Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Pearl Harbor Day

**This being the anniversary or D-Day, I thought this repost was timely. 

My father joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor. He turned 18 on a submarine somewhere in the South China sea. Dad was raised in Enfield, Maine and ended up on the Pintado (ss-387); the Pintado's keel was laid down by the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery Maine on 7 May 1943.

Many a night my brothers and I went to bed listening to my father's stories. As a boy, I thought my father was a hero. As a man, I now realize he truly was. Though there is nothing romantic about war itself, there is something incredibly romantic, heroic, and endlessly compelling about the generation of young men and women who fought against evil. O God, how I pray we will never forget that there are some things worth sacrificing and dying for.

I have posted the history of one of the subs my father fought on. All I have to do is close my eyes and the images of an 18 year old scrambling through a steel tube, manning his station, and praying that the depth charges stay out of range come vividly to life. Take some time to read about our forgotten heros.

"On her first war patrol, Pintado served as flagship of a wolfpack, commanded by Captain Leon P. Blair, which also included submarines Shark (SS–314) and Pilotfish (SS–386). The attack group departed Pearl Harbor 16 May, touched at Midway 20 and 21 May, and headed for waters west of the Marianas and south of Formosa. On the 31st, they formed a scouting line in search of a convoy reported by submarine Silversides (SS–236). After sparring with the convoy’s escorts through the night, Pintado managed to reach attack position shortly before dawn and fired a spread of six torpedos at overlapping targets, destroying 4,716 ton cargo ship Toho Maru. She then daringly came within 700 yards of an escort while bringing her stern tubes to bear on another merchant ship. Although explosions suggested that some of the second spread of torpedos had scored, no second sinking has been confirmed. Pintado then skillfully evaded angry Japanese destroyers and sped away to safety.

About midday on 4 June, Pintado spotted smoke from a Japanese convoy heading toward Saipan. She and her sister subs headed for the enemy, and soon Shark sank 6,886-ton cargo ship Katsunkawa Maru before slipping away from a heavy depth charge attack. The American submarines continued to shadow the convoy and early the next day Shark’s torpedos accounted for two more cargo ships.

Pintado made her kills shortly before noon of 6 June, D-day in Normandy, with a spread of torpedos at overlapping targets. An awesome explosion tore one ship apart, her bow and stern both projecting up in the air as she sank. The stern of a second was under water before she was swallowed by smoke and flame. These victims were later identified as 5,652-ton Havre Maru and 2,825-ton Kashimasan Maru. An airplane and five escorts tried to box in the submarine and dropped over 50 depth charges, but she escaped damage.

Pintado and her sisters in the wolfpack had all but destroyed the convoy which was attempting to reinforce Japanese defenses of the Marianas. While escorts rescued many of the 7,000 troops whose ships had gone down, they had lost weapons, tanks, and equipment. This greatly weakened Japan’s defensive capability in the Marianas for the impending American invasion of Saipan. Pintado then headed for the Marshall Islands, arriving Majuro 1 July for refit.

Her second war patrol took the submarine to the East China Sea. On 6 August she sank 5,401-ton cargoship Shonan Maru and damaged another target in a Formosa-bound convoy, before scampering away through a downpour of exploding depth charges. On the 22nd Pintado spotted an 11 ship convoy guarded by three escorts. After dark she moved into the center of the convoy, passing a scant 75 yards from an escort, to attack Tonan Maru No. 2, a former whale factorywhich Lt. Comdr. Clarey, as executive officer of Amberjack, had helped to sink in Kavieng Harbor, Bismark Archipelago, 10 October 1942. Since then the Japanese had raised the ship and towed her to Japan where she was repaired and converted to a tanker.

Two spreads of torpedos from the submarine left the monster ablaze and sinking and damaged two other tankers. Tonan Maru was one of the largest merchant ships sunk byan American submarine during World War II. Following lifeguard station duty off Japan, Pintado turned eastward 1September and arrived Pearl Harbor on the 14th.On Pintado’s third war patrol, Lt. Comdr. Clarey commanded a wolfpack which included Atule (SS–403) and Jallao (SS–368). The group departed Pearl Harbor 9 Octoberheading for the South China Sea. Meanwhile, General MacArthur was preparing to return to the Philippines. When histroops landed on Leyte 20 October, the Japanese Navystruck back with all its force in a “go-for-broke” attempt to smash the invasion. The result was the decisive Battle for Leyte Gulf.

As the American Navy turned back the three prongs of the Japanese offensive, Clarey’s submarines sped toward Luzon Strait to attack the Northern Japanese Force which Admiral Halsey’s Fleet had engaged off Cape Engano. On the night of the 25th, Jallao, made radar contact with bombdamaged light cruiser Tama fleeing from Halsey. Pintado closed the scene with Jallao but held her fire while her sister submarine attacked, ready to join in the fray if needed. Jallao launched seven torpedos, and Tama broke up and went to the bottom, the last cruiser to go down in the Battle off Cape Engano.

A bonus came on 3 November when Pintado’s periscope revealed “the largest enemy ship we have ever seen”, apparently an oiler in the support group for the Japanese carriers. Clarey fired six bow torpedos at the huge target, but enemy destroyer Akikaze crossed their path before they could reach their target. The destroyer disintegrated in a tremendous explosion which provided an effective smoke screen protecting the original target until the two remaining Japanese escorts forced the submarine to dive and withdraw to escape exploding depth charges.
Pintado joined Halibut on the 14th and escorted the damaged submarine to Saipan, arriving Tanapag Harbor five days later. After a week in port, she resumed her war patrol South of Takao. On the night of 12–13 December, she sank two enemy landing craft, Transport No. 12 and Transport No. 104, and an unidentified ship. Two days later she headed for Australia and arrived Brisbane on New Years Day 1945. She won the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary skill and heroism on her first three war patrols."

My Dad was on Pintado's first patrol, which made him a Plank owner. He, along with his other shipmates received a Presidential Citation for their service. I have been on a sub of the same size and class, the Lionfish. I have seen the cramped sleeping quarters, the torpedo room, and the dark narrow corridors that run from section to section in the bowels of the ship.

The men of the "Silent Service" were a breed apart -- all warriors are.

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