Thursday, December 10, 2009

In Memoriam - USS Sealion (SS-195) - Sunk 10 December 1941

The first American submarine to fall victim to a Japanese attack was USS Sealion (SS-195). The start of World War II found her, along with her sister ship, USS Seadragon (SS-194) in the final stages of an extensive overhaul at the Cavite Navy Yard, Philippines. The two submarines were moored side-by-side.

On the afternoon of 10 December, a group of 54 Japanese planes attacked the shipyard.

Only two Japanese bombs actually struck Sealion. The first exploded outside the conning tower. In addition to destroying a machine gun mount on Sealion, a fragment from this bomb pierced Seadragon's conning tower, killing one officer.

A second bomb struck Sealion aft, penetrating the pressure hull and entering the after engine room, where it exploded, killing four men.

Damage from the explosion and resulting flooding was extensive. All motor controls, reduction gears and main motors were destroyed. Sealion was completely immobilized.

Unfortunately, the Cavite Navy Yard was nearly completely destroyed by the same Japanese attack, and repairs were impossible. Nor was it practical to tow the submarine some 5,000 miles to Pearl Harbor, the nearest working repair facility.

All valuable gear such as gyroscopes, radios and sonar equipment was removed from the crippled submarine.

On Christmas Day, 1941, three depth charges were exploded inside Sealion's hull to prevent her from being used by the enemy.


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