USS Gunnel SS-253 Port side view 1945
ss-253 image

Third War Patrol

November 17, 1943 - January 7, 1944

Cmdr. John S. McCain Commanding



November 6, 1943: Arrived Pearl Harbor from Navy Yard, Mare Island, following re-engineering and general overhaul. Lieut. Lloyd R."Joe" Vasey USN had succeeded Lieut. Commander Mel Dry as Executive Officer and Navigator while in the shipyard.

Conducted five days training at sea and completed miscellaneous work alongside the submarine tender USS GRIFFIN. Readiness for sea 17 November 1943.

Gunnel’s crew was eager to return to combat action in the war zone. While everyone had enjoyed the time ashore in the San Francisco Bay area and the hero’s welcome everywhere they visited in the civilian communities, they were of one mind in wanting to do their part in defeating the enemy and achieving victory as rapidly as possible. Patriotism ran high throughout America and the entire country was strongly united in achieving this goal and in giving all out support and recognition to the armed services for their gallant sacrifices and achievements in a common cause. It was not happenstance that recruiting posters at the time, depicting a submarine sailor with a submarine shown in the background, were displayed on life sized billboards in front of post offices in the bay area and across America, with the following caption:

"PRIDE RUNS DEEP IN THE SILENT SERVICE"

November 17, 1943, 1300 : Underway for Midway and area.

November 17-21, 1943: Enroute Midway conducting daily drills submerged and surface.

Intensive training and emergency drills were held night and day, with little opportunity for sleep, and no time for relaxation. While in the Mare Island Naval Shipyard many seasoned crewmembers had been reassigned to other boats or shore duty and replaced with younger sailors and junior officers. Most were fresh out of submarine school at New London. The Captain wasted no time in getting his new team into top fighting trim, ready to face the rigorous challenges and dangers in the weeks ahead.

November 18, 1943, 0835 : Exchanged recognition signals with patrol plane.

At this time, Gunnel was within the surveillance area of the PBY patrol planes flying from Oahu and friendly recognition generally was not a problem even though it was known that Japanese submarines were occasionally in the area. The aviators had been thoroughly briefed on wartime operational and recognition procedures.

When a friendly submarine was scheduled to transit through air and surface surveillance zones such as those around the Hawaiian islands and Midway, submarine skippers were required to submit to headquarters prior to getting underway, a secret chart showing the estimated track and speeds of the sub. Rectangles were then drawn around the submarine’s positions, usually 5 miles abeam on either side, somewhat longer forward and aft, and designated as "submarine Moving Havens. Friendly forces were prohibited from attacking anything resembling a sub detected within these "Submarine Moving Havens ". This same system was used by all allied nations.

Most of the time such operational procedures worked well, nevertheless Gunnel’s crew were especially vigilant, remembering the near fatal encounters with friendly forces during the sub’s first war patrol in the African-European theatre.

American subs normally cruised on the surface at maximum speed through the friendly surveillance zones. The safety of the boat and crew depended to a large extent on the vigilance of the three "lookouts" assigned to watch standing duties on the bridge. Several times in Gunnels’ career, the crew looked back with great thankfulness to the outstanding performance and vigilance of lookouts that saved their lives when the sanctuary system didn’t work as advertised.

November 21, 1943, 1010 : Secured at Midway alongside the submarine tender USS BUSHNELL. Topped off fuel and provisions.

1645: Underway for assigned war patrol area. The Captain had wasted no time getting Gunnel underway again, spending only a few hours alongside the BUSHNELL. Midway was 1100 miles Northwest of Oahu on the route to Japan. The stop was solely for the purpose of replenishing fuel oil used since leaving Pearl Harbor. Occasionally transitting submarines needed emergency repairs or spare parts from the tender or medical assistance.

Taking a submarine through the long, narrow channel in and out of Midway was a hairy experience at this time of year because of frequent rain showers and strong crosswinds which could blow a submarine sideways onto the reefs just a few feet on either side of the channel. Sub skippers almost always opted to make the transit in daylight hours; Midway and all Hawaiian islands were required to be in a "black out" status at night during the war, and the buoys marking the channel were not lighted. A harbor pilot was available but most skippers took great pride in doing their own piloting with the assistance of their own navigation teams.

Gunnel was no exception. The navigation team was professionals of the first order. They had meticulously studied the charts beforehand, together with tables and predictions of tides and currents at this time of year, and continuously plotted the path of the submarine as it proceeded through the channel, sending frequent recommendations to the Captain to change course and/or speed based on the their plot. Visual observations of channel buoys and navigational markers, sea and weather conditions were reported by the watchstanders on the bridge.

November 22-29, 1943: Underway conducting various drills surface and submerged.

While Gunnel was running submerged soon after leaving Midway, the Captain announced over the loudspeaker that his orders from Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) were proceed to proceed to a patrol area covering the approaches to Tokyo and Yokohama just off Tokyo Bay, and to attack any enemy warships, oil tankers and cargo ships encountered. This was a choice area for a war patrol, similar to the approaches to San Francisco Bay or Puget Sound. He added a note of caution, reminding everyone that it was also an area of intense anti-submarine activity by Japanese naval and air forces. US subs had already exacted a heavy toll on ships transitting this area, and Japanese authorities did not want to "lose face" with additional losses of ships which were absolutely crucial to the success of Japan’s war campaign. He also commented that while in the"Skipper’s Bar" at the Submarine Base the evening before leaving Pearl, the commanding officer of a boat recently operating off Honshu, was convinced the Japanese were using decoys to lure American submarines into dangerous traps.

The "Skipper’s Bar"was an exclusive watering hole for submarine commanders, where they could relax, let their hair down so to speak, swap sea stories and experiences. Information exchanged in the bar was often as valuable as the classified intelligence received through official briefings and radio messages, a reality Gunnel’s crew experienced a few weeks later.

On Thanksgiving Day a secret radio message from headquarters at Pearl Harbor informed the Captain that a Japanese naval force recently engaged in surface battles in the South Pacific was proceeding to Tokyo Bay for replenishment and repairs. The position of the enemy force in latitude and longitude, and it’s estimated course and speed as last reported by US naval scouting planes was included in the message which also authorized Gunnel’s commanding officer to go after the enemy even if it meant a temporary diversion from his original orders.

The Captain and navigator huddled for some time over the small chart desk in the Control Room, plotting the projected track of the Japanese warships and studying various options for intercepting them. Finally, the skipper directed Gunnel to alter course to the southwest and proceed to a position several hundred miles south of Tokyo Bay. He planned to loiter in that vicinity several hours in advance of the estimated arrival of the enemy force. After launching the attacks he would head north toward the designated patrol area, cruising close to the chain of small islands extending a couple of hundred miles south of Tokyo Bay. Japanese ships were known to use this route.

The Captain concluded the best probability for Gunnel to find the warships and launch a successful attack would be at night while running surfaced. The potential detection range of a submerged submarine with its periscope and sonar as the only "eyes and ears" was much less than remaining on the surface when height and several pairs of eyes were available as well as the surface (SD) and air search (SJ) radars, provided the latter were used fleetingly to minimize the chance of the radar beams being detected. Detection equipment was thought to be on some Japanese warships. Of course, being on the surface increased the probability of the sub itself being detected by Japanese patrols.

Such considerations were factored into the calculations of any submarine commanding officer, in addition to weather, sea and visibility conditions which often were critical.

While enroute Captain McCain informed the crew that Gunnel would run submerged to enjoy the traditional American Thanksgiving Day feast prepared by the cooks, and then the sub would run at high surface speed to be in position to intercept the Japanese force. And a gourmet meal it was, complete with turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and all the trimmings -- topped off with generous helpings from the ice cream machine, with a choice of chocolate or strawberry sauce.

American submarines enjoyed a fleet-wide reputation for their food, and Gunnel’s cooks were among the best in the business. Tasty and ample food and the availability of snacks 24 hours a day were tremendous morale factors. The commanding officer’s journal included the following notation: "The ice cream freezer was run daily and proved to be the most popular piece of equipment aboard".

These high culinary standards were difficult and eventually impractical to sustain after the fresh provisions were consumed and the freeze lockers emptied of meats and poultry. Spam, canned foods, powdered milk and the like wore thin with the crew as the days underway increased, even though the cooks did their best to be creative.

Although the commanding officers official report is a bit Spartan in commenting on the daily routine during a patrol, there was never a dull day in the life of a wartime submariner. Bill Stamper describes one exciting happening in the forward torpedo room:

"It really frightened me at the time. We were doing the weekly inspection and servicing of the fish in the tubes. ‘Josh’ Herrin, Torpedoman 1/C was in charge of the forward torpedo room. I had been aft for some reason and just as I ducked on re-entering the torpedo room hatch, I heard the unmistakable whine of a torpedo winding up, followed by smoke and steam and I became aware of men standing near the screws of the torpedo. I saw Josh and what looked like the stub of his arm. I quickly ran to the crew’s messhall where I had seen "Doc" Herman Williams, our Pharmacist Mate, told him what I thought I had seen and we ran back to the forward room. I was thankful it was a false alarm. In the smoke filled room Josh was apparently wiping his face and I saw the sleeves partially rolled up to his elbow and could not see his forearm."

Meanwhile the entire crew was aware of the near tragedy in the forward room and a somber quietness reined throughout the boat. The Submarine School at New London had cautioned everyone about the dangers of a "hot running" torpedo out of the water. Without the resistance of water pressure, the propellers would quickly spin out of control and fly apart with bits of metal going in every direction. When torpedoes were pulled in and out of the tubes, great caution was needed to avoid accidentally tripping the firing lever on top, especially when the boat lurched or rolled for any reason.

November 30, 1943, 1025 : Lookouts sighted one flying boat, Type 97, at 4 miles, altitude 1000 feet. Radar did not pick up this contact. Dived. Plane apparently did not sight submarine.

1122 : Surfaced.

Third war patrol area map

December 1, 1943: Patrolling on surface.

At this time, Gunnel was patrolling near the position designated earlier by the commanding officer and all hands were alerted that torpedo action may be imminent. The low flying plane sighted the previous day was a good indication the task force would soon be in the vicinity. Patrol planes customarily scoured the area ahead of the projected path of such an important naval force.
Loading torpedoes

December 2, 1943, 2200 : Radar contact on SJ (surface search) radar at 25,000 yards, bearing 185°(T). Ordered all four main engines on the line and changed course to 185°(T).

2205 : Radar operator detected six pips on the screen, two large and four small. Sounded battle stations and commenced plotting.

2230 : Night was relatively light with calm sea and good horizon. Sky was thirty percent overcast and range of visibility was estimated at 6000 yards. At this time I identified the targets as two auxiliary aircraft carriers of the Zuiho Class and four destroyers. The carriers were in line of bearing with one destroyer ahead and one trailing. The other two destroyers were disposed on either flank. Plot showed the entire formation to be making eighteen knots on base course 340°(T). All ships were zigging forty degrees every four minutes. In view of the range between the two carriers of at least 2000 yards and the disposition of the escorting destroyers, I determined to concentrate on the first and nearest carrier. Therefore at

2250 : I submerged to forty feet at a range of 6000 yards to continue approach on an estimated 90 degree starboard track

The tactical situation looked very favorable for the submarine. Since the initial contact on the Japanese task force 50 minutes earlier, the Captain had successfully maneuvered the boat with the goal of attaining a final firing position about 800 yards on the beam of the target. Just before ordering Gunnel to submerge, he sighted the approaching ships through his binoculars, and was able to send a precise bearing of the lead target and his visual estimate of its course, to the plotting party in the conning tower just below the bridge. The latter were delighted that this information tallied with the tactical solution already displayed on the Torpedo Data Computer (TDC).

Unless the target made a major course change -- or the submarine was detected -- Gunnel should be in an excellent firing position within minutes. The Captain said he intended to slide between the leading destroyer and the one positioned 2000 yards on the starboard (right) flank of the first aircraft carrier. This was no easy task -- the destroyers were constantly weaving as they used sonars, radars and lookouts to avoid such an ambush.

As the force drew closer the Captain ordered Gunnel to run submerged, initially at forty feet. At this depth, the periscope could be raised high enough to see the approaching ships and the radar turned on briefly to determine a final range to the target. Gunnel would gradually go deeper and run at normal periscope depth of 62 to 65 feet as the enemy drew closer.

2252 : Submarine broached to 30 feet.

Despite the Herculean efforts of the diving team in the Control Room who were controlling the angles of the bow and stern diving planes (flippers), for some unknown reason the boat suddenly tilted upward, causing the conning tower and upper works to be exposed briefly above water until the situation was promptly brought under control. When again at 40 foot depth and the target at a range of 3900 yards (with the lead destroyer even much closer) bearings by radar and sonar indicated the formation was changing course toward the submarine.

2254 : The target zigged directly towards us, necessitating submerging to 80 feet. The distance to the track was very small and we were four to five degrees on his starboard bow. In order to increase the distance to the track, I reversed course and resorted to sound bearings. It was immediately apparent after steadying on new course that the carrier had changed course so as to bring the bow tubes into a firing position on a ninety degree port track, instead of the anticipated 120 degree starboard stern tube track.

When the target headed almost directly toward Gunnel, the Captain had to make an immediate decision: either remain at periscope depth and fire "down the throat shots" from the stern torpedo tubes as the enemy drew closer; or go deeper, run at high speed and reverse course to open the distance from the targets path before swinging in to fire from the bow tubes. Torpedoes required a minimum running distance of 480 yards in order for the exploder mechanism to "arm" itself; hence his decision to pull away at least this distance from the projected path of the target before firing the bow tubes.

The skipper reasoned that Gunnel had been sighted when it "broached" the surface. He thought it prudent to avoid being caught in a situation where the enemy anti-submarine ships could close in rapidly to launch depth charge attacks, frustrating Gunnel’s own efforts to successfully launch torpedoes. Therefore, he chose to open the distance from the target’s path at maximum submerged speed to reach a favorable firing position and fire the bow tubes. This maneuver also had the advantage of confounding the enemy’s own tactical calculations.

2257-08 : I fired four torpedoes from the bow tubes at eight second intervals, using a four degree spread.

The firing was conducted using sonar to establish the bearing of the target. This was only three minutes after reaching 80 feet, with the sub still at high speed. At this speed it was extremely difficult, if not impractical for the sonar operators to establish accurate bearings on the enemy ships, a situation confused further by the proximity of the enemy force, so close that the sonar operators were hearing propeller noises of all six warships. Sorting out the target from the others was an iffy proposition. Nevertheless, time was critical and they had to pass their best judgments to the Captain for his final decision and simultaneous entry into the Torpedo Data Computer.

2257-12 : the port destroyer screen passed over the bow.

This was only 12 seconds after firing the torpedoes. The roaring noise of the destroyer’s propellers was clearly heard through the hull and all hands braced themselves anticipating the depth bombs soon to be launched by the enemy.

Meanwhile, everyone was eagerly waiting for the sound of Gunnel’s own torpedoes exploding against the target. The word had been passed via intercom manned in all compartments that the range to the target at the time of firing was only 650 yards. Translated into torpedo running time this was less than 25 seconds. As the seconds ticked by and nothing was heard everyone was disappointed at being so close, yet not making a "kill". But they knew that such experiences were to be expected in wartime. Gunnel’s crewmen had great confidence in and admiration for Captain McCain, for his courage and judgment in making the right decision in extremely hazardous situations such as this.

2302 (K)(about):Heard four definite explosions which I interpreted to be depth charges. Rigged the submarine for depth charge attack and increased depth to 300 feet.

At first it was thought the explosions were from the torpedoes at the end of their run -- they were automatically set to do this. But it was quickly concluded they were depth charges dropped by the rear destroyer. The explosions were heard loudly throughout the sub but not close enough to do any damage other than to cause minor leaks into the engine rooms. All six warships continued on their base course as they pulled rapidly away from Gunnel’s vicinity.

December 3, 1943, 0130 : Surfaced and proceeded along track of targets in futile and far fetched hope of running into something. However, night and next day were uneventful.

The enemy ships had a substantial speed advantage over Gunnel and were using it to maximum advantage to open distance from the submarine. Unless the force made a major change of base course, the chance of catching them was nil.

0219 : First message sent to ComSubPac giving information on attack.

Submarines normally observed radio silence during war patrol, to preclude having their radio transmissions picked up by enemy "direction finders"; a proven nemesis of the German U-boat campaign in the Atlantic. But they were expected to transmit to ComSubPac, reports of important contacts such as the task force.

Later this day when the boat was running submerged, the Captain held a short meeting in the wardroom to discuss his views of the close encounter with the task force. In retrospect, the analysis of the plot indicated to him that Gunnel was not sighted when it "broached", and he regretted his decision against remaining in position to fire "down the throat" shots at close range. Maybe at least one destroyer could have been "bagged". The executive officer then chimed in: "Skipper, hindsight is always better than foresight, but at least we’re still here to talk about it."

2315 : Radar contacted two very large targets at 27,000 yards, bearing 090°(T). Ordered battle stations, changed course to initial bearing, and placed all four main engines on the line. Commenced closing targets.

2320 : Plot showed targets to be making radical zigs on base course 150°(T) at nine knots. Visibility was much less than night before, estimated at 3000 yards, with sky overcast. Rough seas with wind from the southeast.

2358 : A much smaller pip on radar screen at 18,000 yards appeared. This was an escorting vessel, later determined to be an unidentified destroyer.

December 4, 1943, 0025 : At range of 3500 yards, recognized first target as large passenger freighter of about ten thousand tons displacement. On later inspection she appeared to be similar to the Africa Maru class or Arizona Maru class. The ship by binocular formula was five hundred feet or more in length and was of two or three decks instead of one, as given in Chief of Naval Intelligence publication 208-J. This vessel was heavily laden and very low in the water. The other target was two to three thousand yards on the port flank of the first, and I never got close enough to note any details other than that she was also large but somewhat smaller than the original ship. Closed range on passenger freighter to 1000 yards on a 90 degree starboard track, and at

0051-27 :fired four torpedoes with Gunnel on the surface and using radar ranges and visual Target Bearing Transmitter (TBT) bearings from the bridge. Firing interval eight seconds using three degree spread. As last torpedo was fired, watched escort turn towards submarine at high speed, at range of two thousand yards.

0052-03 : Dived and saw first torpedo hit just forward of center island.

0052-09 : Second torpedo hit.

0052-15 : Third torpedo hit followed by tremendous explosion.

0052-21 : Fourth torpedo hit.

0053 : Leveled off at 300 feet and changed course to parallel that of convoy. The noise was terrific as the ship broke up with many minor explosions. This noise was transmitted through the hull to all compartments and completely negated effective use of the sound gear. This din continued for about five to ten minutes. In the meantime the escort commenced dropping depth charges and, as far as I could determine, firing her guns. Thirty-six depth charges were dropped; none close, with the exception of the first three.

The ship noises noted by the skipper were those of collapsing bulkheads and compartments as the ship filled with water and headed toward the bottom of the sea. The minor explosions heard were believed from exploding ammunition lockers. It was an eerie feeling for Gunnel’s crew to hear the death throes of their quarry, knowing that many brave souls were going down with their ship. But feelings of remorse soon turned to own safety when the initial barrage of three depth charges suddenly rocked the sub, and jarred everyone’s eardrums.

0215 : Last depth charge.

The exploding bombs had caused no damage although the initial barrage of three aggravated the existing leaks in the two engine rooms. The other 33 depth charges ranged near and far, but were wide of the mark as the enemy destroyer criss-crossed the area searching for the sub. All explosions were loud and there was always the uncertainty of worrying about the next one.

0311 : Last of echo ranging.

This was an indication the enemy had given up the search. Normal routine was resumed and all hands were ecstatic over the successful torpedo attack, four shots and four hits.

0415 : Surfaced and proceeded down track of other freighter at eighteen knots.

While submerged since the attack and until sufacing at 0415, the Captain had the sub plane up occasionally to a depth where the radar operators could make a 360 degree horizon sweep for contacts and to get bearings and ranges of the second freighter while it was still within range. He estimated that Gunnel’s surface speed advantage of several knots made it possible to overtake the ship, and sweep around it’s flank to conduct a surface torpedo attack the following night.

0750 : Sighted masts of merchant ship on port beam and was astonished to find that we had overtaken our objective so early in the game. Submerged.

0755 : Closed target, which was making a very suspicious speed of 5 knots or less. At

0819 : Instead of target of night before it turned out to be a high masted trawler of a little over 1000 tons with a destroyer two thousand yards astern. This was the submarine trap of GURNARD fame. I broke off approach as destroyer turned towards us. Cleared area.

The Commanding Officer of the submarine GURNARD had earlier reported his own hazardous encounter with a similar lure south of Honshu. A warning was subsequently broadcast to all submarines via radio from Pearl harbor.

1200 : Surfaced. As previous target now had a 40 to 50 mile lead, I took course for assigned patrol area. (Still a few hundred miles north).

December 4, 1943: From this date until we entered area, a great part of each day was spent, unsuccessfully, in trying to stop leaks in the engine induction, hull induction, and radio antenna trunk.

December 5, 1943, 1620 : Lookout sighted flying boat, Type 97, at 5 miles, altitude 2000 feet. Dived.

At low altitudes, aircraft were difficult to detect until fairly close, in this case 5miles. But the silhouette of a surfaced submarine against a gray, leaden sky stood out like a sore thumb.

1622 : One depth bomb, not close.

1735 : Surfaced.
The skipper had waited for over an hour before giving the order to surface, knowing the patrol plane may be loitering out of sight just over the horizon until it’s fuel supply forced a return to base. Course was then resumed toward the designated patrol area off the approaches to Tokyo Bay.

December 6, 1943, 0738 : Lookout sighted flying boat, Type 97. Submerged.

In view of the aircraft attack late the previous afternoon, it was anticipated that enemy patrol planes would depart from base at first light this morning to search for Gunnel. As expected, a plane was sighted by an alert lookout on the bridge and the OOD immediately sounded the diving alarm. The radar operator reported a range of six miles as the boat was sliding beneath the waves. Even though the sub was undetected, the Captain thought it best to remain submerged all day, running on diversionary courses and speeds until darkness, and then run on the surface through the night to close distance to the assigned patrol area. That evening while again on the surface, at

2050 : Contacted patrol vessel on 225 mile circle from Tokyo. Avoided. Clocks advanced to local time (India)

This contact was initially detected by radar at a range of 18000 yards, with no indication of size or type. The Captain ordered "battle stations, torpedo" and maneuvered Gunnel to close the range to a good firing position. At a distance of some 6000 yards the target became visible through binoculars and shortly thereafter determined to be a patrol boat, too small to justify the expenditure of torpedoes.

Later this night when there were no enemy contacts around, the Captain allowed the engineers to send two men topside to work on leaks which had started while submerged at 300 feet after attacking the aircraft carriers a few nights earlier. At that time water had filled almost to the floor plating in both engine rooms, "necessitating the pumping of variable ballast from time to time". Over the next few days the engineers had worked feverishly to stem the leaks, but some problems were getting worse and appeared to be in the piping leading into the boat from outside of the pressure hull. According to notations in the engineers report, "bolts in the flanges"of the main air induction piping leading into the engine rooms "were tightened from time to time until the rubber gaskets began to squeeze out and it was considered unsafe to tighten up on these any more". This was all that could be done from within the boat.

Leaks of one kind or another were occasionally experienced by all submarines during the war but the point to remember is that the men who went topside to work on the problems, did so with the thought they "were only doing what they were trained to do". They expected no citations, nor were their names customarily noted in the official records. Yet in this instance the men working topside, on top of the hull and under the decking, found it necessary to remove an inspection plate of the large air induction piping leading into an engine room and replace the gasket before the leak could be sealed. A difficult task in any circumstance, but dangerous on this occasion when they knew their submarine was close to enemy airfields on nearby islands and may have to "crash dive" on short notice to avoid an attacking aircraft.

Harry Kaczur, Al Kottentstette, Rudolph Velle are names from the engineering department mentioned earlier in the Gunnel story. There were many, many other "unsung heroes" in Gunnel’s crew. They all shared something in common: professionalism, selfless dedication to duty, and personal courage.

December 7, 1943, 0415 : Small patrol vessel. Avoided.

December 8, 1943, 0200 : Entered area. From this time until 31 December, I maintained a submerged patrol during the daytime. We dove at approximately 0530 and surfaced at 1730 each day. Due to crossing the International Date Line today is 2 years since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

1820: Picked up Mikura Shima on SJ radar at 75,000 yards. Took course to close this island.

December 9, 1943, 0520 : Submerged, patrolling 25 miles southwest of Miyake Shima.

As mentioned earlier, a string of small islands extended South from Tokyo Bay. Miyake Shima was about 60 miles south of the bay; the other islands noted by the Captain were not far from Miyake.

2045: Radar interference from Miyake Shima. From this date until the 22nd, the moonlight made it impossible to close the coast at night.

With the bright moonlight and good visibility the Gunnel was certain to be detected if it remained on the surface for long close to the Japanese mainland. The skipper thought it prudent to wait for weather conditions and visibility to deteriorate before moving closer to the coast. This entire area South of Tokyo Bay was under intense radar surveillance, and patrolled by anti-submarine forces, both air and surface.

Japanese ships proceeding between the South Pacific and Tokyo Bay were known to transit close to the island chain where they had better protection from submarine attack. McCain decided to patrol in the vicinity of the islands, and search for targets while waiting for the weather to deteriorate.

December 10, 1943, 0548 : Submerged, patrolling in vicinity of Inaba Shima (small island).

2050: Sighted sampan and avoided. Weather was much too rough for fishing.

Many sampans and small fishing vessels were sighted visually or detected by the sub's radar over the next several days. The challenge for Gunnel was always to avoid being detected while insuring that a ship worthy of a torpedo attack didn’t slip by unnoticed. As noted earlier, some fishing vessels were naval auxiliaries with radio transmitters and operators aboard for reporting contacts to local military headquarters.

December 11, 1943, 0520 : commenced periscope patrol to east of Miyake Shima.

1745-1929 : Radar interference from Miyake Shima.

December 12, 1943, 0520 : Moved south to avoid radar on Miyake Shima, and commenced periscope patrol east of Mikura (island).

0945 : Sound contact. Small boat.

2303 : Unidentified plane at 7.5 miles on SJ radar.

The plane was detected by radar during a periodic sweep of the horizon. Gunnel was running on the surface charging batteries at the time. The skipper decided to remain surfaced when the radar operator reported the range opening, indicating the sub was not detected. The decision point as to when to dive was usually made on the side of caution when operating so close to enemy shores. Even a slow patrol plane at 7.5 miles could be overhead in less than four minutes. A submarine conning officer needed to mentally calculate the time required to go deep and also to allow time if possible for the foamy water on the surface left by the diving submarine to dissipate. Such telltale markers on the ocean surface provided the enemy with an aiming point of reference to drop his bombs. But in this instance as in many others during the war, the Captain was especially sensitive to the need to keep the storage batteries fully charged. Gunnel’s experience in the Yellow Sea during the prior patrol was a grim reminder of this.

December 13, 1943, 0545 : Took course toward Suruga Wan and Iro Saki. Submerged and commenced periscope patrol standing towards Suruga Wan.

Iro Saki is the tip of the peninsula jutting out from the ocean approaches south of Tokyo Bay; Suruga is the adjoining bay. For navigational purposes, ships usually travelled close the coast in the vicinity of Iro Saki lighthouse, which was illuminated on pre-arranged schedules.

1900 : Three fishing vessels. Conducted patrol southwest of Iro Saki.

For the next few days Gunnel patrolled between Iro Saki and the chain of Islands 30-40 miles eastward, covering the southwestern ocean approaches to Tokyo Bay, submerged by day and intermittently on the surface at night. In normal peacetime, this area was a busy thoroughfare for merchant ships, but in war, Japanese naval authorities controlled the movements of all ships and routed them away from suspected locations of American submarines.

This also was a favorite locality for the fishing fleet because of the proximity of lucrative catches to urban centers. For the remainder of the time near the islands, Gunnel chased down or dodged numerous contacts; sampans, trawlers and other fishing boats of various sizes and types. American submarines operating in Japanese coastal waters always faced a dual challenge: to hunt for lucrative targets, but at the same time "avoid becoming the hunted". Some fishing boats were known to be radio equipped naval auxiliaries, reporting all suspicious contacts, so that anti-submarine forces could be promptly vectored to the scene.

December 14, 1943, 1830 : SJ radar contact at 20,600 yards. Broke off approach when target identified as 1000 ton trawler apparently patrolling.

After running submerged all day, Gunnel had surfaced at nightfall some 15 miles offshore from Iro Saki peninsula and detected the contact by radar. The radarman on watch said the size of the "blip" on his scope indicated a fairly large ship. This report was heard on the inter-phones throughout the sub and excitement mounted when "battle stations torpedo" was sounded in anticipation of launching an attack. The tracking party meticulously plotted the target’s course and speed for the next half-hour until it changed course away from the sub and headed into Suruga Wan (bay), creating a hopeless overtaking situation. Moreover it was identified as a large fishing trawler before the skipper called off the chase.

December 16, 1943, 0415 : While standing towards Nojima Saki, sighted small patrol vessel. Avoided this and at

0440 : Sighted screened searchlight of another, estimated range 6000 yards.

0545 : Submerged and commenced periscope patrol between Nojima Saki and Katsura Wan.

2120 : Picked up searchlight from airfield at Tateyama.

This had been a busy day for the plotting party and watchstanders in the control room and conning tower. Many small fishing boats were in the vicinity in addition to the patrol boat noted in the skipper’s journal. Their movements required constant monitoring, through periscope observation and by sonar when possible, to enable the submarine to avoid detection.

Additionally, the Captain was concerned that the radars may not be functioning properly. Chief Radarman McSpadden had been in the conning tower many long hours trying to remedy the clutter and interference problems on the radarscopes experienced in the past few days. Radar operators on watch initially thought the sub’s own equipment at fault, but the Chief finally concluded that the enemy was deliberately jamming Gunnel’s radar beams through directional use of identical frequencies. The Captain’s journal subsequently stated, "the signal strength of the interference was strong enough at times to prevent our obtaining ‘pips’ on objects at close range", and commented that there was very definite evidence of radar installations on several of the islands.

The Japanese, obviously alerted to the presence of an American sub in the vicinity, were making the most of the rudimentary radar countermeasures available at the time. Radar was still in its infancy in the early years of the war, even in allied navies, and not much was known about the tactical use of counter-measures.

The Gunnel’s radar was a valuable instrument for navigational purposes to determine bearings and ranges of prominent landmarks on shore, as well as for detecting and tracking air and surface contacts. It could be the determining factor of success or failure, and affect the safety of the submarine and crew.

Radar interference and jamming continued to be a problem for the remainder of the war patrol, especially in the vicinity of the island chain.

December 17 0530: Submerged and commenced periscope patrol north of Miyake Shima and east of O’Shima.

O’Shima was the northernmost and largest of the island chain. Midway between Iro Saki Light and the end of the peninsula south of Tokyo Bay, naval and air forces based there were in a commanding position astride the ocean approaches to the bay.

Charts and navigational instructions for this region warned of the strong, circular currents often encountered close to O’Shima as tides ebbed and flowed from the bay. But nothing was said about conditions 300 feet below. On one occasion while submerged, a sudden change in water temperature gradient and abrupt cross currents were experienced, causing the boat to yaw 30 degrees to either side, with danger of being swept sideways. The helmsman had great difficulty in steering a steady course until the two propellers were used alternately to assist him. When finally on the surface it was discovered the boat was several miles from it’s plotted position.

1530 : Sighted flying boat, Type 97.

1600 : Sighted radio station on southern end of O’Shima.

1933 : Radar interference Nojima Saki. Sighted lights of plane landing at Tateyana.

2110 : (I) SJ radar picked up target on port beam with very large rate of change of bearing and range. Shortly thereafter this was confirmed as a plane by lookouts. This was followed by contact with another plane, both SJ radar and sight. These planes were searching the area we had just vacated. The night was dark with moonrise still forty minutes away. I maneuvered out of this vicinity on the surface. During the next half-hour these planes ranged closer and further away. Stood southeast.

December 18 0530 : Submerged. Commenced patrol on Tokyo-Truk route.

The executive officer had recommended shifting operations some 60 miles seaward to the southeast, astride the Tokyo-Truk shipping route. His detailed plotting of Gunnel’s movements in relation to surface and air contacts and radar interference concluded that the Japanese were using diversionary tactics and re-routing shipping away from the vicinity of the suspected submarine. Moreover, he believed the crew needed a change of pace and rest for at least a short period -- they were becoming tired and edgy at the thought of being the hunted and not the attacker. The Exec also noted to himself that the skipper was fatigued from lack of sleep and not in his normal jovial mood.

Contributing to the uneasiness of the crew was a recent radio broadcast by " Tokyo Rose", a nightly propaganda program on the air since early in the war. Rose had a seductive voice and played music and songs popular with young Americans. Usually only the radiomen heard the broadcasts when the boat was surfaced, but they occasionally "piped" the music into the crews mess hall, as had occurred the previous evening. Her soliloquy on this occasion, typical of the propaganda heard during the war by other subs, went something like this: "You boys on that American submarine hiding just outside Tokyo Bay, what do you think your wives and sweethearts are doing tonight while you are on a hopeless mission headed for a watery grave? Playing around of course, and having a good time while you suckers risk your lives. Just listen closely now while I play some romantic songs so you can think about all this before you meet Davy Jones".

December 19, 0150 : Picked up interference on bearing 140 degrees (T) that I think came from the GURNARD.

A radio broadcast from headquarters at Pearl Harbor had advised Gunnel a few days earlier that the other American submarine would be operating independently in an adjoining area to the East.

0530 : Submerged west of Zeni-Su (islet).

During the previous night the Exec insured that the Captain enjoyed a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. When he awoke he soon was his usual buoyant self and said he wanted to head toward Iro Saki after dark. "That’s where we will find the action if we hang around there long enough". Little did he realize at this moment that in a couple of days they would encounter more action than bargained before.

1725 : Surfaced.

1732 : Sighted plane with running lights.

It was unusual to see a plane with lights on. Most likely a small transport aircraft for shuttling passengers to the islands, it did not detect the sub even though passing within four miles.

2050 : Radar interference. Stood up towards Iro Saki.

December 20, 0540: Submerged just south of entrance to Suruga Wan (bay).

The bay was around the corner from Iro Saki Light. Gunnel conducted a periscope patrol just outside of the bay, in position to intercept shipping crossing the mouth of the bay enroute to or from Iro Saki. It was mid-afternoon before one of the periodic periscope sweeps by the OOD detected a probable target, although many small craft had been seen and avoided.

1545 : Sighted smoke on the horizon and proceeded to close.

1705 : Periscope disclosed 1000 ton trawler apparently patrolling, and it appeared to be purposely emitting large quantities of smoke intermittently.

Suspicious that this was a decoy, the skipper chose to avoid and wait for bigger game. It was unusual for a trawler of this kind to be belching smoke.

1855 : Planed to 40 feet and swept horizon with SJ radar. Target bearing 240 degrees (T), range 4300 yards, closing. Planed down and opened.

Impatient that no worthwhile targets had been found the skipper had ordered Gunnel to run at 40 feet long enough to make a 360 degree radar sweep for contacts, preliminary to running surfaced during the night. The only contact was at 4300 yards, eventually identified through the scope as a small boat. Then, at

2002 : Surfaced.

2035 : SJ radar contact, very small pip at 10,000 yards. Never sighted target.

2138 : SJ radar contact on small patrol boat, range 13,000 yards

The contact was tracked for the next half-hour, and then avoided after it was identified as a patrol boat.

2310 : SJ radar contact on large target at 31,000 yards. Commenced approach as target turned up well into Suruga Wan (bay).

The tracking party who were plotting courses and speed of this large ship reported the prospects of closing to a good attack position were favorable even though the ship was turning into the bay. The crew was called to "battle stations torpedo" in anticipation of launching an attack. But at,

2340 : Swept around horizon with radar and picked up another target coming from Omai Saki, standing towards Iro Saki. In view of ideal position on this second target and close proximity of moonrise, shifted to this second setup.

Omai Saki was at the tip of the peninsula jutting out from Suruga Wan, across the mouth of the bay opposite Iro Saki. The tactical set-up (course, slow speed and range from Gunnel) was made to order for a night-surface torpedo attack. With all hands at battle stations, the men in each compartment manning the headphones excitedly kept their shipmates informed as they heard the continuous reporting from the plotting party passed over the phone to the skipper on the bridge. At an initial range of 11 miles and moving at only 8 knots, it was over an hour before the target was visible through binoculars. Then,

December 21, 0100 :At four thousand yards this target was recognized as a 1000 to 2000 ton trawler, high in the water, similar to the one of the afternoon approach. At this time a very small boat was sighted on his port bow, signalling to the trawler. Cleared area.

0540 : Submerged and stood into Suruga Wan.

1330 : Picked up screws by sound and verified target at 4200 yards through periscope to be a 6000 to 7000 ton freighter escorted by a large sized patrol boat of modern design with clipper bow. This contact was 4.8 miles from Iro Saki. Went to battle stations.

1340 : Target changed course to his left and I was unable to close. At no time did torpedo run become less than 3800 yards.

The Captain’s earlier forecast that shipping would eventually be spotted in the vicinity Iro Saki was exactly correct. But in this instance when the freighter turned left away from Gunnel’s position, it was soon beyond torpedo range.

1415 : Ship rounded Iro Saki. At this time I decided to patrol submerged the next day in this vicinity.

1745 : Surfaced.

1950 : SJ contact on two large fishing vessels at 17,000 yards.

2134 : SJ radar contact at 17,500 yards. Commenced approach on this target. Later inspection disclosed him to be patrol of night before. A small boat was apparently in company with him and about 4000 yards on his quarter, towards us.

December 22, 1943, 0405 : SJ radar contact at 28,000 yards. This target turned north and disappeared well into Suruga Wan.

0525 : Submerged and moved on course 345°(T) up towards contact of preceding day. I intended to be four or five miles further into the Wan by 1500, but an unexpected set of current to southwest put me south of the anticipated position.

1600 : Large sampan by sound and periscope.

1600 : Second large sampan.

1628 : Sighted freighter five thousand tons, range 12,000 yards, hull down, standing towards Iro Saki. Failing light and fact target would be well on way into Sagami Nada by time we were able to close, if at all, precluded an approach.

1730 : Surfaced, stood south to charge batteries. The night was very dark and overcast with no moon. Sea was calm and phosphorescence extreme. I estimated visibility to be about 1000 yards.

2205 : While standing north again, radar contacted three targets that had apparently just rounded Iro Saki standing southwest. These three targets on the radar were all the same size and relatively small.

2217 : Sweep of SJ disclosed two much larger targets on the port bow, bearing 333°(T), distance 22,000 yards, on course east from Omai Saki to Iro Saki. Shifted approach to these two.

2230(I): While on course 000 (T), speed 12, making approach on two aforementioned targets, noted wake of torpedo fifteen feet forward of the bow, on an estimated 70 to 90 degree port track. All ahead flank speed and I changed course to the right in time to observe another torpedo wake pass astern about 15 yards. I steadied on a course parallel to the torpedo tracks. These two torpedoes were fired about 10 seconds apart.

2232 (I): torpedo wake (a third torpedo) passed down the starboard side on a parallel course. In the meantime radar reported that both sets of targets had dispersed. At no time after that did we see more than a single target on the screen. I cleared the area at eighteen knots for Hachijo Shima.

After this firing, the radar was unable to pick up anything in the direction from which the torpedoes were fired. This made me believe that we were the target of either a submarine or midget submarine so trimmed down as to offer no reflective medium on the radar screen.

(Editors comment). This was an extremely close call for GUNNEL and would likely have been fatal had any of the three torpedoes hit home. Captain McCain's quick action in sharply turning right most assuredly saved the submarine from being hit by the third one. Just as crucial was the action of lookout Raymond Lloyd standing on the periscope shears just above the bridge level. Sighting "a wake full of air bubbles" a hundred yards from GUNNEL --- bubbles arising from the first approaching torpedo, he had immediately alerted the skipper to the imminent danger (every split second was critical). Two minutes later Lloyd observed the third "torpedo passing along the starboard side, so close I thought the whole crew was going to be lost."

This dangerous encounter south of Tokyo Bay remains etched in the memories of Gunnel shipmates and is a favorite "sea story" at annual submarine reunions. They always remark that, "Gunnel was a lucky boat and that Jack McCain was a very aggressive skipper without being reckless."

December 23, 1943, 0530 : Submerged to east of Hachijo Shima.

The entire crew were badly shaken by the recent attacks and the Captain wanted them to have several hours of rest if possible, to "recharge body and soul". World War II submariners of all navies had a universal reputation for courage and calmness under fire. Bombing and depth charge attacks by enemy planes and surface ships were taken in stride, but being stalked or attacked by enemy submarines was the most debilitating, shocking experience of all.

December 24, 1943: I stood northeast through eastern part of area to investigate possibilities of Inubo Saki and Katsuura Wan. Further, I made an effort to withdraw at such a range as to avoid the radar interference previously mentioned.

Inubo Saki, another prominent Lighthouse used by shipping, was at the end of the next prominent peninsula 80 miles up the coast. Katsura Wan, a small bay in between, was frequented by coastal shipping using nearby port facilities.

December 25, 1943, 2034 : Christmas. Sighted searchlight of fishing vessel.

This day actually was Christmas Eve US time. During a quiet hour while the boat was running submerged, Torpedoman Leo Choles conducted services in the forward torpedo room with many shipmates including the commanding officer joining in the caroling. Leo was a remarkable personality with several notable talents; a lay minister ,a poet and a prizefighter before the war, to name just a few.choles.jpg - 54492 Bytes

2017 : Sighted flare.

2315 : SJ radar contact on small vessel at 7000 yards. Cleared vicinity.

Identified by the radar operator as a very small "pip" on the scope, the Captain wanted to take no unnecessary chances of being detected. The flare sighted earlier was believed to be from a fishing boat.

December 26, 0530:Submerged Southeast of Mikura.

During the night the Captain had directed Gunnel to move 50 miles offshore so all hands could enjoy the special holiday feast prepared by the chefs. With all fresh provisions depleted it was not quite as sumptuous as the Thanksgiving feast, but everyone agreed the galley crew deserved a hearty "well done" for their Christmas cheer. Adding to the festivities and happiness was Santa Claus who suddenly emerged from "Boys Town" (the chiefs quarters) with bags of goodies (rock hard candy, plus wool mittens and scarves made by ladies across America who wanted to do their part for their servicemen on the front lines). Santa personally delivered these welcome surprises to all hands throughout the boat, even to the watch-standers.

1735 : Surfaced.

2145 : Radar interference to seaward. This was the first indication of radar afloat.

2210 : Very heavy radar interference of such intensity as to indicated something nearby. The bearing of this was such as to believe we were being tracked by installation afloat.

December 27, 0125 : Heavy radar interference.

The Captain’s log reported continuing radar interference throughout the night. During the previous days, the Captain, the Executive Officer and Chief McSpadden huddled for many hours assessing the radar interference, its causes and effects, and just as important what to do about it. They were convinced it was a coordinated effort to neutralize the effectiveness of the radar "eyes"of an American submarine suspected in the vicinity. As mentioned earlier very little was known at that time about Japanese radar countermeasures. The Gunnel may have been the first sub to encounter such concentrated tactical interference.

But the Captain felt he had no choice but to move closer to Inubo Saki and be in position to attack shipping which, sooner or later, would be rounding the point. Prior to first light in the morning, Gunnel was patrolling submerged south of the lighthouse.

Radar was used very sparingly since first operating near the island chain. Prominent peaks and points on the islands were very helpful in establishing the navigational positions of the sub. Along the coastline though, such conspicuous radar targets were generally absent. But recently, the captain ordered the radar turned on only for emergencies, and then only with his or the Exec’s permission. Navigation near the enemy coast became a demanding task for the navigator and his team of quartermasters, especially during periods of low visibility. The traditional use of the sextant was ruled out because the boat would need to be on the surface. Satellite navigation and the technology revolution were still many years off. The principal means of navigational piloting was by "Dead Reckoning" -- a continuing plot of the subs courses and speeds, versus best estimates of tides and currents, and an infrequent use of the fathometer (depth finder) hoping the enemy’s listening devices didn’t hear its sonar echoes.

December 28, 0020 : Sighted two searchlights of unidentified vessels.

During the rest of the night, other lights were reported, including "searchlights on the beach at various times." Fishing boats were using lights, apparently to rendezvous.

0540 : Submerged east of Inubo Saki.

By nightfall, with no targets in range the Captain decided to slowly move southwest over the next two days toward Katsura Wan Light, patrolling parallel to the coast, close enough to shore to catch coastal traffic but no so close as to run into minefields believed sown closer inshore. (A year later the US submarine Scamp was lost with all hands near Inubo Saki, reportedly hitting a mine while on a lifeguard mission to rescue downed American fliers).

Avoiding detection by fishing boats was a continuing problem in offshore waters. But this wasn’t the only consideration. Former Signalman Ed Leidholdt described one unique experience. "Part of a fishing net had become entangled on one of the propellers and was causing a noise that could have been picked up by Japanese sonar had we needed to go to silent running. Lieutenant "Joe" Vasey and I answered a call from the Captain for "strong swimmers" to go over the side and try to correct the problem after the boat surfaced and the propellers were stopped. At that time I also prided myself on my ability to hold my breath for long periods. We of course had to do the job at night to minimize the risk of detection by enemy aircraft."

In peacetime submarines carried a "shallow water diving equipment" for scraping barnacles from the side of the hull; GUNNEL’s gear was still aboard, stowed in the after torpedo room. Affectionately dubbed "the bucket" it was a simplistic system with a large inverted bucket held down over a diver’s shoulders by a harness. Air was pumped into a hole on top through a hose from above, in this instance by two sailors on the fantail working a hand pump like a seesaw.

Ed Leidholdt continues. "Joe Vasey went down first but was injured and temporarily disabled when a propeller blade struck him as the boat rolled and pitched in the wave action, spilling air from the bucket. I then made a reconnaissance dive (sans bucket) with an underwater flashlight and groped my way around the stern in the pitch dark. The propeller was too large and too slimy to provide a handhold to stabilize my position for cutting, but I found a section of the netting that I’d be able to hang onto. I discovered that a rope from the fishing net had wrapped itself around the propeller shaft and that metal fittings on the rope apparently had been scraping on the shaft and making the noise we heard. On my second trip down, I used "the bucket", carried the flashlight and cut the obstruction loose with a saw-tooth knife."

The divers, exhausted and shivering from the cold, were each rewarded with two shots of French brandy from the medicinal supply stored in the Captain’s safe for such emergencies.

December 30, 0115: Sighted Katsura Wan light. Night was dark, visibility 1000 yards. Radar pip at 2500 yards, followed immediately by heavy interference on same bearing. Did not sight cause of this. However, SJ radar did not pick up target again.

0530 : Submerged and proceeded into Katsura Wan (bay). Large banging noise developed outside of the conning tower which later investigation revealed to be an inspection door on side of conning tower.

0915 : Sighted single floatplane, Type "Dave".

The plane, a reconnaissance type, was sighted two miles away during a periodic periscope sweep of the horizon. Fortunately it did not sight the sub. For the remainder of daylight hours, Gunnel continued its patrol 5 to 6 miles offshore hoping to catch one of the cargo ships thought to be in a nearby port. At this distance from the coast, great caution was exercised in the use of the periscope to avoid detection. Every 15 to 20 minutes it was raised and exposed a maximum of 18 to 24 inches for a 10 second circular sweep of the horizon. In between, the passive sonars were the only eyes and ears, but sonar state of the art then was limited, and listening conditions in the strong Japanese Current so close to shallow water were poor.

1740 : Surfaced and stood south on 157 degrees (T), toward a point twenty miles east of Mikura.

With only two days left before it was time to depart the area in compliance with prior orders, the Captain pointed the sub seaward toward the island chain. He thought the crew deserved a break, and besides the chance of finding a target near the islands were as good if not better than the present location.

December 31: East of Hachijo Jima on surface at daylight.

0833 : Radar interference astern. Visibility was much reduced by rain and overcast sky.

0915 : Sighted eight heavy bombers on southerly course, distance 10 miles. Dove and remained submerged rest of the day.

Undetected, the skipper thought it best to submerge even though he believed the planes were American "flying fortresses" returning south from a raid over Tokyo. Visibility was improving intermittently and for the remainder of daylight hours a periscope patrol was conducted just a few miles east of the island. No ships were encountered and at nightfall the Captain ordered the boat to surface and course set for Midway Island. The crew was jubilant with this happy news on the eve of a new year.

January 1, 1944: New Years Day On surface standing out of area.

The return trip was uneventful except that two patrol vessels were encountered, one on the 530 mile circle from Tokyo and the other at 1050 miles, the draft of each was too shallow to warrant a torpedo attack. It was known at the time that small picket ships such as this were positioned to provide advance warning of American air raids against the empire. The Captain, mindful of the dangerous encounter off Tokyo Bay several days earlier, also suspected they were decoys to lure American subs. One such "Q-Ship" the Delhi Maru identified earlier in the war was known to have been specially fitted with extra watertight compartments, concealed guns and depth charge launching gear. American skippers were cautioned to avoid such encounters except in special circumstances.

Throughout the cruise, the health of all hands had been very good except for routine cases of gum infections, a chronic ailment on long cruises due to diet and living conditions, which made it impractical at times to maintain good dental hygiene. Chief Pharmacist Mate Herman C. "Doc" Williams treated all such ailments, and many more such as sprains, tooth aches, cuts on the head, fever, always with distinctive professionalism and a bedside manner that could be the envy of any medico in civilian life. Admiral Lockwood (ComSubPac) in his endorsement of this patrol stated: "The ingenuity and resourcefulness of our submarine pharmacist mates, Particularly Herman C. Williams, CPhM, in this case, is again worthy of praise."

The admiral’s compliments were in reference to a statement in the commanding officer’s patrol report: "Two cases of catarrhal fever acute occurred. One man after being restored to duty, suffered relapse, complicated by bronchial pneumonia. His temperature, pulse and respiration steadily rose over a period of twenty hours. A makeshift canvas oxygen tent with a celluloid window was constructed and subsequently used for sixteen hours. The patient showed rapid improvement. After removal from the tent he was given human plasma, administered intravenously. Sulfathiozone tablets were given orally for six days. His condition has since improved, permitting him to be up and around, but he is considerably weakened and run down. The pharmacist mate is to be commended for his excellent handling of the above case."

January 7, 1944 0800 : Moored at Midway.

Subsequently, medical specialists flown from Pearl Harbor determined the patient needed extended hospitalization.

The entire Gunnel crew was X-rayed and several men who had slept in adjoining bunks to the patient were discovered with serious lung problems, suspected to be viral pneumonia. Everyone aboard was saddened to see their shipmates leaving under such circumstances.

Pat Brown later commented on his experrience at the time: "I and about three or four other crew members were transferred to a surface ship returning to Pearl. We were confined to a compartment close to the fantail on the main deck, then transferred to a hospital and further x-rayed. I think I remember a couple of the crew transferred with me; Motor Machinist Mate Ellzey, electrician Ray Pritchard and one or two more. No signs of TB from the x-rays at Pearl, although they kept us there for at least a couple of weeks."

Ray Lloyd,one of those trarnsferred and given an all clear at Pearl Harbor, was subsequently diagnosed with Tuberculosis in 1947 and given an Honorable Discharge from the Navy for medical reasons after several months confinement in St. Albans naval hospital. In later years Lloyd commented, " I have often wondered if the living conditions we had on the second patrol, being down so long, very little oxygen, high heat, dehydration, etc. could have started the problem. Obviously, tuberculosis had not progressed enough to be detected on the x-ray when I was examined at Midway."

On a happier note, all hands were pleased and proud that Gunnel, had made another successful patrol under dangerous and trying circumstances. Admiral Lockwood’s commentary stated that the attacks made by Gunnel were "aggressive" in an area of operations which was "extremely active with all kinds of anti-submarine measures and undoubtedly much enemy shipping was routed around the Gunnel because of his known presence".

The crew looked forward to their two weeks of recuperation and rest on Midway before preparing to embark on another war mission.

Photo of crew taken January 11, 1944
After completion of War Patrol # 3
Line with ship

Attacks on enemy shipping

Out of a total of eight worthy contacts the GUNNEL was able to close and attack two, one with success. The following is detailed attack information.

Attack # 1


Target was a task force consisting of two auxiliary aircraft carriers and four destroyers. Initial contact was made by radar at 25,00 yards. Attack took place on December 2, 1943 at 2257 (K) at Latitude 26-03 North and Longitude 147-50 East. The GUNNEL was on its way to its assigned patrol area but had not yet reached it. Target draft was estimated at 20 feet, course 010°(T) at a speed of 18 knots. Range at firing was 650 yards. GUNNEL was making 9 knots on a course of 100°(T), depth 80 feet with a 1° down angle at time of firing. Approach was made by use of radar plot and TDC on the surface until targets were within 6000 yards. Visibility was too good and submergence was necessary. Approach continued at 40 feet with radar. Zigging of target toward submarine caused submergence to 80 feet, and approach was completed on sound bearings. Four torpedoes were fired from the bow tubes. All went out at a 90°(T) track angle and depth was set at 10 feet. All torpedoes were model Mark 14-3 with actuation set for contact. All had torpex heads. Firing interval was 8 seconds. No hits were recorded and these targets escaped.

Attack # 2


Targets consisted of two freighters and one escort. This was a night radar attack. Targets were visible through binoculars at 6000 yards. Freighters were heavily laden. Attack took place on December 4th at 0052 (K) at Latitude 29-45 North and Longitude 145-54.5 East. The GUNNEL had still not reached its patrol area when this attack was made. Target draft was estimated at 28 feet, course was 170°(T) at a speed of 9 knots. Range at firing was 1000 yards. GUNNEL was making 9 knots on a course of 083°(T) at a depth of 24 feet. The boat was level. Attack type was classified as Night Surface, TDC, Plot, Radar and Visual from bridge. Firing bearing were sent down from the bridge by use of the TBT and checked without change on the TDC. Four torpedoes were fired from the bow tubes. Depth of all fish was set at 10 feet. All torpedoes were model Mark 14-3A with actuation set on Contact. All had torpex heads, model VI and all were fired with a 8 second firing interval. All four torpedos found their target and this 10,000 ton Africa Maru or Arizona Maru freighter sank within minutes.

Freighter (Africa Maru or Arizona Maru Class) - SUNK - 10,000 tons

Discrepancies in reporting are common.
The numbers reported here are what Gunnel was credited with by COMSUBPAC on January 9,1944.


AWARD OF SUBMARINE COMBAT INSIGNIA IS AUTHORIZED FOR THIS PATROL

Patrol Statistics

Miles steamed = 10,499

Fuel Oil expended= 104,975

Patrol Length = 52 Days

Torpedoes Remaining = 14

Fuel Remaining = 3,000

Provisions (days) = 14

Endurance Factor Ending Patrol = Operational Order


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