Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

I will never know the full story of what you saw or what you did in service to our country, but I am grateful to be the grandson of a veteran. I will always look up to you as I always have, and honor your memory by keeping the past alive. 

Thank you. 

H.N.S. 1919-1995

Served 1942-1975

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tour Inside A Real WWII Submarine

This is the USS Becuna (SS-319), A "Balao"-class diesel submarine launched in 1944. It's not a "Gato" class like the Darter but inside there's only minor differences. After all the research I've done on what it was like aboard a WWII submarine, now you get to see it. I had the whole ship to myself for this tour. It was neat to see all the panels lit up and the red lights on in the control room like it was still operational. This sub is a historic landmark and is permanently moored at the Independence Seaport Museum at Penn's Landing, Philadelphia PA.

If you can't see the slideshow go to this link: Inside the submarine

^^Click the speech balloon in the bottom left corner to see slide captions.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Philly Seaport Festival 2014...Photos Coming Soon

Today I was at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia for a maritime festival...and I think my grandfather would be happy to know I was able to tour the inside of a REAL World War II submarine!  Something I have seen in many war movies and read about, but never actually been aboard one in person.  It amazes me how much machinery, piping, and valves and controls they were able to fit in a 311-foot long steel tube and still have room for people.

I found it fascinating and very relevant to the interests of this website.  So stand by for a virtual tour of the USS Becuna...coming soon.   (Due to the large volume of images, I might create a web album on Picasa)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

DARTER crew group photos 1943

I apologize for being lax on updating this blog recently.  There is still so much left to share.

Two recently scanned photos of the DARTER crew, dated September 1943. Formal (dress blues) and informal (sailors with their girlfriends).  Who knows, maybe somebody's grandparents are in this photo!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What did Hugh do before & after the war?

In 1941-1942, Hugh was a lens grinder who worked at a production plant for precision optics in Camden, New Jersey. His childhood friend Jeanette, who he would later end up marrying, was a teenager and worked as a typist and secretary in an office, also in Camden. Hugh's parents lived on Deveraux Street in Philadelphia, and he likely rode the train over the bridge to get to Camden. They wrote letters back and forth and he probably saw her during this time. Based on Jan's birth year of 1928, she would have been 14 when Hughie enlisted. Hugh was born in 1919 and was older, he was about 23 years of age. (He enlisted in 1942, possibly to escape the draft) He enlisted in US Navy Reserves, not the Navy proper.

Hugh had always loved amateur radio and electronics, tinkering with them almost since their invention.  He probably took all the radios in his parent's house apart and put them back together as a kid, with or without success. He got his first real radio operator's license in 1937, so he was already a ham by the time WWII broke out. His bedroom walls were no doubt plastered with QSL cards. His first radio call sign assigned to him was W3GYY. Later on it became W2YAM and much later, K2CP. In his radio room in the 1980's were boxes of vacuum tubes, a throat mike used by fighter pilots, a couple old military radio headsets, a primitive code practice machine that used a magnetic tape reel recorder, and Heathkit equipment he had built and tested himself. He had an old telegraph transmitter key and receiver tapper from the late 1800's or very early 1900's. When I was little I used to play with a small code practice rig he had hooked up, as well as listen to cassette tapes he had with code lessons. He used to say that “Real radios glow in the dark!”

His old pal Tommy George (*actually his cousin) applied for a ham license the same day as Hugh. Hugh's call sign was K2CP and Tommy's was K2CJ. They remained friends until well into their 70's. Both Hugh and Tommy were licensed for over fifty years.

Hugh remained in contact with many of his WW2 submarine veterans well into the 1970's, '80s and '90s. He kept detailed lists of the men's names, their last known addresses and even their radio call signs. It may be worth contacting some of these people by mail --or their next of kin-- to find if they are still around. The most recent veteran's rosters I have in my possession are dated 1985 though. A lot changes in 30 years (like me growing up for example). Still it may be worth a shot in the dark.

I don't know what Hugh was interested in at the time the war came to America. I don't know what movies he liked, or what music he listened to, or what books he read. I can only guess based on what was popular at the time. I know he always loved books though, as he would sign his name inside the cover of each one as “From the library of Hugh N. Siegel”.

Hugh was always into boats and the sea. His own father served in the Navy around the turn of the century. Frederick Valentine Siegel was a gunner's mate aboard the steamship USS Indiana, and he fought in the Spanish-American war and the Boxer Rebellion. He may have given Hugh his middle name, Nelson, in tribute to Admiral Horatio Nelson, but this needs to be verified. So the Navy was in his blood. He always loved fish and sea creatures, and the ocean. We have many pictures of him at the beaches in Wildwood and Ocean City, New Jersey. As far as I know he never surfed though. He did not seem athletic; by that I mean he did not seem to enjoy sports. Though later in life he enjoyed camping, backpacking, hiking and skiing. He moved to upstate New York for this reason, to be closer to the Adirondacks.

He enlisted and was accepted into US Naval Training School as a Radio Tech 2nd Class because of his civilian experience. He worked at a message desk in the Commandant's office about the same time Jan was a typist. They could both type very well, and Hugh later convinced Jan to get a Novice-grade ham license (listen but code transmit only)

When he was still in training at the Navy academy, he learned that his Dad died of a heart attack on his way to a fire (he was a fireman). Then his mom died two years later. he received that telegram after arriving in Australia, having just survived the worst ordeal of his life.  He went to live with his uncle George on Albion Street.

Hugh worked at Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia for awhile before being shipped out.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fourth and Final War Patrol of Darter - Official Navy History Department Entry

The following is from a typewritten copy of the ship's history of the USS Darter SS-227, specifically its last day of service during which it crippled the Japanese fleet, sacrificing itself in the process and ran aground:

Naval Records and History
Ship's Histories Section
Navy Department


(excerpt from complete account)

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 heavy 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 have 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 reasonably 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 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 inf or 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 roaring by so close that the deadly missiles couldn't miss, and so they were fired straight into its 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 black smoke from her #1 turret to the stern. Bright orange flames licked out along the water's edge as the bow began to go under. To add to the crew's joy, four more hist sounded through the submarine 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 get int o 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 under, 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 hours, and between then and high tide at 0146 the crew worked feverishly, destroying all confidential matter and dumping everything movable 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 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 the job of destruction on the 31st with 55 six-inch hits.

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 sunk and 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 Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

USS DARTER earned four Battle Stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Area Service Medal for participating in the following operations:

1 Star: Truk Attack -- 16-17 February 1944

1 Star: Battle of Surigao Strait -- 24 October 1944

1 Star: Submarine War Patrol -- 22 March - 23 May 1944

1 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. 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 subsequently 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."

Compiled: July 1953

Sunday, March 2, 2014

USS Dace Service Patch Design

It appears Hugh also designed the patch for the Darter's sister submarine, the USS Dace....or at least the veterans patch for it. I have his sketches and concept artwork, and this is pretty awesome.

You can obviously see who I inherited my design skills from.

Here's the printed logo as it appears in WWII Sub Vets publications.

Now, below is also another cool logo Hugh has copies of. It was for his replacement boat, the USS Menhaden he served on after the war. This is a silk screened version of it from the 1950's.

I do not think that he designed the Menhaden logo, as it was already in use by the Navy. It appears on a dinner menu from a meal served aboard the submarine, so it is unlikely that he designed it. I don't have any concepts for this one, only the finished design. 

I think he just asked for a copy of it because he liked it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Like Father Like Son...Great Grandpa's Navy

This is Hugh Siegel's father, Frederick Valentine Siegel. He's my great grandfather. He was also in the Navy, and saw active duty in the Spanish-American War as well as the Boxer Rebellion. I do not know much about him, except that he was a gunner's mate and served on two ships during his naval career, the Indiana and the USS Lancaster.

 This was one of Frederick's ships, the USS Indiana. It was a high-tech steamship for its time in that it had screw propellers instead of a side paddle wheel. And it had the revolutionary new Dahlgren guns on revolving turrets. This is a postcard from 1898/1899.

 The photograph below is of the entire crew of the battleship Indiana. Fred must be somewhere in this picture but we haven't positively identified him yet.

This is the ribbon he would have tied around his hat. It was found among some very old family heirlooms. The thread was once gold and it has the name of the USS Indiana on it. The gold paint has faded and the ribbon has taken on a brown color.

I know almost nothing about the Boxer Rebellion, except that it was fought in China and the soldiers called the Chinese "boxers" because of their hand-to-hand fighting style.  Below is a very poor quality picture that my great grandfather took during his tour of duty in China. I have reason to believe that he acted as a merchant marine, going ashore to fight.  There was a family legend that Fred liked to go off on his own a lot, and when the ship landed on an island in the Pacific or the South China Sea, he'd sneak his way on shore and have a look around. A couple times he got caught and they busted him down a rank each time he was found missing, but he never fell below the rank of ensign so he didn't care.

The Spanish-American War of 1898 and the Boxer Rebellion of 1899 were two of America's "forgotten wars." I think most people don't like to remember these conflicts because America at the time was acting as an imperialist nation, working with their former enemies the British Empire to expand their territory.  At this time we attempted to annex Cuba to our sphere of influence and add it as a state, but they put up a stern resistance that continues to this day.

To be honest, I know next to nothing about these two conflicts other than what I already stated. I know president Theodore Roosevelt played a major part in the land victories and proclaimed himself a hero. And that it was fought mainly over the Brits and India trying to enforce an opium trade, turning the Chinese people into drug addicts as a form of oppression.  This was probably the first truly questionable conflict our country involved itself in, and the veterans of this war received no real honors or attention like the Civil War vets did.

How does all this relate to my grandfather's story?  His father had a love for the sea and sailing, and Hugh looked up to him in much the same way as I looked up to my grandpa.  It seems he also inherited a lot of traits from his father.

Frederick V. Siegel died suddenly. He served as a fireman in his later years, and he supposedly died of a heart attack on his way to a fire in 1942.  Hughie received news of this by telegram when he was in the Navy training academy. Around the same time his mother died unexpectedly, and so Hughie had no parents when he returned from the war. He went to live with his brother George for awhile before he and Jan got married in 1947.

China around the end of the 19th century.
Finally, here is what little info Hugh preserved about one of his ships, the Lancaster. He researched the story of this ship by writing the Navy historical archives.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Silent Service: Dace and Darter Attacks In Palawan Passage. Late 1940's ...

This is a late 1940's or early 1950's film about the USS Darter and USS Dace. My grandpa had a videotape of it he may have copied from 8mm film, judging by the quality. Well, I realized that there are absolutely NO videos mentioning the Darter at all on Youtube, and with the wealth of documentaries already on it about WWII submarine warfare, I think this story should be preserved. It was the Darter that located the Japanese fleet and fired the first shot of Leyte Gulf!

This is a dramatic reconstruction of the crew's actions aboard the Dace and the Darter, with dialogue partially lifted from the short story "Battle Stations Submerged", written by Lt. Cmdr. Benitez of the Dace crew. It is an eyewitness account, and grandma specifically mentioned that Hugh was interviewed and provided testimony so this movie could be made. This is reconstructed by actors and the style is typical of 40's war movies.  But I guarantee this video clip is one of a kind, and you won't find it anywhere else on the internet. It could very well be the only copy that survives.

The drama of the Darter-Dace incident that played out on the early predawn hours of October 24, 1944 is one of the great untold stories of WWII, and if we do not preserve these memories now they will be forgotten and lost forever.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Family Testimony: Hugh Siegel's Bronze Star

The following is transcribed from a voice recording of Jeanette Siegel, (now deceased) wife of retired US Navy RT3/c Hugh Siegel, about how he was awarded his Bronze Star medal for Valor:

(exact wording is approximate, recording can no longer be retrieved)

JEANETTE: "My name is Jan , I would like to explain how Hugh Siegel earned his Bronze Star in the World War Two. The year was 1944, the day was October twenty-third. I was a typist in an office job in Camden, New Jersey and Hughie was in the navy, he was a radio technician on the USS Darter, but he also operated the radar and sonar and did electrical work aboard the Darter. On this particular day he was on the radar. Now, we knew the Japs were out there, we didn't know where and everyone was on patrol searching, searching for the Japanese fleet. You see radar was a new thing at the time and it wasn't very accurate, and if you saw a dot you had no way to know if it was a ship, or an airplane or a flock of birds, or a storm out on the ocean. Well my Hughie was sittin' in front of that radar screen and he saw a big cloud where there wasn't supposed to be anything. He gave the bearing and told the captain to fire the fish (torpedoes) right in the middle of that cloud. It was just a hunch, and he made a good call. The Darter fired the first shot of the battle of Leyte Gulf and sunk one of the big ships , it was a cruiser. Later that night, early morning the next day Darter ran aground and was mired on a reef. They knew the Japs saw 'em, and were in the area. They had to blow up the sub and get everyone off, so Hughie got on the radio and he sent a distress call in code to the other sub, the Dace. The Dace came and they got everybody off, they saved the crew. They tried to scuttle but they couldn't scuttle. So men volunteered to go back aboard the sub when it was burning and smash all the radios, the radar, the code machines, everything. Hughie did that, he volunteered. He was so brave, and they gave him a V for bravery on his medal. He said that God saved everyone that day, and they were so lucky.." 

JEFF: "You just heard the testimony of Jan Siegel of Alder Creek New York, born 1928 about her husband Hughie in the Navy. It is March two thousand twelve, Jan is 84 years old."