Sunday, August 16, 2009

In Memoriam - USS S-39 (SS-144) - 16 August 1942

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph

USS S-39, a 211-foot long submarine commissioned in 1923 and armed with only four torpedo tubes, conducted peacetime operations as part of the Asiatic Fleet during the 1920s and '30s, remaining in the Far East as WWII approached. During the war, she attempted to curtail Japanese minelaying efforts and waylay their logistics ships, but experienced little success. During her third war patrol, she managed to sink the Japanese oiler Erimo.

During the summer of 1942, S-39 operated out of Australia, patrolling near the Lusiade and Soloman Islands. On her fifth war patrol, she accidentally ran aground near Rossel Island on 08 December 1942. Due to the heavy surf pounding on her hull, the decision was made to abandon ship. Two sailors, Lieutenant C. N. G. Hendrix and W. L. Shoenrock, CCStd, volunteered to swim to a nearby reef and rig mooring lines to it. Using these lines, most of the crew reached the safety of the reef before the Australian minesweeper Katoomba arrived to collect the entire crew.

The submarine was left to be destroyed by the sea. The crew were all rescued without loss of life.


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