, Schooner Rigged Steamer, Armored Cruiser plus a fleet of Receiving ships, he wanted more sea duty. Over 40 years of service ‘Sandy’ Sanderson had rounded the world 21 times, landed Marines in Panama in the 1880s, served in the Spanish American War as a Gun Turret Captain, fought Philippine Insurrectionists, Boxer Revolutionaries, Panamanian Revolutionaries, Zulu uprisings, protected seals in the Bering Sea, and made liberties in the Hawaiian Kingdom, as Sandy put it, “when they were something – when old King Kalakaua was in charge”. Recalled during World War I, he organized and was placed in charge of a gunnery school in New York City with 542 men assigned there and retired again in 1922.

Putting on his old uniform again after Pearl Harbor, he asked for sea duty.

He asked for sea duty.

Ultimately taken back into service, though restricted to shore assignments, he was assigned to Treasure Island and Recruiting Duty,

“Sandy” became one of the Navy’s best recruiters of Sailors, Seabees and in particular, WAVES, having had experience with the first Yeomanettes during World War I when he ran the NYC Gunnery School. 80-G-359957: “CBM George “Sandy” Sanderson, 81, oldest man on active duty in the Navy was nearly swamped by WAVES when he visited Portland, Oregon, recently and appeared at the Navy Mother’s Club tea on Navy Day.”

Discharged in August 1945, he earned his 11th service stripe!

CBM (PA) George ‘Sandy’ Sanderson, USN – The oldest US Navy sailor serving in World War II. All Hands, March 1949.

Attempting to reenlist for Korea but denied, Sanderson passed the bar in 1954.

So long, Woody

Marine Corps retired CWO4 Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, the last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient, passed away early this morning, June 29, 2022. Woody was surrounded by his family at the VA Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia.

According to the National WWII Museum, there was 473 Medal of Honor recipients from the war. Of these, 333 were in the Army, 82 in the Marines, 57 in the Navy, and one in the Coast Guard.

Born on October 2, 1923, in Quiet Dell, West Virginia, Woody enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on 26 May 1943 and advanced to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 before his retirement in 1969 after 17 years of service. During WWII, Woody served in New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and Guam before landing in Iwo Jima where his actions on 23 February 1945 earned him a well-deserved Medal of Honor.

His Citation, issued as a Corporal in 1st Battalion, 21st Marines, 3D Marine Division: 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine-gun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by four riflemen, he fought desperately for four hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out one position after another. On one occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants, and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon. His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strongpoints encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. Cpl. Williams’ aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Salute from Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps:

“On behalf of all Marines, Sgt. Maj. Black and I are heartbroken to learn of Woody’s passing. From his actions on Iwo Jima to his lifelong service to our Gold Star Families, Woody has left an indelible mark on the legacy of our Corps. As the last of America’s “Greatest Generation” to receive the Medal of Honor, we will forever carry with us the memory of his selfless dedication to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to our great Nation. The Marine Corps is fortunate to have many heroes, but there is only one Woody Williams. Semper Fidelis, Marine.”

From the MCPON:

Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient and gallant inspiration both in and out of service, passed away today at the age of 98.

He will be remembered not only for his heroism at the Battle of Iwo Jima, but also as an American Veteran who spent his remaining years selflessly dedicating his life to his community, the Veterans Affairs, and to Gold Star families.

According to the VA, about 16 million Americans served during WWII, and only 240,329 were still with us in 2021.
Sadly, the Greatest Generation is almost mustered out.

The *Other* Sole Survivors of Torpedo EIGHT

80 Years Ago Today: Here we see the heavy cruiser USS Pensacola (CA-24) as she disembarks Marine reinforcements at the Sand Island pier, Midway, on 25 June 1942. Note M1903 Springfield rifles and other gear along the pier edge. The Sand Island seaplane hangar, badly damaged by the Japanese air attack on 4 June 1942, is in the left distance, with a water tower beside it. Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) TBF-1 Avenger (Bureau # 00380) can be seen on the beach, in line with the water tower.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-12146

Another view of P-cola, same day and place, and the aircraft in the foreground, with a damaged tail, is TBF-1 Avenger (Bureau # 00380) The ship in the right distance is probably USS Ballard (AVD-10):

Catalog #: 80-G-12147

A closer look at Avenger 380, photographed at Midway, 24-25 June 1942, prior to shipment back to the United States for post-battle evaluation:

Catalog #: 80-G-11637

Rear cockpit and .50 caliber machinegun turret of Avenger 380. Damage to the turret can be seen in this view. The ship in the left background is probably USS Ballard (AVD-10):

Catalog #: 80-G-11635

Another look, 80-G-17063

While most know the well-publicized tale of Ensign George “Tex” Gay, the “Sole Survivor” of the 4 June 1942 VT-8 TBD torpedo plane attack on the Japanese carrier force during the Battle of Midway, there is a little more to the story.

Ensign George H. Gay at Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital, with a nurse and a copy of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper featuring accounts of the battle. Gay’s book “Sole Survivor” indicates that the date of this photograph is probably 7 June 1942, following an operation to repair his injured left hand and a meeting with Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. 80-G-17678

You see, on 4 June, VT-8 was in two different elements.

Gay was part of 15 criminally obsolete Douglas TBD Devastators torpedo bombers of the squadron that had launched from USS Hornet (CV-8), led by the squadron skipper, LCDR John C. Waldron. Riding their Devastators right to Valhalla in a vain attempt to sink the Japanese carrier Soryu, all 15 were shot down and Gay, his gunner already dead, was left floating in the Pacific to be recovered after the battle.

Six other aircraft of VT-8, new TBF Avengers (keep in mind the type had only had its first flight on 7 August 1941!) were based at Midway and likewise flew against the Japanese on 4 June. These planes were the first Navy aircraft to attack the Japanese fleet that day. They attacked without fighter cover led by LT Langdon Kellogg Fieberling and of those six aircraft, five were shot down.

Avenger 308, mauled by Japanese fighters during the attack, was able to limp back home. Seaman 1st Class Jay D. Manning, who was operating the .50 caliber machinegun turret, was killed in action with Japanese fighters during the attack.

The plane’s pilot was Ensign Albert K. “Bert” Earnest (VMI 1938) and the other crewman was Radioman 3rd Class Harry H. Ferrier. Both survived the action.

Albert K. “Bert” Earnest ’938 is one of VMI’s most decorated graduates. He was awarded three Navy Crosses during World War II. Photos courtesy VMI Archives.

Earnest would earn two Navy Crosses that day, “for dropping his bomb on the Japanese fleet and a second Navy Cross for bringing his aircraft and crew back to Midway. Inspections later found 73 large-caliber bullet holes in his aircraft.”

Courtesy of Captain A.K. Earnest, USN (Ret) and Robert L. Lawson, 1990. NH 102559

As noted by the VMI Alumni Assoc: 

Of the squadron’s planes, Earnest’s was the only one to return to Midway. One pilot, Ensign George Gay, was plucked from the ocean. He is depicted in the 2019 movie “Midway.” Gay enjoyed the attention and wrote a book, “Sole Survivor,” about his Midway experiences. Earnest often joked that he and Ferrier were the “other sole survivors.”

While serving off Guadalcanal during the battle of the Eastern Solomons, Earnest earned a third Navy Cross and was rotated back to the U.S. for the duration of the war.

He continued in the Navy, retiring with 31 years of service in 1972. He had an eventful career, testing enemy aircraft, becoming a “Hurricane Hunter” and qualifying to fly jets.

Earnest died in 2009 and is buried with his wife, Millie, at Arlington National Cemetery.

Welcome, USS John Basilone

Over the weekend, Bath Iron Works in Maine hosted the christening of the USS John Basilone (DDG-122), a late-batch Burke-class destroyer, with Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Troy Black delivering the ceremony’s principal address.

Basilone via General Dynamics Bath Iron Works

The warship was transitioned to launch over a three-day period last week.

Who was Basilone?

Born in Buffalo, New York in November 1916, John (no middle name) Basilone, Roman Catholic, son of Salvatore and Dora Basilone, had done his bit for his country prior to World War II. He had served in the Regular Army from 5 February 1936 to 7 September 1939 and was still in the Army Reserves (3rd Corps) from which he had to petition the force for a discharge to join the Marines, a move that was approved 11 July 1940.

His civilian job listed on intake to the Corps was that of a truck driver.

Via Basilone’s 327-page file at the NARA

His Navy physical, when he joined the Marines, listed in addition to several minor scars and burns, two tattoos on his biceps. On his right, the “bust of a western woman.” On the left, a sword and the words “Death Before Dishonor.”

By September 1940, newly-promoted PFC Basilone was standing tall and would make Corporal the following May before grabbing his third stripe as a Sergent on 23 January 1942, just six weeks after Pearl Harbor.

Less than nine months later, SGT Basilone would become a legend for his actions at Guadalcanal.

Medal of Honor citation:

“For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area. Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines’ defensive positions, Sgt. Basilone, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machine guns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault.

In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone’s sections, with its guncrews, were put out of action, leaving only 2 men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived.

A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”

His battlefield promotion to Platoon Sergent was signed by Lt. Col Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, 1st Bn, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, FMF, in November 1942.

Basilone has long been a Marine Corps icon, and his actions on 24/25 Oct 1942 were recreated in The Pacific.

Basilone could have sat out the war and signed War Bonds and taken pictures for the cameras back home, which he did for a minute, but he voluntarily returned to action at the Battle of Iwo Jima in February of 1945, where he single-handedly destroyed an enemy blockhouse and led a Marine tank under fire safely through a minefield. He was killed in action later that day and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his unwavering devotion and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice.

He was the only enlisted Marine to receive both decorations in World War II.

On June 6, 1948, the John Basilone American Legion Post in Raritan dedicated the life-size statue of Basilone holding a water-cooled M1917 Browning machine gun.

The statue was sculpted by childhood friend Phillip Orlando. (New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Mark C. Olsen)

This is the second ship to honor Basilone. The first, USS Basilone (DD-824/DE-824), was a Gearing-class destroyer sponsored by his widow, a stern-faced Sergeant Lena Mae Basilone, USMC(WR). That destroyer remained in service from 1945 to 1977.

It is about time the Navy has another USS John Basilone on the Navy List.

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