INTO THE SEA OF JAPAN
From the log of the Eleventh Patrol, "4 June, 1945. Passed a dark object. Might have been a life raft. Reversed course. 0311 Looks like one of those Kamikaze rafts propelled by swimmers but no doubt is not. Felt sort of ridiculous lying to in the middle of the strait, hailing a bunch of logs, with a Tommy gun ready. No one visible and the logs would not answer. Continued on."
We were making a passage through Tokara Kaiko (Colnett Strait) south of the southernmost island of Japan, Kyushu, enroute to the Sea of Japan. It was a black night and there were many Jap patrol planes flying around overhead.
On the night of 4 June 1945. TINOSA exchanged calls by means of the SJ radar with the USS SCABARDFISH. We then put a rubber boat in the water and by means of a heaving line attached to the rubber boat, we hauled the boat back and forth between the two subs, transferring a couple of rescued aviators on each trip.
In a very few minutes all ten of the survivors had been transferred, very happy to be homeward bound onboard SCABBARDFISH rather than to be bound for the Sea of Japan onboard TINOSA.
Going by memory, because the log for 6 June, 1945, says only, "See special report", we dove that morning at 0400 with BOWFIN, TINOSA and FLYING FISH positioned along a line of bearing at equal distances from each other. We were somewhat south but mostly to the west of the island of Tsushima in the middle of the Tsushima Straits or Korea Strait. The general plan was to navigate by dead reckoning, passing from south to north in the deep part of the channel to the west of the Island of Tsushima. I remember that after submerging, our course was to be north for several hours and then northeast for the remainder of the passage.
We would be able to roughly verify position by the depth to the bottom, having decided to chance one solitary ping on the depth finder at intervals for that purpose.
There is a rather narrow, deep trench roughly in the middle of the strait. I think the depth of the trench was roughly 300 feet with much shallower water on each side. I think we went through at a keel depth 130 feet, which hopefully would place the top of our periscope shears just below the deepest depth at which any mine was reported to be planted, unless, of course, the current caused the mine to dip to a deeper depth.
There is a current setting to the north through Tsushima Strait at velocities reported to be as high as three knots. The current is always in the same direction with a minimum of one and a half knots.
With our slow speed of three knots through the water, we would make between four and a half and six knots over the ground or somewhere between 54 and 72 miles in twelve hours. As I recall, we needed about 60 miles to clear Tsushima and possible mine fields.
The Exec, Snuffy Smith, and I were to stand watch and watch, four on and four off, at the conn in the conning tower, with me having the first watch or the 0400 to 0800.
My watch was uneventful and Snuffy relieved me before 0800, so I went to my cabin for a much-needed snooze. About 1115, the messenger reported to me, "Hey, captain, if you want to see some mines, get up in the conning tower."
By the time I got there, the mine cable had dragged down the starboard side. Snuffy told me that he saw a mine nearly dead ahead, so he ordered right full rudder. About the time we started to swing to the right, he picked up another mine on the starboard bow, so he ordered left full rudder. By the time the ship was swinging left again, we had sort of fishtailed into the mine cable, which made contact about midship and scraped its way along the hull until it fell clear. Snuffy had, of course, stopped the screws so we wouldn't possibly wind the mine cable around the blades and pull the mine down on top of us.
Thank God our clearing lines worked as designed and the mine cable did not hang up on any projections.
After that, we went through two more distinct lines of mines, which we plotted, but, fortunately, we hit gaps between the mines and did not rub any more cables.
By evening twilight we were pretty sure we had passed any possible minefields, so we came to periscope depth to take a look around and hopefully fix our position. We were past the north end of Tsushima and about to pass the port of Pusan, Korea. There ahead and to the left was a convoy or group of many ships, of all sizes, apparently about to go across to Japan. We were prohibited from making our presence known by sinking anything until sundown of the ninth, and here it was only the sixth. So TINOSA went back down to 120 feet and cruised silently along into the Sea of Japan.