SSN 590 – USS Sculpin – Cold War Warrior 2

SSN 590 USS Sculpin

Sculpin: A spiny, large-headed, broad-mouthed, usually scale less fish of the family Cottidae. Several species are found on the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America.

USS Sculpin (SSN-590), a Skipjack-class nuclear-powered submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the sculpin.

Her keel was laid down on 3 February 1958 by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She was launched on 31 March 1960 sponsored by Mrs. Fred Connaway, widow of Commander Fred Connaway, who was killed while commanding the first USS Sculpin during World War II, and commissioned on 1 June 1961 with Commander C. N. Mitchell in command.

Commander Connaway was killed by gunfire on the bridge of the first Sculpin before boat was sunk by Japanese destroyer. The ship was scuttled by her brave crew. Forty-two of Sculpins crew were picked up by Yamagumo. One badly wounded sailor was thrown back in the sea because of his condition. The survivors were questioned for about ten days at the Japanese naval base at Truk, then were embarked on two aircraft carriers returning to Japan. Chuyo carried 21 of the survivors in her hold. On 2 December, the carrier was torpedoed and sunk by Sailfish and twenty of the American prisoners perished; one man, George Rocek, was saved when he was able to grab hold of a ladder on the side of a passing Japanese destroyer and hauled himself on board. (Ironically, Sailfish — at the time named Squalus — was the same submarine Sculpin had helped to locate and raise some four-and-a-half years before.) The other 21 survivors arrived at Ōfuna Camp, Japan, on 5 December and, after further questioning, were sent to the Ashio copper mines for the duration of the war.

This story is about the Attack Sub named in her honor. Typically, the stories of the Cold War submarines stay secret unless they are outed by non-submariners. Doing research on the USS Sculpin, I discovered this article which was originally published in Naval Institute Proceedings. It was written an old friend, Admiral Charles Larson who was my Commanding Officer on board USS Halibut.

I share this story in his honor.

Mister Mac

 

Naval History Magazine 2008, Volume 22. Number 1

Admiral Charles R. Larsen US Navy Retired

Captain Clinton Wright, US Navy Retired

Paul Stilwell

The Sculpin’s Lost Mission: A Nuclear Submarine in the Vietnam War

“One would expect that Cold War “special ops” involving U.S. nuclear-powered submarines are shrouded in secrecy. Other American sub activities during that era, however, are also hidden, one for a very strange reason.

In 1971, after he had spent two and a half years of duty in the White House as naval aide to President Richard Nixon, Commander Chuck Larson was ready to go back to sea. He was ordered to be executive officer of the attack submarine Sculpin (SSN-590), under Commander Harry Mathis. For several months the boat went through workups off the coast of southern California to prepare for a deployment to the western Pacific. That deployment included active participation in the Vietnam War.

After leaving the West Coast in January 1972, our first assignment was a classified special operation that lasted about two months. It went very well. The mission helped us hone our ship-handling and intelligence-gathering skills and made us confident in our capabilities and feel good about the way the ship was operating. Although it is still classified after all these years, it’s safe to say that it was intelligence-gathering targeted against the Soviet Union. Years later, Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew’s book, Blind Man’s Bluff (New York: Public Affairs, 1998), described Cold War submarine operations. Because of security concerns, I can’t specifically discuss the contents, but the book is a good read.

After the special operation, the Sculpin went into Yokosuka, Japan, for some liberty, and my wife, Sally, met me there. I had grown my beard while at sea and that, combined with my black hair and pale complexion after the extended period underwater, made me look—according to Sally—like Rasputin, the mad tsarist Russian.

In March, shortly after we began our second operation, patrolling the South China Sea, we were diverted for a specific mission. The U.S. government believed supply trawlers were operating out of Hainan Island, off the southern coast of the People’s Republic of China. They were running arms, ammunition, and supplies from the northern part of the Gulf of Tonkin down to the Vietcong in the IV Corps region, the southernmost portion of Vietnam. U.S. forces discovered this when ground troops caught the enemy in the act of off-loading a trawler on a South Vietnamese beach. The incident sparked a big firefight, creating the legend that the trawler crews were elite forces willing to fight to the death. It also initiated a concerted effort to stop the traffic by convincing the enemy that it could not succeed.

Each of the trawlers could carry about 100 tons of munitions. Several suspect ships were photographed, so we knew generally what they looked like, but as long as they were in international waters, we had no means to interdict them other than to turn them around by making low passes with a P-3 Orion patrol plane or a close approach by a surface ship. This was complicated by the fact that so many legitimate trawlers like them were in the area. Several gunrunners had been turned around, but this would not stop the at-sea resupply effort. To convincingly discourage the effort, it would be necessary to destroy them in the waters off South Vietnam before they could land their cargo. The plan that evolved was to use a submarine to follow one from Hainan to South Vietnam and finger it for our forces to destroy. We were selected for this mission.

The Pursuit Begins

We took up a patrol station off Hainan on 10 April. After referring to a book with images of the different types of trawlers and what we could expect, we picked up our quarry on 12 April. The wardroom was divided on whether she was a good prospect. However, the ship resembled photographs of other known suspects, and her projected track was taking her toward the west coast of the Philippines, which did not make sense for a fisherman. So we took off in trail. Not long thereafter, the trawler turned to the south, and that was the clincher for us. She had an extremely distinctive shaft rub and propeller sound, which our sonar men could easily discriminate from background noise. We relied completely on passive sonar to avoid being detected. The active sonar in the Skipjack – class submarines wouldn’t have been reliable because of the reverberations in shallow water.

The ship we followed was probably 200 feet long, a large trawler, certainly suitable for open-ocean fishing. We did, of course, identify her by periscope before we started to trail, but we weren’t able to follow her totally by periscope and maintain visual contact. We didn’t want to take the chance of having our periscope seen in the flat, calm waters of the South China Sea. Also, she was making a speed of advance through the water of about 11 knots. That meant that if we were going to do our periscope operations every now and then, get out radio messages, and do our required housekeeping evolutions, we were probably going to have to run an average of about 18 or 20 knots submerged to keep up with her. We also had to include time for ocean analysis and tactical maneuvering to make certain we were staying with the correct target.

One more challenge was that the trawler was heading south, right through the “dangerous ground.” On charts of the South China Sea, an area about 180 nautical miles wide and 300 miles long is simply labeled dangerous ground. Our charts had one track of soundings through that area—taken in 1885. We assessed that the terrain was fairly level, but the depth was 200 feet or less in most of this area. So we were in a position of running up to 20 knots in 200 feet of water, with between 30 to 80 feet under the keel at that high speed. Our ship could react very quickly to plane (control surface) movements, so we had only our most experienced officers of the deck, diving officers, and planesmen on station. Our chief petty officer diving officers controlled the ship’s depth by supervising the planesmen. They did a superb job.

As the trawler headed south, she vectored a little to the east and went into an area in the dangerous ground where we couldn’t go. Up to then, although we were in the dangerous area, we felt secure in knowing the bottom was fairly level. But now she went into an area that was littered with rocks, shoals, and shipwrecks. I wondered then if the trawler’s crew was smart enough to do what we called a “sanitization move”—go where even surface ships wouldn’t follow. She doubtlessly believed that if she went through there she would come out the other side well clear of any tailing vessel.

I was absolutely convinced that the trawler was unaware of our presence (that became clear later when we intercepted a radio message). We believed the ship’s course change was simply a safety move. While we were able to use our fathometer to plot the bottom and know the depth under our keel, the device looks only directly down; it doesn’t look ahead. We were genuinely worried about what we couldn’t see ahead—an undersea mountain, a wreck, or something else.

Lost and Found

When the trawler had entered the dangerous ground, we requested cover from an on-call P-3 Orion. Although we were under the operational control of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) in Saigon, we had the ability to call the shots on the scene. We wanted the aircraft to remain covert, so it would not scare the trawler back into port by making low passes near her. During the ship’s voyage through this very shallow, wreck-strewn portion of the dangerous ground, the plane, remaining at high altitude to minimize the chance of being seen, kept track of her by radar and visual observation. We dodged around the area by hauling off to the west, then south, and finally back to the east, to an area where we predicted the trawler would emerge, still in the dangerous ground. As the P-3 turned the contact over to us, the trawler appeared just about where we thought she would. We picked her up from the distinctive shaft rub and propeller sound and got in close enough to get a good positive periscope observation. We then went back in trail.

As we headed south in the South China Sea, we approached a new hazard. We found a large number of oil-drilling platforms near the coast of Borneo. We first became aware of this hazard through the prolonged tracking of a diesel contact, which prompted the CO, Commander Harry Mathis, to go up to periscope depth for a look. We spotted an uncharted platform. If the rigs were operating, that was no problem; we could plot the location of their noisy diesel engines. We found some charted, some not, some operating and others not. Our concern, of course, was about those uncharted and not running. We made frequent periscope observations to avoid the platforms, which forced us to run faster to maintain the quarry’s speed of advance. We continued south at higher speeds for longer periods of time, sometimes with barely 20 to 30 feet of water beneath the Sculpin’s keel.

As our target passed between the Great Natuna Islands, we made an end run around North Natuna. After that, our quarry was on a beeline for the Gulf of Thailand, passing through the busy sea-lane between Hong Kong and Singapore. The density of the large shipping traffic in this lane was incredible. Crossing it was like running across a busy freeway. It was night time, and sonar was useless amid all the traffic noise, so we crossed at periscope depth following our quarry’s stern light, maneuvering to avoid the large ships bearing down on us from both directions.

The Gulf of Thailand presented a new challenge. The water was hot, 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and shallow, averaging 110 feet deep, and the bottom was flat. The surface was a dead calm mirror with fishing buoys and nets everywhere, not to mention small fishing boats of every description. It was also very hazy and so hot that the horizon was somewhat obscure. Such were the wartime circumstances that our operation order authorized us to operate in water as shallow as six fathoms. Who says nuclear-powered submarines can’t operate in the littorals?

How Invisible?

During this time we half-jokingly talked about “the hump.” We were trying to visualize what the Sculpin looked like on the surface, running at 20 knots, with maybe only 40 feet from the top of the sail to the surface. We visualized a hump—the water displaced above the boat’s hull—roaring through the South China Sea like a mini tidal wave, with observers wondering what it was. We assumed the ship left some sort of trail but were certain one would have to be very close to be able to see it.

An incident when I had command duty got my attention. I brought the Sculpin up to periscope depth and saw what I thought was a periscope going by. My first reaction was, “Holy smoke, there’s another submarine up here.” Then I realized it was a small water-saturated log that was floating vertically. Just for a moment I thought there were two submarines staring at each other and wondered which one was going to blink first.

As the trawler moved farther south, she made a distinct turn to the west and then to the northwest. We were absolutely sure she was a gunrunner, going in to land and off-load her ammunition. Then, two things happened. We were ordered by MACV to photograph our target and alerted to prepare to execute a provision in our operation order for us to sink our target with torpedoes.

The photographic mission meant leaving our trail position and speeding up ahead of the target to take pictures as the trawler cruised by. The risk of detection was great because of the flat calm sea and our hump as we repositioned at high speed. To avoid this, we had to go as deep as possible. Commander Mathis selected 90 feet keel depth, leaving 20 feet between the keel and the bottom. We limited periscope exposure to 6 inches for less than ten seconds. We did get good pictures and apparently were not detected, although one photograph revealed three men on deck looking in our general direction. The depth control skill of our diving officer chiefs was extraordinary.

Where’d She Go?

Immediately after the trawler made the northwest turn, and just before we communicated with higher authorities, we lost contact for about two hours. Up to that point, our target had been somewhat predictable, cruising on a straight course to the northwest near the center of the Gulf of Thailand about 100 miles off the coast of South Vietnam, with the familiar shaft rub being tracked by sonar. It was night with a full moon, and we saw her lights through the periscope. The horizon was indistinguishable. Suddenly, sonar reported she had stopped, and while the CO watched, the trawler turned off her lights. Blind and deaf, we then lit off the radar and made several sweeps that revealed nothing. This was not too surprising. When a radar hasn’t been used in months and is not tuned, taking it out and rotating it a couple of times doesn’t guarantee a high probability of picking up a small target. We were not sure whether she had stopped for the night or was moving away in a new direction at slow speed.

We reported the lost contact, which threw the operational command authority in Saigon into a panic. They had been moving South Vietnamese naval forces along the coast to maintain a blocking position based on our updates, so the whole operation threatened to unravel. Commander Mathis and I huddled and decided: “Well, we’ve got to assume that she’s making a run toward the border up there. Let’s just go down and run as fast as we can and get about 30 miles ahead of her predicted track and set up a barrier.”

So we moved up and waited for her farther up into the Gulf of Thailand. We made that sprint at 20 knots with 20 feet under the keel. At first daylight, we contacted our on station P-3 aircraft and described our quarry, particularly her white color. We requested that the Orion’s crew search the area from where we lost contact to the Vietnamese coast. They reported several widely separated contacts; only one of them was white. The CO authorized a low-altitude identification pass, and the P-3 made a positive ID. They reported to Saigon, and we closed the target. As we neared, we regained that familiar shaft rub and when we took another periscope look, it was her—positive identification, both sonar and visual.

Originally, MACV requested authorization for us to sink the target with our torpedoes, but this was not approved. For years I assumed that the National Command Authority in Washington, D.C., disapproved the request. However, several years later, Harry Mathis, who by then was a captain, was commanding officer of the Submarine Base Pearl Harbor. He regularly played tennis with retired Admiral Bernard “Chick” Clarey, who had been commander-in-chief Pacific Fleet at the time of our operation. Admiral Clarey remembered the operation very well because he and Admiral John McCain, commander-in-chief Pacific, had followed our progress closely in daily briefings. Admiral Clarey told Mathis that he had argued vehemently in favor of having us shoot, but Admiral McCain was not convinced it would work. Instead, South Vietnamese naval forces were called in to do the job on 24 April.

High-Seas Drama

The surface forces—led by a South Vietnamese destroyer escort—challenged the trawler, which hoisted a Chinese flag and an international flag signal designating they were fishing. The South Vietnamese commander was hesitant to take action because he was concerned about creating an international incident. Fortunately, we established communications with the U.S. liaison officer on board the destroyer with the UQC underwater telephone. His first question was whether we could verify this ship as our trawler. We told him, “Absolutely, this is the one without a doubt.” We then went to periscope depth to observe.

The trawler tried to convince the South Vietnamese destroyer that she was an innocent fishing vessel. We spoke once again with the liaison officer and with higher authorities and said: “We are absolutely sure that this ship came out of Hainan flying a PRC [People’s Republic of China] flag. We have tracked her 2,500 miles to this position, and in our opinion she is a gunrunner making a run toward the border and certainly is not a fisherman. We can verify who she is, which should allow us to take whatever action is appropriate.”

As we later learned from the intercepted communication, the trawler at one point said, “I think there is a submarine out there.” This was the first indication that the trawler crew was aware of us as we coordinated with the destroyer. Based on our identification, the destroyer escort ordered the trawler to stop, and when she failed to comply, began making intimidating runs at her, finally opening fire from a standoff position with her 3-inch guns. The trawler was hit and began burning, running in a circle as if the rudder was jammed hard over. We watched through the periscope, and our crew gathered in their mess to watch on the TV monitor. Suddenly, with a thunderous roar, clearly audible through the Sculpin’s hull, the trawler exploded and disintegrated as its cargo detonated. Flames leaped hundreds of feet in the air, accompanied by the cheers of our crew.

At this moment, Commander Mathis asked the crew over the 1MC for a moment of silence. Enemy or not, they had perished doing their mission. Later, we were pleased to learn that 16 of the trawler crew had been rescued and they spoke Vietnamese, not Chinese. The captain and the navigator were among them and able to provide valuable intelligence about their operations. One of the few casualties was the political officer.

Our communication with command headquarters, through the loitering Orion during the urgent final search, was vital. Only later did we learn that, because of atmospheric conditions, the communications link with Saigon consisted of the P-3 aircraft on station relaying to another P-3 revving up its engines on the ground at its airbase while parked next to a phone booth. A flight crew member would run out to the phone and relay the messages between Saigon and us.

One other significant factor made the mission possible. It could only have been done by a nuclear-powered submarine. That experience gave me great admiration for the diesel-boat crews and skippers of World War II. We had more margin for error than they did because of their speed limitations owing to low battery capacity. If we made a mistake on the Sculpin, we could make it up through speed and repositioning, which couldn’t be done with a diesel boat. Certainly our speed came in handy, not only in the basic trail, trying to stay up with a ship doing 11 knots and do all the things we had to do, but also during that period when we lost them. We were able to run quickly forward, reposition up the track, and get a chance to pick them up again. But that blackout period was a low point. We had trailed the ship 2,300 miles and thought we’d lost her.

Hidden Valor

The trawler’s crew verified that their ship was a gunrunner. They had on board enough arms and ammunition to supply the Vietcong in IV Corps for at least 60 days. Her destruction thus made a significant contribution to the safety of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops in the area and set back the enemy’s military operations there.

The surviving crew were North Vietnamese. They were split up, with U.S. and South Vietnamese intelligence each interrogating half and their stories compared. It was determined that the navigator’s responses were credible because he provided interrogators with exactly the same track we plotted.

The United States learned much about the North Vietnamese at-sea resupply strategy. It also learned that the trawler crews were not elite forces that would resist until death. One engineer told of being at his station when the political officer came to the engine room hatch, told him the enemy had arrived, and ordered him to stay at his post. The engineer, no doubt considering the nature of the cargo, said, “I immediately went on deck and jumped into the water.”

It was an unusual operation. We spent more time submerged inside the 100-fathom curve than any U.S. submarine since World War II. Crew training, equipment reliability, ship control, navigation, sonar, communications, propulsion plant—everything and everyone performed superbly. We could not have asked for anything more. For that operation the Sculpin earned the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the only U.S. submarine during the entire Vietnam War to receive that award.

The Sculpin was also nominated for the submarine combat patrol pin, and our individual awards for the combat “V.” If that had been approved, she would have been the first submarine since World War II to get the combat patrol pin. Instead, the nomination was disapproved somewhere up the chain of command. I assume it was probably rejected by a World War II submariner who thought the operation wasn’t nearly as hazardous as what he did during his war, and it didn’t measure up. I can’t argue with that, but the crew had great hope that they could proudly wear the pin for their contribution, particularly to the safety of our troops. Another consideration, however, might have been that those pins would have raised questions and possibly compromised an operation that was still classified.

We covered a huge distance in trail during that operation. Someone asked me later how I slept at night. I said, “With a pillow under my head, up against the bulkhead in case we hit something.”

Admiral Larson went on to serve on active duty for 40 years. His senior position was as commander-in-chief of all United States military forces in the Pacific. Captain Wright served 26 years on active duty. He was commanding officer of USS Puffer (SSN-652) and operations officer for Commander Submarine Group Seven. Mr. Stillwell, the former editor of Naval History and the U.S. Naval Institute Oral History Program, has written the ” Looking Back ” column since 1993.

Cold War Records

This article is the result of merging my notes and recollections with those of Clint Wright, who stood a good many watches as Sculpin ‘s officer of the deck during the pursuit of the trawler. Clint also gained access to the unclassified versions of the submarine’s deck logs. Other OODs during the operation included Lieutenants Dick Snaider, Jim Gabala, Alan Beam, and Charlie Krupnick.

Getting our joint account through security review was an interesting challenge. Clint’s original motive was to publish an article, because he wanted the Sculpin Sailors to get credit for what they did. My motive was to try and get it cleared for my oral history, so at least part of our special operations could be made public to my family and to other interested people. We jointly pursued this effort, dealing with the director of Naval Intelligence and several people who used to work for me. The first thing we discovered was that there were absolutely no records of the Sculpin’s operations. They had all been destroyed.

This highlights weaknesses in the Naval Intelligence Command’s record keeping. As far as we can determine, the Navy had its standard Cold War intelligence gathering, what we called “special operations,” which were classified and compartmentalized. Those reports appear to have been preserved. But because the Sculpin’s Vietnam operation was not in that category—it was a more conventional, although extremely unusual, operation and didn’t have the protection of that system—the reports were purged at some point when the government discarded old records. There is just no official record of this operation.

In putting this story together and sending it forward for clearance by the Navy Department, I think we did a double service. We not only got it cleared so those who served in the Sculpin during this time can receive credit, but we made this operation public and prevented it from being lost forever. At some point, an old Sculpin Sailor would have wanted to talk about it, and there would have been no way to find the records. So I’m very pleased that we were able to do that for our fine crew.”

—Admiral Charles R. Larson

Charles Robert Larson (November 20, 1936 – July 26, 2014) was a four-star Admiral of the United States Navy.

 

Ordered: 18-Jan-57
Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding
Laid down: 3-Feb-58
Launched: 31-Mar-60
Commissioned: 1-Jun-61
Decommissioned: 3-Aug-90
Struck: 30-Aug-90
Motto: “Videte eos prius” – “See ’em first”
Fate: Entered the Submarine Recycling Program on 1 October 2000
Class and type: Skipjack-class submarine
Displacement: 2,830 long tons (2,880 t) surfaced
3,500 long tons (3,600 t) submerged
Length: 251 ft 9 in (76.73 m)
Beam: 32 ft (9.8 m)
Draft: 28 ft (8.5 m)
Propulsion: 1 × S5W reactor
2 × Westinghouse steam turbines, 15,000 shp (11 MW)
1 shaft
Speed: 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h) surfaced
More than 30 knots (35 mph; 56 km/h) submerged
Test depth: 700 ft (210 m)
Complement: 118
Sensors and BPS-12 radar
processing systems: BQR-12 sonar
BQR-2 passive sonar
BQS-4 (modified) active/passive sonar
Armament: 6 × 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes

 

An Outsider in Paradise – A Pocket Guide to Hawaii (1940’s) Reply

This information comes from the Navy Heritage Center. During the Second World War, Hawaii was the crossroads for the Pacific. Men, material, ships and planes on their way to the battles in the South Pacific and eventually Japan travelled through Hawaii in many cases. Not much changed over the many decades following the war since Korea and Vietnam were also located far from the shores of the mainland. Hawaii remains a vital part of America’s defense even today.

When I arrived in 1973, I really wish I had a book like this. As I read through the manual, my mind travelled back to those early days of being an outsider in paradise. Now that I am older and have been exposed to so many cultures around the world, I have a better understanding for the people of Hawaii.

Like most young men that get to see paradise up close and personal, the experience was one of the most influential of my life. Hawaii in 1973 was more advanced than it probably was in 1943 but there was still adventure and opportunity. I made it back there several more tours and have visited it once since retiring. Of all the wishes I have ever wished, one would be to go back and spend the rest of my life on the Big Island. But for too many reasons that will have to remain an unfulfilled wish.

By the way, I make no apologies for any cultural insensitivity that may be included in this handbook. It was the war after all and someone felt it was a good idea to at least take a stab at educating the troops. I present the unedited version for historical purposes only.

Aloha

Mister Mac

For use of Military Personnel only.

Not to be republished in whole or in part, without the consent of the War Department.

Prepared by

SPECIAL PROJECTS BRANCH, MORALE SERVICES SECTION

CENTRAL PACIFIC BASE COMMAND

 

Produced by

ARMY INFORMATION BRANCH

INFORMATION AND EDUCATION DIVISION

WASHINGTON, D.C.

A Pocket Guide to HAWAII

Illustration of mountains, hut, male native and farm animals.

THIS IS ABOUT HAWAII, to introduce you to a new country. New countries are like new friends. You can’t get to enjoy them until you’ve learned something about them – until you know the score. So here’s the score on Hawaii.

Your Hawaiian Islands are a chain of volcanic peaks reaching up out of the Pacific about halfway between the United States and Asia.

The base of this mountain range is some 18,000 feet below sea level; so if you climb to the top of Mauna Loa – the 14,000-foot volcano on the Island of Hawaii – you can boast that you’ve stood at the summit of the highest mountain in the world. Even when you’re at sea level you’re high up the mountainside.

Eight of the Hawaiian Islands are big enough to write home about. Some of the rest of them are so small that there isn’t a pen point fine enough to put them on the map.

Before the Japanese went berserk, the Hawaiian Islands had three salable products – sugar, pineapple, and climate. The sugar and pineapple were shipped to the Mainland (continental U.S.) where you ate them. The climate was used by an ever-increasing horde of enthusiastic tourists.

It all worked out pretty happily.

Then came December 7, 1941 – and the foul blow that brought us all to Hawaii, soldier, on the way to Tokyo.

The main island of the Hawaii group is called Oahu. It isn’t the biggest, but it’s the most important, because the city of Honolulu is on it. Oahu is only 40 miles long and 26 wide; but here you’ll find an astonishing variety of scenery, floral beauty, and bustling human activity.

Honolulu is 2,091 nautical miles from San Francisco and 3,394 from Yokohama.

This means that it’s a long way home from Honolulu.

The first thing you will notice about the city of Honolulu is that it’s full of drug stores, department stores, soda fountains, movies, offices, and even Americans. It has busses that charge 10 cents a ride, three tokens for 20 cents.

There are cops, public schools, dial telephones, churches, hot-dog stands, public libraries, YMCA’s, restaurants, daily newspapers, radio repair shops, gas stations, public parks, and playgrounds.

On the streets you’ll see such sights as newsboys hawking evening papers, people from offices jostling to get on busses so they won’t arrive home late for supper, taxicabs dodging traffic, red fronts of the 5-and-10, and the little wire baskets on wheels in the supermarkets.

So you’re not as far away from home as you think.

Of course, you’ll see palm trees, giant ferns, tropical flowers that may be unfamiliar to you. And in the background will be the mountains.

When you go outside the city, around the island of Oahu, you’ll see fields of pineapples stretching for miles. And more acres of sugarcane.

You’ll see people working in those fields. They’ll be just as American as you. And just as proud of it.

Illustration showing size of Hawaii compared to Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Maybe you’ll go to one of the other Islands in the group. The largest is Hawaii. Most people think that Honolulu is on Hawaii. But that’s only because they don’t know. Its 200 miles from Oahu to Hawaii.

The island of Hawaii is big – as big as Connecticut and Rhode Island put together. It is 83 miles long, 73 miles wide, and 283 miles around – more than 4,000 square miles of land.

Illustration of sugar as a king.

Some of the most beautiful scenery in the world is on Hawaii. There are snowcapped mountains, two of which are more than 13,000 feet high, and there are two volcanoes, active hot stuff.

The people out here say that sugar is king in Hawaii. That’s because the Islands produce so much. But they also are proud that one of the largest cattle ranches in the world is on the island of Hawaii – the Parker Ranch. When you eat fresh meat at mess out here, chances are it came from this ranch.

The other six large islands are Maui, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. Sound like hard names to remember. But after you’ve been out here awhile you’ll learn how to pronounce them and they’ll become as familiar to you as Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, or Arkansas.

Maui is second in size of the Islands. It is called the “Valley Island” because of its several beautiful winding stream-beds. It’s famous for its hospitality and for a volcano 10,000 feet high with a burned-out crater 15 miles across.

Kauai is the “Garden Island” of the group, because of the breath-snatching beauty of its lush foliage and flaming blooms. Its highest peak is called Waialeale, which is pronounced Wah-ee-ah-lee-ah-lee, and means “rippling water” without the bubbles. A good name for a mountain peak that’s all wet with 500 inches of rain a year. Sixteen miles away, at Barking Sands, the annual rainfall is only 20 inches.

Kauai is also renowned for the astonishing beauty of the Canyon of Waimea, which is Hawaii’s own Grand Canyon.

Lanai is called the “Pineapple Island” because it is completely owned by a pineapple company.

Molokai is the “Friendly Island,” a title that has been earned by its hospitality to homesteaders and its harboring of the leper colony which Robert Louis Stevenson made famous in his description of the great and good work done by Father Damien, who devoted his life to the welfare of those afflicted with that tragic disease.

Kahoolawe is the stepsister of the Islands. “Goat Island,” or “Dust Island,” they call her. There are no streams or springs on the island and practically no foliage. Last figure on population was two (2) people.

Niihau is another dry spot, but it possesses a tableland which gives good grazing; entirely devoted to stock raising.

That’s the list of the big ones. You’ll come to be as proud of them as the people who live here are proud of calling themselves Americans.

 

WE, THE PEOPLE

There are a lot of civilians on the Islands. Most of them were here before the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor. And they have every intention of staying when we GI’s go home.

In 1941 there were 465,339 inhabitants.

You’re going to meet these people. They’re your neighbors. And it’s a good idea if, right at the start, you know a few things about them. It may prevent you from making mistakes.

There’s one primary point to remember. No matter what the color of their skin, no matter how they appear, the civilians you see in the Hawaiian Islands are Americans. They’re just as proud of the Stars and Stripes as you are. Never forget that.

You’re going to run into a lot of Japanese during your stay. In 1941 there were 157,990 people of Japanese descent here. That means that 34 out of every 100 civilians were Japanese.

Now get this straight. Most of these went to American schools. They learned to pledge their allegiance to the same flag you salute. They like American soft drinks. And one of their favorite radio comics is Bob Hope. They’re Americans.

What’s more, many of them have husbands, sons, and brothers fighting for Uncle Sam. These Japanese-Americans (Nisei) aren’t just talking patriotism. Their battalions proved, in the battle of Italy, that they are willing to die for it. Don’t sell them short.

The native Hawaiians are a much smaller group: In 1941 there were only 14,246 pure Hawaiians and 52,445 part Hawaiians.

These Hawaiians are fine folk. Don’t let any fantastic fiction you may have read about them back home throw you off the beam. These people have certain fundamental ideals: They believe in strong bodies, in clean living and in democracy.

The second largest group on the Islands is composed of the folks from back home who came over here to live, and their children. In 1941 there were 139,299 of them. Some arrived for a visit and liked the place so well they never went back. Others came out to work for a year, or two, fell in love with these hunks of America in the Central Pacific, and remained.

Talk to the business people in the center of Honolulu.

Again and again you’ll hear the same story: “I came over for a year in ’24. But I’m still here. I only wish you could see our city when we don’t have a war on.”

You’ve probably heard Hawaii referred to as the Crossroads of the Pacific. That’s an apt phrase. People from all the far-flung corners of the world have come to live in Hawaii. The big influx started back in the 1860’s when shipload after shipload came over to work on the plantations.

In addition to the Japanese on the Islands, there are 8,000 Puerto Ricans, 29,000 Chinese, 7,000 Koreans, and 52,000 Filipinos.

Today these people are fired with a common purpose – to do their level best to help win the war. Not only have a great many joined the armed forces, but they’re buying bonds, doing Red Cross work, taking part in all the civilian war activities the same as the people at home.

But keep this in mind, when you meet the people over here. They’ve been under attack. They’ve been living in a war atmosphere for a long time. They’ve been working long hours, suffering the inconveniences of overcrowding, curfew, gas rationing, and other necessary wartime restrictions.

They haven’t complained. They aren’t complaining now. But it hasn’t been easy for them. So give them a break, and they’ll meet you more than halfway.

A LITTLE HISTORY

If you’re ever on a quiz program and the $64 question is “From what race do the Hawaiians come?” you’ll take the money if you answer “Polynesian.”

Scientists who study races have plucked out their beards arguing the origin of the Hawaiians. But the most generally accepted theory is that they emigrated from Asia more than a thousand years ago, sailing thousands of miles across the Pacific in double canoes. Here they set up a feudalistic farm system.

Recorded history in the Islands begins with their discovery by Capt. James Cook, British, on a Sunday morning in January of 1778.

Cook had come from the Society Islands in the southeast Pacific and was hunting for a passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic. He had a quick temper, a flowing beard, a couple of ships, and a great uncertainty about where he was going.

When he arrived, he didn’t know where he was.

The natives were equally confused. Believing in a large number of gods and never having seen a white man, they hit upon the idea that Cook was a chief god (Lono). He had them eating out of his hand. The Islands (he called them the Sandwich Islands in honor of the Earl of Sandwich) were his. But he made the mistake of hanging around. The natives got to trading with Captain Cook and his boys. And pretty soon they came to realize that white men were a long way from being gods.

The natives, like all people who find their confidence betrayed, were considerably sore about it, and Cook’s men annoyed them still further by chopping up a couple of their sacred idols for firewood. During one of the ensuing scuffles a native chief, with close combat training, stuck a wooden dagger into Captain Cook’s back. He died on the beach at Kaawaloa on the Island of Hawaii.

The rest of the expedition took to their boats and no other white men visited the Islands for 7 years.

Up until 1795 there had been a number of little kingdoms throughout the eight islands. There was plenty of room for all of them, but a few big chiefs wanted more than their share. The result was war, plenty.

Then a chief of Kona, named Kamehameha, decided that this wrangling had gone on long enough. He was a big bayonet; you can see a statue of him in a golden feather cloak outside the judiciary Building on King Street in Honolulu. He decided the only way to crush force was with greater force. With the help of some white advisers he conquered all the other chiefs on the Island of Hawaii. Then he built a fleet of outrigger canoes, some mounting brass ordnance, and set out for Maui and Oahu. It wasn’t long before he had united all the islands under one rule, and he proceeded to govern with a firmness and wisdom which won him the title of Kamehameha the Great, and gained Hawaii real respect.

When Kamehameha was a boy, Hawaii was living in a stone-age culture, worshipping pagan gods, and was unknown to the rest of the world. Within one lifetime all this was changed. Stone tools and weapons were scrapped when metal tools and weapons arrived.

Wooden idols were burned and deadly tabus broken. Kamehameha 1 died in 1819. The next year a boatload of missionaries arrived from Boston. They spread Christianity and they started schools. Hawaii became a bit of New England in the tropical Pacific. As a result, by the middle of the 19th century, the Hawaiians were just as well educated as the average throughout the United States. Well-to-do families in California sent their children to Honolulu for schooling. The result is that when you’re in Hawaii, you’re in an enlightened part of the United States, and one of the most democratic. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Chinese Republic, was educated here in Hawaii.

While this was going on, Western people and Western ideas were taking hold. Trading posts were set up. Ships docked to take on cargoes of sandalwood, salt, food, and water. Whalers established a great base here. In 1840 a British sea captain gained control of the Islands. But after a few months, his superior gave them back to the reigning king, Kauikeauoli, son of old Kamehameha, better known as Kamehameha III. His nephew, Alexander, who ruled as Kamehameha IV, also favored Great Britain, but this was balanced by strong American interests. The rulers were worried about the possible fate of the Islands as long as they remained independent. Apprehensive looks were cast toward Germany and Japan.

Back in the States, Washington was interested too. Hawaii was the perfect site for a naval base to guard our West Coast. Then, too, American economic ties with the Islands were growing stronger. For example, the Monarchy and Uncle Sam in 1876 signed a treaty which, among other things, let Hawaiian sugar enter the States duty-free.

In 1893 an internal bloodless revolution dethroned Queen Liliuokalani, and a provisional government, headed by Sanford B. Dole, was formed. Annexation to the United States was requested, but President Cleveland disapproved. Disappointed, the provisional government set up an independent republic. This functioned until 1898. Then a new move for annexation was made, and this time Congress ratified the treaty. President McKinley signed it, and Hawaii became American soil. In 1900, the Organic Act made it a full-fledged Territory.

 

By that act Hawaii became an integral part of the United States. (So from now on you’d better speak of the “Mainland.”)

You have only to look around to see the result – one of the finest demonstrations anywhere of practical Americanism. Democracy, to the Hawaiians, is taken sincerely. They practice it. And it works, knitting many people of different races together in a concerted effort to build a better, freer, and happier life for all.

Nowhere in the Pacific do Asiatics live so well. There are many problems to be met, as there are back home; but the people of Hawaii are tackling them as an American democracy in an atmosphere of freedom and good will. A striking example of what we’re fighting for.

Progress on the Islands since the turn of the century has been steady, but unspectacular. For example, in 1903 the biggest event, red lettered in all the books, was the opening of the Hawaiian Tourist Bureau.

In 1910 a daring young man by the name of Bud Mars made the first flight in Hawaii in an airplane.

The next 30 years saw the tourist boom. The swamps around Waikiki were filled in. Hotels and apartments were built. Hawaiian music became the rage back on the Mainland.

Life was placid and pleasant. It might have continued that way had it not been for December 7, 1941.

Subsequent history? You’ll help make it.

HULA AND HULA

You’ve heard a lot about the Hula. Hawaii and the Hula!

Maybe you’re one of those gullible guys who saw glamorous movie stars swinging their sarongs, against a gorgeous Hollywood tropical backdrop, and thought you’d find a babe just like her under every palm tree.

Well, you’re going to see the real McCoy now. So it’s a good idea if you get rid of any notions you may have had and learn the truth.

First of all, the Hula is not a dance!

“Not a dance,” you say. “Then what is it?”

The Hula is a style of dancing, or, if you wish, a “school” of dancing.

Before the white man came to the Islands, dancing was a part of the religious ritual of the natives. Each group worked out its own routines. These were complicated or simple to fit the occasion.

There were ceremonial Hulas and festival Hulas, Hulas for fun and Hulas for funerals. There was even a type of Hula for the chubby folk who preferred to go through the movements while sitting down. But all the various dance ceremonies worked out by all the groups wen known as Hulas.

Now, if you see a pretty Hawaiian girl wearing a grass skirt and dancing some form of the Hula, go easy. She may be a graduate of the University of Hawaii with a Ph.D. in – The Dance. Well, why not?

GOVERNMENT OF, BY, AND FOR

Government in Hawaii is pretty much like that back on the Mainland, with three big differences:

First, the Governor is appointed by the President, but he can’t be a malihini. A malihini is a newcomer.

Second, the people can’t ballot in the Presidential elections.

Third, Hawaii, not being a state, lacks a vote in Congress. But don’t get the idea that it doesn’t swing weight in Washington. It does – through a Delegate who sits on vital House and Senate committees, and otherwise carries the banner for the Islands.

Many of the people here favor statehood. After the war you can expect a lot of discussion pro and con. Whatever the outcome, Hawaii will continue to be a friend of the United States.

As a Territory, Hawaii has its own legislature. The Senators (15) and Representatives (30) are elected by the various counties. They meet, pass the local laws, and send them up to the Governor, to be approved or disapproved.

If someone tells you the Governor is operating at the “old stand” in Honolulu, he simply means that the Capitol used to be a palace. King Kalakaua held court there, as did his sister, Queen Liliuokalani.

You can remember the King’s name by looking at the corner signs on the avenue along Wakiki Beach. You won’t have any trouble with the Queen’s name either. Just remember that back on the Mainland they called her “Queen Lil.” You also might like to remember that Queen Liliuokalani was the composer of the haunting Hawaiian melody “Aloha Oe” which she adopted from an old American ballad entitled “The Lone Rock by the Sea.” Her song has become one of the most popular tunes in the United States.

When the United States annexed the Islands, all the treaty signing was done in an elaborate building, surrounded by beautiful grounds, which you’ll find in the civic center of Honolulu. This is the Iolani Palace. It’s a building worth seeing. You can pick up some local history by looking over the paintings in the halls and chambers. You can see how the kings of Hawaii lived in the days of the monarchy, and a glance at the woodwork will show you what good craftsmen can do with the wood of koa and kou trees.

But don’t expect to see any fancy titles on the doors in the Capitol or other government buildings. They’re the usual American: Attorney General, Treasurer, and Director of Institutions. There is even the familiar D.A.

For the local angle, you can drop in on the Territorial Circuit Courts (the President picks the judges), or the District Courts (the Territorial Supreme Court names the magistrates), and see how justice is dispensed in a Territory of the United States.

There’s taxes, too. We warn you that the Tax Collector will enter your life if you buy one of the Islands’ 78,000 cars; which leads us to advise you to pick out a light one. The tax is levied by the pound. Cars don’t grow here.

BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY! YES, INDEED!

Major industries on the Islands can be counted like twins.

Up until 100 years ago, sugarcane in these parts was simply chewing-gum-on-the-stalk. It just grew.

Then someone discovered that the word “sugar” meant money, and sugar refining began. From then on, it’s been a growing industry.

A million tons of sugar are produced each year on the Islands from a quarter-million acres, and bring in 50 million dollars.

The 40 major plantations used to average a thousand workers each, but now are down to half that number; we need guns more than sugar.

It takes about nine chunks of cane to get a chunk of sugar. Plus a year and a half to two years for growing. Plus a lot of water for irrigation.

Refining is done on the Mainland, except for one plant at Aiea. If you’re ever up that way (it’s on Oahu), a guide will be glad to show you the process.

In addition to raising a lot of cane, the Islands do a right smart business in pineapples, which is surprising when you consider that the pineapple wasn’t a Hawaiian fruit at all.

Pineapple, Model 1493: In that year it seems that, having found America, Columbus discovered the pineapple. But he discovered it on the Island of Guadaloupe in the Caribbean Sea. Apparently he left it right where he found it until an Englishman named Kidwell imported the Smooth Cayenne variety from Jamaica to Oahu.

That was in 1885 and the industry has been slicing right along ever since; 20 million cases are packed off 75 to 80 thousand acres and bring in 50 million dollars.

Eight big outfits run the show. When they can get them, they hire more than 30 thousand workers. Right now they can’t get that many.

Incidentally, don’t leave the Islands without going through a cannery. Just phone one of the larger ones and find out what day you can come. The tour takes only about 45 minutes – and you’ll be served all the juice you can drink.

After pineapples and sugar, come tourists. Pre-war they contributed 10 million dollars a year. There’s a lot of talk floating around about the trade having been killed off by the war. But that’s strictly a false rumor. Matter of fact, there are more visitors here than ever before. Granted, most of them are wearing white or khaki uniforms, but they pack a lot of purchasing power.

Before Pearl Harbor a lot of the sojourners came out on the big Pacific liners, successors to Capt. Bill Matson’s schooner the “Emma Claudine” which first said “So long, ‘Frisco; Hi, Hilo” in 1882.

After Pearl Harbor – they still came out on the big Pacific liners, temporarily under new management – U.S.N.

Right along in the “T” column with Tourists is Tuna. And there the war has hurt. In the “old days,” seven out of every ten tuna on your favorite grocer’s shelf were born right here. After the Jap attack, the lid clamped down. Now, Uncle has let a little commercial fishing resume, but not enough to excite even the tuna.

Another Hawaiian enterprise which you probably never saw in the movies is cattle-raising. It doesn’t begin to match sugar or pineapple production. But it’s still important, and sizable quantities of meat products, tallow, hides, and skins find their way to the Mainland.

THE ARMY

You’ve heard about carrying coals to Newcastle? Not that it has anything to do with the Army –

Except that, soldier, when you arrive in Hawaii, all fresh and snappy in your best GI CKC’s, you’re going to stand out just exactly like a chunk of coal in that Old English mining town.

The Army has been established on the Hawaiian Islands a long time. In fact two batteries of U.S. Artillery landed here as far back as 1848. They were on their way from Boston to Oregon by the long route around the Horn and dropped in for a friendly visit. When Hawaii became part of the United States, the Army became part of Hawaii.

When an army isn’t moving it needs posts, camps, and stations. To solve the housing situation, Major General Schofield came out to the Islands 72 years ago and made a survey. The Army has been busy building installations ever since. You’ll probably be stationed at more than one of them from time to time, so it will be well for you to know what traditions lie behind the names they bear.

Schofield Barracks is the biggest installation on the Islands. It was established in 1909 and was named in honor of that same Maj. Gen. John McAllister Schofield who made the survey. He had commanded the Army of the Ohio in the Civil War.

Fort Shafter was the first permanent post. Built in 1906, it was named in honor of Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter, who led the United States Forces which freed Cuba. Remember the Rough Riders, and San Juan Hill?

Fort Armstrong was named after Brig. Gen. Samuel C. Armstrong, who hailed from Hawaii, battled with distinction in the Civil War, and attained lasting fame as the founder of the Hampton Institute in Virginia.

Fort De Russy bears the name of Brig. Gen. Rene Edward De Russy, of the Corps of Engineers.

Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Ruger was another distinguished veteran of the boys in blue. His name was given to the coast defense Installations at Diamond Head.

Fort Kam, originally named Port Upton, after Gen. Emery Upton, was renamed in honor of as great a warrior as the Islands have ever known, their own King Kamehameha the Great.

Luke Field, on Ford Island, honors the name of Lt. Frank Luke, an ace of World War I, who was brought to earth behind the German lines after downing his 18th enemy plane and who shot it out with the ground troops rather than surrender. He was a Texan who died with his boots on.

Wheeler Field honors Maj. Sheldon Wheeler, killed in a crash on Luke Field; and Lt. Col. Horace M. Hickam, who died in a crash at Fort Crockett, Texas, is honored in the name of Hickam Field.

Today the Army is entrusted with the safeguarding of Hawaii. It is the Army’s job to make it a grim mistake for any enemy force which tries to land on any of these Islands. It is the Army’s job to make the Islands the springboard for the leap to Tokyo. Which are good points to bear in mind – because, soldier, you are the Army!

THE NAVY

In 1843, the U.S.S. Constellation visited Honolulu. In 1845, the U.S.S. Constitution came here. Salutes were fired to the Hawaiian Flag, and to King Kamehameha III, whose Kingdom had been restored to him by the British Government. About this time, the Navy discovered a harbor which would be big enough to float the fleet. This harbor, famous for its pearl oyster beds, came to be known as Pearl Harbor.

Now, when anyone says Navy in Hawaii, he means Pearl Harbor.

There are other bases, of course. Such as the one at Kanehohe, which is also on Oahu. But none of them can begin to touch Pearl Harbor.

Back about 1887, the Navy first secured the rights to set up a repair station at Pearl Harbor. Then it went to Congress – and came out with hundred thousand dollars.

The money was used to start the job.

First, a coral bar had to be amputated. It blocked the harbor entrance. And a big drydock had to be built. More funds were asked, and granted. Work moved along and the dock was about ready for business in 1913 when hydrostatic pressure wrecked the foundation.

The Navy revised its plans, got back to work, and in 1919 broke out a bottle of champagne for the dedication.

To date more than 50 million dollars have gone into making Pearl Harbor the world’s finest naval base. It is one which not only the United States but Japan long will have reason to remember.

THE MARINE CORPS

As usual, the Marines were first to land. A hundred and thirty years ago Lieutenant Gamble, U.S. Marine Corps, landed on Hawaiian soil as commander of a prize ship captured in the War of 1812. As a contact man he was a great success, winning from the Hawaiian people a lasting respect and friendship for the Marines.

Their first job on the Islands was in 1845, when Lieutenant Joseph Curtis, of the Marine Guard aboard “Old Ironsides,” made the Navy survey that showed Pearl Harbor to be the best site for a naval base in the Central Pacific.

Seven years later, Marines came ashore to help King Kamehameha III quell riots started by foreign sailors. They stayed awhile to train the King’s troops. This probably prevented an invasion of the Islands. A gang of adventurers from the California mining camps had chartered a ship for the purpose, but got cold feet when they found out what they were up against.

The Marines landed again in 1874, 1889, and 1893, to quell rioting, and each time they achieved success without bloodshed because of the respect the people had for the Leathernecks.

In 1898, the Marines took part in the ceremonies that raised the Stars and Stripes over the Hawaiian Islands. In 1904, they established a shore station and moved in to stay. Today the Marines are regarded as kamaainas (which means they are not only old-timers, but are a part of Hawaii itself).

THE COAST GUARD

Some time ago you discovered that a sailor with a small shield just over (he cuff of his right sleeve is a Coast Guardsman.

Established 1790, the Coast Guard is Uncle Sam’s oldest seagoing service, and all over the Pacific they’re going to sea. They landed Marines at Tulagi during the first Solomons attack. They helped to seize Amchitka and Kiska in the Aleutians. They landed soldiers and marines and equipment on the beachheads of the Gilberts and the Marshalls.

The Coast Guard now operates under the Navy, and its job never ceases. It provides port and water-front security patrols on shore and afloat. It operates cutters and patrol boats on war missions. It works 24 hours a day perfecting methods of rescue and life-saving under war conditions, and runs a training station here, where are learned all the tricks of the Service for duties at sea and ashore.

The Coast Guard is an important part of the combat team which is advancing us all to attack.

 

RECREATION

Girls are scarce in Hawaii. When you’ve been off the boat for as long as 23 minutes, you’ll find that telephone numbers here carry the same classification as war plans. They’re marked “Secret” and kept in money belts.

If, by hook or crook, you latch on to a few numbers besides the laundryman’s (and his isn’t as easy to get as you might think), you may wind up with a date. If this miracle occurs, the two of you can go swimming, walk, take in a movie, or dance. If you’re numberless, you can still go swimming, walk, or take in a movie.

Which is to say that a uniform here is about as novel as a light bulb in a pre-war sign on Times Square. And there simply aren’t enough wahines (gals) to go around.

Sooner or later (sometimes sooner than a week, sometimes later) you’ll get around to what philosophers call “Acceptance.”

You won’t have any trouble knowing when you’ve “accepted.” It’s the night you decide that what you really need more than anything else, in life is a double malted, chocolate flavor.

Having “accepted,” you can settle down to having a good time in your off-duty hours, because the Army knows the situation even better than you do, and is doing plenty about it. It has established a big Special Service Office which devotes its full time to seeing that you have ample opportunities for recreation.

Recreation means refreshment after toil or weariness. It means pastime, diversion, or play. The Special Services Division helps out on your recreation and athletic programs, operates your Army Library Service, and the Post Exchange. Special Services and the Signal Corps work together to bring you motion pictures. U.S.O. shows too are sent around by this outfit.

Another organization, the Information and Education Division, is designed to lend help to you in your more serious interests, especially about the issues and progress of the war. YANK, Armed Forces Radio Service, Orientation and Educational programs are a few of the things which come under this office of the War Department.

If you’re interested in swimming, dancing, seeing movies, sightseeing (on Oahu or the other islands), downing a bit of chow or drink of beer, shooting pool, playing golf, tennis or ping-pong, enjoying a concert of good jive or classical records, or doing anything else to really enjoy life – get up and go. Find out where the recreation centers are and make good use of them.

But suppose you’re one of those who know that an education is as good as money in the bank? Perhaps Pearl Harbor caught you right between your senior year and a diploma, and you want to use some of your spare time to catch up with your education. The Army can fix that, too.

Right here in Hawaii is a fully equipped branch of the U.S. Armed Forces Institute. USAFI can arrange a correspondence course that will make it possible for you to earn credits at your high school or college back home and keep abreast of the education that was temporarily halted. If it’s a business course or technical training you want, USAFI can fix you up with that, too.

Get in touch with your Information and Education officer and he will tell you how to go about it. If duty allows, you can arrange for group classes with the use of self-teaching texts that are turned out by the USAFI. They’re good stuff, and we hear that foreign language lessons can be fun in off-duty hours, the way they’re doled out through a phonograph record for the crowd to repeat in chorus.

 

“WELL AND SAFE, LOVE”

You Can Write . . . Once you’ve arrived in Hawaii, you’ll want to get off letters telling the people back home where you are and what it’s like.

Right then is where you run into one of the most misunderstood individuals who ever saved a soldier’s life or helped to win a battle. You know how it feels, now, to hope that your transport won’t be sunk by a submarine – by now you can find plenty of old-timers who can tell you how fervently you’ll pray that any attack you may be concerned in will catch the enemy with his pants far from up. Well, that’s where the CENSOR comes in. Censor is an old Roman word meaning censor. It’s his job to know just what information the Nazis or the Nips would like to have about our war plans, and to prevent that information getting out and about. To do that he’s got to look for it everywhere. So he scrutinizes all communications which leave this area. (Scrutinizes means scrutinizes. All means all. Communications means all that’s “written and transcribed.”)

At first you may not like it. You’ll say, “my folks know the score. They won’t spill anything they shouldn’t.” The answer to that is, sure they won’t – not intentionally.

But you know how we Americans like to talk. And the Axis knows it, and is listening. That’s why a word dropped over a coke in a Sheboygan drugstore, plus a name mentioned on a Charleston street corner, may add up to a grim finish for some of your friends on an island beach.

So you can see why you can’t discuss the activities of units when you write, or give the exact location of your own. Why you can’t name any ships, not even the one you came over on. Or tell when they sailed or when they docked. Why you can’t mention the number of men who are with you. Why you can’t say you’re stationed at Schofield, or Armstrong, or Ruger, or any of the other posts. Why, in short, you have to lay-off the military when you’re writing home.

You’ll have a couple of talks by your Censor on what you can write about, and you’ll find it’s plenty. You may be assigned to duties or sent to places where you’ll be under certain restrictions for an indefinite period, during which you can’t locate yourself in letters home any more specifically than as “somewhere in the Pacific.” But if you’re not under such restrictions, you can come right out and say you’re in

Hawaii. You can say you went to Honolulu on your last pass, swam at Waikiki, had a few beers at Maluhai. You can describe your dull love life, or tell of all the exciting afternoons you spend in the Public Library.

A good technique is simply to forget you’re in the Army and limit your writing to strictly non-military subjects. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be turning out long and interesting letters and relieving the Censor of a job of editing, which he doesn’t like any better than you do.

You Can Wire . . . If you’re slow on the letter writing. It’s a good idea to keep the folks from worrying by sending them a cablegram as soon as you are allowed to let them know you’re here. Your GI post office has stock messages (Expeditionary Force Messages) that will say almost anything you want. And for only 75 cents, (Self composed wires come higher and also have to be censored.)

You Can Phone . . . If you get too lonesome for the sound of a certain voice, and your communications aren’t restricted, and you’re still in the first flush of pay-day prosperity, you can take a whirl at the trans-Pacific radiotelephone.

You just have to check in with the Base Censor, fill out a form which asks who you’re calling, why, and what the topic of your conversation will be, have it approved by your Unit Commander, and put in your call. Pick up blanks at Base Censor’s office or at the Mutual Telephone Building. At either place they will answer any questions.

The cost? A 3-minute call varies from 10 dollars (West Coast) to 16 dollars (East Coast). If it’s the wrong side of pay day you can reverse the charges.

Maybe You Can Learn . . . By visiting the libraries and museums and civil center, and gardens, countrysides and villages, by getting to know the people and listening to their tales, you can learn to know the legends, the history and personalities of the Islands, their trees and mountains and natural wonders so well that Hawaii will soon cease to be a strange place to you. It will become a part of America, full of wonders to enjoy and of friends with new and different viewpoints, brought from the four corners of the world. Once you have learned to know Hawaii, the kindly sound of ALOHA will get under your skin and stay with you wherever you may go.

What Else Can You Do?. . . Well, here are three little words, three little matters to think about, even in blue Hawaii. But their importance is Army-wide.

If you just like to sit around and shoot the breeze in your spare time, that’s good. It’s Army. It’s that old refrain, the G.I. Bull Session. But take it easy on RUMORS, and remember about MILITARY SECURITY.

In Hawaii, you are at one of the busiest wartime crossroads. You might pick up a lot of so-called hot dope. Well, why not keep it to yourself? If you don’t, Nip spies may pick it up and go to work. Don’t blab, unless you want to give “aid and comfort” to the enemy. And no right guy wants to do anything like that.

You Can Help Yourself to Good Health . . . Hawaii is a healthful place compared with many other parts of the world. The Islands have a good record in disease control, and you ought to pitch in and keep up the good work. But the most important fact is that your health means a great deal to the Army, and to the total war effort of the United States against Japan.

Of course, it means something to you too. You are not like the Jap who will slice his gut at the drop of a hat for the sake of Hirohito. Neither do you want to kill yourself the slow way, by sickening with disease.

Well, there are rules to follow. They all add up to good sense. All you have to do is to take heed. Stay clean; stay in good shape; the result is simple, but good. You are in good health.

You won’t usually get sick if you take care of yourself.

For example, if you catch venereal disease, the finger points right at you.

The best way to avoid gonorrhea and syphilis is to refrain from sexual intercourse outside of marriage. If at any time you fail to live up to this code, be sure to make full use of all the Army prophylactic materials (pro kits) and facilities (pro stations) which are provided for your use.

You Can Save Some Dough . . . Storing up good health means that you are saving up something that will be valuable to you after the war. Putting away some of your pay each month will also mean something later. Mostly it is your own business, like your health, and the lst decisions are yours for keeps.

Adding up all the things you do for yourself today and tomorrow in Hawaii, along with what you are doing for the Islands and for the Mainland, you can feel right proud to be so much in the swing of things. From these mid-Pacific beauty spots, halfway between America and Asia, you’ll be glad to write home “Well, safe, and love.”

SSN 587 – Just for the Halibut 2

I reported on board the USS Halibut SSN 587 in Mare Island California in October 1975

I am always quick to point out that I was not a crew member when Halibut did the amazing things she did to help bring an end to the Cold War. I learned most of what I knew about her from the crewmembers during many long nights of standing watch in the shipyards. Like them, I signed a lot of papers to never divulge what the boat did, where it did it, and how it achieved what it did. I will take those memories to the grave.

What was unique about being part of a decommissioning crew was knowing what was under all of those tarps surrounding the boat while it was in drydock. Standing fire watch, I got to see the “extra” stuff being cut off her hull. It amazed me to see the things that were stuffed into the hull, especially in that cavernous place called the Bat Cave.

The story is kind of outlined in the book Blind Man’s Bluff but I can neither confirm nor deny any of the stories in that book. I will leave it up to the reader’s imagination to try and figure out which parts are true and which parts are red herrings.

The Halibut’s full story was that she was especially designed and built to deliver the Regulus Missile

Begun as a diesel-electric submarine but completed with nuclear power, Halibut was the first submarine initially designed to launch guided missiles (SSGN). Intended to carry the Regulus I and Regulus II nuclear cruise missiles, her main deck was high above the waterline to provide a dry “flight deck.” Her missile system was completely automated, with hydraulic machinery controlled from a central control station.

Halibut departed on her shakedown cruise 11 March 1960. On 25 March,underway to Australia, she became the first nuclear-powered submarine to successfully launch a guided missile. She returned to Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 18 June 1960, and after short training cruises sailed 7 November for Pearl Harbor to join the Pacific Fleet. During her first deployment she successfully launched her seventh consecutive Regulus I missile during a major Southeast Asia Treaty Organization weapons demonstration. Returning to Pearl Harbor on 9 April 1961, Halibut began her second deployment 1 May. During subsequent cruises, she participated in several missile firing exercises and underwent training.

Halibut deployed for the third time to the Western Pacific in late 1961, establishing a pattern of training and readiness operations followed through 1964. On 4 May 1964 Halibut departed Pearl Harbor for the last Regulus missile patrol to be made by a submarine in the Pacific. In total, between February 1961 and July 1964, Halibut undertook a total of seven deterrent patrols before being replaced in the Pacific by Polaris-equipped submarines of the George Washington class. From September through December 1964, Halibut joined eight other submarines in testing and evaluating the attack capabilities of the Permit-class submarine.

Special operations missions, 1965 – 1976

With the success of the Polaris and later Poseidon missiles, the Halibut’s mission was no longer valid. So she went into the shipyard for modifications in 1965 and began her career as an SSN. As I said earlier, if you truly want to  know what she did, you will have to look elsewhere. By the way, some of the web sites out there that say SSN 587 are filled with high risk viruses. Just be warned. Apparently someone in an unnamed country likes to hack people’s computers through bad sites like those.

The Silent Service has been a key player in all of our modern conflicts. As the world struggles to find a semblance of peace. I am glad we have men and women who are still willing to raise their hands and volunteer not once but twice (submariners have traditionally been an all volunteer service.

Halibut was decommissioned on 30 June 1976. She was “mothballed” at Keyport/Bangor Trident Base, Washington in 1976, struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 April 1986, and disposed of through the Ship-Submarine Recycling Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington, on 9 September 1994. (September of 1994 was the month I was retired from active service also with my last ship, USS Hunley AS 31)

Hand Salute to All Halibut Sailors!

Mister Mac

“The sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster” The Story of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz 2

The sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster.

This was the early childhood lesson taught to the boy who would later become one of the most influential leaders in the United States Navy. He was significantly influenced by his German-born paternal grandfather, Charles Henry Nimitz, a former seaman in the German Merchant Marine, who taught him, “the sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster. The best way to get along with either is to learn all you can, then do your best and don’t worry – especially about things over which you have no control.”

Few men in modern American Naval history have had as much influence on its success as Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. This article comes from the official Navy Records and shows his progression from a Texas boy to one of the most brilliant minds in Naval Warfare in the Twentieth Century.

Nimitz’s work in submarines not only ensured that the Navy had a powerful answer to the attack the left a smoking mess in the Pearl Harbor but helped to deliver a crushing blow to the Japanese.

At the end of his biography, there is a short section about what he predicted in March of 1948 about the future of warfare. There are some critical lessons from the previous war and some stern warnings about what we whould do do be prepared for in the future.

The future is now.

Mister Mac

The boy from Texas

Chester William Nimitz was born on 24 February 1885, near a quaint hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas built by his grandfather, Charles Nimitz, a retired sea captain. Young Chester, however, had his sights set on an Army career and while a student at Tivy High School, Kerrville, Texas, he tried for an appointment to West Point. When none was available, he took a competitive examination for Annapolis and was selected and appointed from the Twelfth Congressional District of Texas in 1901.

He left high school to enter the Naval Academy Class of 1905. It was many years later, after he had become a Fleet Admiral that he actually was awarded his high school diploma. At the Academy Nimitz was an excellent student, especially in mathematics and graduated with distinction — seventh in a class of 114. He was an athlete and stroked the crew in his first class year. The Naval Academy’s yearbook, “Lucky Bag”, described him as a man “of cheerful yesterdays and confident tomorrows.”

After graduation he joined USS Ohio in San Francisco and cruised in her to the Far East.

On 31 January 1907, after the two years’ sea duty then required by law, he was commissioned Ensign, and took command of the gunboat USS Panay. He then commanded USS Decatur and was court martialed for grounding her, an obstacle in his career which he overcame.

He returned to the U. S. in 1907 and was ordered to duty under instruction in submarines, the branch of the service in which he spent a large part of his sea duty. His first submarine was USS Plunger (A- 1). He successively commanded USS Snapper, USS Narwal and USS Skipjack until 1912. On 20 March of that year, Nimitz, then a Lieutenant, and commanding officer of the submarine E-1 (formerly Skipjack), was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal by the Treasury Department for his heroic action in saving W.J. Walsh, Fireman second class, USN, from drowning. A strong tide was running and Walsh, who could not swim, was rapidly being swept away from his ship. Lieutenant Nimitz dove in the water and kept Walsh afloat until both were picked up by a small boat.

He had one year in command of the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla before coming ashore in 1913 for duty in connection with building the diesel engines for the tanker USS Maumee at Groton, Conn. In that same year, he was sent to Germany and Belgium to study engines at their Diesel Plants. With that experience he subsequently served as Executive Officer and Engineering Officer of the Maumee until 1917 when he was assigned as Aide and Chief of Staff to COMSUBLANT. He served in that billet during World War I.

In September 1918 he came ashore to duty in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations and was a member of the Board of Submarine Design. His first sea duty in big ships came in 1919 when he had one year’s duty as Executive Officer of the battleship USS South Carolina. In 1920 he went to Pearl Harbor to build the submarine base there. Next assigned to the Naval War College, his studies of a possible Pacific Ocean war’s logistics would become extremely relevant two decades later.

In 1922 he was assigned as a student at the Naval War College, and upon graduation went as Chief of Staff to Commander Battle Forces and later Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet (Admiral S. S. Robinson) .

In 1923, Commander Nimitz became aide to Commander Battle Force and later to Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. Later in the decade, he established the NROTC unit at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1929, now holding the rank of Captain, he began two years as Commander, Submarine Division 20, followed by two more years in charge of reserve destroyers at San Diego, California. He then took the heavy cruiser Augusta (CA-31) to the Orient, where, under his command, she was flagship of the Asiatic Fleet in 1933-35. Three years’ duty at the Bureau of Navigation in Washington, D.C., ended in 1938 with his promotion to Rear Admiral.

His next sea command was in flag rank as Commander Cruiser Division Two and then as Commander Battle Division One until 1939, when he was appointed as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation for four years. In December 1941, however, he was designated as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, where he served throughout the war.

Ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he was promoted by Roosevelt to commander-in-chief, United States Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT), with the rank of admiral, effective December 31. He immediately departed Washington for Hawaii and took command in a ceremony on the top deck of the submarine Grayling. The change of command ceremony would normally have taken place aboard a battleship, but every battleship in Pearl Harbor had been either sunk or damaged during the attack.

Assuming command at the most critical period of the war in the Pacific, Admiral Nimitz successfully organized his forces to halt the Japanese advance despite the losses from the attack on Pearl Harbor and the shortage of ships, planes, and supplies.

On 19 December 1944, he was advanced to the newly created rank of Fleet Admiral, and on 2 September 1945, was the United States signatory to the surrender terms aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

He hauled down his flag at Pearl Harbor on 26 Nov. 1945, and on 15 December relieved Fleet Admiral E.J. King as Chief of Naval Operations for a term of two years. On 01 January 1948, he reported as special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy in the Western Sea Frontier. In March of 1949, he was nominated as Plebiscite Administrator for Kashmir under the United Nations. When that did not materialize he asked to be relieved and accepted an assignment as a roving goodwill ambassador of the United nations, to explain to the public the major issues confronting the U.N. In 1951, President Truman appointed him as Chairman of the nine-man commission on International Security and Industrial Rights. This commission never got underway because Congress never passed appropriate legislation.

Thereafter, he took an active interest in San Francisco community affairs, in addition to his continued active participation in affairs of concern to the Navy and the country. he was an honorary vice president and later honorary president of the Naval Historical Foundation. He served for eight years as a regent of the University of California and did much to restore goodwill with Japan by raising funds to restore the battleship Mikasa, Admiral Togo’s flagship at Tsushima in 1905.

He died on 20 February 1966.

 

PROMOTIONS

Graduated from the Naval Academy – Class of 1905

Ensign – 07 Jan. 1907

Lieutenant (junior grade) – 31 Jan. 1910

Lieutenant – 31 Jan. 1910

Lieutenant Commander – 29 Aug. 1916

Commander – 8 March 1918

Captain – 02 June 1927

Rear Admiral – 23 June 1938

Vice Admiral – Not held – promoted directly to Admiral

Admiral – 31 Dec. 1941

Fleet Admiral – 19 Dec. 1944

 

DECORATIONS and AWARDS

Distinguished Service Medal with two gold stars

Army Distinguished Service Medal

Silver Lifesaving Medal

Victory Medal with Escort Clasp

American Defense Service Medal

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

World War II Victory Medal

National Defense Service Medal

 

Excerpt from Nimitz’s Essay on employment of naval forces,” Who Commands Sea – Commands Trade”

 

Employment of Naval Forces

By Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN

“Who Commands Sea – Commands Trade”

 

Former CNO Discusses Use of Navy in Maintaining Security of United States on day of departure from Navy Department as CNO

 

From the Monthly NEWSLETTER – March 1948

 

EMPLOYMENT OF NAVAL FORCES IN THE FUTURE

 

In addition to the weapons of World War II the Navy of the future will be capable of launching missiles from surface vessels and submarines, and of delivering atomic bombs from carrier-based planes. Vigilant naval administration and research is constantly developing and adding to these means. In the event of war within the foreseeable future it is probable that there will be little need to destroy combatant ships other than submarines. Consequently, in the fulfillment of long accepted naval functions and in conformity with the well known principles of warfare, the Navy should be used in the initial stages of such a war to project its weapons against vital enemy targets on land, the reduction of which is the basic objective of warfare.

For any future war to be a sufficient magnitude to affect us seriously, it must be compounded of two primary ingredients: vast manpower and tremendous industrial capacity. These conditions exist today in the great land mass of Central Asia, in East Asia, and in Western Europe. The two latter areas will not be in a position to endanger us for decades to come unless they pass under unified totalitarian control. In the event of war with any of the three we would be relatively deficient in manpower. We should, therefore, direct our thinking toward realistic and highly specialized operations. We should plan to inflict unacceptable damage through maximum use of our technological weapons and our ability to produce them in great quantities.

 

WHAT ABOUT FUTURE AIR ATTACKS?

Initial devastating air attack in the future may come across our bordering oceans from points on the continents of Europe and Asia as well as from across the polar region. Consequently our plans must include the development of specialized forces of fighter and interceptor planes for pure defense, as well as the continued development of long range bombers.

Offensively our initial plans should provide for the coordinated employment of military and naval air power launched from land and carrier bases, and of guided missiles against important enemy targets. For the present, until long range bombers are developed capable of spanning our bordering oceans and returning to our North American bases, naval air power launched from carriers may be the only practicable means of bombing vital enemy centers in the early stages of a war.

In summary it is visualized that our early combat operations in the event of war within the next decade would consist of:

DEFENSIVELY

  • Protection of our vital centers from devastating attacks by air and from missile-launching submarines.
  • Protection of areas of vital strategic importance, such as sources of raw materials, our advanced bases, etc.
  • Protection of our essential lines of communications and those of our allies.
  • Protection of our occupation forces during re-enforcement or evacuation.

OFFENSIVELY

  • Devastating bombing attacks from land and carrier bases on vital enemy installations.
  • Destruction of enemy lines of communication accessible to our naval and air forces.
  • Occupation of selected advanced bases on enemy territory and the denial of advance bases to the enemy through the coordinated employment of naval, air and amphibious forces.

Of the above activities or functions there are certain ones which can be performed best by the Air Force, and certain others which can be performed best by the Navy – it is these two services which will play major roles in the initial stages of a future war. The 80th Congress took cognizance of this fact when, in the National Security Act of 1947, it specifically prescribed certain functions to the Navy, its naval aviation and its Marine Corps. In so doing the Congress gave emphasis to the fact that the organizational framework of the military services should be built around the functions assigned to each service. This is a principle which the Navy has consistently followed and is now organized and trained to implement.

Defensively, the Navy is still the first line the enemy must hurdle either in the air or on the sea in approaching our coasts across any ocean. The earliest warning of enemy air attack against our vital centers should be provided by naval air, surface and submarine radar pickets deployed in the vast ocean spaces which surround the continent. This is part of the radar screen which should surround the continental United States and its possessions. The first attrition enemy air power might be by short range naval fighter planes carried by task forces. Protection of our cities against missile launching submarines can best be effected by naval hunter-killer groups composed of small aircraft carriers and modern destroyers operating as a team with naval land-based aircraft.

The safety of our essential trade routes and ocean lines of communication and those of our allies, the protection of areas of vital strategic importance such as the sources of raw material, advanced base locations, etc., are but matters of course if we control the seas. Only naval air-sea power can ensure this.

Offensively, it is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it will not be fought on United States soil. The Navy can at present best fulfill the vital functions of devastating enemy vital areas by the projection of bombs and missiles. It is improbable that bomber fleets will be capable, for several years to come of making two-way trips between continents, even over the polar routes, with heavy loads of bombs.

It is apparent then that in the event of war within this period, if we are to project our power against the vital areas of any enemy across the ocean before beachheads on enemy territory are captured, it must be by air-sea power; by aircraft launched from carriers; and by heavy surface ships and submarines projecting guided missiles and rockets. If present promise is developed by research, test and production, these three types of air-sea power operating in concert will be able within the next ten years critically to damage enemy vital areas many hundreds of miles inland.

Naval task forces including these types are capable of remaining at sea for months. This capability has raised to a high point the art of concentrating air power within effective range of enemy objectives. It is achieved by refueling and rearming task forces at sea. Not only may the necessary supplies, ammunition and fuel be replenished in this way but the air groups themselves may be changed.

The net result is that naval forces are able, without resorting to diplomatic channels, to establish offshore anywhere in the world, air fields completely equipped with machine shops, ammunition dumps, tank farms, warehouses, together with quarters and all types of accommodations for personnel. Such task forces are virtually as complete as any air base ever established. They constitute the only air bases that can be made available near enemy territory without assault and conquest; and furthermore, they are mobile offensive bases, that can be employed with the unique attributes of secrecy and surprise — which attributes contribute equally to their defensive as well as offensive effectiveness.

Regarding the pure defense of these mobile air bases the same power projected destructively from them against the enemy is being applied to their defense in the form of propulsion, armament, and new aircraft weapons whose development is well abreast the supersonic weapons reputed to threaten their existence.

It is clear, therefore, that the Navy and the Air Force will play the leading roles in the initial stages of a future war. Eventually, reduction and occupation of certain strategic areas will require the utmost from our Army, Navy and Air Force. Each should be assigned broad functions compatible with its capabilities and limitations and should develop the weapons it needs to fulfill these functions, and no potentiality of any of the three services of the Military Establishment should be neglected in our scheme of National Defense. At the same time each service must vigorously develop, in that area where their functions meet, that flexibility and teamwork essential to operational success. It should also be clear that the Navy’s ability to exert from its floating bases its unique pressure against the enemy wherever he can be reached in the air, on sea or land is now, as it has been, compatible with the fundamental principles of warfare. That our naval forces can be equipped defensively as well as offensively to project pressure against enemy objectives in the future is as incontrovertible as the principle that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

In measuring capabilities against a potential enemy, due appreciation must be taken of the factors of relative strength and weakness. We may find ourselves comparatively weak in manpower and in certain elements of aircraft strength. On the other hand we are superior in our naval air-sea strength. It is an axiom that in preparing for any contest, it is wisest to exploit – not neglect – the element of strength. Hence a policy which provides for balanced development and coordinated use of strong naval forces should be vigorously prosecuted in order to meet and successfully counter a sudden war in the foreseeable future.

[END]

In the Waters of Pearl – Building the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base 1918-1945 3

 

I spent a number of years in my youth living and sailing out of Pearl Harbor. The last time we were there was in 2003 and the changes even then were astonishing. Many of the old buildings were still there but a modern bridge attached Ford Island to the mainland. The Chapel at Sub base was closed at that time and the Enlisted Men’s club was on limited hours as well.

But no matter how long you are away, some memories come back and overwhelm you. The smell of the many flowers as you arrive at the airport. The breeze of the trade winds that mask the heat of the bright sun. And the feeling of an unstated collection of long ago spirits that traveled through these islands on their war to long ago wars. As you stand by the finger piers looking across at the shipyards, you can hear the hammering and welding of broken warships being readied for another battle. The sound of the liberty boat fills your imagination of so many trips across the harbor, stopping only for the raising of the flag each morning and the lowering each night.

 

The day you get orders to Pearl Harbor for the first time, your life is changed forever. You are about to become part of a legend. No matter where you travel in life, you will always carry that memory inside of you.

Pearl Harbor was originally an extensive shallow embayment called Wai Momi (meaning, “Waters of Pearl”) or Puʻuloa (meaning, “long hill”) by the Hawaiians. Puʻuloa was regarded as the home of the shark goddess, Kaʻahupahau, and her brother (or son), Kahiʻuka, in Hawaiian legends. According to tradition, Keaunui, the head of the powerful Ewa chiefs, is credited with cutting a navigable channel near the present Puʻuloa saltworks, by which he made the estuary, known as “Pearl River,” accessible to navigation. Making due allowance for legendary amplification, the estuary already had an outlet for its waters where the present gap is; but Keaunui is typically given the credit for widening and deepening it.

Naval Station, Honolulu” was established on 17 November 1899. On 2 February 1900, this title was changed to “Naval Station, Hawaii”. In the years that followed, dredging and building continued and eventually the idea of stationing submarines in Pearl Harbor was broached.

This is the story of the submarine base up until 1945.

 

Pearl Harbor Submarine Base: 1918-1945

From the Official US Navy Records:

 

Shortly after the Armistice of World War I in 1918, the submarines R-15 to R-20 were ordered to the Hawaiian Area, arriving early in 1919 to establish the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor. Previous to this, there had been other submarines operating in the Hawaiian Area, for in 1912 four “F” class submarines operated from the site of the old Naval Station, Pier 5, Honolulu.

Their activities, however, were concluded when the F-4 sank off Honolulu. After this tragedy in 1915, the remaining “F” boats were towed back to the mainland. Shortly after these submarines left, four “K” type submarines and the Alert arrived, staying until after World War I started.

The R-11 to R-20 were ordered to Pearl Harbor in 1920 and the R-1 to R-10 followed in 1923. When the “R” boats, under the Divisional Command of Lieutenant Commander F.X. Gygax, arrived at Pearl Harbor, he found only one finger pier at the present site of the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base, and to this the R-18 was secured. This was the first submarine to moor at todays most modern and most complete Pacific submarine home activity.

 

The area chosen in 1919 for a submarine base was covered with cactus plants and algaroba trees, which had to be cut down before any buildings could be erected. When the land along the waterfront had been cleared, concrete slabs were poured into the region to support portable structures which had been obtained by Commander Chester W. Nimitz (now Fleet Admiral Nimitz), who was the first Commanding Officer of the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base. These structures consisted of old aviation cantonment buildings that had seen service in France. Meanwhile, tents had been pitched, and the base personnel used these meager furnishings for their living and messing needs. Two months after the arrival of the first submarine division, the base had a temporary mess hall; administration building; machine, carpenter, electric, gyro-compass, optical and battery overhaul shops. For general stores, a floating barge was procured from the Navy Yard, housed over and pressed into service.

In 1923, the first permanent building, still in use as a battery overhaul shop, was constructed with approximately 85% of the work being done by submarine base personnel. Living quarters for submarine personnel were improvised by utilizing the cruiser Chicago, later renamed the Alton, which was brought in and moored where the present day base’s largest pier, S1, now stands. A causeway was built out to her, and the cruiser’s topside was housed over to provide bunk rooms for submarine officers, while the lower deck was given to the officers and men attached to the base. Also, in 1920, another finger pier was constructed.

In the years that followed, peace time years, the temporary buildings were gradually torn down and replaced by larger and more commodious structures, some of which provided excellent usage during World War II. In 1925, the base had approximately 25 buildings erected and the Navy had already begun to reclaim marsh and swamp land in order that further expansion could be possible. During the same period, two more finger piers were built. In 1928, the largest building on the present day site, the main “U” shaped barracks building, was spacious enough to accommodate all submarine and base personnel and, as late as 1940, was still utilized for this purpose, other barracks not being necessary until shortly before hostilities began in 1941. By 1933, berths 10 to 14 on a long quay wall had been completed and a thirty ton crane had been constructed on the outboard end of finger pier number four. Also by this year, the submarine rescue and training tank, the enlisted men’s pool, the theater (built entirely by submarine base personnel), and the main repair buildings had been completed.

The Administration Building, housing the base torpedo shop in the main deck of one wing and the Supply Department on both decks of the other wing had been completed. Above the torpedo shop, was located the Base Commanding Officer’s and Executive officer’s offices. Shortly after the completion of this building, an officer’s quarters was built close to the Administration Building. Since there was now housing and messing facilities for both officers and enlisted men, the Alton was no longer needed.

From 1935 until the outbreak of hostilities, many other buildings were added to the base proper, the majority of them small in size and nature. In addition, with the planting of coconut trees, palms and other shrubberies, the Submarine Base became not only a place military in nature, but also pleasant in appearance.

December 7th, 1941

Fortunately for America, and conversely, unfortunately for Japan, the enemy neglected to strike at Pearl Harbor Submarine Base on 7 December 1941. Quite possibly this could have been by design since the Japs conceivably paid little attention to the comparatively small submarine force the United States had operating in the Pacific, the majority of which, incidentally, was operating in the Far East.

For whatever reason, no damage was done to the base and for this oversight the Japs were to pay dearly since it was the submarine force in the Pacific that, almost alone, carried the war into the enemy’s waters in the first two years of the war, a feat that would have been improbable, if not impossible, had it not been for the excellent repair and supply facilities afforded by the Pearl harbor Submarine Base before other advanced bases could be established.

On 30 June 1940, there were 359 enlisted men stationed at the Submarine Base with this number slowly increasing to 700 on 15 August 1941 and to 1,081 in July 1942. Rapid expansion of the base reached its peak in July 1944, when there were 6,633 enlisted men serving on the Submarine Base proper. These were the men for whom there was no glory but who, nevertheless, worked excessive hours no matter what their job in order that our submersibles might roam the Pacific in excellent fighting condition.

As an indication of the tremendous amount of work accomplished by the Pearl Harbor base, four hundred submarines were overhauled, refitted, or repaired during the period from May 1944 until July 1945. (This should not be construed as 400 individual submarines, but rather as a certain number of subs overhauled numerous times). This meant four hundred submarines prowling the seas, destroying Japanese shipping relentlessly through the sole medium of repair and supply furnished by one base. Truly, the enemy missed a military objective by blindly overlooking the Submarine Base on the day of the “blitz”.

It is not a debatable question as to which departmental function was the most important at the Submarine Base, since without one the other would have been negligible. To all go the credit for the tremendous successes achieved as the result of basing submarines at Pearl.

Under the Supply Department during a three month period ending 1 September 1944, the Commissary Department furnished $410,000 worth of provisions aboard roving submarines; and for the entire war, the value of provision stowed aboard operating subs totaled the tremendous sum of $3,680,296, a good reason as to why submarine personnel are the best fed men in the world. The Disbursing officer paid $33,363,305.23 in salaries to submarine personnel in the last two and a half years of the war in 1,144 individual pay days to submarine crews. Clothing and Small Stores, another function of the Supply Department, issued $916,519 worth of clothing to submarine personnel in the last year and a half of the war. Supply was, without a doubt, a major issue of the war.

The Ordnance Department, from the outbreak of war until the cessation of hostilities, overhauled 15,644 torpedoes of which 5,185 were fired by combat submarines with 1,860 torpedoes resulting in successful hits. A remarkable record and one which can well be shared by the shore based personnel of the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base.

The Engineering and Repair Department consisting of technicians and specialists of every description commenced their work on submarines days before the boat ever berthed at the Base. For as much as a week prior to each submarine’s arrival, plans were drawn up for the work to be accomplished on the boat. On the day of arrival, the submarine furnished the E&R department a complete list of “ailments” and on the following day an arrival conference between Base officers and Ships’ officers was held. At this time, a detailed plan of repair action was made while, even at that moment, work crews from the various shops were ripping apart faulty equipment for overhaul and repair. In the short two week period that the submarine remained at the Base, every department observed every derangement, large or small, and made corrections and repairs as necessary or else replaced faulty equipment. Engineering was a factor of no small importance in the winning of the war because submarines, returning from patrol, ofttimes had almost unrepairable damage. In the month of September 1944 alone, the Engineering and Repair Department refitted twelve submarines and made voyage repairs to twenty-five others, a feat not only never before performed but not even dreamed of in the past.

The Medical Department achieved miracles in the treatment and prevention of ills and diseases. Upon the completion of a war patrol, each submarine crew was thoroughly examined by especially trained and unusually competent Medical, Dental and Psychiatric Officers. Should it develop that a man had an ailment, no matter how trivial, he was replaced, treated and, in most cases, restored to duty on board operating submarines. Many a story has been told of medical corpsmen on submarines who have performed such feats as appendectomies and the diagnosis of diseases like spinal meningitis while on a combat war patrol. Many of these men were trained and gathered experience at a well-equipped and efficient Dispensary of the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor. In addition, it was the Base Medical Department’s responsibility that all medicinal supplies and drugs were furnished each submarine prior to its departure on war patrol.

And there were other departments, the First Lieutenant’s men worked day and night loading or unloading submarines, maintaining buildings and equipment, patrolling the base during the war’s most security conscious moments, and furnishing transportation for men and equipment.

There was the Rest and Recuperation Annex to the Submarine Base, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel with its 425 rooms and housing capacity of 935 guests. When this entire space was not required by the Submarine Force, it was made available to aviation activities, small craft returning from advance bases, forward advance Marine units, and in some isolated cases, to battleships and cruisers.

Then there was the Chaplain and his assistants who offered counsel and guidance to war-weary and nerve-torn veterans of the war patrols. There was the Ship’s Service Department which offered everything necessary to life and comfort from phonograph records to the latest books and novelties.

 

The Pearl Harbor Submarine Base was not a base erected during the heat of battle. Its permanent foundations were laid down in 1919 and through the years of peace it became stronger and healthier. At the outbreak of hostilities, it was incapable of accommodating the ultimate number of submarines that were to operate in the Pacific, but never once did this Base lag in its accomplishments of sundry duties. At times, the output of work far exceeded that expected or thought of, but always the submarines based temporarily at Pearl Harbor between moments of combat had their slightest needs fulfilled.

Upon the establishment of the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor, Commander C.W. Nimitz was the Commanding Officer, a duty he held until 1922. He was succeeded in command by the following officers:

 

Commander L.F. Welch 1922-1925

Commander F.C. Martin 1925-1928

Captain A. Bronson 1928-1929

Captain W.K. Wortman 1929-1930

 

In 1930, Submarine Squadron FOUR commenced operating in the Hawaiian Area, and the two commands were united with the following officers pursuing duties as Commander, Submarine Squadron FOUR and Commanding Officer, U.S. Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, T.H.:

 

Captain W.K. Wortman 1930-1932

Captain H.W. Osterhas 1932-1934

Captain R.A. Kock 1934-1936

Captain R.S. Culp 1936-1938

Captain F.W. Scanland 1938-1940

Captain W.R. Carter 1940-1941

Captain F.A. Daubin 1941-1942

Captain R.H. English March 1942-May 1942

Captain J.H. Brown, Jr. May 1942-January 1943

On 13 January 1943, the two commands were separated, due to the tremendous work load required of each command by war time operations. As a result, Captain C.D. Edmunds relieved Captain J.H. Brown, Jr., as Commanding Officer of the Submarine Base, with Captain Brown retaining the command of SubRon FOUR. In turn, Captain Edmunds was relieved by Captain C.E. Aldrich, who served in that capacity from September 1943 until October 1944, when he was relieved by Captain E.R. Swinburne, who remained in command of the base until after the cessation of hostilities. However, the Commanding Officer of the Submarine Base continued to come under the Squadron Commander until, in October 1945, with the reorganization of the submarine force, he was placed directly under ComSubPac.

 

The story of Submarine Base Pearl Harbor will continue in the near future…

Mister Mac

New London – The Cradle of Submarine Life in America (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) 4

The Cradle of Submarine Life in America

I was reading through a Naval History record of Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II (Volume I (Part II))

Part of the massive construction done to support the war was the story about the expansion of the Naval Submarine base at New London Connecticut. In my generation, nearly everyone destined to serve on submarines spent some time at the school and many went on to serve on boats stationed there. While the boats themselves demand a lot of attention for their missions, we can never forget the significance of having a powerful infrastructure.

Bases as a vital factor of sea power were defined by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz.

‘Sea power,’ he declared, ‘is not a limited term. It includes many weapons and many techniques. Sea power means more than the combatant ships and aircraft, the amphibious forces and the merchant marine. It includes also the port facilities of New York and California; the bases in Guam and in Kansas; the factories which are the capital plant of war; and the farms which are the producers of supplies. All these are elements of sea power. Furthermore, sea power is not limited to materials and equipment. It includes the functioning organization which has directed its use in the war. In the Pacific we have been able to use our naval power effectively because we have been organized along sound lines. The present organization of our Navy Department has permitted decisions to be made effectively. It has allowed great flexibility. In each operation we were able to apply our force at the time and place where it would be most damaging to the enemy.’

 

New London Submarine Base is the United States Navy’s primary East Coast submarine base, also known as the “Home of the Submarine Force”. It is located in Groton, Connecticut

In 1868, the State of Connecticut gave the Navy 112 acres (0.5 km²) of land along the Thames River in Groton to build a Naval Station. Due to a lack of federal funding, it was not until 1872 that two brick buildings and a “T” shaped pier were constructed and officially declared a Navy Yard. In 1898, Congress approved a coaling station be built at the Yard for refueling small naval ships traveling through the waters of New England. The Navy Yard was first used for laying up inactive ships. The Congressional appropriations were small and the Navy had little need for the Yard, which was actually closed from 1898 to 1900 and its personnel reassigned. This new yard was primarily used as a coaling station by Atlantic Fleet small craft. It is located in the towns of Groton and Ledyard. By 1912, oil replaced coal in warships and again the Yard was scheduled for closure and the land relinquished by the Navy.

The Navy Yard was spared permanent closure in 1912 by an impassioned plea from local Congressman Edwin W. Higgins of Norwich, who was worried about the loss of Federal spending in the region. Within six years, the Federal government would spend over a million dollars at the Yard. On 13 October 1915, the monitor Ozark, a submarine tender, and 4 submarines arrived in Groton. With the war effort in Europe and the Atlantic in full swing, additional submarines and support craft arrived the following year and the facility was named as the Navy’s first Submarine Base. The first Commander of the Yard was retired Commodore Timothy A. Hunt, who was recalled up to service. Living in New Haven, Commodore Hunt used the Central Hotel on State Street, New London when in town to attend to Yard duties on an “as needed” basis. Despite being physically located in the Town of Groton, the name New London became associated with the Navy Yard because the base had its main offices and housing in New London. Following World War I, the Navy established schools and training facilities at the base.

The first diesel-powered US submarine, USS E-1 (SS-24), was commissioned in Groton on February 14, 1912, Lieutenant Chester W. Nimitz in command.

Previous to the outbreak of World War I, very little consideration had been given to the care and upkeep of submarines, except at the primary navy yards and stations. New London (Conn.), commissioned in December 1915, was the first continental submarine base.

On June 21, 1916, the Navy Yard changed forever as Commander Yates Stirling, Jr. assumed the command of the newly designated Submarine Base, the New London Submarine Flotilla, and the Submarine School.

 

The Base property expanded during the latter part of World War I. Congress approved over a million dollars for Base real estate and facilities expansion. By the end of the war, 81 buildings had been built to support 1400 men and 20 submarines. With victory in hand, the land expansion of the Base was slowed through much of the 1920s. However, the Great Depression of the 1930s saw an expansion and enhancement of the physical plant of the Base. President Franklin Roosevelt created a series of Federal Government employment programs that contributed significantly to the Submarine Base. Over 26 high quality warehouses, barracks and workshops were built at the base under these Federal job-spending programs.

New London, as the only station especially equipped for the training of submarine personnel, received special consideration by the Hepburn Board, and early in January 1939 a survey was made by the public works officer at the base to determine the necessary facilities required to provide for 21 submarines in commission and reserve. Rehabilitation of service lines to existing piers was listed as a first priority, and that work, begun in October of that same year, was completed by July 1940.

On the 12th of July 1940, a CPFF contract in the amount of $2,021,175 for facilities for commissioning reserve submarines, including improvement of buildings and accessories and waterfront development, was awarded. Field work was begun July 29, 1940. Additions to the contract included a marine railway. A second CPFF contract called for additional facilities for servicing the submarines, including connection with outside power. A third CPFF contract provided for housing units for married enlisted naval personnel.

In July 1941 the Fuel Storage Board recommended that additional fuel-oil and diesel-oil storage facilities be provided in prestressed concrete tanks. In March of 1942, work was started on the construction of 50 “keyport” magazines for the storage of torpedo warheads, two fixed ammunition magazines, one small-arms magazine, one pyrotechnic magazine, and one fuse magazine. The second largest expansion of Submarine Base New London occurred during World War II, when it grew from 112 acres to 497 acres. The Submarine Force leaped in size, and the Base accommodated thousands of men to service the growing combat fleet.

Expansion of the Submarine School facilities, calling for the construction of additional barracks, subsistence building, and school buildings, and concomitant services, was approved July 28, 1942. Unforeseen increases in the training program made it necessary to increase these facilities, under an appropriation approval in January 1943. By May of 1943, approximately $12,000,000 had been spent on the rehabilitation program, and plans were immediately begun for further development.

By March 1946 the record stood at 263 buildings, including 87 magazines and 15 Quonset huts, providing floor space of 1,815,362 square feet. Berthing space had been increased to 10,000 linear feet. There were 15 submarine piers, a floating drydock with a capacity of 3500 tons, and a marine railway with a 3000-ton capacity, together with 300 square yards of outdoor assembly, repair or working space. The barracks could accommodate 448 officers and 7286 enlisted men, and, in addition, there were 106 family housing units. Messing facilities to care for 142 officers, 2774 enlisted personnel, and 264 civilians had been provided, together with dispensary facilities of 354 beds.

Immediately after WWII the Submarine Force was significantly reduced and many famous submarines were sent into storage. Most of the World War II fleet was sold for scrap metal during the early 1960s.

 

The Escape Training Tank

From 1930 to 1994 the most recognizable structure on the base was the 100-foot-tall Escape Training Tank. Generations of submariners learned to escape in up to 80 feet of water using buoyant ascent, and were trained in the use of the Momsen lung or Steinke hood. In 2007 the Escape Training Tank was replaced by the Submarine Escape Trainer, which has two types of escape trunks in up to 40 feet of water. The Steinke hood was replaced by the Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment in the 2000s

 

The First School

Within a few years of the first submarine being accepted by the United States Navy, it became apparent that the new technology and tactics would require special training.

When the first class of twenty four officers began studies for submarine duty a century ago in the summer of 1916, the submarine base in Groton, Connecticut, was little more than a handful of buildings scattered across the area now known as Lower Base.

First Submarine Officer Graduation Class, 1 July 1916

By Christmas 1916, the twenty two graduates of that first submarine officers’ course were heading out for assignments after spending six months in training on submarines, torpedoes, engineering and electricity.’ Records are sketchy on the nature of much of that training-especially since the bulk of the early trainers were salvage material from decommissioned submarines.Within a year the graduates of that first officers course, and those who were to follow them through Naval Submarine School, were serving around the globe as the United States entered World War I.

One hundred years after that first graduation, Naval Submarine School, Submarine Base, the U.S. Navy and the world have all undergone radical and profound change but the tradition as the center for submarine training excellence continues.

 

First enlisted muster at Naval Submarine School, Winter 1917

From one building on Lower Base in 1916, Naval Submarine School has grown to the largest single tenant unit on Submarine Base, with over thirty thousand Sailors graduating annually from nearly two hundred different courses.

From an era when training aids were Mark I Attack trainers and a German-built trainer of unspecified history, Naval Submarine School maintains and operates state-of-the-art trainers costing millions to design and develop. These trainers are vital tools in providing realistic individual and team training for a submarine fleet striving for total inclusion in Joint Vision 2020.

Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS) is the U.S. Navy’s submarine training school for enlisted sailors. Located on Naval Submarine Base New London (NAVSUBASE NLON) in Groton, New London County, Connecticut, the school is an eight-week introduction to the basic theory, construction and operation of nuclear-powered submarines. The course includes instruction on shipboard organization, submarine safety and escape procedures. This program requires passing a physical and mental screening. As of 2015, BESS is open to female sailors, including current sailors who wish to join the submarine force by completing the two-month program.

Yesterday and today: Still the Center of Submarine Force Training Excellence

Naval Submarine School course offerings include introduction, apprentice and basic skill level training; encompass initial technical proficiency training and advanced team operator and team training in electronic and combat systems employment, navigation and damage control; and provide mid-career professional growth courses for both officers and enlisted Sailors.

The Naval Submarine School also conducts refresher training of all Atlantic Fleet submarines completing construction or overhaul, pre-deployment and training ashore for all submarines of the Atlantic Fleet.

I supposed I am prejudiced, but I would say that the US Submarine Force is the best equipped and trained submarine force in the world. In a dangerous world, that makes me very happy.

Mister Mac

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 8 – The Battle from the Japanese Perspective) Reply

Disaster at Savo Island, 1942

 by

Lieutenant Colonel David E. Quantock
United States Army

USAWC Class of 2002

U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA

These excerpts are from a Report called Disaster at Savo Island, 1942. This unique perspective of the battle is taken primarily from the Japanese point of view.

 

“Mikawa’s approach into the “Slot” of Savo Island was a feat of skillful seamanship augmented by luck. He had been sighted by submarines and different aerial reconnaissance missions on 8 August, all of which combined to give Admiral Turner an untimely and incomplete picture of Mikawa’s intentions. Mikawa was aided by the weather, as overcast skies with occasional rain squalls hid his task force, and he timed his attack to close on the Allied forces in the dark. Through the day of 8 August, he sent numerous organic reconnaissance aircraft (float planes) to compile a picture of the Guadalcanal and Tulagi area. By the time of the attack, he had nearly perfect intelligence on the disposition of the Allied force. Most importantly, he knew that the security forces were split into separate task forces divided by Savo Island. Though Mikawa was inferior in numbers, his plan created an opportunity to engage and destroy the unalerted Allied Force piecemeal.

 

Mikawa’s battle plan was drawn up and signaled to his strike force at 1642, 8 August. The plan called for his task force to sweep to the south side of Savo Island and torpedo the Allied ships off Guadalcanal. They were then to turn east and north to destroy the Tulagi landing force with torpedoes and gunfire. After the attack, the Japanese Force was to proceed around the north side of Savo Island and depart the area as soon as possible. Mikawa planned to order the attack at 0130 on 9 August 1942. The plan allowed enough time to conduct the attack and to get 120 miles away under the cover of darkness before daylight would permit counter-attack by aircraft from the U.S. carrier groups. Mikawa did not know the exact location of the carriers, but assumed they were about 100 miles to the south of Guadalcanal. His battle plan was executed nearly to perfection.

 

The weather was perfect for the attacking force. Cloud cover and intermittent thunderstorms created a screen between the Northern and Southern Forces and thus precluded mutual support.

At 1800 Mikawa received confirmation from his reconnaissance planes that all was well. At 1840 he signaled “Let us attack with certain victory in the traditional night attack of the Imperial Navy. May each one calmly do his utmost!”6

Vice Admiral Fletcher, already suffering the strain of Midway and Coral Sea, had a tough fight on 8 August. While the initial amphibious landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi went well, his carriers lost twenty-one aircraft defending the Expeditionary Force against three Japanese air raids–air raids which could have distracted him from the sketchy and uncorrelated intelligence reports of Mikawa’s approaching 8th Fleet. These air raids disrupted the off-loading of General Vandegrift’s supplies and support equipment, and left Fletcher focused on attack by Japanese bombers and torpedo planes. At 1807, while Mikawa was approaching, Fletcher signaled Ghormley requesting permission to withdraw his carriers due to aircraft losses and low fuel state. While awaiting Ghormley’s reply, Fletcher repositioned the carriers, opening Savo Island.

Although Fletcher’s message was not meant for Admiral Turner, he received a copy of it and was immediately furious. The departure of the carrier group would deprive him of air cover and force the withdrawal of his amphibious force ships. Although land based aircraft were available from Admiral McCain’s task force, their distant bases and the obsolete, inadequate types of aircraft virtually mooted their role in defending against Japanese air raids. Turner’s forced departure placed the Marines in a precarious position; they lost both their transport ships and the warships that were providing them fire support. At 2042, Turner called a meeting with Admiral Crutchley and Major General Vandegrift. The meeting took place at 2315. The items of discussion at that meeting were of far less importance than the meeting’s very effect on the defending force. The meeting pulled Crutchley away from command of the defense force and, more importantly, took HMAS Australia from the Southern Force. This reduced the Southern Group’s combat power by a third. On departure from his force, Crutchley put Captain Bode in charge of the entire Southern Group but somehow neglected to inform the force. Bode assumed that Crutchley would return shortly and did not reposition USS Chicago to reoptimize the screening disposition, did not assert his new authority, and went to bed without issuing night orders. Crutchley, having finished the late meeting with Turner, decided to keep HMAS Australia close to shore with the transport ships because of the danger of rejoining the screening force at night, under poor weather conditions and without radio communications, which would risk a friendly fire situation or possible collision.

Meanwhile, Mikawa was heading towards Savo Island at 26 knots. At 2313, he launched two of his scout planes for a final look at the disposition of the Allied force. These scout planes were also responsible for dropping parachute flares at the proper time to illuminate the transports at Guadalcanal and Tulagi. These planes were spotted on radar and visually by a number of the Allied ships, but were assumed to be friendly because they were flying with running lights. Not a single ship took action against the planes beyond a single message from Ralph Talbot to Admiral Turner’s ship warning of the aircraft. The report, in any case, never got to Turner.

Mikawa headed toward his objective with his force in column formation. His flagship, Chokai, was in the lead. Because few of the other ships had ever worked together before, they were spread approximately 1300 yards apart. At 2230, the “Battle Warning” was sounded and the Allied Southern Force was sighted moving along the southern side of Savo Island.

 

The command “Prepare to Fire Torpedoes” was given at 0025 followed by “Battle Stations Alerted” at 0045.

Torpedoes

In the early stages of the war, no weapons system was more effective than the Japanese torpedo. It was dropped from airplanes, launched from just about every type of Japanese surface warship, and used by submarines. The Japanese torpedo caused more trepidation among naval commanders than any other type of munition. It would consume Admiral Crutchley’s defense of Guadalcanal. It would drive Fletcher’s focus to the security of his carrier group. The very threat of its presence would force Fletcher and Turner into an early exit from the landing areas.

There was good reason to respect the huge Japanese advantage in torpedoes. Their Long Lance torpedo dwarfed any U.S. torpedoes. The biggest advantage of the Japanese torpedo was that, unlike its American counterpart, it worked. The Long Lance exploded when it hit its target. The Long Lance weighed 1,090 pounds, could hit targets out to 22,000 yards (40,000 yards when traveling at 35 knots), and traveled at 49 knots. Powered by oxygen instead of air, unlike standard torpedoes the Japanese torpedo left a nearly wakeless trail. In comparison, the U.S. Torpedo Mark XV had a much smaller warhead and could only reach 6,000 yards at 45 knots or 15,000 yards at 26.5 knots. More discouragingly, U.S. torpedoes seldom detonated, even when scoring direct hits. A Long Lance torpedo sank one of Admiral Fletcher’s carriers during the Battle of the Coral Sea.

At the outbreak of the war, the Japanese Navy possessed some of the world’s finest torpedoes, including the fabled Long Lance. The quality of these weapons was no accident, but rather the result of Japan’s intensive efforts during the 1920’s and 30’s to make good the shortcomings of her battle fleet. Laboring as she did under the unfavorable 5:5:3 ratio of capital ships imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty, Japan would most likely be at a disadvantage in any Pacific conflict with the United States. She also knew well enough that the U.S. modeled its fighting doctrine on the famous ‘Plan Orange’, which called for an advance of the American battle fleet across the Pacific to relieve the Philippines. It was anticipated that at some location in the Western Pacific a decisive battle would be fought. In Japan’s view, some means must be found to offset its disadvantage in capital ships before this battle occurred, or its inferior battle line would be destroyed by the American force. Torpedo tactics and night combat were seized upon as one way to whittle down the American battle line as it made its way across the Pacific. Accordingly, Japan worked diligently to develop the tactics needed to implement this new doctrine, and also to create the weapons with which to carry it out. The result was that Japanese torpedoes showed a steady progression of improvements throughout the 1930’s, culminating in the development of the famous ‘Long Lance’ in 1935.

Designing and perfecting the Long Lance required solving some extremely difficult technical problems, most of which centered around the usage of pure oxygen as a fuel (rather than compressed air). Compressed air is nearly 77% nitrogen, which is useless for combustion, and also contributes to the visibility of the torpedo by leaving a bubble track on the surface. The usage of pure oxygen promised far greater power and propulsive efficiency, but it came with certain costs. The most glaring of these was how to use pure oxygen safely aboard a ship or submarine, given its inherently inflammable nature. Premature detonation of the torpedo upon firing was also a problem. However, the Japanese overcame these hurdles. Further, through meticulous live-testing of their weapons against ship targets, they perfected a warhead detonator that was rugged and reliable (The U.S. Navy’s BuOrd could certainly have taken a lesson or two here). The resulting weapon, the Type 93 torpedo, was fantastically advanced in comparison with its Western counterparts, possessing an unequaled combination of speed, range, and hitting power. This weapon, coupled with the flexible battle tactics practiced by Japan’s cruisers and destroyers, led to victory after victory in the early stages of the war. Only as American radar and gunfire control became increasingly sophisticated would the Japanese advantage in night battles begin to disappear, and even then a Long Lance-armed Japanese destroyer was still a thing to be feared.

 

At 0054, the lookouts on Mikawa’s ship spotted the picket ship USS Blue heading directly at them approximately 5 miles away. Just as Mikawa prepared to engage her, Blue made a 180 degree turn and headed away from the Japanese task force. With Ralph Talbot, the other screening ship, approximately 10 miles to his north, Mikawa had slipped between the pickets undetected. Neither of the picket ships detected Mikawa’s task force.

At 0133, as his force moved around the southern side of Savo Island, Mikawa gave the order “All Ships Attack!” Three minutes later his scouts picked up the destroyers Bagley and Patterson leading the Southern Force, followed shortly by the cruisers Canberra and Chicago. At 0136, Mikawa ordered “Independent Firing.” The Southern Force was then brought under torpedo attack. USS Patterson was the first to sight the attacking force and announced “WARNING–WARNING: STRANGE SHIPS ENTERING HARBOR!” Shortly after Patterson’s warning, Mikawa’s scout planes dropped their flares, illuminating not only the transports at Guadalcanal, but Chicago and Canberra as well. Canberra was the first ship hit and ultimately received two torpedo hits and a total of 24 gun hits. Captain Getting of the Canberra was killed. Canberra sank at 0800, 9 August. Both Bagley and Patterson escaped with minor damage while Mikawa’s force focused on Chicago. Chicago took a torpedo and a gun hit with little damage, and was saved further hits when she saw the trail ship of Mikawa’s force and went after it, sailing in the opposite direction of the attacking force. Chicago then lost sight of the enemy ship and was left without an enemy to pursue. Significantly, Captain Bode never warned the Northern Group that an attack was in progress. In 6 minutes, Mikawa had severely damaged the Allied Southern Group and was turning around Savo Island headed toward the unalerted Northern Group.

Mikawa’s luck only got better. At 0144, he made a rapid course change with his leading three cruisers, Aoba, Kako, and Kinugasa. The maneuver was missed by the last three, Yubari, Tenryu, and Furutaka, but this inadvertent split created two separate attacking divisions. Although this created a command and control problem for Mikawa, it put the Northern Force between two attacking forces.

For the Japanese, it was like shooting ducks in a pond.

The Northern Force was caught completely by surprise and pounded by Mikawa’s force. The devastating fire brought to bear on the task force sank Astoria, Vincennes, and Quincy.

Extremely successful at his first pass around Savo Island, Mikawa contemplated another. Fortunately for the Allied Forces, Mikawa had a number of concerns. His force was divided, it would take him almost three hours to bring it back together, and daylight was not far away. Daylight meant that he was very susceptible to air attack and he still had no idea where the carrier group was located. Finally, his ships were out of torpedoes, and a second attack using only guns would be much riskier. At 0220, Mikawa gave the order to retire up the Slot.

Mikawa left 1,023 sailors killed and over 700 wounded in his wake. In addition, he sank four Allied heavy cruisers and severely damaged a number of destroyers. This defeat expedited the departure of Turner’s Amphibious Task Force, leaving the under-supplied Marines to fend for themselves on Guadalcanal.”

End of part 8

 

41 For Freedom – SSBN Memories 41 Years Later 3

Its funny how an old picture can bring back so many memories. Whether a boomer sailor sailed out of Scotland, Guam, Rota or Charleston many of the events they experienced were similar. I don’t know how many hundreds of ballistic missile patrols were made. I am sure there were a lot.

Since the 1960s, strategic deterrence has been the SSBN’s sole mission, providing the United States with its most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability.

The world’s first operational nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) was USS George Washington (SSBN-598) with 16 Polaris A-1 missiles, which entered service in December 1959 and conducted the first SSBN deterrent patrol November 1960-January 1961. The Polaris missile and the first US SSBNs were developed by a Special Project office under Rear Admiral W. F. “Red” Raborn, appointed by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke. George Washington was redesigned and rebuilt early in construction from a Skipjack-class fast attack submarine, USS Scorpion, with a 130 ft (40 m) missile compartment welded into the middle. Nuclear power was a crucial advance, allowing a ballistic missile submarine to remain undetected at sea by remaining submerged or occasionally at periscope depth (50 to 55 feet) for an entire patrol.

A significant difference between US and Soviet SLBMs was the fuel type; all US SLBMs have been solid fueled while all Soviet and Russian SLBMs were liquid fueled except for the Russian RSM-56 Bulava, which entered service in 2014. With more missiles on one US SSBN than on five Golf-class boats, the Soviets rapidly fell behind in sea-based deterrent capability. The Soviets were only a year behind the US with their first SSBN, the ill-fated K-19 of Project 658 (Hotel class), commissioned in November 1960. However, this class carried the same three-missile armament as the Golfs. The first Soviet SSBN with 16 missiles was the Project 667A (Yankee class), the first of which entered service in 1967, by which time the US had commissioned 41 SSBNs, nicknamed the “41 for Freedom”.

This is a typical picture of a boat leaving Holy Loch Scotland

Inside that boat, the sailors and officers were preparing for the first dive after refit. There are very few times in life where something so seemingly simple can be so complex. The vent valves on the ballast tank will open on command but will they close? Are the seals on the hatches cleaned and inspected before closing? What major systems were worked on during refit that might cause a problem? Did you get all of the air out of the hydraulic lines, especially the ones for the planes controls?

For the older guys, a feeling of sadness knowing that it will be sixty or more days before they get to talk to a loved one again. For the new guys, its that feeling of mixed excitement at a first dive and a nagging fear that anyone one of the things listed above could go wrong. For the officer’s its that lurking Russian trawler just beyond the Clyde waiting to give them a hard time on their way to work.

For the tender guys, its just another boat in a long rotation of boats with another one soon to follow. On shore, the people of Dunoon see a shadow filled with customers and men who often drank too much knowing there would be no more drinks for the months ahead. Somewhere back in the states there was an empty feeling in the homes of the families who may have wished that last phone call could have lasted a few minutes longer. In the heartland of America, there was nothing. Not a feeling of something special or different about to happen. Not a fear in the world that some Soviet boat might be at that very minute patrolling near their coasts. Not a streak of an ICBM over the dawn sky.

Because at the heart of it all, men who sailed on that boat and worked on those tenders and docks were so very damn good at their jobs.

Mister Mac

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 7 – The Marines on Shore and the Consequences) Reply

The operation at Guadalcanal was named “Watchtower” but to the Marines involved, it would forever be known as Operation Shoestring. As history records, the entire operation was put together in a hurry with limited resources and even less intelligence. One misstep after another compounded their misery and the disastrous events of the First Battle of Savo Island would mean the Marines on shore would have to fight twice as hard with meager supplies.

This Story comes from the book

Marines in World War II,  Historical Monograph, The Guadalcanal Campaign

by Major John L. Zimmerman, USMCR Historical Section, Division of Public Information Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps 1949

The Naval Withdrawal

The burning of the Elliott had two adverse consequences, entirely apart from the loss of the ships herself. Included in the supplies aboard her had been a good shore of the material of the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, and that was lost. The second, and more serious, consequence was the fact that the glare caused by her burning allowed enemy observers in the neighborhood of Tassafaronga to see the cruisers and destroyers which were shortly to be attacked on that night of 8-9 August, and to report their presence to the advancing enemy task force.

In the evening of 8 August, General Vandegrift was called to a conference aboard the USS McCawley, flagship of Task Force 62. While there he was told that Admiral Turner had decided to remove all transports and cargo vessels from the area at 0600 next morning, 9 August. The reason given for this decision was the fact that advice had come from Admiral Fletcher, Commander, Task Force 61, telling of a shortage of fuel and of the loss of 21 of his 99 planes, and of his consequent decision to withdraw.

This posed a new and most alarming problem for General Vandegrift and his staff. Plans made by the division had been formulated on the assumption that the ships would remain for four days in the target area so that all supplies could be put ashore. However, even with the removal of all supplies to the beach, the division would have been in a somewhat precarious position, for the shortage of shipping and the unforeseen demand for haste had made necessary a cut below the basic allowances ordinarily prescribed. The unloading process, as we have seen, had been complicated by a condition approaching chaos on the beach, and the movement from ship to shore had been stopped as a result. The withdrawal of the supply ships, therefore, was, from a troop standpoint, little short of a catastrophe, but Admiral Turner’s decision was not changed.

Shortly after midnight of 8-9 August, moreover, friendly surface forces operating in the Solomons area suffered a sudden and overwhelming defeat. The events leading up to the disastrous Battle of Savo Island are interesting.

There can be no doubt at this time that the American attack on Tulagi and on Guadalcanal came as a surprise to the enemy at Rabaul as well as to the smaller forces in the target area.

The American convoy had been sighted as it approached the area by an enemy lookout in the vicinity of Cape Esperance. There appears to have been a breakdown in communications between his post and Tulagi, for his warning did not alert the people on the latter island. The attack, moreover, cut the area off from communication with the enemy rear areas (the radio installations on Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo had been destroyed by the prelanding bombardment by the San Juan and the two destroyers which accompanied her). Captain Miyazaki, of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who was on duty at Rabaul at the time, was questioned on November, 1945, as a prisoner of war. He said, in speaking of the events of 7 August 1942, “Early in the day we lost communication with Gavutu, so did not know what happened.”

Communication must have been reestablished quickly, however, or else the enemy must have been able to deduce, from the silence that had fallen over its forces in the Tulagi area, that an attack had been mounted. By afternoon of 7 August a naval task force was being assembled from units in Kavieng and Rabaul. It was formed from elements of the 8th Fleet, and consisted of five heavy cruisers–Chokai (flying the flag of Rear Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, CinC, 8th Fleet), Kako, Furutaka, Aoba (Rear Admiral Goto), Kinugasa, the light cruiser Tenryu (Rear Admiral Matsuyama), and Yubari–with one old destroyer Yunagi from the 4th Destroyer Division. Rendezvous was effected northwest of Bougainville, and the force came down the stretch of water which lies between the parallel chains of islands of the group and which was later to become known as the “Slot”.

This force was sighted at 1130 on the morning of 8 August by a U.S. observation plane which maintained contact with it for about an hour.39 The results of the observation were reported at once, but through some mix-up in the communication chain which has never been satisfactorily explained, the screening force of United States and Australian ships apparently was not apprised of the potential danger which the enemy task force presented.

The screening force, divided in two groups, was patrolling the approaches to the transport area on each side of Savo Island when, at about 0130 of the morning of 9 August, it was attacked and overwhelmingly defeated by an enemy force which immediately retired from the area. No attempt was made by the Japanese to pursue the advantage which had been gained, and the transport area was left unmolested. The attack had been preceded by the dropping of flares from Japanese cruiser-based planes, and information subsequently got from prisoners indicates that the attacking force was aided by observation from Cape Esperance made possible by the illumination from the flares and from the burning transport, Elliott.

The results of the attack were little short of catastrophic for the Allied forces. Of the five cruisers on station at the time, four were sunk and the other badly damaged. Chicago sustained damage, while Astoria, Vincennes, Canberra, and Quincy sank during the night and the early morning.

Post-war interrogation of Japanese prisoners answered a question which arose immediately after the Japanese withdrawal–why had the attacking force refrained from annihilating the then defenseless transports? It appears that one 8-inch round fired from the second group to be attacked–the Northern Group–penetrated the operations room of Chokai, destroying all equipment and charts. This together with the fact that there was some delay in resuming proper formation, impelled Vice Admiral Mikawa to withdraw rather than run the risk of being overtaken by planes during a later withdrawal.

A belated vengeance overtook another ship of the force when Kako, about to enter the harbor of Kavieng the next morning, was sunk off Simberi Island by an American submarine, the old S-44.

End of Part 7

 

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 4 – The XRAY Transports and the Destroyers) 1

Part 4

“XRAY” TRANSPORTS

 The enemy had ceased fire on the Vincennes group about 0215, and headed out to sea, briefly engaging the Ralph Talbot about 0320-23. Within half an hour both the Quincy and the Vincennes had gone down. The Canberra remained afloat until morning, when she was sunk by our own destroyers, and the Astoria finally succumbed to her wounds about noon.

No one in our forces, however, could know that the Japanese had completely withdrawn and that their entire effort had been thrown into the half-hour between 0145 and 0215. When at about 0235, while the Quincy was going down, flares were dropped over Florida Island, evidently to silhouette our transports off Tulagi and Gavutu, it seemed likely that more action was yet to come. Consequently “alarms and excursions continued until dawn, and it was only with daylight that the enemy’s retirement and our own situation became clear.

 

Back at XRAY, as soon as the first flares appeared, unloading ceased, boats cast off and headed for the beach, and all ships were darkened and got underway promptly. Under cover of darkness and rain, they moved out Lengo Channel to the eastward at about 10 knots. Some reports indicate that this was done without orders, but the truth seems to be that some of the ships failed to receive the orders issued and merely followed the others. There was great tenseness as our ships laid to, expecting attack momentarily and knowing that it would be difficult to distinguish friend from enemy. The Betelgeuse diary records that “all ships were covered at all times with our guns in case they turned out to be enemy. It is most remarkable that none of our ships in the transport group fired on any other ship during the entire period, although all ships must have had each other covered and the slightest mis-move on anyone’s part would have caused much indiscriminate firing.”

The minesweeper Hopkins, on which was the Commander of the Minesweeper Division, offers an example of the confusion which prevailed that night. After receiving from the Task Force Commander a dispatch which could not be broken down, the Hopkins could not again contact the Commander. She then failed to find the transports near XRAY. She next stood out around the northwest corner of Guadalcanal, the Task Group Commander having “received no information as to existing situation, the intentions of TFC, the disposition of own or enemy forces. He was unable to make contact with any transports and was doubtful as to the Hopkins’ position . . .” A request for a verification of the dispatch resulted in another cypher to which the Hopkins had no key.

Admiral Crutchley on the Australia had very little more success in obtaining a picture of the situation. After his midnight conference he had decided not to return to his southern cruiser group. The Australia had just begun a patrol of her own within the destroyer circle at XRAY when the flares were dropped over the beach and gunfire was seen near Savo. Admiral Crutchley at once ordered the Australia to a position about 7 miles west of XRAY to patrol on courses 060°-240°, in order to be in a position to intercept any of the enemy who might break through our cruisers. At the same time he ordered those of our destroyers not engaged to concentrate on the Australia in this position. This order, however, was sent out in a cypher not generally understood, and most of our destroyers proceeded to concentrate at the previously assigned rendezvous 5 miles northwest of Savo.

Meanwhile Admiral Crutchley was able to obtain only the most fragmentary news of the action. The Chicago reported her damage and that the Canberra was burning near Savo, but nothing could be learned of the Vincennes group. At about 0500 Admiral Crutchley, acting upon orders from Admiral Turner, instructed the Commander of Destroyer Squadron FOUR to investigate the condition of the Canberra and Patterson (it was believed the latter might have been damaged) and to abandon and destroy them if they could not join in the withdrawal planned for 0630. At 0545 the situation remained obscure, and Admiral Crutchley sent a message to the escort forces ordering them to be prepared to give battle at dawn near the transports.

 

OUR DESTROYERS

Two of our destroyers, the Ellet and the Henley , were stationed off Tulagi. The Henley received Admiral Crutchley’s order to concentrate at 0206, deciphered it correctly, and attempted to join the Australia. She failed to find the cruiser, however, nearly collided with the Mugford, wandered about in the heavy rain and fog for several hours and finally turned to the XRAY area about dawn. On the way toward the beach she made sound contact with a submarine and dropped depth charges without positive results.

 

The Ellet had received Patterson’s warning of strange ships entering the harbor and saw the gunfire which followed. As the transports seemed safe within Tulagi inner harbor, the Ellet closed the scene of action at once. “Ceiling was low, visibility was reduced by moderate rain. Identification of own and enemy force was difficult.” The action was over before she arrived. Upon approaching a burning ship, she found it was the Astoria and began to pick up survivors who had been forced overboard, shortly moving along to rescue survivors from the Quincy. Before 0700 she had picked up nearly 500 officers and men. Of the destroyers stationed at XRAY, Dewey and Hull appear to have remained in the vicinity through the action. The Mugford, however, upon seeing gunfire to seaward, lighted off two more boilers and headed for the destroyer rendezvous at 25 knots. This was about 0210. After steaming a few minutes she encountered (and nearly collided with) the Henley. After some time near the latter and after some conversation with ComDesDiv SEVEN, Comdr. Robert Hall Smith, the Mugford moved on toward Savo. She passed men in the water before reaching the rendezvous, where she found the Selfridge.

 

That destroyer, with ComDesRon FOUR (Capt. Cornelius W. Flynn) aboard, had received Admiral Crutchley’s message shortly after 0200, misunderstood it as an order to concentrate northwest of Savo, and headed northwest at 20 knots. On the way she passed the burning Astoria and men in the water. After waiting at the rendezvous for a while, she saw the Mugford come up and fall in astern. The Helm and Wilson were also present. The Selfridge was returning to the transport area when she was ordered to stand by the Canberra. Upon arriving in the vicinity of the cruiser at 0640 she found the Patterson already removing personnel.

End of Part 4