FIRST ACTION IN THE SEA OF JAPAN
In my last contribution, I had taken us through Tsushima Strait. We had rubbed one mine cable and safely navigated through two more distinct lines of moored mines. About evening twilight, we surfaced for a fix and found that we were clear to the north of Tsushima Island 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, about to go across to Japan. We were prohibited from making our presence known by sinking anything until sundown of 9 June, and here it was only the sixth. So TINOSA went back down to 120 feet and cruised silently along into the Sea of Japan.
About 2200 we were clear of the assembly of ships off Pusan, so TINOSA surfaced and put two main engines on propulsion and two on battery charge.
A short while later, upon achieving a full can (battery charge) and having crossed the hundred fathom curve on our northbound course, the great mental strain of the minefield penetration into the Sea of Japan was behind us. Once again we felt free and unfettered, ready and eager to find the enemy.
From the log: 0138 Ship Contact #7. Avoided a small southbound radar contact. Seas picking up, now condition 6. Slowed to one engine. Brought lookouts down to bridge level. 0145 Green water over the bridge frequently. 0457 Submerged when finally crossed the 100 fathom curve. 7 June 1200 Position Lat 35-54N, Long. 13001E. 1548 Came to 80 feet at which time began to broach. Depth control poor. Obtained look through periscope. Seas from north, condition 7-8. Went back down to 120 feet, where depth control is possible. 2040 Surfaced. 8 June, 1945. Noticed port bow plane mine clearing wire fouled on cleat. Heavy angle-iron, anti-fouling device across bow cleats has carried away and cable has looped over cleat. Cannot rig out bow planes. Seas still condition 7- 8 from the north. Sent two volunteers forward and cleared the wire. Lieut. (JG) H.G. Gross, USNR and Rodman, G.W. QM3C (SS) USN are deserving of special credit for volunteering for this simple, but hazardous job. 1200 Position Lat 37-22N, Long. 12958E.
The seas began to subside on the afternoon of the eighth of June, so that at 2023, we were able to surface and obtain the first fix since leaving Tsushima. At 2034 a submarine surfaced 4,000 yards ahead of us and then dove again. We think that this was USS BOWFIN, which must have been having difficulty working to the north in these seas. At 0427 on 9 June, 1945, TINOSA dove again.
Dawn comes early here. This was to be our shooting day at sunset, if we could find a target. At 1330 we inspected the harbor of Bokuko Ko, Korea. We had planned a devastating mele here at sunset, but much to our disappointment, the harbor was empty.
At 1422 we sighted smoke and later a ship bearing 160 degrees true. The water was shallow and we could not close this target closer than about 3,000 yards and still stay submerged. I was thinking:
(1) It is not sunset yet, by six hours or so, and that is the deadline for commence firing.
(2) The reason for the firing deadline was so all ships could reach station without the Japs being alerted to the fact that we are here.
(3) All ships are on station by now.
(4) The harbor at Bokuko Ko, supposedly a busy port is empty, and we haven't seen many ships.
(5) I must not let this guy get away.
BATTLE STATIONS! 1503:
FIRE ONE! (I wouldn't be a gunner, if I wasn't here.)
FIRE TWO! (I wouldn't be a gunner, if I wasn't here.)
FIRE THREE! #1 was aimed to miss just ahead, #2 was aimed at MOT (middle of target), #3 was aimed to miss just astern. With this spread, a slight error in target speed, either fast or slow, would give two hits, one forward and one aft. A big error in target speed should produce at least one hit. OH, the longest wait in the world, waiting for the torpedoes to reach the target when the range is about a mile and a half! He must have slowed down upon approaching port! #1 must have missed ahead, it should have reached him by this time! #2 must have missed ahead! WHAMO! #3 hit MOT! There is a big puff of black smoke and a shower of spray amidships. We hear the roar of the exploding warhead as the sound travels through the water to the submarine. In a matter of seconds the bow is rising up at an angle out of the water while the stern is doing the same thing. Here, Snuffy (Snuffy Smith, X.O.), take a look through the scope! In less than two minutes that ship is completely gone, not a trace left!
They didn't have time to send out any messages or alert anybody. It will be long after the sunset deadline before anyone realizes what happened to that ship. Right full rudder. Let's get out of here and reverse course to deeper water. So we took a single ping sounding frequently and kept about ten feet between us and the bottom as we were slowly able to go deeper as the bottom sloped away to deeper water.
Our keel depth was first 70 feet, then 80, then 90, then 110, 120 and 125. Inexplicably, our keel depth then began to decrease, 120 then 115, then 110. According to our compass we were headed out to sea and according to the chart, it should be getting deeper. What is happening?!! Periscope depth! A look through the scope confirms that we are headed away from land and out to sea. A bathythermograph check shows that there is a very dense water layer at about 120 feet, with a temperature of one degree below freezing, 31 degrees F. Actually we are in about 300 feet of water, but the single ping has been bouncing off the dense layer just like it was the bottom. We brought TINOSA to all stop, made her a little bit heavy and settled gently into the dense layer like it was a hammock. There we rested with all machinery shut down, glorying in our success, and confident that the enemy wouldn't be able to find us, even if he came out there with his best antisubmarine force. We weren't making any noise for his passive sonar to hear and his active sonar would bounce off the layer just like ours did. So we waited for sunset and the legal commence firing time to arrive. And so WAKATAMA MARU, a cargo ship of 2,.211 tons, came to her end.
(Ed. Note: The expression, "I wouldn't be a gunner if I wasn't here," takes about five seconds to recite. This is the time required between firings.)