Torpedoes Away! - Maxwell Hawkins - ebook

Torpedoes Away! details US Navy submarine operations during the first 18 months of World War Two. Author Maxwell Hawkins breathlessly covers the tense, dangerous missions of submarines USS Trout, Sea Raven, Pollack, Skipjack, Cuttlefish, and others. Between these first-hand reports stitched-together from interviews with crewmen, Hawkins describes the mechanical workings of submarines, as well as the history of submersibles beginning in the 17th Century. He spent over a year sifting through the archives of the Navy Department and conducted extensive interviews with many veteran submariners about their experiences in the Pacific during World War Two. The result is a classic study of underwater warfare, a must read for military historians and World War 2 buffs.

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Torpedoes Away!

Maxwell Hawkins

Published by The P-47 Press, 2018.



Torpedoes Away! Our Submarine Navy in the Pacific by Maxwell Hawkins.

©Copyright 2018 by The P-47 Press.

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-359-22425-8.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

1 | War

2 | From Garbage to Glory

3 | Hard Like Duty

4 | On Japan’s Doorstep

5 | Adventure in the Spice Islands

6 | Rescue at Timor

7 | Nazi Raider

8 | Our Submarines Were Ready

9 | Vendetta

10 | Attack and Getaway

11 | Sixty Fathoms Deep

12 | They Used to be Pig-Boats

13 | “This is Not a Drill.”

14 | ‘S’ Stands for Stamina

15 | Submarine Hitchhiker

16 | “Govern Yourself Accordingly.”

17 | Bell-Bottom Trousers

18 | Breaking the Jinx

19 | When Sub Meets Sub

20 | A Dream Comes True

21 | Submarine Warfare

Further Reading: US Military in WW2: The Submarines




LATE IN NOVEMBER 1941, a tall, well-built lieutenant commander moved along a dock at Pearl Harbor in the direction of the Flag Office of Rear Admiral Thomas Withers, Commander of Submarines, Pacific Fleet. His officer’s cap rested at a suitable seagoing angle over his sandy hair – hair that was thinning slightly on top and touched with gray at the temples. He walked with a barely perceptible rolling gait, bent forward a little at the waist; the indelible mark of a man to whom a tilting deck is level and only the land unsteady.

At the Flag Office, he was greeted by Captain C [Charles]. W. Styer, Chief of Staff to Admiral [Thomas] Withers, who handed him his orders. Then Captain Styer delivered verbally a message from the Admiral.

“Admiral Withers was sorry he couldn’t be here when you called,” the Chief of Staff said, “but he was detained elsewhere. He wanted me to impress on you, however, that in his opinion we will be at war before you return from this patrol.”

With this unequivocal warning in mind, the sandy-haired officer retraced his steps from the Flag Office to the ship he commanded—more than three hundred feet of deadly modern submarine. Lines were cast off, and shortly one of our newer and larger submarines, the USS Trout, was slipping through the channel toward the entrance of Pearl Harbor. Once outside, she headed west. Her nose dipped into the long Pacific swells; rising and falling with it on either side were twin rows of huge torpedoes, several of them destined for Japanese hulls.

The captain of the Trout was Lieutenant Commander Frank W. Fenno. In the months ahead, his ship was to write some of the most amazing pages in the history of submarine warfare.

Following image: Frank Wesley Fenno, Jr. (1902-1973), Annapolis class of 1925, born in Westminster, Massachusetts.


THE SUBMARINE Trout was at sea dumping garbage. This would appear to be menial work for an undersea fighting craft that cost around six million dollars, but it was an accommodation to the inhabitants of Midway Islands. In no way was the big gray submarine compromising her dignity or slipping into the category of a garbage scow.

Midway* was only a group of empty atolls in the Pacific Ocean until Pan American Airways picked the spot in 1935 for a principal clipper way station and fueling depot on its transpacific air route. From this, Midway developed into an important outpost of our national defense; how important was brought home to the American people on June 4, 1942, when the pride and might of Japan’s navy was sent reeling back toward Tokyo in the battle to which Midway gave its name. In the opinion of some authorities, this battle marked the turning point of the war and saved Hawaii, and possibly our West Coast, from a Japanese invasion attempt.

*Midway is a Hawaiian island (or atoll), but is not part of the state of Hawaii, and is officially an unincorporated territory of the US. Its name derives from its geographical position, which is roughly equidistant between Asia and North America. The 2.4 square mile rock would become famous as the setting for the turning point in the war – the Battle of Midway 4-7 June 1942 – which was coincidentally ‘midway’ through the war. See map, following page, for the atoll’s precise location.


BY DECEMBER 1941, MIDWAY was bustling with activity; Marines, Army and Navy personnel, and construction workers swarmed over the limited area. Sanitation was one of the problems, and to keep the beaches clean, refuse was hauled well out to sea and dumped where the currents wouldn’t sweep it back in. Some of the ships that put in there, customarily performed this chore. On this occasion Fenno’s immaculate submarine, built to scourge her foes, had volunteered to scavenge for her friends. She pulled out of Midway on December 6, over a calm sea and beneath a peaceful sky, and cruised to a point some twenty miles southwest on her garbage mission. Having dumped the Midway refuse overboard, she continued about her principal business, which was a routine patrol.


Following image: Aerial shot of Midway in preparation for the battle to come. Midway’s two atolls are Eastern Island (foreground, with airstrips) and the larger Sand Island to the west.


THAT NIGHT, THE AMERICAN submarine cruised on the surface, charging her “can,” as submariners call the huge storage batteries which supply electric power to operate an undersea craft when it is submerged [as well as being navy slang for a submarine; a shortened version of ‘tin can’]. Her can fully charged, Fenno’s submarine dove at dawn, in accordance with wartime procedure, even though we were not yet at war. In the control room below the conning tower, Lieutenant Albert Clark was in charge of the diving. The control room is the mechanical brain of the submarine, the place from which all its maneuvers are directed. From this central location the communication system reaches out to all parts of the ship; the maze of glistening levers, buttons, valves and other gadgets controls the progress of a submarine in its three-dimensional element.

In a surface ship, the matter of trim is a minor source of concern. Operating in a flat two-dimensional range, the surface vessel offers only the problems of fore and aft and lateral trim, factors which are provided for in construction and loading. Once fixed, only under unusual circumstances are they disturbed. A submarine, however, not only must be trimmed fore and aft and laterally, but also vertically—her depth controlled—and all these factors are inseparably bound together. The depth control of a submarine depends on her various water ballast tanks and valves, and it is maintained by flooding or blowing out these tanks as conditions demand. Trim is of supreme importance in a submarine’s operations, once she has slipped beneath the surface of the sea. Loss of trim is likely to cause loss of depth control; loss of depth control is likely to result in the craft broaching, breaking through the surface. Consequences of this may be merely embarrassing to the diving officer, or they may be fatal to both submarine and crew if the enemy happens to be attacking at the time.

The officer in charge of the diving is performing just about the most important job in a submarine. With Lieutenant Clark that Sunday morning was the Trout’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Fenno, known as Mike throughout the Submarine Service. The enlisted men on watch were standing at their stations with the quiet alertness that submarine duty demands. Farther aft in his cubbyhole adjacent to the control room, the radioman, headphones clamped to his ears, was taking down a message coming over the airwaves.

There was nothing unusual about that scene down under the waters of the Pacific. It had been like that hundreds of times before. Nothing indicated that this Sunday morning would be any different from the many others spent diving the big American submarine.

Suddenly the radioman slipped the headphones off, eased out of his seat and emerged from his nest of dials and tubes. He came directly to Fenno, as if he were making a routine report.

“A message just came for you, Cap’n,” the radioman said.

Fenno broke off his conversation with Clark and walked aft to the radio room with [radioman] Sparks. Nobody paid much attention to them, since there was nothing out of the ordinary in their actions. But in the radio room, Sparks handed the submarine’s skipper the most important message ever flashed to American warships. It was Admiral Kimmel’s war dispatch to the Pacific Fleet: The Japanese have raided Pearl Harbor...

Fenno studied the message. Finally he glanced at the radioman and said:

“Looks like the real thing.”

“Yes, Cap’n, it does,” Sparks replied.

Still pondering over the dispatch, Mike Fenno returned to the control room. He moved to Clark’s side. “Well, Al,” he said, “we’re at war with Japan! The Japs have just raided Pearl Harbor!”

Clark was from Saco, Maine, and had more than a touch of Yankee skepticism in his makeup. He took his gaze from the depth gauges and gave Fenno a faint grin.

“They have one of those raid tests there every Sunday morning,” he said dryly. Mike Fenno shook his head. The warning he had received at the Flag Office of Admiral Withers only a couple of weeks before never had been far from his thoughts. Besides, the dispatch in his hand permitted no misinterpretation. He held it out so Clark could look at it. “See for yourself,” he said. “It’s plain enough in this message. As far as I’m concerned, we’re at war!”

The American submarine had been on a war footing for months. She was ready for it. There was little to do beyond informing the crew of what had happened. Let them know that the practice days were over. The marbles game was for keeps. No more water-filled exercise heads on their torpedoes. It was warheads, crammed with high explosives, from then on.

Fenno walked aft to the galley, between the control room and the crew’s quarters. The cook was busy getting breakfast in his kitchenette.

“As the crew come in for breakfast,” the submarine’s skipper said easily, “tell ’em we’re at war with Japan.”

The cook’s jaw fell open. For a moment no sound came forth, but then he found his voice.

“Yes, sir,” he gulped.

For the next half hour, Fenno and Clark, in the mechanical labyrinth of the control room, discussed Admiral Kimmel’s message, speculating on what had happened at Pearl Harbor. Finally, Mike Fenno went aft and looked into the messroom. Some of the boys, their breakfast out of the way, were sitting at the mess table playing cards.

The submarine’s captain gave the cardplayers a good looking over. Then he took a deep breath. “We go to war—and you birds play cards!” he exclaimed.

With that, the skipper withdrew. But in telling about the incident, he said that after he had left he began to think it over and saw it from a different angle.

“Well, why not?” he asked himself. “It’s a good way to relax. And it’s a good sign; shows how cool they are.”

Although the crew may have been hiding their excitement, nevertheless the first-day jitters were stalking the deck and almost cost the submarine her captain. The ship was running on the surface. On the bridge, besides the several enlisted men on watch, were Fenno and Lieutenant Fritz Harlfinger. It occurred to the captain that it might be a good time to have a practice drill, so he decided to have the alarm for “battle stations” sounded. The signal for this is a loud gong which rings twelve times. It’s carried to every corner of the ship over the loudspeaker system.

With the first stroke, all hands leap to their combat posts. Everybody from the messboy up has one. The diving alarm on a submarine is another ear-shattering signal, consisting of two raucous blasts on a klaxon-like device. Nobody can miss it. And nobody topside wastes a second getting down the hatch into the conning tower, because at the first vibration of the diving alarm, the submarine starts to dive.

In a quick dive—what those outside the Submarine Service call a “crash” dive—it takes from twenty to thirty seconds to submerge. And virtually every dive is a quick dive in war. So there isn’t much time for a half dozen men to get through a single twenty-three-inch hatch, and either you get below—or you’re “left in the pool.” They don’t wait and they don’t go back in a submarine. Both battle-station and diving alarms are sounded from the bridge by large push buttons, which are fairly close together.

“I passed the word to sound the alarm for battle stations,” Fenno said. “But someone was jittery. Instead, the diving alarm was sounded. Before we knew it, we were starting to submerge. There was a wild scramble to clear the deck—get down the hatch.

“I was last. Fritz Harlfinger was ahead of me by a split second. He’s small and wiry. Weighs about one-fifty. But as we went down the ladder, I was riding his shoulders all the way, like the Little Old Man of the Sea. And I had the sea right with me! We managed to close the hatch before more than a little of it spilled in, but even that water was too close for comfort.”

When the Japanese task force swept in to shell Midway, the Trout was too far away to get at it, and the islands themselves lay between. Helplessly those aboard the submarine listened to the distant boom of guns, saw the lashes against the sky, which some of the crew mistook for lightning. Although they promptly maneuvered to be in a position to intercept a second attack, it failed to occur.

January found the American submarine back in Pearl Harbor. So far, she had sunk no enemy ships. The area of her patrol had been poor hunting grounds; she hadn’t flushed any Nipponese game. But Fenno’s fortunes were soon to change.

The Trout’s captain was summoned to the Flag Office, and this time Admiral Withers was there. He gave orders for a pressing and dangerous mission, a mission which at that time was unusual for a submarine. Fenno’s undersea warship was to deliver sixty tons of sorely needed shells to the island fortress of Corregidor at the entrance to Manila Bay, in the Philippines.

“Get out there just as fast as you can,” Admiral Withers said. “But on your way back, if you want to, it’ll be all right to do a little hunting.”


From Garbage to Glory


LIEUTENANT COMMANDER Fenno’s mission to Corregidor was a call for speed and more speed. The shells, taking the place of ballast normally carried by the submarine, were rushed aboard, and supplies, too, were hurried in. The wives of the Submarine Service cast about for something they could do for the valiant men in the Philippines. They had a small fund which was used to buy little luxuries for, or otherwise, help, the enlisted personnel, and they drew on this to purchase eight hundred dollars’ worth of cigarettes [*Roughly $14,000 in today’s money. At the start of the war, a pack of smokes cost 20 cents. Cigarettes, however, especially American brands, became considerably more valuable as the war progressed, and troops would often trade cigarettes for goods and labor in remote locations when needed. American troops on the ground carried government-issued smokes; their K-Rations included the brands Chesterfield, Philip Morris, Fleetwood, Chelsea, Raleigh, Old Gold, Lucky Strike and Camel].

These, too, were stowed aboard [apparently not a light load].

With her contrasting cargo of bad news for the Japanese and good cheer for the men fighting them, the submarine Trout slipped out of Pearl Harbor.

“My one worry,” said Fenno, “was what to substitute for ballast after I’d dropped those sixty tons of shells at Corregidor. Of course, I figured they’d probably have plenty of sandbags there, and in a pinch I could use them. But you don’t like to do that. They get your ship all dirty.”


Following image: A Camel magazine ad from the era presents cigarette buying for troops overseas as an act of patriotism equivalent to purchasing war bonds.


MIKE FENNO’S COMMENT on getting sand in his submarine typifies the attitude of the present-day submarine captain—or enlisted man, for that matter—toward the state of cleanliness of his ship. To call a modern submarine a pig-boat is an anachronism. It’s like calling a [Boeing B-29] Superfortress an egg crate [because ‘egg’ was slang for a bomblet dropped by a plane]. And don’t refer to a submarine as a “sewer pipe” because of the faint aroma of diesel oil that sometimes clings to the clothing of the crew after they’ve been submerged a long time. No longer does either of these ancient slurs have any foundation of fact. In general, submarines today, throughout their gleaming jungle of machinery and instruments, are kept spotless.

This particular submarine, her captain pondering over the matter of ballast, pushed ever westward toward the beleaguered Philippines. Not since Dr. Rudolf Diesel of Munich invented the oil engine named for him and one of them first was installed in a submarine around 1912, had diesels been called on to propel a ship on a stranger voyage than the one that lay ahead.

The officers represented a good cross-section of the United States. Fenno was from Westminster, Massachusetts; Clark from Saco, Maine; Harlfinger from Albany, New York. The submarine’s diving officer was Lieutenant F. A. (“Pop”) Gunn, from Kansas City, Missouri, and her communications officer was Ensign Harry E. Woodward, from the state of Washington. The commissary officer was Ensign Ray Pitts, USNR.

The seventh officer was Lieutenant (j.g.) George Schottler, USNR, from Baltimore, an ROTC graduate of Georgia Tech.

Fenno’s submarine drove into the Pacific waters at its best speed, which it could attain above, and not under, the ocean. The Trout was traversing waters controlled to a large extent by the enemy, but her luck was good and for a considerable part of her journey the sea was her exclusive property.

“Then one night,” Fenno said, “we picked up a steady light ahead.” He smiled faintly. “I knew the crew wouldn’t like it if I passed up a chance to sink a Jap ship. So I decided to investigate.”

It was a dark night, with low-hanging clouds, ideal for a surface attack. The American submarine moved cautiously forward. On the bridge all eyes were straining to penetrate the darkness. Closer and closer they slipped through the gentle Pacific swells. At last they were within range. One torpedo leaped from the submarine’s bow. There was a long, tense wait. But nothing happened.

The submarine continued to press ahead until she was scarcely five hundred yards away from the mysterious light.

At that point, those topside discovered it came from a Japanese patrol boat; and at the same time, the enemy discovered the submarine.

“We’d stuck our neck out,” Fenno related ruefully. “That Jap started right after us. We made a quick dive. After about an hour, I decided to come up for a look around. This time there were a lot of lights ahead. The Jap patrol boats were signaling to each other.”

The Trout had met the enemy, but she couldn’t afford to stick around for a decision fight. There was an important date to be kept out there in the Philippines, where the Americans and Filipinos were beginning to battle with their backs to the wall. So Mike Fenno maneuvered his ship around the nest of enemy patrol boats and proceeded on his course.

Later, in the South China Sea, Fenno had occasion to remember that unblinking light he encountered on his way to Corregidor—and then he had time to do something about it. The shell-laden submarine reached her rendezvous on time, was led through the minefields and soon was unloading her deadly cargo at Corregidor even faster than she had put it aboard at Pearl Harbor. Added incentive was dropping from the skies out there in the far Pacific—Japanese bombs, and lots of them!

The Japanese by this time had complete mastery of the air and were raiding steadily. The submarine had to lie on the bottom of the harbor during the day for protection; only at night could unloading operations be carried out.

“I was still wondering what to do about ballast,” Fenno said, “and began to make a few inquiries about getting some sandbags. It looked as if that was all I could get. But finally they told me that if ballast was what I was looking for, they’d give me something a lot better than sand.” He laughed.

“The first thing we knew, a flock of trucks began to arrive. We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw that they were loaded with gold! And silver!”

With feverish speed, the crew of the Trout and the soldiers of Corregidor unloaded the treasure from the trucks. The gold was in heavy, gleaming bars; the silver was in coins, packed in canvas bags. Panting and sweating, the men lugged the precious metal into the submarine and stowed it in the space that had been occupied by the brass and steel shells. Beneath a waning Manila moon, they tugged and heaved. Standard bars of gold and bags of silver coins are heavy.

“We worked like mad to get that stuff aboard so we could shove off before it got light,” Fenno said. “It was a hot spot for a submarine.

“The bags the silver was in must have been lying in vaults a long time, because some of them had rotted. They broke while we were carrying them. Money was rolling all over the pier, dropping through cracks and splashing into the water.

“One of the crew said he’d never in his life expected to let so much money slip through his fingers. They were all laughing and making cracks about our ‘ballast,’ but working like the dickens to get it loaded.”

Before dawn they won their race against time and the Japanese bombers. The Trout cast off her lines and headed toward the minefields guarding the harbor entrance. Enough lights were turned on to enable the guide boat to get her bearings and lead the gold-filled submarine safely through. Probably not since the days of the Spanish treasure fleets has a ship put to sea with such bizarre and valuable ballast. In addition to the many bags of silver, there were twenty-five tons of gold bars. All told, the metal in the hold of Mike Fenno’s submarine represented about twenty-five million dollars!

“Before we got through,” Fenno said, “I would have swapped it all for a few more torpedoes.” And he meant it. Admiral Withers’ permission to Fenno to do a little enemy-hunting after delivering the shells offered an opportunity no submarine skipper could turn down, gold or no gold. So after he left Corregidor, Fenno headed up toward Formosa, or Taiwan, as the Japanese called it.

The Trout poked her nose northward through the waters of the South China Sea. But not until several days out did she encounter anything, and then it was a typhoon; one of the worst storms Fenno had ever experienced. The submarine fought mountainous waves and terrific winds.

It was impossible even to get a bearing. For four days, the captain admitted, they weren’t sure where they were. The only certain thing was that they were still afloat and thankful for it.

Eventually the storm passed, and the doughty American submarine, shaken but intact, arrived in the vicinity of Formosa.

The Trout had begun by pinch-hitting for a garbage scow. Then she had been cast in the dual role of munitions transport and bearer of gifts. Her next assignment made her a treasure ship, by accident. But now she was to come into her own, to fulfill the destiny for which she had been built.

It was a bright moonlight night. The sea was rocky from the storm, the kind of water that operates to the advantage of a submarine, because it makes periscopes hard to spot.

The Trout was cruising on the surface, everybody topside peering across the tumbling, moonlit waves in the hope of catching the faint smudge of an approaching ship.

They knew they were in an area where enemy shipping could be expected over the horizon at any moment. But it was from below decks that the quarry was detected. The man on watch at the listening gear picked up the sound of a ship’s screw. The moon was too bright for a surface attack, so the submarine dove and waited. It wasn’t long before Fenno at the periscope saw the enemy vessel, a freighter, coming right across the Trout’s course.

The air within the round, gray hull of the submarine was charged with suppressed excitement. At their battle stations, the crew were tense and quiet. His blue eyes fixed on the image of the approaching ship in the periscope, Fenno passed the order to make ready two of the bow torpedo tubes. In the forward room the torpedomen moved quickly and expertly, and in a moment the word came back to the control room that two “tin fish” were ready for launching, except for opening the outer doors of the tubes. At the firing circuits, the chief of the boat, the top-ranking enlisted man in a submarine, spoke to the captain.

“Tubes ready, sir.”

There was a brief pause as Fenno lined up the unsuspecting Nipponese freighter. Then his crisp voice broke the silence.

“Stand by one!”

At the fire control panel, the chief of the boat turned a key that connected the firing circuit with tube No.1 and cut out the others. Fenno’s command had gone to all parts of the ship over the battle phone system. In the forward torpedo room the torpedo gang were poised to fire the tube by hand should anything go wrong with the electric firing circuit.

“One’s ready!” the chief announced.

The Trout’s captain took a final calculating look at the oncoming target.

“Fire one!” he ordered.

The chief’s right hand moved a few inches, pushed the button of the firing circuit. There was a faint thud, a gentle quiver that ran the length of the craft, as the torpedo sped from its tube through the waters of the South China Sea.

The bow planesman had already set the planes to “hard dive,” in order to compensate for the weight of the fired torpedo and keep the submarine’s bow from being forced upward. In the torpedo room a torpedoman had jerked up the vent that flooded the empty tube with sea water to maintain the ship’s trim.

“One’s gone!” the chief exclaimed. At the same time, his left hand manipulated the keys that cut out tube No. 1 and cut in tube No. 2. “Two’s ready!”

As the first torpedo with its explosive-laden warhead churned toward the enemy, the sixty-odd men in the submarine waited with tightened throats. The seconds ticked by slowly, and they thought of that time on the way to Corregidor, when nothing had happened. But at last there came a dull, muffled boom. Instantly the tension snapped.

It was a hit! First blood for the Trout. Some of the men cheered and some pounded each other on the back. “The freighter was making about ten knots,” Fenno said. “She was such a pushover, I almost felt sorry for her. That first fish slowed her down to about three knots. I decided to poke her with another.” He gave the order:

“Fire two!”

Again the chief’s hand pressed the firing circuit.

“Two’s gone!” he announced. “Torpedoes away, sir!” Fenno nodded slightly. “Secure the tubes!” Once more the crew waited in grim expectancy and hope as the second big torpedo leaped from the Trout’s bow. A second muffled explosion told them they had scored twice. Mike Fenno’s description of the result was a combination of modesty and satisfaction. His feelings were plain, but all he said was: “Down she went!” The Trout under Mike Fenno had bagged the first of a long string of Japanese ships that she eventually sent to the bottom. After that she continued to patrol the area without success for some time. Then, one night, dead ahead, appeared the fixed light of a patrol boat. The captain’s thoughts immediately swung back to his experience with that other light on the way out to Corregidor, but he kept his submarine pushing steadily forward.

“I was expecting them to start shooting any minute,” he said. “But they didn’t. We dove and picked up the light through the periscope.”

Slowly and cautiously, the Trout eased in. Finally the order came to fire one torpedo. At their battle stations the crew held their breath, waiting for the dull explosion that would tell them they had hit the target. The blast of a torpedo when heard aboard a submarine is sometimes described as like the distant sound of a boiler blowing up.

No such heartening noise came to the straining ears of the crew. On the contrary, the sound man caught something that was definitely disconcerting—the whir of a torpedo, not their own, boiling past them.

Instantly the American ship went down deeper. Again the listening gear picked up the harrowing sound of an enemy torpedo—and it passed right at the spot where the submarine had been a moment before. The Trout struck back with another torpedo herself. But fired under such difficult conditions, it also missed. For a long time the men listened trying to get on a steady bearing. When Fenno decided they had what they wanted, they took a third shot at the Japanese ship.

“That time,” he said with great relish, “we made aviators out of those Japs on the patrol boat. Blew it all to splinters!”

The Trout had done more than sink another Nipponese craft. She had destroyed the bait of an enemy trap. The trick was—and the submariners knew it well—to have one patrol boat shine a fixed light, an easy target for a submarine, while a second patrol boat lay in wait at one side for any unwary attacker. This was one time the trick didn’t work; Mike Fenno’s ship, with its millions of dollars’ worth of gold and silver, pulled clear of immediate danger and continued her hunt for more Japanese.

Not long after this the Americans had to return to their home waters. They were due back in Pearl Harbor on a certain date, so they headed eastward.

“On the way,” Fenno said, “I figured out a good joke. When we pulled into Pearl Harbor, I was going to put a group of the boys around the mess table and have them playing poker. They would use stacks of silver coins and gold bars from our ballast as chips. Then I was going to call in some of my friends and show them how much money we had made in the Pacific ...”

He shook his head sadly. “It didn’t work out. We had to get that gold on its way to the mainland as fast as we could, and there was no time for kidding.” The Trout kept a secret rendezvous with a cruiser and transferred her gold and silver to the larger ship, which brought it to the United States.

The courageous voyage of the Trout to Corregidor with sixty tons of shells, and her almost fantastic trip home with a ballast of bullion and a couple of sinkings on the way, received official recognition. Admiral Withers gave letters of commendation to all the officers and enlisted men. The Army awarded the Distinguished Service Cross to Fenno and the Silver Star to all the other officers and all the members of the crew. Captain Fenno also received the Navy Cross, which is the highest fleet decoration, outranked only by the Congressional Medal of Honor. And this was only the beginning of his career in the war; later exploits won him still further decorations.

For the Trout, too, the patrol to Corregidor was only the beginning. She was still to sink many Japanese ships; to pick half-drowned Japanese prisoners from the sea; to tote torpedoes right into Japan’s front yard and plant them in enemy ships under the noses of the Japanese on shore.


Following image: A Boeing B-29 ‘egg crate’ (Superfortress) in flight.


Hard Like Duty


EVEN UNDER THE MOST favorable circumstances, life in a submarine is not easy. Aside from the hazards of navigating beneath the surface of the sea, either in peace or in war, submarine duty imposes an abnormal strain on the nervous system. It involves great physical hardship and an environment which prevents proper exercise. Neither of these conditions contributes to good health.

The Navy long has recognized this. For years, service in the submarines has been designated as “hard-line duty” for which additional pay is given. At the present time the men in our submarines, both officers and enlisted personnel, receive an extra fifty per cent added to their base pay. Because of this and the fact that almost every enlisted man in a submarine has a petty officer rating of some kind, submarine crews are probably the most prosperous of our sea fighters. They deserve all they get.

A civilian, in order to obtain a real idea of the cramped conditions under which our submariners eat and sleep, work and play, must first understand what their ships are. One of our modern submarines cruising on the surface presents a slim and racy appearance. The topside is only about fifteen feet wide where the conning tower rises. It tapers forward to the bow, and it also tapers to a point at the stern. But its appearance is deceptive, as far as the like. actual structure of the craft is concerned. There’s much more to a submarine than meets the eye. Beneath this slim deck with the contours of a racing shell, the submarine swells out into a round fat hull, or, more exactly, two hulls. In a way, it is a ship within a ship. It has an outer hull and an inner, or pressure, hull; between them are the ballast tanks which regulate the craft’s buoyancy by inducting or expelling sea water. It is by means of adding or subtracting the weight of this water that the submarine is able to dive and surface, although large planes at the bow and stern, somewhat like a fish’s fins, help to control this operation and make it less difficult.

The highest point on a modern submarine, aside from the periscope, is a lookout platform which is above and a little aft of the bridge. Below the bridge is the conning tower, and when you crawl through its twenty-three-inch hatchway and down the ladder you arrive amidships in the belly of the submarine, in its most important compartment, the control room.

While different classes of submarines vary in their layout, and even submarines in the same class are subject to minor changes while building, this is the general plan of the new ships that tore Japan’s navy and merchant fleet to pieces.


Following image: USS Seawolf (SS-197) off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, March 1943.


THERE ARE EIGHT COMPARTMENTS below decks divided from each other by steel partitions, or bulkheads, each pierced by a single oval doorway. When you pass through these doorways, you step high and bend low, because they are barely large enough for an ordinary-sized man to go through. They are airtight and when necessary they can be closed and any one compartment sealed up. Nearest the bow inside a submarine is the bulkhead containing the breech doors of the bow torpedo tubes.

Extending aft is the forward torpedo room, in which are carried extra torpedoes. Part of the crew also sleep here in ingeniously designed rollaway metal-pipe berths. The fact that some of them fit snugly over gleaming torpedoes containing hundreds of pounds of TNT doesn’t worry real submarine men. Also in the forward torpedo room is the delicate and secret listening device, or sound gear, as it is generally called. By means of this complicated supersonic instrument, the submarine is able to pick up underwater noises ranging from the crunching of fish jaws to the throbbing roar of a battleship’s propellers. The man at the sound gear—the soundman—not only can distinguish the type of ship he hears by differences in the vibrations of various propellers, but also can estimate the speed at which the vessel is moving by counting the revolutions per minute.

The usefulness of this listening apparatus in successful submarine operation cannot be overemphasized. Squeezing through the oval bulkhead door, you enter the forward battery room. There are no batteries in it. It receives its name from the fact that some of the huge storage batteries that drive the ship when it is underwater are placed directly below its deck. The forward battery room is crossed by a narrow passageway off which are a number of small rooms. These include the cabins in which the officers sleep, the wardroom, and some undersized telephone booths which the petty officer staff uses as offices.

The wardroom is the largest of these compartments; but there is just enough room around its dining table for eight men to be seated, three on a side and one at each end. Nevertheless, the wardroom contains cleverly designed cupboards for linen and silver, a shelf holding the submarine’s library, a record player, a telephone at the captain’s place, and other compactly arranged comforts and necessities. At the forward side is a waist-high partition separating it from a pantry, which has a small electric stove and refrigerator and enough room for a mess attendant to turn around.

The officers’ sleeping quarters contain upper and lower bunks, steel washbowls, racks for clothing, and a couple of lockers for personal possessions. When the bunks are occupied, the cabins are just about filled up. The captain, as befits his rank, is housed a little better, although he frequently shares his luxury with another officer, who gets the upper bunk. The captain’s cabin is all of six feet square. In addition to the conveniences of the other cabins, it also has a nice assortment of instruments illuminated by indirect lighting. Among them are a depth gauge, a gyrocompass dial, and a brace of telephones. The weary submarine captain can open one eye and tell at a glance what his ship is doing and where it is with reference to the top or the bottom of the ocean.

Cramped and compact though all these quarters are, they are always spotless, gleaming with green paint and stainless-steel trim, which is both practical and decorative. In the wardroom one sits on comfortable cushions of artificial leather. If the general effect is a little reminiscent of some of our modernistic soda fountains, certainly few submarine officers object. It’s easy to keep the quarters neat, and that’s the way they are kept.

Go through another bulkhead and you’re in the control room. This compartment is the general headquarters of the ship, to use an Army term. Directly above the control room in the conning tower, the captain has his post in battle and issues his orders, which are transmitted throughout the submarine by signals, phone, or even word of mouth if necessary.

The most conspicuous thing in the control room is the periscope, which is about in the center of the compartment. It also can be used from the conning tower above. At the periscope the skipper watches what is taking place on the surface of the sea when his ship is submerged, provided it isn’t below periscope depth.

The entire control room is filled with apparatus which—as the name indicates—controls the submarine. There are countless gauges, indicators and controls, among them a supersonic fathometer, which is the modern substitute for the lead plummet with which soundings were made in the old days. The fathometer is a device which projects a sound wave and by timing the return of the echo, the depth of water under the ship’s keel can be determined. In the maneuvering room farther aft are the engine and electric motor controls. In the conning tower is the panel of electric buttons to fire the torpedoes.

From the control room the diving planes, the compressed-air manifolds, and the pumps are manipulated. On the wall is a large indicator board on which a system of lights shows the position of every vent and valve in the submarine. This board is called the “Christmas tree,” since the lights are red and green—the former to indicate open and the latter to indicate shut. Add some electric meters, fuse boards, a gyrocompass, steering apparatus, and a chart table for the navigation officer, and you have a partial picture of the mechanical jungle that makes up a control room.

Aft of the control room is the galley, where the food for both officers and crew is prepared. Adjoining is the messroom, which can accommodate only about half the crew at a time. These spaces sometimes are called the kitchenette and the dinette. The cook sets a first and second table. Beneath the messroom are ice machines and refrigerated storage rooms for meats, frozen foods and vegetables, as well as storerooms for other foods and the ammunition magazine.

Beyond the messroom is a section known as the crew space. About half the enlisted men sleep here, on bunks with metal springs. Each man also has a small locker.

They do not have much personal room, because there isn’t much to be had. Adjoining the crew space are a washroom and several shower baths. You have to make up your mind which way to stand before you go into the showers because of their small size. If you walk in face first, you may have to back out; but if you back in, you’re pointed in the right direction for a quick exit.

On some of the boats, flushing the toilet when a submarine is beneath the surface is one of the most complicated operations on the whole ship. Because of the water pressure outside the hull, it has to be done by means of compressed air. One mistake and the water pressure gets the best of the air pressure. Then disaster overwhelms the unfortunate operator. On the later submarines, however, this danger was removed by the installation of a septic tank, which is cleaned out when the ship surfaces.