In Memoriam - USS S-39 (SS-144) - Ran Aground 16 August, 1942
USS S-39 (SS-144) was designed and built immediately after the First World War and was commissioned in 1923. She served with the Asiatic Fleet in the 1920s and 30s. At the start of World War II, she was in Manila, but shifted operations first to Surabaya, Indonesia when the Philippines was threatened, and then ultimately to Australia when it became clear that Indonesia was not safe from Japanese attack and occupation.
Leaving Brisbane on 10 August, 194s, S-39 was to patrol in the area of the Bismark Archipelago, part of Papua New Guinea. On the night of the 13th, she ran hard aground. Throughout the next day, the crew fought to free their trapped submarine, but to no avail. Finally, on the 15th, a call for help was made, and once it was learned that rescue was enroute, the crew began to evacuate the wrecked submarine.
The entire crew was rescued by the Australian minesweeper HMAS Katoomba and were reassigned to other submarines. S-39 was left on the rocks, all her classified equipment removed or destroyed, for the sea to claim.
No known photographs of the wreck exist.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC.