Page Three    


From "Shorty " Evans Communications Officer USS Queenfish (SS393)

Where We Were on the Last Day of WWII

"The Almost Last Patrol"

The Submarine USS Queenfish (SS 393) returned from its fifth patrol to rest camp and overhaul on Midway Island on July 26, 1945. Midway Island was an exceptionally beautiful place to be in rest camp with its "Gooneyville" Lodge and beautiful beaches. It also had an unusual assortment of birds, including the well-known Gooney Bird. All which furnished us with no end of entertainment.

The Queenfish had an enviable record in WWII. Although it made only five patrols, it ranked in the top ten submarines in tonnage sunk.

We had been informed that on our sixth patrol, we were going on a mission to bombard the northern Japanese islands. The Navy wanted the Japanese to think that our fleet had the capability of attacking any part of the Japanese homeland.

Yard workers had mounted a second five-inch twenty-five-gun forward of the conning tower. We already had one aft. We were to carry torpedoes only in the torpedo tubes. The torpedo racks were to be loaded with five-inch ammunition. We were also going to carry three hundred units of blood plasma, which was probably fifty times our normal compliment. That alone gave us a hint of what they thought might happen to us.

The thought of this patrol was of significant concern to me since my duty station during battle station, surface, was Officer of the Deck. I even made a pest of myself with our Yeoman making sure my GI insurance was current and properly designated as to beneficiary.

We had completed our two weeks in rest camp and were on the last day of our ten day training session in which the new crew members were being worked into our team procedures. On the last day of the session, you underwent indoctrination depth-charging with the periscope up with a flag on it, which was visible to the surface craft. A destroyer runs a parallel course with the sub, about three hundred yards off beam, and drops several depth charges. This is so the new crewmembers, which have never experienced a depth charge, will get this experience on less than stressful conditions.

The destroyer usually made two runs on the sub, which surfaced between each run and exchanged signals. Sometimes, the sub will question the destroyer to assure that they were three hundred yards away and maybe not only fifty or one hundred. It felt just as bad at either distance, I guess.

Between runs, we lit off our radio receivers to check on radio traffic and we heard these words, " officially over." As communications Officer I went to the Captain to report significant radio traffic. He said "Any messages, Shorty?" I said that I thought the war was over and told him the words I had heard. He said, "Well, let's dive and finish the depth charge training." Under my breath, I said "Oh, Shhhelled walnuts!"

After our second depth-charge run when we surfaced, and lit off the radio receiver quickly again, and got the whole message, "The war is officially over." That night, we had a special drinking party at the club. Drinks normally cost us ten cents, but if the marine bartender was experimenting, he would only charge us five cents. He experimented with drinks half the night. Then, he joined us in our celebration. Drinks cost nothing after he joined us. If the war had not ended, that sixth patrol we were going on may very well have been our last patrol. We would have had to close within three thousand yards of the shoreline to effectively use our five-inch guns. This would not only expose us to potentially devastating shore fire, but we would very likely be in shallow water and would not be able to dive to escape unless we ran on the surface for a significant distance out of sea.

When my then ten-year old daughter was on the affirmative side of a debate, "Should the US Have Dropped the A-bombs on the Japanese?" She had asked me for arguments. I said, "If we had not dropped it, probably you nor I would be here today!"

LT Howard (Shorty) Evans, USNR, Ret.

Shorty's tale of where we were going on our 6th run is news to me as I was not so informed and I was Exec. I suspect this was an unfounded rumor."

Jack Bennett

This is a non-Queenfish story but worthy of telling, as you'll see.

From a USS Bluebill crewmember

How "Cutie" saved our Christmas Eve

The night was clear and warm. The moon was high, and we could see the outlines of the islands of Lombok and Bali in the distance. We were heading north to our scheduled operating area off the east coast of what was then called Indo-China. We were the US submarine BLUEGILL. We had just finished a refit in Fremantle, the harbor of Perth, West Australia.

It was late Christmas Eve 1944 and many of us were reminiscing on Christmases past and praying that we could see this one through for we were approaching Lombok Strait. "They" would be waiting for us on Lombok and in the Strait; shore batteries on Lombok and anti-submarine patrol craft in the Strait. The Japanese knew that Lombok Strait was the gateway through the Dutch East Indies where Allied submarines transited from "down under" tothe Japanese-held islands and homelands to the north. Headquarters had not reported any of our submarines lost in Lombok Strait, but we knew that the enemy had given some of them a thorough depth-charging resulting in some physical damage to the subs and a great deal of nerve shattering apprehension for the men. Furthermore, there was a strong current running through the Strait.

Tonight it was running from north to south. We knew if we transited it submerged, headway would be very slow making us a sitting duck target for the anti-submarine patrol craft above. None of us cared for close depth charges. Submarines on the surface are difficult to see at night unless they cross the moon's path, but the moon was high overhead this night, so after mulling over the pros and cons, the Captain and the Executive Officer decided to transit Lombok Strait on the surface. Our surface search radar was better than that of the Japanese patrol vessels, and because of of the moon's position we figured we could pass the Lombok shore batteries before they spotted us.

"What if the shore batteries have radar?" I asked. The Executive Officer, Bud Cooper, smiled and replied, "George, we'll make the decision to stay surfaced or dive after they start shooting. I don't think they'll hit us with the first shot." I muttered that maybe the Japanese had a William Tell on the island.

So we started up the west side of the Strait near Bali---as far as possible from Lombok Island. The Exec and I were in the control room plotting our position; the Captain, Eric Barr, was on the "bridge". All four engines were firing full blast; we were transiting at top speed, about 21 knots.

Suddenly there was a loud roar overhead, and I excitedly exclaimed, "Bud, a plane, we've been picked up by an enemy patrol plane; we should dive right now."

"That's no aircraft; that's a large projectile passing overhead. And indeed it was, for instantly the Captain yelled , "left-full rudder" to the helmsman. The Captain was salvo-chasing. Salvo-chasing means heading for the last projectile's splash, a tactic for confusing the enemy's range and deflection corrections. But the projectiles kept coming. "Clear the bridge!" the Captain yelled. "Level off at six zero feet." Down came the lookouts, quartermaster and Captain, and we leveled off at that depth.

"Bud, that's a nerve racking experience, those projectiles were landing closer and closer; I thought it best to get out of there," the Captain volunteered.

"Well, I'm sure the shore battery has radioed the patrol craft our position." the Exec replied and then warned Sonar, "Keep a sharp listening watch for enemy propeller (screw) sounds. Enemy patrol craft will be closing our position." We could have gone deeper, but an earlier dive did not show us any thermal layer that we could hide under, so it was better to stay near the surface as long as possible so we could take an occasional periscope look, even though it was night. But there was no time for a leisurely cup of coffee for sonar reported, "High speed screws bearing 020, the bearing is steady, and they don't sound like any patrol craft; they're destroyer screws!"

"Oh, God, the first team," I whispered. The Captain took a quick periscope observation and said he could barely make out the ship, but that he could see the "bone in his teeth" (bow wave). He then passed the word, "Rig for silent running and depth charges; diving officer, 360 feet," We had just settled out at 360 feet when sonar reported," Destroyer is 'pinging' and it looks like he has made contact on us." Our number one sonar operator, Ware, kept the bearings coming and reported that the enemy was commencing his first run. It was, and he was a professional.

What a way to spend Christmas Eve.

He dropped just four depth charges this first run. They were big, and they caused damage. There was an electrical fire in the maneuvering room, and the diving planes were stuck into "hard-dive". Back in the maneuvering room our veteran electrician, "Rabbit" Hare, was fighting the fire while holding in the breakers so that we could "back-emergency"; in the after engine room our leading machinist, "Silent" Turner, was bouncing among sea valves, closing those "backed-off" by the depth charges, and in the Control Room our two stalwarts on the diving planes, Basil and Cerreto, were struggling violently to get control of the planes. We finally stopped the dive at 525 feet, 200 feet below our test depth. Several more depth-charging runs caused other damage, but we were able to hold our depth. It was then that Lt. Bucko Stockton suggested that we use our Mk. 27 torpedoes. This was the first patrol on which we carried Mk.27's. They were brand-new. These were the first acoustic torpedoes that the US Navy had introduced to the submarine forces, and Bluegill was one of the few submarines to carry them. We had never fired one in anger, but had made some practice runs off Fremantle. The explosive charge was about 90 pounds, and the torpedo was designed to hit the enemy ship near the propellers. It was fired when the sound (noise) of the enemy ship reached a certain decibel level. Of course it had to be fired during the destroyer's approach, and before his depth charges exploded.

Many of us were skeptical of this "Cutie", as it was called, for it might give away our position if it failed to explode. But Bucko was adamant, and the Captain was in a dilemma--though not for long. "Go ahead, Bucko, but make it good," the Captain said. "Captain, we've been checking his noise level, and the setup looks good." Bucko's crew was ready, and on the next destroyer run, he fired.

There was a long wait. We had missed. The destroyer was passing overhead and the first depth charge of this run exploded close aboard. Our hopes and spirits were shattered, but suddenly sonar reported that the destroyer's screws had stopped. Was he listening for us? Did he have us "cold" and was just waiting for our next move? Or had "Cutie" performed as designed ?

Slowly our spirits started to rise and guarded smiles appeared, for we just kept creeping ahead on our northerly course and never heard from the destroyer again. We guessed that "Cutie" had hit the destroyer just after it had dropped the depth charge and before it exploded.

Bucko and his crew had performed magnificently; they were heroes. We "broke-out" the medicinal brandy for we had been undergoing this ordeal for two hours, and it was time to relax.

And as we relaxed we heard over the loud-speaker system, Strain, the ship's cook, singing softly, "Silent night, Holy night,."

He couldn't sing worth a damn, but we all hummed along with him.


Captain Jack Bennett XO Queenfish wrote:

Mark 18 Success

That was a good story about Bluegill's Mk 27 success in Lombok Strait.

Queenfish brought the first "cuties" out to Pearl. After commissioning we stopped in Key West en route the Canal to train for a week with this new half size ASW torpedo against a local DE. It worked great and kept hitting his screws. We offloaded our 14-3A warshots and filled up with Cuties, 2 to a rack, to deliver to Pearl. Then we carried one in an after tube for the first several runs but never fired it.

When the Mk 18 electric became available we carried it exclusively and had great success with it (after inactivating the magnetic feature of the faulty exploders). This was strictly against CSP orders but the subs secretly did it anyway as the contact feature worked. We got hits with up to 120 degrees torpedo gyro angles, which no one had reported before. (This enabled us to fire at an AK and an AP from the middle of the convoy before firing at the lead escort which had already passed, thus not alerting the main targets until we sank them. We had to open out a little from the AP to get the after nest beyond 500 yds when the fish would arm. The Captain could see the cigarettes glowing when the soldiers on deck inhaled. The loud breaking up noises were above us as sections of the AP sank on both sides of us.

The remaining escorts dropped 6 charges and we went deep, supposedly to reload and make an end around to hit the convoy again at first light. But we couldn't reload below 150' as the fwd room shrank and the skids wouldn't line up with the tubes. I tried unsuccessfully to get permission to plane up above 150' to reload. but most thought we'd sunk enough for one night. (The COB and I just kept our mouths shut after my request was denied.)

Rambling again - sorry. - Jack


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