In Memoriam - USS S-44 (SS-155) - Sunk 07 October 1943
Commissioned in 1925, USS SS-44 (SS-155) completed four war patrols during World War II. She sank three ships and damaged a fourth.
One of the ships sunk was the heavy cruiser Kako, sunk on 10 August 1942. The previous night, Kako and three other cruisers had participated in the first Battle of Savo Island, sinking four Allied heavy cruisers, damaging a fifth cruiser and damaging two destroyers with only moderate damage to themselves.
Kako was the first major Japanese warship sunk by the single-handed action of an American submarine, and S-44's successful attack pointed the way for the successful prosecution of the war against the Japanese Navy.
S-44 departed on her fifth war patrol on 26 September, 1943 out of Attu, Alaska. During the night of 07 October, S-44 made radar contact with a vessel that the crew believed was a small merchant ship. The decision was made to attack on the surface and sink the small vessel with the submarines 4"/50-caliber deck gun.
S-44's 4"/50 Deck Gun
Unfortunately, the "merchant ship" turned out to be the Ishigaki, a Shimushu-class escort armed with three large guns and four machine guns. Outgunned, S-44 attempted to submerge, but was unable to do so before being hit in the control room, the forward battery compartment, and elsewhere throughout the submarine.
The order to abandon ship was given, and a pillow case was put up as a makeshift flag of surrender. The shelling continued and only eight men made it into the frigid Arctic waters before S-44 sank. Two men were picked up by Ishigaki and remained prisoners of the Japanese until the war ended.
Ishigaki was sunk by USS Herring (SS-233) on 31 May 1944.
All photographs courtesy of the U.S. Naval Historical Center