Monday, March 28, 2011

In Memoriam - USS Trigger (SS-237) - Lost 28 March 1945

USS Trigger (SS-237) left Guam for her twelfth war patrol under the command of Cmdr. D. R. Connole on 11 March 1945, with orders to provide rescue for carrier based aircraft and to carry out a normal offensive patrol.

On 18 March, she reported having sunk one freighter and damaged another, both part of a convoy she had already reported. The other ships in the convoy, four escorts and two merchantmen, proceeded eastward into a Japanese restricted area in the East China Sea. Allied forces knew that the region was mined, and generally kept clear of it. The convoy entered the restricted area. Trigger was instructed to monitor its movements in hopes of discovering a safe passage through the mined area. Unfortunately, Trigger was unable to track the convoy; its escorts kept her submerged for several hours after her initial attack, and when she surfaced she was unable to reestablish contact with the convoy.

26 March brought new orders to join the Wolf Pack "Earl's Eliminators" with Seadog (SS-401) and Threadfin (SS-410). The same day, Trigger radioed a weather report that did not contain an acknowledgment of her new orders.

She was never heard from again.

An examination of Japanese reports after the war revealed that Trigger torpedoed and sank the Japanese repair ship Odate on 27 March. The next day, a Japanese airplane spotted an American submarine. After bombing it, several Japanese warships were summoned to the area. A two-hour depth charge attack ultimately produced a large oil slick. The sounds of the attack were heard by other American submarines in the area.

All 89 officers and crew aboard USS Trigger were killed.

"I'm the Galloping Ghost of the Japanese Coast" was written by Constantine Guiness MOMM1/C, to honor Trigger:

I'm the galloping ghost of the Japanese coast
You don't hear of me and my crew.

But just ask any man off the coast of Japan

If he knows of the Trigger Maru.

I look sleek and slender alongside my tender

With others like me at my side,
But we'll tell you a story of battle and glory,
As enemy waters we ride.

I've been stuck on a rock, felt the depth charge's shock,

Been north to a place called Attu,

And I've sunk me two freighters atop the equator

Hot work, but the sea was cold blue.

I've cruised close inshore and carried the war

To the Empire Island Honshu,

While they wire Yokahama I could see Fujiyama,

So I stayed, to admire the view.

When we rigged to run silently, deeply I dived,

And within me the heat was terrific.

My men pouring sweat, silent and yet

Cursed me and the whole damned Pacific.

Then destroyers came sounding and depth charges pounding

My submarine crew took the test.

Far in that far off land there are no friends on hand,

To answer a call of distress.

I was blasted and shaken (some damage I've taken),

my hull bleeds and pipe lines do, too

I've come in from out there for machinery repair,

And a rest for me and my crew.

I got by on cool nerve and in silence I served,

Though I took some hard knocks in return,

One propeller shaft sprung and my battery's done,
But the enemy ships I saw burn.

I'm the galloping ghost of the Japanese coast,
You don't hear of me and my crew.
But just ask any man off the coast of Japan,
If he knows of the Trigger Maru.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In Memoriam - USS Tullibee (SS-284) - Lost 26 March 1944

On 05 March, 1944, USS Tullibee (SS-284) departed Pearl Harbor for her fourth war patrol. She arrived at Midway island on the 14th. After topping off her fuel tanks and restocking her pantry, she turned west. Her assigned patrol area was near the Palau Islands, 500 miles east of the Philippines. Tullibee was scheduled to support air strikes against these islands on 30 and 31 March.

After reporting her arrival on station on 25 March, Tullibee was never heard from again.

When the war ended and American POWs were rescued from Japanese prison camps, Tullibee's story was finaly learned from the sole survivor, Gunner's Mate Second Class C.W. Kuykendall:
On 26 March 1944, USS Tullibee (SS-284) made radar contact with a convoy of ships including a large troop and cargo ship, a pair of medium sized freighters, two escort vessels and a large destroyer. Tullibee attempted a surface attack, but had difficulty obtaining a firing solution because of bad weather.

Tullibee finally closed with the convoy and fired torpedoes from two bow tubes. Not long after, a massive explosion shook the boat.

This explosion was almost certainly the result of a "circular run" of Tullibee's own torpedo. The malfunctioning torpedo was not seen by the bridge crew due to the poor weather conditions.

Petty Officer Kuykendall was thrown from the bridge during the explosion. The force of impact with the rough seas knocked him senseless. When he came to, he was able to hear the shouts of his fellow sailors for several minutes. Machine gun fired peppered the water around him, but the escorts eventually picked him up for questioning. After receiving a beating for refusing to disclose any information beyond what was required by international law, he was sent to the copper mines in Ashio. He remained there until he was rescued in September of 1945.
Tullibee's loss was one of two American submarines that were sunk by malfunctioning torpedoes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

In Memoriam - USS F-4 (SS-23) - Lost 25 March 1915

USS F-4 (SS-23) was commissioned 3 May 1913. Originally named USS Skate, she was one of the first submarines to be built on the West Coast. F-4 participated in developmental operations with the First Submarine Group, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla on the West Coast until the summer of 1914, when she moved on to Hawaiian waters. On 25 March 1915, she sank during training maneuvers, just over a mile from the harbor at Honolulu. Rescue efforts failed, and her entire crew of 21 sailors was lost.

This was America's first major submarine accident.

F-4 was finally raised in August of 1915. Since the sunken submarine lay at a depth of over 300 feet, at the very limits of the diving equipment of that time, this was a major accomplishment for the Navy. After examining the wreckage, analysts decided that the most likely explanation for the sinking was corrosion of the lead lining in the battery tank. The corrosion would would have permitted sea water to seep into the battery compartment, causing the CO to lose control of his submerged vessel. F-4's remains were ultimately towed to a remote part of the Naval Base, where they could remain, undisturbed for all eternity.

Of the 21 sailors who went down with F-4 in March of 1915, only four could be positively identified. The remains of their shipmates were interred together at Arlington National Cemetery, where they rest today. The original headstone, shown here, has been replaced and is now on display at the USS Bowfin submarine museum in Honolulu, HI.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another part of Razorback's History in Digital Format

Navy Day was first organized in the 1920s by the Navy League. October 27th was chosen, since it was the birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was an avid supporter of the Navy (and who had passed away in 1919).

The 1945 Navy Day celebrations, coming so soon after the end of World War II, were especially large. However, official U.S. Navy celebrations have been largely shifted to Armed Forces Day in May. In addition, the U.S. Navy's official birthday is recognized as October 13th, the day in 1775 that the Continental Congress authorized the building of the first ships for the fledgling Navy.

While this booklet does not contain any particularly new information, it is still an important part of Razorback's history that has been preserved. Electronic copies of this booklet are available upon request, and it will be put up on the AIMM website in the near future.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In Memoriam - USS Kete (SS-369) - Lost on or about 20 March 1945

USS Kete (SS-369), a Balao-class submarine (sister ship to USS Razorback) was lost to unknown causes on her second war patrol.

Departing Guam on March 1st, 1945, her assignment was to gather weather data for the upcoming invasion of Okinawa and to also perform lifeguard duty as needed.

Although she had encountered no Japanese ships on her first war patrol, Kete surprised a small Japanese convoy and sank three Japanese merchant ships during the night of March 9th and 10th. On March 14th, she unsuccessfully attacked a Japanese cable-laying ship. These attacks left Kete with only three torpedoes remaining and she was ordered to depart her patrol area on March 20th.

Kete acknowledged receipt of these orders and sent in a weather report on that day.

She was neither seen nor heard from again.

After the war, Japanese records revealed no attacks on American submarines in Kete's area, so her loss remains a mystery to this day.

It is known that at least three Japanese submarines passed through the area that Kete was transiting. All three were sunk by American warships in late March. It is possible that one of these three subs sank Kete, but was unable to report the attack before they were, in turn, sunk. Another possibility is that she suffered some kind of operational accident, such as a battery explosion or even a "circular run" of a torpedo during an attempted attack on one of the Japanese submarines.

Until and unless her final resting place is found, her loss will likely remain a mystery.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Last Razorback Plankowner Officer Passes Away

Lawrence Bruce Crann died on Sunday, February 27th in Mount Vernon, VA. He was 94.

As a Lieutenant (Junior Grade), he served aboard Razorback during World War II. He was assigned to Razorback before she was commissioned, making him a "Plankowner".

The term "plankowner" dates back to the days of wooden warships. By being part of the original crew, a Sailor had bragging rights to "owning" one of the planks on the main deck. When a ship was decommissioned, a Plankowner (or his widow) could request a piece of the deck as a memento.

When a ship is commissioned, a plaque is made listing the names of all the "plankower" officers. This plaque stays on the ship until the last "plankowner" leaves, then it is given to him. As the officers pass away, the plaque is supposed to be then passed to the next younger officer, if he or she can be located. In Razorback's case, the plaque was donated to AIMM shortly after the museum was established. It is now on display in the museum.

LT(jg) Crann made all five war patrols and was present aboard Razorback in Tokyo Bay when the surrender was signed.
LT Crann also donated his personal uniform to the museum shortly after it opened. It is also on display.

The photograph shows Razorback's officers on the day she was commissioned. The officers are (l-r):
  • LT R. L. Smith, USNR
  • LT R. S. Thompson, USNR
  • LT(jg) J. H. King, USN(T)
  • LT J. L. Haines, USN
  • LCDR A. M. Bontier, USN, Commanding Officer
  • LT(jg) A. R. Hersh, Jr., USN
  • LT(jg) L. B. Crann, USNR
  • ENS L. T. Adains, USNR
A link to LT Crann's online obituary can be found here.

LT Crann was able to be in North Little Rock in 2004, when Razorback arrived. His daughter informs us that he wore his Razorback ball cap every day during the last year of his life, and that one of his last requests was to die with his cap on, which he did.

Please join AIMM in wishing LT Crann's family all the best in this most difficult time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In Memoriam - USS Triton (SS-201) - Sunk 15 March 1943

On 15 March, 1943, USS Triton (SS-201), a Tambor-class submarine (only slightly smaller than Razorback, but with a test depth of only 250 feet) was lost on her sixth war patrol near Rabaul, Papaua New Guinea. Two days before, she had been notified of a group of Japanese destroyers operating in her patrol area and that the destroyers might be enroute to meet up with a convoy of Japanese merchant ships.

The Japanese destroyers made a successful anti-submarine attack and reported "a great quantity of oil, pieces of wood, corks and manufactured goods bearing the mark "Made in U.S.A."

In addition, USS Trigger (SS-237), made an attack on this same convoy on 15 March and, after being depth charged for a short time, heard a more distant depth charge attack that was sustained for about an hour.

USS Triton was lost with all hands.

Patch from the AIMM collection donated by Sue McLaughlin
Official U.S. Navy photograph from the Naval Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard, DC

Sunday, March 13, 2011

AIMM Returns to Spring Hours

Starting March 14th, AIMM will return to its Spring schedule.

We will be open on Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., in order to take advantage of the extra daylight provided by the switch to Daylight Savings Time.

The image is of the U.S. Naval Observatory time vault. The computer servers are what keeps track of the "official" clock for the United States. Services such as GPS (among many others) depend on keeping accurate time...

Monday, March 07, 2011

Air Compressor Donated to AIMM

The Razorback Crewmember's Association continues to be an active and vital part of AIMM's success. Although these men are scattered across the nation, they visit regularly and help out in many ways.

The Association was able to secure the donation of a high-capacity air compressor from Fairbanks-Morse, the company that originally built Razorback's engines. Fairbanks-Morse still builds a similar engine today. This compressor came from their plant in the Houston, TX area, and is worth about $3,000.

The Razorback Crewmember's Association also donated the transportation of the compressor. Former Razorback crew member Rick Pressly drove from his home in North Carolina to the factory, where the 600-pound compressor was loaded into the back of his truck. He drove up to North Little Rock. We offloaded the compressor, and he was nice enough to help us get the compressor down the gangway before he headed home.

We would like to thank Rick and all the members of the Razorback Crewmember's Association who helped acquire the compressor. AIMM volunteer Hal Haislip and local sub vets Joe Manning and Mark "Mark-Mark" Taylor helped the AIMM staff get the compressor down the gangway.

The next step is to get the compressor hooked up to Razorback's air systems. Using the high-pressure air, we hope to be able to start one engine in April, something few other museum subs have been able to do...

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Funny Incident from Razorback's Third War Patrol

Razorback's third war patrol was conducted from 01 February 1945 to 26 March 1945. She operated as part of a "wolf pack" of three submarines - "Fulp's Fiddlers" - Razorback, USS Sea Cat (SS-399), and the USS Segundo (SS-398).

At the end of the the patrol, Razorback was shadowing a large two-masted schooner of about 100 tons. The conditions were bad with heavy seas, so Razorback was waiting for conditions to improve to make it easier for the gun crew to shoot at the target.

At 1145, the deep fat fryer burst into flames, apparently due to a faulty thermostat switch. While the fire was easily put out, the hot oil continued to smolder, filling the boat with smoke, so despite the bad weather, Razorback surfaced and her gun crew went to work, quickly sinking the schooner.

After the battle, the faulty equipment was dealt with.

"1300 - Gave one deep fat fryer the deep six."

Saturday, March 05, 2011

In Memoriam - USS Grampus (SS-207) - Lost 5 March 1943

Very little is known for certain about the demise of USS Grampus (SS-207).

On 2 March 1943, she and USS Grayback (SS-208) were ordered to sink enemy ships fleeing from American vessels approaching the Stanmore airstrip in the Solomon Islands. On the evening of 5 March, Grayback spotted a boat her crew believed to be Grampus; unfortunately, Grayback was unable to communicate with the other vessel. Since the two submarines were sister ships, the chance of mis-identification is slim.

Grampus did not respond to orders to report given on 7 and 8 March. She had been operating near USS Amberjack, which make piecing together records concerning her loss difficult to decipher, as both boats were lost within three weeks of each other. Enemy seaplanes reported having attacked a US submarine on 17 February near Grampus' position, and a large oil slick discovered by enemy patrol boats on the surface on 19 February seems to confirm a kill.

Grayback and Grampus had been warned that a pair of destroyers were making their way through the Blackett Strait on 05 March. Grayback never saw them. If Grampus did, she failed to, or was unable to, report it. The two enemy ships sailed on into Kula Gulf, where they were sunk by American warships. Survivors reported that their ships conducted an attack on an American submarine before their encounter with the American warships.

An oil slick was reported on 06 March in that area.

Therefore, the most likely explanation for the loss of USS Grampus is attack by Japanese destroyers on the night of 05 March.

Whatever the precise date of Grampus's sinking, she took with her all 71 members of her crew.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

In Memoriam - USS Perch (SS-176) - Sunk on 03 March, 1942

USS Perch (SS-176), a Porpoise-class submarine designed in the early 1930's and commissioned in 1936, was sunk on 03 March, 1942 after a three-day battle with Japanese forces. She was conducting her second war patrol.

On 01 March, Perch attempted to attack a Japanese convoy that was landing troops near Surabaya, Indonesia. However, two Japanese destroyers saw the approaching submarine and attacked. Perch, caught in shallow water, was severely damaged in two separate attacks lasting overnight and into the next day.

After making all possible repairs, the crew attempted to escape the area, but the submarine was spotted by two Japanese cruisers and three destroyers. As the ships began to fire at the crippled submarine, her Commanding Officer, LT Kenneth G. Schacht, ordered his crew to scuttle the submarine and abandon ship. LT Schacht was awarded a Navy Cross for his actions.

The entire crew, fifty-four men and five officers, were captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners. Six men died during captivity. However, the survivors were repatriated at the end of the war.

Perch's wreck was located in November 2006. Her conning tower plaque was located by divers and photographed, so that can be no doubt as to her location. Pictures of the wreck can be found at the Pacific Wrecks website.