Saturday, December 29, 2012

History of the U.S.S. DARTER

Naval Records and History
Ships' Histories Section
Navy Department


  Drawing a strangulating ring of ships and steel closer around Japan, the Allies made their final encircling movement against Leyte in the Philippines, storming ashore on the morning of 20 October.  The landings by the US Marine Corps were the climax of the island campaign, for if they succeeded, Japan would be cut off from her oil supplies and defeat would be inevitable.

The Japanese fully realized this, and decided on a desperate gamble, throwing in their entire fleet, hoping to wipe out their enemies with one blow.  To guard this, American submarines lay across the paths that they would have to take, waiting to warn the invasion fleet and to do as much damage as they could personally.

DACE and DARTER were assigned the area off Palawan known as the Dangerous Ground, from its many uncharted shoals.  They were looking for an attack from Singapore, and in the early morning blackness of 23 October they found it -- a force composed of five battleships, ten heavy cruisers, one or two light cruisers and about fifteen destroyers . After warning the Leyte force, they moved in to attack.

The attack cost DARTER her life, but it cost the Japanese two cruisers sunk and one heavily damaged.  More than that, it cost them the element of surprise which had been their only hope, and eventually cost them their fleet.

USS DARTER's story began in the Electric Boat Company's yards at Groton, Connecticut, where her keel was laid on 20 October 1942.  She was launched on 6 June 1943 when Mrs. Edwin B. Wheeler, wife of the ship-building manager of the Electric Boat Company, christened the vessel.  DARTER was placed in commission on 7 September 1943 under the command of Commander W. S. Stovall, Jr., USN.

The new submarine then ran through tests, exercises and trials until 31 October, and then departed for the Pacific via the Panama Canal.  She arrived in Pearl Harbor on 26 November and on 21 December 1943 put to sea on her first war patrol.

A leak in her after trim tank forced her to return for repairs, but on 3 January 1944 she was again underway, setting course for Johnston Island, where she topped off her fuel bunkers.  The sea lanes off Eniwetok were her first objective.  Later she took up a patrol between Europe and Truk before shifting south of Satawan Island.

The first contact came on 26 January, when two small ships with two escorts came into view.  Before the sub could get into position, the Japanese detected her, and she was forced to break off the attack.  But on the same afternoon the masts of a tanker and two destroyer escorts were sighted over the horizon, and DARTER immediately surfaced to begin an end-around run, staying over the horizon where her low silhouette could not be detected, until she could get ahead to lie in wait for her prey.

But before she completed the maneuver, low fuel tanks warned her skipper that he must refuel, and so the chase was broken off to continue to Tulagi.  The sub arrived on 30 January and ten days later left to resume her patrol.

After three days at sea, a 7500-ton vessel with four small escorts appeared, and DARTER began running ahead of him, doubling back to make a periscope approach.  Slipping between the two leading escorts, DARTER let fly all six bow tubes, and then swung for a stern shot as the bow tubes all missed.  Twenty-five seconds after firing her first stern tubes an explosion ripped through the target, sending spray and smoek flying from amidships.  The outraged escorts immediately began a series of depth charge attacks, each "growing better with practice."  Breaking-up noises entertained the crew, as they listened to their target go down.  Two hours later DARTER was able to sweep her periscope over an empty sea.

On 17 February, a carrier strike was in progress on the enemy-held island of Truk, and all through the day bombs could be heard dropping on the Japanese.  On the 21st DARTER intercepted a message telling her of a likely target.  She soon intercepted a large vessel towing a smaller one with two escorts, but was unable to get off a shot.  She then returned, reaching Milne Bay on the 25th.

The submarine, now considered a veteran, began her second patrol on 25 March 1944, and after five days out contacted her first target, a large cargo ship with a small patrol craft escorting her.  Under cover of darkness and a rain squall, she slipped in on the beam, and fired six torpedo tubes for four hits.  The luckless freighter lost her stern in the first blast which was followed by hits spaced from the stern to the bridge.  Four minutes later the ship went down, and her escort began vigorously attacking a figment of his imagination 5,720 yards away, evoking the comment from DARTER's sound operator: "Just a third class trying to make second."

Shifting to the south of Davao, the sub spotted a task group of three cruisers and four destroyers on 6 April, but could not catch them as they made an unexpected course change and increased speed to 22 knots.  Going back to her old area east of Halmahera, the sub patrolled until 29 April when she put in at Darwin for refueling.

Two tankers with two destroyers crossed her path on 6 May, but dawn spoiled her chance for a surface attack,a nd the targets escaped while she tried to come in at periscope depth.  She returned to Manus on 23 May 1944.

Commander Stovall was relieved on 15 June by Lieutenant Commander D.H. McClintock, USN, as commanding officer.  A week later DARTER was underway for Halmahera on her third war patrol.

Her first target appeared on the 26th, but a seaplane screening the convoy of two freighters and three escorts kept her down so that she could not attack.  Three days later a mine layer with two escorts and a scout plane searching ahead came into view, and the submarine sent six torpedoes after her, scoring two hits.  Loud breaking-up noises continued for 24 minutes, as the hunter lay deep, evading heavy depth charge attacks.

Numerous planes throughout the patrol kept DARTER running submerged most of the time, ruining her chances for sighting more ships.  Only one more was spotted, on 21 July, but it should not be closed for attack.  The sub tied up at Manus on 1 August, and then proceeded to Brisbane, Australia, where she arrived on the 8th.

Commander McClintock took his sleek command out of Brisbane on her fourth and final patrol on 1 September 1944, pausing at Darwin on the 10th.  Operating with USS DACE (SS-247), DARTER set up a reconnaissance line to intercept any enemy forces which might interfere with the Morotai landings.  On the 24th she left for Biak for replenishment and, after four days in port, headed back to her patrol area of Palawan Passage and Balabac Strait.

The two "D's" fell in with a rich convoy of seven enemy ships with only three escorts on 12 October in the center of Palawan Passage.  Waiting three hours for the ships to get into position, DARTER fired four torpedoes at two overlapping tankers from 6000 yards, and then dived to escape the air cover.  Three hits were heard, as planes dropped seven bombs close by without damage.

The convoy scurried into the safety of Balabac Strait, where the submarine could not follow.  Sending a contact report to DACE, DARTER took up her position to await their sortie. Finally, near midnight on the morning of the 14th the ships ventured out, being spotted first by DACE.  Since DACE had made the first contact, DARTER stood aside to let her make the first attack, seeing her make four hits.  By this time, the convoy made it into Kimanis Bay, with the destroyers effectively blocking any chance for further attacks.

The two subs then took up a patrol in Palawan Passage, and on the 18th switched to the west approaches to Balabac Strait.  Their vigilance was rewarded on the morning of the 19th when two destroyers approached, and DARTER found herself between the two.  She fired four stern tubes at one, but missed her entirely when a turn threw the torpedo track off.  The ensuing depth charges did no damage.

As the 21st opened, the radio brought news of the invasion of the Philippines, and immediately the two submarines headed for Balabac Strait, hoping to catch Japanese heavy units from Singapore since the shortest route to the landing beaches lay through the Strait and the Mindanao Sea.  Just before midnight the first enemy warship came into view, three heavy cruisers headed through the Dangerous Ground making 23 knots.  After six hours the pursuers were 19 miles behind, and so they broke off, heading south to intercept any other units.

The two subs were cruising along close together on the surface, recharging their batteries, when DARTER made radar contact on a group of fast surface ships at 16 minutes past midnight.  Grabbing a megaphone, the captain of DARTER shouted to DACE, "We have a radar contact.  Let's go!"

Calling for full power, both ships were soon making 19 knots in hot pursuit of the enemy force of eleven enemy ships, headed up Palawan Passage.  The enemy warships were making 22 knots, but soon slowed to 15, and soon an attack was worked out.  DARTER was to ahve first choice, hitting the left flank column at dawn.  USS DACE took up a position five miles ahead to attack the starboard column.  Since the channel was narrow, the submarine skippers were rreasonably sure that there would not be a large course change during the night.

DARTER ran ahead for 20,000 yards, and picked out the leading enemy cruiser as her target.  Although neither submarine knew it, the force they had contacted included the the two largest warships in the world, the secret Japanese super-battleships YAMATO and MUSASHI, both of whom boasted 18.1-inch guns in their main batteries.

The attack was ridiculously easy.  Diving to periscope level, DARTER worked her way in for a clear shot at the leading cruiser in the port column, and at 0532 began firing.  The first three torpedo tracks were spread in order to take care of any unexpected maneuvers of the big ship, the heavy cruiser ATAGO.  By the time that the next three were ready to fire, ATAGO was rroaring by so close that the deadly missiles couldn't miss, and so they were fired straight into his length.

Wasting no time, DARTER swung hard to bring her stern tubes to bear on the second cruiser, and as she did so heard the satisfying roar of five explosions.  Firing her stern tubes, Commander McClintock swung his periscope back on the "sight of a lifetime," ATAGO lying dead, a mass of billowing balck smoke from her #1 turret to the stern.  Bright orange flanmes licked out along the water's edge as the bow began to go under.  To add to the crew's joy, four more hits sounded through the submarien as four of the torpedoes struck the second heavy cruiser, TAKAO.

Retaliation began within five minutes, but none of the depth charges came close, although the breaking-up noises from the cruisers were so loud that it seemed that they must be sinking directly overhead.

DACE got off her first attack, and at 0557 the submariners in DARTER could hear four more hits.  DACE had eliminated the heavy cruiser MAYA from the Japanese register.

When the depth charging slacked off, DARTER tried to set in to finish off TAKAO, but was unable to get in past the destroyers.  Since the Japanese were so close, the submarine could not surface to get an accurate navigational position, and was forced to cruise submerged until nightfall.

TAKAO managed to get underway erratically by 2200, and DARTER started in on the surface to finish her off, but intercepted radar signals caused her to delay, and she went udner, running at full speed to get into position. 

Suddenly the radio operator on board DACE was electrified by a radio message from DARTER in plain English, "...Hard aground."  DARTER, running submerged at 17 knots, had hit Bombay Shoal.  It had been 30 hours since she had been able to get a good position, having been running on a dead reckoning chart during the whole attack.

The submarine shoaled at 0005, and between then and high tide at 0146 the crew worked feverishly, destroying all confidential matter and dumping everything moveable overboard in an effort to lighten the ship.  For an hour after the full tide, they worked to get free, but nothing helped.  With sunrise expected momentarily, it was decided to abandon the ship, sending the crew aboard DACE, who was standing by.

Demolition charges were planted, and as soon as the last man was safely on board DACE, they were set off.  For some reason, however, they failed to explode properly, leaving the submarine in good condition for any Japanese studies.  DACE then tried to blow her up with four torpedoes, but the tide had exposed so much of the reef that each of them exploded before hitting the submarine.  With dawn making her position more and more vulnerable, DACE then opened fire with her deck gun, putting 21 hits into DARTER along the waterline before a plane forced her to dive.

A Japanese destroyer then appeared, and may have boarded the sub.  The submarine ROCK tried to complete the job of firing ten more torpedoes later, but again the torpedoes went off before hitting the target.  NAUTILUS finished teh job of destruction on the 31st with 55 six-inch shells.

DARTER's loss was a result of a calculated risk, one of the tactical losses which must be expected in wartime.  Her loss was well balanced, however, by the discovery of the Japanese task force and loss of two cruisers sunka nd one badly damaged.  In order to keep the entire crew together, all of the men on board DARTER were ordered to take over the new submarine MENHADEN, then building at Mantowoc, Wisconsin.


1st Star: Truk Attack -- 16~17 February 1944
2nd Star: Battle of Surigao Strait -- 24 October 1944
3rd Star: Submarine War Patrol -- 22 March - 23 May 1944
4th Star: Submarine War Patrol -- 21 June - 8 August 1944

The ship also received the following Navy Unit Commendation, Pacific, for her Fourth War Patrol:

"For outstanding heroism in action during a War Patrol against enemy Japanese fleet units.  Aggressive and relentless in tracking her targets, the USS DARTER daringly penetrated hostile waters and succeeded in contacting a Japanese task force.  In an excellently planned and brilliantly coordinated attack, she opened fire with the first shot of the Battle of Leyte Gulf.  As a result of these salvos, launched boldly by the DARTER despite the superior fire power of the hostile concentration, the enemy was forced to retire, thus reducing appreciably the enemy's naval strength subesquently brought to bear against our forces.  The splendid combat readiness of the DARTER and the gallant fighting spirit of her officers and men throughout this hazardous action reflect the highest credit upon the United States Naval Service."

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BEAM: 27 feet
SPEED: 20 knots
DISPLACEMENT: 1525 tons.
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Compiled: July 1953

Monday, December 24, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Cuba Gooding Jr's best moment in cinema history.

True story: Doris Miller was an African-American ship's cook aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia who was untrained in any weapons. When his ship at Pearl Harbor fell under attack, he scrambled on to the deck as much of the crew milled around in a general panic, ran to the nearest 50-caliber anti-aircraft gun, loaded it and shot down a Japanese Zero headed straight for the ship. He also notified the next ranking officer aboard the ship that the Captain had been killed and saved the lives of half a dozen other men aboard the ship. He was awarded the Navy Cross, the third highest honor in the United States Navy, for a moment of bravery and quick thinking that went down in military history.

Wikipedia Article

Thursday, November 29, 2012

U.S.S. Darter Lost map, items

As a supplement to the typewritten story, Hugh drew this neat diagram of exactly where his sub ran aground.

He was even so meticulous to include a list of sailors aboard the ship when it was stranded, as well as their qualifications... (Hugh was a Radio Technician 1st Class so his is abbreviated RT1c)  Amazingly, not a single one of these men was killed or seriously injured.

...And like that wasn't enough, he made a list of his own personal items he lost aboard the DARTER, with their estimated values.

He was all about details.

How the Dace rescued Darter, an eyewitness account - Full text article

I know it's been previously posted, but since this story is probably not to be found anywhere else but the typewritten copy in my Grandfather's file cabinet, here's the fully Google-search-able text of the story of the U.S.S. DARTER on that fateful day, and the miraculous rescue by the sister sub U.S.S. DACE. It's a really good story and I want it to be "out there" on the world wide web, so on the off chance anyone else who has interest in this stuff is looking for info on this incredible story of danger and survival, here it is. With credit given to its original writer, an officer on board the U.S.S. DACE.


by Lieutenant Commander R. C. Benitez, USN

 The tomb-like silence that reigned in the conning tower was suddenly shattered by a series of explosions.  "Depth charges! Depth charges!" exclaimed one of the quartermasters.
"Depth charges, hell," said the Captain.  "Those are Darter torpedoes, and she's getting her licks into the Japanese fleet."

It was 0532 in the morning of October 23, 1944.  The above was part of the conversation that took place in the conning tower of the USS Dace, Submarine #247, as the first shot in the Battle for Leyte Gulf was fired by her sister ship in the wolfpack, the USS Darter.

The Dace and the Darter had left their forward base on October 3, 1944, on the second phase of a scheduled fifty-five day war patrol. Their destination was Palawan Passage, the body of water lying between the island of Palawan and that shoal-infested area of the South China Sea known as the Dangerous Ground.  Their mission was to guard the passage; to report all contacts; and to attack enemy ships.

The mission of the two submarines represented part of the over-all plan evolved by our high command to safeguard the landings to be made at Leyte.  Our leaders felt that the Japanese fleet, in an attempt to stem the tide of American island-hopping victories, would in all probability attack our Leyte beach-heads.  The problem was to determine the origin of the attack and the day on which it would take place.  As a partial solution to the problem, a line of submarines was stretched from the island of Palawan to the China coast, with the expectation that the Southern Japanese Fleet would pierce that line.  A submarine contact report, if received in time, would give the necessary warning and provide the necessary time in which to integrate the American task forces then plying the waters of the Philippines.  Once these mighty forces could be brought to bear against the Japanese fleet, there could be no doubt as to the outcome, and even the most pessimistic could foresee a sweeping American victory.  Submarines had proved their scouting value before.  Would they be equal to the occasion once more? Our high command fervently hoped so.

Passage to the area was uneventful.  Occasionally a Japanese patrol plane would force us down during the day, but the majority of the transit was made on the surface both day and night.  We arrived in the Palawan area on October 10.

Endless days of routine patrol went by all too slowly.  The Darter was usually to the south, the Dace to the north of the passage.  Those were interminable days of constant periscope and surface watch.  Always waiting --- waiting for the tip of a mast; for the smudge of smoke on the horizon; for the radar contact that heralded the arrival of a target.  The days dragged on, their sameness only broken by the personal problems of eighty-five men imprisoned in a steel, cigar-shaped hull three hundred and eleven feet long.  Occasionally something happened to relieve the monotony that characterized our days.  For example....

One evening the Captain and the Executive Officer of the Dace, who shared the same stateroom, entered the room and were rather startled to see the Number One mess boy busily typing a letter on the ship's typewriter.  The typewriter was firmly secured on the Captain's desk.  A big, black cigar protruding from the boy's mouth gave forth big puffs of black smoke which had by this time entirely enveloped the room.  The colored boy, who was a favorite in the Dace because of his ever present good humor, personal bravery, and devotion to all hands, was unperturbed.  The Captain, with smoke-filled eyes, first peered at the mess boy, then at the typewriter, and finally at the cigar.  Then, after carefully surveying the situation, he said, "Really, my boy, I do not wish to inconvenience you.  But if it isn't too much trouble -- could I use my desk now?"

There is a doubt that the above would be an acceptable solution to a problem in a course in leadership.  However, it worked in the Dace.  From that day on the mess boy only used the desk when he knew that the Captain and the Executive Officer would be too busy in the conning tower or on the bridge to come below to the room.

Submarine warfare, however, was not characterized by eternal dullness.  During each war patrol something always happened to liven up the monotony, and this patrol was no exception.  One morning we finally sighted a convoy.  We were unable to close it during the day, but immediately after surfacing late the same afternoon we gave chase.  We regained contact near the Borneo coast and that night delivered a torpedo attack.  It was pitch black and the Japs never knew what hit them. We sank an oiler and a transport, and after lying low the next day we eventually returned to our patrol station in Palawan Passage.  We resumed our incessant vigil.

The morning of October 19 found both submarines on the surface.  Information was being exchanged between them when the tip of a mast was sighted by a Dace lookout.  The Darter had at the same time become aware of the stranger.  As if by a combined signal, but actually independent of each other, both ships submerged.  The stranger soon identified herself -- a Fubuki type destroyer -- and she was accompanied by one of her sisters.  Both submarines were apart from each other, yet we in the Dace knew that every one of our movements were being duplicated in the Darter.

"Battle stations submerged!"  The persistent, frightening, yet challenging tone of the General Alarm brought men tumbling from their bunks.  There were seconds of orderly confusion as the men hurriedly manned their battle stations.  In a matter of seconds a slumbering ship became awake, alive, animated.  Gone was the lethargy and the drowsiness, and in its stead there came into being an alertness and watchfulness that boded ill for the stranger who had dared intrude into our area.

"Make ready all torpedo tubes!"  There was feverish activity in the torpedo rooms as the torpedo crews readied their deadly missiles.  Expert hands adeptly manipulated wrenches, levers and valves to assure a run that would be straight, hot and normal.

"Stand by for a set-up!"  The conning tower was a beehive of activity as the fire control problem was plotted, developed, solved.

The contact was made at 1010; we dove seconds later; we fired at 1045.  As the third torpedo left its tube, the Captain at the periscope observed the target make a radical change of course away from us.  We checked fire.  It was useless to fire on a target that had taken evasive action.  The Captain noticed a signal being hoisted on the leading destroyer as a few depth charges were heard to explode nearby.  The Japs had become aware of our presence; the game of the mouse and the cat was about to start.

It started in the usual manner with the mouse on the run and the cat in hot pursuit; but -- almost immediately he lost us.  For the next twenty minutes we flirted with him, but it gradually became apparent that we were losing ground.  Finally, with the destroyer at a range of two thousand yards and with a target angel of zero, we decided that we did not want to play anymore.  We went deep and managed to avoid them at deep submergence.  The mouse was in its hole safe and unobserved, but he was not content.  He wanted to see what was happening so he came back up to periscope depth.  There was nothing in sight; the game was over.  We had tracked them out on a southerly course, so of course we headed north.

Later on that night the Darter and the Dace rendezvoused and exchanged information.  The Darter, as well expected, had also fired at the Jap but she had fired seconds before we did. The radical change of course that had spoiled our fire control problem had taken place when the Jap turned towards the Darter to comb her torpedo wakes.

We began to consider the events of the day.  "A destroyer sweep in the Passage," thoughtfully mused the Captain.  "Something is afoot.  Perhaps bigger game will follow, but -- who knows?"  The Captain was right.  Who did know?  Only the Japanese, for never in our most heroic Walter Mittyan dreams could we have foreseen what the next few days would bring.  Yet fate, with its characteristic impartiality, had singled us out to play a major role in one of the decisive battles of the war.  Unmindful of what the future held in store for us, we continued in our appointed task.

Man-made plans, however, were rapidly pyramiding themselves one upon the other.  A chain of events was being expertly forged by the Japanese; and as each link took its place, the chain began to take shape, to expand, to grow from a dormant, inert mass into a well knit, expertly made instrument that represented the Japanese plan for a sorely needed victory.  With the last link in place the Japanese considered the preparations complete. With a low, low bow towards the north and with a loud "Banzai," the first contingent of the Japanese fleet sailed north from Brunei Bay, Borneo.

October 21 was just another routine day for us in the Dace -- another day like so many others that we had spent on this and other patrols.  The eternal vigilance was maintained, but we were beginning to grow weary and tired of our task.  Thoughts turned to the return trip, which according to our orders was to start in two days.  Australia was a very popular base of operations, and our thoughts were more on that island, on fresh food, mail from home, and the two weeks
of shore leave than on the war.  We surfaced at dusk and commenced another surface patrol in the Passage.  All was serene until shortly after midnight, at which time the Executive Officer was summoned to the conning tower by the Captain.  Without a word of comment he was handed a despatch from the Darter.  It said, "Fast ships on northeasterly course."

The curtain had risen on the part we were to play in the life and death drama that was to have its finale in the Battle for Leyte Gulf.

The despatch had said fast ships so there was no time to lose. At full speed we set a northwesterly course to intercept.  Amplifying reports soon came in.  They informed us that the contact was a task force; that the Darter was trailing but could not overtake; that the enemy base course was 020 T, his speed 20 knots.  Those reports represented an excellent solution to a problem in wolf-pack tactics.  Our long arduous days of pre-patrol training were paying off.  To the south there was the Darter in contact, trailing, supplying vital information.  To the north there was the Dace interpreting that information to gain an attack position.  Before long we had even been supplied with the Japanese zigzag plan.  We could not miss.  All we had to do was intercept at dawn.

Intercept at dawn!  That was all we had to do, but as the hours passed the navigational problem before us loomed larger and larger.  Our calculations gave us an intercept point on the eastern half of an area that up to this time we had gladly avoided.  That area was the Dangerous Ground, and our incomplete foreign charts, populated as they were with countless reefs, shoals, and rocks, were mute evidence of the appropriateness of the name which the area bore.  Using maximum speed through those treacherous waters we could arrive at the Japanese 0500 position at 0430.  The time element was perfect; we could make a dawn attack.  But before we could attack we first had to arrive at the proper intercept point.  To reach that point we had to travel about four and one-half hours, in waters where we had found the current to be unpredictable.  At the end of that time we had to be at the intercept point; near to it would not do.  We had to hit it right on the nose.

The thrill of the chase had gripped the boat.  "Hell, man, this is a task force and we got them cold."  "Here is where we pick up our citation."..."We will murder those bums.  This happens only once in a lifetime."  The men were right; it was the chance of a lifetime, and we in the conning tower echoed their thoughts as we kept going forward at full speed while leaving a phosphorescent trail on the back waters of Palawan Passage.

To the Navigator, however, the night seemed interminable.  There was no moon so he was denied the consolation of star sights by the moonlight.  "What if I don't male contact?  What if I foul this one up?" he asked himself.  For the Nth time since midnight he looked at the chart; he checked the courses, the speeds, the times.  The Captain came down from the bridge and asked, "How are we doing?"

"Right on schedule.  We will hit the intercept point right on the nose--" was the reply.  The Captain. busy with his own thoughts, turned away and did not hear the Navigator's low but fervent "---I hope," which followed his answer to the question put to him by the Captain.

Time, however, was not standing still.  It was still dark when at 0430 the Dace was slowed and the Captain notified that the ship was in position.  At slow speed we began to patrol back and forth along an east-west line.  If all went according to plan we would be in contact in less than thirty minutes.  Once more we went to battle stations.

Minutes passed -- the ship moved back and forth slowly along the scouting line.  Minutes passed -- the radar operators eagerly scanned the radar scope for signs of the target.  Minutes passed -- the bridge watch, their eyes glued to their binoculars, tensely strained to make out dim shapes in the half darkness that enveloped us.  Minutes passed -- and it was suddenly 0500.  It was 0500, and we wanted to believe that we were on station.  But -- where were the Japs?  It was all too soon 0505; then 0510; then 0515.  Still no contact.  The realization that perhaps we had made a fatal error began to grip us.  Australia, shore leave, home -- they all seemed terribly unimportant now.

Our fears, however, had no factual basis.  Seconds later we received a message from the Darter which said, "Enemy changed course to left at dawn."

We had been outmaneuvered: we were hopelessly out of position.  The Darter, because of her slower speed, had slowly fallen astern during the night.  Her fire control party became aware of the unusual change in course at dawn, but they could not immediately assume a change in base course by the enemy.  They knew that we were in position and that false information would draw us out; that change in course had to positively verified.  Verification came too late for us to take any action.  It had been a gamble and we had lost.  With the change in course the Japs had also increased speed and the Darter soon lost contact.  The Dace immediately started a sweep to the westward in the Dangerous Ground.  It was to no avail.  The Japs had disappeared as effectively as if they had been swallowed by the sea.  Near noon we dismally secured the search.  It is true that we had succeeded in sending a warning, and that our high command had become aware that the Japs had begun to move north.  But our role had been a negative, unsatisfying one.  We has wanted to hit that Jap task force awfully bad.

We began to move south.  This was our last day on station and that night we were to start our trip back to the base.  Charts for the trip were broken out; the fuel and the lubricating oil were closely checked; another count was made on the provisions.  We could have saved ourselves all this trouble, for at noon we received a despatch that a Jap convoy had been sighted heading south in the area.  We immediately changed our plans and decided to postpone the return trip until we had worked on this convoy.  We arranged a rendezvous with the Darter to coordinate a search and attack plan.

At midnight we met as per schedule.  Messages were exchanged by line-throwing guns, and both Captains went below to read over the communications.  The bridge watches were talking to each other through megaphones when their conversation was cut short by a report from the Darter radar operator: "Radar contact - maximum range. It looks like rain," he said.

The information was immediately relayed to us on the Dace.  "An overeager operator," we said at first.  But upon checking ourselves we not only confirmed the contact but identified it as ships.  There was no doubt that they were ships and that we had made contact at maximum range.  Only by the grace of God were we in contact, but this was no time to think of what might have been.  Both ships were ordered to close the enemy.  Minutes later the radar scope gave us a beautiful picture of many ships, and once again we knew that this was no ordinary convoy.  Once again we were in contact with a Japanese task force.

The Captain and the Executive Officer were admiring the radar scope, exclaiming over the beauty fo the picture, when with dramatic suddenness the picture disappeared from the screen.

"Now what the hell!" said the Captain.  "What is this, a game?"

"Not quite, Captain," answered the unperturbed radar operator.  "The radar has conked out!"

This is just fine, we all thought.  Here we are in contact with a task force, and our radar decides to take a rest five minutes after we make contact.  It just had to be fixed, that is all there was to it.  And although it had been a major breakdown, in an hour and half the radar was back in commission.  With a great sigh of relief we saw the Japs appear on the radar scope once more.

We tracked the remainder of the night.  The Darter, being the senior ship, began making contact reports shortly after the contact was identified.  The flow of information was maintained throughout the night, and thus our high command received vital information on the movements of the Japanese fleet.  There was no doubt that this was the "A" squad, and it was so reported.  The plan had worked.  The Japanese had crossed the submarine line; the subs had made contact.  From here on it was only a question of maintaining contact as the Japs moved northward, and of eventually bringing to bear our forces at the right time and at the right place.  The day had arrived when we could predict the total destruction of Japanese sea power.

We in the Dace, although somewhat aware of the tactical situation, were not too concerned with the over-all picture.  Our main thought was to hit the task force, and consequently we were very pleased to receive a foolproof plan of attack from the Commanding Officer of the Darter.  His plan was simple.  We had determined the enemy fleet to be in two columns, with the left column slightly ahead of the right column.  He proposed to have the Darter dive ahead of the left column and the Dace dive five miles bearing 045 T from the Darter.  The attack was to take place at dawn.  By this arrangement he placed both submarines in a position of maximum effectiveness.  If the Japanese maintained base course, both submarines would be able to attack their respective columns.  If the Jap fleet changed course to the left, the Darter would miss the left column but she would be in position to hit the right column.  Under these conditions, the Dace of course would be out of the picture.  If they changed course to the right, The Darter would then be left out but the Dace would hit the left column.  It was a clearly effective plan.  This time a change in the base course at dawn would find us ready.  We had profited from our lesson of the day before.  This time we knew that one of us was sure to hit at least one ship out of that Japanese fleet that consisted of five battleships, ten heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and fifteen destroyers.

It was David against Goliath once more, for against that force we could muster only two submarines.  The odds were not exactly even but we were more than willing to take the chance.  None of us would have traded places with any other man in the Submarine Force.  As the night approached its end, however, tension heightened throughout the boat.  The jokes became fewer and fewer as the conversation gradually died out.  Each man was busy with his own thoughts as the ship crept closer and closer to its attack position.  At 0500 the word was passed to man battle stations.  It was a useless command.  The men during the night had slowly gravitated towards their stations, and in a matter of seconds each man was reported at his appointed place.

A faint glow to the east heralded the approach of dawn as the radar man at 0510 reported the Darter disappearing from the radar scope.  She had submerged.  We continued northward, feeling alone and naked in the wide expanse of Palawan Passage.  Minutes later the diving alarm broke the stillness of the tropical dawn.  The Dace slid beneath the sea in the most fateful dive of her career.

Neither the Darter nor the Dace had long to wait.  The Japanese, as unwilling and unsuspecting participants, propelled themselves on the stage and were promptly greeted by a salvo of torpedoes from the Darter.  A series of rapid explosions indicated to all in the Dace that the Darter had made a successful attack.

"It looks like the Fourth of July out there!"  exclaimed the Captain.  "One is burning," he continued.  "The Japs are milling and firing allover the place.  What a show!  What a show!"

It must have been a grand show.  Those of us unable to see what was happening on the surface hung on to the Captain's words as he continued to describe what he saw.

But we were not out there to record a major event in world history for posterity.  We were there to work and soon had no time for unnecessary talk.

"Here they come," said the Old Man.  "Stand by for a set-up! Bearing, mark! Range, mark!, Down scope! Angle on the bow, ten port."

Upon the fire control officer and his assistant largely depended the number of hits that we scored, and they had to work fast and efficiently.  Ranges, bearings, and angles on the bow followed in quick succession as the problem developed.

The Captain singled out the third ship in line -- the biggest he could see.  We thought it was a battleship; it turned out to be a heavy cruiser, but that was immaterial.  Our fire control problem had been solved, and with the Captain's words, "Let the first two go by, they are only heavy cruisers," we began to fire.  We fired six torpedoes from the forward tubes.  Almost immediately they began to strike home -- one -- two -- three -  four explosions.  Four hits out of six torpedoes fired!

The offensive phase was over.  Now it was time to start running, and we wasted no time in doing so.  Hardly had the sixth torpedo left its tube when we ordered deep submergence.  On our way down, a crackling noise that started very faintly but which rapidly reached staggering proportions soon enveloped us.  It was akin to the noise made by cellophane when it is crumpled.  Those of us experienced in submarine warfare knew that a ship was breaking up, but the noise was so close, so loud, so gruesome that we came to believe it was not the Jap but the Dace that was doomed.  Anxious, agonizing seconds elapsed as we awaited the reports from the compartments that all was secure.  They finally came.  We were all right.  But then a new, terrifying thought gripped us -- could the Jap be breaking up on top of us?  We were making full speed in an attempt to clear the vicinity of the attack, but that crackling noise was still around us; it was audible to every man on board; we could not escape it.  Then relief came with a rush.  We were leaving the noise astern.  We had not only hit but had sunk a major Japanese warship.  The crackling and crumbling noises as she broke up were unmistakable.

Our elation was shortlived, for hardly had we settled down at our running depth when a string of depth charges exploding close aboard announced the arrival of the Jap destroyers.  At first we thought that they had made a mistake, for this attack was contrary to our expectations.  We had fully expected that the destroyers would concentrate on the Darter and leave us alone.  Another strong, just as loud as the first one, exploded close aboard.  This time the doubt was dispelled.  There was no mistake on their part.  We were the target.

"Most inconsiderate of the Darter," said someone.

"The dirty stinkers!" exclaimed another.

"Hold your hats -- here we go again!" came from still another.

"Wham! -- Wham! -- Wham!" said the Japs.

They were going off all around us, and they were close.  The boat was being rocked considerably.  Light bulbs were being shattered; locker doors were flying open; wrenches were falling from the manifolds.  The Japs were very mad -- and we were very scared.

At one point during the evasion we believed that we had gotten away.  Nothing had happened for about ten minutes, and we were trying to sneak away as quietly as possible.  The Captain took this opportunity to send a messenger to the forward battery for a cup of coffee.  The forward battery was being manned by our Number Two mess boy.  This boy had made quite a few patrols, and early in this patrol had shown signs of battle fatigue.  The events of the past two days, of course, had not helped the nerves any.  The messenger reports that, as he entered the compartment, a string of depth charges went off very close to the boat.  The mess boy, upon hearing the explosion, is reputed to have jumped about two feet up in the air, yelling in loud and anguished tones, "For gosh sakes, let that man in!"

Finally they left us.  We stayed deep for a while but later came up to periscope depth.  We began to work our way back to the scene of the attack.  At the time, of course, we did not know that the Darter had sunk an ATAGO class cruiser and damaged a second heavy cruiser, but as we continued northward we sighted masts.  It was the Jap cruiser crippled by the Darter -- lying dead in the water.  She was being jealously guarded by two destroyers and two airplanes.  We attempted to get in another attack during the day but were unsuccessful because of the effective screen provided by the destroyers and the airplanes.  We were not too concerned, however, as we had the cruiser in view at all times and we knew that that night we could team up with the Darter to finish her off.  We surfaced before the Darter.  The navigator got a fair fix.  The Darter surfaced, we made contact and began to lay plans for finishing the cripple.

The Jap cruiser, however, still had some life in her.  Accompanied by the two destroyers she got underway on a southwesterly course at a speed of six knots.  We began our attempts to polish her off but soon realized that it was not going to be an easy task.  The two destroyers were over officious, perhaps trying to atone for the lack of care they had given the big ships that morning.  We went in and out, trying to draw them out, but all to no avail.  We were beginning to come to the realization that the only hope of success was in a submerged attack when we received a despatch from the Darter.  There were just three words but they were pregnant with meaning.  They were:

"We are aground."

The Captain of the Dace was faced with a grave decision; either to continue in his attempts to sink the cruiser or to go to the rescue of the Darter.  His decision was not arrived at hastily, but when announced it had the approbation of every man on board.  We were to go to the assistance of the Darter.  It was hard to give up pursuing a ship that we knew would probably sink with one torpedo hit, and it was hard to give up what we had started so brilliantly the day before; but it would have been doubly hard to abandon our comrades to certain death on the shoals of Palawan Passage.

In about an hour and a half later we were within stone's throw of the Darter.  There was no doubt that she was aground.  She was so high that even her screws were out of the water -- she seemed like a ship in dry-dock.  We soon realized that getting close to her would not be an easy task.  We decided to approach from the stern, that is, to travel over the Darter's water.  We took position astern and slowly began to close her.  The current took charge and we had to make a second approach.  The Captain of the Darter became quite concerned over the audacity of the Captain of the Dace.  He kept telling him to stay out a bit; not to come so close; to beware of the reef.  We paid no attention and continued to close until we could pass over our bow line.  By the use of that line and by the use of the engines we were able to keep away from the reef that, only fifty yards away on our starboard side, exerted its utmost to draw us to it.

The fact that the Darter could never get off the reef was obvious from the outset.  As soon as the bow line went over, the transfer of personnel began.  In the darkness gnome-like figures on the deck of the Darter were seen to go down her side into the rubber boats awaiting them below.  Minutes later they reappeared at the side of the Dace where willing hands hoisted them aboard.  There was little conversation.  It was a grim and distressing task.  There were only two six-man rubber life boats available and it was slow work.  We had started at about 0200 and it was not until 0439 that the captain of the Darter, the last man to leave the ship, appeared at the side of the Dace.

No time was lost in clearing the immediate vicinity, for not only were we in mortal fear of the reef, but upon reporting on board the Captain of the Darter informed us that he had set demolition charges on his ship.  Upon hearing this report we set the annunciators at full speed and never changed them until we considered ourselves a safe distance away.

The allotted time for the charges to go off began to draw near.  With bated breath and blinking eyes we saw the second hands of our watches draw nearer and nearer to the zero time.  It finally got there.  We braced ourselves, expecting the morning stillness to be shattered by a terrific explosion.  But only a ridiculously low and inoffensive "Pop" came from the Darter.

"For heavens sake! What a farce!"  someone said.

What had happened?  something had obviously gone wrong, and the Darter, instead of exploding before our eyes, was very much in evidence on the reef.  Some said that the charges were no good.  Others that the ship was not ready to die.  What difference did it make then?  That was no time to philosophize nor to enter into the relative merits of our demolition charges.  That was time for action.  There was only one possible answer -- blow her up with our few remaining torpedoes.

We took position on her beam and fired two torpedoes, one at a time.  Both torpedoes exploded on the reef without as much as rocking the Darter.  This confirmed our unexpressed fears that she was too high on the reef.

We had two more torpedoes; we went directly astern of her and fired.  The story was repeated.  Both torpedoes went off against the reef.  It was now 0530.  The first streaks of dawn were beginning to appear in the eastern sky.  What to do next?  We had to destroy that ship, and there was only one thing to do -- hit her with the gun.

"Gun crew, man the gun!"  was passed over the General Announcing System.  We were still in the vicinity of our attack of the day before, and we were engaged in a gun action.  It was not without some trepidation that we had ordered the gun manned, for now there were about twenty-five men on the topside.  A crash dive would be a risky undertaking and might result in some of the men being left topside.  It was a chance that we had to take.  The men had been warned to swim to the reef in case they found themselves in the water.  It was a small consolation, but the rapidity of the fire and the percentage of hits scored on the target belied any misgivings that the men might have had.  We were scoring telling hits on the Darter and we were beginning to feel a bit easier in our minds about the whole undertaking when a much dreaded cry came from the conning tower, "Plane contact -- six miles!"

"Clear the deck -- Diving alarm -- Take her down" was the immediate command.

The instinct of self-preservation took charge of all of us.  Our twenty-five inch conning tower hatch, the only means of ingress into the Dace, attracted everyone topside as if it had been a magnet.  Some walked down; others slid down; still others were pushed down.  Some came down feet first; others head first; still others sideways.  The officer of the Deck managed to close the hatch bare seconds before the boat went under.

We all braced ourselves for the bomb explosion that we felt sure would follow.  Seconds passed -- anxious seconds whose tension was heightened by the fear that perhaps we had left some of the men on deck.  We did not have long to wait, but for the second time that day an awaited loud explosion resolved itself into a distant "Pop".  We again wondered what had happened.  Perhaps if we were to write a book on the subject we could not express it any better than that unknown enlisted man who at the time said, 

"That dumb ass of a Jap pilot!  He made his drop on the Darter!"

He was correct.  The same good fortune that accompanied us during the patrol was still with us; that same Providence that had looked over us from the time that we had left our base had not yet abandoned us.

The Japanese pilot had sighted two submarines on the surface.  He could not tell that the Darter was aground.  He saw one of the submarines diving.  Believing that his chance of success was greater with the slower boat, he had decided to bomb the Darter instead of the Dace.  The consensus of opinion was that he had made an excellent choice and we hoped that he had been able to do what we had failed to do earlier that morning with our torpedoes and our gun.

Our troubles, however, were not yet over.  There was still one big unanswered question in our minds.  Was everyone on board, or was there at this time some poor soul thrashing in the waters above us?  We took a quick count.  Everyone was accounted for.  We checked again and this time there was no doubt about it.  We had all made it.

Serious and dangerous as the incident had been, the ever present humorous incident was not lacking this time either.  One of the officers shortly after the dive went to the control room.  As he looked around he became aware of the large number of bruised faces, cut lips, and battered arms and hands among those who had been on deck when the diving alarm sounded.  He noticed one enlisted man who seemed to have suffered more than the rest.  For the sake morale he approached him and asked him how he managed to get down the hatch.

"Hell, I don't know," was the reply.  "One second I was on deck with a shell in my hands. The next second I was in the control room.  I don't remember doing anything -- I guess I was just sucked down!"

We soon came up to periscope depth to see what happened to the Darter.  the Jap pilot had done a miserable job, she was still on the reef.  That boat had apparently made up its mind that she was not going to to be destroyed either by Americans or by the Japanese.  The Jap plane was still flying around her, so we decided to move on as we knew that the Japs would soon send a surface ship to investigate.

Our fears were confirmed at about 1000 that morning.  At that time a destroyer made a very cautious approach to the Darter from the east.  We had surmised that she would come from that direction, and of course had taken station -- to the west.  We had no more torpedoes so were content to watch the activity from a safe distance.  Since the Darter was between the Dace and the Jap destroyer we were unable to tell what actually happened that day but we feel sure that the ship was boarded.  In the afternoon the destroyer withdrew.

While observing the Darter during the day we had come to the conclusion that it was still possible to destroy her by putting a boarding party on board that night.  This time we would use the Dace's demolition outfit.  We surfaced when it was dark and began to close the grounded ship.

We proceeded very carefully as we were not quite sure what the Japs had left behind.  Warily we got closer and closer.  Both Captains were on the bridge.  The radar operator was reporting that the range to the Darter was then two thousand yards, when the sound of echo ranging was heard.  It was a single ping, clearly defined.  The possibility that a Jap submarine was there waiting for us immediately entered our minds.  We lost no time in clearing the vicinity at full speed since we felt it unwise to risk the Dace and the combined crews for the sake of a ship that had been stripped by her crew and that the Japs had already boarded.

As we opened up from the Darter we looked back upon the last two days.  It all seemed like a dream.  It had all started two nights back when we had received the first contact report from the Darter.  Since that time we had accomplished our primary mission of giving timely warning; we had sunk two Jap heavy cruisers and damaged a third one; we had lost a submarine but had rescued the crew whom we now had on board.  Here the dream came to an abrupt end.

They were on board all right! There were eighty of them, and they were very much in evidence.  It was impossible to walk through the boat without stepping on one of them.  It was not surprising.  We had one hundred and sixty-five men on board all told.  There was nothing to do but make the best of a bad situation.

We distributed the Darter men throughout the boat.  We told each man to pick a cot and to remain there unless he had to go to the head.  Meals were brought to the men in their chosen places since it was easier to serve them than to have a constant stream of men in the messing compartment.  It was gratifying to see how well the men adapted themselves to the situation.  Day after day the same man would be found occupying the same spot -- one time sitting, the next time stretched out, the time after that doubled up.  The Dace men willingly shared the available bunks with them, and needless to say the bunks were warmed up the twenty-four hours of the day.  The officers fared no better.  The wardroom was just as crowded, and to leave a good seat or spot was to lose it for the rest of the day.

This fear of losing a seat was well illustrated by the antics of one of the Darter officers.  Shortly after reporting on board, the Darter officers started a poker game that used to last all day and most of the night.  They were good enough to stop to allow the mess boys to set up for meals, but that was all.  If at any other time any of us wanted to sit in the wardroom we had to play poker.  One of the Darter officers played constantly, in spite of the fact that he was a constant loser.  Day after day he would get up from the table at the end of the game and hold forth on his tough luck, the poor cards, the sharp characters that he had to play against, and so forth.  After a few days we became irked at this daily tale of woe.  One day in which the tears were practically flowing, one of us asked him, "If you lose so much -- if playing hurts yous o much -- how come you sit in day after day?"

"Buddy," was the reply, "the only way I can get a seat in this d--- boat is to buy it, and I intend to sit on a cushion from here to Australia no matter how much it hurts my feelings or my pocketbook!"

It took us eleven days to get back.  During that time we were always crowded, dirty, and tired.  The good food soon disappeared.  We had eleven days of it, but we were happy.  Few submarines had accomplished what we had done.

It was a great thrill for the Dace to return from that patrol.  On our day of arrival battle flags were proudly flying.  Hoisted at the extended periscope was the biggest flag we had been able to make on board.  It was lettered "TASK GROUP M" in honor of Comdr. David H. McClintock, U.S. Navy, the Captain of the Darter.  Beneath the letters were small Japanese flags that told graphically the story of the patrol.  The most uninterested observer could have told that day that a "hot" ship had returned from a successful patrol.

The story of the Darter and the Dace ended officially that day, but it will always live in the hearts of those one hundred and sixty-five men who manned them.  To mention any names, to single out any individual for what was accomplished, would be an injustice to the others not so mentioned.  We have always felt that our deeds were not the deeds of one man or of a group of men, but rather the work of all of us, from the seaman to the Commander, from the mess cook to the Captain.  We prefer it that way.

The ships themselves are now thousands of miles apart -- the Dace in New London, decommissioned -- the Darter, still on the reef in Palawan Passage.  We hate to think of them so alone, so deserted.  We who manned them are today separated, perhaps forever.  But there are days when in our dreams we meet on board to relive, if only in our hearts, the glorious deeds of the past.

Taken from the January 1948
United States Naval Institutes Proceedings

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On this date in 1943

Taken from Hugh Siegel's service diary:

"11/28/1943 - Assigned to USS DARTER, SS-227"

So 69 years ago today, grandpa became a crew member aboard the fateful ship that would change the course of his life.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving Prayer and a Cartoon from the Darter

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The following is a scanned sample of a Thanksgiving Day prayer offered by a Navy chaplain. Scanned from the records of Hugh Siegel:

I wish I had more interesting info to offer my readers on this subject--maybe what a Thanksgiving meal aboard a submarine would be like or something to that effect--but Hugh neglected to save his dinner menu on that day. (Not to say he didn't keep others)

So for now, all I have to show is this amusing little cartoon drawing by one of Hugh's shipmates of the sailors enjoying chow time.  This is one of about ten photocopies of drawings by an unknown sailor, who was a USS Darter crewmember, and clearly had a sense of humor.  I will share the rest another day.

If his cartoons are any indication, life aboard a World War II submarine was very cramped and chaotic in those close quarters.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance Day 2012 - In Tribute to a Veteran


Almighty God, our heavenly father, who art our refuge and strength
 and a very present help in times of trouble, help us at this time
to put our trust in thee, that we may obtain mercy and find grace
to see us through this time of sorrow.

We thank thee for the life and love of this our shipmate
and we ask that the work that he started on this earth be carried on
 in the hearts and hands of his family and friends. He leaves more than just memories.

Help us to go our way bravely, even though alone
 and to do our tasks faithfully day by day.
Make our true love and brotherhood be a constant inspiration to our lives
And may his memory live on through us. 
Grant us peace and strength for the battle of life while it lasts,
And rest at the close of day, when work is done.

Father, when we too are tired, 
and prepare ourselves to slip beneath the final wave,
 Grant that we may let loose the moorings
 And sink slowly into the deep waters
 trusting like them, to wake with thee. 

We commend into your hands of mercy, most merciful father, 
The soul of our shipmate, HUGH N. SIEGEL. 
May he be found acceptable in thy sight.

He now sails under your orders on his eternal patrol


16, June 1995

U.S. Submarine Veterans World War II
Hudson/Mohawk Chapter 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How the Darter Was Lost, Part II

The following embedded document is a short story adapted from the testimony of a Lieutenant Commander R. C. Benitez, taken from the United States Naval Institutes proceedings in January 1948, about the events leading up to and immediately following the loss of the submarine USS Darter (SS-227) on October 24, 1944.

SHORT STORY - Battle Stations Submerged

Transcript of Official War Patrol Log, How the Darter was Lost, part I

Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000297 EndHTML:0000174644 StartFragment:0000003950 EndFragment:0000174608 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/JBatt/Desktop/HUGH%20N%20SIEGEL%20USS%20DARTER/PDF%20DOCUMENTS/How%20the%20Darter%20Ran%20Aground/Declassified%20%E2%80%93%20DARTER%20Last%20War%20Patrol.doc

Click Here and Skip to October 24 (date of ship loss) in Patrol Log.

Declassified – DOD DIR. 52009.
Of 27 Sep 58
By QLC DATE: 4/17/71

U.S.S. DARTER (SS-227)

SS227/A16-3                                               Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, Cal.

Serial 020


From: Commanding Officer
To: Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet
Via:     (1) Commander, Submarine Div. ONE EIGHTY ONE.
     (2) Commander, Submarine Squadron EIGHTEEN.
     (3) Commander, Task Force SEVENTY ONE.
     (4) Commander, Seventh Fleet.

Subject: U. S. S. DARTER, Report of War Patrol Number Four.

Enclosure: Subject Report.
  1. Enclosure (A) covering the fourth war patrol of this vessel. Conducted in the Celebes(?) and South China Seas, during the period 1 September, 1944 to the date of her loss in action by grounding on 24 October, 1944, is forwarded herewith.

D. H. McClintock


SS 227 / 16-3
Serial 020

(A)                 PROLOGUE:

Arrived Brisbane from 3rd war patrol 8 August 1944.  Refitted by Submarine Repair Unit plus Sub Div. 182 relief crew.  Docked. Re-painted design # 32/955 (dark gray).
26 August fired (for test purposes) two electric torpedoes. One circular run. Made deep dive off Calonndra Head.  31 August ready for sea.

(B)                 NARRATIVE:

Officers and Chief Petty Officers on board:      Total Patrols

Comdr. David H. McClintock, USN            9
Lieut.-Comdr. Ernest L Schwab, Jr., USN         7
Lieut. Eugene P. Wilkinson, USNR            8
Lieut. Ira M. King, USNR               3
Lieut. W. W. Price, USN                  4
Lt. (jg) Edmund J. Skorupski, USNR            3
Lt. (jg) Donald N. Miller, USN               2
Ensign William T. Paseler, USN               9
Ensign William R. Webb, USNR               2

Blanton, Osie W., 272 00 26, CTM                                              4
Gietek, Alexander W., 212 37 80, CSS            7
      James, Thomas R., 263 21 53, CMOMM                    10
      McQuary, Eugene O., 366 19 49, CY                    6
      O’Brien, John, 223 22 10, CMOMM(PA)               4
      Schooley, Merle H., 410 19 43, CRM (AA)               7
      Stokes, William, 622 92 61, CEM(PA)                    2
      Strother, Winifred G., 359 91 20, CEM(AA)               5
      Turner, Shelby, 341 23 69, CGM(PA)                    4
      Voss, Lyle G., 299 38 20, CMOMM(AA)               4

FRIDAY, 1 SEPT. 1944.

1412 K     Underway from New Farm Wharf, Brisbane, Australia for Fourth War Patrol.  In company with USS DACE. Comdr. R. R. CRANE, USN on board as COE during training enroute.

1600 K     Joined H.M.A.S. WHYALLA and H.M.A.S. WARRNAMBOOL, target vessels for training.
1-5 Sep. 1944

Engaged in training exercises including day approaches, night radar approaches, evasive tactics and firing guns; enroute DARWIN.

1742 K     4 Sept 1944. Comdr. Crane transferred to USS DACE.  H.M.A.S. WARNAMBOOL released.

1545 K     5 Sept 1944.  Parted company with H.M.A.S. WHYALLA with Comdr. Crane aboard latter

          5-9 Sept. 1944.  Enroute DARWIN via TORRES STRAIT in company with USS DACE. Holding drills and exercises enroute.

          Sunday 10 Sept. 1944.

0604 K SJ Contact 7000 yards with Australian ML-807, our escort into DARWIN.

0630 K Sighted USS NARWHAL inbound.

0844 K Moored starboard side to USS COUCAL. Fueled, minor repairs made by COUCAL.

1608 I Underway. At 1647 No escort at net, although arranged for in A.M. Proceeding unescorted.

Noon Positions: DARWIN; miles 263, fuel 3920 gal.

Monday, 11 Sept. 1944.

1226 I Submerged 17 miles off TIMOR passage.

1924 I Surfaced in passage.

Noon position: Lat. 08-375, Long. 127-43E; Miles 298, Fuel 4786 gal.

Tuesday, 12 Sept. 1944.

 1501 I Submerged to await darkness before going through passage North of BO(illegible)ROE ISLAND.

1927 I Surfaced.

2000 I Picked up indications of another radar astern. Probably DACE.  Noon positions: Lat. 04-528, Long. 125-39E; miles 323, fuel 5049 gal.

Wednesday, 13 Sept 1944.

0012 I SJ radar conatct 036 deg. T, 7000 yards. Commenced tracking and maneuvering for position with target against a lighter background.  Target course 340 deg. T, speed 6. Skip Contact #1.

0140 I At range 4500 yards target made out to be a small patrol boat. Ceased tracking.

0150 I SJ Radar contact 154 degrees T, 9500 yards.  This target had radar.  Challenged by radar.  No answer.  Commenced four engines and around.  (Contact later proved to be USS DACE)

0605 I Dove ahead of DACE at dawn.

0647 I No target yet. Surfaced.

1110 I Sighted 3 fighter planes unidentified headed for us. Submerged. Air contact #1.

1229 I Surfaced.

2200 I Passing through BANCK passage.  Noon position: Lat. 00-20S, Long. 126-09E; Miles 367, fuel 5811 gallons.

Thursday, 14 Sept.1944.

0800 I On station on reconnaissance line.  North of CELEBES island.  Patrolling at 2 generator speed during daylight.  One generator at night.

1043 I Sighted fishing stakes supported by glass balls.  Fired 20mm & 40mm for drill.  Fishing stakes were topepd by white flags with Japanese writing on some.

1115 I SD radar contact 14 miles.  Lost at 20.  Not sighted. Aircraft contact # 2.

1345 I Fired .30cal & .50cal at stump for drill.

2312 I Submerged to wash oil out of #4 M.B.T (Main Ballast Tank?) which had gone dry.

2332 I Surfaced.   Noon Posit.: Lat. 02-55N, Long. 122-34E; Miles 336, fuel 3436 gal.
Friday, 15 Sept. 1944.

From now until return to BIAK we were patrolling on a reconnaissance line to detect approach of forces which might interfere with the MOROTAI-PALAU Operations.

1120 I Plane on radar 15 miles. Lost at 22 miles.  Not sighted. Air contact #3.   Noon Posit.: Lat. 02-16N, Long. 122-19E; Miles 314, fuel 2777 gal.

Saturday, 16 Sept. 1944.

1034 I Plane on radar. 19 miles. Air contact # 4.

1041 I Sighted plane. Submerged.

1218 I Surfaced.  Noon Posit. Lat. 02-53N, Long. 122-34E; miles 297; fuel 2650 gallons

Sunday, 17 Sept. 1944.

0910 I Plane on radar. 17 miles. Air Contact #5.
0917 I Plane at 7 miles not yet sighted. Submerged.
1028 I Surfaced.

1033 I Plane on radar. 12 miles. Lost at 17 miles. Air contact #6.

1054 I Plane on radar. 24 miles. Air contact #7.

1148 I Float plane sighted and picked up on radar at 6 miles. Air contact #8. Apparently this one had shadowed us all morning. Submerged.

1432 I Surfaced.

1613 I Plane on radar, 10 miles. Air contact #9.
1614 I Range closed to 6 miles. Submerged.
1648 I Surfaced.

Noon Position: Lat. 03-11N, Long. 122-36S; miles 273; fuel 2013 gallons.

Monday, 18 Sept. 1944.

1542 I Plane on radar, 19 miles. Not sighted. Air contact #10.
Noon Posit. Lat. 02-34N, Long. 122-45E; miles 315, fuel 2792 gal.

Tuesday, 19 Sept. 1944.

0715 I Plane on radar, 10 miles. Air contact # 11. Submerged.
0837 I Surfaced.

1009 I Plane on radar. Air contact # 12. Submerged.
1207 I Surfaced.

1451 I Fired 40mm at stump for drill.

1617 I Plane on radar, 8 miles. Air contact # 13. Submerged.

1621 I Took two bombs or depth charges while at 200ft. No damage.

1856 I Surfaced. 

Noon posit: Lat. 02-57N, Long. 122-57E; miles 236; fuel 1980 gal.
Wednesday, 20 Sept. 1944.

0835 I Plane on radar, 10 miles. Air contact # 14. Submerged.
1039 I Surfaced.

1157 I Plane on radar. Submerged. Air contact # 15.
1417 I Surfaced.

1418 I Indication of plane radar. Submerged.
1627 I Surfaced.

1714 I Sighted four horn floating mine. Exploded same at range 250 yards with .30 cal. MG fire.  Showered small fragments on both sides of ship.

1722 I Sighted plane. Air Contact # 16. Submerged.
1901 I Surfaced.

Noon Posit: Lat. 02-26N, Long. 122-21E; miles 206; fuel 1680 gal.

Thursday, 21 Sept. 1944.

1110 I Radar contact 19 miles. Air contact #17.
1112 I Sighted westbound friendly B-24. Plane did not approach us.

1230 I Plane on radar, 26 miles. Air contact #18.

1244 I ID’d B-24 (probably 1112 Contact going home) Approached. Fired recognition signal. Plane turned away.

1513 I Plane on radar 14 miles. Air contact #19.

1514 I Float plane sighted, apparently shadowing us.
1525 I Lost sight of plane.

2112 I Plane on SJ radar 4500 yards, air contact #20. Submerged. Last range 2700 yards. It was too dark for plane to locate us by any means except radar.

2238 I Surfaced.

Noon Posit.: Lat. 01-45N, Long. 122-48E; miles 286; fuel 2625 gal.
Friday, 22 Sept. 1944.

0912 I Plane on radar 10 miles. Air contact #21. Submerged. Stayed down to routine torpedoes.
1308 I Surfaced.

2105 I Plane on SJ radar 13,000 yards. Submerged at range 7000 yards. Last range 3800 yards. This contact was within 8 minutes of the time, and within 10 miles of position of last night’s contact. Air contact #22.

2253 I Surfaced.

Noon Posit: Lat. 01-54N, Long. 123-01E; miles 247; fuel 2125 gal.

Saturday, 23 Sept. 1944.

0625 I Submerged. Working on engine starting air line.  Relief valve had carried away causing severe head injuries to JAMES, Thomas Ray, 283 21 53, CMOMM USN.

1308 I Surfaced. Noon Position: Lat. 01-39N, Long. 122-04E; miles 239; fuel 2095 gal.

Sunday, 24 Sept. 1944.

0645 I Sighted Jap float plane. Air contact #23.  Submerged.
0812 I Surfaced. Proceeding to BIAK in accordance with orders.

1150 I Sighted B-24. Air Contact #24.

1321 I Plane on radar, 24 miles. Not sighted. Air contact #25.


Sunday, 1 Oct. 1944.

1830 I SJ radar contact on 4 small ships, course Southeast. Closed to visual contact. Targets made out to be small ships (not submarines). Decided they could not be enemy. Avoided.
Noon Posit.: Lat. 01-23S, Long. 136-28E; fuel 2450 gal.

Monday, 2 Oct. 1944.

0606 I Sighted submarine (USS SEAWOLF). Sighted numerous US planes 2 and 3 Oct. Noon Position: Latitude 01-29N, Longitude 134-25E; miles 316; fuel 3204 gal.

Tues, Oct. 1944.

1042 I Sighted USS NARWHAL

1502 I Sighted numerous US Planes – fighters, torpedo bombers. These planes circled us to do approaches for next three hours which necessitated firing many recognition flares. One defective flare exploded, large fragments of flare and holder narrowly missed the J.O.O.D.

1518 I Sighted 3 DE’s. Found hunter-killer group was “working over” the submarine safety lane. After firing five flares and exchanging calls for what seemed like an hour, heard one DE say over voice radio: “Believe this submarine is American”!

Noon Posit.: Lat. 02-35N, Long. 130-16E; miles 296; fuel 4579.

Wednesday, 4 Oct. ‘44.

1200 I Transmitting 20 pass at 4 generator speed.
Noon posit.: Lat. 02-32N, Long. 125-17E; miles 355; fuel 5575 gal.

Thursday, 5 Oct. ’44.

0200 I Sighted large floating mine, dead ahead. Narrowly missed hitting it.

0840 I Submerged for approach on SIBUTU passage

1660 I Set clocks to: 1500 H.

1836 H Surfaced proceeding through SIBUTU Passage.
Noon Position: Lat. 04-26N – Long. 120-14E; miles 248; fuel 3976 gal.
Friday, 6 Oct. ’44.

0130 H Passing between PEARL BANK and DOC CAM Island.

0535 H Submerged.

0600 H Surfaced, proceeding North through SULU SEA.

1244 H Sighted Jap medium bomber, range 4 miles. Air contact #26. Submerged.

1510 H Surfaced.

2225 H Submerged to flush # 4 M. B. T.

2304 H Surfaced.

Noon Posit.: Lat. 05-12N, Long. 120-46E; miles 313, fuel 4401 gal.

Sat, 7 Oct. ’44.

1031 H Submerged South of MINDURO ISLAND. Weather had cleared, making discovery very likely while running close to MINDURO.

1839 H Surfaced. Proceeding through MINDURO at East pass. Thence West around North end of PALAWAN ISLAND.

Noon Posit.: Lat. 11-41N, Long. 121-17E; miles 231; fuel 2956 gal.

Sun., 8 Oct. ’44.

0554 H Submerged at north end of PALAWAN PASSAGE, to work on Hydraulic plant.

1120 H Hydraulic plant back in commission; surfaced. Proceeding South in PALAWAN PASSAGE.

Noon Posit.: Lat. 12-04N, Long. 118-56E; miles 271; fuel 3159 gal.

Mon, 9 Oct. ’44.

0400 H Entered assigned area (DOG-6)

0552 H Submerged for patrol in PALAWAN PASSAGE, SE of BOMBAY SHOAL.

Patrolling submerged because 1) this point of passage is narrow enough to permit sighting from midpoint of any convoy attempting passage, 2) Nearness of PUERTO PRINCESA airfield.

1844 H Surfaced.

Noon Posit.: Lat. 08-58N, Long. 117-30E; miles 178; fuel 1961 gal.

Tues, 10 Oct. ’44.

Received contact reports on convoy which was at north end of PALAWAN PASSAGE at 2300 last night. Received voice transmission from DACE that she was entering area and suggesting rendezvous.

0450 H Rendezvous with DACE. DACE ordered to patrol submerged today covering east half of passage; DARTER covering west half, waiting for reported convoy at north end area.

0618 H Submerged.

1831 H Surfaced. Proceeding North up Western side of passage; DACE up eastern half, to intercept convoy.

2400 H Reversed course. Noon Posit.: Lat. 09-17N, Long. 117-07E; miles 170; fuel 1405 gal.

Weds, 11 Oct. ’44.

0231 H Spoke to DACE. Decided convoy must have anchored inside the barrier. DACE will patrol passage at Northern limit area today and DARTER West of BALABAC ISLAND.

1130 H Submerged NW of BALABAC ISLAND.
1836 H Surfaced.

Noon Posit.: Lat. 08-40N, Long. 116-51E; miles 219; fuel 2083 gal.
Thurs, 12 Oct. ’44.

0140 H Spoke to DACE. DARTER will patrol Northern limit of area in narrow part of PALAWAN PASSAGE today. DACE to patrol West of BALABAC STRAIT.

0554 H Submerged.

0619 H Sound reported echo ranging bearing 030 degrees T.  Dead ahead.

0627 H Sighted 7 columns smoke, same bearing.

0705 H Smoke bearings began to draw right. Targets which had been coming down center of PALAWAN PASSAGE are now apparently heading for north BALABAC STRAIT. Changed to normal approach course, making 6 knots.

0759 H Raised SD antenna and sent contact report to DACE. No receipt.

0803 H Minimum angle on the bow on any ship up to this time was 45 deg. Starboard. Continued closing at high speed. Manned battle stations. Targets seem to be:

3 AO’s – Toiyo Maru, Liyo Maru,and one resembling
Issyo Maru.

1 AP – Large square cabin structure – 7,500 tons

3 AK’s – Two large, one medium

2 DD’s – New type, large, one stack DD. Similar to Torutsuki without #2 turret. 1 other probable DD heard pinging on far side of convoy.

0920 H Starboard DD went by at 4300 yards.  Decided he could avoid torpedoes at that range, whereas tankers could not.

0924 H Fired (from bow tubes) 4 low power Mark 14s at two overlapping tankers, trailing ships of the convoy. (Other two torpedoes in tubes were 23’s) 6000 yard torpedo run.

0926 H All torpedoes running normally. Closest DD steaming as before. Went deep to escape air cover. Position of attack Lat. 8-40N, Long. 116-42E.

0930 H Heard 3 torpedo hits. Timed for two in forward near tanker and one in the other.

0934 H Heard one end of run torpedo explosion.

0935 H Seven close aerial bombs. These lacked the click which is distinctive of depth charges.

0937 H Evading two escorts which conducted 45 minute echo ranging search. Although they passed close aboard several times, a heavy density layer prevented them from making contact.

1055 H At periscope depth. One tanker in sight, trailing remainder of convoy. This ship was slowed and it or its smoke was in sight until 1315, inside the shallow water approaches to north BALABAC STRAIT. We could gain nothing by surfacing since targets were now in the shallow waters west of north BALABAC STRAIT so remained submerged. Estimated targets would hole up in a bay on east side of BALABAC (The C.O. anchored in this bay on a DD in 1938.)

1330 H Sent contact report to DACE on 2880 Kilocycles.

1848 H Surfaced. Sent contact reports to DACE and CTF-71. Proceeding to rendezvous with DACE, west of BALABAC STRAIT.

2200 H Rendezvous, DACE had not seen our convoy. Previous estimate of situation must be correct. DACE will continue patrolling close in to BALABAC STRAIT tomorrow. DARTER will patrol 20 miles southwest, in case a convoy heads for SINGAPORE.

Noon Posit.: Lat. 08-34N, Long. 117-51E; miles 187; fuel 1979 gal.

(From this point to 20 Oct. report is from memory only, due to loss of logs and quartermaster’s notebook.)

Friday, 13 Oct. ’44.

Patrolling submerged.

1700 H Received on vertical antenna DACE contact report on our convoy seen at 1100 heading south inside BORNEO BARRIER REEF.

1800 H Sighted DACE on surface. Surfaced to decide on plan of attack; DACE to head south coming in ahead of convoy. DARTER to come in astern. (We were uncertain as to where convoy would be found)

2000 H Proceeding south inside BARRIER REEF in about 20 fathoms of water.

2300 H Radar contact ahead several minutes after DACE made contact (26,000 yards)

Saturday, 14 Oct. ’44.

Maneuvering for attack position from starboard beam of last ship. DACE ahead on convoy stbd. Bow. Could not attack from port due to proximity of beach. Waiting for DACE attack. Doctrine called for her to attack first, since she made first contact.

0035 H In position 8,000yds on beam of of starboard trailing ship. One dog dog between us and ship.

0110 H Off GAYA BAY saw DACE make a beautiful attack, getting 4 hits on an unknown number of ships. Great clouds of steam and smoke arose from one ship. From now on an accurate radar check showed that one ship sank as result of this attack and one ship was stopped. Original radar picture was 10 ships, 7 large and 3 dog dogs. After attack, 5 large pips with one dog dog kept going south. One large pip disappeared. (All ships were too well boxed in by land on two sides and 2 subs on the other to have gotten away without our sighting them on radar.)

One target stopped with dog dog. One dog dog chased where he thought DACE was but came in our direction. DARTER now forced to to head north losing several miles. Got back in position and started in for attack on the large tanker (just north of MIWAMIS BAY. Convoy now zigged about 50 deg. Left into MIWAMIS BAY. (This put rocks between us and convoy and cost us our chance to attack.)  Reversed course to head for cripple.  Found stopped cripple off GAYA BAY escorted by two dog dogs who were patrolling slowly and echo ranging. Started in slowly on surface.

Sat. 14 Oct. ’44 contd.

Detected at 10,000 yards and chased by dog dogs. After evading some, waited 20 minutes and started in again. At 9,000 yards detected again (probably by sound), dog dogs closed into 5,500 yards before we threw them off. With dawn one hour away and a four hour run to deep water ahead, abandoned attack; making full power for deep water.

0900 H     Submerged for day west of BARRIER REEF (off GAYA BAY)

2400 H     Rendezvoused with DACE. Did not see fit to return to convoy since it had but a few miles to go to reach BRUNEI BAY at lower edge area. Also had orders to cover strait.  Plan is: DARTER to patrol PALAWAN PASSAGE east of ROYAL CAPTAIN SHOAL, DACE to patrol BALABAC STRAIT. Exchange stations night of 17-18.

15, 16, 17 Oct. 1944.

Patrolling east of ROYAL CAPTAIN SHOAL in PALAWAN PASSAGE. Nothing sighted. Exchanged stations night of 17th.

Wednesday, 18 Oct. 1944.

Patrolling west approaches to BALABAC STRAIT. Night of 18th received reports of BLUE GILLS Southbound convoy. Headed north up PALAWAN PASSAGE to intercept.

Thurs., 19 Oct. 1944.

1000 H     Sighted periscope 3000 yards on port bow.  Turned away at flank speed.

1005 H DACE surfaced. Closing to plan attack on convoy; visibility poor.

1009 H Sighted masts to northeast about 10 miles distant.

1010 H Sent plain language report of masts to DACE on 2880 Kcs.

1011 H Submerged. Battle stations.

1018 H Found ourselves between tracks of two oncoming FUBUKI Dog Dogs. Turned east to attack left flank DD on starboard track, since DACE was submerged 3000 yards to west. DD’s zigging radically.

1040 H Target zigged away presenting 80 port angle on the bow. Come hard right for stern shots.

1042 H Fired four stern tubes; 130 port track, range 3000 yards. 500 feet spread. Depth set 6 feet.

1043 H Target ran up flag hoist and turned away. Smoke of torpedoes looked to show a straddle, but all torpedoes missed.  Position of attack: Lat. 9-09N, Long. 117-03E. Went deep since could not turn 180 degrees in time to give him a down the throat shot when he came at us. Several depth charges dropped, not close.

1830 H Surfaced. DARTER covering west side passage, DACE east side in vicinity of ROYAL CAPTAIN SHOAL; looking for BLUEGILL convoy; also suspected destroyer sweep might indicate heavy units coming this way.

Friday, 20 Oct. ’44.

Patrolling west side of PALAWAN PASSAGE, searching for BLUEGILL convoy.

0400 H Contacted the two DD’s northbound, speed 17. We were just forward of their beam, range 18,000 yards. Could not close. Sent contact report to DACE.

Saturday, 21 Oct ’44.

0000 H Picked up news broadcast on Phillippines invasion.  Immediately headed for BALABAC STRAIT to watch for heavy units since SINGAPORE-BALABAC-MINDANAO SEA is shortest route for any part of Jap fleet which might head for LEYTE.

0815 H Submerged in western approach to BALABAC STRAIT.

1824 H Surfaced. Patrolling tonight covering southwest approaches to BALABAC STRAIT.

2350 H Radar contact 26,000 yards, 261 degrees T(3 targets) 0100 target position 07-31N; Long. 115-22E.

2352 H At battle stations; making full power. Sent contact report to DACE and CTF-71 on 3 probable heavy cruisers. Targets tracked at speed 23 knots, base course 020 degrees T, headed through the Dangerous Ground. We were only 29 degrees forward of targets from beam on contact, and never had a chance to gain position. Held on at full power (18.8 knots) through Dangerous Ground until after daylight with view (1) possible zig toward us (2) to send out contact reports to coach DACE onto track (3) to attempt to sight targets at dawn for identification.  Sent total of two contact reports to CTF-71 and 11 to DACE. DACE was in position for possible interception.

Sunday, 22 Oct. ’44.

 0450 H Targets in a zigzag to 335 degrees T to pass west of ALICIA ANN SHOAL. This was not recognized as a change in base course in time to allow DACE to get in position.

0500 H Sent report to DACE that enemy course is now 335 degrees T.

0507 H Radar lost targets

Sunday, 22 Oct. ’44, Cont’d.

625 H Sighted tops of the probable BB West of ALICIA ANN SHOAL.  Radar range 38,000 yds had coached periscope on.

0659 H Abandoned chase since we were 19 miles behind a 22 knot target.  (Their ships were probably the 2 Aobas cruisers and one DD later contacted by USS BREAM.  For 4 ½ hours the exact zigzag plan of the force was as follows: From hour to half hour then repeat: 050 degrees, 350 degrees, 020 degrees, 350 degrees and so on, zig-zagging every five minutes. Base course 20 degrees T.

0700 H Headed south through Dangerous Ground along target’s track, in hopes more were coming.

0902 H Submerged for patrol in Dangerous Ground.

1818 H Surfaced. Proceeding to BALABAC STRAIT.

2000 H Heading for rendezvous with DACE.

Monday, 23 Oct. ’44.

0000 H Speaking to DACE; planning remainder of coordinated patrol.

0016 H Radar contact 131 degrees T, operator says “probably rain.” 

0017 H By megaphone to DACE: “We have radar contact. Let’s go”

0020 H Bearing changed to left. Operator says it is ships. Both subs closing at full power. Come to normal approach course, 040 degrees T.  Targets headed up to PALAWAN PASSAGE.

Between now and dawn sent out 3 contact reports to CTF-71, giving final estimate that ships were a task force of 11 heavy ships.  This based on their high speed and long radar ranges obtained (34,000 yards maximum); also many sweeping radars were detected.  Tracking party said that gaining attack position was hopeless due to high target speed (initial estimate 22 knots)  Blew negative, safety, ran #10 blow every 30 minutes.  Managed to average about 19 knots.  Estimates of enemy speed began to drop until finally it was 15 knots. We had them now! Enemy course 39 degrees. DARTER was to attack left flank column first, at dawn, with DACE about 5 miles up the track in position to attack starboard column.  Did not attack in darkness, as it was considered vital to see and identify the force which was probably on its way to interfere with the Leyte landing.  It was felt that there could be no radical dawn zig due to size of force and narrowness of PALAWAN PASSAGE. Targets did not zig during night.

0425 H 20,000 yards dead ahead of port column of heavy ships. Slowed to 15 knots. Biggest pip in port column was last ship. Picked it as target.

0452 H Manned battle stations.

0500 H Targets spread by up to 16 knots.

0509 H Reversed course, headed towards port column, and submerged. (DACE had just passed us to dive to Northeast)  DARTER planned to attack from West in half light at dawn at 0540.

0517 H Now light enough to see shapes through ‘scope. We were dead ahead of port flank column of heavy ships.  Could not yet identify ships. Visibility better to east where battleships and cruisers could be seen several thousand yards away.  Two destroyers noted to east. Both drawing left. There was no echo ranging.

0525 H Making ready 11 tubes, depth 10 feet.

0527 H C/c right to parallel column to be able to fire all ten tubes. Still looked like “down the throat” shots.  First four ships in column identified as heavy cruisers. Fifth one is probably a battleship.

0528 H Range 2880 yards to first cruiser in column. Angle on the bow still small.

Monday, 23 Oct. ’44 Cont’d.

0530 H Targets zigged in a “ships left” to course 350 deg. T. Got new setup.

0532 H Commenced firing bow tubes at leading cruiser. Using periscope spread to cover 150 degrees of length.  Average range 980, gyros 35-70 right, track 92-130 starboard.  After firing two into him and one spread ahead, target was rearing by so close that we couldn’t miss so spread the remainder inside his length. Swing hard left to bring stern tubes to bear while getting setup on second cruiser.

0533 H Torpedoes started hitting first cruiser.  Five hits. Commenced firing stern tubes at second cruiser; average range 1525, gyros 50 to 60 degrees (130 deg. Left to 120 deg. Left)  Track 90-100 degrees starboard. Spread torpedoes over center 3 quarters of his length since hits in first one showed the dope was good. Whipped periscope back to the first target to see the sight of a lifetime: cruiser was so close that all of her could not be seen at once with periscope in high power. She was a mass of billowing black smoke from number one turret to the stern. No superstructure could be seen. Bright orange flames shot out from the side along the main deck from the bow to the after turret.  Cruiser was already going down by the bow, which was dipping under.  #1 turret was at water level.  She was definitely finished. Five hits had her sinking and in flames. It is estimated that there were few if any survivors.

0534 H Started deep. Evaded on base course 220 deg. T.

0534 H+ Four hits in second cruiser. Felt certain that four hits would sink this one too.  The fourth hit was 25 seconds later than it should have been. This fourth one may have hit the third cruiser, since they were now in line of bearing formation.  Attack position: Lat. 09-23N; Long. 117-11E.

0539 H Depth charge attack began. Four Dog Dogs were echo ranging and milling about overhead.  The hits, and the screws of many heavy ships probably confound the sound situation for the enemy, since the attack was not accurate.

0540 H Commenced hearing breaking up noises on sound gear on a broad bearing (roughly 340 T) where our targets should be stopped. Noises could be heard through hull in all compartments. These increased in intensity until they seemed to be right overhead and shook the ship violently. (Bearings of bucking and crunching noises only could be obtained. Heavy rumbling and explosions were too violent to get sound bearings on.)

0550 H Heard four distant torpedo explosions in rapid succession. Probably DACE firing. The Japs must think our submarines are everywhere at once. From 0600 to 0604 there were tremendous explosions. Probably magazines. It is estimated that from 0600 on, our target’s breaking up noises combined with those of DACE’s target.

0605 H Depth charges began again. Probably meant for DACE this time A total of about 36 overall were heard from this time on more distant breaking up noises and distant rattling explosions (not depth charges) could be heard until about 0625)

0630 H Last of depth charges. Four destroyers could be heard echo ranging. Estimated composition of the task force as follows: left flank column: four ATAGO class CA’s plus one possible BB. Right flank column: 2 CA’s, one BB.  Asterna nd right flank, 2 CA’s or CL’s and one CV or BB. In addition estimate six DD(only four seen). Total 11 heavy ships, 6 DD.

0820 H At periscope depth: One Atago class cruiser sighted bearing 019 deg. T, range 12,000 yards, at our attack position, listing slightly to starboard and dead in the water. No steam up. Three destroyers were near him and three planes circled the vicinity. No smoke coming from cruiser. (This cruiser was of the CA 9 and 10 stage class with catapult forward of mainmast)
The following in conenction with the damage inflicted on this attack is submitted:

  1. Leading cruiser was seen to be afire and sinking with 5 hits.

2.4 more hits were obtained, at least 3 in second cruiser; the 4th hit was 25 seconds late. Timed about right for #3 cruiser.

3.Before returning to periscope depth we were convinced we had sunk two.

4.DACE saw two cruisers burning before she attacked her column.

5.Our cripple was NOT afire at 0820. It is believed that large oil fires could not be put out in 2 1/2 hours.

  6.Three hits should sink our second cruiser.

  7.Conclusion: There is a possibility that two were sunk and one damaged. As stated this is only a possibility, yet the idea is submitted; because, unless Jap cruisers can take more punishment than ours, it is the logical explanation of the above.

0900 H Secured from battle stations, feeding crew, and making reload preparatory to attacking again.

0930 H One destroyer shoved off to North. It is believed he had been picking up survivors.

1100 H Started in towards cruiser.

1200 H Battle stations, rigged for depth charge.

1300 H Range to cruiser 8000 yards. Coming in on 90 port track. Two destroyers patrolling on beam at range 4000 yards from target, the maximum range at which we could fire.  Four planes circling overhead. Decided we would never get to fire from beam with DDs where they were, so commenced working around to bow for small track.

1430 H Range 7000 yards to cruiser. Coming in on port bow of target for small track when destroyers both headed towards us. When range about 3500 yards on closest DD, and still coming in went deep and evaded. Could not attack destroyers since our six torpedoes were for the cruiser. Decided to wait until tonight when combined attacks of DARTER & DACE would outlast the destroyer. (It should be remarked here that we were twice today well within the low power (Mk 14) torpedo range of the stopped, 657 foot target; but these are no longer manufactured in quantities sufficient to give more than a partial load to any boat.)


1500 H Cruiser seen hoisting out a boat. He must have some steam now.

Sunset Too close to cruiser to surface for star sights.

1915 H Surfaced. Cruiser in sight on radar. Proceeding to rendezvous with DACE. Sent contact report on stopped CA and estimated composition of remainder of force.

2100 H Cancelled rendezvous with DACE not yet sighted. And reduced visibility rendering immediate attack appear favorable. DACE ordered to take attack position 10 miles bearing 150 deg. T from cruiser. DARTER 10 miles bearing 050 deg. T from cruiser. (Thought DDs would attempt tow cruiser in our direction towards PALAWAN BARRIER REEF)

2200 H Cruiser underway, course about 220 deg. T. Speed varied from 4 to 5 knots; course was erratic as though target was steering with screws. One DD patrolling on each beam.

2245 H Started in for surface attack in very poor visibility. Planned to attack from Stbd. Quarter, coming in last mile slowly on battery. Told DACE we would attack in 90 minutes and to sink him if we were forced down.

2306 H Radar detector picked up two radars sweeping. Decided against surface attack. Told DACE to attack when ready, DARTER ending around to starboard for attack at radar depth. Ending around at range 15000 yards on target.

2310 H We now began running through heavy fuel oil slick from the morning attacks. Slick seen and heavy fumes noted for next 45 minutes.

2400 H About one hour to run to gain attack position ahead. Range to cruiser about 18000 yards. Making 17 knots. (Had no sights for 30 hours.)

*USS Darter Runs Aground*
Tuesday, 24 Oct. 1944.

0005 H (OOD and Captain on bridge. Navigator plotting in conning tower.) Ship grounded on Bombay Shoal with tremendous crash. Took 20 degree up angle. Stern submerged. Thought we had been torpedoed. Rode up over reef and came to rest with about a 3 degree up angle and 3 degree port list. Informed DACE we were aground. Immediately took soundings: 9 feet from bow to conning tower, 18 feet at stern.  (No damage to ship except probably bent plates and nicked screws) Commenced lightening ship; high tide is at 0140.

0015 H Jap destroyer now began closing. He must have heard us hit. Commenced burning secret and confidential matter and destroying confidential gear. All hands not engaged in destroying gear employed in lightening ship.

0030 H Radar range to DD now 12,100 yards. Steadied here for a few minutes; started to man guns, but radar soon reported range opening. Blew over all fuel oil except enough to keep us going for a few days; variable water; fresh water; lube oil; anchor; jettisoned ammunition and commissary stores.

0100 H Lost radar contact on DD.

0140 H Radar contact on DACE 11,000 yards challenged by radar.

0146 H High tide commenced attempts to get off reef. Engines would not run because all salt water intakes plugged with coral. Backed with everything we had on battery. All hands assembled aft (to redistribute weight) First on stern where we were in 18 feet of water. Then further forward, sallying ship, in conjunction with backing (reverse speed)

0149 H Stopped. Ship had not moved. Heading remained the same.

0210 H Tried backing, twisting and sallying again for next twenty minutes.

0230 H Tide receding now. We are high and dry. Ceased effort to get off. Concentrated on destroying confidential gear. Three fires were kept burning below decks to detsroy classified matter: one in forward engine room, one in radio shack, one in officer’s shower. These made much smoke. Smoke was kept down to some extent by running #10 blow continuously. More fires would have made destruction work below impossible. As it was, personnel had to go topside for air every few minutes.  All registered publications except ONI-49 destroyed by burning. Report of confidential matter not burned submitted by despatch and will be submitted by separate letter. (See recommendations under paragraph (v) remarks.

1.    SJ radar including magnetron tubes
2.    SD radar; ABK; BN; ARC
3.    Sound gear in forward room; including JP.
4.    Sound gear in conning tower.
5.    TDC and both gyro angle indicator regulators.
6.    Bathythermograph
7.    Gyro
8.    Ship’s radio transmitters and receivers
9.    All generators were burned out (main generators)

0245 H DACE approached to within 50 yards of stern and sent over a line.

0304 H Commenced sending over crew in ours and DACE rubber boats.

0420 H Completed rigging demolition charges. Decided to abandon ship now to permit firing charges and torpedoing by DACE prior sunrise.  Also some compartments below could no longer  be entered due to dense smoke from fires. Final connecting of demolition outfit witnessed by Gunnery Officer and Commanding Officer. Timer witnessed set for 35 minutes.

0435 H Commanding Officer last to abandon ship.

0455 H From DACE heard light explosion at correct time. Some of the 50 charges may have gone off but certainly the warhead did not. No damage observed to hull. Smoke still pouring out of hatches but this may be from remains of publications fires. (One booster had been rigged in a warhead) DACE now attempted to hit DARTER with four torpedoes. All seemed to hit reefs. Tide is much lower. DACE now put about 3 common and 18 high capacity four inch hits in DARTER along water line. It is estimated that the high capacity ammunition penetrated outer hull only. One hit blew up #1 or #2 N.F.O. tank and may have started fires in forward battery. It was now daylight and DACE was forced down by a plane during firing. A DD soon appeared and may have boarded, although fires were still burning. Night of 24-25th DACE returned to scene with intentions of reboarding with DACE demolition outfit. When at range 2000 yards from DARTER close echo ranging was heard on sound gear (also by both CO’s on bridge) so DACE cleared vicinity. This was estimated to be submerged submarine close aboard since 1) it was bright moonlight and favorable for a periscope attack, 2) no radar contact on any other ship.

Proceeding to Freemantle in USS DACE.

At this point the Commanding Officer states that the Commanding Officer of the DACE; Commander B. D. Claggett, USN, unhesitatingly risked his ship close aboard a reef and in close proximity to the enemy, to rescue the DARTER crew, the remnants of which would have been unquestionably captured on arrival of the Jap DD, after our remaining ammunition was expended. The superb seamanship and skillful direction by the DACE Commanding Officer enabled the rescue to be carried out smartly, quickly and without the loss of a single man. He is being recommended for an award by separate letter.

Monday, 6 November 1944.

D. H. McClintock

   After Action report transcribed in handwriting by Hugh N. Siegel, retired Radio Technician First Class, U.S.S. DARTER SS-227, date unknown

Handwriting typewritten by Hugh’s grandson Jeffrey D. Batt, son of Hugh’s daughter Karen M. Batt (Siegel) on Saturday, February 18, 2012.  Typeface set in Courier New, 12 pt.