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USS Pampanito (SS-383) is a Balao-class submarine used by the United States during World War II. It is now used as a museum and memorial that is open for visitors daily at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.

Pampanito made six patrols in the Pacific during World War II, during which she sank six Imperial Japanese ships and damaged four others. Operated by the Maritime Park Association, Pampanito hosts over 100,000 visitors a year and is one of the most popular historic vessels in the country. In addition to day time visitors, over 15,000 children a year participate in Pampanitos educational day and overnight programs. Pampanito is a National Historic Landmark.

History

Construction and Testing

USS Pampanito was built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, New Hampshire as part of an expanded wartime production effort. She and USS Picuda were the first two of ten subs to be built in Portsmouth's new building basin. Later, to meet the increased demands of the war, submarines were assembled in the dry docks which were normally used to repair vessels. Pampanitos keel was laid down on March 15, 1943, and she was launched the following July 12 in a double ceremony, honoring the first two subs to be floated out of the new construction basin. Following launching, work continued fitting her out, and on November 6, 1943, Pampanito was commissioned to officially became part of the US Fleet.

After commissioning, Pampanitos crew spent from November 29, 1943 to January 15, 1944 conducting sea trials and training exercises in the icy waters off Portsmouth and New London, Connecticut. Practice attack approaches were made, and exercise torpedoes were fired. All of the deck guns were fired, and equipment was calibrated. A six-day practice war patrol was also carried out.

Although the crew was new to Pampanito, there were many experienced submariners aboard to train and qualify the new hands. Commanding Officer Lt. Commander Charles Jackson Jr., for example, came from USS Spearfish, and Executive Officer Paul E. Summers had been assigned to Pampanito following seven war patrols on USS Stingray.

On January 15, 1944, Pampanito left New London to sail for the Pacific Ocean to join up with the war. Pampanito sailed south, traversing the Panama Canal on January 24, 1944, where she spent four days in Balboa for minor repairs and tests. Upon arriving in Pearl Harbor, on Valentine's Day, she was laid up for a week for further repairs and installations, including a five-day drydocking to renew and repair her wooden (lignum vitae) shaft bearings. While in Hawaii, on March 6, 1944, Charles Jackson was relieved of command, and Summers was fleeted up to Commanding Officer.

Officers and crew were prepared as much as possible for the dangerous job that lay ahead. Day and night drills were conducted in the warm waters around Hawaii where practice torpedoes were fired, gun crews drilled, and many test dives were made. Pampanito even received an indoctrinational depth charging.

Pampanito returned to Pearl Harbor where she was loaded with fuel and provisions. Sixteen Mk. 14 steam torpedoes were loaded into the forward torpedo room, and eight Mk. 18 electric torpedoes were loaded into the after room. On March 15, 1944, exactly one year after her keel was laid down at Portsmouth, Pampanito left on her first patrol.[1]

First war patrol - March 15 - May 2, 1944

On April 7, 1944, in the Central Pacific Ocean about 70 miles southwest of Guam, USS Pampanito was patrolling the western edge of the Japanese convoy routes between Saipan and the Palau Islands. Pampanito was 24 days into her first war patrol. Earlier in the patrol she had been off the coast of Yap Island standing lifeguard duty, searching for downed US fliers during the Palaus air strikes on March 30-31.

Since leaving Pearl Harbor the crew had been kept busy repairing a leaky torpedo tube and a bad hydraulic valve in the bow plane rigging; not easy jobs between the many dives necessary to avoid attack from Japanese planes patrolling the area. Avoiding enemy airplanes was done not only to protect the submarine, but also to keep the boat's position secret, one of the submarine's greatest tactical advantages. Just after noon on April 7, Pampanito's radar operator picked up a target about 10 miles off the starboard bow. Through the periscope Pampanito's skipper, Lt. Commander Paul E. Summers sighted a small convoy and escort ships moving on a radical zig zag course at 12 knots. Summers moved the submarine into attack position. A final check using the periscope revealed the leading escort ship was less than 500 yards away, and heading directly for Pampanito.

Summers took Pampanito down deep and began a cat and mouse game that was to last four days. The boat was depth charged and damaged as her skipper tried repeatedly to maneuver her into attack position. Shortly afterwards, Pampanito received a string of 5 depth charges varying in depth from 150 to 600 feet, all very close. The crew heard the screws of one escort through the hull, and the sound man distinctly made out a definite ping similar to a fathometer as the escort passed over and let go his charges. This string of 5 depth charges caused considerable damage and shaking up of the boat. This led to Summers pulling the boat back for evaluation of damages, and some quick repairs were made. Pampanito then moved ahead to the estimated position of the convoy, eventually catching up at dawn on April 10. Summers was now able to get his first clear view of the whole convoy. It consisted of two large freighters with three destroyers, one ahead and one on each flank, and a sub chaser astern. Summers tracked the zig-zagging convoy all day and was able to move into attack position that night. A nearly full moon had risen so Summers moved in on the side of the convoy away from it to avoid being seen.

At 2155 hrs, Pampanito fired a spread of 4 torpedoes designed to get 2 hits. The sub then commenced evasive tactics, thirty second before the first torpedo hit, with a violent explosion felt throughout the ship.[N 1] This was followed eighteen seconds later by the second torpedo hit. The resulting explosions prompted the Japanese escorts to launch a number of depth charges over the course of approximately eight minutes. This led to Pampanito taking in water via the main air induction piping, with #9 torpedo tube indicating sea pressure, evidently due to the outer door leaking from the depth charging. Pampanito's crew also had to close the hull induction drains in the engine rooms and maneuvering room, as water was coming in too fast. In addition, one of the poppet valves in the forward torpedo tubes was stuck open on firing, causing flooding of the forward torpedo room bilges.

Summers pulled away to evaluate the damage caused by the depth charges. The convoy had moved over the horizon so Summers sent a message to USS Harder, also in the area, in hopes that Harder could intercept them.

The outboard air induction piping was completely flooded, the sound heads were grounded out and number nine torpedo tube had flooded. The training motors for the sound heads were beyond repair and they were out of commission for the remainder of the patrol. Following the repairs Pampanito moved north to patrol the Guam/Palau convoy routes and stand another lifeguard watch. On April 25, unable to locate any targets and short on fuel, Pampanito left the patrol area and headed for Midway to refuel.

On May 8, 1944, after 54 days at sea, Pampanito returned to Pearl Harbor for refit.[1]

Second war patrol - June 3 - July 23, 1944

During the refit period that followed her first patrol Pampanito underwent several modifications. Main Ballast Tank #4 was converted to a variable tank designed to carry fuel oil at the beginning of a patrol and to be flushed out at sea when the fuel had been used to again become a ballast tank. This conversion greatly extended her patrol range. The conning tower was fitted out with a dead reckoning tracer (DRT), an automatic plotting device, which was the second such unit on board. Additionally, a VHF radio system was installed for short range communications with airplanes while Pampanito was on lifeguard duty, and with other submarines while operating in wolfpacks.

On June 1, 1944 Summers received new orders. Pampanito left for Midway Island two days later where she rendezvoused with a sub tender, a repair and supply ship, to undergo periscope repairs and take on 20,000 gallons of fuel oil. Pampanito left Midway on June 8, and headed for her patrol area at two engine speed.

June 9 was omitted from the calendar as Pampanito crossed the international date line on her way to patrol off the southern coast of Japan. Pampanito was experiencing high seas and typhoon like winds when the Japanese island of Tori Shima was sighted on June 15. The foul weather continued. Navigational star sights could not be obtained as she moved northward through the islands off the southern tip of Japan. As Pampanito penetrated deeper into enemy waters, she maintained a routine of staying submerged during the day and traveling on the surface at night to run the diesel engines to charge the batteries. Her engines could not be run while she was submerged because U.S. subs were not fitted with snorkels that carry oxygen to burn the fuel and allow exhaust gasses to escape while submerged. When Pampanito traveled on the surface during daylight hours, lookouts kept a watchful eye so that she could dive if an enemy plane was spotted or target moved into range.

As skies cleared and the seas turned glassy, Pampanito approached the Bungo-Suido, the straits between the large Japanese islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. At 0350 hours on the morning of June 23 the Officer of the Deck, the Navigator, and one lookout sighted a torpedo wake crossing Pampanito's bow. Left full rudder was ordered at flank speed to parallel the track of the oncoming torpedo. Another torpedo wake was sighted proceeding up the starboard side. ( Steam turbine driven torpedoes left a visible wake of exhaust gasses.)

Pampanito submerged and attempted to pick up the sound of the attacker's screws. Nothing could be heard. At 2300 hours Summers received orders to remain in the area until the night of June 27 to intercept the remnants of a crippled enemy task force returning from the Battle of the Philippine Sea. USS Whale, USS Grouper, and USS Batfish were also patrolling this area, but no contacts were made. During this time Pampanito was able to detect enemy radar from shore that revealed her position, and she submerged to keep her position unknown. Several potential targets were sighted over the next few days, including a destroyer and a nine-ship convoy, but the need to dodge patrol craft combined with the pull of strong easterly currents made attack positions too difficult to set up and maintain. Matters were further complicated when both periscopes began fogging, and there was no nitrogen gas left aboard to dry them out.

By the night of July 5, as Pampanito traveled through the seven mile wide channel between the islands of Nii Shima and Kozu Shima, the sky had cleared and a moonlit night revealed a clear view of both islands. Just after noon on July 6, a convoy consiting of two medium AK's (armed amphibious transports) and a tanker, with three escorts and air coverage from three planes, was sighted. It was a calm afternoon with glassy seas making it difficult to make an approach that offered an opening through the enemy screen. Summers fired a three-torpedo spread from the stern tubes at the leading target and one torpedo hit. The depth charge attack that followed drove Pampanito deep and the results of the attack could not be observed. Summers stated in his report that this depth charge attack was the most half-hearted depth charging he had ever witnessed, mainly due to the fact that the enemy had no idea where the Pampanito was. This was due to Pampanito using Mark 18 electric torpedoes that left no visible wake, combined with their position in the shallow water to seaward of the attack, because of the sharp temperature gradient.

The target's screws had stopped and the sound of a ship breaking up could be heard by the crew. A later periscope observation revealed that the leading ship was dead in the water, apparently hit by the second or third torpedo which had run under the escort. The enemy ship and the escort had such close air cover that Summers decided to pull away submerged at 250 feet. Later that night, a lookout reported a periscope 1500 yards to port. A few minutes later, radar revealed a plane closing in. That night the lookouts had the first night sighting of an enemy patrol airplane, which had been numerous during the daylight hours. They were apparently searching for Pampanito following the attack. Pampanito dove and resumed the patrol while moving on to the next patrol area. Just before dawn on July 16, Pampanito was patrolling on the surface west of the island of Hachijo Shima with a partial moon silhouetting her as she moved along at 19 knots. At 0340 a torpedo wake was sighted moving toward her port beam. Pampanito immediately came left to parallel the track of the torpedo. It was estimated later that the torpedo crossed Pampanito's bow as she turned, narrowly missing her by 3 to 5 yards. Summers again attributed the miss to the zig zag course he had kept.

That same day Summers received a report of an enemy convoy approaching, and he spent an extra day in the area in search; however, a U.S. submarine was the only vessel sighted. Diminishing fuel supplies forced Pampanito to leave the area and head for Midway to meet the sub tender USS Proteus to undergo refit.

Pampanito arrived at Midway on July 23. Following Summers' report of the second war patrol Admiral Lockwood, Commander of the Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet, speculated that the torpedoes fired at Pampanito may have been fired by a midget Japanese submarine. The Commander of Submarine Squadron 20 also noted an increase of land based enemy radar based on Summer's patrol report.

Pampanito was refitted and prepared for her third patrol.[1]

Third war patrol - August 17 - September 28,1944

On August 17, 1944 USS Pampanito was ready for sea. She had rendezvoused three weeks earlier with the submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) at Midway Island for repairs and supplies. During the standard refit period, which followed each war patrol, Pampanito was modified and repaired by the tender. Improvements included the installation of a radio key in the SJ radar (a surface search device so that the radar could also be used for communications), and the placement of charging equipment in the forward torpedo room which allowed the firing of Mark 18 electric torpedoes from the six forward tubes, an ability she already had in the after room. The brushes were replaced in all four of the 1600-horsepower electric main propulsion motors, and gaskets were replaced on the conning tower hatch, the main air induction valve, and the newly converted Fuel Ballast Tank #4A. Then final preparations were made for getting underway. Pampanito took on provisions, fuel, ammunition, and torpedoes.

Pampanito departed Midway again under the command of Lt. Commander Paul E. Summers and headed for her assigned patrol area in the Luzon Strait north of the Philippine Islands. This area was code named "Convoy College" because of the large number of Imperial Japanese convoys that converged there as they traveled north to Japan.

Unlike her first two patrols when she operated alone, this time Pampanito traveled as part of a wolfpack which included USS Growler, and USS Sealion II. Wolfpacks became more common in the Pacific War as Imperial Japanese convoys became better organized and protected. Skippers used their radios sparingly, preferring to rendezvous regularly at pre-selected times using signal lights or megaphones instead. The structure of this pack, nicknamed "Ben's Busters" after tactical leader Commander T.B. "Ben" Oakley, included Oakley in Growler, Commander Eli T. Reich, second senior officer, in Sealion, and Summers in Pampanito.

En route to the patrol area the three boats exchanged recognition signals and tested communications via VHF radio. On August 19, Summers noted in his patrol report that he was having difficulty reaching Growler when the range exceeded 8,000 yards. He expressed doubts that successful communications could be maintained during a coordinated attack.

When "Ben's Busters" attacked an Imperial Japanese convoy in Bashi Channel off the southern tip of Formosa on August 30, they operated with another wolf-pack, "Ed's Eradicators". This group was comprised of tactical commander Captain Edwin Swineburne in USS Barb, skippered by Commander Eugene Fluckey, and Commander Charles Loughlin in USS Queenfish. While the two packs attacked the convoy, sinking seven ships and damaging others, Pampanito lookouts reported distant explosions and a burning ship over the moonlit horizon, followed by distant depth charges. No contact report was received from the two attacking wolfpacks, and Summers searched in vain for the remnants of the scattered convoy. Summers blamed communications problems for Pampanito's lack of participation in the attack.

During the next few days Pampanito developed a serious and perplexing mechanical problem. A loud air squeal had been heard up forward during a dive, and the diving officer reported 2000 pounds of water in the forward trim tank. No explanation could immediately be found because the noise was coming from inside the tank. On the night of September 4, Lt. Howard Fulton and Motor Machinist E.W. Stockslader, hoping to locate the source of the problem, volunteered to be sealed into the leaky tank while the boat dove. A signal system was set up, and Pampanito went down to 60 feet, yet the men in the tank found nothing. Summers took her deeper, to 200 feet, before the leak was finally found. The seal around the operating rod to torpedo tube #5 leaked as it passed through the forward bulkhead of the tank. The boat remained submerged during daylight hours for the next two days while blueprints were studied. Pampanito surfaced at night to allow the leak to be repaired. First Class Gunner's Mate Tony Hauptman, an amateur diver, volunteered to perform the repair. He used shallow water diving apparatus to get below the waterline under the superstructure. During repeated dives, Hauptman fixed the noisy leak using a specially made wrench. Pampanito was then again able to maneuver silently while submerged, allowing the war patrol to resume without having to turn back to Midway for repair.

Pete Summers celebrated his thirty-first birthday at sea on September 6, 1944, the same day an ill-fated enemy convoy left Singapore bound through "Convoy College" to Japan. The convoy carried war production materials such as rubber and oil. It also carried over two thousand British and Australian prisoners of war being transported from Southeast Asia following the completion of the Burma-Thailand railroad. This infamous "Railway of Death," as it became known, was used by the Imperial Japanese to move troops and supplies 250 miles through the mountainous jungles of Thailand and Burma connecting with other lines running through Southeast Asia and out to the South China Sea. The railway had been built at a huge cost of human life. An estimated 12,000 British, Australian, and many times that number of Asian prisoners died from jungle diseases, lack of medical care, starvation, abuse and overwork. The fittest of the railway survivors, known as the "Japan Party," were being relocated to work as forced labor in the copper mines of Japan. The POWs were openly worried about the likelihood of being torpedoed en route by American submarines and made what slim preparations they could for that strong possibility. Some formed teams and planned escape routes off the ship; others stock piled meager rations or tested the effects of drinking small amounts of sea water. The Imperial Japanese could have requested safe passage for the transfer of prisoners, but no such request was received.

FRUPAC, the Fleet Radio Unit Pacific, intercepted and decoded an Imperial Japanese message detailing the course and estimated noon positions of the convoy along the route to Japan. On the night of September 9, the "Busters" were ordered to rendezvous on September 11, and to intercept the convoy. Later that night, the "Eradicators" were ordered to act as backstop and to move in on the convoy, as well. Growler, first to arrive at the meeting point on the night of the 11th, found light overcast and calm seas with rain on the horizon. Sealion surfaced nearby around 2000 hours, having just returned from Midway where her torpedoes, fired during the August 30th attack were replaced. Pampanito moved in an hour and a half later. The boats exchanged recognition signals with the SJ radar and moved within 100 yards of Growler to receive vocal instructions for the attack. The wolfpack moved to the expected position of the approaching convoy.

At 0130 on the morning of September 12, Pampanito's ace radar technician, George Moffett, picked up several pips on the screen at a range of over fifteen miles. A few minutes later, a contact report was received from Growler, but the message was garbled and could not be decoded. Summers went flank speed to maneuver ahead of the convoy and into attack position. Growler approached from the west and fired on the ships, causing the convoy's escorts to fan out in all directions. Growler's attack was a first and last in U.S. submarine history. Oakley had been picked up on radar by the Imperial Japanese destroyer Shikinami as he moved in to attack. The destroyer charged the sub. Instead of diving his boat and taking evasive measures Oakley faced the oncoming escort bow to bow, firing three torpedoes at the vessel from a range of just over 1000 yards. The first torpedo hit, causing a violent explosion. The destroyer, listing badly, charged ahead, coming so close to Growler that Oakley felt the heat from the burning ship. Shikinami finally went under, sinking only 200 yards from Growler. This controversial bow to bow surface attack on a charging destroyer has never been successfully repeated and is considered to be unnecessarily dangerous. However, Growler escaped and went on to damage two other ships before moving out of range to reload her torpedo tubes.

A bright quarter moon had risen and at 0230, Summers moved to the dark side of the scattered convoy. Sealion pulled back to repair a jammed automatic gyro setter, a device which is used to set the angle of the torpedo run. Growler lost the track of the convoy temporarily, and "Ed`s Eradicators," Queenfish and Barb, were 80 miles to the north, since they had not received the contact reports alerting them to the battle taking place to the south. Pampanito and Sealion tracked the convoy for the remainder of the night, both boats moving into attack range just before dawn. As Summers prepared to fire from a perfect position, Pampanito was jolted by a series of violent explosions which occurred as Sealion, to the west, fired two salvos of three torpedoes each at the convoy. The first salvo scored three hits on a large, heavily laden tanker which erupted into flames so bright they illuminated the second target, the transport Rakuyo Maru.

Rakuyo Maru was a 477-foot Japanese-built passenger-cargo vessel carrying a load of raw rubber and, unknown to the crews of the submarines, also carried over 1300 Allied prisoners of war. Two of Sealion's torpedoes hit the POW ship, one amidships and one in the bow. It took 12 hours for Rakuyo Maru to sink, which allowed the surviving POWs some time to make rafts and search the doomed ship for food and water. The Imperial Japanese guards had left the ship immediately after the attack using most of the lifeboats.

Sealion went deep to avoid the depth charging that followed the attack. The other two subs tracked the convoy as it zig-zagged radically to avoid being attacked. Growler caught up with and sank another Imperial Japanese escort, the frigate Hirado . The POWs, who were now in the water clinging to wreckage, had mixed feelings as the small escort instantly sank. Some cheered another score against their captors; others saw all chances of rescue sink with that ship. Tragically, many survivors of the initial attack were killed or badly wounded by shock waves caused by the explosions of Hirado's sinking, and the following depth charge attack on Sealion. Pampanito again picked up the convoy on high periscope [N 2] at noon the next day, and tracked it westward. Just after dark, Summers moved in for a surface attack, but had to pull the sub back when he learned that the torpedo in tube #4 had moved forward in the tube and had had a"hot run" [N 3] Although the warhead of a torpedo was designed to be unarmed until it had run through the water for a few hundred feet, the crew knew that torpedoes could be temperamental.

Pampanito was pulled back to disengage a jammed gyro setter caused by the hot run. Summers then quickly moved in again to set up the attack with the dud torpedo still in tube #4. A few minutes later the boat was once again in position, and fired five torpedoes forward; three at a large transport and two at another ship. She then swung hard right and at 2243 fired four stern tubes, scouring a total of seven hits out of nine torpedoes. One ship could not be observed because of smoke and haze in that direction. A short interval after the seven hits, the escorts started dropping depth charges at random,.

Pampanito had sunk a 524-foot transport, Kachidoki Maru, a captured American vessel built in New Jersey in 1921. First owned by the United States Ship Line, and later the Dollar Line, she had originally been named Wolverine State . After having been sold to American President Lines, she was renamed President Harrison . When captured off the China coast by the Imperial Japanese, she was given the name Kachidoki Maru. Like the Rakuyo Maru, the ship had been carrying raw materials to Japan. Also aboard were 900 Allied POWs.

Following the attack, Pampanito pulled away to eject the hot run torpedo and reload all tubes. An hour later, in another attack, Summers missed with three shots fired at a destroyer escort. He also observed two small ships, one of which had stopped, apparently to pick up survivors of the earlier attack. He decided they were too small to waste time and a torpedo on, and he moved on to rejoin the pack on the following night. No immediate attempt was made to track down the remaining stragglers from the convoy.

The wolfpack rendezvoused the night of September 13th. Growler moved south while Sealion and Pampanito spent the next day in vain looking for the rest of the convoy, then headed east toward the area of the September 12th attack on Rakuyo Maru. After diving to avoid a plane late in the afternoon of the 15th Pampanito surfaced to find much debris and floating wreckage. A bridge lookout sighted some men on a raft, so Pampanito closed to investigate. The men were covered with oil and filth, and were taken off the raft by a rescue party. These men were fifteen British and Australian Prisoner of War survivors from a ship sunk the night of 11-12 September 1944, while they were en route from Singapore to Formosa.

These men were survivors of Rakuyo Maru, sunk earlier by Sealion. After four days of drifting on makeshift rafts they were in extremely bad shape. Most were covered with oil from the sunken tanker, and had long since used up what little food and water they had with them. Slowly, the story of what had occurred was unveiled by the survivors brought aboard Pampanito. Summers radioed Sealion, and Reich also moved in to pick up survivors. As the men were received on board, they were stripped to remove most of the heavy coating of oil and muck. Passed below as quickly as possible, each man was given a piece of cloth moistened with water to suck on. All of them were exhausted after four days on the raft and three years imprisonment. Many had lashed themselves to their makeshift rafts, which were slick with grease. All showed signs of pellagra, beri-beri, immersion, salt water sores, ringworm, malaria etc. All were very thin and showed the results of undernourishment. During the remaining hours of daylight, Pampanito's crew recovered more survivors, bringing the total number saved to seventy three, before setting course for Saipan.

Under the direction of torpedo officer Lt. Ted Swain, volunteer teams were formed to get the almost helpless men aboard. Some of Pampanito's crew dove into the water with lines to attach to the rafts so they could be brought in close enough for others, on deck and on the saddle tanks, to carefully lift the men aboard. Among those crew members who swam out to rescue the former POWs, leaving the relative safety of the sub and risking being left behind if the boat had to dive, were Bob Bennett, Andrew Currier, Bill Yagemann, Gordon Hooper, Jim Behney, and Tony Hauptman. It was a tense and emotional period as the shocked crew worked to save as many of the oil soaked survivors as possible. During the rescue many of the crew came topside to help. If an Imperial Japanese plane attacked at that time they would have been left on deck as Pampanito dove to avoid attack.

Personal cameras were not allowed on submarines. However, it was fortunate that a couple of contraband cameras were produced by the crew. Electrician's Mate First Class Paul Pappas, Jr. was able to document the historic rescue with an amazing series of photographs and a 16mm film using the ship's movie camera.

During the five-day trip to Saipan, the nearest Allied port, the survivors were berthed in the crew's quarters amidships and on the empty torpedo skids and bunks in the after torpedo room where they were cared for by the crew. Some of the survivors were critically ill and in need of medical attention. Submarines carried no doctor on board, so the monumental task of treating these men became the responsibility of the only man on board with training in medicine, Pharmacist's Mate First Class Maurice L. Demers. With the help of crew members who fed the men and donated clothing, Demers worked around the clock. Of the survivors, Britisher John Campbell, was the most seriously ill. Demers worked continually in an attempt to save the delirious Campbell, but he died the next day, September 16. He was buried at sea following a somber ceremony; Paul Pappas read a heart-felt prayer. At one point, as Demers tried to get a few hours sleep, several of the survivors took a turn for the worse, and he had to be awakened. Demers continued his grueling work until he came dangerously close to total exhaustion. However, his efforts were rewarded; Campbell was the only casualty.

In a letter written after the war Demers said "...as I examined and treated each one I could feel a deep sense of gratitude, their faces were expressionless and only a few could move their lips to whisper a faint 'thanks'. It was quite gratifying to see the happy expressions on their faces when they left the ship."

Before leaving for Saipan, Summers sent off a message to Pearl Harbor relaying what had happened, and requested that more subs be called in to continue the rescue. The only other boats in the area were Queenfish and Barb; they were ordered in as soon as possible. Both boats were 450 miles west in pursuit of a convoy, but when they received the new orders they dropped the track and headed full speed to the rescue area.

During the night of September 16th they encountered a convoy of large tankers and, among the escorts, a small aircraft carrier. The subs attacked the convoy and Barb quickly sank the carrier Unyo and an 11,000-ton tanker, after which they continued on to the rescue area.

Queenfish and Barb arrived at 0530 on the 17th to begin their search for rafts among the floating debris. Just after 1300 they located several rafts and began to pick up the few men still alive. They only had a few hours to search before a typhoon moved in, sealing the fate of those survivors not picked up in time. Before the storm hit, Queenfish found 18 men, and Barb found 14. The boats headed on to Saipan after a final search following the storm revealed no further survivors.

Of the 1,318 POWs on the Rakuyo Maru sunk by Sealion, 159 had been rescued by the four submarines: 73 on Pampanito, 54 on Sealion, and the 32 found by Queenfish and Barb. It was later learned that the Imperial Japanese had rescued 136 for a total of 295 survivors. Of the 900 POWs on the Kachidoki Maru sunk by Pampanito, 656 were rescued by the Imperial Japanese and taken to prison camps in Japan. Over 500 of these men were released by American troops in August, 1945 at the close of the war. On September 18th, as Pampanito traveled to Saipan, she was met by USS Case (DD 370) and took aboard a pharmacist's mate, medical supplies, and a doctor. Yet, Maurice Demers, who had saved so many lives, continued to care for the former POWs. On the morning of the 20th, Pampanito was met by USS Dunlap (DD-84) which escorted Pampanito into Tanapag Harbor, Saipan, where she docked alongside the submarine tender USS Fulton (AS-11). Fresh fruit and ice cream were brought aboard for the survivors as preparations were made for off-loading them to the Fulton. The transfer was complete by 1100 that morning as Pampanito's crew bid farewell to the grateful and much improved former POWs.

Pampanito took on fuel and provisions and left for Hawaii at 1600 that afternoon. Pampanito arrived for refit at Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor on the 28th of September at 1000 hours. Summers and his crew were given high praises for their rescue mission, which COMSUBPAC Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Jr., called "unique in submarine history", and for a successful war patrol which had earned the combat insignia. The combined total tonnage sunk of the two wolfpacks was the highest to date in the war. Pampanito was credited with sinking three ships. Summers was awarded the Navy Cross, as were skippers Loughlin, Fluckey, Reich,and Swineburn. Fluckey went on to become the most highly decorated submariner of the war. The Navy and Marine Corps Medal was awarded to those who swam out during the rescue, as well as to pharmacist's mate Demers. The three men involved in the repair at sea of the leaky trim tank received Letters of Commendation.[1]

Fourth war patrol - October 28 - December 30, 1944

Pampanito underwent repairs and reprovisioning, and on the afternoon of October 28 she was again ready for sea. During the refit period at Pearl Harbor, Pampanito was overhauled and repaired. The VHF radio equipment that had caused problems with wolfpack communications on the last patrol was replaced, and a new model SJ radar reflector was added. The crew spent the period between October 17 and 25 training with their new skipper. All loading of ammunition and provisions was complete by October 27.

Commander Paul Summers, Pampanito's skipper for her first three war patrols, had been sent home on emergency leave to recover from the pressures of ten consecutive, demanding war patrols: three on Pampanito and seven on USS Stingray. Captain Frank Wesley (Mike) Fenno, Jr. volunteered to relieve Summers as commanding officer of Pampanito on October 7th.

Captain Fenno was himself an experienced submarine officer with a remarkable and unique war record. He had been the skipper of USS Trout on patrol off Midway Island on December 7, 1941 when he received a radio transmission reporting the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He assumed that the distant bombardment he heard from Midway was a large Japanese invasion force. The invasion turned out to be two Japanese destroyers that pounded Midway heavily and left the scene before Captain Fenno could initiate a counterattack. In February, 1942 Trout was ordered to Corregidor, the island citadel at the entrance to Manila Bay in the Philippines, to deliver 3500 rounds of much needed anti-aircraft ammunition. There, Trout drew ten torpedoes and took on the most unusual ballast of World War II, over twenty tons of gold and silver. It had been taken from Manila banks and moved to Corregidor for safekeeping from the approaching Japanese invasion force. Five hundred eighty-three gold bars and heavy canvas bags containing eighteen tons of silver coins were carefully loaded in Trout's bilges to be delivered to Pearl Harbor. En route, Fenno tracked and sunk an enemy freighter through high seas. Later the same day Trout avoided a surprise torpedo attack from a Japanese patrol vessel and quickly sank the attacking vessel. Fenno left Trout after four patrols and went on to command USS Runner. Trout, then under the command of Lt. Commander A. H. Clark, was lost with all hands on her eleventh patrol.

On October 28, 1944, a wolfpack of four U.S. submarines left Pearl Harbor and sailed west to patrol the Japanese convoy routes from the southern coast of Hainan Island north to Hong Kong. The wolfpack, nicknamed "Fennomints" after pack commander Fenno in Pampanito, consisted of USS Sea Cat, USS Pipefish, and USS Searaven. Sea Cat, under the command of R.R. McGreggor, was a brand new submarine on her first war patrol. Searaven, commanded by Lt. Commander Raymond Berthrong, was an older boat on her thirteenth war patrol. Pipefish, skippered by Lt. Commander William Deragon, was making her third run. All four submarines were "Portsmouth boats," built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The pack stopped briefly at Midway to refuel before leaving at four engine speed for Saipan. A change of plans was received on November 3, and the pack cut back to two engine speed, about 14 1/2 knots. Pipefish, however, reported an emergency case of appendicitis on board. She was released from the pack and headed full speed for Saipan. On November 6, 1944 Pampanito celebrated her one-year anniversary at sea. The pack completed further repairs and refueling at Saipan before leaving for the Bashi Channel patrol area. They arrived on November 17. The submarines patrolled in parallel lanes with Sea Raven to the west of Pampanito and Pipefish and Sea Cat to the east. They maintained surface patrol with a zig-zagging course, constant SJ radar search, and high periscope observations each fifteen minutes. As the pack moved to the extreme western edge of the patrol area Fenno anticipated frequent visits from patrolling enemy planes so he switched to a submerged patrol routine during daylight hours. The group was joined by USS Archerfish for remainder of the trip to Saipan where they took on fuel and supplies and were rejoined with Pipefish.

On the night of November 18, Pipefish reported a contact. The submarines converged on a three ship convoy; a cargo ship with an escort leading and a smaller ship astern. Pampanito tracked the ships for over ninety minutes waiting for Pipefish to attack. Sea Raven took up a position about three miles off Pampanito`s port quarter and also began tracking the targets. Pipefish sent out a message that she was breaking off the attack because she had picked up SJ radar interference and suspected that an enemy submarine was in the area. Fenno, with a clearer picture of the situation, sent out the message "Am attacking" and moved in from the convoy's port side.

He fired a six-torpedo spread from the bow tubes with the running depth set alternately for six and eight feet because of high seas. Pampanito swung around and the stern tubes brought to bear. While firing the four stern tubes, two hits were observed in the cargo ship, one amidships and one in the stern. Lookouts reported a bright orange flash followed instantly by an enormous pillar of black smoke rising over 500 feet in the air. The fire went out in two minutes and the target disappeared from the radar. Shinko Maru #1, a 1200-ton cargo ship sunk quickly by the stern. Another hit was heard on the second target, but it remained afloat and moved out of visual range. Both of the remaining vessels were picked up on radar heading at top speed toward nearby Hainan Island. Pampanito was pulled back from the chase to reload the torpedo tubes, and Sea Raven was ordered in to attack. For the next two hours Sea Raven attacked twice with no success until the ships finally moved into the shelter of the Hainan coast.

The patrol routine resumed, and on the morning of November 30, Pampanito again moved into attack position after a well escorted convoy was picked up. The convoy had been tracked for over two days but a firing position was very difficult to establish because it was moving fast and zig-zagging widely. It was made up of four ships in a column plus a destroyer in the lead with two smaller escorts to port and starboard of the column. All the escorts were equipped with sonar; Pampanito's sound operator estimated that there were a total of five escort vessels whose sonar pings could be detected. The seas were flat calm and a full moon had risen, further complicating matters. Just before dawn, Fenno got into position and fired the bow tubes at the two leading ships in the column. He then swung around to get a bearing on the destroyer, but the targets moved out of range before another attack could be set up. When Pampanito surfaced after reloading the torpedo tubes the rest of the wolfpack could not be located. She had become separated from the pack during the chase; the other subs had been unable to keep up and the convoy's speed had put Pampanito well ahead of the pack. Pampanito returned to the original patrol lane and located Sea Raven later that night.

Over the next two days the weather turned from flat calm to force 7 sea with strong northerly winds and mountainous waves. Two hours before dawn on December 3, Sea Raven sent out a contact report and the pack converged. Sea Raven attacked first and reported one vessel sunk with two hits. Next, Sea Cat reported she had sunk another ship and Sea Raven commenced her second assault. Pipefish also reported she was attacking and Pampanito, moving in last, took up a position well ahead of the targets. Pampanito's lookouts reported two bright explosions ahead over the horizon four minutes apart in the direction of Sea Raven's attack. Another explosion was heard in the direction of Pipefish. Pampanito went to battle stations at dawn as three of the ships and two escorts moved into range. Extra care had to be taken not to broach in the thirty-foot seas as a four-torpedo spread was fired from the after tubes at the two leading ships. A second attack was aborted as an escort charged in, driving Pampanito down deep. A string of six depth charges exploded, none close. When Pampanito surfaced two hours later, she and the other subs commenced a search for the remaining ships in the convoy. Later that night Sea Cat sank a ship damaged earlier by Sea Raven. After checking with the reports of the other subs, it was believed that five ships in the convoy had been sunk.

The next day was spent searching for the remaining ships, but they could not be located. Sea Raven, having no more torpedoes, was released from the group and departed for Midway. The three remaining submarines in the pack resumed the patrol routine as the foul weather continued. On December 10, a mine was sighted and Pampanito tried to sink it with the 20mm gun, but the attempt was unsuccessful in the high seas. Lookouts spotted several other mines over the next few days and reported their positions to the rest of the pack.

On December 14 it was noticed that Pampanito was leaving an oil slick astern. A work party was detailed and they found a pipe had parted. They worked to convert a fuel tank into a main ballast tank, but the high seas made this a difficult job. In spite of the care taken one man, CMoMM William Merryman, was washed overboard, but was quickly rescued.

On December 17 Pipefish located a large solitary freighter and the pack gave pursuit until the cargo ship slipped into the safety of a sheltered bay on the Hainan coast. Diminishing fuel supplies caused Pampanito to leave the patrol area for refit. McGreggor in Sea Cat assumed command of the pack, and on December 18 Pampanito set course south through the Karimata Strait and into the Java Sea. She was headed for Fremantle, Western Australia, a long haul where every drop of fuel was precious. Pampanito moved on into the Indian Ocean through the Lombok Strait west of Bali and down the west coast of Australia to Fremantle where she arrived on December 30. Much to the crew's surprise, they were joyously greeted by a cheering group of the former POWs rescued by Pampanito on her third patrol. This liberty is one that all of Pampanito's crew still talks about today.

Pampanito's fourth patrol had been a success and officers and crew were congratulated, with Captain Fenno being awarded the Bronze Star. The patrol had been a long one both in terms of time and miles: she had been out sixty-three days, covering 16,406 miles. [1]

Fifth war patrol - January 28 - February 12, 1945

During refit and repairs Commander Paul Summers returned to command Pampanito on January 2, 1945. Lt. Commander Landon L. Davis, executive officer (XO) on the first four patrols, was relieved as XO by Lt. Commander Lynn Orser. Lt. Commander William Bush reported aboard as prospective commanding officer (PCO).

Pampanito was refueled, repaired and reloaded. The after 20mm anti-aircraft gun was replaced by a single-barrel 40mm gun. Refit was complete by January 14, and the next week was spent in training and gunnery exercises. She departed Fremantle on January 23, in the company of USS Guavina, under the command of Commander Ralph H. Lockwood. The two submarines practiced night approaches with the Australian minesweeper HMAS Warnambool. Pampanito and Guavina then headed north through the Lombok and Karimata Straits to the assigned patrol area off the east coast of the Malaysian Peninsula at the mouth of the Gulf of Siam (Thailand).

On February 1, they crossed the equator and a long-time naval institution was observed. "Pollywogs," new members of the crew that had not as yet sailed across the equator, were initiated. Summers played the role of King Neptune in a ceremony held in the crew's mess.

The two subs continued training and practice approaches. A mine was sighted as they entered the patrol area, but it could not be sunk despite several direct hits with the deck guns. Later, several dozen bales of raw rubber were sighted and Summers noted in the patrol report that he was tempted to pick up this precious material. On the night of February 6, a column of smoke was sighted which led to a Japanese convoy. One of the ship's stacks was smoking heavily, which proved to be very helpful in tracking the convoy of three ships and four escorts. It was too dark for a periscope attack, so Summers risked moving in as close as possible on the surface. Once in position, he fired at the leading ship, the 7000-ton cargo ship Engen Maru, and scored two hits in her stern. She sank in minutes. The escorts exchanged signal lights and the convoy changed course and headed out of radar range. As Summers set up another attack, two of the escorts moved in fast on the port beam. Pampanito's bow tubes were fired at the two leading ships and she was pulled clear of the escorts, which apparently were not equipped with radar. No hits were heard. The last four torpedoes forward were fired at the convoy, but again, no hits were heard.

Summers pulled away and Guavina moved in to attack. From Pampanito's bridge two hits were seen on the larger of the two remaining ships and it disappeared from the radar screen. Guavina had sunk the 6900-ton freighter Taigyo Maru. As dawn approached on February 7, Pampanito dove and continued the patrol routine. When she surfaced at dusk a message from Guavina was received that the smoke of a possible convoy had been sighted. Summers set a new course to intercept. A little later a high periscope observation revealed the northbound convoy on the horizon: one medium cargo ship and two escorts. When Pampanito arrived, distant flashes were seen as one of the escorts fired at Guavina following her first unsuccessful attack.

Summers moved in and fired the stern tubes, but no hits were heard. Just before midnight Summers sent a message to Guavina and requested that she fire a signal from the Very pistol to draw off the starboard escort. When the signal was fired the escort headed off and the target zigged to port and Pampanito attacked. She was in position just after midnight.

"0025 Fired three torpedoes aft from 4000 yards on 75 starboard track.
0029 Had just about checked off three misses when the first torpedo hit and simultaneously the ship disintegrated with the bow going one way, the stern in the opposite direction and most of the ship going straight up. Judging from the intense flames and explosions, this ship was evidently loaded with aviation gasoline. One escort was close enough, I'm sure, to share in the effects of the explosions. The second torpedo probably hit whatever was left to hit. The whole area looked like a fourth of July celebration and we felt slightly naked in all this gaslight. Escort on starboard quarter commenced firing at us and placed several rounds just over the bridge before we could pull clear on all four main engines. For the next twenty minutes one violent explosion followed another as ship was torn to pieces. The stern sank and the bow put on the finishing touch by exploding beautifully and in technicolor."
~ ' From the patrol report.'

Pampanito, with only one torpedo left, was ordered to proceed to the southeast corner of the patrol area and await further instructions. On February 11, orders were received to proceed to Subic Bay, Philippines for refit. Subic Bay had recently been recaptured and plans were being developed to establish a submarine base there. An advance contingent arrived there on February 11th and Pampanito arrived on the afternoon of the 12th, tying up alongside the submarine tender USS Griffin (AS-13), becoming the first submarine to refit in Subic Bay. Again officers and crew were congratulated for a successful patrol. Pampanito was credited with two ships sunk. The fifth patrol had been short, only 20 days, but Pampanito had traveled almost 6,500 miles since leaving Australia.[1]

Sixth war patrol - February 25 - April 24, 1945

Pampanito headed out on her sixth patrol on the afternoon of February 25, 1945 and resumed patrol off the Malaysian Peninsula. On February 27 she sent out a message to USS Sealion II, and USS Mingo to rendezvous. On the morning of March 2, Summers, commander of the new wolfpack, met the other two subs and gave orders for the next two days. The submarines patrolled in parallel lanes with Lt. Commander Charles F. Putman in Sealion to the west, and Lt. Commander John R. Madison in Mingo to the east.

The pack hunted in vain over the next several days, sighting only a properly marked hospital ship (which was, of course, allowed to pass), and a group of six sailing ships, which was avoided. They also picked up two U.S. subs, USS Pintado and USS Sea Robin, with whom Pampanito rendezvoused on March 11. Sea Robin had 34 sacks of long overdue mail for delivery. Christmas had finally caught up with Pampanito. This was an unexpected treat, even though some of the Christmas cookies had gotten a little moldy.

The next week was again characterized by a complete lack of targets until, on March 18 there was a contact on the SJ radar at a range of eight miles. The target was traveling fast, 22 knots, and was zig-zagging wildly. Summers closed to investigate but could not catch up. The target was thought to be a destroyer. As a result of missing the contact, Summers regrouped the patrol lanes of the pack to a staggered configuration. Sealion reported that she had sunk the unescorted tanker Samui, on the morning of the 17th.

On the night of March 23, the wolf-pack was joined by a fourth member, USS Caiman. Pampanito rendezvoused with the new member of the pack a few miles east of the small island of Pulau Redang, and Lt. Commander William Bush, Perspective Commanding Officer (PCO) aboard Pampanito, was transferred to her. Two days later the control of the pack was turned over to Bush in Caiman. Pampanito headed north to patrol alone until new orders were received. On March 28, Pampanito headed for Pearl Harbor. En route, heavy seas and high northeast winds were encountered. On March 31, she exchanged recognition signals with USS Snook, which was lost with all hands a few days later. The cause of Snook's loss is unknown. The storm tapered off as Pampanito arrived in Saipan on April 5th for fuel.

On the way to Hawaii, Pampanito joined a wolf pack called "Bennet's Blazers," made up of USS Sea Owl, USS Piranha, USS Puffer and USS Thresher. She hunted with them for a week before continuing to Pearl Harbor. She arrived there on April 24. The captain and crew were congratulated on a safe return from "a hard and boring patrol." Pampanito was ordered to San Francisco for a much needed navy yard overhaul at Hunter's Point. Administrative Commander R. S. Benson wished them "a pleasant patrol" in San Francisco.

At Hunter's Point, Pampanito underwent a major refit and drydocking during June and July. Her main four-inch deck gun, which she had carried forward of the conning tower on all six patrols, was replaced with a five-inch gun aft. She was fitted out with twin forty-millimeter guns, one on each gun deck, and a double twenty millimeter gun on the forward main deck. A sonar dome was installed, as was a newly developed SV type radar.

Pampanito left Hunter's Point and was headed for Pearl Harbor and the seventh patrol under the command of Commander Donald A. Scherer. On August 15, they received news that Japan had surrendered. Pampanito returned to the Bay Area where she has been ever since. [1]

Post war history

Pampanito was decommissioned on December 15, 1945 and placed in "mothballs" at Mare Island where she remained until she was brought out to serve as a training platform for Naval Reserve Submarine Division 11-12 at Mare Island during the 1960s. Pampanito remained part of the reserves until 1970 when, unfortunately, she was opened up to the fleet stripping program. Some of her equipment was removed to provide spare parts for other submarines.

In 1971, Pampanito was stricken from Navy records, and in 1976 Pampanito was turned over to the Maritime Park Association (formerly National Maritime Museum Association) to be opened to the public as a memorial and museum ship. However, the attempt to berth the submarine at Fisherman's Wharf was blocked by the San Francisco Port Commission led by Harry Bridges. As a result, Pampanito was moved from Mare Island to a private shipyard in Stockton where she remained for almost six years in storage as the debate continued. Eventually the feeling of the Commission changed and a berth at the Wharf was secured.

Opened to the public in 1982, she has become one of the most popular historic vessels in the country hosting as many as 250,000 visitors a year. Since her opening the Maritime Park Association has worked to interpret the vessel to her visitors and to preserve and restore her to her wartime condition and appearance. Most of the equipment taken during the fleet stripping period has been replaced as have the missing deck guns, bunks and other equipment. Pampanitohas been drydocked four times by the Association and she is on a regular haul out schedule of between five and seven years. Many of Pampanito's systems have been brought back to life and made operational as part of her extensive preservation program. The effort continues seven days a week.

In the Spring of 1996 Pampanito left her berth to star in the feature film Down Periscope starring Kelsey Grammer, Lauren Holley, Rob Schneider, Rip Torn and Bruce Dern. Pampanito played the fictitious submarine USS Stingray SS-161. (The real USS Stingray was hull number SS-186 and SS 161 was the S-50.)[1]

References

Notes

  1. This led Summers to speculate in his report that target was probably carrying high-test gas in it's tanks.
  2. This involved using the periscope fully extended while on the surface. to increase viewing range.
  3. The torpedo engine was running inside the tube at high speed being held back by the closed outer door.

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 http://www.maritime.org/pamphist/index.htm