By: Bliss Nisonger

Appeared in the Tinosa Blatt of August 1981, issue #2, pages 28 through 36

There is no need to tell you of the trouble one has in trying to remember exact details after only 36 years, particularly about events one is trying to forget.

By the time the fourth patrol of the TINOSA rolled around, the crew had begun to meld into a close knit group of submariners who considered themselves amongst the best in the business.

We had been ordered from our original patrol area to Palau to prevent the flow of supplies, keeping that Japanese base as a thorn in the side of "Dougout Doug", (Douglas Mac Arthur's) quest to get back to Manila.

We were cautiously optimistic about the new assignment primarily because of the presence of "SMOKY JOE", (a Japanese antisubmarine vessel), which was already credited with the sinking of three of our subs with no known survivors.

Word came from Navy intelligence that a convoy was headed toward the port we were patrolling. I do not know the day in question, but I believe it was early December 1943, as we arrived in Fremantle, Australia, December 17, 1943.

There was double jeopardy to be watched for, due to the fact that there were Jap planes based there also that had to be dealt with.

It wasn't too long before we were made very much aware of both hazards.

The night before the attack, the TINOSA had a full can on the battery and Captain Daspit was heard to tell Commander Weiss that no matter what else happened, we had a good battery charge. This fact may have saved us.

As day broke, the Captain came to periscope depth to look for the arrival of our contemplated prey. About 6:00 AM, sonar picked up f first one ship's screws beat, then another, until four ships were identified. A quick periscope look presented two small cargo ships with two escorts.

Captain Daspit had battle stations submerged, passed over the 1 MC with caution, so as not to make any more noise than necessary, in making preparation for the attack.

As the convoy approached and Captain Daspit made his hurried periscope information available for the TDC (torpedo data computer), he could scarcely believe his eyes, when the two escorts suddenly turned around and headed away from the ships they were escorting.

Miracle of miracles, with a little luck he could get between both, of the cargo ships and have a submarine captain's dream come true to fire at two ships at the same time, or nearly the same time,

He immediately ordered, "Make ready all tubes, forward and aft," repeat, "Make ready all tubes, forward and after torpedo rooms."

We could scarcely believe our ears in the after torpedo room, where I had been transferred from the forward torpedo room. This was done to replace a second class torpedoman who had been left in the relief crew at the end of the third war patrol.

Clark Fisher TM 1, was in charge of the after room, myself TM 2, Cooksey TM 3, and others, I don't recall, hurriedly made the torpedo tubes ready and reported to the conning tower, "Torpedo tubes aft ready."

The Captain continued his approach. Then the word came from Conn; "Standby tubes forward and aft."

Three torpedoes were fired forward and almost simultaneously; two torpedoes were fired aft.

Immediately after we heard a loud explosion and all sorts of things happened; it was considered that a Japanese plane had dropped, a bomb on us, shortly af ter the torpedoes had been fired, causing several major problems.

1- Flooding was reported in the pump room.

2- We lost all power to the motors.

3- There were no lights, except from battle lanterns.

4- Maneuvering reported flooding in the motor room.

5- We assumed a 15 to 20 degree down angle with no means outside of hand operated bow and stern planes to offset the precipitous descent.

6- The bilge and trim pumps were inoperable due to lack of power. In short, we were in a near hopeless situation.

To make things even worse, we were being depth charged by Smokey Joe and his friend. Things didn't look too good, at this point, as we were past test depth and still out of control.

Captain Daspit ordered everyone who could be spared to go to the after part of the sub, to see if the shifting of weight would overcome the down angle of the boat.

At about this time, Smokey, Joe, or his buddy, dropped a charge underneath us that gave us an instant up angle.

The order was sent, to send all hands that could be spared to go forward, to counteract the up angle.

Then, joy of joy, maneuvering reported they could put one motor on the port screw.

It had been rumored that Smokey Joe had a method of manufacturing depth charges on board his ship. After counting more than twenty depth charges, we believed very strongly that he was making them between runs on us.

Surprisingly enough, we were able to finally draw further and further from the sound of depth charges.

Any old submariner will tell you when depth charges are further away, by the identifiable number of explosions from each charge.

1- One loud bang and you know they are too close.

2- Two bangs, one soft and other loud, means they are closer than you'd like them to be.

3- Three explosions- one a click, the next, a soft bang, and the last- louder, means he is only going to replenish his fish supply.

Now comes the interesting part.

It had been determined, when the forward torpedo room had rigged for depth charge, that the outer door could not be closed because of an obstruction. (No one dared to think it could possibly be a torpedo); however, the possibility existed. There was nothing that could be done until the sub could surface and appraisal of the situation could be made.

We cruised along at minimum turns to save the battery until it was dark enough to surface, or until the battery got so low it would be necessary to surface to prevent loss of all propulsion due to no juice in the batteries.

Both happened at nearly the same time. About 9 P.M. it was decided to surface because of the low batteries.

The surface alarm, was sounded and TINOSA struggled to surface --- But wait --- Radar had picked up two contacts, one appearing to be rain and the other was certainly a ship, presumably a Japanese destroyer or escort vessel of some type hopefully not Smokey Joe, but then, who knew. It couldn't be much worse, no matter what or who it was. It surely wasn't anyone bring us mail from home.

Captain Daspit made the most important decision of his life, as another blip showed up on the radar about 5,000 yards away.

He decided to make a bow run on the new target to cut down on the target visibility, then swing to the right and try to pass unseen between the two ships.

If this didn't work, there was nothing left to do but battle surface with two enemy ships with the TINOSA carrying a possibly fully armed torpedo, sticking out of a forward, starboard tube.

Then the Gods of War finally smiled upon us, as one of those torrential tropical rains descended upon us, cutting visibility to zero.

The plan was executed. And it worked! We were able to pass between the two enemy ships till we were over the horizon and away from their search and destroy plans for us.

When we were far enough from our waiting enemies, the captain brought the submarine to a stop about twenty-five miles from where the attack had taken place, but well within range of any patrol plane, eagerly looking for a sitting, badly wounded duck --- us.

This is where the situation gets to the buffo point.

Captain Daspit called Warrant Officer Van Gorder, (I believe later he made regular officer rank) to the conning tower to make preparations to find what pleasant surprise was in store for us, and determine what was obstructing the torpedo tube.

Suddenly, I was ordered to the conning tower. Apparently, I had been made the selective volunteer to help locate the source of the torpedo tube obstruction. (I might possibly have volunteered, but I swear I don't recall it, as I am and always have been a non-swimmer; not that even being Johnny Weismuller, would have been much help. We were more than 1,000 miles from any U.S. held territory).

The Captain was briefing us on what we were to do. Mr. Van Gorder was to go over the side with a hand-made impeller wedge to put in the impeller of the torpedo, if there was one stuck in the tube.

Torp.JPG Sketch by Monroe

Sketch by Jack Monroe

I recalled my teaching concerning torpedoes learned at the torpedo school in Newport, R.I., just prior to the start of WW II--- I recalled the test made on the firing spring of a fully armed torpedo - 16 - 20 ounces, no more nor less, to trip the ring and actuate the three phase procedure of firing a fully armed torpedo. I tried not to think that if the torpedo was fully armed, Mr. Van Gorder could set the torpedo off (start the firing sequence) by jumping on the torpedo. WHEW! What a way to go! But, at least I wouldn't be live shark bait, just, tid-bits for the well-fed sharks of that area in the South Pacific.

Mr. Van Gorder 'must, have been thinking along the same lines, as we (I think it was Leo Bonner TM 2 who was the other pigeon with me) gently lowered Mr. Van Gorder over the side.

Almost immediately the information was passed up that - yes; it was a torpedo, and probably fully armed. But that the wedge would be inserted just to be sure and possibly prevent an explosion, caused by the force exerted in expelling the torpedo.

During our briefing, the Captain had casually mentioned that if, while we were on deck checking the torpedo, it might be necessary to dive and leave us there, but that he would try to come back and pick us up.

Great! I thought at the time, now all I need is an instant Johnny Wiesmuller course in swimming. As I recall, we wore no life vests because when the sub dived, if it was necessary, we wouldn't give away the subs approximate position.

We returned to the conning tower and was told to go below which we did with undue alacrity.

Once again, Captain Daspit made a momentous decision. He decided to eject the torpedo while the TINOSA was on the surface.

He ordered all four engines and the auxiliary engine be put on the line. He further ordered the impulse on the torpedo tube that carried the fully armed torpedo be brought to 200 pounds hoping this would not cause a force strong enough to fire the torpedo but strong enough to eject it from the tube.

He ordered the forward torpedo room cleared of all personnel except the person who would standby the torpedo hand firing key to insure the tube was fired if something should happen to the torpedo tube electric firing device.

He ordered the forward battery compartment cleared and all unnecessary persons out of the control room and conning tower.

He ordered the maneuvering room to start backing down at minimum turns then as the TINOSA gained way astern, he increased the speed to all back 2/3rd's. When the sub was at all back 2/3rd's speed, he ordered the torpedo tube fired.

Once again the Gods of War smiled upon the U.S.S. TINOSA and it's crew as the torpedo was ejected with no explosion.

An involuntary cheer went up as soon as it was apparent we were, for the time being at least, rid of our potential disaster element, a fully armed Mark 14 torpedo.

We were not scheduled to go to Fremantle, Australia after our 4th run, but this order was changed and we arrived in Fremantle on December 17, 1943.

I had been selected as one of those to go to the relief crew upon arrival and I did, along with Captain Daspit and the usual number of personnel transferred at the end of each run.

During my stay in the relief crew in Fremantle, I had an opportunity to talk to the Squadron Doctor who said that had there been sufficient men available, he would have liked to have, transferred the entire crew. This was impossible because there was another submarine that had come much closer than the TI'NOSA, --to being sunk and that a larger portion than normal had been transferred from her.

I have talked to Al Watrous concerning TINOSA'S fourth patrol and he concurs that all the events I have described are as vivid as they were those many years ago.