U.S. S. BESUGO (SS 321)
Submarine hull number 321 was laid at the Victory Yard of the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut on May 27, 1943. She was launched on February 27, 1944, at which time she was christened the USS BESUGO (SS 321) by Mrs. Margaret O. Homer of New London, Connecticut.
Upon completion of fitting out, she was moved to the U.S. Submarine Base, at New London where she was accepted and commissioned on June 19, 1944 with Commander Thomas L. Wogan, US Navy as her first Commanding Officer.
A plaque, indicating that the population of the County of Queens, New York loaned the money for her building was displayed in the Officers wardroom.
I boarded the BESUGO on June 19, 1944, coming from the USS GURNARD (SS 254) from which I was transferred June 14, 1944 in Fremantle, Australia.
The shakedown and Government alterations were completed without incident and the BESUGO departed New London July 25, 1944 and arriving at Key West, Florida August 1, 1944 where she provided services and received further training from the Key West Sound School. Departure from Key West was August 13, 1944 and a four day stay was made at Balboa, Canal Zone for minor voyage repairs.
Repairs were completed August 22, 1944 and the Panama Canal was transited and at the Pacific exit a course was set for the Submarine Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, arriving there September 7, 1944. Five days of voyage repairs and modernization projects, eleven days of training and two days of loading equipment staples and spare parts brought her into readiness for her first War Patrol in Japanese waters.
FIRST WAR PATROL:
(Combat Insignia Awarded)
BESUGO departed Pearl Harbor September 26, 1944 in the Company of USS GABILAN (SS 252), also on her first war patrol. A group consisting of BESUGO, GABILAN and USS RONQUIL (SS 396) was to form off Bungo Suido, at the entrance to Japans' Inland Sea with Commander Wogan in tactical command. The primary mission of the group was to be reconnaissance to locate and report any task force groups of heavy warships departing Bungo Suido. Attacks were not to be made until reporting by radio the sortie of enemy units leaving or entering the port.
On September 30,1944, the BESUGO and GABILAN stopped at the Submarine Base, Midway Island for topping off fuel. Departure was later the same date and the route to be followed was roughly a straight line to Gofu Gan, then west for about three hundred miles, then north to Bungo Suido.
On October 5, 1944, RONQUIL made her rendezvous with the group and BESUGO delivered patrol instructions to RONQUIL via an Officer in a rubber boat. At 1931, October 6, 1944 a contact was made on a small patrol craft, which was lying to and drifting with the wind. Commander Wogan on BESUGO instructed GABILAN and RONQUIL to continue on course while BESUGO would try to destroy the enemy picket boat. At 2102, three torpedoes were fired at the target from a range of 1250 yards but all missed, probably due to the shallow draft and size of the small vessel.
BESUGO withdrew, the moon rose and the and the still unsuspecting enemy got underway and moved about a mile and half and lay to again.
BESUGO circled the target, which put her up moon in the moon slick and closed for a surface gun attack. At 2228 fire was opened with the five-inch gun and both 20mm guns. The five-inch deck gun was immediately ineffective due to the inability to see the target over the rolling swells and shortly became useless as necessity for keeping the range open on the target allowed her to move out of the moon slick. At this time, the picket boat was replying with sporadic bursts of light machine gun fire. Both 20mm guns jammed and the deck gun still couldn't see the enemy to shoot at. Range at this time was 800 yards.
The enemy then closed the range to 500 yards and commenced firing with 50 caliber guns in addition to the other light machine guns he was using, scoring some hits off the conning tower and periscope shears. Copper fragments from the bullet, which holed the shears, wounded Gunnery Officer, Lieutenant C. E. Stastney in the hand and lookout W. L. LaCrosse, F1/c in the leg.
It was not possible to remain in the vicinity until daylight to finish the slightly damaged enemy as four hours had to be made to regain position with GABILAN and RONQUIL enroute to the patrol area. The Commanding Officer's report on the incident stated "Not a very auspicious beginning for our Fighting career".
At 1243, October 8, 1944, when passing 20 miles north of Lots Wife, BESUGO sighted an enemy Betty aircraft at a distance of five miles and the rest of the day was spent submerged. On October 9, 1944 at 0625 an enemy trawler type antisubmarine vessel was sighted at about four miles by the high periscope lookout and when the enemy turned and headed for BESUGO, she dove and evaded the enemy craft as it went by at 200 yards. By 0821, the enemy was out of sight and BESUGO surfaced and continued toward her patrol station.
BESUGO encountered her first enemy radar equipped anti-submarine aircraft at 0329, October 10, 1944 and the closest known approach was 1600 Yards. A half-hour of radical high speed maneuvering on the surface was nerve wracking, but eluding the aircraft was successful and BESUGO commenced the patrolling submerged during the daylight hours at the approaches in the eastern sector.
On October 13, 1944, at 0426, three small vessels were contacted on radar. They were tracked until dawn, maneuvering radically at slow speed near the coast but any track was ruled out due to the shallow water.
While submerged at 0746, October 13, 1944, BESUGO sighted a group of masts which proved to be a Natori class light cruiser and three heavy cruisers of the Atago, Naceri and Aobi with a heavy air cover. About three hours later, another large man-o-war and a Hatsuharu class destroyer departed Bungo Suido.
An attack on the destroyer may have been a possibility but none was made due to the definite orders concerning the patrol. Immediately upon surfacing at nightfall, radio silence was broken to transmit the contact report on the enemy task force. During the night the Submarines changed positions and BESUGOS' sector became the western sector to Bungo Suido. The area was the most heavily traveled by enemy aircraft. During the next day ten enemy patrol planes and sampans were sighted.
Upon surfacing at dusk October 16, 1944, radar made a contact on two large enemy ships leaving the harbor, zigzagging at 20 Knots. At 2150 they were identified as heavy, cruisers and at 2210 six bow torpedoes were fired at the nearest cruiser. At 2212 one torpedo was observed to hit the target abaft of the bridge. The hit was followed by a rumbling explosion, which was heard and felt but not seen. The stern tubes were not fired; by the time BESUGO had swung around to bear, the enemy was out of range.
Both cruisers milled about for about eight minutes while BESUGO opened out to 6,000 yards and reloaded the forward tubes. The damaged cruiser then headed southwest at speeds from 12 to 18 knots with the undamaged ships covering her retreat. BESUGO followed, attempting to get a favorable position to make another attack. At 2235, four explosions were heard and at 2255, BESUGO ran through a heavy oil slick and at 2305 six heavy underwater explosions were heard. Later it was learned that the target that was stalked tracked and sunk by BESUGO was the 10,000-ton heavy cruiser, Suzutsuki.
At 2350, the remaining enemy cruisers were inside the ten-fathom curve, skirting the shoreline closely trying to return to port at 16 knots. BESUGO tracked the target until 0300, October 17, 1944, unable to attack. She then surfaced and broke radio silence and sent her report of the incident. She thus eliminated two enemy cruisers from the enemy's' forces converging to oppose the Allied landings on Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.
At 0513, October 18, 1944 radar contacted a very large enemy vessel entering Bungo Suido at 24 knots. BESUGO was unable to close inside 9500 yards but identified the vessel as a probable converted ISE Battleship. At 0534, approaching daylight forced BESUGO to dive and the periscope sighted the two heavy cruisers returning to Bungo Suido but they passed too far out of range and the high rate of speed plus their zigzagging course made it impossible to be tracked and attacked.
Upon surfacing that night BESUGO sent her contact report concerning the returning ships and informed Com-Sub-Pac (Commander Submarines Pacific) that the group of Submarines now considered that the primary mission of the group should be to attack the enemy rather than to be prevented an undetected sortie from leaving Bungo Suido safely.
No important contacts were made the next couple of days but numerous enemy planes and sampans were sighted in daylight through the periscope. One close brush with a night radar equipped plane was evaded the early morning of October 22, 1944. The following evening, GABALAN was ordered out of the group, then BESUGO shifted to the eastside of Bungo Suido and RONQUIL controlled the west.
At 0310, October 24,1944, BESUGOS' radar contacted a large and small target. Commander Wogan called RONQUIL for a coordinated attack from the starboard side. At 0349, BESUGO started in for an attack. The targets proved to be a large oil tanker, with a destroyer and a destroyer or other anti-submarine vessel on each bow and each quarter. The plan was for BESUGO to sneak between the port bow and quarter escorts to torpedo the tanker. Two rapid zigs away in succession eliminated a chance at the tanker, leaving BESUGO close to the port quarter escort without enough time before daylight to make another end around on the group to attain a favorable position.
BESUGO surrendered the tanker to RONQUIL and an attack was made on the port quarter escort with three torpedoes, and a 700-ton destroyer escort was sent to the bottom of the sea at 0400. At 0415 BESUGO had thee stern escort 500 yards to her starboard beam when the area was illuminated evidently by the tanker attacked by RONQUIL and BESUGO became silhouetted for the rear escort and BESUGO immediately dove deep to take her assumed depth charging, which strangely failed to materialize.
Apparently the enemy was outside the echo range before he recovered from the shock. BESUGO learned RONQUIL was successful in the sinking of the tanker left to her through the generosity of BESUGO. A six torpedo attack sunk the tanker and a depth charge attack could be heard in the distance and upon surfacing, BESUGO was harassed by an occasional aircraft but all were avoided by radically maneuvering on surfacing.
During the darkness of morning October 25, 1944, BESUGO shifted her patrol station to cover the approaches to Van Dieman Strait and the east coast of Kyushu. Nothing but enemy aircraft were sighted until USS STERLET (SS 392) entered the area searching for a battleship the USS SEADOG (SS 401) had sighted. Shortly after 0010, October 29, 1944, Commander Wogan on BESUGO formed STERLET, RONQUIL and BESUGO into a coordinated search group.
BESUGO never sighted the enemy but both STERLET and RONQUIL made contacts for short intervals. The two battleships succeeded in passing the group out of range at high speed returning to Japan. Contacts from other American submarines approaching the area indicated that large numbers of enemy ships were approaching the area from the southward, being attacked by other Submarines.
By 1600 there were six submarines in BESUGOS' patrol area with Commander Wogan in command, using the radio to make contact with all and later that evening a seventh submarine joined the group. Commander Wogan announced the proceedings over the PA system and jokingly said, "that if any more Submarines entered the area we'll have one big bunch of accidents and hoped that the Navy has kept up the insurance premiums."
BESUGO sighted gun flashes on the horizon to the southwest at 2010, and at 2142 she sighted more gunfire in the distance. The gunfire continued and a half hour later a message was received by all Submarines in the area from the USS Salmon (SS 182) stating she was badly damaged and was fighting off two sub chasers and needed help. BESUGO was closing the gunfire but at 2336 all gunfire ceased in a heavy rainfall. SALMON radioed that she had lost her pursuers and Commander Wogan then assigned three Submarines to escort SALMON back to her base as she was too badly damaged to be able to dive and had to remain surfaced.
At 0102, October 30,1944 BESUGOS' radar made a contact on three small northbound enemy ships and shortIy thereafter a large stationary target was picked up to the southwest. BESUGO eluded the three antisubmarine vessels and commenced to make an approach on what proved to be a damaged tanker. However, before BESUGO could reach firing range, STERLET sank the tanker.
November 1, 1944, BESUGO received orders from Com-Sub-Pac to proceed to Saipan and she tied up alongside the USS Fulton, a submarine Tender on November 5, 1944.
While routine sea damage was repaired and fuel, torpedoes were taken aboard, the crew was granted eight hour "liberties" in three sections in three days. A surprise to me occurred when I was called topside as I had a visitor who was alongside to visit me. My brother-in-law who was in the Marine Corps heard that the BESUGO was entering the port and knowing that I was aboard "borrowed" a landing craft to come out to see me. After giving him a tour of the Boat Commander Wogan allowed me to spend forty-eight hours with him and his platoon.
The tour I gave my brother-in- law was mild compared with the tour he was about to give me. I was shown the outcome of the battle for Saipan with some of the enemy still holding out in caves or tied to the top of trees to act as snipers. I was overwhelmed with the conditions that the Marines were subjected to. Eating K-Rations, washing out of helmets, running out of cigarettes and not knowing where and when the enemy would counterattack. I was glad that I volunteered and enlisted in the "Silent Service".
SECOND WAR PATROL:
(Combat Insignia Awarded)
BESUGO departed Tanapag Harbor, Saipan for her second war patrol on November 10, 1944. Enroute to her patrol area, which would be Halsey Harbor in the Culion Islands. The members of the crew conducted intense training, again to familiarize new replacements with BESUGOS' ways and methods. On the night of November 15, 1944, Luzon Strait was transited via Balintang Channel and BESUGO entered the South China Sea. The next day, radar equipped aircraft continuously harassed BESUGO and she dove and surfaced at short intervals. It seemed that the enemy planes were being amused with their antics of playing cat and mouse.
At 0400, November 18, 1944, BESUGO entered the area controlled by Commander Submarines, Southwest Pacific. That afternoon she received orders to conduct an offensive reconnaissance off Linapacan Strait and upon arrival in the area, November 20, 1944 submerged daylight patrols were in effect for the western approaches to the Strait.
November 22, 1944, radar contacted an enemy vessel, which proved to be a medium sized tanker. BESUGO attacked her quickly in the approaching dawn, firing four torpedoes at 0521. One torpedo hit the tanker amid-ships starting an enormous fire, which lasted until the tanker sank, eleven minutes later. After the tanker sank, a large barge, about 300 feet long was discovered about 1500 yards astern of the spot to which the tanker sank.
At 0520, two bow torpedoes were fired at the barge. One hit the stern. BESUGO was credited with the sinking of the 7,000-ton tanker and the 4.000-ton barge carrying oil to the outposts of the enemy.
While clearing the area in daylight to get to deeper diving water, at 0601, radar made a contact on a ship heading to Halsey Harbor on Culion Island and BESUGO immediately began tracking her for the better part of a half hour. Tracking was done by radar as she still was too far to be tracked visually or by high periscope on the surface. The chase was aborted because the target would reach port before an attack could be made. The rest of the day was spent watching enemy ships entering and departing the harbor but no attacks could be made due to the shallow water and a chance of BESUGO being detected in the shallow water.
Two hours after surfacing the night of November 22, 1944, radar began picking up and losing targets. At 2054, a good contact on a large vessel was made and an approach was started. It was stormy and pitch-black. At 2138, four torpedoes were fired but all missed. While making, an end around to close the target, the forward tubes were being reloaded and at 2245, four bow tubes were fired and the Submarine commenced to swing around to bring the stern tubes to bear. Only one torpedo hit the target and all four stern tubes fired, missed their target due to the abrupt stop of the vessel.
At 2256, two bow tubes were fired and both found their target. They hit dead center of the vessel and a rumbling explosion followed by a fire that lasted for several minutes.
The target was stubborn and was still afloat but BESUGO had only two torpedoes left and both in the after tubes. These were expended one at a time at close range and both hit the target but failed to detonate. The victim was left dead in six fathoms of water, her superstructure still visible. BESUGO was credited with the sinking of a 7,500-ton cargo ship.
November 23, 1944, with permission of Commander Submarines, Southwest Pacific. BESUGO departed the area enroute to her new homeport, Fremantle, Australia. Mindoro Strait was approached via Apo West Pass into the Sulu Sea. The evening of November 25,1944, Sibutu passage was exited into the Celebes Sea. The following evening as BESUGO crossed the Equator, "Davey Jones" came aboard to inspect the "landlubbers" (those who have never crossed the Equator before). A decision was made to take BESUGO northward across the Equator and return southward on a dive, thereby crossing the Equator both underwater and on the surface.
The evening of November 28, 1944, BESUGO had to wait until after darkness to enter the much-dreaded Lombok Strait to continue her southward journey to Fremantle. Lombok Strait was a hazardous and dangerous body of water due to it being narrow with a swift current and being patrolled by aircraft and patrol craft. It had to be transited in the darkness of night and with as much speed as the four main engines could muster. Many of our Submarines had narrow escapes from not only the afore-mentioned patrols but it also contained shore batteries which at times would fire missals too close for comfort, and at other times nothing would happen and it was as if the operators were asleep. Passage this night was without incident and BESUGO continued on her journey.
This patrol ended December 4, 1944 when BESUGO moored alongside the USS ANTHEDON, a Submarine tender. BESUGOS' crew was relieved by a relief crew from the ANTHEDON and a much-needed rest, relaxation and recuperation were spent in Perth, Australia.
After the rest period and the repairs were completed, an extensive training period was conducted on the new equipment installed aboard. After the sea trials, refitting, taking aboard food and torpedoes and other essentials. BESUGO was ready for sea and her Third War Patrol.
THIRD WAR PATROL:
(Combat Insignia Awarded)
December 14, 1944, BESUGO departed Fremantle, and many members of the crew, especially the married ones with children, felt sad that they had to be going to sea instead of being home with their families. Christmas decorations adorned the passageways and compartments and the ships cook prepared a gourmet meal for Christmas Day to make the day more cheerful. BESUGOS' orders read that she was to patrol with a group of Submarines, Commander Wogan on BESUGO in command, off the entrance of the Gulf of Siam, in the South China Seas. BESUGO headed north in company with the USS HARDHEAD (SS 365). Entering Exmouth Gulf on the northern most tip of Australia, December 27, 1944, to top off fuel supplies. Lombok Strait was transited the night of December 30, 1944, with no problems.
At 0710, December 31,1944, a small enemy merchantman was sighted emerging from a rainsquall. BESUGO dove and attacked with three torpedoes, but all missed. The target was too small to warrant the expenditure of more torpedoes and BESUGO surfaced and continued toward her patrol area. During the remainder of this date BESUGO was forced to dive four times by searching enemy aircraft.
Karamita Strait was transited the morning of January 4,1945 and the patrol area was reached January 4, 1945. It was an area about 200 square miles long and wide. Upon entering the patrol station, a coordinated search for enemy ships was commenced with HARDHEAD.
At 1840, January 6, 1045 BESUGO sighted an oil tanker, with a destroyer escort to the southward and commenced trailing. HARDHEAD made contact with the same targets an hour later. At 2118, BESUGO attacked the large heavily laden tanker with six torpedoes. The target was being escorted by a destroyer ahead and two smaller escorts, one on each beam. Three torpedoes struck the tanker, causing her to explode into a raging fire from bow to stern. She sunk nine minutes later. She was later identified as the 10,020-ton oil tanker Nichiel Maru.
BESUGO cleared the area on the surface without being sighted by the enemy escorts who seemed to amuse themselves by milling about and dropping seven depth charges in hopes of sinking the Submarine.
At 1306, January 8, 1945, when 75 miles south of Cape Kamao, BESUGO encountered an enemy aircraft and dove as the enemy dropped one bomb. USS COBIA (SS 245) rendezvoused with the pack and except for an occasional aircraft sighting things were getting boring. The USS BLACKFIN (SS 322) relieved the COBIA, January 14, 1945 and the occasional sighting of the scouting plane brought no sightings and BLACKFIIN was detached from the group, January 17, 1945.
BLACKFIN was instructed to rejoin the pack January 22, 1945 but no further contacts were made by any Sub in the pack. BLACKFIN at 0530, January 24,1945 reported receiving a contact and at 0600, BESUGO with BLACKFIN closed in on two enemy ships. At 0619, a torpedo fired by BLACKFIN hit the larger of the two targets. The enemy commenced firing guns and dropping depth charges. The remaining ship, the escort closed in on BISUGO and drove her off, then headed toward the large unidentified vessel BLACKFIN had hit. The ship attacked by BLACKFIN was still afloat and twenty minutes later, with dawn approaching, BESUGO headed in toward the crippled ship hoping to sink her but the near escort was visible heading for BESUGO again. At 0642, flashing lights were seen on the escort and BESUGO dove and continued the approach on the damaged vessel. At 0710, the escort, an AM 13-18 minesweeper, was close to BESUGO searching frantically with her sound gear.
At 07I3, BESUGO sighted and identified the large damaged ship as an enemy oil tanker. At 0715, the enemy escort commenced dropping depth charges at about 2000 yards from BESUGO. While the depth charges were exploding close, BESUGO fired a spread of six torpedoes at the tanker, which was about 10,000 tons and the Captain, who was at the periscope saw the first torpedo strike the target forward of her stack. The escort again proceeded to attack BESUGO with depth charges and further sightings on the tanker could not be observed as BESUGO had to go deep to avoid the pesky minesweeper which unleashed a violent and close attack of 36 charges. Verification of the sinking of the 10,250-ton tanker, Sarawak Maru was witnessed by the HARDHEAD. The counter attack continued for about an hour. Later another escort arrived to help in eliminating BESUGO. The drops of the charges were form one to six at a time and exploded close to BESUGO but no major damage resulted and the minor leaks were quickly contained and repaired. At 1130 BESUGO cleared the area and again was back at periscope depth. The two anti-submarine vessels could be seen five miles astern. Still searching and hoping. Later that afternoon, 31 more depth charges were heard being dropped, apparently on a false contact.
On the morning of January 26, 1945, HARDHEAD made a contact on an enemy destroyer escort. Both made an effort to get ahead of the target to make an attack but by 0700, due to poor visibility from a severe rain squall the enemy escaped and it was frustrating for both BESUGO and HARDHEAD to come up empty handed. After that ten hour chase of the escort vessel, BESUGO made a contact on a group of vessels at 2330, February 1, 1945. She commenced trailing and tracking the enemy group and called for help from both, HARDHEAD and BLACKFIN. At 0155, Feb. 2, 1945, BLACKFIN made contact and BESUGO dove to commence her attack. The enemy consisted of four antisubmarine escorts conducting a sound sweep on a line, 1500 yards between vessels. BESUGO attacked the right center ship with four torpedoes from a position under the right flank ship at 0227 and obtained one hit on a smaller destroyer of 1000 tons of the Matsu class. HARDHEAD observed and verified the sinking.
The three Submarines left the area and proceeded to Fremantle, Australia. On February 5, 1945, the Karamata Strait was transited and Lombok Strait was approached the night of February 8, 1945 and as usual, passage was made in the cover of night and at the maximum speed of the four main engines. Two enemy escorts were sighted in the Strait but BESUGO was able to out distance them without incident.
Along the way BESUGO made contact with the USS GABILAN (SS 252), also coming off patrol on her way to Fremantle and the rest of the way was made in each others company. A stop was made in Oslo, West Australia and while both were taking on fuel, a fierce storm forced the two boats to rub each other. Before fuel and mooring lines could be taken off to separate the boats, minor hull damage was suffered by both boats but not enough to detain them from making the remaining trip to Fremantle.
At Fremantle February 15, 1945, BESUGO moored alongside USS EURYALE, a Submarine Tender at North Wharf. So many Submarines were awaiting refits, BESUGO had to be placed on a waiting period of ten days before her normal two weeks refit and recuperation could start.
On February 19, 1945, Commander Wogan, USN was relieved of BESUGO by Lieutenant Commander H.E. Miller and Commander Wogan went on duty as a Submarine Division Commander.
FOURTH WAR PATROL:
(Combat Insignia Awarded)
After the usual refit and rest, five days of training was performed to familiarize the crew on new innovations that were installed and on February 24,1945. BESUGO was ready for sea and her fourth patrol. BESUGO was to patrol in a "wolf pack style" patrol with USS GABILAN (SS 252) and USS CHARR (SS 328) with Commander F. D. Boyle on Charr in command. The patrol area would be in the east Java Sea and the southwest end of Makassar Strait. Lombok Strait was transited the night of March 29, 1945 with no problems and again BESUGOS' luck was good. On the night before GABILAN, a day ahead of BESUGO was chased by two patrol craft and narrowly escaped them by diving when she reached deeper water.
BESUGO sighted nothing but sailboats enroute to her rendezvous with CHARR and GABILAN in the assigned patrol area. Some of the sailboats were forced to come to and three members of the BESUGOS' crew would board them to make sure that they contained no war materials vital to the Japanese war effort. Of four sailboats stopped and boarded one did contain ammunitions and rifles and their crew were allowed to take to their lifeboats and BESUGO gave them food and water prior to sinking their boat with gun-fire.
Contact was made with GABILAN on March 31, 1945 in the southern part of Makassar Strait and CHARR met with pack members April 2, 1945. The night of April 3, 1945, the group moved further south off Bangoand and Longko lang lsland. At 1125, April 4, 1945, while submerged, BESUGO picked up echo ranging on sonar from a group of ships. This contact developed into an enemy task force of one Natori class light cruiser with three torpedo boats and a minelayer as a second screen. The task force passed outside torpedo range. When they were over the horizon, BESUGO surfaced and sent contact reports by radio. During the afternoon and evening BESUGO attempted to make an end around to get ahead of the targets for a position to attack but she was forced to dive four times by the forces air coverage.
The enemy was kept in sight until after dark when BESUGO attempted to head them off by taking a short cut between Angeang Island and Naru Point. Upon clearing the eastern end of this channel, the enemy was found to have changed formation to a column and was approaching the entrance to Sape Strait. This pass, through the Malay Barrier, had not been used by the Allied Forces since the very onset of the war. It was narrow, constricted by many reefs and it is believed to have been mined by the Japanese. BESUGO had no charts of the Strait, and Captain miller, upon consulting with his Officers, decided that following the Japanese ships through the channel by using radar to track their course would make navigation relatively safe. After taking a position five miles astern of the enemy ships, and though the channel could prove to be hazardous. It proved to be uneventful.
At 2315, the south entrance to Sape Strait had been cleared and an end around had been completed four hours later and at this point BESUGO was eight miles ahead of the enemy task force, with the task force being silhouetted by a bright moonlight. During the ensuing approach the enemy succeeded in detecting BESUGO. The cruiser avoided the six torpedoes fired at her and an attacking escort was missed by one fired at her. The attack was made at 0358, April 5, 1945 and an attack of 13 depth charges followed the encounter, some too close for comfort. One torpedo fired at the cruiser exploded after a long run and may have hit an escort that was near her, though this is doubtful.
Upon surfacing at 0510, BESUGO retired to the westward. She was instructed to clear the area while allied aircraft from Australia attacked the cruiser and her escorts. She took up patrolling in Sumba Strait for the next twenty-four hours. It was frustrating that all the time and torpedoes spent on this attack left BESUGO empty handed but there was satisfaction in knowing that at least she played a part in destroying the task force by identifying the position, speed and course of the enemy ships. At dawn on April 6, 1945. BESUGO dove and patrolled submerged in the south half of Sape Strait awaiting the return of any remnants of the enemy force that may have eluded from the Allied planes.
The other two Submarines of the pack were patrolling north of Sape Strait to attack any enemy vessels getting by BESUGO.
At 1335, the Natori class cruiser was sighted returning alone at a very high rate of speed. She passed by close to BESUGO who fired nine torpedoes at her but none hit due to the little time BESUGO had in setting up the plot and course of the enemy an the attack was made by guesswork. Her excellent haze gray camouflage coupled with the fact she out distanced her smoky escorts, allowed her to get close to BESUGO before she was sighted by the waiting Submarine. After the cruiser had gone at least three miles, she realized that she had been fired upon. Her air coverage dropped a few bombs but not close enough and the cruiser dropped a pattern of depth charges trying to scare off any other Submarines that might attack as she sped north to Sape Strait. As BESUGO feverishly reloaded her torpedo tubes, four more enemy ships could be seen approaching Sape Strait from the southeast.
The first three escort type vessels passed northward out of range of BESUGO and each dropped two or more depth charges where the cruiser had dropped hers, at least 5000 yards from the Submarine. The fourth and last escort tried to pass through the same area as the cruiser but BESUCIO blew her in two with one of four torpedoes fired at her.
This escort was identified as the 1,200-ton Hashidate class gunboat. Her bow sank immediately, but her stern continued to float with no sign of sinking while the troops she had been ferrying abandoned ship. BESUGO fired one torpedo at the floating half of the gunboat but had to lower her periscope and dive deep as an enemy plane was seen heading for the location of the periscope. The plane's bombs fell short of their target and the fired torpedo also missed its intended target. BESUGO spent two hours dodging enemy planes and remained close to the still floating half of the gunboat and attempting to get into position to sink the derelict with her last torpedo. During this time she was bombed closely once and strafed twice by the enemy. FinalIy, at 1712, the last remaining torpedo was fired and the last part of the damaged craft sank. Later BESUGO surfaced and tried to pick up prisoners but none would come aboard. Some floating charts were picked up before an enemy plane forced BESUGO to dive. Later that evening an enemy submarine fired one torpedo at BESUGO as she was leaving Sape Strait on the surface.
BESUGO returned to Fremantle, Australia for another load of torpedoes and minor repairs. After a few days in port she departed Fremantle April 16,1945 and set sail for the Java Sea to continue her patrol. Lombok Strait was transited late at night, April 21,1945 and one sizable vessel was sighted at the north end of the Strait and BESUGO started an approach for an attack but a Lilly night flier forced her to dive. Her dropped bomb wasn't close but the delayed time allowed the enemy warship to escape.
An attempt was made to chase the enemy was started but even with her four main engines at flank speed, it wasn't enough to match the speed of the fleeing enemy. The course was continued to reach the patrol area in the Java Sea where BESUGO would rejoin the "wolf pack" consisting of the USS BLENNY (SS 324) and USS PERCH (SS 176).
On April 26,1945, at 1350, a submarine was sighted where none of ours was expected. She was tracked and plotted while BESUGO was submerged and she was identified as a German U-boat flying a large Japanese flag and Japanese colors painted on her conning tower. She was attacked at 1420 with one torpedo, which found its mark. The U-boat sank immediately and BESUGO surfaced to try to pick up survivors.
Ten minutes later BESUGO had the only survivor aboard, a German Warrant Officer. He wasn't badly injured and he had been officer of the deck of the German Submarine U-1 83, a 740-ton German U-boat. It was suspected she was carrying fuel oil in her ballast and trim tanks to be delivered to a Japanese stronghold. This was confirmed later by the injured officer who now became a prisoner of war. The oil in the tanks was another reason why the U-boat rode the surface.
The prisoner stated that he thought he sighted BESUGOS' periscope, he couldn't dive for it would have disbursed all the oil into the sea and it was vital to the Japanese war effort that it be delivered to the out post where it was vitally needed.
This German P.O.W. committed a "mortal sin" that all submariners live by, and that is "anything that looks suspicious, don't hesitate and try to figure out what it is. DIVE".
The German Officer was treated by the ships Pharmacist and nothing seemed wrong with him except his attitude. He thought as an officer he deserved better quarters than a bunk in the after torpedo room. As usual when a prisoner of war is aboard, a guard with a side arm such as a 45-caliber gun was assigned to guard the prisoner. In this case it was the aforementioned torpedo man second class and a Buffalo, NY native, who after placing the "45" to the prisoner's head made it clear to him that his status in the German Navy would not be honored by the members of the BESUGO.
Nothing but sailboats were sighted until the evening of April 28,1945, when a large auxiliary sailboat was contacted. She was tracked for several hours in the moonlight to make sure she wasn't a native sailboat and at 0220, an attack was made on the enemy with the deck guns at a range of 1000 yards and she sank in nine minutes. She was identified as the Otome Maru, 260 feet long and 750 tons carrying oil and supporting sails for camouflage.
At dusk the same date, a tremendous explosion, followed by fire was sighted on the horizon. BESUGO closed toward the fire and discovered a survivor off a sunken oil tanker, clinging to a floating plank. He was rescued and found to be a Javanese native, pressed into service by the Japanese to perform slave duties aboard Japanese ships.
He was badly injured with third degree burns over 60 % of his body. He was the lone survivor off the tanker sunk by the USS BREAM (SS 243). The pharmacist made every effort to keep the survivor alive and alleviate his severe pain and the stench of the burned skin could be smelled throughout the boat especially when submerged, when the air aboard had to be re-circulated.
During the period from April 22, 1945, until relieved by the USS BAYA (SS 318) on May 12, 1945, BESUGO patrolled off Soerbaja in the Java Sea, along the north coast of Java. She patrolled as far west as Batavia on a series of lifeguard missions to rescue Allied pilots who may have had any trouble with their craft returning from bombing and scouting missions against enemy vessels approaching to counter the Allied landings on the cast coast of Borneo.
On the morning of May 2,1945, an enemy plane was successful in bombing BESUGO before she had a chance to dive but little damage was done by the bombing. In this incident, with BESUGO on the surface and the lookouts, due to a bright sun, failed to see the enemy coming in for an attack close to the surface of the water.
BESUGO made transit of Karamata Strait, May 13, 1945 and received orders to join a "wolf pack" off the Maylayan coast in the Gulf of Siam. On the evening of May 16, 1945, a course was set for Subic Bay in the Philippine Islands, where the patrol terminated May 20,1945. A mooring was set alongside the USS ANTEDON, a Submarine tender where a refit would be done while the crew enjoyed a much needed rest and relaxation. Upon tying up alongside the Tender, the German Warrant Officer, again with a little persuasion from his guard, shaved and cleaned up to be ready for transportation for questioning and interment for the remainder of the war.
The badly burned Javanese native was transferred to the base infirmary here; he died the next day. The crew was saddened upon learning of his death. Not only had they lived with the odor of his burned skin, at times unbearable, but he had the attitude even though he had painful injuries, he tried to get out of his bunk assigned to him to help the crew with cleanup duties for entering the port.
FIFTH WAR PATROL-
(Combat Insignia Not Awarded)
June 13, 1945, BESUGO, having completed her refit and short training period, was ready to depart Subic Bay for her fifth war patrol. Due to the scarcity of enemy targets now assessable to bombs from Allied Aircraft, the patrol would consist of lifeguard duties to rescue pilots in the event they had to ditch their Aircraft into the sea if they developed problems with their craft after they completed their missions.
A Captain of the Fifth Air Force (Army) was on board as a Liaison Officer but no opportunities were presented to the Submarine to effect any rescues of downed pilots. BESUGO diligently searched for enemy vessels but none entered her assigned patrol sector. Most of the patrol was spent in an area 100 miles north and south of Camaranh Bay, French Indo China until the evening of July 5, 1945 when relieved on station by USS COD (SS 224). BESUGO then proceeded to the south coast of Borneo via Karimata Strait for a week in the area. No enemy contacts were in this area but observations of enemy sailboats were closely maintained and radio permission was granted to sink sailboats used by the enemy suspected of transporting war materials.
The orders were explicit, stating that enemy crewmembers should be given food and water if they resisted becoming prisoners-of war and after allowing them to take to their life rafts, the sailboats are to be sunk.
BESUGO, received orders by radio to abandon the patrol and return to her home port in Fremantle, Australia- Lombok Strait was transited without incident July 19, 1945 and the patrol ended when BESUGO moored alongside USS CLYTIE, a Submarine Tender July 27, 1945. BESUGO was conducting training exercises on August 15, 1945 after completing her refit and rest period preparing for her sixth war patrol, when radio received a message that the war had ended with the surrender of the Japanese Government. BESUGO standing by to make a practice dive was ordered by Captain Miller to commence the dive. The dive was executed and it is believed that BESUGO was the first Submarine to make a peace-time dive following World War II.
Upon surfacing, radio received word for BESUGO to return to port immediately where loading for another patrol was completed. Readiness for the patrol was maintained until August 29, 1945 on which date, BESUGO, in company with USS BERGAL (SS 320) and USS CHARR (SS 328) departed for Sydney, Australia via the Great Australian Bight.
After two days in port refueling, provisioning, making final repairs and being entertained by the British Navy and Australian populace, BESUGO departed Sydney, Australia September 7, 1945 enroute to San Diego, California where she arrived September 26, 1945.
After nineteen days of upkeep at Mare Island, California, I was transferred from BESUGO to the Sampson Naval Training Station, New York November 15, 1945, for Separation and Discharge.
An itemized list of patrols, sinking and damaging and other interesting facts follows:
PATROL 1: (Combat Insignia Awarded)
1 Destroyer Escort Sunk (torpedo) 700-tons
1 Heavy Cruiser Damaged (torpedo) 10,000-tons
1 Patrol Boat Damaged (Gunfire) 500-tons
PATROL 2: (Combat Insignia Awarded)
1 Oil Tanker Sunk (torpedo) 5,000-tons
1 Oil Barge Sunk (torpedo) 3,000-tons
1 Merchantman Damaged (torpedo) 7,500-tons
PATROL 3: (Combat Insignia Awarded)
1 Oil Tanker Sunk (torpedo) 10,000-tons
1 Destroyer Sunk (torpedo) 1,000-tons
1 Oil Tanker Damaged (torpedo) 2,500-tons
PATROL 4: (Combat Insignia Awarded)
1 Gunboat Sunk (torpedo) 1,200-tons
1 German U-Boat Sunk (torpedo) 740-tons
1 Auxiliary Schooner Sunk (gunfire) 750-tons
PATROL 5: (Combat Insignia Not Awarded)
Due to the scarcity of enemy targets no sinking or damage was inflicted.
No opportunity occurred to rescue any Allied Pilots after their bombing runs.
Total Warships Sunk:.............…...4..................... 3,640 Tons
Total Warships Damaged:......…..2.................... 10,300 Tons
Total Merchant Ships Sunk:...…..4.................... 18,750 Tons
Total Merchant Ships Damaged:..2.................... 10,OOO Tons
TOTAL TONNAGE SUNK AND DAMAGED:….....42,690 TONS.
This record is unique due to the fact that BESUGO had sunk as many warships as merchantmen. The total tonnage is low for the total of ships sunk or damaged due to the small size of the enemy warships, that were built for speed and almost impossible to detect.
Two survivors were rescued on the fourth patrol, one a German Warrant Officer from the U- 1 83, a German U-Boat sunk by BESUGO and the other a Javanese native, pressed into slave labor by the Japanese, from an oil tanker sunk by the USS BREAM (SS 243).
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF
CHARLES B. (CHUCK) LEVAN
STILL ON PATROL ON THE USS R-12
"REST YOUR OARS CHUCK"