Patrol highlights written by Frank J. Kelly, who served as assistant torpedo and gunnery officer (ensign) on this patrol.
Left Fremantle (Western Australia) on 18 April and cruised up to Darwin along the west coast of Australia. Along the way we were bombed (in error) by an Aussie Bristol bomber. Luckily we saw it coming and dove out of there before any serious damage was done. (Whenever a sub was going from one port to another in friendly territory it was supposed to have a rectangle of space around it for protection, but in this case the Aussie pilot probably didn’t check his bulletin board before starting his patrol. Not a very good start for us.)
We topped off with fuel in Darwin and transited through various seas and islands of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) until we came to the southern tip of the Philippines. This was dangerous and exciting for us, since we were sailing through 1,250 miles of enemy controlled waters and islands. From Mindanao we sailed across Western Pacific waters until we entered our assigned patrol area, which was an area west of the Marianas.
Normal procedure for subs when close into enemy territory was to stay submerged during daylight hours; surface at night, charge batteries, and stay on surface until daybreak. When in open ocean we would stay on the surface until we ran into a target, then get ahead of it, dive, and make an attack as it got near us.
You must realize that in WWII our subs could only move 2 to 4 knots submerged. Once in a while we could go up to 8-10 knots, but we would exhaust the batteries in one hour at that speed. On the surface we could move along at 21 knots. Big difference. Actually, submerged we were simply floating platforms waiting for a target to come to us.
There was a tactic known as an “end around.” If we found a target too late (ie., it was ahead of us and there was no way we could catch up to it submerged) we would let it go for now, then surface and, at 21 knots, would go after it down one side of its track, dive,and wait for it to come to us. Obviously, this would take 3 or 4 hours to do, and it could only be done it we were out of sight of enemy territory.
Getting back to the patrol, we didn’t get any action in our area at this time so we were sent to an area east of the Caroline Islands about the first week of May. We were cruising along on the surface the night of 15 May when a Jap bomber (probably on patrol from Truk) picked up our radar, home in on the static, and dropped bombs on us. Luckily, our lookouts spotted it coming in and the OOD turned our bow away in time so the bombs dropped ahead of our bow. We were diving at the time, so very little damage was done.
At this time I was beginning to wonder why I had selected submarines. Here I was, one month into my first patrol, we hadn’t even seen a ship to attack, let alone fire a torpedo, and we had been bombed twice! Cripes!
After this close call we stayed down for an hour, then surfaced and received orders to go back to our original patrol area by the Marianas. On the way back we were bombed again on 19 May.
Our first offensive action started on 21 May. We made contact with a convoy of troop transports heading toward Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. The captain got us in great position for the attack on two of these ships and we fired four fish (torpedoes) at a 9,800-ton passenger freighter, getting three hits, and two fish at another of 8,800 tons, getting one hit. After that we went deep (300 feet) to avoid depth charges and were subjected to three hours of charges that bounced us around quite a bit. We thought three hits would have sunk the first ship, but we never got credit for sinking it because the Japanese never admitted losing it.
During the next day (22 May) we played “hide and seek” with a Jap sub. He was trying to sink us and we were trying to sink him. We finally fired at him, but never got a hit.
We spent a few more days in our assigned area, but never contacted anything to shoot at.
We were ordered to Pearl Harbor, rather than back to Australia, since we were now assigned to ComSubPac from the Com7th Fleet. We arrived at Pearl on 13 June 1944.
Based on our patrol report, we were awarded a successful war patrol insignia for the damages we wrought on the troop ships heading for the Marianas.