USS Gunnel SS-253 Port side view 1945

ss-253 image

Second War Patrol

May 28, 1943 - July 3, 1943

LT.COMMANDER JOHN S. McCAIN Jr. USN, COMMANDING OFFICER


 

 

Prologue

Verbatim statements from the commanding officer’s official Patrol Report are in the paragraphs commencing with times in bold face (date/times underlined). Other commentaries are based on direct quotes and recollections provided by former members of the crew, many of whom are named in this narrative.

The editors of the Gunnel story are James M. Lavelle, the originator of the project, and Lloyd R."Joe" Vasey who was an officer on this submarine during the first five war patrols. He has contributed essential background information to put the story in context and elaborated on the commanding officer’s remarks in many instances. Extensive research of the historical records and navigational charts has been made to insure the faithfulness of Gunnel’s story. However, the editors take full responsibility for any omissions or inaccuracies. We would welcome your comments, and especially encourage relevant submissions from former crew members and their families, and most specifically, remembrances of Jim’s father Torpedoman James Lavelle, who served in the after torpedo room on several patrols. This work continues in progress.

Please note our frequent reference to the commanding officer as, "the Captain" -- capitalized for emphasis, and respect. The commanding officer of any US Navy ship under command of a commissioned officer is traditionally called "captain", regardless of rank, in this case John S.McCain Jr.was a Lt. Commander at the time. Each commanding officer in the Navy is charged with the ultimate responsibility and accountability for the safety and operations of his ship and crew. The demands and hazards of wartime operations placed an awesome responsibility on a submarine "skipper" – sailing under sealed orders, the only eye at the periscope, more often than not the only person aboard with the total picture at his finger tips. A vital lesson learned by submarine crews was the need to place unquestioning faith in the judgment, skill and valor of "the old man", as he was affectionately called when out of earshot.

Yet each commanding officer knew that his "boat" had one great strength which he depended upon: the enlisted men and junior officers. Volunteers and the cream of the fleet, professionally competent, dedicated and courageous – all are heroes in the Gunnel story, iron men in a steel boat.

     "On the strength of one link in the cable,
          Dependeth the might of the chain.
     Who knows when thou mayest be tested ?
          So live that thou bearest the strain."

          (From: Naval Customs, Traditions and Usage)

Typical of several new crewmen reporting aboard while in New London, was Seaman Ray Lloyd , an "inexperienced kid" in his words, who recalls his first encounter with then Chief of the Boat James "Doggie" Renner a seasoned submariner whose responsibilities included shepherding and evaluating new youngsters in the crew.
 
"The Chief met me on deck and asked who I was. I showed him my orders and he asked what I was going to do with all that gear, because there was no room in the boat for it. I was standing with my full seabag, mattress and everything issued to me when I enlisted. We spread my gear out on the deck and when he was finished throwing it away, I did not have any trouble carrying the rest below. I was assigned my locker and could understand his message.
 
Later the Chief said he wanted to try me as lookout standing on the periscope shears. It wasn't long after Gunnel's underway training in Long Island Sound till he told me it was my permanent assignment. That lasted for both War Patrols Two and Three.
 
I could see the action and everything going on while on the surface and that was good. I was also able to contribute and that was good. Standing in wind, rain and very cold weather and jumping from periscope shears to bridge and down the hatch in about 15 seconds during a crash dive required speed much less bruises and cuts on the back from hitting the rim of the hatch."
 
As it turned out, during the Third War Patrol, Chief Renner's foresight and the alert performance of lookout Ray Lloyd saved us from certain disaster one night off Tokyo Bay when the USS Gunnel suddenly became the "target" instead of the "attacker".
 
GUNNEL leaving New London
View looking aft as the GUNNEL sails down the Thames River with the Grotton Bridge just barely visible in the distance.
NEW LONDON TO PEARL HARBOR VIA THE PANAMA CANAL
 

 

On May 18, 1943 the GUNNEL arrived in Pearl Harbor Hawaii after the long passage from New London, Connecticut via the Panama Canal. The Liberty Card at right was issued to James M. Lavelle on 3/23/43 shortly before the Gunnel left for the Pacific. It would be almost 2 1/2 years before he would need a New London liberty pass again.

Liberty Card

The trip from New London to Panama had been rather uneventful, but always hazardous in view of the intensive German U-boat offensive underway against allied shipping off the East coast and in the Caribbean. Frequent American anti-submarine air patrols were encountered, and Gunnel’s crew, mindful of the attacks on the sub by friendly forces during the first patrol in the North African – European theatre were extremely vigilant and the skipper ordered extra lookouts assigned to the bridge watch while the boat was running surfaced. The transit was made mostly on the surface for extra speed, and friendly forces advised by radio from Fleet headquarters of the boats pre-planned courses and speeds. Such radio notifications were known as a "Submarine Moving Haven", a small rectangular area surrounding the sub, theoretically off limits to attacks by friendlies.

From Panama to Pearl the absence of enemy activity in the region provided ample opportunities for routine crew training and emergency drills. In contrast to Gunnel's first patrol in the Eastern Atlantic in which reconnaisance and support of the allied invasion of North Africa had been the main mission, in the Pacific the primary job of American submarines -- generally operating as "lone wolves" -- was offensive operations against the enemy, the destruction of enemy shipping, both warships and merchantmen. Much of the training during the transit to Pearl was directed to this end , with the crew frequently and at odd times called to "battle stations" -- to bring everyone, including the Captain, into a high state of readiness for combat, working as a team like a finely tuned watch.

The torpedomen shouldered a heavy responsibility . Everyone knew that battles as well as the submarine itself could be lost through torpedo failure. Training sessions, supplementing what was learned at submarine school in New London, were held to insure every torpedoman was qualified to independently conduct the required weekly inspections, maintenance and technical tests of each torpedo to insure optimum performance. Simulated combat training and firing drills were held daily. Although only a few torpedoes were aboard for the transit, the normal war complement of twenty four would be taken aboard at Pearl Harbor -- sixteen torpedos in the forward torpedo room of which six were to be always "at the ready" loaded in the six tubes, and eight in the after torpedo room with four loaded in the tubes. "Fish", as they were affectionately called, not carried in the tubes rested on "loading skids"in each torpedo rooms, wooden cradles on heavy steel supports that could be shifted laterally to line up with the tubes when reloads were required.

Shifting torpedos around was heavy physical labor requiring several torpedomen to "mule haul" with blocks and tackle to move them in and out of tubes, and laterally as well. Each torpedo was over 21 feet long, weighed more than a ton including the nose cone which was filled with several hundred pounds of TNT.

PEARL HARBOR, LOGISTICS, TORPEDOES, FINAL TRAINING - THEN UNDERWAY FOR WAR PATROL
 

After minor repairs in Pearl Harbor and three days of round the clock training and torpedo firing exercises conducted off Oahu, the full complement of torpedo "war shots" was taken aboard. Bunks were slung over torpedoes resting on the loading racks. Almost half of the 70 enlisted men aboard were bunked in the two torpedo rooms, including sailors from other departments as well as the torpedomen.

Gunnel got underway on May 28 and headed for her assigned war patrol area, 4200 miles from Pearl Harbor in the East China Sea, south of Korea and just west of Kyushu, the southernmost main island of Japan. Enroute, a brief stop was made at Midway Island, 1100 miles northwest of Oahu, to top off on fuel and fresh water, which would enable the submarine to remain a few additional days in the patrol area.

The long voyage to enemy waters was never dull for Gunnel’s hard working crew as recalled by former Chief Signalman Edwin M. Leidholdt now living in Virginia Beach, Va:

"Each day, with monstrous regularity we exercised at battle stations, gun drill, casualty procedures and the loading and reloading of torpedo tubes. No longer were the men "grousing" as they had done during long practice periods in Long Island Sound before and after the first war patrol in the Atlantic. Now all hands worked willingly. The devastation at Pearl Harbor had shocked us. The sight of the blackened hulks had given us a sense of urgency, and we worked together better than we ever had before. Even the ebullient Butova, the brawling tough guy in our crew was newly subdued, his conversation no longer limited to Rita Hayworth’s (a popular and steamy film actress) vital statistics and the crew’s per capita consumption of beer during the last shore leave".

It wasn’t long before Ship’s Cook 2/c Frank Butova of New London, Conn.became one of the most popular men in the crew, with a reputation for his culinary skills. Good food was a distinctive hallmark of the submarine service, a huge morale factor.

Excerpts from the Captain's Patrol Report


June 5, 1943, 2115 (M): Number two main engine stopped due to broken tooth in main idler gear. This casualty is more or less of a repetition of the trouble experienced off the coast of Europe in November 1942. Stoned teeth down and engine ran for fourteen hours when two more teeth fell out. Secured engine.

Number two main engine had been stopped when an unusual rattling noise was heard in the engine. Subsequent inspection revealed that one tooth from the main idler gear had broken off and bits were mashed into the main drive gear. The engineers spent many hours opening the gear boxes, removing the bits of metal and stoning the teeth down. Sorely disappointed, but not surprised, Chiefs Murphy and Kaczur recalled that while in the Portsmouth, N.H shipyard they had prophetically warned that merely replacing the idler gears which had been directed by the Bureau of Ships and the manufacturer would not resolve the problems. Since then, every submarine powered by the HOR engines had experienced similar failures -- faulty engine design was obviously the root of the problem.

June 8, 1835 (L): Sighted possible mast on the horizon. Went to maximum speed on three main engines. Nothing further came of this contact.

2157: Sighted lighted plane flying flying low and apparently coming in directly toward the submarine. Submerged.

2215: Surfaced and continued on base course

"By this time, Gunnel was within range of air patrols operating from Japan. Prior to departing Pearl Harbor the Captain had been briefed on the frequency and general pattern of air activity to be expected within a few hundred miles of Japan, based on information gleaned from earlier sightings by other American submarines as well as from intelligence reports." (Vasey)

June 10, 1825 (K): Sighted Tori Shima and closed to three miles. There is apparently no activity on this island as it appeared to be completely uninhabited.

"This small islet off the East coast of Kyushyu was the first landfall since leaving Midway and the time of sighting was almost precisely as predicted by Exec/Navigator Mel Dry. The announcement over the loudspeaker generated a ripple of excitement through the sub.

"Gunnel was cruising on the surface at the time with one of the two periscopes raised to maximum height. Surface contacts could be spotted about twice the distance as normally seen from the bridge level. This technique was popular with most skippers as long as the sea was calm; choppy seas could vibrate the scope and do serious damage to the finely honed steel shaft which extended down through packing glands and the conning tower housing. Because of its low silhouette, a submarine could usually be maneuvered to stay out of visual range of most surface craft, with the option of disappearing from sight when the skipper so chose.

"As Gunnel proceeded South, mostly on the surface but with frequent dives to avoid fishing boats and other small craft, patches of fog were routinely encountered." (Vasey)

June 12, 0933 (I): SD radar reported Yaku Shima at thirty-eight miles. Proceeding down coast of Kyushu towards Kuchino Shima Suido.

"This unusually long reach of the "surface search radar" -- 38 miles -- was no surprise. Chief Radarman McSpadden of New London, Conn.was known as one of the best in the submarine force. He treated his radars and other electronic gear with tender, loving care; frequent inspections, maintenance and testing as if they were newborn babes. Radars, periscope and sonars constituted the eyes and ears of a submarine and could spell the difference between success or failure -- often life or death." (Vasey)

1512: As visibility improved sighted Suwanose Jima, Nakano Shima and Kuchino Shima.

" These were small islands in the chain of Japanese islands known as Nansei Shoto running from Kyushyu, South to Okinawa and beyond. It was a favorite fishing ground for small craft and also a transit route for north-south shipping. Steamers could hug the coastal areas of the islands making it difficult to spot them at night and to pick them out from the "clutter" on a radar scope caused by the abundance of off- shore rocks and islets in this region." (Vasey)

1545: Submerged.

1900: Surfaced, and at

2045: Entered area through Kuchino Shima. Took course towards southern part of area with intention of working north toward Quelpart Island. From this time on, many sampans were sighted both day and night. At night some were lighted and others darkened. They were particularly large in numbers southwest of Danjo Gunto. I submerged for a great number of these in the daytime in order to avoid detection.

"The Captain has chosen Kuchino Shima strait to make a night transit on the surface from the Pacific to the East China Sea through the Nansei Shoto island chain. This channel was deep and almost 4 miles wide, favorable conditions in case the sub had to make a sudden dive to avoid detection. A submerged transit was feasible, but currents around the island chain were tricky, often turbulent. Much greater speed could be made while surfaced with better control of the maneuverability of the submarine. Of course, being on the surface involved a higher probablity of detection and attack by the enemy.

Quelpart -- called Cheju Do by the Koreans who also claimed ownership -- was a large island at the south end of the Korea Strait between Kyushu and the southern tip of the Korean peninula. It was a good location to catch shipping transiting the Korea Strait as well as traffic between Japan, Korea and China. Danjo Gunto was a group of small islands off the western approaches to Nagasaki and the Sasebo naval base." (Vasey)

June 14, 1410: SD radar contact. Submerged.

1640: Surfaced. Continued on course 000 degrees (T) closing Kyoban To and Haku To in northern part of area. No navgational fix due to fog since we entered area.

"Nor was it possible -- due to the cloud cover and fog -- to use a sextant for navigational "fixes" on the stars, moon or sun. There were no electronic aids or lighthouses beckoning the Gunnel and it would be many years before satellite navigation was even thought of. Ever since the passage through the island chain, navigation had been by Dead Reckoning -- "DR" as commonly referred to by the navigator and his super-efficient team of quartermasters. One or more were always on duty checking courses, speeds, ocean currents, water depths -- plotting on a track chart the estimated submarine position for the Captain and navigator's frequent examination. On rare occasions when the navigational position of the submarine was in doubt, the Captain authorized use of the fathometer(depth finder) to compare the plotted position with the depth of water indicated on the navigational charts. But such soundings were rare -- the sonar pings against the ocean floor could be heard by enemy ships in the vicinity." (Vasey)

June 15, 1943, 0210: SJ radar contact bearing 060° (T), 18,000 yards. Radar operator reported large size ship. Sounded battle stations and commenced approach on surface. Visibility was betwen five and six hundred yards and at times, less. The moon was setting.

"Excitement mounted as the crew rushed to their assigned battle stations. This was the opportunity everyone had been waiting for. Because of the limited visibility and position of the target, the Captain had decided to remain on the surface and use the higher speed available to maneuver into a good firing position. A night attack while on the surface had become a favorite tactic of many skippers, although the risk of being detected by planes and surface forces was substantially higher. At this time, Gunnel was only a few miles south of the southern tip of Korea and 25 miles north of Quelpart Island, a hornets nest of Japanese anti-submarine forces." (Vasey)

0225: I picked up his dimmed fore light, which was very high, indicating a large vessel.

"The word was passed that the skipper was maneuvering the sub to fire a salvo of torpedos from the after tubes. Adrenalin ran high in the after torpedo room crew led by TM1c Robert D.Pickard of New London, Conn. and including Torpedoman Jim Lavelle from Girardville, PA, as they eagerly anticipated being the first to launch warshots from the Gunnel." (Vasey).

0230: Fired three torpedoes from stern tubes. Target on course 260° (T), speed 12 knots. Torpedoes went out on 90 ° track at range of 1100 yards. Fired at intervals of eight seconds

"At the command to fire, the torpedo officer in he conning tower hit the plunger that activated the firing system, and simultaneously Bob Pickard had his hand on another plunger mounted on the tube itself, ready to fire by hand in case the electrical system didn’t function. The first torpedo was launched with a jolting woosh and the submarine shuddered as compressed air forced the fish out of the tube. Sea water immediately flooded back into the tube, and the diving officer in the control room had to angle the boat’s bow planes down to maintain an even keel. The other torpedos followed, spread several degrees apart to bracket the target. The torpedomen had their hands full, venting and blowing water out of the tubes into the bilges, all the while a foggy haze of oily mist filled the torpedo room.

"The sonar operator tracked the course of the torpedos., listening to their propeller noises and high pitched whine of the engines. ‘All hot, straight and normal’ he shouted, meaning that each was speeding on its programmed course. The quartermaster counted the seconds with a stop watch as each torpedo raced toward the target at 46 knots: " …35, 36, 37, 38, 39". All hands listened with bated breath. Suddenly,a loud explosion sending shock waves through the submarines hull triggered a rousing cheer through the sub." (Vasey)

0230-40s: First torpedo hit apparently under the stern. Two missed. Above explosion was followed by several minor explosions. Target immediately opened fire with a five or six inch gun.

"The Captain had maneuvered the submarine into a textbook firing position for a night surface attack -- abeam of the target at optimum range and undetected. It was standard procedure to fire a "spread"(fan) of torpedos rather than shoot at the same aiming point in order to allow for possible errors in estimating target course and speed." (Vasey).

0235: Swung bow around and at 700 yards fired one torpedo.

"One hit would normally suffice to sink a freighter of this type but the skipper wanted to make sure, and also was anxious to give the forward torpedo room gang a crack at the target as well." -- (Vasey)

0235 - 28s: Torpedo hit after end of engineroom space. Gun was silenced and crew abandoned ship in two boats. This hit was also followed by several minor explosions. Closed ship to about 100 yards. She was down by the stern and appeared to be sinking very slowly.

Raymond Lloyd a Battle Station Lookout on the bridge recalls "seeing some of the ships crew jumping over the side and one person climb up the mast and he kept climbing higher and higher as the ship continued to sink".

Ed Leidholdt manning his battle station on the bridge at the time, remembers the dramatic scene that followed: "Shortly afterward, a lifeboat full of survivors drifted within 15 feet of our bow. No attempt to communicate was made by the occupants or by our crew, and the lifeboat soon disappeared into the darkness."

0245: Took position to fire fifth torpedo from bow to expedite sinking of freighter. Miss

0255: Fired sixth torpedo from stern. Missed.

0315: Fired seventh torpedo from bow. Miss. Between each of these firings I closed range to about 50 to 100 yards to observe ship. Each inspection revealed that she was lower in the water, particularly by the stern. I gave up and cleared to await results, and, if necessary, use three inch gun. This was a 7000 to 8000 ton freighter, diesel engined, of the Mogamiawa Maru class (page 89, ONI 208J).

"War-time procedures specified that torpedo shots be recorded as "hits" only if they exploded on impact or under the target (triggered by the ship’s magnetic field). But this rule unknowingly failed to take into account the faulty design and performance of submarine torpedoes as later proven. For the first two plus years after Pearl Harbor all skippers had complained of inherent problems of torpedo performance beyond their control -- torpedos running 10 feet below the depth set on the dial; faulty mechanical exploder mechanisms (the "fish" would actually hit but not explode); magnetic exploders didn't work ("fish" passing a few feet under the target’s steel bottom failed to explode as designed to do); and even premature explosions before the torpedos reached the target.

"Gunnel's experiences were no exception. Although only one of the first three torpedos fired from the after room was recorded as a "hit" the other two torpedo wakes, visible frrom the rising bubbles of the "fish" (resembling a white chalk line drawn on the surface of the sea) were clearly seen from the bridge as heading straight and true to the target. Of the four fired from the forward room, only one was recorded as a "hit" although the others were observed to head straight for the freighter, at the time only 700 yards away and stopped "dead in the water". (Vasey)

0330: Ship was definitely sinking. Entire after part was under water and bow out.

0345: SJ Radar reported contact on three large ships at 22,000 yards. Took one more look at freighter. Bow was out of water at angle of thirty degrees, and water aft was up to second deck of center structure. At this time she was visibly going down with increasing up angle so started approach on new radar contact. It was now daylight with heavy fog, visibility 500 yards.

0347: Radar reported pip on sunken freighter completely gone.

Not mentioned in the official narrative was the reloading of torpedo tubes ordered by the skipper shortly before turning the submarine at high speed to head toward the three ships reported by radar. During the swish-tailing maneuver, the sub heeled over at inopportune moments for the men reloading torpedos in the forward room. Billy.J Stamperof Springdale, Ark. picks up on the story:

"A torpedo got loose. We had snubbed both ends of the 2000 pound "fish"but did not have a good bite and the torpedo would slide port to starboard with a whip motion from the choppy seas and the turns as the Captain maneuvered to get into the best position. We had started to move the torpedo out to line it up with the tube. A lurch caused the torpedo to slide by the latch. We finally got the chainfalls on each end and were able to control the torpedo before it smacked another 'fish' or crushed one of the torpedomen. Reloading or moving torpedos in these circumstances and any time during rough or heavy seas was extremely dangerous and very terrifying."

0400: Determined that supposed three ships were Kyotan To, Daisanpu To, and Haku To. Reversed course and headed for Danjo Gunto.

"Initially detected by radar at a range of 11 miles, the blips on the radar scopes resembled three large ships in formation.This area between the tip of the Korean peninsula and Quelpart island is cluttered with small rocky islets. Even after the Gunnel’s tracking party determined the contacts were stationary, the Captain wanted to continue closing at full speed hoping they were ships at anchor, waiting to join a convoy.

"Finally, anticipating that anti-submarine aircraft and patrol vessels from Quelpart would be out in full force at daybreak searching for Gunnel near the scene of the recent sinking of the freighter, he ordered maximum surface speed and set course toward Danjo Gunto, 100 miles to the southeast. This cluster of small islands commanded the approaches to the busy industrial port of Nagasaki and the big Sasebo naval base." ( Vasey)

0845: SD radar contact. Submerged.

"Radar reported the plane at 11 miles. It was observed through the periscope until out of range and showed no indication of having detected the sub. Nonethess, being so close to enemy air bases, the skipper thought it prudent to remain submerged for a few hours while continuing to move to the southeast. " (Vasey)

1235: Surfaced.

1415: Sighted plane broad on starboard bow flying low. Submerged.

"The plane had been sighted by one of the lookouts on the bridge and range estimated at five miles. It was closing fast and low and headed straight for the sub. The Officer of the Deck shouted "dive, dive" and pushed the diving alarm button which sounded a raucous ‘AHOOGA, AHOOGA’ in every compartment of the submarine -- all the while topside personnel scrambled to jump down the upper hatch, knowing that the hatch cover must be closed in a matter of seconds before this part of the submarine slid under water. It was the responsibility of the last man down the hatch to pull the cover down firmly and spin the wheel on its underside, extending out steel lugs which firmly sealed the cover in the closed position."

"Such contacts and crash dives were commonplace for all American submarines throughout World War II. There is absolutely no doubt that well trained and alert crew members saved many a submarine from devastating bombing attacks, depth charging and even sinking." (Vasey)

1615: Surfaced.

1645: Sighted smoke on the horizon and headed for same.

1655: Picked up masts.

1700: Submerged and commenced approach on normal approach course. At this time two stacks came into view (through the periscope) and, from smoke, ship was making maximum speed.

1750: As visibility closed in, the ship took a course of about 220°(T).

1800: Surfaced and went to 17 knots on course 220°(T) to overtake aforementioned ship.

1930: No contacts, visual, or radar, made, so slowed down and commenced surface patrol. (while moving toward Danjo Gunto).

"Although always frustrating at the time, contact situations were routinely encountered by submarines during the war where the tactical picture was such that it was not feasible to close the target and reach a firing position, even with the sub proceeding at high speed. In this instance, the freighter had initially been detected at a range of 20 miles on a course that would take it within torpedo firing range. But a subsequent 55 degree change of base course headed the ship well outside the parameter of a possible torpedo attack." (Vasey)

June 16, 1055: SD radar contact. Submerged.

"The contact was thought to be a plane but may have been a fishing sampan. Numerous sampans were encountered this day and on following days. It was crucial for the submarine to avoid detection -- many such craft were known to be equipped with radio transmitters manned by military personnel." (Vasey)

1301: Surfaced. It was a remarkably fine day in June as occurs every place in this part of the world at this time of year. Visibility unlimited and a flat calm. Danjo Gunto was clearly visible at twenty-five miles.

"While the Captain was chewing on an unlit stogie he permitted some of the crew to come topside in relays to chat with him and enjoy the beautiful day for a few minutes. Engineers especially appreciated these opportunities to get away from the confined engineering spaces and the constant loud clanging noises of the big diesel engines." (Vasey)

June 17: Made submerged approach on Saishu To (Quelpart Island ) for a fix.

"Earlier, after 36 hours with no good targets in sight or on the radar scope, the skipper had decided Gunnel should move West toward Quelpart island again. Remaining too long in one vicinity, especially in the approaches to a major naval base such as Sasebo, multiplied the probability of being detected. The enemy would then route convoys around the suspected submarine and mount a sustained air and surface attack on the sub. A cat and mouse game – it was a constant battle of the wits." (Vasey)

1108: Sighted eastern end of the island and took course to close Kyobun To.

"Although Gunnel remained submerged during the remainder of daylight hours, the Captain occasionally ordered the boat to "plane up" with conning tower partially out of water for a better look at the island through a periscope and to make a quick 360 degree visual and radar sweep around the area, hoping to detect potential targets." (Vasey)

2300: SJ radar picked up Haku To at 19000 yards bearing 030°(T)

"Haku To was a lighthouse on the southern tip of the Korean archipelago. The light itself was not illuminated at the time, but was known to operate intermittently at reduced power. Gunnel spent the next several hours looking at other lighthouses and small islands between the archipelago and Quelpart island -- believed to be navigational points of reference used by merchant ships. Captain McCain reasoned that shipping routes between China and Japan -- especially the large industrial port of Nagaski on the western side of Kyushyu -- passed just to the north and south of Quelpart within visual range of lighthouses on the island and some of the nearby islets." (Vasey)

June 18, 0150: Sighted small darkened ship, apparently patrol vessel bearing 000 degrees (T), distance 7000 yards. Night was very light even though overcast. Changed course to avoid and commenced patrol along traffic lane, courses 250 to 070 degrees (T). At this time intercepted radio transmission on 450kcs.

"This contact was about 15 miles northeast of Quelpart, a logical location for patrol vessels to loiter, knowing that American submarines would be attracted like a magnet to the shipping routes in the vicinity of Quelpart. But it was also an area under constant surveillance by air patrols flying from fields on Quelpart, and by anti-submarine forces operating from the big naval base of Sasebo near Nagaski." (Vasey)

0240: Radar contact on small patrol vessel. Changed course to avoid.

"Gunnel's radar was used sparingly, and then only for fleeting sweeps -- it was known that Japanese counter-measures equipment could detect the presence of American radars." (Vasey)

0300: Sighted green flare bearing 120°(T). From the above it was evident that there were several patrol vessels working in this section. As previously stated, visibility was good. I changed course to 180°(T) for Danjo Gunto. This spot was very close to the original sinking two nights before.

1830: Sighted Me Shima (on Danjo Gunto) bearing 160°(T).

1835 Sighted ship bearing 190°(T).

1837: Submerged. While trying to close this target, looked astern and picked up the mast of a high stacked freighter. I lost the first target so decided to make approach on this one.

1915: Sighted masts and stacks of five other ships drawing to westward. Battle stations, normal approach course, and attempted to close before dark.

1930: Second sighting turned out to be seven large freighters and two small ones, possibly patrol vessels.

2000: Became apparent that it would be impossible to close. I then came to course 180°(T) to open out with the intention of surfacing and getting ahead of column during night. Heard pinging (sonar) from ship in stern of column but was unable to determine in fading light what type of ship it was. These ships, all nine, were smoking heavily and making maximum speed. They were changing course about every ten minutes through zigs of forty to sixty degrees. A plot showed them to be on a base course of 260°(T), headed for Shanghai.

2055: Surfaced and got ready on three main engines, maximum speed 17 knots.

"With only three of the four main engines operable since June 5, maximum surface speed was limited to 17 knots, almost 4 knots below normal. Speed was often critical in chasing a target. In this instance the Captain intended to stay on the surface and track the convoy as it moved westward during the night, get ahead, and at daybreak make a submerged attack." (Vasey)

2130: Sighted two unlighted sampans or patrol vessels on port bow so changed to northwesterly course. Range of visibility for large ships, 15,000 to 16,000 yards.

2150: Sighted convoy again and steamed for two hours on parallel course to get ahead.

2350: Came to course 260°(T) making 17 knots.

June 19, 1943, 0040: Changed course to 270° The convoy was no longer in sight.

0400: Started surface patrol on courses north and south.

0525: SD Radar contact on plane, 8 miles, forced the submarine down. Commenced patrol at periscope depth.

"The Gunnel at this time was south of Quelpart island, in a good position according to Exec/Navigator Mel Dry, to attack the approaching convoy which he estimated would soon be in this vicnity enroute Shanghai.The patrol plane was thought to be searching and "sanitizing" the area 20 or so miles ahead of the convoy’s projected path." (Vasey)

0629: The Executive Officer suggested we come up and resume surface patrol, which I did.

"With no contacts by periscope or sonar, Mel Dry was getting ‘antsy’. By his estimates the convoy must be in the vicinity and he was worried it could slip by out of torpedo reach. While submerged, periscope visibility was limited to about 4 miles. He urged the skipper to bring the submarine to the surface for a brief period, and accept the risk of being sighted .The range of visibility then would be much greater, and a quick sweep with the radar could detect contacts just over the horizon. Subsequent events confirmed the Exec’s prognosis." (Vasey)

0630: Surfaced; no planes

0631: Sighted convoy bearing 030°(T) coming over the horizon.

0632: Submerged and came to normal approach course; proceeded to close range.

0645: The convoy was to the north of the anticipated position. In order to close I went to full for 17 minutes, slowing down and taking periscope observations every five minutes. I counted the same number of ships, either masts or actual hulls. They were not smoking and were making less speed (7 1/2 to 9 knots). This convoy was still making 40 to 50 degree zigs. The closest ship was a small freighter or trawler, apparently an escort, estimated to pass 1,000 yards ahead.

0820: I was as close as I was going to get and they were about seven minutes on a left zig. I decided to pick two targets, and possibly a third for stern tubes, and fire.There were nine ships in this convoy, two of which were undoubtedly escorts. The remaining seven were old large coal burning freighters of seven to eight thousand tons, travelling light. They were roughly in a haphazard, staggered formation.

Ed Leidholdt, speaking to a high school audience a few years after the war, recalled the exciting events that followed:

"The voice of our captain came over the intercom: ‘Periscope depth sixty-five feet. We will fire three torpedoes at the first freighter and three at the second.’ We increased speed to give the bow and stern planes more holding power as the torpedoes were fired. From the conning tower our captain spoke again: ‘This is the firing bearing; when set, fire!’ The final periscope bearing was taken, and three torpedoes were fired at the first freighter."

0822-29s: Fired three torpedoes at old freighter, 7,000 to 8,000 tons, estimated similar to Seiwa Maru (page 161, ONI 208-J), track 115°, range 2,500 yards. A longitudinal spread was used, one-quarter ship length ahead, middle of target, and one quarter ship length astern.

0823-15s: Fired three remaining bow tubes at second freighter, identified as Dakar Maru type (page 185, ONI 208-J). All six torpedoes left blue smoke tracks. Sea was choppy with no swell, due to northwesterly breeze that sprung up at dawn. Visibility was excellent.

" The Captain again quickly raised and lowered the periscope" recalled Leidholdt "and fed the second freighter’s bearing into the computer. ‘The torpedoes are leaving a blue smoke screen’ he said. 'The Nips know the exact position we fired from.’

"Our ears popped as the air in the torpedo tubes was vented back into the submarine," Leidholdt recalled. " We waited patiently as the the count-down on each of the six torpedoes neared zero, then there resounded , one after the other, three distinct explosions."

0824-45s: Heard third torpedo of first salvo hit, and swung periscope to look. This torpedo apparently exploded under the keel of ship at point halfway between stern and MOT, because stern disappeared in a matter of moments, while forward part, though floating, was settling fast. This old ship undoubtedly sank within a few minutes. Sound reported pinging close aboard so ordered 120 feet. We had some difficulty in getting down due to marked temperature gradient.

" ’Captain’ the sonar operator had broken in urgently, tugging at his pants leg.‘Fast screws bearing one-six-oh.’ The captain quickly swung the periscope to the bearing, and in rapid succession barked the commands. ‘All ahead full! Hard dive, go deep! Rig for depth charge!’ He turned to us, ‘Destroyer coming in fast about five hundred yards." (Leidholdt)

0827-33s: Definite torpedo explosion. Overlapping and approximately two thousand yards on the other side of second ship fired at was a similar ship. If this torpedo exploded under this third ship, it meant that it had run its maximum distance. We were still at eighty feet, going down slowly.

0830: First depth charge of seven were dropped, each one closer than the preceeding. Note: This was the first depth charge attack many of the crew had experienced.

"Slowly our rate of descent increased. We were at 150 feet when the destroyer passed overhead, the noise of her screws sounding like the chugging of a fast freight train on a bridge. The exploding depth charges almost deafened us. They extinguished our main lighting circuit, and one by one our emergency battle lanterns were switched on.The helmsman had just reported that the gyro-compass was inoperative and he was shifting to magnetic compass, when from the control room the diving officer shouted , ‘Can’t hold her down, sir; we’re broaching! The depth charges had exploded under us, knocking out the bow and stern planes, forcing us toward the surface.

"The Captain ordered the safety tank flooded. For what seemed like minutes (seconds actually), the depth-gauge needle vacillated at twenty-five feet; then slowly we started to descend, the momentum of our dive increasing at fifty feet.We had just leveled off at 150 feet when the next attack came. Our submarine jarred at the shock of each exploding depth charge, and Catholic members of the crews dropped to their knees in prayer. Protestants also bowed their heads." (Leidholdt)

0849: Submarine was at 150 feet when last charge went off close aboard. Commenced evasive tactics. We could not hear any screws due to poor sound conditions, however, we did hear pinging, and I always endeavored to keep it on the stern.

"The Captain ordered ‘silent running’. We stripped ourselves of shoes, belts, and key rings and secured all operating machinery. Our planes, rudder and sound gear we began to operate manually, relieving stations periodically. Although underwater sound conditions were poor, by sonar we tracked each attacking ship by its pinging sonar, and when a destroyer speeded up for a run, we increased our speed and turned sharply to avoid her path. So well did the enemy ships have us plotted that once we actually heard the scraping of a grapnel hook against our hull." (Leidholdt)

0900: While still at 150 feet a grapnel or chain rattled slowly and excruciatingly down the port side. (I imagine the chains of Morley's Ghost sounded very much like that to old Scrooge). That was enough. I ordered 300 feet and ran at that depth for four hours while he alternately ranged closer and further away. While in the conning tower I heard him pass directly overhead twice.

"Water depths in this area weren’t much deeper than 300 feet and the Exec/Navigator pointed out that the navigational chart showed at least one sea mount rising above the ocean floor. But the skipper thought our best chance to avoid another grapnel encounter was to run close to the bottom for awhile.

"One or more destroyers remained in the vicinity, searching for us. When they were close, the incessant pinging of their sonars could be distinctly heard through the hull. Finally, after a prolonged period of silence we thought the enemy had lost contact. Both torpedo rooms requested permission to temporarily close the outer doors of the torpedo tubes in sequence, to partially retract the topedos from the tubes for a quick inspection for damage. This was normal procedure after depth charge attacks. As suspected by the torpedo gang in the after room, the "gyro pots" of two torpedos were flooded, which meant the gyroscopes for steering the "fish" were useless. The word was passed that only two torpedos could be fired from aft." (Vasey)

Hearing the chains running down the GUNNEL's hull reminded Marty Kirwan of an incident that took place in Pearl Harbor prior to departure on this patrol. (Kirwan)

Jim Lavelle and I completed our basic submarine training at New London, Connecticut in May, 1943. We were then assigned to the submarine GUNNEL-SS-253.
 
We were both “green” sailors. As I recall, Jim came from Pennsylvania and I from Louisville, KY. Jim was a handsome, pleasant, well-developed young man. I weighed 125 pounds. We both lived in the after torpedo room. Jim was a torpedo man and I was an electrician’s mate. Needless to say, we lived in close quarters. Our racks were over the torpedoes. Just one event that may be of some interest to you.
 
As you know, there are many written and unwritten ruses and regulations concerning proper naval procedures that guide the enlisted personnel in their daily activities. (Rocks & shoals). We were neophytes in our knowledge of the complexities of these rules and regulations. But, one thing we did know-if an officer suggested that you do something-you did it promptly! No questions asked. We had just left New London, CT several days prior and had arrived in Panama. I believe we spent several hot and humid days there before going through the Panama Canal. We then proceeded to Pearl Harbor. I believe we arrived there about May 18, 1943. When we arrived at Pear Harbor, we had to unload pieces of miscellaneous equipment. Jim and I were standing on deck in our work clothes, watching the officers exit the GUNNEL. A large bundle of officer’s clothing was on deck ready to be sent ashore to be cleaned. Ensign Robinson, an Annapolis Graduate, told us to take the bundle of clothes to the dock. The level of the dock was about 3 feet above the height of the deck, and about six feet away. Officers and other personnel were using the brow to be ashore. We being young, logical and totally unfamiliar with our limitations to toss the bundle of clothing on to the dock, decide that we could do the job easily. “One, two, three” Jim called to me and then we tossed the bundle toward the dock. The load of officer’s clothes landed in the water of Pearl Harbor and sank out of sight into about 40 feet of water. After about 5 minutes of thought on our part and angry stares from the owners of the clothes, someone suggested we get a long line and a grapnel hook to try to retrieve the clothes. In my lack of knowledge about the request, I asked someone to describe a grapnel hook. Well, to make a long story short we were able to use a line and grapnel hook to retrieve the clothes. It was amazing how easy it was to use the four-pronged hook to latch onto the blankets holding the clothes. We weren’t disciplined for out honest mistake, but I don’t think our stock went up in value with the officers.
 
I just wanted to mention this one random item to indicate an actual experience in our young lives. We didn’t think anymore about this experience, until that day when we were depth charged attacked-and then followed by a quiet interval. Then we did hear that metallic clanking sound outside, along the length of the GUNNEL. We remained submerged for more than 30 hours.
 
Even though we were on our first war patrol, Jim and I did not have to speculate about the capability and ultimate success of a well-placed grapnel hook. We knew from first had experience that our fate was in the hands of our guardian angels and god. I happened to be on watch in the maneuvering room at that time. As I recall, I said a perfect & sincere act-of-contrition, and continued to do my duty (operate the controllers) the rest of the watch.
 
We were submerged for an excessively long time period of time. I went off watch and tried to relax. We were operating for 4 hours on watch & 8 hours off watch. When we surfaced after about 30 hours, I had to go forward and take electrolyte measurements on the two main power batteries. As we began to surface, I opened the watertight door to the after engine room. At the same time the main engine air induction value was opened. The 3 main engines started-up simultaneously, a whooosh sound was made as the watertight door was pulled inward. My hand was on the handle and I was pulled forward and smashed my upper lip on a steel doorframe. I tried to spit out my front teeth, but nothing happened. I proceeded to take the electrolyte readings and returned to the maneuvering room. I asked to be relived for about 15 minutes so that I could wash the blood out of my mouth. I then asked if I could lie down for 15 minutes to rest and compose myself. I fell asleep and when I woke, was told that I had slept for many hours. It was now my time to go back on watch. Yes, I remember it well! "(Kirwan)

1430: After one hour of silence came to periscope depth to discover him on starboard beam at range of 3,000 yards, apparently patrolling east on various courses. Immediately returned to 300 feet and changed course to 000°(T). During this time the submarine was heavy over-all due to the amount of water that was necessarily flooded in to get down to this depth. The temperature gradient was about 10 degrees. The heavy condition necessitated blowing and venting of safety plus a combination of one-third and two thirds speed.

"Several hours later, our sonar operators reported that the immediate area seemed clear of propeller noises and of the ‘pings’ of enemy sonars. We used the last power remaining in our batteries to surface. After surfacing, the sound of the engines charging the battery and of the pumps clearing out the flooded bilges raised our spirits tremendously." (Leidholdt)

2050: Surfaced in a bright moonlight night with no clouds in the sky. Sea was practically a flat calm. The battery was low due to the high speed running on the morning approach and the air banks were much depleted. Due to leak in gland of cable in conning tower there was water in pump room over the floor plates. This grounded out one air compressor motor and the air conditioning plant. Also, water running down from the control room deck grounded out the contact panels for the turbo-blows. Immediately started charge on two main engines and put third on propulsion. Came to course 157°(T) which took us close to the location of the morning sinking and also into southwest portion of area nine where I intended to work over the auxiliaries, etc.

"But the rising water in the pump room had reached a critical stage" recalled Leidholdt. "The Captain himself went aft to the maneuvering room and called the electricians together. Someone was needed to go topside and undertake the task of crawling on his stomach a considerable distance along the pressure hull, climbing up under the conning tower, and attempting to repair the packing gland that had sprung a leak. The Captain described the risk involved, explaining that in case of attack, it might not be possible for a repairman to escape. He then asked for a volunteer.

"Chief Electrician’s Mate Edward J. Podboy of Philadelphia, Pa. immediately stepped forward, asserting that he was the person best qualified for the job. He gathered the equipment he would need and went with the Captain to the bridge, where a plan was devised to make Podboy’s mission as safe as possible. Ed Leidholdt would, while assisting with the bridge watch, lean over the starboard railing where Podboy could make out his silhouette in the darkness. Disappearance of the silhouette would signal to Podboy that he must get back as quickly as possible.

"Perhaps a quarter of an hour into Podboy’s mission, a lookout spotted a ship. The Captain called to me, ‘Come over here and take a look at this.’ I looked through my binoculars and reported, ‘It’s a destroyer.’ ‘The hell its is’ the Captain said, ‘it’s an AK (cargo ship) and we’re going to sink it!’ I yelled to warn Podboy, but he had already completed his mission and returned safely below."(Leidholdt)

2130: SJ radar contact at 5,800 yards immediately picked up by lookout. This later turned out to be old destroyer so painted as to be very difficult to distinguish at that range in the moonlight. I immediately put him on the stern, went to battle stations, and got two after tubes ready for firing. All engines were put on the line and speed increased to eighteen knots by pit log.

2135: Despite speed, range was closing rapidly.

2140: At a range of 3,000 yards I identified this vessel as an old type destroyer (Wakatake class, page 82, ONI 14). He was making between 25 and 30 knots, changing course from thirty or forty degrees on one side to thirty or forty on the other, closing my stern. I cleared the bridge with the exception of the quartermaster (Ed Leidholdt) and myself.

2142: Destroyer opened fire with forward gun using after guns when they bore. He was firing fused projectiles and they passed over and on either side.

"We then sighted a second destroyer steaming in column behind the first, and a third one dead astern of us. It would be impossible to turn to fire at the other two. All of the destroyers were now shooting at us. " (Leidholdt).

2149: Range appeared to be 1500 to 1800 yards through binoculars, 2,000 by SJ and generated TDC. Shots were getting uncomfortably close and angle on the bow was ten degrees starboard, with the destroyer swinging right rapidly (approximately one degree per second)

2150: Entered final bearing and fired using one degree spread. Sounded diving alarm and closed hatch.

"As Torpedo Officer, I was in the conning tower frantically working out a firing solution on the Torpedo Data Computer (TDC). The Captain on the bridge with Ed Leidholdt at his side was sending me frequent estimates of the enemy's course changes, bearing and speed. Chief McSpadden in the conning tower was reporting radar ranges. The Captain ordered me to fire all four stern tubes when I had a good computer solution, but seconds later yelled excitedly in salty language, 'Shoot Joe, fire those blankety blank torpedoes before Ed and I are blown away by shrapnel.' I fired the two operational torpedoes in the stern tubes – "down the throat", with a small spread, enemy speed set at 30 knots. The depth setting on the 'fish' had been set to explode as the torpedos passed through the ship's magnetic field, three feet beneath the bottom. Thank the Lord the magnetic detonating mechanism worked as designed -- otherwise I wouldn't be telling this story."(Vasey)

2150-42s: First torpedo hit when submarine was still at 35 feet. Due to some confusion on the bow planes they were not rigged out properly.

2151: Approximately five depth charges went off nearly simultaneiusly astern. Submarine was then at forty feet and the pip (of the target) disappeared entirely from the SJ.

"The awesome sounds of exploding depth charges and collapsing bulkheads as the warship rapidly sank close astern of Gunnel was an unforgettable experience for all hands." (Vasey)

Gunnel sinks Japanese destroyer

This painting, based on recollections of GUNNEL crewmen shortly after the engagement, depicts the sinking of the Japanese destroyer on the night of June 19th.

2152: Leveled off at 200 feet. When still undecided as to what to do, sound reported at

2157: pinging at a distance forward of starboard beam and getting closer.

2158: Sound reported pinging forward of the port beam. These were two of the three destroyers (including the one sunk) that were probably sent out from Sasebo. Commenced evasive tactics at 300 feet.

2259: A pattern of eight depth charges were dropped well astern.

June 20, 1943, 0100(I): Last of pinging.

0307: Surfaced and commenced air and battery charge. By this time air and battery were really low.

0340: Sighted my two friends ahead, range 7,000 yards, signalling to each other. By this time a combination of dawn and moonlight made visibility even better. Managed to charge batteries for 20 minutes at 3,000 amps aside. Repaired badly leaking cable stuffing-box from outside of conning tower.

"The short period on the surface had provided our first good opportunity to assess the damage from the last barrage of depth charges. The bow and stern planes, the gyro-compass, and several minor leaks could be repaired, we found; but one of the packing glands had again been sprung and while submerged we were unable to stop a steady squirting of water across the conning tower. To prevent flooding of the conning tower by the water which was coming in with great force, we had opened the drain line to the pump room bilges. This measure could soon have flooded the pumping equipment, and there was additional concern that the weight of the water might hinder us in maintaining depth control. Podboy again rose to the occasion and went topside to fix the leak in the packing gland." (Leidholdt)

0341: Submerged and went to course 230°(T). We were now thirty miles south of Saishu To (Quelpart Island) which has a nearby air station on the western end. As daylight had already started and the area must have been under constant air surveillance, I ran submerged for the rest of the day with all auxiliaries, etc., cut out.

1400: Commenced running at periscope depth.

"For the remainder of the day until evening the two destroyers remained in the general vicinity searching for Gunnel, but failed to establish a postive sonar contact. Obviously they were determined to hang on like bull dogs , knowing that eventually we must surface."(Vasey)

2030 (approximately): "The skipper called the officers and chiefs to the wardroom to review the condition of the boat and crew. Chief Podboy gave a grim assessment of propulsion power remaining -- at most, only 30-60 minutes of battery life left. Chief Renner said the crew were exhausted, foul air getting worse made breathing increasingly difficult.The carbon dioxide absorbent and reserve air flasks were used up. Temperatures in the boat were over 120 degrees, and humidity 100 percent. Chief Pharmacist Mate "Doc" Williams said most of the crew were physically and emotionally drained.

The Captain then described his intention:

Gunnel would be eased to the surface quietly so the blowing of main ballast tanks by high pressure air would not be heard by enemy sonars. The five inch, 20mm and machine guns would be quickly manned and made ready for a shoot-out with the warships. Although the ships had not been detected recently by Gunnel's sonarmen, he assumed they were loitering on the horizon ready to close in for a kill once the sub was detected on the surface.

"But there was another option. He was dead set against it, but wanted to mention it in case there was not unanimous support for his intended course of action . All classified equipment and materials would be destroyed, then the Gunnel brought to the surface and scuttled by opening sea and vent valves. All hands would jump into the sea, hoping to be rescued and not shot. There was no discussion -- only a simultaneous shout: ‘let's get going skipper and give it to those b_____s! " (Vasey)

"The skipper immediately ordered, ‘Prepare for battle surface!’ The order was repeated throughout be boat. He then gave the order to ‘plane up’, to run with decks awash, and when a subsequent periscope and radar sweep of the horizon reported all clear, the surfacing order was given. He directed that only Ed Leidholdt and I go to the bridge with him, first priority to scan the horizon with binoculars and then I was to get the gun crews topside as rapidly as possible, even with sea water still sloshing across the main deck. As Ed pushed open the upper conning tower hatch and the three of us scrambled to the bridge, the fresh air was overwhelming – the contrast with the foul air below caused us to black out momentarily. I remember slumping to the deck but soon reviving, still clutching the sub-machine gun I had carried up from below. Then, I grabbed the binoculars hanging around my neck and on the second sweep of the horizon, spotted the two warships at a distance forward of our beam, fortunately headed away from us into a patch of fog.

"The word was passed below, and there was a collective sigh of relief – none of us cherished the thought of a gun battle with two destroyers. Then, the skipper ordered the diesel engines started to recharge batteries and suck fresh air into the boat -- the answer to everyone’s prayers. By this time, there were no non-believers aboard Gunnel. The Captain's official notation follows:" (Vasey)

2045: Surfaced. Gravity 1120 and very little air left, commenced charge and steamed on course 180°(T). I was as far as forty-eight miles inside SCORPION's area and had been since chasing the convoy into area twelve. Continued on various courses to clear area and get into southwestern portion of own assignment. We had been down 36 hours with the exception of 2 breaks (totaling one hour and thirty-four minutes). This entry is very understated. Although you wouldn't know it from the tone of this entry, the Gunnel had survived several close calls, sank a destroyer and finally endured being submerged for over 34 hours in a 36 hour period. Please remember that auxiliaries had been cut off to conserve energy meaning there was no air conditioning, etc. The air gets very foul aboard these submarines even under circumstances much less trying than these. This was an extremely difficult time for all aboard.

Charles E. Napier's recollections of this incident.

******* (Click above to read the dramatic impressions of this 36 hour ordeal by a young sailor from Muskogee, Oklahoma) *******

2115: Received message stating that SCORPION would arrive in that area

"The message was received via one of the routine daily radio broadcasts sent from Pearl Harbor to all submarines on war patrol.It was merely an advisory that SCORPION was enroute to an adjoining patrol area and left it to the judgement of the two submarine skippers to stay out of each other's way. In World War II there was no effective means of secure, submarine to submarine communications." (Vasey)

June 21, 1943, 1000: Inspected gears of number three main engine and found half of tooth in main idler gear gone. A casualty of this sort is one in which there is no expedient whereby the deficiency can be corrected. Once the timing gears go the engine is completely inoperative, and in vessels equipped with H.O.R. engines the Winton auxiliary steps into a prominence heretofore unexperienced in our submarine force. Two engines left showed noticeable wear, and, due to the indefinite length of time that these gears would last, decided to clear the area.

"Ever since the breakown of number two main engine on June 5, the same recurring problems with the other three engines kept the engineers laboring night and day nursing them along. The routine was repetitious -– teeth on the main idler gears would chip and eventually break off and bits were mashed into the main drive gear and upper idler gears. Each time, the affected engine would be stopped for several hours while the engineers "dressed up" (honed) the damaged teeth, rotated the gears to remove the steel chips and retest the engine. Eventually the damaged gear teeth and noisy gears created a "no-win" situation.

"The skipper’s decision to end the patrol was heartbreaking for him, and for all of us. Gunnel’s crew were at peak performance, precision teamwork and an aggressive spirit with a will to win. But there was absolutely no alternative. The harrowing experiences of the first war patrol after all four main engines broke down when Gunnel was West of Spain in U-boat infested waters was a sobering reminder that good luck has it’s limits. " (Vasey)

June 22, 1943, 0900 (I): Departed area via Kuchino Shima Suido and headed for Midway.

June 23, 0650: Sighted twin-engined bomber on converging course, distance five miles. Submerged.

0812: Picked-up patrol vessel, by periscope and sound. Avoided.

1140: Surfaced.

"The remainder of the trip to Midway was uneventful, giving the crew some time for rest and reflection. Leidholdt summed it all up when he wrote after the war: "In the control room enroute to base, we sipped from mugs of steaming coffee and reviewed the demanding challenges and dangers experienced during the patrol. We felt new confidence in ourselves and in our submarine. Moreover, some of us had emerged from our first war patrol against Japanese forces with new insights into ourselves.

"‘Well, Butova’ said the Captain to our most colorful sailor, ‘What do you think?’ Butova looked uncharacteristically thoughtful. ‘Captain’, he replied at last, ‘I used to think that I was a brave bastard; but now I know I’m just a yellow S.O.B.!’ " (Leidholdt)

July 3, 1943, 0900 (Y): Arrived Midway Island.

As GUNNEL approached the pier at Midway, a grim reminder of our near fatal encounter with one of the depth charge attacks during this patrol was recalled in later years by Bill Stamper who was a line handler standing on the forward port deck:

“We had left our mooring lines at Midway before leaving on this patrol (a standard practice). When we arrived back at Midway, a whaleboat met us to return our mooring lines before we reached the pier. I was in charge of  #1 mooring line and standing by to receive the first heaving line thrown at us from the whaleboat. It landed with the Monkey Fist going straight through a gaping, jagged hole in the deck, about 3 x 4 feet. As we tried to reach it, I slipped and hit the shin of my right leg on the jagged edges of wood. Hurt is not the right word but we went ahead with securing the lines so we could go to the pier. I believe the sea was just a bit choppy. It took me two months to heal after the doctor removed the huge clot.”                    

 

Gooneyville Pass

Gooneyville Pass

"Mail call! " was excitedly shouted throughout the sub as topside personnel sighted sacks of mail on the dock waiting for Gunnel’s crew. The hardships and dangers of the past several weeks quickly evaporated as all hands eagerly anticipated hearing from wives, families, sweethearts and friends.

"A humorist – one of several in the crew – had sketched the above "Gooneyville Pass" and posted it on the bulletin board: a mock liberty card for going ashore in Midway. But there was no opportunity for shore leave here. A group of engine "experts" flown out from the US quickly concluded that Gunnel should be sent to Mare Island Shipyard near Vallejo California to have all four main diesel engines removed and replaced with the highly reliable General Motors diesels used by many other submarines. The decison was a wise one -- before Gunnel reached its destination the third HOR diesel suffered the same casualty as the others, leaving only one engine for propulsion." -- (Vasey)


Epilogue

The Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet, subsequently commented in his official evaluation of GUNNEL's patrol:

        "This second war patrol was the first made by GUNNEL in areas under the 
        operational control of   Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. The 
        patrol was carried out in an extremely aggressive and successful manner. 
        In addition to normal hazards of patrolling in enemy waters the GUNNEL 
        was severely handicapped by poor engine performance and the patrol had 
        to be terminated early because of this feature. 
 
        " All attacks were carried out with careful but aggressive planning and 
        each attack resulted in inflicting damage to the enemy. Excellent judgment 
        was used throughout. The night attack on the enemy destroyer that was 
        attacking GUNNEL was extremely aggressive. .. 
 
        "The CommanderSubmarine Force, Pacific Fleet, congratulates the commanding 
        officer, officers and crew for this highly aggressive and successful war 
        patrol carried out under trying conditions of faulty material. The Gunnel 
        is credited with having inflicted the following damage upon the enemy: 

Freighter (Moga Migawa Class) - SUNK - 7,497 tons

Freighter (Seiwa Maru Class) - SUNK - 7,210 tons

Destroyer (Wakatake Class) - SUNK - 900 tons

The numbers reported here are what Gunnel was credited with by COMSUBPAC on July 18,1943.

AWARD OF SUBMARINE COMBAT INSIGNIA IS AUTHORIZED FOR THIS PATROL

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Patrol Statistics

Miles steamed = 8,350

Fuel Oil expended= 92,268

Patrol Length = 49 Days

Torpedoes Remaining = 9

Fuel Remaining = 16,618

Provisions (days) = 25

Endurance Factor Ending Patrol = Engines

In the captain's report he writes the following about the GUNNEL's engines:

"Last, but not least, H.O.R. engines. Reams have been written and there still is material left for volumes more as regards the dubious trustworthiness of this make of engine. The GUNNEL has been in commission eleven months and during that period she has just been able to complete two military missions. The troubles experienced are much more fundamental than gears, and, in the interests of efficiency, new engines should be installed as soon as they become available."

"The Auxiliary Cannon-Ball"
(Sung to the tune of Wabash Cannon-Ball)

 

 

 

 

When we left Midway,

 

 

We had four engines strong,

 

 

But three days out to sea,

 

 

We knew that that was wrong.

 

 

For there came a rumble,

 

 

A clatter and a thud,

 

 

And No. 2 Main Engine

 

 

Turned out to be a dud.

 

 

 

 

 

So listen to the rumble,

 

 

The rattle and the roar.

 

 

Listen to the engines of,

 

 

One, Three and Four.

 

 

 

 

 

Then as we neared the war zone,

 

 

Our hearts weren't full of glee,

 

 

Because we couldn't answer the "Start Bell",

 

 

On Engine No. Three.

 

 

But we could hear a rumble

 

 

A clatter and a roar,

 

 

And we knew that we were going ahead

 

 

On Engine No. Four.

 

 

 

 

 

So listen to the rumble

 

 

The rattle and the roar,

 

 

Listen to the rumble

 

 

Of Engines One and Four.

 

 

 

 

 

When we reached the war zone

 

 

And our patrol was halfway done,

 

 

We found that we were running

 

 

On Engine No. One.

 

 

Then there was a crashing

 

 

A rattle and a roar

 

 

And we found much to our sorrow

 

 

That is was Engine No. Four.

 

 

 

 

 

So Listen to that rumble

 

 

Our stand-by was in use,

 

 

And if the gear train goes on it

 

 

It will probably cook our goose.

 

 

When our patrol was ended

 

 

And the battle nearly won,

 

 

There came another crashing

 

 

And main engines we had none.

 

 

 

 

 

Now when you hear that purring

 

 

A purring sweet and clear,

 

 

You'll know it's from an engine

 

 

We all love so dear.

 

 

Now as we go eastward

 

 

Mare Island our Port Of Call,

 

 

If we see our mothers

 

 

It will be late this fall.

 

 

 

 

 

Now listen to that purring

 

 

The sweetest music of all,

 

 

And we'll give thanks to the Winton people,

 

 

For the Auxiliary Cannon-Ball

 

Composed by:
The After Engine Room Gang


Chapters








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