The Captain's Column
Writing articles for this column consists of checking my last article, to see where and when I left off, and then going to the log at the date of the last action and reading on further. It is sort of an ongoing serial and I'm glad that I know how it eventually comes out. Reading the cold, dry report of the log sets me to dreaming and remembering. Those were exciting days!
The last column told the tale of sinking the KEITO MARU in a surface gun action on 12 June 1945. We go on from there.
The action is not as frequent or as productive as we would like. There just doesn't seem to be any shipping. We have searched diligently, but the total amount of traffic along the coast of South Korea has been the ship we sank on the 9th, the one on the 10th where our circular run torpedo nearly got us and the one on the 12th which we sank with the deck gun. Other than those, none of which were very big, we have seen only small sampans and fishing vessels. But, remember all those ships off of Fusan the night we made the passage through Tsushima Straits? I'll bet they are running between Fusan and Shimonoseki. If we go down to the north end of Tsushima Island, any traffic between Fusan and Shimonoseki will have to pass near to us. The only problem is that Tsushima lies well to the south and we have an obligation to rendezvous with our wolf pack, the BOBCATS, on the night of the 16th and that rendezvous position is well to the north. Well, there isn't enough action here to suit us; there may be some down by Tsushima. We've been having a lot of fog. If it is foggy enough, we can stay on the surface while running south and thus get on station quick enough to give us some time there and make it worth while. If it is not foggy and we have to run submerged, we can go only part way. In that case we will cover the port of Hoko in Geijitsu Wan.
At 1750 on the 13th TINOSA sighted a small wooden sea truck, about 800 tons. We went to battle stations submerged at 1800, but could not reach a firing position. The best we could do was reach a position at 4,000 yards range and a 1200 port angle on the bow. We did not surface to make an end around, or consider a surface gun action, because we did not wish to advertise our presence in the vicinity of Fusan. By midnight of the 13th we were patrolling on the surface, east and west along a line 11 miles to the north of the end of Tsushima Island.
Nothing doing here, either. We went to battle stations at 0238 when a white light was sighted, but secured at 0336 when the craft we sighted was determined to be very small. We could track it by radar only out to a range of 5600 yards. The contact course was 320 degrees T, speed 7 knots. Fog prevented visual identification. At 0445 on 14 June 1945, we submerged while closing the coast north of Fusan. Visibility was poor all day. There was no ship traffic. At any time during the day there were about eleven fishing vessels in sight. Unfortunately we have to work north along the coast, away from Fusan, but toward our rendezvous for the night of the 16th. We surfaced at 2048. These are long days submerged, 16 hours in round figures.
We submerged at 0435 on 15 June when increasing light and variable visibility revealed fishing craft at 3,000 yards. Our radar does not pick up these small wooden ships. The sea is like glass. We are continually foiled in attempting to steer any course by the great number of fishing vessels milling around. At 0910 a small sampan, range 1500 yards, keeps giving us a zero angle on the bow. We notice a net marker twenty degrees on the port bow, range 350 yards, and another 60 degrees on the starboard bow, range 600 yards. It looks like we have blundered directly into a fishing net; we'll go into it in no uncertain fashion and maybe break right on through. Flood Negative! Take her to 300 feet! All ahead full! 0931.
At periscope depth again. Cannot see any net markers and we appear to be all clear. 1300. Fishing sampans all around. The sea is like glass. Changes in water temperature, with corresponding changes in density, make depth control difficult at slow speed. At 1339 all hands heard a loud metallic snap or bang which seemed to come from the pump room. Shortly afterward attempted to flood negative when inadvertently came up to 56 feet. Negative tank flood valve won't open and cannot flood negative, although the operating shaft opens and closes hydraulically by visual inspection in the pump room bilge, and the indicator lights are working. We suspect that the flood valve operating linkage carried away inside negative tank. Negative tank is out of commission. Flooded same and compensated for it. 2043 Surfaced. 2108 received a dot dash challenge by flashing white light bearing 085 T, estimated range 4,000 yards, no SJ radar contact. This is probably another wooden sampan type fishing or patrol vessel, which has heard our diesels or screws. Avoided. 16 June 1945. 0437 Submerged for trim. 0532 Surfaced. 1300 Submerged upon SD radar contact at 6-1/2 miles. Visibility about 600 yards, contacts not sighted. 1403 Surfaced. 2030 Commenced getting friendly SJ radar interfere 2145 Made contact with USS Flying Fish on SJ radar 01
2248 Alongside USS Flying Fish. She is the leader
Of the three BOBCATS: FLYING FISH, BOWFIN and TINOSA. Enjoyed a chat with Bob Risser, exchanged movies and gave Flying Fish 15 pounds of salt. 2255 Enroute own area.
The 17th of June was an unproductive day spent entirely on the surface, except for hiding from
One aircraft contact, 'looking for surface shipping without result. On the 18th at 0220 TINOSA spotted a dim white light followed by an SJ contact at 1400 yards. We commenced running through a darkened fishing fleet, some seen and some not. The SJ picks these small craft up at ranges from 2500 to 350 yards. We are closing the coast north of Bokuko Ko at 17 knots. Until 0400 we ran through this fleet using right and left full rudder almost continuously to avoid collisions. We ran through at least one net and had an estimated 50 contacts. This was exhilarating business! At 0404 SJ radar had a contact bearing 329 T, range 9500 yards. This must be a coastal freighter like a sea truck or something; at least it is much more substantial than the little sampan type fishing vessels, which we have been dodging for so long. At 0405 manned battle stations submerged, although we are still on the surface, intending to make a surface approach after gaining a favorable position. 0417 Sighted target in growing light, range 11,000 yards. Target is indistinct, but has good length and a large superstructure. 0420 ran into fog bank, visibility 75 yards, making end around. Fog apparently reduced radar sensitivity, radar contact lost. 0515 we are on target's track, 12,000 yards ahead, three miles off shore. Commenced closing target. 0530 regained contact, range 7700 yards. 0602 Torpedo attack number three. Fired three torpedoes depth set six feet, torpedo run 600 yards, 60 starboard track. No hits, Range to land 5900 yards, Left full rudder. Passed 350 yards from target without sighting. Target continues on course 330 T at 6-1/2 knots. Hear three explosions corresponding to torpedo runs of 3500 yards. JK heard target screws for the first time, reported as, "light and fast". Torpedo attack number four. Fired two torpedoes, depth set four feet, 100 starboard track, torpedo run 700 yards. No hits. Desisted from further useless expenditure of torpedoes. Considered gun attack but decided against it. In this fog, with visibility of 75 yards, we would practically have to ram him before we could see what we are attacking. Broke off attack. This was a low point in our morale for this patrol, everything we had done to date was right, except this. Determined to improve our score somehow.
0822 June 18, 1945. Fog is getting spotty. Fishing sampan suddenly clearly in sight on the port beam, range 1400 yards. The occupants waved gaily to us before we ducked into another fog bank. 0825. Four sampans in sight on the starboard bow, range 2,000 yards. Submerged near the coast for the rest of the day, with no ship contacts. 2008 Surfaced. Avoiding many small contacts. Decided to head down to Tsushima again. If we can run on the surface enough, we may be able to get down there with enough time left to scout Fusan itself. (This did not occur).
2312 June 19, 1945. SJ radar contact bearing 1600 T, 6700 yards. 0005 June 24. Original contact joined two more. 'We have strong radar interference on 3,000 mgc:. Decided this was a patrol. Because of patrols, good visibility and lack of time decided not to try to get all the way into Fusan. 0305 SJ radar contact bearing 035 degrees T, range 11,500 yards. Commenced tracking. 0407 Getting light. Target tracks on 120 degrees T, speed 7 knots, angle on the bow 150 starboard. 0423 Sighted target which is a medium sized AK. Making end around at full power in good visibility. We'll be lucky, in this position north of the north end of Tsushima Island, if we can stay on the surface long enough to get ahead of him. 0539 Submerged, angle on the bow 12 degrees Starboard, range 24,000 yards. 0556 Manned battle stations. 0712 fired three torpedoes on a 90 starboard track, torpedo run 500 yards. Three hits! This AK started a dive immediately. In twenty seconds she was decks awash with about a 20-degree dive bubble and still looking like she was making seven knots. At 35 seconds she was completely gone leaving about twenty survivors clinging to miscellaneous pieces of wreckage. She had a deck cargo of lumber. At time about 40 seconds after firing, Charlie Sanders, the diving officer, says, "Captain, if you don't change course we're apt to get at the same place at the same time as that ship." Geez, you're right Charlie! Right full rudder!" I felt more at ease when TINOSA had turned through 90 degrees in heading and we had not collided with the sinking ship. There was no mistaking her breakup sounds as she went deeper and so the KAISEI MARU, 884 tons, joined the others in Davy Jones locker, on the morning of 20 June, 1945.
We will probably finish the eleventh patrol next time.