Appendices - Hirohito's War
APPENDIX A: SUBMARINES - THE UNDERSEA WAR
Rear-Admiral Charles Lockwood: At the main Pacific US submarine base in Brisbane, Christie was replaced by Captain James Fife. At this point fate intervened to change the course of the submarine war. In January 1943 Rear-Admiral Robert English, Commander of the renamed Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet, based in Hawaii was killed in a plane crash. Not only was Christie overlooked for the top job that was given to Rear-Admiral Charles Lockwood, but he was ordered to return to the Pacific to take over Lockwood’s former command at Fremantle, a smaller command than his former post at Brisbane, which had been put under the command of Fife. In effect Christie had been demoted in the command reshuffle. He lobbied unsuccessfully with MacArthur’s HQ to have Fife’s Brisbane command put under his control.
Christie became a disaffected element in the management of submarine operations in the Pacific and soon clashed with Lockwood over use of the Mark VI magnetic exploder. Convinced by reports from his submarine commanders that the Mark XIV torpedo was not working, Lockwood ordered the magnetic exploder to be deactivated – an action that the maverick Commander Dudley ‘Mush’ Morton had already done on his own initiative. Morton, the heavy jawed Commander of the USS Wahoo became the most famous US submarine commander of World War II. Having taken command of the Wahoo on 31 December 1942, he went on to become the submarine service’s first ace. In four offensive missions over the next nine months, he sank nineteen Japanese vessels aggregating 55,000 tons.
His maverick methods became legend. In a foreword to crewmember Forest Sterling’s book Wake of the Wahoo, a 1960 account of Morton’s career, Admiral Lockwood wrote: “When a natural leader and born daredevil such as Mush Morton is given command of a submarine, the result can only be a fighting ship of the highest order, with officers and men who would follow their skipper to the gates of hell… and they did. Morton lined up an impressive number of ‘firsts’ during the short nine months that he commanded Wahoo: first to penetrate an enemy harbor and sink a ship therein; first to use successfully a ‘down the throat shot’ (straight-on bow attack); and first to wipe out an entire convoy single-handed.”23 Morton, Lockwood’s favorite captain, was killed when USS Wahoo, on a mission to penetrate the Sea of Japan that divides Korea and Russia from Japan, was sunk by depth charges dropped by a Japanese aircraft in the Soya Strait (La Perouse Strait) between the Russian Sakhalin Island and Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. The loss of Morton on 11 October 1943 was a particular blow to Lockwood who had initiated the mission to penetrate Japan’s inner sanctums; he would later write in his autobiographic account of Operation BARNEY that “I resolved, there would come another day - a day of visitation - an hour of revenge. In time we would collect for the Wahoo and Commander Dudley Walker Morton and his men, with heavy interest. And in time we did.”24
In Fremantle, Christie ignored the order to deactivate the Mark VI. He only complied when ordered to by Vice-Admiral Thomas Kinkaid when he became MacArthur’s new Commander Allied Naval Forces. Perhaps more importantly Christie further fell out with Lockwood over the loss of USS Harder. After sinking five destroyers in the Celebes area during the 5-week voyage of his fifth patrol, Harder’s captain, Dealey, returned to Fremantle. Against all acceptable conduct, Rear-Admiral Christie promptly ordered Dealey to take him out for the experience of going on a live patrol. It was a highly irregular request and, given his position of command, peculiarly irresponsible. Having missed out on two known targets, a cruiser and a cargo ship laden with nickel, Dealey returned to base after this week-long addition to his fifth patrol.
After two weeks rest, his executive officer, ‘Tiny’ Lynch, considered that Dealey was still too tired to command. However Dealey, who Christie had already tried to persuade to step aside, was adamant that he needed to train new crewmen. He set out on a new patrol, his sixth, and, while in partnership with Captain Chester Nimitz Jr. commanding the USS Haddo, USS Harder was sunk by a Japanese minesweeper on 24 August 1944 losing all hands on board. The episode led to a further estrangement of Christie and Lockwood.
Eventually, Admiral Kincaid sacked the troublesome Christie after disputes over the award of medals to Dealey and ill-feeling over the death of Kinkaid’s nephew, Lieutenant-Commander Manning Kimmel on the Fremantle based USS Robalo, which was sunk in July 1944. Christie spent the remainder of the war as commander of Puget Sound Navy Yard. As for Commander Dealey, who with 16 kills of an aggregate weight of 54,000 tons to his name, making him the fifth most successful US Pacific War submarine ace, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry.
He also won the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross with three gold stars; Dealey’s citation read, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the USS Harder during her 5th War Patrol in Japanese-controlled waters… This remarkable record of five vital Japanese destroyers sunk in five short-range torpedo attacks attests the valiant fighting spirit of Comdr. Dealey and his indomitable command.”25 More controversially Dealey was awarded the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross by General MacArthur for service in his theater of the Pacific War.
Dealey was not the only submariner to become an inspiring hero in the early phases of the submarine war. In February 1943 Commander Howard Gilmore, captain of USS Growler (Gato Class), having already sunk a freighter on his fourth patrol, rammed an approaching Japanese gunboat and sank it. However Gilmore and his crewmen were raked by gunfire and the wounded captain, unable to reach the hatch, shouted out ‘take her down’, words that became part of World War II submariner folklore. Gilmore’s citation for the Medal of Honor read, ‘In the terrific fire of the sinking gunboat's heavy machineguns, Commodore Gilmore calmly gave the order to clear the bridge, and refusing safety for himself, remained on deck while his men preceded him below. Struck down by the fusillade of bullets and having done his utmost against the enemy, in his final living moments, Commodore Gilmore gave his last order to the officer of the deck, “‘Take her down.’ The Growler dived; seriously damaged but under control, she was brought safely to port (Brisbane) by her well-trained crew inspired by the courageous fighting spirit of their dead captain.”26
Meanwhile Lockwood spent the early months of 1943 wrestling with the problems of the Mark IV torpedo. The magnetic exploder was not the only fault. A design flaw caused US torpedoes to run too deep. Even the contact exploders malfunctioned; it was found that torpedoes fired at ships at the perfect square-on 90-degree angle did not explode. Indeed ships arrived in port with Mark XIV torpedoes buried in their flanks. Submarine commanders found that more difficult glancing shots worked better. Frequently the Mark XIV also failed to run true and commanders often failed to hit targets at close range. Some torpedoes ran a full circle. On 25 October 1944, USS Tang, a Balao Class submarine, under the command of veteran submarine ace Lieutenant-Commander Richard O’Kane, who had sunk 33 Japanese vessels in his first 11 months of service, was sunk by its own torpedo, which boomeranged back.
O’Kane was one of nine surviving crew to be picked up by a Japanese destroyer on which they were beaten up by survivors from USS Tang’s earlier victims. O’Kane would graciously write in his autobiography Clear the Bridge! The War Patrols of the USS Tang , “When we realized that our clubbing and kickings were being administered by the burned, mutilated survivors of our handiwork, we found we could take it with less prejudice.”27
It was not until the autumn of 1943 that Lockwood, largely by the efforts of his maintenance engineers in the Pacific, managed to adjust the Mark XIV mechanisms enough to make it a workable weapon. Lockwood himself, realizing the importance of the torpedo issue, oversaw many of the torpedo trials himself. Lockwood known to his devoted sailors as ‘Uncle Charlie’, Lockwood became a highly successful commander, arguably one of the most important albeit least known senior commanders of World War II. Lockwood dismissed ineffective submarine commanders, redirected strategy toward the sinking of Japanese merchantmen and tankers and the interdiction of supply to Japan. Lockwood also introduced new rotas to ensure the health and recuperation of crews who would often have to endure five or six-week missions on iron rations after their submarines’ supplies of fresh food ran out.
An experienced submarine commander, he never forgot that conditions of life on a submarine were appalling. In World War II submarines the accumulated stench of human sweat and diesel oil penetrated every artifact. Apart from the appalling food, submarines were infested by insects. One submariner noted, “When we did not have battle, we spent our time to catch and kill cockroaches. We had some rats too. One time when oxygen in the submarine became so thin, we found many rats who could not run because of lack of oxygen. We easily caught many rats.”28 Captain William Ruhe of the USS S-37 complained that cockroaches “prowled around and over us at all hours.”29 Apart from the difficult conditions, that matched anything suffered by troops in the jungles of south east Asia, the mental strain of patrols that could last for fifty-six days or more was equally debilitating. When under attack, the fact that a submarine in World War II was little more than a submerged coffin, must have constantly gnawed at the minds of its submariner combatants.