How the US Navy almost missed “The Boat” 1

Holland and Amphitrite

Prior to World War 1, the General Board of the United States Navy was the primary instrument used for directing the strategic future of the U. S. Navy. This General Board had been instituted in 1900 as a way to provide expert advice to the Secretary of the Navy and was made up of nine admirals nearing the end of their time in service. The Navy leadership had already discounted, “by doctrine and experience” the need or importance of building submarines. Even the emphasis on the future use of submarines was questioned. In a report to Secretary Josephus Daniels in 1915, the General Board stated:

“The deeds of submarines have been so spectacular that in default of engagements between the main fleets undue weight has been attached to them… To hastily formed public opinion, it seemed that the submarines were accomplishing great military results because little else of importance occurred in the maritime war to attract public attention. Yet at the present time, when the allies have learned in great measure to protect their commerce, as they learned a few months earlier to protect their cruisers from the submarine menace, it is apparent that the submarine is not an instrument fitted to dominate naval warfare…

The submarine is a most useful auxiliary whose importance will no doubt increase, but at the present there is no evidence that it will become supreme.”

In 1915, the Office of Chief of Naval Operations was created and the General Board’s influence started a slow but steady decline in influence. It was eventually dissolved in 1951. Coincidently, the USS Nautilus was first authorized in August of 1951.

Mister Mac

USS Threadfin SS 410 – War in the Pacific 1945 Reply

The war in the Pacific was spread over a vast ocean. The Japanese started the war with many advantages due to the surprise attacks at Pearl Harbor and their use of naval air in overcoming the allied naval forces. One of the strengths that the United States was able to use very early on was its submarine forces. The S boats of the pre war era soon gave way to much more sophisticated fleet boats with longer ranges and better weapons systems. By 1944, American shipyards were building submarines that would prove to be more than a match for anything the Japanese could muster to defeat them.

One of those submarines was the USS Threadfin SS -410.

300px-USS_Threadfin;0841003

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced 1,526 t., Submerged 2,401 t.; Length 311′ 8″; Beam 27′ 3″; Draft 15′ 3″; Speed, Surfaced 20.25 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts; Cruising Range, 11,000 miles surfaced at 10 kts; Submerged Endurance, 48 hours at 2 kts; Operating Depth, 400 ft; Complement 6 Officers 60 Enlisted; Armament, ten 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes, one 5″/25 deck gun, one single 40mm gun mount, one single 20mm gun mount, two .50 cal. machine guns; Patrol Endurance 75 days; Propulsion, diesel-electric reduction gear, four Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines, 5,400 HP, Fuel Capacity, 116,000 gal., four Elliot Motor Co. electric main motors with 2,740 shp, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.

USS Threadfin was a was the only vessel of the United States Navy to be named for the threadfin, any of a family of fishes related to the mullets and distinguished by filamentous rays on the lower part of the pectoral fin. Her original name was the Sole but the name was changed on 24 September 1942 to Threadfin.

Threadfin New Construction

Threadfin was laid down on 18 March 1944 at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. She was launched on 26 June 1944 sponsored by Mrs. Frank G. Fox, and commissioned on 30 August 1944 with Commander John J. Foote in command.

Training and trials out of Portsmouth followed her final completion late in September. After transiting the Panama Canal in mid-November, the submarine reached Pearl Harbor early in December and conducted intensive training in preparation for her first war patrol.

Threadfin Leaving New London

Baptism Under Fire

Threadfin received her baptism under fire on January #0, 1945 on her first war patrol off the coast of Honshu. She was depth charged by several Japanese PC’s. The first close charges were received while she was running at 300 foot depth and that impact caused serious leak in cross-connection piping between compensating line and motor cooling system in motor room. Salt water spray barely missed energized her control cubicle bus bars which would have proved catastrophic. A bucket brigade was formed to keep water the level in the bilges below the main motors. The boat sank and bottomed in 450 feet of water for the remainder of attack and the ruptured line was blanked. No other damage was sustained. The ship remained on patrol.

Following a month there for refit and training, Threadfin embarked upon her second war patrol on 14 March. She initially joined a coordinated attack group composed of herself, and submarines Sea Dog (SS-401) and Trigger (SS-237). During her five-day tour with that wolf pack, Threadfin made two attacks on enemy shipping. On the afternoon of 28 March, she came across two Japanese destroyer escort-type warships and apparently dispatched one with a single hit from a spread of six torpedoes. The stricken warship’s screws stopped while her colleague’s depth charge attack deprived Threadfin of definite knowledge of the ultimate result. That evening, the submarine tangled with a convoy composed of two small trawlers and four luggers. During the ensuing surface gun engagement, the submarine inflicted serious damage on two of the luggers, moderate damage on the trawlers, and minor damage on the remaining pair of luggers. Though disconcerting, the Japanese return fire proved ineffectual.

Threadfin Battle Flag

Threadfin went on to gain one more War Patrol Star and lived on well after the war. She participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and was later transferred to the Turkish Navy.

The men of the Silent Service truly made an impact on the outcome of the War in the Pacific by sinking more tonnage per capita than any other ship type. Their continued service during the Cold War ensured that the threat of communist aggression was always held in check. Each of those brave men deserve our nation’s gratitude.

Mister Mac

 

Failure is not an option Reply

failure is not an option

The nature of submarine warfare has always been filled with an equal mix of adventure, bravery and precision. The adventure starts the minute the boat becomes free from the pier. Gliding along on the surface of any of the rivers and bodies of waters they sail from is only the first part of the journey. In the early days, the noise of the gasoline or diesel engines coupled with the ever present smoke seemed to push the little craft towards her destiny. Later nuclear submarines were quieter but the wake of a passing sub was still enough of an indication that an adventure was about to begin.

As the submarine cleared the channel and reached the dive point, all hands felt the tension as the boat was rigged for its dive. Preliminary preparations were in place and the final actions just needed to be completed as the submarine transformed from a clumsy surface dweller to a steely eyed killer of the deep.  One thing that was the constant throughout the entire evolution though… failure is not an option. The equipment, the men, the boat itself must perform as flawlessly as possible in order for the mission to be complete. Failure in any one of these could be catastrophic for the crew.

The level of detail in planning and preparation before the boat even hits the water starts a life long journey of excellence that is the hallmark for a modern submarine. After all, this boat will be operating independently for most of its life with only the skills of the builders and the operators separating the crew from certain death. The qualification program is hard and the ongoing training is comprehensive. But it is the steel inside each and every qualified submariner that defines the toughness of the submarine service. They must train their minds to live in a confined space with others and think at least two steps ahead at all times. They anticipate the problems they hope will never come and even in their sleep they remain vigilant for the sounds that indicate a change… ventilation shifts, motors changing ion intensity, even the 400 cycle hum. All of these could indicate a problem that will need answering as quickly as possible.

Submariners of all generations share one thing in common whether they served on an old S boat, Fleet Boat, Guppy, Fast Attack or Boomer. They all understand that at any given moment, the only thing that stands between failure and success is a qualified submariner who has made the ultimate promise to themselves and their shipmates; Failure is not an option. Not on my watch.

Mister Mac

theleansubmariner

Ohio at Bangor 2

Its been a while – But things are about to ramp up again at theleansubmariner (TLS) 1

About four months ago, the company I have been working for announced a downsizing of the facility I am working at. During that time, I have shifted my focus from lean and six sigma for continuous improvement to one of my older skill sets: Project Manager.

With a change in focus has come less time to blog but that is about to change over the next month. I have been collecting some story ideas from my WW2 research and will start with some fresh stories that are in line with the submarine side of the blog.

If you are a submariner, I would encourage you to join the USSVI and meet with the National Convention in Pittsburgh PA in September.

http://www.ussviconventionsteelcity2015.org/

Thanks for the continued visits… 235,000 is a pretty good number

Mister Mac

Gunfighters on the Java Sea – May 28 1945 2

Japara MapI have been chronicling the actions of the US Forces in the Pacific fleet for a number of months and in doing so have found some really great stories with a lot of detail about how the war was progressing in mid 1945. One of those stories started with a small footnote about a wolf pack operation in the Java Sea conducted by the submarines USS Blueback (SS-326) (Balao-class submarine – commissioned 1944) and USS Lamprey (SS-372) (Balao-class submarine – commissioned 1944) as they battled the Japanese submarine chaser Ch.1 in a surface gunnery action off Japara, N.E.I., 06°28’S, 110°37’E.

 

 

Sub chaser

 

What I like most about these stories is the human face they put on the war’s prosecution. The Blueback’s war patrol records and deck logs have been preserved and I was able to trace the action in the words and sometimes very interesting thoughts of her skipper M.K. Clementson Cdr. USN. one small example came in his final report where he spoke about crewmembers who were departing before the mission began. While reading the original report, I was a bit confused for a few moments about the upcoming re-assignment of Lt. James Mercer who had completed 13 war patrols.

Lt. James Mercer departing

By this time in the war, many of the submarine skippers were modifying their deck guns to suit the missions they would be conducting. During his refit in Perth AU prior to commencing the third war patrol, Clementson and his crew rearranged the location and firing support devices for much of his topside weaponry. The hope was that with an increased capacity to conduct surface operations, they would be able to have more flexibility in attacking the dwindling enemy surface fleet and merchant fleet. During the third war patrol, Blueback would get credit for sinking one patrol boat using surface tactics.

Night Action – Java Sea

This story occurs on May 28th in the Java Sea. While the world and most of the military was still focused on the continuing battle of Okinawa, patrols by the US Submarine force continued all across the pacific. The boats that had been rushed into service during the previous few years had finally started overcoming the torpedo problems of the early years. Success after success had started piling up and even though submarine losses also took their toll, new fleet boats were adding to the overall efforts in ways never before imagined. At 0355 on the morning of the 28th, Blueback had just completed a secret mission and was beginning her patrol. She sighted what she thought was a Jap destroyer at 0510 and sent a report to the Wolf Pack she was operating with.

From that moment on, she would join with the Lamprey in a running torpedo and gun battle in the Java Sea.

The Balao  submarine classs was made up of 120 boats and those were typically armed with the following weapons:

10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
(six forward, four aft)
24 torpedoes
1 × 5-inch (127 mm) / 25 caliber deck gun (which replaced the 4-inch 102mm gun installed at the beginning of their service)
Bofors 40 mm and Oerlikon 20 mm cannon

5_inch_25_caliber_gun_USS_Bowfin 640px-Boffin_40mm_bofors_cfb_borden_1 c7c38083acef7a46e63e1cf387b73eae

During her overhaul prior to WP 3, the guns on the Blueback were modified as follows: the twin 20 MM was moved from the cigarette deck to the main deck forward and a second 40mm was installed on the cigarette deck. They also installed specially braced mountings for twin 50 caliber machine guns and twin 30 caliber machine guns on the bridge. In short, the Blueback was loaded for bear and was ready to take on any targets she would encounter on the surface.

Wolf Pack – American Style

German submarines are well known for Wolf Pack tactics that resulted in horrific losses. Not as well known are the Wolf Packs that the US Forces operated in during the Pacific campaign. Starting with the coordinated attacks of the USS Cero, many combined operations were mounted. At first, there was a reluctance among the individual skippers to advocate for this type of operation. But some, including Captain Swede Momsen saw the need for new tactics in this war . USS Cero cleared New London 17 August 1943 for Pacific waters, and on 26 September sailed from Pearl Harbor, bound for the East China and Yellow Seas on her first war patrol. This patrol was also the first American wolfpack, comprising Cero, Shad (SS-235), and Grayback (SS-208), commanded from Cero by Captain Swede” Momsen.

Torpedo Attack

At 0843, the Blueback submerged and began a day long track and search pattern looking for the contact the had sighted at 0520 and at 1910 sighted a submarine that was identified as the USS Lamprey. At 1954, she surfaced and  communicated with Lamprey using blinker lights. At that time Blueback was informed about the three targets in the Japara anchorage. Plans were then exchanged for the hunt. At 2010, there was a radar contact which the skipper verified was not a submarine. The contact was at approximately 12,000 yards and zig zagging.

From the action report:

“Can just barely get in a night tracking surface approach before the just rising full moon gets too high. Tracking 10 knots, base course 090 true. Am convinced this is our OOD. Will have enough moon before shooting to make certain it is not a submarine.”

One of the greatest fears of submarine commanders concerning the Wolf Pack approach was in not shooting a fellow American submariner in the heat of the battle. Our technology in weapons firing and ship identification was pretty basic during that war so this was a real concern.

At 2033, confident of his target, Blueback headed in at flank speed.

At 2102, Blueback slowed to 2/3 speed. He received a message from the HMS THOROUGH giving his position and stating that a patrol craft has been patrolling in the area all day. Target was not THOROUGH. Target definitely not submarine. (Note: HMS Thorough was a British T class submarine that served in the Far East for much of her wartime career, where she sank twenty seven Japanese sailing vessels, seven coasters, a small Japanese vessel, a Japanese barge, a small Japanese gunboat, a Japanese trawler, and the Malaysian sailing vessel Palange)

At 2107, with confidence that the vessel was not a submarine, Blueback fired five MK 18-2 torpedoes forward. Torpedo run was 3000 yards.  At 2109, the skipper turned the boat and fired 2 MK-14-3A torpedoes aft, torpedo run 2200 yards. All missed and as a good close broadside view of the target was obtained, it was discovered that this was not a destroyer but a patrol boat.  Blueback headed away at 19 knots. The patrol boat headed away from a torpedo that broached just ahead of him.

Blueback’s skipper made a note in the log:

“Made mental note to always use binocular formula hereafter in an attempt to avoid such costly errors in the future. Even with grim visions of my income tax soaring to the stratosphere. Won’t be able to look a taxpayer in the eye.”

At this point he slows the ship and manned the 5″ and two 40mm gins and informed Lamprey who was 9-10,000 yards to the northwest.

Open Fire

At 2135, Blueback opened fire and immediately got some hits. These hits resulted in a small fire being started on the patrol ship’s forward action station. He commenced returning fire , too accurately according to reports with 25mm explosive shells.

at 2140, Blueback laid a smoke screen and opened range. The moon was brilliant by that time and very low. Blueback was heading into the moon and was weaving to each side trying to distribute the smoke in any direction but true west. The target’s gunfire was on them every time they emerges from either side of the narrow screen.

At 2143, Lamprey opened fire with her 5′ gun but in the words of the Blueback CO “The silly target didn’t know enough to shoot at him.” Then Blueback opened range to 6500 yards and headed to join the Lamprey. The target was making radical maneuvers and returning fire on both Lamprey and Blueback by this time with four guns. The Lamprey skipper reported that “his aim was not very good”. Lamprey expended 40 rounds of 5″ ammunition and recorded two sure hits.

At 2200, Blueback fired a few more rounds of 5″ at his gun flashes but when he ceased firing, there was no more point of aim. Blueback decided to call it a draw (except that Blueback was not hit thanks to the smoke screen.) Lamprey made the same decision at 2209 and the engagement was completed. Blueback’s skipper records in his log that better night sights and star shells would have helped considerable to eliminate “this boil on the heel”.

Lessons learned from the action that night:

1. Get and keep the TARGET up moon,

2. Concentrate forces on initial attack.

At 2207, Blueback set course for new area, 3 engines… At 2339, Lamprey departed for her new patrol area in the Karimata Strait.

The CH-1 would survive the rest of the war but had one more brush with the American submarine fleet.  On the 16th of July 1945: West of Surabaya, Java, she was escorting gunboat NANKAI (ex-Dutch minelayer REGULUS) when they were attacked by LCDR William H. Hazzard’s  USS BLENNY (SS-324). Hazzard fires a total of 12 torpedoes in a night surface radar attack and claims four hits that sink NANKAI at 05-26S, 110-33E. At about 0700, Hazzard finds and shells CH-1 with his 5-inch deck gun. BLENNY gets two hits that set CH-1 on fire at 05-16S, 110-17E.

http://www.combinedfleet.com/CH-1_t.htm

Despite two attacks, CH-1 survives the war and is finally scuttled by the Royal Navy in Singapore in 1946.

Both Blueback and Lamprey also survive the war. Guns would be removed from the decks of post war submarines for a host of reasons. Submarines evolved through technology to be more effective under the water during all modes of warfare and a deck gun was no longer needed or practical. One of the many enemies a submarine fought was the airplane and post war development of antisubmarine air forces increased the danger of being on the surface for any period of time. But having those guns on board WW2 boats was a critical factor during the early months and years where the unreliable torpedo corrupted the ultimate mission of a submarine. The other factor of not wasting a torpedo on smaller craft played a key role as well

Seventy years has passed since that night action on the Java Sea. The bravery of those men on both sides under some very difficult conditions is a testament to the strength found in men who are committed to a cause.

Mister Mac

By the way, come to Pittsburgh this September 7-13 and celebrate the heroes of the US Navy submarine forces.

USSVU National Convention web site:     http://www.ussviconventionsteelcity2015.org/

1 USSVI-Pittsburgh Convention-Large

 

 

 

 

Listen… that is the sound of freedom you hear 1

I have many heroes and men that I admire. The swaggering sailor in the middle is my favorite. He was also the epitome of how we should recognize Memorial Day.

San Francisco

I will be thinking about him a lot over the next two days as we visit the quiet and secluded graveyards along the Monongahela in the hills and valleys of Elizabeth Boro, Elizabeth Township, and Forward Township. We will be alone in most of those visits. But we are not doing it for the living. We fire our volleys for the ones who are at rest. Men who gave their all in the many ways through this countries history.

While you are at your soccer games or sleeping in on a day of rest, listen for the sounds of those rifles being fired. The three volleys comes from an old battlefield custom. The two warring sides would cease hostilities to clear their dead from the battlefield, and the firing of three volleys meant that the dead had been properly cared for and the side was ready to resume the battle. When we salute our fallen heroes, we once again resume our battle for freedom. We do it every day when we fight for the rights and promises of a free nation. We honor them by spiritually taking up the fight even as the sound of the last volley fades into the wooded hills and valleys they will never see again.

Listen for those sounds. Those are the sounds of freedom. If the day ever comes that they are silenced, it will mean the very freedom they represent.

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Mister Mac

Silent Service: Submarine Warfare in WW2 2

Chub 2 Chub 3 Chub

As Memorial Day 2015 approaches, I am once again reminded that submarine sailors paid a heavy price during the second World War in a way that is vastly more expensive that nearly any other type of war fighting based on a per capita measurement.

This video certainly captures many of the issues they faced.

225,000 Visits… Nicely done! 2

The leansubmariner just went over 225,000 visits today. That’s pretty cool. I can’t tel you how much I appreciate your visits and those that come back for a second and maybe even a third look.

Live has been pretty interesting lately. The place where I have been working is in the process of mothballing due to changes in the sales in our market. At first, it was pretty disheartening since I was comfortable and I was looking forward to a day sometime in the future when I could write full time. That may come sooner than I had expected but I am still measuring the impact of the shrinking workforce.

I have been very busy this spring so far posting on my World War 2 in the Pacific page on Facebook. Every day, there are entries from historic records and sprinkled in between are letters from my Dad to his parents during the same time period. If you get a chance, check it out. I intend to continue posting stories there until the anniversary of the end of the Second World war in the Pacific.

https://www.facebook.com/WarInThePacific19411946

800px-USS_Bunker_Hill_hit_by_two_Kamikazes 1945_05_12_bb40_kamikaze_a

Thanks again for the visits. I will be back with more submarine stories in the very near future.

Mister Mac

Now Read This – “Empire Rising” by Rick Campbell 1

empire rising

 

Years ago, I read my first Tom Clancy book, “Hunt for Red October”. I have always enjoyed reading and novels that held stories that could be plausible given the right circumstances have always intrigued me.

Being a former submariner, I have had to suspend my disbelief in many cases in order to enjoy the story. While I have not been on a boat for over twenty years, there are still some things that are possible and some things that would require a great leap of technological ability to pass the believability test.

What I loved about Tom Clancy was his ability to tell a story in such a way that I didn’t get too hung up on the technical details that might have made the story nothing more than an inert fantasy. Tom just had a way of making you want to believe that it could happen just the way the words in the book said they did.

Rick Campbell has captured that same ability. From the minute you begin the book to the minute you end, he creates pictures which include you as a close in observer. Whether it is on the deck of a submarine or in some remote corner of the Great Hall, you find yourself able to be swept up by the action and quickly gain an emotional investment in the characters. This book moves quickly and draws you in to every scene.

I will be honest in admitting that in the past I have often had difficulty reading a novel that blends technology, world events, and the action components without being skeptical. Empire Rising has broken through that skepticism. What impresses me is that his writing successfully blends the genres enough to allow me to believe it is real. I think this book in particular will appeal to many people who are actively following the growth of China (Spratly Islands, the unmistakable upward growth trend of the Chinese Navy plus the natural element of danger emanating from the two China’s).

I highly recommend that you buy this book. I highly recommend that you turn off the TV, Computer, radio and send the wife to the mall and the kids to camp. Barricade yourself into your man cave and enjoy the read. It’s the kind of adventure where suspending your disbelief is not as difficult as it might have been.

Oh yeah… remember to breathe every once in a while when you do read it.

You’ll thank me for that reminder later.

http://www.rickcampbellauthor.com/Submarine-Novels-Military-Thrillers-Espionage-Books.html

Mister Mac

 

 

America as a leader – Truman’s April 16 1945 Address to the Nation Reply

On April 16, 1945, Harry S. Truman, newly appointed President of the United States gave an address to a Joint session of Congress and to the American people via a radio address at 1PM.

The speech was designed to let the people of this country and the world know that the legacy of leadership that evolved during the years of the second World War were not to be interrupted with the recent passing of President Roosevelt.

I would predict with no hesitation that this speech would never be given by the existing leader of the American people. In its simplicity, the speech reminds America and the world that this country is not only an exceptional country but one that has a destiny to lead others around the world that seek freedom. Rather than shunning our responsibility, he embraces it. Rather than attacking his country for the mistakes it had made in the past, he emphasizes what good we can bring to leading the world in the future.

I have never read the speech before today. I am glad it came onto my radar screen as I was writing my daily story for    https://www.facebook.com/WarInThePacific19411946

It will give me a lot to think about as I ponder what direction this country must go in to restore some of that leadership role once 2017 arrives.

Here is a small part of the speech that I feel best captures what we were about in Harry’s eyes:

Today, America has become one of the most powerful forces for good on earth. We must keep it so. We have achieved a world leadership which does not depend solely upon our military and naval might.

We have learned to fight with other nations in common defense of our freedom. We must now learn to live with other nations for our mutual good. We must learn to trade more with other nations so that there may be-for our mutual advantage-increased product ion, increased employment and better standards of living throughout the world.

May we Americans all live up to our glorious heritage.

In that way, America may well lead the world to peace and prosperity.

At this moment, I have in my heart a prayer. As I have assumed my heavy duties, I humbly pray Almighty God, in the words of King Solomon:

“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?”

I ask only to be a good and faithful servant of my Lord and my people.

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/ww2/stofunio.htm

I hope and pray we will regain a leadership role and truly lead as we once did.

Mister Mac

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