U.S.S. PUFFER (SS268) – Report of Seventh War Patrol
by Lt. Commander Carl R. Dwyer

 

puffer_navy_day_500.jpg (32456 bytes)24 February 1945: Proceeding (submerged) through PIRANHA’S area to take station in North part of BASHI CHANNEL.

O245 SJ radar contact on NORTH ISLAND and Y’AMI ISLAND.

O513 SD radar land contact 16 miles.

O527 APR contact 150 mcs. Land based.

SURFACED. Began working away from land.

Position Lat. 21 33’ N. Long. 121 50’ E.

Lost land on the SJ.

Sent men on deck to convert #4 FBT to a MBT. Seas running heavy as usual. Put them astern.

Sighted a Japanese aircraft at about 8 miles. SUBMERGED.

SURFACED. Resumed work converting #4 FBT.

Sighted Japanese aircraft, range about 7 miles. SUBMERGED.

SURFACED. This persistent Japanese search plane has placed us in a difficult position. Darkness has descended with #4 FBT partially converted to a ballast tank. To leave it in this condition is dangerous because of several factors, least of which is the inevitable oil slick even though the tank is now supposedly full of salt water. To reconvert the tank to a fuel ballast tank will require as much or probably more time than continuing the conversion, as gasket holes will never stay centered when the chips are down. Although fuel ballast tanks are normally converted at night, it was decided earlier today that daylight conversion was best in view of the heavy seas. To wait for smoother seas was ruled out also earlier today on the basis of their improbability in LUZON STRAIGHTS in February and in view of the military necessity for always having maximum speed available and keeping fuel at hand, it was decided to continue the conversion to a main ballast tank. The Commanding Officer assumed full responsibility for the operation, took the conn, and directed the operation from the cigarette deck.

Resumed converting #4 FBT to a main ballast tank.

An unusually large wave broke over the main deck coming from the starboard beam and normal to the direction of the seas. At first in appeared well with the workers on deck. However, in the dim light afforded by the moon through a heavy overcast, it was seen that FRITH, O. L. F1c, had been swept loose and was being carried along by the water. He was carried slightly aft and hit the life line opposite the after five inch gun platform where there is a double wire only 18 inches apart. Here he was caught momentarily by the life lines. Suddenly rising hope soon gave way to despair as the impact of the water tore loose his grip on the wire and swept him over the side.

Ordered "All stop, left full rudder", until the stern cleared the man overboard.

Calculated that a backing down recovery would give the best chance of success under present conditions of poor visibility, heavy seas, and possibly limited time. Danger will be in having to dive while backing down. Decided to throw all caution to the wind.

Ordered "All back full – shift the rudder" in order to present the stern from working up wind and running down the man overboard.

About this time heavy clouds obscured the moon and total darkness descended. The man overboard had lost sight of the submarine now and things looked even darker for him. Although shocked by the force of the seas which swept him over the side, FIRTH had the presence of mind to take it easy in the water and conserve his strength. He checked his lifebelt, removed his shoes and other clothes, and started whistling.

ss268underway2thin.jpg (23077 bytes)Fortunately the searchlight was rigged and had not flooded out yet. Ordered it turned on and trained on port quarter. After backing down about two ship lengths, ordered "all stop", turned the conn over to the Executive Officer, and then took station on the main deck aft to look and listen for the man overboard. Heard him off the port quarter and with some coaching got the searchlight on him. By now he was abeam of the conning tower up sea with the boat dead in the water. The situation looked good at first but it was soon apparent that the boat was drifting down sea faster than the man was swimming and that the man was tiring rapidly. Started twisting the boat to bring the stern up wind and at the same time dispatched a swimmer with a buoy line to aid FRITH. Unfortunately the swimmer and the bouyed line parted company in the heavy seas. FRITH was found to be near exhaustion but still game in spite of the fact that he had now lost his life preserver due to the heavy seas. While the two swimmers were making their way back to the ship, the searchlight bulb burned out. Considerable trouble was experienced renewing the bulb as the one which burned out had blown up. The two persons in the water lost sight of the boat. After a space of time which seemed like an eternity, the searchlight finally came back on, and they now found themselves on the starboard bow, downwind from the boat. As the searchlight was trained on the port bow, the two swimmers cold not be seen. Luckily they were heard shouting on the starboard bow and then soon illuminated by the searchlight. The bow was sung down wind and a volunteer swimmer (DAUPLAISE, L. B. E. CQM) went over the side with a buoyed line to retrieve the two exhausted swimmers. The boat was flooded down to prevent anyone being bashed against the hull.

All hands recovered safely.

Continued converting #4 FBT.

Completed conversion of #4 FBT to a main ballast tank.

O.O.D. sighted a spherical type mine close aboard the starboard bow. Avoided.

SUBMERGED. Flushing out #4 FBT. 2237 SURFACED.

Received Pack Commander’s instructions to rotate areas. PIRANHA to "BLAZER LIFEGUARD", SEA OWL to North BASHI CHANNEL, and PUFFER to South BASHI CHANNEL.

Transcribed by Craig McDonald  crmcdona@indiana.edu