Dates: 9 July 1944 – 13 September 1944, 67 days
5th Patrol Crew List
Patrol highlights written by Frank J. Kelly, who served as assistant torpedo and gunnery officer (ensign) on this patrol.
After the previous patrol we were sent to Pearl Harbor for two weeks R&R, during which time the boat was restocked with food, ammunition, and torpedoes and given a three-week going over to make sure all equipment was in tip-top shape for the next war patrol. (When you’re going out 6,000 miles away from your base you have to be sure everything is working okay!) When officers/men came off R&R we took the boat out for 4 to 5 days to test all systems and to work any new personnel into their duties.
After everybody and all systems were checked out, on 9 July we headed out again to our assigned patrol area. For this patrol Billfish had been scheduled to be part of a three-boat “wolf pack” known as “Moseley’s Maulers.” Wolf pack commander was on our boat, Commander Stanley Moseley.
The other two boats with us were Sailfish and Greenling. We were assigned an area called “Convoy College,” which had been rife with targets in the past. It was between Hainan on the west and Luzon/Formosa (now Taiwan) on the east. To get there we crossed the Western Pacific, after stopping at Midway for topping off, all the way to the area east of Okinawa, then headed south to the assigned area. We were expecting lots of targets (because of the previous info) but didn’t come in contact with anything until 7 August. We fired four fish at a freighter, but no hits. Captain said the glassy sea gave us away (torpedo tracks were easy to see). We gave info to Greenling because the target was heading to his area and they got the escort, but not the freighter.
On 8 August we came across about 200 dead floating bodies of Japanese sailors and marines (Japanese marines were 6-feet tall). Their ship must have been sunk a night or two before.
We headed west toward Hainan looking for targets. No luck! Three days later we were in the middle of a tropical hurricane trying to chase, on the surface, three Japanese warships, one cruiser and two destroyers. (These were the first warships we’d seen.) We couldn’t make any headway and neither could they. I told the Captain we were getting beat up on the surface so we submerged to get out of the storm. I could not control the boat at periscope depth (66 feet), so we went deep (200 feet) to get below the seas
We did send info to both Sailfish and Greenling, and Sailfish did sink one of the destroyers on 11 August 1944.
On 22 August we made contact with two medium size freighters heading for Naha (Okinawa), but they were two far ahead of us to catch, and Sailfish and Greenling were not in a position to catch up to them, either. The frieghters made it to Naha. (As I mentioned earlier, we were floating platform and if we couldn’t make an “end around” we were helpless.)
To make matters worse, we got bombed again (on the surface) on 25 August and later in the day we counted 58 depth charges going off in the distance. (Some boat was getting worked over pretty good.)
By this time we had been out close to 50 days and it would take us a week or two to get back to Somewhere, so we were ordered back. We sailed to Saipan (U.S. forces had taken over Saipan since our last patrol three months ago) and then to the Island of Majuro in the Marshalls. We arrived there on 13 September 1944, 67 days since we had left Pearl Harbor.
Obviously, it was a very disappointing patrol. All that time out there and hardly any targets to shoot!