Category Archives: man card

80 Years Ago: Boyington is Back, Baby

Born in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho in December 1912, Gregory Boyington sought out the military at age 21. Commissioned a 2nd LT in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1934, serving with the cannon cockers of the 630th Coast Artillery on the Washington coast for 11 months, Boyington was then accepted to the Marine Corps Reserve Aviation Cadet program where he trained from 18 February 1936 to July 1937.

Pappy Aviation Cadet Gregory Boyington taken during his flight instruction at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, 1936

Gregory Pappy Boyington NAS Pensacola Class 88-C standing second from right

After finishing the program, he was granted a regular commission in the Marines, where he served until 27 August 1941 when he resigned his commission with an understanding “that I would be reinstated without loss of precedence when I returned to United States Service,” then left the Corps as a 1st LT to join the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) fighting for the KMT forces in China against the Japanese.

Boyington was a private military contractor of sorts with the original Flying Tigers, operational from December 20, 1941. Note the P-40 Warhawks in the background. Boyington claimed six victories, but that number is unconfirmed with some sources just saying he got two. The Chinese eventually paid him bonuses for 3.5 meatballs at $500 per kill.

Returning home from China in July 1942, he promptly sought to return to the Corps in a flying assignment, after all, there was something of a war on.

This was granted after passing a new flight physical and obtaining several endorsements, on 16 September 1942– some 80 years ago today– as a 1st LT in the USMC Reserve. After fighting with the brass for two weeks over getting a reserve commission when he left on a regular one and being told essentially “we will see,” Boyington went ahead and accepted the appointment on 29 September.

The Corps’ Director of Aviation nonetheless recommended to the Commandant that Boyington’s recommissioning halted, noting his previous stint with the Marines prior to leaving for China did not point to him as becoming a career officer and that Claire Chennault with the Tigers had noted, “This pilot was a capable flyer and would have been of valuable service were it not for his excessive drinking,” despite the fact Boyington was officially credited with at least 2 “kills” in China.

Cooling his heels, Boyington kept the telegrams to Marine HQ rolling.

Finally, on 10 November– the Birthday of the Corps– he was ordered for a second physical at Pasco, Washington (he lived at the time at Okanogan) and, if passed, to proceed to San Diego where he would report to Marine Airwings Pacific for assignment to “active duty in the Aeronautic Organization of the Marine Corps Reserve.” Passing his cough check, Boyington was duly promoted to Major (temporary) in the USMCR on 24 November.

Working through enhanced flying training on the West Coast, he was then appointed in January 1943 to XO of the “Candystripers” of VMF-122 on Guadalcanal, operating F4F Wildcats with the Cactus Air Force at Henderson Field until July of that year. Raised up to become the squadron’s skipper in July, he was there for the unit’s transition to F4U Corsairs.

Soon after, he was made commander of VMF-214 which he joined at Turtle Bay Airfield on Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides in August 1943.

It took roughly a year from the time he was reinstated before he would become the head of VMF-214.

Marine Attack Squadron Two Hundred and Fourteen – VMF 214 (Black Sheep Squadron) on Turtle Bay Fighter Strip, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. They are shown before leaving for Munda, with an F4U in the background, on 11 September 1943. Note, Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, 8th from left, front row. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-54288.

Flying with his famed “Black Sheep” the elderly — at age 31– “Gramps” Boyington claimed 13 kills in aerial combat over the Solomans between 15 September and 20 October 1943.

Remarkably, an act of Congress (S.1427) was introduced in October 1943 to grant him a regular commission (as a 1st LT). Over time, the Gramps nickname would fade to be replaced by the more lovable “Pappy” and the rest, as they say, is history…

A Good Pilot in a Capable Plane Goes a Long Way

On this day: 70 years ago (September 10, 1952), Captain Jesse Gregory Folmar (MCSN: 0-26438), from the “Checkerboards” of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 312 of the jeep carrier USS Sicily (CVE-118), shot down a North Korean (marked) MiG-15 to become the only F4U Corsair pilot to claim a MiG kill during the Korean War. After successfully engaging the MiG, Folmar was himself shot down by four other MiGs. He survived the attack and was rescued.

By Lou Drendel

The performance between the two aircraft is about 200 knots and 10,000 feet in ceiling, to the MiG’s advantage. However, Folmar, age 32 at the time, was no novice to his aircraft.

Born 13 Oct 1920 in Montgomery County, Alabama, he joined the Marines in WWII and learned his trade with the Corsair against the Japanese.

From Folmar’s Silver Cross citation for the dogfight:

When the two-plane flight which he was leading to the target area near Chinnampo was suddenly attacked by eight hostile jet interceptors, Captain Folmar immediately initiated effective defensive measures so that he and his wingman could bring fire to bear on the enemy aircraft. Aggressively maneuvering his plane to the inside of one of the attacking hostile jets, he skillfully fired a burst from his guns that ripped into the side of the jet, causing it to burst into flames and forcing the enemy pilot, with his clothing ablaze, to abandon the flaming jet which subsequently crashed into the Taedong estuary.

While Captain Folmar was maneuvering his aircraft to ward off another attack, his plane was hit and severely damaged by hostile fire, forcing him to parachute. With the hostile jets continuing to make firing runs, he landed in the water from which he was rescued by friendly forces.

By his indomitable courage, outstanding airmanship, and gallant devotion to duty, Captain Folmar was directly responsible for the complete destruction of a hostile jet aircraft and contributed materially to the safe return of his wingman, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Folmar died in 2004, aged 83, and is buried in Foley, Alabama. 

For reference, the Marines’ “tally sheet” for Korea, showing Folmar as both the last Corsair victory and the only one of a prop plane against a jet.

Shilling’s photo ‘Hawk

What a great original 80-year-old color photo of the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers” posing on one very special aircraft.

A group of AVG pilots poses for the camera. Erik Shilling is on the nose, William Bartling is next, with Frank Adkins is in the cockpit. Charles Bond and Robert Little are standing on the ground, Joe Rosbert and George Paxton are on the wing. The photograph was taken at Kunming on 11 APR 1942 by LIFE photographer Clare B. Luce. Luce was elected to Congress later that year and the photo would appear in the magazine in July, after the Tigers had been disbanded.

The “Blue Lipped” KMT Chinese-marked Tigers’ P-40 Warhawk above is Eriksen Emerson Shilling’s unarmed photo recon aircraft. It had been stripped of its guns and extra weight, then fitted with a 20-inch Fairchild camera in the baggage compartment behind the cockpit. Among other vital missions, Shilling had documented over 90 Japanese military aircraft on airfields around Bangkok at a time when Thailand was considered neutral.

While it took stones to fly against the much more numerous Japanese air forces in 1942 China-Burma, to do it sans armament was even more so.

The Flying Tiger pilots posing are the blonde Shilling (age 26 at the time), ace Bill Barthing, ace and future USAF MGen. Charles Bond, ace Frank Adkins, double ace Robert Laing “Bob” Little, ace Joe Rosbert, and the downright “elderly” paymaster George “Pappy” Paxton.

The same group was shown with Shilling (in a brown jacket and the same blue shirt) along with a uniformed Bartling, Paxton, Rosbert, and Adkins in a photo listed as being taken the next month but could have been the same day.

A group of “Hell’s Angels” pose for the camera in front of Charles Older’s #68 P-40 at Yunnan-yi on 28 MAY 1942. They are (sitting) Robert Smith, Ken Jernstedt, Bob Prescot, Link Laughlin, and Bill Reed. Standing are Erik Shilling and Arvid Olsen.

The photos were taken shortly before the AVG became the new, by-the-book, 23rd Fighter Group, which may account for Shilling wearing a blue shirt and no uniform.

Rather than join the 23rd FG, Shilling– who had served in the USAAF from 1938-41 and helped pioneer aerial recon at the time– opted instead to remain a pseudo-civilian and, along with several other Tigers, signed up with the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), the Pan Am-KMT operation moving supplies from India to Free China over the Himalayas.

Of note, just five of Chennault’s pilots (and 19 ground crewmen) went to the 23rd FS in July 1942 while at least 16 pilots, Shilling included, elected to go CNAC instead. The Regular Army life did not appeal to men who had already had it and went for something more exotic. 

Other volunteers went back to the states to see what they could find there, with the nation now officially in the war. These included a hard-drinking Marine first lieutenant by the name of Gregory Boyington who had resigned his regular commission in August 1941 as he was leaving for China with an unrealized understanding “that I would be reinstated without loss of precedence when I returned to United States Service.”

As for Shilling, he would go on to make no less than 350 dangerous trips over “The Hump” in WWII and go on to fly post-war for Chennault’s (paid for by the CIA) Civil Air Transport (CAT) line, delivering agents and supplies to places off the record throughout the Korean War and into Dien Bien Phu. CAT would, of course, go on to become Air America.

Meanwhile, Shilling would return to the U.S. in the 1960s and turn to a quieter, less-spooky life, passing in his mid-80s. 

More on Boyington later.

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. 

Last ‘Ace in a Day’

On this day in 1945, LT Oscar Francis Perdomo, USAAF, became the last American Ace of WWII, bagging four Ki-84 “Frank” fighters and one Yokosuka “Willow” trainer. (While the 507th Fighter Group mission reports confirm his kills as “Oscars”, they were actually Franks from the 22nd and 85th Hiko-Sentais.)

Via the Commemorative Air Force, Perdomo in front of Republic Lil Meatie’s Meat Chopper, his P-47N-2-RE Thunderbolt (serial number 44-88211), based on Ie Shima in 1945. The baby is an ode to the young officer’s boy who at the time, Kris Mitchell Perdomo, was still in diapers.

The combat took place over Seoul, Korea when Perdomo’s formation of 38 P-47 Thunderbolts, from the 507th Fighter Group of US 20th Air Force, encountered approximately 50 enemy aircraft. It was Perdomo’s last combat mission, and the five confirmed victories made him an “Ace in a Day” for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Medal with one leaf cluster.

An El Paso Texas native whose daddy rode with Pancho Villa, Perdomo received his wings on January 7, 1944, and only flew his first combat mission on July 2, while escorting a B-29 to Kyushu. Six weeks later, he was the last American ace.

Perdomo remained in the Air Force after the war, serving in Korea, then left the military in 1958 as a major. Sadly, he succumbed to self-destruction after the loss of Kris, who died when his Huey exploded in Vietnam, and died in 1976, aged 56.

Meanwhile, the CAF has flown a P-47N made up to salute Perdomo’s Meat Chopper since 2017. 

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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Assiniboine takes a scalp

Some 80 years ago today, on 6 August 1942, the Royal Canadian Navy’s C-class destroyer leader HMCS Assiniboine (I18) turned herself into a knife to slice up a German sausage in the form of a U-boat

Ordered in 1929 for the Royal Navy as HMS Kempenfelt, she joined the British fleet in 1932 and served until the outbreak of World War II, when shortly after Hitler sent his legions over the Polish border, the 1,400-ton tin can moved over to the Canadians and was given her Assiniboine moniker (just “Bones” to her crew) and was soon busting German blockade runners in the Caribbean. Allocated for mid-ocean escort service in June 1941, she would ride shotgun on a staggering 71 convoys.

This brings us to Kptlt. Rudolf Lemcke’s U-210, a Krupp-built Type VIIC operating with the Steinbrinck wolfpack some 20-days into her first war patrol.

From the excellent Post Mortems On Enemy Submarines – Serial No. 4 in the NHHC collection:

At 1325 on August 6, in a patch of clear weather, H. M. C. S. Assiniboine, forming part of the escort of S. C. 94 from Halifax to the United Kingdom, sighted a conning tower bearing 30° range 6 miles. At 1338 she fired three salvos, before the last of which the U-boat altered course to port and dived. It has been positively established by survivors’ statements that this boat was not U-210Assiniboine arrived in the vicinity of this U-boat’s diving position at 1357 and altered course to 330°, this being the estimated course of the U-boat before she dived. Assiniboine then carried out a box sweep in the area, at 1418 firing a pattern of depth charges set at 100 to 225 feet, but with no evident results, and continued to sweep in the presumed track of this U-boat.

At 1912 Assiniboine sighted a conning tower bearing 120° at 2,000 yards retiring at full speed into the fog. At 2036, with visibility about 2,000 yards, she established a Radar contact bearing 270°. Almost immediately she sighted U-210, stopped. Then U-210 went ahead at full speed and altered course to starboard, disappearing into the fog after Assiniboine had fired one round. Assiniboine, hearing H. E. at this time bearing 300°, increased speed, but misjudged the distance she had run and, thinking she had passed the U-boat’s position, altered to 345°, the target’s estimated course. She then realized her mistake, and altered course back to 190°. Visibility was then 600 to 800 yards.

At 2000 the bridge watch was relieved aboard U-210, the following men coming on duty: Quartermaster Holst, Coxswain Krumm, Monbach, and Meetz. Mueller relieved Mycke at the helm. Mueller is believed to have stood alone in the conning tower at this time. As none of the bridge watch survived the following action, accounts of the sinking of U-210 are limited to his statements and those of men below decks.

According to Mueller, fog closed around the U-boat as the watch was relieved and Lemcke, thinking that U-210 was safely hidden, came below to eat his supper. A few minutes later Mueller heard confused sounds of shouting and firing above, and Lemcke and Tamm passed him on the way to the bridge. General alarm was sounded throughout the U-boat, by buzzers in the forward compartments and by flickering green and red lights in the engine room, as the crew were eating their evening meal.

–13–

View from aboard Assiniboine.
Assiniboine.

–14–

Closing in on the sub.
closes

–15–

Ship along side submarine.
enemy.

–16–

Assiniboine takes a scalp.
Assiniboine takes a scalp.

–17–

At 2050 Assiniboine gained another Radar contact at 035° on the starboard bow, range 1,200 yards. She closed it at full speed and about 1 minute later sighted U-210, still on the surface. She closed to ram at full speed, having first housed the dome and prepared a 50-foot depth-charge pattern.

Both vessels opened fire and for about 25 minutes a furious action ensued at almost point-blank range. U-210 took a constant evading action, and Assiniboine was forced to go full astern on the inside engine to prevent U-210 getting inside her turning circle, which the U-boat seemed to be trying to do. During some of this action the two vessels were so close that Assiniboine‘s company could see Lemcke on U-210‘s bridge bending down to pass wheel orders.

Aboard U-210 no effort was made to dive immediately nor could anyone reach the 8.8-cm. gun, but fire from Assiniboine was returned by Holst, manning the 2-cm. gun at a range of approximately 200 yards. Explosive bullets were used and started a second-degree fire in Assiniboine‘s forecastle, spreading aft almost to the bridge.

Lemcke was blamed posthumously by his men for not submerging at once, but the volume of smoke pouring from the destroyer apparently led him to believe that he had damaged her considerably, and encouraged him to prolong the action. Prisoners also stated that he felt he could escape on the surface through the protecting fog, if need be.

Assiniboine‘s first hits damaged one of U-210‘s port trimming tanks. The bridge was then struck by machine gun bullets. Holst was shot through the neck and killed outright, and Krumm was badly wounded. An instant later Assiniboine scored a direct hit with her 4.7 gun on the conning tower, the shell making a shambles of the bridge.

A prisoner stated that Lemcke was literally blown to pieces, and that Krumm, lying wounded, was virtually decapitated. It is assumed that Tamm also suffered a violent death.

Mueller believed that a body was flung against the torpedo firing mechanism, releasing an unset torpedo. Between them prisoners counted three more direct hits: One through the forward torpedo tubes, another which carried away the deck covering between the 8.8-cm. gun and the forward torpedo hatch – neither causing leaks in the pressure hull – and one aft which smashed the screws, water entering the boat. The boat was down by the stern, the electric motors had caught fire, and the round hitting the conning tower had severely damaged the Diesel air-intake.

During the action an attempt was also made to fire one torpedo.

The tube’s crew was told to stand by, but the order was never given.

With the conning tower practically demolished, Sorber, the engineer officer, now attempted to dive U-210. As the boat submerged, she

–18–

was rammed to starboard by Assiniboine abaft the conning tower and over the galley hatch (Kombüsenluke). U-210 descended to a depth of 18 meters. Water was flooding into the boat through the damaged Diesel air-intake, and through the battered stern. The electric motors had failed and everything breakable within the boat had been shattered.

Sorber gave the order to blow tanks and abandon ship, under the misapprehension that Göhlich, who had received superficial cuts, was too badly injured to make the ultimate decision. Sorber later reproached himself for surfacing and surrendering as he believed, upon subsequent reflection, that he might have been able to escape submerged. On surfacing, it was found that the water in the air-intake prevented the Diesels from being started and, according to survivors, U-210 remained stopped and slightly down by the stern. Assiniboine rammed again aft as U-210 surfaced, firing a shallow pattern of depth charges as she passed. The C. O. of the destroyer stated that the U-boat then sank by the head in 2 minutes.

Mueller stated that he stayed at his post until he heard the order. “Blow tanks; stand by life jackets!” He then left the helm as his life jacket was in the forward torpedo compartment and the men had been told never to take any but their own. He clambered through to the bow compartment, where he found a number of men abandoning ship through the forward torpedo hatch. Water was flooding through the hatch as he followed them. The majority of the engine-room personnel thought they were trapped when they found, first, that the galley hatch was jammed, and then, that they could not move the conning tower hatch which had become jammed by the direct hit on the bridge. Through their combined exertions they finally got the conning tower hatch open. The last man out of the control room stated that water was well over his boots there as he left.

When all were mustered, the engineer officer and one of the control room petty officers apparently went below, opened flooding valve 5 and put an explosive charge in the periscope shaft. There is a special opening in the shaft inside the boat for this purpose. The radio men threw overboard a number of secret papers, or burned them with incendiary leaflets. They also smashed the radio equipment with a hammer. Sorber himself denied that he had done anything more than open the seacocks before leaving the boat, as the last man out.

U-210 sank at 2114, H. M. S. Dianthus appearing out of the fog in time to see her go under. Although at the time of her sinking her after aerial was out of action and her Morse key broken, the chief radioman said he was able to send a signal reporting her sinking. Although this signal was much under power, he was sure that if B. d. U. did not receive it, one of the other U-boats in the vicinity did.

–19–

One survivor said that the radioman told them afterward that he had not been able to send any signals.

In view of the tremendous punishment taken by U-210 it is remarkable that the entire crew below decks escaped with their lives.

Bones would survive the war and be scrapped in 1952 with three Battle Honours (Atlantic 1939-45, Biscay 1944, English Channel 1944-45).

Four years later a new St-Laurent class destroyer (234) would perpetuate her name in the RCN, carrying it until 1995.

The battle between Bones and U-210 is remembered in maritime art. 

HMCS DIANTHUS IN THE DISTANCE. BONES BEATS U210 THE AUGUST 1942 SINKING OF THE GERMAN SUBMARINE, U210 BY HMCS ASSINIBOINE Tom Forrestal CWM 20110023-001

HMCS ASSINIBOINE by SubLt Beatty Grieve CWM 19740552-002-2487×2160

ASSINIBOINE VERSUS U-BOAT U-210 CDR Harold Bement CWM 19710261-1021

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