Archive for the ‘Lost Subs’ Category

More Exhibit things

Lost Subs, Memorial Ceremony, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 21 2010

Well, one day closer to the memorial weekend, and if you need a hotel and haven’t gotten around to it yet, you might want to move.  In addition to the Holiday Inn, the museum also has some rooms at Shoreline Inn across the street. Depending on the room, both hotels have views of Muskegon Lake, and are within walking distance of the Frauenthal Theater, the Hackley and Hume Homes, Hackley Park, and LST-393 Museum (for another taste of WWII Naval History, this time, the European Theater!) plus a number of small independent stores and restaurants.   (Walking distance here being defined as within a mile)  My favorite food store in the whole world is only about a mile and a half away from those hotels too. Be careful if you visit, it’s ADDICTING.

I understand that the episode of Dive Detectives is beautiful and haunting,or at least, so I’m told.  The staff at the museum decided to run the movie completely through their system so they could get a replacement copy in time if there was a problem or glitch, and wouldn’t you know it, none of them seemed to have anything else to do while the test was running!  Some of you don’t know this, but I’m an independent contractor for the museum, and actually live about five hours away by car, so I haven’t seen it yet either!   AAArrghh!  But they said it was a beautiful film, very well done, so hopefully, we’ll all like it.

Here you see the scale depths of the five submarine wrecks discovered since 2005, as well as an overhead silhouette of a WWII-era submarine done to the same scale. (The triangles representing the wrecks are not to scale, but the depths are) All of these wrecks with the exception of the Grunion were explored using human divers.

One of the biggest problems they had in filming was the depth of the Flier herself.  Of the five submarines discovered since 2005, Flier is the deepest except for the Grunion.  She is, in fact, at the very edges to human endurance using SCUBA gear underwater.  For every dive aboard the Flier, which was three hours long, the divers were only able to take ten minutes on the Flier herself, so while they apparently did an amazing job filming, they were still limited to short takes and quick passes, since they had to document as quickly as they could.  If permission is granted later for a more thorough survey of the submarine, it would likely be done by ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) since they don’t have to take the precautions human divers do.

That being said, it is still, apparently, amazing.  If we weren’t down to one car now, I’d be half tempted to drive the 10-hour round trip to see it!

I’m finishing up the memorial booklet now.  I ended up doing the covers, Flier’s Story pages and the Flier’s crew page.  I finished everything except for the crew page, which is in the final stages right now.  (It’s really difficult to fit 79 men on two pages!) I hope everyone likes it, but you now know who to blame if you don’t!

As soon as this is done, I have to update some pages and work on the permanent exhibit layout.  Whew!  This is so going to be worth it!

The Golet Goes to the Deep

Lost Subs, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 17 2010

While Flier was attacking her convoy and having her stuffing pounded out of her, over two thousand miles away, another submarine saw her final day.

USS Golet was a Maitowoc boat and was built alongside the Redfin and  Robalo.  She launched just before Redfin and  Robalo were commissioned and shipped down the Mississippi.

On the day of her launch, she wore an unusual sign:  “This Fighting Ship sponsored and made possible by war bond purchases of the people of Shreveport.”   I know of no other ship or submarine that bore a sign like that during their launch.  I wonder if the people of Shreveport had a celebration of her when she passed through the city on her way to the Gulf.

This is the Shreveport sign Golet wore just before her launch

She arrived at Pearl Harbor for final training then left on 18 March 1944 for her first patrol near the Kurile Islands, the island chain connecting northern Japan with the Kamchatka penninsula of Russia. (Herring was sunk in this chain a few days prior).  It was foul weather there, and between the rain, the fog and ice, she never really had a chance to get many targets.  During the entire patrol she only saw one thing that was worth of a torpedo, but it never got close enough to Golet.

The Golet during her trials on Lake Michigan the fall of 1943

She returned to Midway Island where her Commanding Officer, Philip Ross, was replaced with James S. Clark.  She was sent to patrol near the northeastern shore of Honshu on 28 May 1944.  She was never heard from again.

On 26 July, 1944, she was considered “Overdue and Presumed Lost”, though her men were listed as MIA, not KIA, as was normal for this time.

Following the war, Japanese records revealed that on June 14, 1944, a Japanese ship attacked a suspected submarine in Golet’s patrol area, and the attack resulted in debris of cork, rafts and a large pool of oil.  This was considered proof of Golet’s demise.

Perhaps owing to her unusual town sponsor, the state of Louisiana was given the Golet as their memorial submarine.  Her memorial stood on a  military base until its recent closing, and the memorial’s re-dedication has been postponed until a suitible site has been secured.

The Memorial Site for USS Golet and her crew

The Map

Lost Subs, The Exhibit | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 14 2010

I am looking at the most extraordinary nautical chart today.

Over the weekend, I visited with the Jacobson family, and one of the items they allowed me to borrow was a chart of the Balabac Straits.  This, on its own,  would be interesting enough, but thanks to both Al Jacobson’s son, and Jim Liddell’s son, this chart is extraordinary.

From what I have been able to find out, after the Flier survivors reached the States, they went home to their families then on to their new assignments.  With the exception of Cmdr. Crowley and Lt. Liddell who were stationed together on USS Irex and remained close friends after the military, the survivors lost contact with one another.

But in 1994, with the help of Dr. Elaine Foster who located all eight Flier Survivors, they decided to meet together at Cmdr. Crowley’s home in Baltimore.  Only Crowley, Liddell, Jacobson, Miller and Russo were able to make it.

It was in a video recording of that meeting that I first saw this chart.  Lt. Liddell’s son came with his father, and recorded as the men pinned this chart up on the wall in Cmdr. Crowley’s living room and talked about where they had gone down and where they had swum.

In 1944, Cmdr. Crowley had to guess where the Flier went down, and he guessed “Comiran Island bearing 190 degrees T at 6700 yards”.  That bearing put the location of the sinking at 7 degrees, 58 minutes, 45 seconds North Latitude and 117 degrees, 13 minutes, 10 seconds East Longitude.  I marked that position below.

Now, the men also debated whether they swam in a straight line to the islands ans even which islands they landed on.  During WWII, Crowley decided that they must have landed on Mantangule, which you can see above, but Al, after studying the maps, was more inclined to believe that they landed on Byan, the tiny speck of green to the left of Mantangule.

They debated this for a while, and decided that the sinking position was correct, though they did land on Byan, not Mantangule, and probably either swam around the Roughton Reefs in the current, or swam between them.

It was a fascinating bit of video to watch.

In 1998, Al decided he wanted to go back to that area in the Philippines and see the places he didn’t mean to pass through in 1944. While there, he took this same chart along with him, and traced the route that he took in visiting his old haunts.  I can follow his 1998 boat coming down the eastern side of Palawan, passing within photo distance of Cape Baliluyan (where he met up with a guerilla outpost) snaking through the reefs until he made it to Comiran Island where they spotted the light that the lookouts on Flier saw moments before she went down, to the spot where she went down, back to Byan Island and Bugsuk Island, then back up the eastern coast of Palawan.  I also have the photos from this trip, which is helping me get a sense of what happened.  I’ll see if I can get permission to post them.

The most interesting thing to me is when Al got to the accepted coordinates of Flier’s sinking, he decided the surroundings didn’t match his memory from that night.  See, Al wasn’t watching the stern of Flier just before the mine hit, he was admiring the surrounding scenery.  It was, to his dying day, one of the most beautiful this he had ever seen.

So he asked the captain of his charter boat to keep moving until the scenery matched.  When it did, he marked it on the chart, but also recorded the GPS coordinates of it.  It was south(ish) of the accepted WWII estimate by more than a mile.

Al hoped someday that he could come back with professional gear and divers to look, but his health did not permit it.  When the Dive Detectives came calling after Al passed on, this chart was one of the things that they were given in the hope that the wreck could be found.

Al was always known for his thoroughness in his research and planning.  I wonder if he knew just how closely he had nailed the location.  From what I’ve been told,  when the Dive Detectives ship dropped the weighted sandbags down on the 1998 coordinates, they landed on the Flier herself.

Provided the Navy does not object to the display of this chart (they’re a little touchy about revealing the locations of their wrecks for security reasons) this map will hopefully make it into the exhibit.

Play Catch Up and The Herring Greets Eternity

Lost Subs, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jun 01 2010

So after Memorial Day Weekend, it’s time to play catch up with our three submarines.

The Robalo has safely made it into Fremantle Harbor sometime around May 30, and so now her crew would be on R&R while the relief crews and repair crews try to fix everything on the damaged list.

Redfin is only a day away from Lombok Strait on her way to her third patrol, and carrying the eight Signal Servicemen, bound for behind the lines reconnaissance work.  On the 30 of May, 1944, they spent the day next to Exmouth Gulf practicing getting these men and the massive amounts of gear off the Redfin, onto rubber rafts, and to shore.

Flier, of course, is still in the middle of nowhere, making her way west towards the battle fields.  She passed north of Wake Island, still occupied by Japanese forces, though due to the continuing advance of the Allies, the Japanese soldiers occupying the island were starting to starve.  American pilots would bomb the island occasionally, (in fact, a young pilot named George Herbert Walker Bush, bombed Wake Island during one of his first runs) but they were otherwise left alone.  All American military and civilians were gone from Wake now: some had been taken to POW camps elsewhere, and the 98 remaining civilians were executed in October 1943.  All American naval vessels steered clear of Wake, and she was slowly starving into submission.

As the Redfin and Flier are setting out on their patrols, and Robalo is taking her break, the Herring scored her last two kills and slipped into Eternal Patrol.

A Gato-class submarine built in Kittery Maine, Herring was one of the few boats who spent time in the Atlantic as well as the Pacific. For her first five patrols her homeport was Rosneath Scotland, where she first patrolled off Casablanca, Morocco in preparation for Operation Torch, the code name for the invasion of North Africa.  She later patrolled Icelandic waters and reported two kills, including a U-Boat (that was later not credited to her).

This photo, taken in Scotland around December 7, 1942, shows the Submarine Tender Beaver and two of her six sub charges. The six submarines stationed in Scotland at the time were the Herring, Barb, Blackfish, Shad, Gunnel and Gurnard. From

Afterwards, she reported to the Pacific where she took down two ships on her sixth patrol and none on her seventh.

It was her eighth patrol, made with her Scottish mate USS Barb, which would be her most successful and fatal.  She left Pearl, re-fueled at Midway, and was assigned to patrol the Kurile Islands, which is string of islands trailing from Russia to northern Japan.  On May 31, according to the War Patrol Reports of USS Barb, (Pg. 155) they rendezvoused and decided to split the  patrol areas, Barb traveling the south and east way, and Herring taking the north and western islands, including Matsuwa Island.

She was never heard from again.

Post war records reveal that the night before seeing Barb, Herring sank two ships, the Hokuyo Maru, and the Ishigaki. In taking out the Ishigaki, Herring avenged her sister sub S-44, which the Ishigaki sank nearly eight months earlier.  After her meeting with the Barb, Herring found two ships at anchor, the Hiburi Maru and the Iwaki Maru, and promptly sank them.  This action cost her her life, since the sinking ships attracted the attention of the shore guns, which sank Herring, taking her eighty-three member crew with her.

USS Herring taken after her overhaul at Mare Island October 1943.

She has not been found.

Incidentally, Herring was assigned to Midway for overhaul between her sixth and seventh patrols, and she arrived there on January 8, 1944.  She was there when Flier grounded, when Macaw grounded and during the whole time the crew at Midway pried Flier free.  Even stranger, just as Flier lost a crewman to drowning, (James Cahl, on January 16) ,one of Herring’s crew, Louis Jones, also drowned at Midway on January 26, just three days after Flier was towed away.

She also had a connection with another lost ship, the Scorpion. According to Herring’s War Patrol Report, (page 96) one of Scorpion’s crew broke his arm and Scorpion requested a rendezvous and transfer of this man since they were heading out on patrol and Herring was nearby and returning.  The transfer was attempted, but the January seas made it impossible.  Since the arm appeared to be healing, the transfer was canceled, and the two submarines went on their way.  Scorpion was never seen again, and there are no Japanese records that hint at her possible fate.  What happened to her and where is a complete mystery, but the Herring was the last to see her.

An interesting article about the loss of the Herring. Note: a number of the links in the article are now disabled.

Robalo Underway…and Farewell Thresher

Lost Subs, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 11 2010

Sorry it took me so long to get back to the blog.

Saturday marked the 66th anniversary of Robalo leaving on her final complete patrol (her next one will be the fatal one) and the 47th anniversary of America’s first nuclear submarine disaster.

But first, the Robalo.  Sixty-six years ago yesterday, the Robalo pulled up anchor in Fremantle and took off for her second patrol, the first one under Commander Kimmel.  This patrol would be safe and successful, but would raise questions in September about the eventual fate of the Robalo.

The Robalo, underway in 1943

Fast forward to 1963.  While some WWII diesel boats ARE still in service, the American Navy is quickly replacing them with teardrop-shaped nuclear boats.  First the Nautilus in 1954, then the Seawolf III in 1957 (a liquid sodium cooling system that was quickly abandoned) and on an on, developing, improving, tweaking and changing, all under the intense (and some would say, terrifying) eye of Admiral Hymen G. Rickover.  Nine years of nuclear submarines and brand new technology in a dangerous and demanding environment without a massive loss.

Until April 10, 1963.  The USS Thresher, lead ship of her class, was at sea doing routine exercises.  A year earlier, she had been accidentally rammed by a tug boat during another exercise, and had been overhauled, and so was out testing all the new repairs.  She was accompanied by the Submarine Rescue Ship Skylark, just in case there were difficulties.

The Thresher, underway from the air. Notice the evolution in twenty years from a submarine like Robalo which was designed to fight and travel on the surface as well as temporarily underwater to the Thresher, which was designed to do everything underwater.

Just before 8 am, the submarine began a dive to her (officially published) test depth of 1300 feet.   She descended past a thermocline (see below) which caused her transmissions to be more garbled and difficult to hear.  Skylark kept calling Thresher, and, at 9:13 am, heard a very garbled but understandable message:  “Experiencing minor difficulty, have positive up-angle, attempting to blow.  Will keep you informed.”

The Skylark assured Thresher the sea was empty, in case she had to do an emergency surface.  Three minutes later, a garbled message was received, including the phrase “900N” the meaning of which is still unknown.   A minute after that, another garbled message, with only one intelligible phrase “…exceeding test depth…”  One minute later, the Skylark heard a low-frequency noise.  It sounded like an implosion.

That was it.  Nothing more was ever heard from the Thresher, though Skylark spent hours calling Thresher, asking her to respond via radio, smoke bomb, or any other means to show they were okay.

So 47 years ago today, the Navy announced the USS Thresher was lost at sea, with all hands, plus 19 civilian observers, a total of 129 people.

Dr. Robert Ballard, who would discover the Titanic a few weeks later (and those discoveries were connected),  discovered the remains of the Thresher in 1982.   From what was theorized in ’63 and confirmed in the imploded wreckage in ’82, the Thresher likely had a pipe burst in the engine room, flooding it.  These pipes were not welded like today’s subs (actually, the Thresher disaster is WHY modern sub pipes and hulls are welded) they were silver brazed, and it was known that there were some problems with some joints, though it was not considered a dangerous enough problem to need to fix.

This photograph is part of Thresher's hull, the white paint seen here used to say "593", the hull number of the Thresher. The Thresher was the lead ship of her class ("Thresher Class Submarines") but following her loss, many people called the class "Permit Class Submarines" after Thresher's next sister.

The water spray probably shorted out some electrical systems, prompting an automatic emergency shutdown of the nuclear reactor.  The ship tried to blow her ballast tanks, to surface, but later tests showed ice probably formed in the valves, keeping the ballast tanks water filled.  With the Engine Room flooding, the sub eventually sank, went past her crush depth and imploded. She tore herself into six main pieces.

The only mercy might be that when death finally came, it was nearly instantaneous.

Upon discovering the submarine had gone down due to mechanical failure (not Soviet interference) the US Navy instituted the SUBSAFE program, designed to rigorously and obsessively track and document the quality of construction of US Submarines (for example, welds are X-rayed to make sure there are no weak spots or air bubbles that would give way under pressure, and those X-rays are stored in case something happens to the sub) to make sure that slipshod construction never cost another crew their lives again.  Such attention to detail is one of the reasons why a submarine is, foot for foot, the most expensive naval vessels to build.

It was a sad end to 129 gallant souls the largest loss of life in a single submarine incident in American History.  May they rest in peace.

SO WHAT’S A THERMOCLINE?  The top surface of the ocean is repeatedly warmed by the sun by day and cooled at night.  The deeper the ocean goes, the cooler and more steady the temperature gets.  This does not happen at a steady rate.  A Thermocline is a layer in the ocean where the temperature falls more quickly than the layer above and below.  Thermoclines are very important for submarines, since they can be used to hide under and help deflect Sonar.  As the Thresher story shows, however, thermoclines can work against a submarine.

On Eternal Patrol’s Memorial Page for USS Thresher


Lost Subs, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 03 2010

Sixty-six years ago today, Flier was finishing up her repairs, Redfin was on patrol, and Robalo was completing training runs day and night to get ready for their next patrol.  It was also the anniversary of the Pickerel’s destruction.

When WWII began, Pickerel was already an older submarine, a sister of the Perch.  She was operating near the Philippines on December 8, and as soon as she heard of the invasion, she started hunted enemy ships.  She completed six war patrols, sinking two ships, before leaving Pearl Harbor for her ill-fated seventh patrol.  After topping off fuel at Midway, she departed for Honshu, the northern main island of Japan, and was never heard from again.  In August, the Navy announced her “overdue and presumed lost”.

She took 74 men with her.

The USS Pickerel as she appeared after her Mare Island refit. Notice the unusual additional torpedo tubes added to her bow up near the deck. When she was launched, she only had four torpedo tubes in her bow, rather than the six that soon became standard. Should she ever be found, these tubes would be a strong identifying marker, as would the odd shape of her bullnose, or the loop through which the mooring line is threaded on the tip of her bow.

After the war, Japanese records revealed that Pickerel likely sank at least two ships on her last patrol, then was destroyed by a depth charge attack  on or around this date.   It’s impossible to know what sank her, a ship or a plane since there were several ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) attacks in Pickerel’s patrol area at the same time.

Her wreck has not been found, and until it is, we’ll likely not know her exact fate.

On Eternal Patrol’s page of USS Pickerel’s Last Crew

USS Trigger Fades into the sea

Lost Subs | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 30 2010

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.)

USS Trigger rigged out with her bunting just after she was launched at Mare Island.

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.

The Memorial Page for Trigger’s final crew

Lost Tullibee

Lost Subs | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 26 2010

Today marks the 66th anniversary of the loss of the Tulibee, a sinking that would bear some similarities to the Flier’s loss in five months.

Tulibee was a Mare Island Gato-class boat that was commissioned in February 1943 and served four patrols over one year.

Tullibee at her commissioning.

On the night of March 26, 1944, in the middle of  a squall, Tullibee was on the surface, stalking a large convoy. She had to get unusually close to the convoy in order to see her, and several times, passed within a mile of her, but held fire since they could not get a sure enough bearing.  The escorts, probably using either radar or sonar, detected her presence, and started dropping depth charges, but were also unable to see her well.

It was a giant game of chicken.

Finally, the Tullibee was able to get true enough bearings on their target freighter that the fired two bow torpedoes.  One shot off towards her target, straight as an arrow.

Tullibee underway near California.

The other circled around and struck the Tullibee, blowing her up and sinking her in moments.

During the war, this was not known, it was only known that Tullibee stopped responding to radio messages from HQ and about six weeks after she was due back in port, she was declared “overdue and presumed lost”, though her 80-man crew, as per regulations, were listed as MIA.  This was because nothing WAS known about Tulibee’s loss.  It was possible she’d been captured, and the enemy was being quiet about it.  It was possible than one or more, or the entire crew had been captured and were POWs.  HQ and the families of the Tulibee would have to wait.

After the war, a Tullibee crewman, C.W. Kuykendall,  was discovered in a Japanese POW camp.  That night, he was stationed high in the lookout deck of the Tullibee, and blown clear.  In the dark and the storm, he heard other voices around him for about ten minutes, and then he was alone.

He was found and picked up by a Japanese patrol the next morning, interrogated, and handed over to a POW camp.

When he returned to the States, he told the story of the circular run torpedo, and as it turned out, Tullibee wasn’t the only submarine to fall prey to her own torpedo: the Tang would as well (That is another interesting story, but more on that later).  There are many submarines whose fates are completely unknown and may never be, even if their wrecks are found.  There could have been more fates like this.

Incidentally, Japanese records revealed that the other torpedo flew true and destroyed her target, so the two of them lay about a mile from one another.

Tullibee has never been found.

On Eternal Patrol’s page on memorializing the men of the Tullibee

Good Article on the loss of the Tullibee

RIP USS F-4 and her crew

Lost Subs | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 25 2010

Today marks the 95th anniversary of the very first submarine lost in the modern US Navy’s Submarine Force.

The USS F-4 was one of 4 sisters of the F Class submarines.  Built in Seattle, she was the first submarine named “Skate”, but her name was officially changed to F-4 before her launch.  She had only two short years of service on the Pacific Coast, before 25 March, 1915.

The USS F-4

The fours sisters were the very first naval vessels home ported at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and were towed there in 1914 by destroyers.  (they were already becoming too large to be ferried aboard Submarine Tenders as seen in the Tender Post.)But because Pearl Harbor was still being made suitable as a naval base, the submarines were moored next to their tender Alert in nearby Honolulu Harbor.

The USS Alert with her nest of submarines, ca. 1914, Long Beach, CA. The outermost submarine is the F-4.

On the morning of March 25, 1915, the F-1, F-2, and F-4 left Pearl Harbor on routine diving exercises.  The hazard pay of “a dollar a dive day” had just been instituted by the Federal Government, giving every man of a submarine crew an extra dollar of pay for every day a submarine dove successfully, up to $15/month (the approximate equivalent of $22/dive or  an extra $330/month,) with an additional$60 $(1320) to their families if they didn’t come back.  Submarine commanders, to keep their crews in practice and happy,  frequently scheduled diving practice!

But that morning, the F-4 didn’t return.

After an hour of no one seeing or hearing from here, a speedboat was sent out to see if she could be spotted on the surface.  A short time later, her sister, the F-3 was sent to cruise submerged in the general area the F-4 was last seen, sounding her bell, and listening for F-4’s reply.  Nothing.  Soon, their tender Alert and several more speedboats where scattering, looking for any trace of the missing sub, and a wire was sent to Pearl informing then that F-4 was overdue.

In the afternoon they found it: an oil slick and air bubbles on the surface of the water.  F-4 was probably sunk and slowly leaking, but was the crew still alive?  Rescue efforts were quickly stalled when she was found in 300 feet of water.  No diver had ever been deeper than 60 feet before.  They tried to drag the F-4 to nearby shallow water, then dredging her, but she was stuck fast and couldn’t be moved.  In 72 hours, rescue attempts were abandoned, but the Navy decided to salvage the F-4 if they could to discover what happened to her, and, since it was peacetime and the sub most likely went down due to mechanical malfunction, how they could prevent it from happening again.

But no ship had ever been salvaged from such a deep depth.  And if the Navy was going to be able to understand what happened, they had to raise her with a minimum of damage.  Lt. Cmdr.  Julius Furer was assigned the task of bringing F-4 up and he quickly searched out the most recent technology he could.

The first thing he heard of was a new kind of dive technique where divers paused at pre-determined points during an ascent and waited, which seemed to prevent the “bends”, a painful side-effect of deep diving that often caused death.  (Today, we know that the bends are caused by gases which naturally occurs in the body and dissolves in the blood.  At high pressures, like the depths of the ocean, more gasses dissolve in the blood and if a person ascends or depressurizes too quickly, the gasses form bubbles that can cause intense pain in the joints through paralysis and death.  Stopping and resting at pre-determined depths allows these gases to dissapate naturally.)  There were a group of experimental divers at the New York Navy Yard that Furer requested to come and help with the salvage.

It took nearly a month to get the first one there, and he dove to the F-4 to find her laying on her side, apparently undamaged.  The F-4 couldn’t be raised all at once, but the plan was for the divers to place tow cables under the bow and stern and lift and move her to shallow enough waters to fully salvage her.

It was nerve wracking work, and when one diver got tangled in the cables on April 17 and another diver, F.W. Crilly had to pull him to surface quickly, earning them a 20-hour trip in a decompression chamber, Crilly received the Medal of Honor, the highest award the US can bestow.

Eventually, Furer invented a new salvage technique:  Pontoons attached to cables were filled with water and sunk to either side of the wreck.  Once they were attached to the wreck with cables slung under the hull, air was pumped into the pontoons, forcing the water out, and the pontoons to the surface cradling the F-4.  This also allowed for more than two supporting cables, more evenly distributing the weight of the submarine and keeping the cables from breaking.  This worked, and on August 30, five months after F-4 went down, she was towed under the pontoons to a dry-dock.

An altered photograph showing how the USS F-4 was eventually raised and taken back to Pearl Harbor. This method of deep sea salvage would be used again in 1939 when the USS Squalus sank.

Only four of the 21 crewmen could be identified, and the other 17, including her CO, were buried in four coffins in a mass grave in Arlington (the story of the grave and her marker is also interesting and will have to wait.)

What the investigation revealed is that some of the rivets in the hull had corroded, allowing seawater into the battery compartment, releasing chlorine gas.  Captain Ede tried to blow the ballast tanks and steer F-4 into shallow water, but the engines overheated and quit, and F-4 descended past safe depths.  The intense pressure caused the hull to implode and drown her brave crew.  They were gone before anyone knew to look for them.

Here you can see the implosion of F-4's hull that was discovered once the dry dock was pumped free of water.

The F-4 herself was buried at Pearl Harbor, where she has remained ever since.  Her sisters were towed back to the mainland, and overhauled to fix the rivets, battery compartments, engines, propellors, and  the hundreds of little things that cost 21 men their lives.

All photos on this post are taken from

For the memorial page to F-4’s crew on eternal patrol, click here.

The best article I’ve read about the sinking and salvage of F-4.

The Story of the grave of the unidentified F-4 Sailors


Lost Subs, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 20 2010

Tomorrow I’ll post about the changes in USS Flier’s crew while they were waiting for her to finish her repairs, but today, I thought I’d take the time to remember another lost submarine.

Sixty-six years ago today, the USS Kete was in Manitowoc Wisconsin on blocks, finishing her construction.  A year later, she’d be lost at sea, her grave unknown.

The USS Kete during her trials on Lake Michigan. Photo from

Kete was a new Balao-class boat, unlike the Flier, Redfin and Robalo, which were all Gato-class.  From the outside, they looked almost identical.  The main difference was a thicker skin that allowed the Balao-class to safely dive to 400 feet, rather than the 300 foot depth of a Gato.  There were numerous small differences inside in the engines, electrical systems, ect. that made them a more sophisticated boat, and of course, the newer the boat, the more advanced the technology was installed from the beginning.

Like Robalo and Redfin, Kete was a Manitowoc boat, was tossed sideways into the water on April 9, tested herself in Lake Michigan, was commissioned on July 31,  and rode a barge down the Mississippi to New Orleans.  (In case anyone was wondering, the reason the submarines rode a barge down the Miss to the sea was because there are several places in the Miss that are shallower than a submarine’s 16 ft. draft (the portion of a water vessel that is beneath the waterline).).

The USS Raton, a Manitowoc boat, going down the Mississippi riding in a floating drydock. The Redfin, Robalo and Kete would all have traveled this way to the ocean. These photographs were highly classified during WWII. Photo from

She traveled through the Panama Canal, to Pearl Harbor, and went on her first war patrol on the East China Sea in the company of USS Sealion II.  They were near the southern tip of Japan when Kete started having engine trouble, then, during a dive, her bow planes froze in the dive position, forcing the submarine deeper than the crew wanted her to go. They managed to get her under control, but if she couldn’t be fixed, Kete might not be able to surface, or would dive so deeply the pressure of the water would crush her like an empty soda can.

Headquarters ordered Kete to leave Sealion and be escorted to Saipan where the Submarine Tender Fulton repaired her planes and overhauled her engines for a month.  She resumed her first patrol assigned to patrol around Yuro Island, a small Japanese Island north of Okinawa for life guarding.

During a lifeguarding patrol, a submarine was to stand by and rescue any Allied pilots that had to ditch into the ocean.  They were often ordered to NOT attack anyone on a lifeguarding duty, lest they were detected and couldn’t protect anyone.  During the end of the war, this type of duty was more common, since seagoing targets were becoming scarce and air raids on the Japanese Islands were happening more frequently.

President George H.W. Bush was a 19-year old fighter pilot when he was shot down and rescued by a sister submarine  USS Finback, and the USS Tang once rescued 22 pilots in one day, a record that still stands.

Though she did not rescue any pilots or sink any targets, Kete was awarded a battle star for a sucessful patrol.  She was ordered to Guam where she was outfitted for her second patrol.

She patrolled in the same general area, again on a lifeguarding duty during raids,  and transmitting weather reports so the local airstrips and aircraft carriers to coordinate attacks.  But this time she was permitted to hunt freighters between raids.  She sank three medium freighters on March 9, and fired more torpedoes at a cable laying vessel on March 14 (unfortunately she missed).

With only three torpedoes left, the Kete was ordered home to Pearl for an overhaul, and she left the area on March 20, giving a special weather report as she left.  It was the last time anyone ever heard from her.

After the war, Japanese records showed that three Japanese submarines were sunk around this date in that general area, any of which might have been prey of the Kete, but no anti-submarine activity was noted.  There were no minefields nearby.  The two most common theories of the fate of the Kete are 1.) mutual destruction between her and a Japanese submarine, or 2.) Mechanical malfunction forced her down.

She has not been found, and took her 87 crewmen with her.  Her memorial page on On Eternal Patrol is here.