In 1941, three fearsome sisters were being constructed at Mare Island: The Silversides, the Trigger and the Wahoo. They were sisters in every respect, they were built in the same yard, they were numbered consecutively (Silversides: SS-236; Trigger: SS-237; Wahoo: SS-238) They were launched and commissioned within weeks of each other, and they looked like each other, down to the limber holes and lookout rings.
And according to Edward Beach, no three sisters created more havoc for the Japanese. Between them, they sank 62 Japanese ships totaling 236,670 tons. At least one CO from each sister is a top-scoring WWII submarine commander.
Wahoo went down in 1943, but the Trigger almost made it. She made 12 patrols, and sank 18 ships for a total of 86,552 tons. (This makes her the 11th most successful submarine in terms of ships sunk and 7th most successful in terms of amount of tons sunk.)
In March of 1945, the war was drawing to a close. The Philippines had been retaken. There was a new submarine base at Guam so the subs didn’t have to travel all the way to Australia to re-fuel (a change not exactly welcomed by the crews: there were not many women on Guam and forget the pubs, bars, and theaters!). Trigger, under the command of her fourth and brand new CO, David R. Connole, left Guam for her newest patrol area: near and around the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. Two of the islands in this chain were Iwo Jima, which was in the midst of the Marine Invasion, and Okinawa, which was next on the list.
She sank two ships, and was closely observing convoys through a particular strait (trying to figure out where the safe passage around the minefields were) when HQ ordered her to join a Wolf Pack (a group of submarines working together) named Earl’s Eliminators. (The Sea Dog and Threadfin operating under the command of Sea Dog’s CO Earl T. Hydeman).
Later that day, she sent in a weather report, but no acknowledgment that she’d heard her orders. HQ re-sent the message. She never responded. She was ordered to proceed to Midway on April 4, but did not respond. When she hadn’t been heard from or arrived in Midway (or anywhere) by May 1, she was considered “overdue and presumed lost”.
After the war, a cross reference of Japanese ship records and American submarine records revealed Trigger’s likely fate: A Japanese plane had spotted a submarine and lead two destroyers to the spot, where they attacked until an oil slick appeared on the surface (usually a sign of a ruptured and sunken sub). Nearby, the Silversides, Hackleback, Threadfin and Sea Dog all heard the depth charges, but only Threadfin was lightly attacked. Silversides heard the death of her second sister, without knowing it for nearly another year.
Trigger has never been found. She does, however, live on in an unusual manner:
One of Trigger’s most famous crewmen was Edward L. Beach. He was an officer assigned aboard during her commissioning, and was the last of these original officers to leave the Trigger over two years later. He had served as her Executive Officer for one of those years.
Following the war, Beach, who had transferred to the Tirante before the fateful 12th patrol, continued to command submarines, including becoming the First Commanding Officer of Trigger II in 1952.
But what he’s now known for is his writing. He wrote “Run Silent, Run Deep”, a novel based on fictional submarines, but the Trigger he immortalized in his second book, SUBMARINE! Her men will forever live on in these pages.