Sunday, November 18, 2012

In Memoriam - USS Sculpin (SS-191) - Sunk 19 November 1943

USS Sculpin, sister ship to Squalus (SS-192), made radar contact with a fast convoy on 18 November 1943, and followed, submerged, for a dawn attack. She was detected, however, and forced deep. When she surfaced to begin another pursuit, she was seen by a destroyer that was lagging behind the convoy, and a round of depth charging ensued. Though Sculpin survived this attack with relatively minor damage, she accidentally broached when her diving officer tried to bring her to periscope depth with a depth gauge that had stuck at 125 feet.

Another round of depth charging followed Sculpin's accidental surfacing. Finally, a string of close explosions threw the deeply submerged Sculpin badly out of control, and her CO, CDR Fred Connaway, made the decision to surface and fight using the deck guns. A shell through main induction and another through the conning tower killed most of Sculpin's officers, leaving LT G. E. Brown in command. He gave the order to scuttle the boat.

12 men, including Captain John P. Cromwell, rode the boat down. CAPT Cromwell had extensive knowledge of US plans for future submarine operations. To deny the Japanese that information, he went down with Sculpin, reportedly sitting in the wardroom with coffee cup in hand. CAPT Cromwell would posthumously receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for "his great moral courage in the face of certain death."

The 42 men who escaped Sculpin were captured by the Japanese, one of whom, suffering from severe injuries was immediately thrown overboard to drown. The remaining prisoners were taken to Truk and questioned for ten days before being separated into two groups and loaded onto two Japanese aircraft carriers bound for the Japanese home islands. One of those two Japanese warships, Chuyo, was attacked and sunk by USS Sailfish (SS-192), resulting in the deaths of 19 of the 20 Sculpin survivors aboard.

In a strange twist of fate, Sailfish — at the time named Squalus — had herself been rescued by Sculpin in 1939.

The remaining Sculpin suvivors were forced to work as slave labor in the Ashio copper mines for the rest of the war and were liberated by the Allies after VJ Day.


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