Thursday, October 31, 2013

November - December Dolphin Brotherhood Posted

The November - December issue of the Dolphin Brotherhood has been posted to the Seattle Base website
Participants in the 2012 Auburn Veterans Day Parade
This issue has information on the upcoming Auburn Veterans Day Parade, other Veterans Day related events, and the registration form for this year's joint SubVets WWII and USSVI Holiday Luncheon, along with the usual base news, other upcoming events, and other submarine related articles.

Remember the Holiday Luncheon is set for Saturday, December 14 at Anthony's HomePort Kirkland restaurant. You can also download a copy of the registration form here.

Hardcopies of the newsletter are going out later this week. I hope you all enjoy it.

As always, don't forget to check back here for base updates and other articles of interest. You can find old issues of the newsletter at: Dolphin Brotherhood Archives, which is also a link on the right side of the blog.

Dave Schueler
Seattle Base Newsletter Editor

Monday, October 21, 2013

October Meeting Notes

We started the October meeting with Tolling the Boats lost in October, followed by birthday wishes for our members, introductions, and officer reports.

Old and New Business:
Holiday Luncheon - The Seattle Base USSVI and Lockwood Chapter, Submarine Veterans of WWII Joint Holiday Luncheon is set for Saturday, December 14 at Anthony's HomePort Kirkland restaurant. You can download a copy of the registration form here. The form will also be included in the next newsletter. It will be a fun time and we hope to see you there.
See you at Anthony's Home Port
Auburn 2013 Veterans Day Parade – The 48th annual Auburn Veterans Day Parade will be on Saturday, November 9. Seattle Base and other submarine veteran groups will be at the parade. We are planning to meet around 10:00 - 10:30 at the intersection of Main and K Streets, and the parade starts at 11:00. You might want to get there early since there will be over 200 parade entries. There will be other events around Auburn that weekend, including the Vietnam Veterans Traveling Wall, and you can find out more at the city's website.

Veterans Day Service – The Veterans Day memorial service at the Tahoma National Cemetery will be on Monday, November 11 at 11:00. The speaker for the event will be Congressman Dave Reichert.

Veterans Appreciation Week - Seattle Base will participate in Veterans Appreciation Week the at the University of Washington's Bothell campus on Wednesday, November 13 from 10:00 – 3:00. If you are interested attending and talking with some of the students, please contact Base Commander Doug Abramson.

Cabela’s Lacy Event – We are taking the float to the Cabela’s Lacy store on Sunday, November 10. This will be a quick turn-around from the Saturday parade, but should be fun. If you are interested in participating, please contact Base Commander Doug Abramson.

Seattle Base Elections - Base elections are coming up in January. Our base needs men like you to stand for the necessary positions to keep the base running, and we want to invite you to throw your name in the ring for one of the Base Officer positions. Even if you aren’t ready to be a Base Officer, you can still help out as one of the committee chairs or appointed officers for the base. Committee chairs and appointed officers are really needed to handle the necessary base functions that make our base valuable to us all. Please consider stepping up for an officer or committee position.

Membership Dues - If you are on the annual membership plan, it is time to look at paying your dues. Please contact Jim Harper to pay your dues or if you have questions.

October Program:
We didn’t have a scheduled program for October, but Chief of the Boat Ralph Sterley talked to us about his trip to Washington DC with the Honor Flight Network. Ralph’s group was in the capital during the government shutdown, so he didn’t get to see all the memorials. He was able to go to the Navy Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and Arlington Cemetery. Ralph had some interesting insights into the trip and Honor Flight Network.

Good of the Order:
Lois Mezek let us know that with the holidays coming up, a lot of organizations that claim to support veterans will be asking you for money. Be sure to check out the organizations before you donate. A good place to check is Charity Navigator (

Base Storekeeper Bill Giese let us know that he expects to have 2014 calendars available at the next meeting.

Finally, here is a reminder that Don Ulmer will be providing the program for the November meeting. Here is a short description of Don's program: Don will spin a true bittersweet saga of World War I told him by his best friend at age 11. It is the story of his friend's Aunt Marge Van Sciver and 1st Lt Malcom Gunn, of the embryo US Army Flying Corps, who married on the eve of his deployment to France over objections of both families. Film clips excerpted from a musical play based on this tale produced by the Seattle Museum of Flight spice Don's PowerPoint presentation. This is a good program for wives and significant others, so bring them along. This story will really tug at the heartstrings.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October Meeting Reminder

This is a reminder that the next Seattle Base meeting is this coming Wednesday, October 16.

We will meet at VFW Post #2995 (4330 148th Ave N.E., Redmond WA 98052). Social hour starts at 6 PM with business meeting at 7PM. Don't forget to review the previous meeting minutes, you can find them here on the blog or on the Seattle Base website, just click the Minutes button on the left.

We will talking about upcoming events, like the Auburn Veterans Day parade, Veterans Day at Tahoma National Cemetery, an appearance at the UW Bothell campus, an event at Cabela's Lacy store, and the Holiday Luncheon. Everyone's participation is greatly appreciated.

We hope to see you at the meeting.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

U.S. Subs and the Aleutians Campaign

On October 7, 1943 the American submarine USS S-44 (SS-155) spotted the Japanese refrigerated cargo ship ‘Koko Maru’ off the northern Kurile Islands and attacked with the sub’s 4” deck gun. Unfortunately, S-44 did not detect the Japanese escort vessel Ishigaki, which illuminated the submarine and opened fire with its 120mm guns. The Americans attempt to shift fire to the escort, but the crew was blinded by the escort’s searchlight. Ishigaki scored hits on the submarine’s conning tower and aft battery section and then closed to within 55 yards and hit S-44 three more times, sinking the submarine. Eight men from S-44 make it into the frigid water, two of whom are rescued. All total, 55 Americans are lost.
USS S-44 (SS-155) after its last overhaul in 1943.
The Alaskan Theater in World War II is often referred to as the ‘Forgotten Theater’. Even if it isn’t completely forgotten, Alaska and the Aleutian Islands aren’t the first places that come to mind when talking about World War II in the Pacific.
The Aleutian Islands stretch 900 nautical miles westward from the Alaskan Peninsula to the outermost island of Attu, only 650 miles from what was then Japan’s northernmost naval base at Paramushiro in the Kurile Islands. The principal U.S. base was at Dutch Harbor on the island of Unalaska.
U.S. submarine deployments to the area started shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In accordance with the Rainbow Five war plan COMSUBPAC, Rear Admiral Thomas Withers, sent two older submarines, S-18 (SS-123) and S-23 (SS-128), to Alaska from the U.S. West Coast. The submarines arrived at Dutch Harbor on 27 January, 1942. Within two weeks, they had departed on their first war patrols, defensive sweeps south of the Aleutian chain and easterly toward Kodiak Island. Although no contact was made with the enemy, the two S-boats were the first to experience the full rigor of the weather and ocean conditions that characterized Alaskan submarine operations for two miserable years.

In June 1942, in conjunction with the Midway operation, the Japanese launched an operation to occupy the Aleutian Islands of Attu and, Kiska. This successful operation prompted an increased deployment of U.S. submarines to the theater.

The majority of submarines deployed to patrol the northern waters were S-class submarines. Built to a World War I design based on early submarine technology, the S-boats assigned to the Aleutians were 20 years old, largely worn out, and clearly regarded as “second-line” submarines. Powered by only two 600-horsepower diesel engines, they could make only 12-14 knots on the surface – perhaps 10 submerged on battery – and with a test depth of 200 feet, there was little margin for error. Additionally, their surface displacement of somewhat less than 1,000 tons and low freeboard made operating in the stormy, northern waters of the Aleutians and the Bering Sea a grueling, daily challenge. Despite the electric heaters that had been installed for the northern climate, life below decks was dispiriting, cold, and wet, not only from seawater sloshing down through the conning tower, but also from the condensation of atmospheric moisture on all the metal surfaces inside.

Engine breakdowns, battery trouble, and electrical shorts were continuing problems, exacerbated by the age and condition of the machinery. In December 1942 USS S-35 (SS-140) was nearly lost to a chain of events that began when she took several massive waves over the bridge during a storm near Amchitka, sending tons of water into the control room and injuring her captain, Lt. Henry Monroe. Shortly thereafter, electrical fires broke out in both the control room and forward battery and began to spread, filling the boat with acrid smoke and forcing the engines to be shut down and the control room sealed off. The crew fought back with every trick they could think of, including bucket brigades to lower the water level, eventually restarting the engines under local control, and the boat retreated toward Dutch Harbor, fighting recurrent fires so serious that twice the crew was driven up to the bridge. After three days, they reached Adak, where assistance was available, and finally, on 29 December, under escort, S-35 made it back to Dutch Harbor and eventually to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where she was completely overhauled – only to return to the Aleutians again six months later.

In May 1943, American forces invaded Attu, then Kiska in August, and by the end of August all Alaskan territory was back in American hands. At the end of 1943 with the Japanese threat to the Aleutians removed, COMSUBPAC Rear Admiral Charles Lockwood finally acknowledged the futility of sending the Dutch Harbor submarines into harm’s way for so little return and he ordered the remaining S-boats withdrawn from Alaska. In the very last war patrol mounted from Dutch Harbor, S-45 (SS-156) left the submarine base there on New Year’s Eve and returned to Attu at the end of January 1944, before departing for San Diego and a general overhaul; thus ended the U.S. submarine campaign in the Aleutians.

It had to have been amongst the worst duty in the world. The privation, hardship, and danger endured by the more than 1,000 U.S. submariners who served in the Aleutians during 1942 and 1943 – most of them in small, obsolete, and worn-out boats – were never repaid by the spectacular success later achieved by submarines in the wider Pacific conflict. Only nine confirmed kills were scored in over 80 war patrols conducted in the Alaskan theater – and four of these were claimed by Pearl Harbor-based fleet boats, which accounted for only one eighth of the total sorties. On the negative side of the ledger, two S-boats – S-27 and S-44 – and one fleet boat – Grunion – were lost. In retrospect it is an extraordinary tribute to the seamanship, dedication, and perseverance of the men who suffered and died there that an even larger toll of ships and men was not exacted by the many perils of the williwaw, the frozen and desolate islands, and those awful seas.

Editor’s Note: Portions of this blog post were taken from the Undersea Warfare magazine article ‘The Forgotten Theater’ the full text of which can be found here.