Submarine Construction Update Reply

I was sent an article today that is very important to those who follow naval ship construction. The author is Hugh Lessig, a writer for the Daily Press at  http://www.dailypress.com/

I am reprinting his article with permission.

New Generation of Submarines Is Biggest Question for Huntington Ingalls

Hugh Lessig, Daily Press, Dec 3

“The biggest question facing the nation’s largest military shipbuilder is how will Congress pay for the next generation of ballistic missile submarines, the head of Huntington Ingalls Industries said Thursday.

Aircraft carriers and amphibious warships aside, CEO Mike Petters said the funding strategy for replacing Ohio-class submarines is the number-one issue for the industry, not just the company.

“That could become our greatest opportunity and could also become our greatest risk, if it’s not done right,” Petters said at the Credit Suisse Industrials Conference in Florida.

The Navy plans to replace its aging Ohio-class submarines with a new 12-boat fleet. It wants to purchase the first submarine in 2021. By 2026, it will buy one each year.

But the new subs come with a significant price tag, so Congress created a special fund to pay for them. The National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund is separate from the Navy’s annual shipbuilding budget, and two lawmakers are credited with pushing it: Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn.

They are major advocates for the only two U.S. shipyards that build nuclear-powered submarines: HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat of Groton, Conn.

Some questioned whether a submarine program should be funded outside the Navy budget. Supporters say the nuclear-missile-armed subs are a national asset because they constitutes the undersea portion of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Newport News and Electric Boat are expected to share the work of building the Ohio-class replacement boats, although those details haven’t been worked out. Electric Boat recently cut the ribbon on a new facility in Quonset Point, R.I., to build components for the new subs. The company has added 600 workers in the past year, according to Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.

If Congress uses the deterrence fund like a savings account, socking away money for big bills coming due in the 2020s, the military shipbuilding base can stay healthy, Petters said. If it has to find the money for the subs in its annual shipbuilding budget, that could spell trouble.

At a Forbes-chaired hearing earlier this week, Eric J. Labs, a Congressional Budget Office senior analyst, laid out the sobering math in the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan.

The 2016 plan calls for buying 264 ships at $494 billion over three decades, according to the Navy’s numbers. CBO estimates those same ships would cost $552 billion — and the price is higher when mid-life aircraft carrier refuelings and other work is included.

In other words, if the shipbuilding budget remains static, “the service would not be able to afford its 2016 plan,” Labs said.

He also looked at how the Ohio-class replacement boats impact the 30-year plan.

The first Ohio-class replacement sub is estimated to cost $12.1 billion, including initial research, development and engineering, the Navy says. Boats that follow will cost about $5.7 billion on average. CBO’s estimates are even higher: $13.2 billion for the first in class and $6.8 billion for the 2nd through 12th ships.

Bottom line: With a static shipbuilding budget and a big-ticket submarine fleet, the Navy would end up buying 192 ships over 30 years, not its stated goal of 264, Labs said.

That’s a big concern for HII, which builds destroyers and amphibious warships at its Ingalls Shipbuilding division in Pascagoula, Miss. Those ship programs are more likely to be affected than the aircraft carrier program at Newport News, because the law requires an 11-carrier fleet. There is no such protection for other surface combat ships.

“If the decision is, we’re going to pay for (the new submarines) out of normal shipbuilding accounts, then many, many programs will be impacted over a long period of time,” said Petters. “That will have a tremendously negative impact to the entire shipbuilding industrial base.”

One thing is clear: The new submarines will be built.

“This is a national priority, and it will happen,” Petters said. “It’s a question of, will it crowd out anything else?””

Mister Mac

More…

If you want a Safe Space, here’s a thought Reply

SUBSAFE is a quality assurance program of the United States Navy designed to maintain the safety of the nuclear submarine fleet; specifically, to provide maximum reasonable assurance that subs’ hulls will stay watertight, and that they can recover from unanticipated flooding.

SUBSAFE covers all systems exposed to sea pressure or critical to flooding recovery. All work done and all materials used on those systems are tightly controlled to ensure the material used in their assembly as well as the methods of assembly, maintenance, and testing are correct. They require certification with traceable quality evidence. These measures increase the cost of submarine construction and maintenance.

SUBSAFE addresses only flooding; mission assurance is not a concern, simply a side benefit. Other safety programs and organizations regulate such things as fire safety, weapons systems safety, and nuclear reactor systems safety.

From 1915 to 1963, the United States Navy lost 16 submarines to non-combat related causes. Since SUBSAFE began in 1963, only one submarine, the non-SUBSAFE-certified USS Scorpion (SSN-589), has been lost.

History

On 10 April 1963, while on a deep test dive about 200 miles off the northeast coast of the United States, USS Thresher (SSN-593) was lost with all hands. The loss of the lead ship of a new, fast, quiet, deep-diving class of submarines led the Navy to re-evaluate the methods used to build its submarines. A “Thresher Design Appraisal Board” determined that, although the basic design of the Thresher class was sound, measures should be taken to improve the condition of the hull and the ability of submarines to control and recover from flooding casualties.

SUBSAFE certification is carried out in four areas; Design, Material, Fabrication, & Testing. The exact procedures are documented in the initial design & construction for new submarines, while undergoing routine maintenance in naval depots, and in the fleet maintenance manual for operating submarines. During each step, quality evidence is collected, reviewed, approved, and stored for the life of the submarine. This process is reinforced with external and internal audits.

ous Sub safe space

Something Meaningful 11

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Long time readers of my blog know that I have some very strong feelings about Veteran’s Day. As someone who served his country in times of war and peace, I am always humbled when another person recognizes me as a veteran and thanks me for my service. I have struggled for a long time with a quick response that would be meaningful and am gladdened to just have the ability to say “You are Welcome”.

I joined the Navy in 1972 and had every intention of serving someplace where the action was. Call it youthful ignorance, call it just plain naivety, or just call it a lack of understanding of the sacrifices many men and women actually endured. But I was convinced that I was supposed to serve and survive to a ripe old age. The service I actually did was  much less dramatic than I had imagined it would be. I became a submariner and served on five different boats with varying lengths of time in either a shipyard or at sea. While we sacrificed our time and endured some level of dangers, I am fully aware that the many years I spent under water paled in comparison to those who served in combat. I make a small joke from time to time about the aggressors we faced as being less personal; they were never actually aiming their weapons at me personally, just the sub in general (which makes it less intrusive I suppose).

My brothers and sisters who faced actual hostile fire knew combat as a much more personal affair. Someone with a gun was intentionally trying to kill them. Not very much about that is oblique or hard to imagine. The one with the better shot, advantage or opportunity was destined to be the victor. The combat was no longer about slogans or jingoes or flag waving. It was about survival. The men and women who found themselves locked in this kind of war more often thought about getting back alive or making sure they had their buddies six.

We as a nation, owe these people a lot. They were our hands and feet and placed themselves between us and people who want to do us harm. We will rely on their reliefs for a long time to come. The world is still a dangerous place and no amount of well wishing handwringing diplomacy has seemed to diminish that fact at all. Don’t get me wrong. I want the dreamers and the idealists to continue to try and find a way to bring peace to the world. I pray for them to do so. But I also pray that we will continue to have men and women willing to step up and do the things needed to protect all of us until that day comes.

For the restaurants and service companies who always line up to show their gratitude, I have a request. To all the restaurants that are offering me a free meal on Veteran’s Day, I want to sincerely thank you for your gesture. Its very nice of you to remember. I actually have plans that day. Here’s an idea though… maybe you can offer that free meal to one of my homeless brothers or sisters that really needs it. You don’t even have to wait until November 11, because I am sure they are pretty hungry tonight. While you are at it, can you have your corporate offices contact the White House and Congress and remind them they have a sacred obligation to care for the people who they sent off to fight the wars they engaged in? Imagine if everyone on that long list that always appears this time of year really did that for our brothers and sisters still trying to get all the way back home? God Bless You.

Special note: This is a personal request. I in no way would dishonor the men and women who really deserve the recognition like those who survived being shot at, bombed, gassed, taken prisoner, or depth charged. You are my heroes and you deserve so much more than a free meal once a year. But go ahead and enjoy the meal offered. God Bless you too.

To my country: It was and always will be my greatest honor and achievement that I was able to wear your uniform and provide one small contribution to your freedom. I would gladly do it again.

Mister Mac

submarine

90 Days to nowhere… Submarine Documentary 1977 4

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Another great video from a bygone era. The 41 for Freedom Boats were still in their glory and the USS Ohio was going through its growing pains at the shipyard at Electric Boat. While the patrol cycle is sometimes given short shrift by non-boomer sailors, it had a unique purpose and involved a large number of men in both operations and support.  The operations tempo and the transition to the newer subs is very nicely described here:

http://fas.org/blogs/security/2009/03/usssbn/

But for a closer look at what it was like to be a seventies boomer sailor, click on this link:

 

As veterans day once more approaches, I am reminded how great a price was paid by so many men and women in my lifetime alone to preserve the peace. I salute you all.

Mister Mac

Submarine Documentary 1971 2

uss-washingtonb

My, how quickly the past 44 years have gone by. This documentary shows a bit about nuclear submarines during the middle of the Cold War.

Description from the You Tube site:

“This outstanding U.S. Navy film from 1971 — “The Submarine Part II: Backgrounds, Characteristics and Missions of Nuclear Powered Submarines” focuses on the nuclear submarines of the 1970s. The film shows how the nuclear attack submarine and the fleet ballistic missile submarines, with their sophisticated technologies and nuclear weapons capability, can provide enormous deterrent power for the United States and its allies. Both SSN nuclear attack submarines and SSBN nuclear missile submarines are shown, including Polaris missile submarines firing the A-3 missile and Poseidon. The film also traces the history of the nuclear submarine in the U.S. Navy starting in the 1950s, including the USS Nautilus and the USS George Washington (see 18 minute mark). The USS Albacore is shown at the 5 minute mark, a boat with a unique hull design that ended up becoming standard for the Navy, including with the USS Skipjack. Some of the submarines featured include the USS Sturgeon, SSN-637, USS Greenling SSN-614, fleet ballistic missile submarines, and more. The Polaris A-1 and Polaris A-2 are also shown, as well as the Polaris A-3.

The SUBROC submarine rocket is shown at the 14 minute mark — predecessor to the submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missile.

Also shown in this film is the DSRV-1 (27 minute mark) deep submergence rescue vehicle and the Alvin (27:30) miniature submarine and AUTEC 1 and 2, as well as the Dolphin and NR-1 research vehicle.

The Polaris missile was a two-stage Solid-fuel rocket nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) built during the Cold War by Lockheed Corporation of California for the United States Navy.

It was designed to be used for second strike countervalue (CEP not good enough for first strike counterforce) as part of the Navy’s contribution to the United States arsenal of nuclear weapons, replacing the Regulus cruise missile. Known as a Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM), the Polaris was first launched from the Cape Canaveral, Florida, missile test base on January 7, 1960.

Following the Polaris Sales Agreement in 1963, Polaris missiles were also carried on British Royal Navy submarines between 1968 and the mid-1990s.

Plans to equip the Italian Navy with the missile ended in the mid-60s, after several successful test launches carried out on board the Italian cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi. Despite the successful launching tests, the US never provided the missiles, due to political convenience. Instead the Italian Government set to develop an indigenous missile, called Alfa, with a successful program, officially halted by Italian Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ratification and failure of the NATO Multilateral Force.

The Polaris missile was gradually replaced on 31 of the 41 original SSBNs in the US Navy by the MIRV-capable Poseidon missile beginning in 1972. During the 1980s, these missiles were replaced on twelve of these submarines by the Trident I missile. The ten George Washington- and Ethan Allen-class SSBNs retained Polaris A-3 until 1980 because their missile tubes were not large enough to accommodate Poseidon. With USS Ohio commencing sea trials in 1980, these submarines were disarmed and redesignated as attack submarines to avoid exceeding the SALT II strategic arms treaty limits.

Many new project management techniques were introduced during the development of the Polaris missile program, to deal with the inherent system complexity. This includes the use of the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). This technique replaced the simpler Gantt chart methodology which was largely employed prior to this program.”

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.

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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