Category Archives: submarines

Mush v the Harusame

80 years ago today: The Shiratsuyu-class destroyer Harusame of the Imperial Japanese Navy was torpedoed by the famed Gato-class submarine USS Wahoo (SS-238) under the command of LCDR Dudley Walker “Mush” Morton, near Wewak, New Guinea. It would be the third of 11 attacks logged during the boat’s Third War Patrol

Harusame’s back is clearly broken. Wartime intelligence evaluated this photo as showing one of the Asashio-class (see Photographic Intelligence Report # 82, 17 March 1943). However, the ship’s bridge structure identifies her as a Shiratsuyu-class destroyer, with the # 2 (single) 5 gun mount removed. Official U.S. Navy photo 80-G-35738 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

From Wahoo’s patrol report, in “Mush’s” words. 

Just two weeks after the above image:

Lieutenant Commander Dudley W. Morton, commanding officer of Wahoo (SS-238), at right with his executive officer, Lieutenant Richard H. O’Kane, on Wahoo’s open bridge at Pearl Harbor after her very successful third war patrol, circa 7 February 1943. Official U.S. Navy photograph now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-35725.

Beached to avoid sinking with her keel broken, Harusame was salvaged and towed to Truk where she was fitted with an emergency false bow, then sailed in convoy in May to Yokosuka for rebuilding. She returned to service in late November 1943, joining Desdiv 27, Desron 2, IJN Second Fleet.

Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Harusame underway after rebuild on November 30, 1943. Shizuo Fukui – Kure Maritime Museum, Japanese Naval Warship Photo Album: Destroyers, edited by Kazushige Todaka, p. 81

Her service would come to an end just seven months later, dispatched by USAAF B-25s 30 miles northwest of Cape of Good Hope near Manokwari on 8 June 1944 while on a troop transport run to Biak. She was lost with 74 of her crew.

As for Wahoo, she had already been lost by a remarkably similar fate– sent to the bottom by Japanese aircraft in October 1943 while returning home from her Seventh War Patrol, sunk with all 79 hands by a sustained air and surface attack as she was attempting to exit the Sea of Japan via the La Perouse Strait.

Detailed by DANFS:

The loss of Morton and Wahoo caused profound shock in the submarine force. All further forays into the Sea of Japan ceased, and it was not again invaded until June 1945, when special mine-detecting equipment was available for submarines. Morton was posthumously awarded a fourth Navy Cross. When he died, his claimed sinkings exceeded those of any other submarine skipper: 17 ships for 100,000 tons. In the postwar accounting, this was readjusted to 19 ships for about 55,000 tons. This left Morton, in terms of individual ships sunk, one of the top three skippers of the war. So ended the career of one of the greatest submarine teams of World War II: Wahoo and “Mush” Morton.

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023: Diving the New World

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, Jan. 4, 2023: Diving the New World

Via Peru’s Dirección de Intereses Marítimos which has a great collection of period images from the submarine’s construction digitized. Image 00631-15

Above we see the early French Creusot-built submarine BAP Teniente Ferré of the Peruvian Navy, nestled inside the transport dock ship Kanguroo in the summer of 1912. The first operational diesel-electric boat in Latin America, she was of an interesting design that just screams “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and, while she never saw overt combat, ushered in a long tradition of submarine operations for Peru– one that has lots of ties to the U.S. Navy.

Peru arguably had one of the first attempts at submarine combat in Latin America. The country started off its involvement with subs back in the 1880s when one Federico Blume y Othon came up with a small hand-cranked Toro Submarino submersible equipped with a cable-laid torpedo (more of a mine) that was neat but not successful, although it was an interesting footnote to the War of the Pacific between Peru, Bolivia and Chile.

Fuente: Museo de la Marina de Guerra del Perú, sección de Submarinistas, via Superunda.

Following the wholesale destruction of the Peruvian Navy in the War of the Pacific, the country went into a slow rebuilding process that, by 1904, brought in a French naval mission led by Commander Paul de Marguerye. The Peruvian Naval Academy was stood back up and new, modern warships were ordered from Europe including the scout cruisers BAP Almirante Grau and BAP Coronel Bolognesi (3,100 tons, 24 knots, 2×6″ guns) from Vickers in Britain, the old French armored cruiser Dupuy de Lome (6,300 tons, 20 knots, 2×7.6in, 6×6.4 in guns, launched 1890) which was intended to be brought into service as BAP Comandante Aguirre, and two submarines from Schneider & Cie Le Creusot.

This brings us to Teniente Ferré and her sister, BAP Teniente Palacios, both named for young naval officers killed heroically at the Battle of Angamos in 1879.

Ordered in early 1909, French naval engineer Maxime Laubeuf designed them—the man who had designed France’s first submarines (the Narval and the Aigrette) and was one of the first pioneers to realize that two different propulsion systems (for surfaced running and submerged) were needed for a submarine to be practical.

At 151 feet overall and with a submerged displacement of 440 tons, the Ferres could make 13 knots on the surface with a pair of Schneider-Carels diesels and eight submerged on two electric motors arranged on two shafts. While not huge craft by today’s standards, they were large compared to contemporaries such as the American Holland class (110 tons, 64 feet) and British A-class (200 tons, 105 feet). Further, no country in Latin America at the time had anything comparable.

BAP Teniente Ferré at builder’s yard in France, April 1909. DIM 00750

BAP Teniente Ferré at builder’s yard in France, Oct 1909. Note her bow and inner hull. DIM 00631-07

BAP Teniente Ferré close to launching, noting flags and her very ship-like bow/hull form. Of interest, the two stacks are a breather and exhaust for her diesels as well as each holding a periscope. The class could therefore snorkel while her decks were awash, albeit dangerously. DIM 00631-06-1

When it came to armament, rather than the confusing Drzewiecki drop collar external trapeze framework favored by the French and the Russians at the time, the Peruvian submarines would carry a brace of four forward 450mm torpedo tubes that, if loaded, could have a further four torpedoes stored for a reload inside the hull. There was no provision for a deck gun.

Capable of diving to 100 feet, they carried enough diesel oil to cruise on the surface for 2,000 nm at 10 knots.

BAP Ferre engine compartment, with César A. Valdivieso and David C. Maurer. DIM 00631-04-1

BAP Teniente Ferré test dives off Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer near Toulon, the summer of 1912. Note the French ensign. DIM 00631-10-scaled

BAP Teniente Ferré test dive off Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer, summer of 1912. DIM 00631-12-scaled

BAP Teniente Ferré test dive off Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer, summer of 1912. DIM 00631-11-scaled

The two submarines were completed by early 1911 and it had been decided that the best way to deliver them was via an innovative transport dock, dubbed the aptly named Kanguroo.

Built to another of Laubeuf’s designs, the curious 305-foot, 2,500-ton monster was a simple hermaphrodite steamship built around a central 120,000 cubic foot floodable well deck with watertight doors on its bow that allowed it to carry loads up to 185 feet in length and weighing as much as 3,700 tons– just perfect to carry a submarine on globe-trotting excursions.

Plan and drawing of Kanguroo. Via the 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering.

More on the details of Kanguroo. Via the 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering. “Besides serving for the transport of submarine boats, the main object for which she was built, the Kanguroo is to be utilized also for carrying heavy and bulky loads such as turbines, boilers, and so forth, which can be lowered into the hold amidships after lifting off the movable deck panels which cover it.

Kanguroo was launched by Forges et Chantiers de la Gironde on 12 April 1912 then began loading Ferre on 28 June at Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer and departed for Callao with the boat aboard on 30 July.

BAP Teniente Ferré in Kanguroo 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering a

BAP Teniente Ferré in Kanguroo 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering 

Note the cradle to hold Ferre inside Kanguroo. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

The bow of Kanguroo had to be disassembled to load and unload floating cargo, a process that took the better part of a week and needed good weather in a sheltered harbor. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Ferre approaching Kanguroo. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Entering Kanguroo’s flooded well deck. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

A Johan and the whale moment. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

She arrived in Peru on 19 October, via São Vicente, Cape Verde, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo, and it took ten full days to disgorge the submarine, as Kanguroo’s bow had to be disassembled for the process.

Freed from her marsupial mothership, Ferre made her first dive in Peruvian waters on 5 November 1912.

BAP Teniente Ferré, including On deck, the engineer David C. Maurer, 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Caballero y Lastres, César A. Valdivieso, and J. Besnard. DIM 00631-03-1

Sobre cubierta el Teniente 2° Daniel Caballero y Lastres y Enrique Mazuré.

Kanguroo would go on to deliver Ferre’s sister ship, Palacios, in 1913, along with the Italian Fiat-built submarine F1 (300 tons, 150 feet oal, 2x450mm TT) to the Brazilian Navy. Ironically, the three Brazilian Fiats were ordered in direct response to the Peruvian boats, which were the first modern submarines operated by a Latin American fleet.

BAP Palacios DIM 00632-01

BAP Palacios DIM 00632-02

Peru BAP Ferre class, 1914 Janes. Note the image is from French trials off Toulon.

Palacios made her first dive in Peruvian waters on 5 November 1913, the first anniversary of Ferre’s inaugural plunge.

With both of Peru’s new subs delivered and operational in home waters, the Great War caught up to them and the French military mission was recalled to take part in the conflict. Likewise, this cut off the supply of spare parts, batteries, and specialized equipment to keep Ferre and her sister working, greatly reducing their time underway throughout the war.

In related news, the old cruiser Dupuy de Lome/BAP Comandante Aguirre would spend the war in French waters and would never actually make it to Peru. Her planned advance crew sailed home on a freighter. 

The most interesting footnote to Ferre’s service was an October 1915 collision with the interned German four-master cargo ship Omega (ex-Drumcliff). While the submarine would limp home with her scopes ripped nearly horizontal for extensive repairs, and Omega was later taken into service with the Peruvian Navy as a training ship, it was as close as Ferre would come to combat. 

Omega as Drumcliff, circa late 1880s. She would go on to be operated by Reederei Hamburger AG under a German flag until 1918 when the Peruvian Navy seized her to serve as a schoolship. Sold in 1926 to the Compañía Administradora del Guano in Callao, she would operate until 1958 when she was wrecked– at the time, the last tall ship in the guano trade. State Library of Victoria image SLV H99.220-2845

Ferre and Palacios would linger in their limited service until 1921 when they were ordered disarmed and subsequently disposed of. 

Epilogue

Ferre and Palacios would be remembered in a series of maritime art and postage stamps in their home country throughout the years. 

As for Kanguroo, the submarine-carrying dock ship, requisitioned by the French Navy at the outbreak of the Great War, she was torpedoed and sank at Madeira’s Funchal Roads on 3 December 1916 alongside the French gunboat Surprise (680 tons) and the elderly British cable layer SS Dacia (1,850 tons), by the famed U-boat ace Max Valentiner aboard U-38, who then leisurely bombarded the city’s submarine cable station and the electricity generators for two hours.

These exploits earned KptLt Valentiner the Blue Max, only the sixth U-boat commander awarded the Pour le Mérite.

Kanguroo (foreground) sinking, 3 December 1916, via the Museu de Fotografia da Maderia

Meanwhile, Ferre and Palacios would be far from the last Peruvian submarines.

To replace the two cranky French boats, the country ordered a quartet of gently larger U.S.-made vessels, sparking a long run of close U.S-Peruvian submarine partnerships. Those four 187-foot R-class submarines— BAP Islay (R-1), BAP Casma (R-2), BAP Pacocha (R-3), and BAP Arica (R-4)— were ordered from the Electric Boat Company in Connecticut, and delivered in the mid-1920s.

The four Peruvian R-class subs. Built during Prohibition in Connecticut, they remained with the fleet until 1960

Carrying four torpedo tubes, these diesel-electric subs were involved in both the Colombian-Peruvian War and Peruvian-Ecuadorian War before being upgraded back at Groton to extend their life after WWII, at which point they were probably the last 1920s-era diesel boats still in front-line service. 

The crew of the Peruvian submarine R-2 in Newport, Rhode Island on October 26, 1926.

Peruvian submarine R-1 in Newport, RI, United States, in 1926.

Peru R class submarines BAP R-4, BAP R-3, BAP R-2, and BAP R-1. The photograph was taken before 1950 at the Callao Naval Base

Of note, the U.S. Navy used some 27 R-class boats of their own.

R-1 Class (Peruvian Submarine) Caption: Two of four ships, R-1 to R-4, were built in the U.S. in 1926-28 and scrapped in 1960. Probably photographed in the 1950s. Description: Courtesy Dr. R. L. Scheina. Catalog #: NH 87842

To replace these were four more Electric Boat-produced modified U.S. Mackerel-class submarines ordered in 1953. Termed the Abtao-class in service, the quartet– BAP Lobo/Dos de Mayo (SS-41, BAP Tiburon/Abato (SS-42), BAP Atun/Angamos (SS-43), and BAP Merlin/Iquique (SS-44)— remained operational in one form or another into 1998.

Peru then picked up a pair of aging U.S. Balao-class diesel boats in 1974–  BAP Pabellón de Pica/La Pedrera (SS-49), ex-USS Sea Poacher (SS/AGSS-406) and BAP Pacocha (SS-48), ex- USS Atule (SS-403)— which they kept in service as late as 1995.

BAP Dos de Mayo, Peruvian submarine

Peru has since acquired six German-built Type 209 (1100 and 1200 series) boats, commissioned starting in 1974:

BAP Angamos (SS-31)
BAP Antofagasta (SS-32)
BAP Arica (SS-36)
BAP Chipana (SS-34)
BAP Islay (SS-35)
BAP Pisagua (SS-33)

The evolution looks like this, including the domestic design, two French boats, 10 American boats, and six German boats, spanning from 1880:

And have effectively been the U.S. Navy’s designated West Coast SSK OPFOR team for the past twenty years. 

Peruvian Type 209s have deployed to Naval Base Point Loma as part of the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) program no less than 18 times since 2001, typically a 2-3 month deployment that sees the submarino both serve as a “target” for ASW forces and work alongside surface assets to better interoperate in multi-national task forces.

“Each year, Submarine Squadron 11 looks forward to DESI and we are thrilled this year to be working with our Peruvian counterpart,” said Capt. Patrick Friedman, CSS-11 in 2019. “By having an SSK operate and train with us, it allows us to practice on a platform that has a similar signature to our adversaries. Not to mention, there is a great deal of diplomatic goodwill that is fostered through these engagements.”

140923-N-ZF498-067 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sep. 23, 2014) Peruvian submarine BAP Islay (SS-35) pulls alongside the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Islay participated in a maneuvering exercise with Theodore Roosevelt, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston Churchill (DDG 81), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), and USS Farragut (DDG 99). Theodore Roosevelt is currently out to sea preparing for future deployments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Anthony N. Hilkowski/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 1, 2019) An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the Magicians of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 conducts a hoist exercise with the Peruvian navy submarine BAP Angamos (SS-31) off the coast of San Clemente Island. HSM-35 is conducting antisubmarine warfare training to maintain readiness by utilizing a live submarine. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick W. Menah Jr./Released)


Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a
soul.


If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

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Warship Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022: Spyron

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 time 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, Dec. 28, 2022: Spyron

Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum Photo.

Above we see the Tambor-class fleet submarine USS Gudgeon (SS-211), her glad rags flying, in the Mare Island Channel after her launching at Mare Island on 25 January 1941. Commissioned just three months later, her peacetime service would soon be over and she would be in the thick of the upcoming war with the Japanese, sinking the first of the Empire’s warships to be claimed by the U.S. Navy. However, the 307-foot boat would also kick off the American equivalent of the Tokyo Express, leaving Freemantle some 80 years ago this week, bound for the Japanese-occupied Philipines with a very important cargo.

As detailed in Edward Dissette’s Guerrilla Submarines:

Two days earlier the sub had taken aboard a ton of special gear for a landing party to be transported under secret orders to Mindanao and Panay, two major islands in the Philipines. All gear, except gasoline in 5-gallon cans, had been stowed under the floor plates in the forward torpedo room. The gasoline was stored in the escape trunk, where it was safely sealed off from the rest of the ship.

The cargo was pecuilar. Besides the obvious radio equipment, small arms, ammo, and medical equipment, there were also supplies of paper matchbooks and bags of wheat flour– the latter to be used to make communion wafers. To this was added three inflatable boats, stowed deflated below deck, and an 18-foot wooden dingy, strapped– to the skipper’s great frustration– to the top of the hull by her aft 3″/50 deck gun.

After an inspection by RADM Charles A. Lockwood (COMSUBSOWESPAC), a group of seven men arrived:

“Filipino mess boys, neatly attired in clean, faded dungarees, white mess jackets, and white hats, filed aboard and saluted smartly. Ashore a kookaburra bird brayed its raucous jackass laugh as if it found seven mess boys boarding a submarine a funny sight, which it would have been under normal circumstances.”

Rather than common Philipino stewards, a familiar sight on the old Asiatic Fleet’s destroyers and cruisers, the seven men were hastily trained commandos returning to their homeland under the command of Maj. Jesús Antonio Villamor, late of the Philippine Army Air Corps and, following his epic escape from the islands after the fall of Manila, now an intelligence officer tasked with contacting the scattered resistance groups in the Philippines and making them a cohesive force that could help retake the islands.

Villamor, 28, was already a bonafide hero, having flown his obsolete P-26 Peashooter against Japanese Zeroes in December 1941, reportedly downing two of the fighters, and making his way to Australia after the Allied collapse. He was decorated by Dugout Dug with the Distinguished Service Cross– right before he donned a mess boy’s uniform and set sail to return back home.

Using Spanish charts last updated in 1829, Gudgeon crept in close enough for Villamor and his commandos to make for shore at Catmon Point on the late night of 14 January 1943, ultimately just taking two rafts and electing to leave behind the dingy and the cranky third raft along with the gear they could not carry.

A second such mission was carried out by sistership USS Tambor (SS 198) on 5 March at Mindanao.

Gudgeon would return in April, landing 6,000 pounds of equipment and a four-man team commanded by 2LT Torribio Crespo, a U.S. Army officer of Philipino descent. The gear and commandos arrived in Panay to support Lt. Col. Peralta’s growing battalion-sized guerilla band.

And so began the long-running submarine resupply effort in the Philipines.

Instead of the airdrops frequently seen in Europe from SOE and OSS, the Navy organized an effort by Tagalog-speaking LCDR Charles “Chick” Parsons, an officer well aware of the PI coastal waters, to supply the insurgents with vital material. Parsons’s “Spy Squadron” of 19 submarines delivered 1,325 tons of supplies in at least 41 missions to the guerrillas between Gudgeon’s initial sortie in December 1942 and when USS Stingray (SS-186) landed 35 tons of supplies off Tongehatan Point on New Years Day 1945, with an emphasis on medicine, weapons, ammunition, and radio gear.

Salmon class subs USS Stingray (SS-186), foreground Operating in formation with other submarines, during Battle Force exercises, circa 1939. The other three submarines are (from left to right): Seal (SS-183); Salmon (SS-182) and Sturgeon (SS-187). Collection of Vice-Admiral George C. Dyer, USN (Retired). NH 77086

The cargo got weirder and weirder, including propaganda items such as cigarettes, chocolates, and gum whose packages were stamped with big “Made in USA” and “I Shall Return” logos, with the concept that they would unnerve the Japanese to find such trash blowing down the streets in front of their barracks.

5-gallon cans of MacArthur swag, ranging from hotel soaps to pencils, matchbooks, and playing cards, all with “I Shall Return” were landed along with the commando training teams

Added to this were clothing and shoes to outfit ragged guerillas. Flashlights, batteries, binoculars, magazines, books, playing cards, typewriter ribbon, sewing needles– just about everything you could think of to win hearts and minds in remote areas under occupations and cut off from consumer goods.

Guerilla Situation Southeast Luzon, as of March 15, 1945, as reported by U.S. Sixth Army. Notes include Philippine-led units and their U.S.-supplied weapons. They detail at least four battalion-sized elements and eight company-sized groups. (“Maj. Barros 400 rifles 30 MGS, Faustino 400 rifles, Sandico 10 rifles 2 mortars 2 bazookas, Monella 80 rifles, Gov Escudero 300 rifles 19 bazookas 10 pistols, et. al”). Note that these are just the ones the HQ was aware of and in contact with, as there were certainly dozens of smaller partisan groups floating around outside of the communication chain.

“Padre kits,” consisting of five-gallon kerosene tins filled with wheat flour and several small bottles of Mass wine with eyedroppers attached– to be delivered to parishes across the islands to help maintain morale– were also smuggled in.

Each bundle had to be sealed in waterproof boxes and cans, no larger than 23 inches at any point so they could fit through the sub’s hatches. Radio kits took up four boxes and included not only the transmitter/receiver but also a 40-foot antenna in sections, batteries, and enough spare parts to keep everything glowing for at least a year.

The Philippine General Radio Net was Developed during the Japanese Occupation, as of 9 October 1944. Most of these radio kits had been brought into the islands via submarines from Australia

They also delivered 331 agents and officers of all sorts– including Parsons who spend most of 1943 in and out of the islands, piecing together the resistance network.

The subs also exfiltrated 472 individuals, including downed aircrews, American civilians trapped in the islands during the 1942 withdrawal, and key personnel. This included at least one German and three Japanese POWs. USS Angler (SS-240), in March 1944, evacuated a record 58 U.S. citizens, including women and children from Panay back to Darwin– talk about cramped for a 311-foot submarine!

While the fleet boats could only carry a few tons of cargo and a 6-7 person team, the two huge V-class cruising subs, USS Nautilus (SS-168) and USS Narwhal (SS-167), stripped to the bone and only armed with the 10 torpedoes in their tubes for self-defense, could carry a whopping 92 tons of cargo and 25 or more men, earning them the nicknames of “Percherons of the deep.” 

To get a feel for how big these subs were, here we see the Nautilus (SS-168) photographed from her sister ship, the Narwhal (SS-167). Photo credit; Navsource.

In all, by the time MacArthur finally “returned” in October 1944, the Philippine insurgency had grown to an estimated 255,000 guerillas in the field, organized in 10 military districts, who controlled 800 of 1,000 municipalities in the country as well as the lion’s share of the countryside. It was an effort every bit as large and complex as that shown by the Partisans in Yugoslavia or the French Resistance.

Shortly after MacArthur started operations in Leyte, the Navy was able to land supplies directly via amphibious assault ships and flying boats while the Army was able to begin airdrops from cargo planes and bombers. 

Nonetheless, it was the submarine delivery service of Chick Parsons and company that got to that point. 

The breakdown of the 41 supply runs by boat:

USS Bowfin (SS-287) (Balao class): 9 runs
USS Narwhal: 9 runs
USS Nautilus: 6 runs
USS Stingray (SS-186) (Salmon class): 5 runs
*USS Trout (SS-202) (Tambor class): 2 runs
USS Redfin (SS-272) (Gato class): 2 runs
USS Gar (SS-206) (Tambor class): 2 runs
USS Gudgeon: 2 runs
*USS Seawolf (SS 197) (Sargo class): 2 runs
One each: USS Angler, USS Crevalle, USS Harder, USS Cero, USS Blackfin, USS Gunnell, USS Hake, USS Ray, USS Grayling, USS Tambor.

These *subs had seen the Philippines in a previous effort, the submerged blockade run into besieged Corregidor between January and May 1942. Carrying 144 tons of antimalarial drugs, small arms and anti-aircraft ammunition, and diesel for the island fortresses generators, they unloaded these under cover of night and then evacuated the Philippines national treasury, 185 key personnel, codes, and vital records that could not fall into Japanese hands– along with 58 torpedos and four tons of submarine spare parts to continue operations from Java and Australia. On both the entry and exit they had to evade destroyer and aerial patrols, weave through minefields and navigate using primitive tools and often inaccurate charts, typically just surfacing at night.

It was hazardous work.

Seawolf did not make her planned 6 October 1944 landing on her second trip under Spyron taskings and was listed overdue as of that date– the only submarine lost during the operations. Likewise, Gudgeon would be lost at sea on or around 18 April 1944 while Trout and Harder would also be lost that year while on patrol. Grayling (SS-209) was lost on patrol off Manila in 1943.

Their names here are inscribed on a memorial at the USS Albacore Museum in New Hampshire. (Photo: Chris Eger)

Epilogue

Today, Bowfin, which conducted no less than nine runs to support the partisan archipelago of the Pacific– tying for first place– is preserved as a museum in Hawaii, and recently just completed a dry dock period to keep her around for future generations.


Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a
soul.


If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022: Getting it Coming & Going

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, Dec. 14, 2022: Getting it Coming & Going

Imperial War Museum Photo A 13759

Above we see the Royal Navy’s Dido-class light cruiser HMS Argonaut (61), pictured 80 years ago this week at Algiers after losing both her bow and stern to two very well-placed Italian torpedoes with roughly a 400-foot spread between them. A new wartime-production ship only four months in the fleet, she would soon be patched up and back in the thick of it, lending her guns to fight the Axis on both sides of the globe.

The Didos

The Didos were very light cruisers indeed, designed in 1936 to weigh just 5,600 tons standard displacement, although this would later swell during wartime service to nearly 8,000. Some 512 feet long, they were smaller than a modern destroyer but, on a powerplant of four Admiralty 3-drum boilers and four Parsons steam turbines, each with their own dedicated shaft, they could break 32.5 knots on 62,000 shp.

They were intended to be armed with 10 5.25″/50 (13.4 cm) QF Mark II DP guns in five twin mounts, three forward and two over the stern, although most of the class failed to carry this layout due to a variety of reasons.

Gunnery booklet laying out the general plan of a Dido-class cruiser

The Dido class had provision for up to 360 rounds for “A”, “B” and “Q” turrets, 320 rounds for the “X” turret and 300 rounds for the “Y” turret and a properly trained crew could rattle them off at 7-8 shots per minute per gun out to a range of 23,400 yards or a ceiling of 46,500 feet when used in the AAA role.

Argonaut showing off her forward 5.25-inch mounts at maximum elevation

The fact that one of these cruisers could burp 70-80 shells within a 60-second mad minute gave them a lot of potential if used properly. However, this didn’t play out in reality, at least when it came to swatting incoming aircraft.

As noted by Richard Worth in his Fleets of World War II, “Often referred to as AA cruisers, the 16 Dido-type ships shot down a grand total of 15 enemy planes. The entirety of British cruiser-dom accounted for only 97 planes, while enemy planes accounted for 11 British cruisers.”

Meet Argonaut

While all the Didos followed the very British practice of using names borrowed from classical history and legend (Charybdis, Scylla, Naiad, et.al) our cruiser was the third HMS Argonaut, following in the footsteps of a Napoleonic War-era 64-gun third-rate and an Edwardian-era Diadem-class armored cruiser.

Diadem-class armored cruiser HMS Argonaut. Obsolete by the time of the Great War, she spent most of it in auxiliary roles

One of three Didos constructed at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead, the new Argonaut was ordered under the 1939 War Emergency Program for £1,480,000 and laid down on 21 November 1939, during the “Phony War” in which Britain and France stood on a cautious Western front against Germany. Launched in September 1941– by which time Italy had joined the war, the Lowlands, Balkans, and most of Scandinavia had fallen to the Axis, and the Soviets were hanging by a thread– Argonaut commissioned 8 August 1942, by which time the Americans and Japan had joined a greatly expanded global conflict.

Argonaut was later “paid for” via a subscription drive from the City of Coventry to replace the old C-class light cruiser HMS Coventry (D43) which had been so heavily damaged in the Med by German Junkers Ju 88s during Operation Agreement that she was scuttled.

“HMS Argonaut Fights Back for the City of Coventry. To Replace HMS Coventry, sunk in 1942, the City of Coventry Has Paid for the Dido Class 5450 Ton Cruiser HMS Argonaut, She Has a Speed of 33 Knots, Carries Ten 5.25 Inch Guns and Six Torpedo Tubes.” IWM A 14299.

Her first skipper, who arrived aboard on 21 April 1942, was Capt. Eric Longley-Cook, 41, who saw action in the Great War on the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, was a gunnery officer on HMS Hood in the 1930s and began the war as commanding officer of the cruiser HMS Caradoc.

The brand new HMS Argonaut, steaming at high speed during her shakedowns, 1 Aug 1942, her guns at or near maximum elevation

The brand new HMS Argonaut, steaming at high speed during her shakedowns, 1 Aug 1942, her guns at or near maximum elevation

Off to war with you, lad

Just off her shakedown, Argonaut sailed with the destroyers HMS Intrepid and Obdurate for points north on 13 October, dropping off Free Norwegian troops and several 3.7-inch in the frozen wastes of Spitzbergen then delivering an RAF medical unit in Murmansk.

On her return trip, she carried the men from the Operation Orator force of Hampden TB.1 torpedo bombers from No. 144 Squadron RAF and No. 455 Squadron RAAF back to the UK following the end of their mission to Russia.

Argonaut then joined Force H for Operation Torch, the Allied landings in Vichy French-controlled North Africa.

Operation Torch: British light cruiser HMS Argonaut approaching Gibraltar; “The Rock”, during the transport of men to the North African coast, November 1942. IWM A 12795.

Battleships HMS Duke of York, HMS Nelson, HMS Renown, aircraft carrier HMS Formidable, and cruiser HMS Argonaut in line ahead, ships of Force H during the occupation of French North Africa. Priest, L C (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer. IWM A 12958

Following the Torch landings, Argonaut was carved off to join four of her sisters at Bone– HMS Aurora, Charybdis, Scylla, and Sirius— and several destroyers as Force Q, which was tasked with ambushing Axis convoys in the Gulf of Tunis.

Argonaut at Bone, late November-early December 1942. Now Annaba Algeria

The first of Force Q’s efforts led to what is known in the West as the Battle of Skerki Bank when, during the pre-dawn hours of 2 December, the much stronger British cruiser-destroyer force duked it out with an Italian convoy of four troopships screened by three destroyers and two torpedo boats.

When the smoke cleared, all four of the troopships (totaling 7,800 tons and loaded with vital supplies and 1,700 troops for Rommel) were on the bottom of the Med. Also deep-sixed was the Italian destroyer Folgore, holed by nine shells from Argonaut.

The Italian cacciatorpediniere RCT Folgore (Eng= Thunderbolt). She was lost in a lop-sided battle off Skerki Bank, with 126 casualties.

The next time Force Q ventured out would end much differently.

Make up your mind

On 14 December 1942, the Italian Marcello-class ocean-going submarine Mocenigo (T.V. Alberto Longhi) encountered one of Force Q’s sweeps and got in a very successful attack.

As detailed by Uboat.net:

At 0556 hours, Mocenigo was on the surface when she sighted four enemy warships in two columns, proceeding on an SSW course at 18 knots at a distance of 2,000 meters. At 0558 hours, four torpedoes (G7e) were fired from the bow tubes at 2-second intervals from a distance of 800 meters, at what appeared to be a TRIBAL class destroyer. The submarine dived upon firing and heard two hits after 59 and 62 seconds. 

According to Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Francis Henely, the following exchange took place.

The forward lookout reported: “Ship torpedoed forward. Sir.”

At the same time, the aft lookout reported: “Ship torpedoed aft. Sir.”

To these reports Capt. Longley-Cook replied: “When you two chaps have made up your minds which end has been torpedoed, let me know.”

The torpedoes hit the cruiser’s bow and stern sections nearly simultaneously, killing an officer and two ratings, leaving the ship dead in the water and her after two turrets unusable. HMS Quality remained beside her throughout and HMS Eskimo— who had chased away Mocenigo— rejoined them just before daylight.

After shoring up the open compartments, Argonaut was amazingly able to get underway at 8 knots, heading slowly for Algiers which the force reached at 1700 hours on the 15th.

IWM captions for the below series: “British cruiser which lived to fight again. 14 to 19 December 1942, at sea and at Algiers, the British cruiser HMS Argonaut after she had been torpedoed in the Mediterranean. Despite heavy damage, she got home.”

IWM A 13756

A 13758

IWM A 13754

As for Mocenigo, seen here in the Azores in June 1941, she was lost to a USAAF air raid while tied up at Cagliari, Sardinia, on 13 May 1943.

Patch it up, and go again

After two weeks at Algiers conducting emergency repairs, Argonaut shipped out for HM Dockyard at Gibraltar for more extensive work than what could be offered by the French.

Ultimately, with nearly one-third of the ship needing replacement, it was decided to have the work done in the U.S. where more capacity existed and on 5 April 1943, the cruiser left for Philadelphia by way of Bermuda, escorted by the destroyer HMS Hero— which had to halt at the Azores with engine problems, leaving the shattered Argonaut to limp across the Atlantic for four days unescorted during the height of the U-boat offensive. Met off Bermuda by the destroyer USS Butler and the minesweepers USS Tumult and USS Pioneer, she ultimately reached the City of Brotherly Love on 27 April.

There, she would spend five months in the Naval Yard– the Australian War Memorial has several additional images of this-– and a further two months in post-refit trials.

HMS Argonaut, Philadelphia Navy Yard

HMS Argonaut, Philadelphia Navy Yard

One of the turrets with 5.25-inch guns of Dido-class light cruiser HMS ARGONAUT damaged by an Italian submarine 1942 Philadelphia Navy Yard – USA

Post rebuild HMS Argonaut, 5.25-inch guns pointing towards the camera, 11 February 1943

HMS Argonaut in her War Colors, circa 1943 just after repairs at Philadelphia.

HMS Argonaut at Philadelphia, 4 November 1943 BuShips photo 195343

Arriving back in the Tyne in December 1942, she would undergo a further three-month conversion and modification to fulfill an Escort Flagship role. This refit eliminated her “Q” 5.25-inch mount (her tallest) to cut down topside weight, added aircraft control equipment/IFF, and Types 293 (surface warning) and 277 (height finding) radar sets in addition to fire control radars for her increased AAA suite.

Fresh from her post-refit trails and essentially a new cruiser (again), Argonaut joined the 10th Cruiser Squadron of the Home Fleet in preparation for “the big show.”

Back in the Fight

Part of RADM Frederick Dalrymple-Hamilton’s Bombarding Force K for Operation Neptune, Argonaut would fall in with the fellow British cruisers HMS Orion, Ajax, and Emerald, who, along with the eight Allied destroyers and gunboats (to include the Dutch Hr.Ms. Flores and Polish ORP Krakowiak), was tasked with opening the beaches for the Normandy Assault Force “G” (Gold Beach) on D-Day, the latter consisting of three dozen assorted landing craft of all sorts carrying troops of the British XXX Corps.

Capt. Longley-Cook, rejoining his command after a stint as Captain of the Fleet for the Mediterranean Fleet, instructed his crew that he fully intended to drive Argonaut ashore if she was seriously hit, beach the then nearly 7,000-ton cruiser, and keep fighting her until she ran out of shells.

Light cruiser HMS Argonaut in late 1944. Note her “Q” turret is gone and she is sporting multiple new radars

In all, Argonaut fired 394 5.25-inch shells on D-Day itself, tasked with reducing the German gun batteries at Vaux-sur-Aure, and by the end of July, would run through 4,395 shells in total, earning praise from Gen. Miles Dempsey for her accurate naval gunfire in support of operations around Caen.

It was during this period that she received a hit from a German 150mm battery, which landed on her quarterdeck off Caen on 26 June but failed to explode.

She fired so many shells in June and July that she had to pause midway through and run to Devonport to get her gun barrels– which had just been refurbed in Philadelphia– relined again.

Then came the Dragoon Landings in the South of France, sending Argonaut back to the Med, this time to the French Rivera.

Dido class cruiser HMS Argonaut in Malta, 1944. She has had her ‘Q’ turret removed to reduce top weight

Across 22 fire missions conducted in the three days (8/15-17/44) Argonaut was under U.S. Navy control for Dragoon, she let fly 831 rounds of 80-pound HE and SAP shells at ranges between 3,200 and 21,500 yards. Targets included three emplaced German 155s, armored casemates on the Île Saint-Honorat off Canne, along with infantry and vehicles in the field, with spotting done by aircraft.

She also scattered a flotilla of enemy motor torpedo boats hiding near the coast. All this while dodging repeated potshots from German coastal batteries, which, Longley-Cook dryly noted, “At 1100 I proceeded to the entrance of the Golfe de la Napoule to discover if the enemy guns were still active. They were.”

Argonaut’s skipper, Longley-Cook, observed in his 15-page report to the U.S. Navy, signed off by noting, “The operation was brilliantly successful, but it was a great disappointment that HMS Argonaut was released so soon. My short period of service with the United States Navy was a pleasant, satisfactory, and inspiring experience.”

CruDiv7 commander, RADM Morton Lyndholm Deyo, USN, stated in an addendum to the report that “HMS Argonaut was smartly handled and her fire was effective. She is an excellent ship.”

September saw Argonaut transferred to the British Aegean Force to support Allied forces liberating Greece. There, on 16 October, she caught, engaged, and sank two German-manned caiques who were trying to evacuate Axis troops.

HMS Argonaut leaving Poros in October 1944, participating in the landing of British troops for the liberation of Greece.

Headed to the East

Swapping out the unsinkable Longley-Cook for Capt. William Patrick McCarthy, RN, Argonaut sailed from Alexandria for Trincomalee in late November 1944 to join the massive new British Pacific Fleet.

Assigned to Force 67, a fast-moving carrier strike group built around HMS Indomitable and HMS Illustrious, by mid-December she was providing screening and cover for air attacks against Sumatra in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies (Operation Roberson) followed by a sequel attack on oil refineries at Pangkalan after the New Year (Operation Lentil) and, with TF 63, hitting other oil facilities in the Palembang area of Southeast Sumatra at the end of January 1945 in Operation Meridian.

Argonaut in Sydney, 1945

Making way to Ulithi in March, Argonaut was part of the top-notch British Task Force 57, likely the strongest Royal Navy assemblage of the war, and, integrated with the U.S. 5th Fleet, would take part in the invasion of Okinawa (Operation Iceberg). There, she would serve as a picket ship and screen, enduring the Divine Wind of the kamikaze.

When news of the emperor’s capitulation came in August, Argonaut was in Japanese home waters, still covering her carriers. She then transitioned to British Task Unit 111.3, a force designated to collect Allied POWs from camps on Formosa and the Chinese mainland.

HMS Argonaut in Kiirun (now Keelung) harbor in northern Taiwan, preparing to take on former American prisoners of war, 6 Sep 1945

War artist James Morris— who began the conflict as a Royal Navy signaler and then by 1945 was a full-time member of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee attached to the British Pacific Fleet– sailed aboard Argonaut during this end-of-war mop-up period, entering Formosa and Shanghai on the vessel, the latter on the occasion of the first British warship to sail into the Chinese harbor since 1941.

“HMS Argonaut: Ratings cleaning torpedo tubes.” Ink and paper drawing by James Morris. IWM Art collection LD 5533 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/19678

“Formosa, 6th September 1945, HMS Argonaut preceded by HMS Belfast entering the mined approach to Kiirung.” A view from the bridge of HMS Argonaut showing sailors on the deck below and HMS Belfast sailing up ahead near the coastline. A Japanese pilot launch is rocking in the swell at the side of the ship. In the distance, there are several American aircraft carriers at anchor. Watercolor by James Morris. IWM Art collection LD 5535 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/19680

“HMS Argonaut, the first British ship to enter Shanghai after the Japanese surrender, September 1945.” A scene from the deck of HMS Argonaut as she sails into Shanghai harbor. A ship’s company stands to attention along the rail and behind them, the ship’s band plays. The towering buildings along the dockside of Shanghai stand to the right of the composition. Below the ship, Chinese civilians wave flags from a convoy of sampans. Ink and paper drawing by James Morris. IWM Art collection LD 5531 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/19676

Based in Hong Kong for the rest of 1945, Argonaut returned to Portsmouth in 1946 and was promptly reduced to Reserve status.

HMS Argonaut homeward bound with her paying off pennant in 1946

She was laid up in reserve for nearly ten years, before being sent to the breakers in 1955.

She earned six battle honors: Arctic 1942, North Africa 1942, Mediterranean 1942, Normandy 1944, Aegean 1944, and Okinawa 1945.

Jane’s 1946 entry for the Dido class. Note, the publication separated the ships of the Bellona sub-class into a separate listing as they carried eight 4.5-inch guns rather than the 8-to-10 5.5s of the class standard.

Epilogue

Few relics of Argonaut remain, most notable of which is her 1943-44 builder’s model, preserved at Greenwich. 

As for Argonaut’s inaugural skipper and the man who brought her through sinking the Folgore, almost being sunk by an Italian submarine in return, D-Day, Dragoon, and the Aegean, VADM Eric William Longley-Cook, CB, CBE, DSO, would retire as Director of Naval Intelligence in 1951, capping a 37-year career.

Longley-Cook passed in 1983, just short of his 84th birthday.

Of note, Tenente di Vascello Alberto Longhi, skipper of the Italian boat that torpedoed Argonaut, survived the war– spending the last two years of it in a German stalag after refusing to join the Navy of the RSI, the fascist Italian puppet state set up after Italy dropped out of the Axis. He would outlive Longley-Cook and pass in 1988, aged 74.

Of Argonaut’s sisters, six of the 16 Didos never made it to see peacetime service: HMS Bonaventure (31) was sunk by the Italian submarine Ambra off Crete in 1941. HMS Naiad (93) was likewise sent to the bottom by the German submarine U-565 off the Egyptian coast while another U-boat, U-205, sank HMS Hermione (74) in the summer of 1942. HMS Charybdis (88), meanwhile, was sunk by German torpedo boats Т23 and Т27 during a confused night action in the English Channel in October 1943. HMS Spartan (95) was sunk by a German Hs 293 gliding bomb launched from a Do 217 bomber off Anzio in January 1944. HMS Scylla (98) was badly damaged by a mine in June 1944 and was never repaired.

Others, like Argonaut, were laid up almost immediately after VJ-Day and never sailed again. Just four Didos continued with the Royal Navy past 1948, going on to pick up “C” pennant numbers: HMS Phoebe (C43)HMS Cleopatra (C33), HMS Sirius (C82), and Euryalus (C42). By 1954, all had been stricken from the Admiralty’s list. 

Many went overseas. Smallish cruisers that could still give a lot of prestige to growing Commonwealth navies, several saw a second career well into the Cold War. Improved-Didos HMS Bellona (63) and HMS Black Prince (81) were put at the disposal of the Royal New Zealand Navy for a decade with simplified armament until they were returned and scrapped. HMS Royalist (89) likewise served with the Kiwis until 1966 then promptly sank on her way to the scrappers. HMS Diadem (84) went to Pakistan in 1956 as PNS Babur, after an extensive modernization, and remained in service there into the 1980s, somehow dodging Soviet Styx missiles from Indian Osa-class attack boats in the 1971 war between those two countries.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, to perpetuate her name, the fourth Argonaut was a hard-serving Leander-class ASW frigate, commissioned in 1967.

Frigate HMS Argonaut, of the Leander class, and her Lynx helicopter, in 1979.

That ship, almost 40 years after her WWII namesake was crippled, had her own brush with naval combat that left scars.

THE FALKLANDS CONFLICT, APRIL – JUNE 1982 (FKD 193) The Leander class frigate HMS ARGONAUT on fire in San Carlos Water after being attacked and badly damaged in Argentine air attacks on 21 May 1982. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205189253

The H.M.S. Argonaut Association keeps the memory of all the past vessels with that name alive.

Speaking of which, in Feb. 2019, four surviving Royal Navy veterans of the Normandy landings– all in the 90s– assembled aboard HMS Belfast in the Thames to receive the Legion d’Honneur from French Ambassador Jean-Pierre Jouyet in recognition of their efforts in liberating the country 75 years prior.

One saw the beaches from Argonaut.

Mr. John Nicholls (right), who received the Légion d’honneur medal

93-year-old John Nicholls from Greenwich served aboard HMS Argonaut which bombarded German positions; he also drove landing craft.

The tumult of battle severely damaged his hearing – he’s been 65 percent deaf ever since, but he remains haunted by the sight of men who lost so much more.

“I looked at some of those troops as they were going in and thought: I wonder how many of them are going to come back,’” he recalled. “I came out of it with just half of my hearing gone, but those poor devils – they lost their lives. I think of them all the time. Not just on Remembrance Day. They’re going through my mind all times of the year.”


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Lost flags

Flags captured from the Japanese Type A kō-hyōteki midget submarine HA-19 at Pearl Harbor in the days immediately after the attack on 7 December 1941, one of five luckless vessels whose part in the attack (likely) yielded nothing.

Note what seems to be a signed personal yosegaki hinomaru “good luck flag” at the top that likely belonged to one of the crew, probably Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki (IJNA 1940), a Japanese rising sun (Kyokujitsu-ki), and a same-sized U.S. ensign, which is curious. National Archives Photo 80-G-13033

The third Japanese Type A boat spotted by American forces in and around Pearl Harbor– after one famously sunk by the old four-piper destroyer USS Ward (DD-139) and another less known sub dispatched by the newer USS Monaghan (DD-354) on the morning of that infamous day– the abandoned HA-19 was dubbed “Midget C” when Army Air Corps pilots spotted her grounded on an offshore reef near Waimanalo on 8 December after the craft’s scuttling charge failed to go off.

Washed ashore near where Sakamaki, the only survivor of the hapless vessel, swam ashore, HA-19 was captured in remarkable condition and towed from the surf zone by an Army tractor.

HA-19. (Japanese “Type A” midget submarine). Beached in eastern Oahu, after it unsuccessfully attempted to enter Pearl Harbor during the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack. The photograph was taken on or shortly after 8 December 1941. 80-G-32683

Same, 80-G-32682

Other items besides the flags were recovered, including a map of the harbor with HA-19‘s planned route.

Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941. Chart of Pearl Harbor recovered from a Japanese midget submarine captured after the attack. The chart shows various courses around Ford Island and gives ship locations that do not necessarily correspond to actual 7 December ship positions. Since it presumably came from the midget submarine HA-19, which was unsuccessful in its attempts to enter the harbor, these details probably represent expected ship locations and intended maneuvers by the submarine. 80-G-413507

Disassembled in three large pieces and inspected, HA-19 served as a traveling war bonds trophy before being put on outdoor display for 40 years before the boat was semi-restored and moved inside the Nimitz Museum (National Museum of the Pacific War) in Texas a while back, and it is still there.

In the George Bush Gallery at the National Museum of the Pacific War, HA-19 endures 

As for Sakamaki, he was not only the sole survivor of his boat but was also the lone survivor of the crews of the five Japanese midgets that participated in the attack.

Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941. Wartime painting in oils on silk, by an unidentified Japanese artist, depicting the four officers and five crewmen who were lost with the five Japanese midget submarines that participated in the attack. The single survivor of that effort is omitted from the painting, which features a view of the attack on Ford Island in its center. NH 86388-KN (Color)

Sakamaki, the first Japanese prisoner of war in U.S. captivity during World War II, had his file and name stricken from the Japanese records once his story was flashed around the world. Repatriated after VJ Day, he ultimately retired from Toyota, visited HA-19 on at least two occasions, and passed in 1999, one of the last Japanese Pearl Harbor vets.

Four of the five Pearl Harbor midget submarines have been found– all lost before they could penetrate the harbor– and, as noted by NHHC, could be the most controversial and a missing piece of naval history: 

One of the five Pearl Harbor midgets is still unaccounted for. Recent studies of Pearl Harbor attack photograpy have led some observers to argue that one of the midgets was in place off “Battleship Row” as the Japanese torpedo planes came in, and may have fired its torpedoes at USS Oklahoma (BB-37) or USS West Virginia (BB-48). This contention is still controversial, but, if it is true, the “missing” Type A midget submarine may lie undiscovered inside Pearl Harbor.

The Princess & the Onderzeedienst

Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange, the heir apparent to the Dutch throne, is 18 years old and in a tradition upheld by most modern monarchies, has been making her rounds in her introduction to military service. This has included going on a training flight from an RNAF F-16NB from Volkel Air Base, taking the controls of one of Holland’s last Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks, and, most important to us, visiting Den Helder to tour the Onderzeedienst— the Dutch submarine service– in action.

This included getting underway on the Zr.Ms. Zeeleeuw (S803), one of the country’s four aging but still very capable Walrus-class diesel attack boats.

The Dutch have long treasured their submarine arm, and with good reason as the OZD was the Navy’s most effective branch during WWII and proved to come in handy throughout NATO ops in the Cold War and after.

Of note, the Dutch plan to replace their 30-year-old Walruses with a class of new submarines in the very near future, with the Germans (TKMS Type 212CD), French (conventional Barracuda), and Swedes (Saab A26) all looking to get the nod.

Regent found (again)

HM Submarine Regent (N 41) was an R (Rainbow)-class boat ordered on 28th February 1929 from Vickers-Armstrong along with her sisters Regulus and Rover. The third such RN warship to carry the name, she completed in 1930.

Assigned to the Far East, her initial three WWII war patrols in 1939 were in the Sunda and Lombok Straits. Dispatched to join the Mediterranean Fleet via Colombo and Aden in July 1940 after a refit in Hong Kong, she was soon firing torpedoes at Italian battleships.

Following her 14th war patrol (11th in the Mediterranean) in late 1941, she sailed for refit at Philadelphia Naval Yard in the States and workups out of New London before heading back to the Med and her 15th war patrol out of Gibraltar in February 1943. In all, she accounted for three Italian merchantmen destroyed.

It was on her 16th war patrol in April 1943 that she went missing under the command of LT Walter Neville Ronald Knox, DSC, RN, commanding a crew of 61.

Throughout the first two weeks of May, at least four members of her crew washed up in three different areas near Brindisi, some wearing Davis escape apparatus. She is one of more than 70 British submarines lost in the conflict. 

As a statement of how hazardous it was to be one of HM Submariners, three of the four Rainbow-class boats were lost in WWII. 

Believed found by Italian divers in 1999, it was later determined in 2020 that the wreck thought to be Regent’s was in fact the hulked Italian submarine Giovanni Bausan which had been sent to the bottom by the RAF in 1944.

Now, it seems another dive team has had better luck in identifying Regent. She rests off the coast near Villanova di Ostuni, some 19 miles from Monopoli, upside down in 70m of water. The apparent victim of a mine.

Eternal Father strong to save
Whose arm has bound the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep,
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in Peril on the sea.

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022: Of Baklava & Inflatable Intruders

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, Nov. 16, 2022: Of Baklava & Inflatable Intruders

Archive of the Naval Museum of Greece

Above we see the French-built Protefs-class submarine Υ/Β Τρίτων (Triton) (Υ5) of the Royal Hellenic Navy, part of the “Free Greek” forces in exile in the Second World War, while docked in Port Said in August 1941 following the German occupation of her homeland. Both the Greek Navy and merchant fleet would provide solid service fighting with the Allies during the war and, in this effort, many to the bitter end including the subject of our tale, lost 80 years ago today.

Greek subs, 1886-1940

The Greek Navy began its long love affair with submarines when it bought the Swedish-built Nordenfelt steam-powered submersible in 1886 for £9,000.

Swedish Nordenfelt I normal buoyancy at the Ekenberg shipyard. Tekniska museet submarine

The small 64-foot boat was less than ideal, requiring 12 hours to build up enough steam to sail and without the ability to fully submerge but it was nonetheless equipped with a single 14-inch tube for a Whitehead automobile torpedo (which could only make 10 knots and carried a 40-pound guncotton warhead), sparking the nearby Ottoman Turks to buy their own, larger, 100-foot Nordenfelt. Remaining in service until the 1900s, the Greeks later ordered a pair of more modern subs from France.

In 1910, with their Nordenfelt experiment in the rearview, the Greeks ordered two new subs from the Schneider Shipyards in Toulon– Delfin and Xifias. Some 162 feet overall and 450 tons displacement, they could make 12 knots on the surface and carried five 17.7-inch torpedo tubes.

Loading of torpedo on Greek submarine Xiphias 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Greek submarine Xiphias at Toulon 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Greek submarine Xiphias in diving tests at Toulon 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France 

Greek submarine Xiphias in diving tests at Toulon 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France 

Greek submarine Xiphias in diving tests at Toulon 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France 

Greek submarine Xiphias in diving tests at Toulon 26 June 1913 Bibliothèque Nationale de France 

Ordered just before the Balkan Wars, Delfin was rushed into action with a green crew and in December 1912 made an unsuccessful torpedo attack on the Cramp-built Ottoman light cruiser Mecidiye, an incident commonly regarded as the first recorded launch of a self-propelled torpedo by a submarine in battle. The torpedo reportedly broached and sailed past the cruiser without doing any damage.

Fast forward to the Great War and both Delfin and Xifias were seized by the French in 1916. Returned after the war, they were in such poor shape that the Greeks simply scrapped them in 1919.

They would soon be replaced one-for-one with a new class, also ordered in France in 1925. Built to a Schneider-Laubeuf design based on the French Circé 600t class, they were named Y/B Katsonis (Y1) and Papanikolis (Y2). Some 204 feet overall– which is about perfect for a Mediterranean-sized boat (for reference, modern German Type 209s run 211 feet while Type 214s are 213 footers) — they used Schneider-Carels diesels to make 14 knots on the surface and 9.5 submerged (which proved less in practice). Mounting a 4″/40 Schneider deck gun protected in a shielded barbette built into the leading edge of the conning tower, their torpedo armament consisted of four 21-inch bow tubes (2 internal, 2 externals) and two bow tubes (both external) with stowage for 7 torpedoes and 100 shells for their 4-inch gun. They had a dive depth of 240 feet and were capable of two-week patrols.

Via Jane’s, 1931 ed

The Greeks then doubled down with the more advanced four-boat Protefs class, ordered from Ateliers & Chantiers de la Loire and CNF in 1927 (wait for it) France for £119,000 per hull. Built to a Loire-Simonot design, they were rough copies of the French Sirene-class 600 Series boats with minor changes. They would all carry nautical-tied names drawn from Greek mythology: Y/B Protefs (Y3), Nirefs (Y4), Triton (Y5), and Glafkos (Y6). Just shy of 1,000 tons, they were slightly larger than the Katsonis class and ran 225 feet long overall.

Powered by twin Sulzer diesels and electric motors, they could make a stately 14 knots on the surface and 9.5 submerged. With a dive depth of 275 feet, they were armed with eight 21-inch tubes (6 bows, 2 sterns, with space for 8-10 torpedoes) all inside the pressure hull, along with a topside 4″/40 Schneider shielded tower gun and a 40/39 2-pounder mount oriented over the stern.

Via Jane’s, 1931 ed

Triton and Glafkos were delivered and commissioned in France in 1930, the last two Greek submarines that would be completed as new construction until 1972– something we will get to in a minute.

War!

The Greek Navy entered the war with two old (circa 1908) Mississippi-class pre-dreadnought battleships (14,000t, 4×12″ guns, 17 knots), Kilkis (ex-Mississippi) and Lemnos (ex-Idaho) that had been largely disarmed and turned to training/barracks hulks, four minelayers, two old cruisers, 10 assorted destroyers, a few torpedo boats, and 6 submarines.

In a precursor to the Italian invasion, the elderly protected cruiser Helli/Elli was sunk at anchor off the island of Tinos by the Italian submarine Delfino in August 1940. The hulked Kilkis and Lemnos were sunk at their moorings in Salamis by German Stukas in April 1941, sitting ducks in a shooting gallery. Other ships were crippled in Greek waters by Luftwaffe aircraft.

Photo #: NH 77440 Greek battleships Kilkis and Lemnos Sunk in the basin of the Greek naval base at Salamis after they were hit by German air attacks on 23 April 1941. Seen from the harbor pier following the arrival of the German army. Kilkis, the former USS Mississippi (Battleship # 23), is in the foreground. Lemnos, ex-USS Idaho (Battleship # 24), is in the distance, with her guns removed. Franz Selinger, via the U.S. Naval Institute, provided photograph and some caption information. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

One bright spot was the Greek submarine forces’ efforts to attack Axis merchant shipping, especially Italian during the six-month Greco-Italian War before the Germans got involved.

Protefs bagged the Italian troop transport Sardegna (11,452t) in December 1940 off Brindisi, which was carrying part of the 7th “Lupi di Toscana” (“Wolves of Tuscany”) Infantry division to Albania. Sadly, Proteus was sunk immediately after this attack, rammed, and sunk by the Italian torpedo boat Antares. All 48 crew members were lost.

This did not deter Greek dolphins and Papanikolis deep-sixed the freighter Firenze (3945t) and Italian sailing vessel Antonietta before the month was out while Katsonis sank the coaster Quinto (531t) in the Adriatic on New Year’s Eve.

Triton hit the seas hard on six Adriatic/Ionian war patrols from Greek ports, credited by Greek sources as sinking the Italian Adua-class submarine Neghelli on 19 January 1941 (post-war Allied panels credit the British destroyer HMS Greyhound with her fate, however, as noted by Uboat.net, “the results of the attack were inconclusive and there is no absolute certainty of her fate.”)

Triton underway

Triton would also log two unsuccessful torpedo attacks on Italian freighters off the Albanian coast on 20 March 1941 before sinking the transports Carnia (51541t) and Anna Capano (1216t) on 23 March in the Adriatic Sea about 30 nautical miles east of Cape Galo.

The photo shows the commander of the submarine “Triton” LCDR D. Zepos, HN, together with the Commander of Submarines Captain Ath. Xiros at the Salamina Naval Station. Submarine NCOs stand behind. Naval History Service. Zepos would command the boat through March 1941, a period in which she is sometimes credited with sinking an Italian submarine and two tankers.

Nonetheless, Mussolini’s legions were successfully able to send 400,000 men, another 50,000 beasts, and 500,000 tons of supplies to the Greek front– a full 22 divisions– by April 1941, primarily by sea. They only lost 23,000 tons of shipping to the Greek navy’s submarines, amounting to seven merchant vessels and a submarine. It was a losing game that was finished once the Germans entered the contest.

As the country was being overrun, the Greeks under ADM Epaminondas Kavadias were able to sortie their surviving cruiser and default flagship Georgios Averof, six destroyers, and the five remaining submarines to Alexandria and Malta from where they would continue the struggle.

The fight goes on

While the obsolete Averof spent most of the rest of the war safely in harbor, the Greek subs and tin cans were assigned RN pennant numbers by the British and went on to operate in the Mediterranean under Admiralty control. Triton’s first mission was to carry urgently needed medical supplies to trapped British, Australian, and Greek troops on Crete, then, after a refit in Alexandria, Triton went out again in September 1941. The refit was key as the Greek submarines had reportedly all missed their 10-year mid-life overhauls due to peacetime budgetary constraints in the late 1930s and were mechanically suspect because of this.

September 1941. Triton Submarine in Alexandria

In her first six war patrols from Greece (Oct 1940-April 1941) Triton racked up 1,147 hours underway with about half that submerged, and (by Greek sources) had sunk an Italian submarine (Neghelli) and two merchies (Carnia and Capano). In her 7th-15th war patrols, all under British orders between June 1941 and November 1942, she logged another 2,626 hours (with about two-thirds of that submerged) and was credited with just four small coastal vessels off Thera and failed attacks on two large Italian merchies. This was largely because she was tasked with landing agents and commandos behind Axis lines on most of those patrols or running supplies through the German gauntlet around Malta with offensive anti-shipping activities secondary to those missions.

Heraklion

Triton carried a multinational early SAS raiding party as part of Operation Albumen to German-occupied Crete in June 1941, with the goal of the commandos hitting the Luftwaffe field at Heraklion.

The six-man group was led by French-speaking British Army reserve Major George Jellicoe (yes, ADM Jellicoe’s son), a parliamentarian on loan from the Coldstream Guards to L Detachment, Special Air Service at the invitation of David Stirling himself; four Free French commandos –Maj. Georges Bergé, Jacques Mouhot, Pierre Léostic, and CPL Jack Sibard— and Free Greek Army 2LT Kostis Petrakis, the latter a Cretan officer who would serve as a guide.

The Heraklion attack was timed to coincide with similar efforts at three other Crete airfields at Kasteli, Tympaki, and Maleme, to reduce German bombers available on the eve of an important convoy operation through that part of the Med. Of note, the Maleme team was delivered to Crete by the Greek sub, Papanikolis.

They were heavily loaded with satchels of dozens of Lewes bombs, a specialty incendiary device named for British SAS legend Jock Lewes, but lightly armed with just a Colt .45 each and a single sub gun for the whole patrol. The plan was that they would evade capture for a week or more among the locals and then be recovered by small boat.

Jellicoe, who in 1990 recorded an oral history of his WWII service for the Imperial War Museum described the Triton part of the operation as follows:

We sailed on a Greek submarine– the Triton— bought from the French in the ’20s. She was then getting a bit long in the tooth and was quite small. She was about 15 years old. I don’t think I’d recommend anybody wanting comfortable Aegean travel taking passage in a small Greek French-built submarine…Any case, we took passage in the Triton, which was very well commanded by an absolutely first-rate Greek naval officer [LT Epameinóndas Kontogiánnis], to Crete.

I remember my first sight of Greece was through the periscope of the Greek submarine on the northeast coast of Crete. We came in a bit closer to Heraklion– there was a westerly wind blowing…The submarine surfaced, we had our two or three rubber boats which we paddle in in. We thought we were going to be about a mile offshore, but it was actually about two miles, so we had a very long paddle in, indeed. We then landed– there was nobody on the beach, the beach was clear. Mouhot and I, we undressed and swam out with the rubber boats, loaded with shingle and rock, then we sank them.

After rough going inland and the “dis-imbalance” of an overload of equipment, they evaded a German patrol but nonetheless were able to reach the airfield and, in penetrating the wire outside of the field, were busted by another German patrol. Mouhot hit on the idea of rolling over and loudly snoring to give the impression they were drunken Cretan peasants, which the Jerries bought and moved on, allowing them to proceed with their havoc. Using an RAF air raid by a brace of Blenheim bombers as cover, Jellicoe and company placed their charges on a motor pool filled with 20 trucks as well as a staging area with 23 German Ju-88 bombers and then, as he says, “had the pleasure of marching out in what we thought was good German formation out of the main gate” back to their lay-up hide to wait for the devices to explode.

While not of the Crete operation, this artwork gives a good flavor of a similar operation in Egypt, depicting Robert Blair “Colonel Paddy” Mayne, SAS, shown placing a Lewes bomb on an aircraft in one of the desert airfields raids. The Lewes bomb was a blast-incendiary field expedient explosive device, manufactured by mixing diesel oil and Nobel 808 plastic explosive. Created by LT Jock Lewes, one of the original members of L Detachment SAS in 1941. Via Stirling’s Desert Triumph – The SAS Egyptian Airfield Raids 1942 by Osprey Publishing.

As for Jellico’s team, the Germans executed 62 local Cretans as a reprisal– despite the fact the British had taken pains to leave behind tell-tale objects such as helmets and food wrappers to take credit for the attacks. Betrayed by a local villager, the Germans ambushed the commando patrol, resulting in the death of 17-year-old Free French commando Pierre Léostic being killed, and the other three Frenchmen being arrested after trying to shoot their way out of a German sweep. Interrogated by Luftwaffe officers for a week at Heraklion, they would be sent to German POW camps as they were in uniform, with Bergé ending up at Colditz with David Stirling of all people. Meanwhile, Jellicoe and the Greek officer, Petrakis, escaped back to Egypt with the three other (intact) SAS commando patrols after being exfiltrated 10 days after the raid via a caique run by John Campbell and “Paddy” Leigh Fermor’s operation.

Endgame

Returning to the tale of Triton, sailing on her 15th war patrol, her 9th under British control, the boat was tasked with landing five Greek agents and 750 pounds of war material on the southeastern coast of Evia then, once free of her passengers and cargo, proceed to look for targets of opportunity. Spotted while stalking a German convoy at Kafireas on the evening of 16 November 1942 and attempting an attack on the 5,700-ton Romanian freighter Alba Julia, our submarine became locked in a six-hour/49 depth charge nighttime running battle with the German destroyer ZG3/Hermes (former Greek British G-class destroyer, Y/B Vassilefs Georgios) and the auxiliary subchaser (U-Jäger) UJ-2102 (converted ex-yacht Brigitta, owned by Evgenios Evgenidis) that ended with Triton dead in the water and slugging it out on the surface, Kontogiannis reportedly ordering his crew to abandon ship while he fired at the Germans from the fairwater with a revolver.

At least 20 of her crew and two Allied officers (LT. Andrew Carter, from the South African Naval Forces, and an RN LT Cole, likely as commo/liaison officers) were killed in the action, their bodies carried to the bottom after UJ-2102 rammed her.

Among the fallen:

Vice-Captain A. DANIOLOS
Vice-Captain K. ANNINOS
Ensign Eng. I. STARAKIS Kelefstis
Tor. P. BINDERIS Kelefstis
Mech. N. PAVLAKIS
Petty Officer Second Arm. A. KOUSOULAS
Petty Officer Second Fire. T. BAGIOS Under-
Secretary Second Elector S. SCHOINAS
Under-Secretary Second Elector P. PAPATHANASIOU
Under-Secretary Second Elector D. KAKANDRIS
Diopos Arm. H. BAKIRTZIS
Diopos Tor. N. MERETZIS
Diopos Tor. C. CHARITOS
Diopos Note. I. KYVELOS
Diopos Tel. B. PALOURIS
Diopos Mech. E. PATRIARCHEAS
Diopos Mech. A. TSITSAKOS
Sailor Electrician M. GEDEON
Sailor Electrician I. GEDEON
Sailor TH. MASTROGIANNIS

Two men, Nikolaos Maroulas (Chief electrician) and Dimitros Papadimitriou (electrician mate), escaped by swimming three miles to nearby Evia where they found refuge in the village of Thymiani, then to Allied lines in the Middle East.

The Germans captured at least 17 Greek submariners (some sources say 27, some 28), including Kontogiannis and LT Christos Soliotis, and sent them to the Marlag-Milag Nord, a site near Bremen that housed mainly British Merchant Navy and Royal Navy personnel.

Kontogiannis

They were liberated in late April 1945 by the British 11th Armoured Division.

She is remembered by a seaside monument at Karystos.

Epilogue

Of Triton’s two Protefs -class sisters that escaped Greece, Nereus would finish the war with the Italian freighter Fiume (662 GRT) to her credit and was decommissioned on 3 May 1947.

Glavkos, credited with sinking two small vessels in 1941 and damaging the German merchant Norburg (2392 GRT) off Crete, was bombed, and sunk by German Ju-88s of II./KG77 in Malta on 4 April 1942.

Glavkos

As for the older Katsonis and Papanikolis, they would account for at least 15 small vessels including the shifty Spanish/German merchant San Isidro/Labrador (322 GRT) while under British control. Like Triton, they would also land assorted agents and commandos as needed. It was on one such mission that Katsonis was sighted by German submarine chaser UJ 2101 on 14 September 1943 and sent to the bottom, taking down 32 men with her while UJ 2101 rescued 14 survivors, including the British W/T operator. Papanikolis outlived her sister and was decommissioned post-VE Day.

Greek submarine Y1 Katsonis

All told, of the six Greek subs that started WWII in 1940, four would be lost in combat and of her small corps of ~300 prewar professional submariners, fully half would perish.

For those curious, George Patrick John Rushworth Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe, Baron Jellicoe of Southampton, KBE, DSO, MC, PC, FRS, FRGS, FRSGS, ended the war as commander of the Special Boat Regiment and eventually hung up his uniform as a brigadier. He passed in 2007, aged 88, having served 68 years in Parliament and having an assault boat (“Jellicoe Inflatable Intruder Mark One”) named in his honor.

An informative book on the junior Jellicoe is Windmill’s “A British Achilles” with a foreword by Paddy Fermor no less, the officer who took him off the beach in Crete after the Heraklion operation.

In the Historical Museum of Crete, in the WWII section, there is a special tribute to the Heraklion airfield raid and the “62 martyrs” that followed the op. The portraits of those executed are displayed.

The Greek submarine force 1942-present

The British made up Greek losses after 1942 and by the end of the conflict, the Greek exile Navy consisted of no less than 26 warships and auxiliaries.

This would include seven submarines starting with the captured Italian submarine Perla, which was turned over to the Greeks in 1943 and renamed Y/B Matrozos (Υ-7). The new V-class boat HMS Veldt was transferred to the Greek Navy upon completion on 1 November 1943 and renamed Pipinos (P-71). Sistership HMS Vengeful would become Y/B Delfin in April 1945, while HMS Untiring would become Y/B Xifias and HMS Upstart would switch colors as Y/B Amfitriti in July 1945. Two further V-class boats, HMS Virulent and HMS Volatile, would become Y/B Argonaftis and Y/B Triaina in 1946.

Greek submarine RHS Pipinos at a quay WWII IWM FL17464

The six British boats would make up the post-war Greek submarine program, as shown by this 1946 Jane’s entry.

The current Greek submarine service badge emulates one of these late-war British boats.

Hellenic (Greek) Navy’s current submarine badge

Post-war, the Americans stepped in as the British boats were retroceded and transferred several Gato, Tench and Balao-class GUPPY’d diesel subs, including USS Hardhead (transferred to Greece as Papanikolis 26 July 1972; sold for scrap 1993), USS Jack (transferred to Greece as Amfitriti 21 April 1958; sunk as target 5 September 1967), USS Lapon (transferred to Greece as Poseidon 10 August 1957; retired April 1976), USS Scabbardfish (transferred to Greece as Triaina 26 February 1965; stricken 1980). and USS Remora (transferred to Greece as Katsonis on 29 October 1973; stricken 1993).

Protefs (S-78) (Greek Navy), ex USS Lapon (SS-260) in 1961

Hellenic Navy submarine Y/B Katsonis (S-115) in the Corinth Canal. She is the former Tench-class Guppy III updated USS Remora (SS-487)

In the late 1960s, Greece decided it had enough of the GUPPY life and ordered a series of new Type 209/1100 diesel boats from Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in West Germany. One of these advanced SSKs was named Y/B Triton (S112) and commissioned in 1972.

The current Triton is part of a four-boat class that includes Y/B Glaukos (S110), Nireus (S111), and Protefs (S113), all very familiar names indeed. In addition, the Greeks have purchased the three-boat Poseidon class (Type 209/1200), the one-off Y/B Okeanos (Type 209/1500AIP), and the four Papanikolis class (Type 214) from Germany as well, showing just how important Athens considers a strong submarine force.

And they know how to use them. 

Transport ex-Evros (A-415), sunk by SST-4 torpedo from the Hellenic Navy submarine Y/B Pipinos (S-121) off Karpathos island.

Triton’s WWII colors endure. They had been saved by Oberleutnant zu See (der Reserve) Gero Kleiner, the skipper of the subchaser that sank her. He had been presented with the wrecked banner by a German sailor snatched who them down before the submarine went to the bottom in 1942. Holding on to his trophy for 30 years, he handed it over to Greek naval representatives in a short service in 1972 at the Naval School of Murwik in Kiel when her Type 209 replacement was launched.

They are preserved in a Greek museum at Salamis.

Kleiner, aged 67 at the time, had to make do with just the DKiG he was decorated with for sinking Triton, handing over her flag in 1972 to Greek ADM Ioannis Maniatis with a simple “this belongs to you.” Notably, the Greeks were the first to order the Type 209, picking up four of the original 209/1100s followed by another four 209/1200s.


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The Howling Sea Wolf

Some 80 years ago: the Sargo-class fleet boat USS Seawolf (SS-197) seen waging her very successful “Maru War” in the Pacific while on her 7th war patrol.

USS Seawolf (SS-197) – Periscope photograph of a sinking Japanese ship, torpedoed by Seawolf in the Philippines-East Indies area during the fall of 1942. This ship carries at least one landing craft forward, has a searchlight above her pilothouse, and a gun mounted at the aft end of the midship superstructure. Her general configuration resembles Gifu Maru, sunk on 2 November 1942, but she could also be the converted gunboat Keiko Maru, sunk on 8 November. Note the boat hanging from a davit amidships, as crewmen attempt to lower another boat further forward. US Navy Photo #: 80-G-33192

USS Seawolf (SS-197) – Periscope photograph of a sinking Japanese ship, torpedoed by Seawolf on a war patrol in the Philippines-East Indies area in the fall of 1942. This ship is possibly Gifu Maru, sunk on 2 November 1942 in Davao Gulf, Mindanao. US Navy Photo #: 80-G-33187

Leaving Freemantle, Australia on 1 October 1942, Seawolf (LCDR F.B. Warder in command) was ordered to patrol off the Davao Gulf, southern Philippines.

In the same one-week period she would sink the Japanese water tender Gifu Maru (2933 GRT) west-south-west of Cape San Augustin, Mindoro, the Japanese troop transport Sagami Maru (7189 GRT) off Davao, and the Japanese auxiliary gunboat Keiko Maru (2929 GRT) off Cape San Augustin, Mindanao.

Periscope photograph taken from USS Seawolf (SS-197), while she was on patrol in the Philippines-East Indies area in the fall of 1942. 80-G-33184

The sub would then end her patrol at Pearl Harbor on 1 December– just in time for a Christmas refit.

Seawolf would go on to be lost on her 15th war patrol, believed lost with 83 officers and men as well as 17 Army passengers, tragically believed sunk by friendly fire from aircraft from the escort carrier USS Midway (CVE 63) and the ASW weapons from the destroyer escort USS Richard M. Rowell (DE 403) off Morotai on 3 October 1944.

She was the most successful Sargo-class submarine, honored with 13 battle stars and credited with 71,609 tons of enemy shipping. She is one of 52 American submarines regarded as on Eternal Patrol.

Port side view of the Seawolf (SS-197) underway off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 7 March 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. US Navy photo # NH 99549.

The Pearl Harbor Avenger is back, baby

With all the news of scrapped or otherwise abandoned museum ships– particularly three submarines recently — it is nice to see a win for an old girl. The Balao-class fleet boat USS Bowfin (SS-287) launched on the first anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942– giving her almost 80 years in the water and the easy nickname of “the Pearl Harbor Avenger.”

After completing nine Pacific war patrols in WWII and earning a Presidential Unit Citation for 67,882 tons sunk (16 vessels of that tonnage plus 22 smaller craft), she was used as a Naval Reserve training submarine during the Korean War then stricken in 1971 and has been a memorial and the floating Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum at Pearl Harbor ever since. Notably, she never received a Cold War GUPPY upgrade, leaving her very close to her original WWII layout, which is rare today.

And she has just completed two months of scheduled dry dock maintenance and looks good as new.

Bowfin is set to return to her traditional dock in Pearl on Thursday and will reopen for tours around the first of November.

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