SAMPANS and ROUGH WATER
By: R.C. Latham

Article was first published in the Tinosa Blatt of September 1980, pp 4 & 5

This incident happened on 8 January 1945, when TINOSA was in shallow water, close in to the harbor of Naha, Okinawa. The log says only; "Numerous sampans sighted during day ranging from 50 to 200 tons. The leader of one column of three had a bridge amidships, similar to a freighter and made flag hoists on entering channel to NAHA. Sampan traffic entered and left NAHA on approximately the following true bearings originating at NAHA: 005, 315, 255, and 242". I do not now remember the depth of water, but I'll make a guess at 150 feet. I do know that the bottom was covered with cackling shrimp, which made a continuous loud background noise, which completely blocked out the sonar. It was impossible to hear the propeller beats of the sampans.

TINOSA was running at periscope depth, which allowed a couple of feet of periscope exposure in the fully raised position and also provided some twelve feet or so clear from the surface with the periscope lowered. This was enough so the shallow, draft sampans would not touch us, even if they passed directly overhead.

I'd raise the scope and take a look-see every ten minutes or so. Imagine my surprise when the scope broke the surface and I found myself looking in high power (six times magnification) directly into the placid, yellow face of a man, about 25 feet away. All I could see of him was his head the upper part of his torso, and he seemed to be looking directly into my eyes. When I put the scope in low power, I see that he was sitting cross-legged upon a big pile of bananas on the stern of a sampan which was passing. "Geez, nothing but teeth", I thought. We couldn't make our presence known because we were looking for mines and the survey was not yet complete, so the sampan went on its way.

The sampan incident occurred in the eighth patrol, which was a rough-water war patrol. The log for 12 December 1944, two days west of Midway, reads: "0800 Barometer dropped to 29.72. Sea picking up. Wind about 40 knots, N.W. 1355 Forced to slow to about 8 knots.

1600 took two green ones over the bridge, received about one-foot water in the conning tower. Port lookout knocked out temporarily. 240 volt ground on the drain pump. Slightly damp, but no other troubles. 2000 Made good 7.25 knots since 1200. Drain pump in commission".

On 17 December, TINOSA'S log says: 0335 Wagner, C.H. Jr. TM3C, USNR, washed off starboard high lookout station and landed on main deck. All stop. Wagner made his way back to the conning tower ladder when again swept away, this time hanging up on a lifeline. Made his way again to the conning tower and was hauled to safety by eager hands. Examined by pharmacist's mate discovered to have suffered no injuries or bruises of any nature. Resumed laborious progress at full on one main engine".

How would you like to try your chances on one like that?

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