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USS PAMPANITO (SS-383)


THE FIRST WAR PATROL

MARCH 15 - MAY 2, 1944
On April 7, 1944, in the Central Pacific Ocean about 70 miles southwest of Guam, USS Pampanito was patrolling the western edge of the Japanese convoy routes between Saipan and the Palau Islands. Pampanito was 24 days into her first war patrol. Earlier in the patrol she had been off the coast of Yap Island standing lifeguard duty, searching for downed US fliers during the Palaus air strikes on March 30-31.

Since leaving Pearl Harbor the crew had been kept busy repairing a leaky torpedo tube and a bad hydraulic valve in the bow plane rigging; not easy jobs between the many dives necessary to avoid attack from Japanese planes patrolling the area. Avoiding enemy airplanes was done not only to protect the submarine, but also to keep the boat's position secret, one of the submarine's greatest tactical advantages.

Photo of Captain SummersJust after noon on April 7, Pampanito's radar operator picked up a target about 10 miles off the starboard bow. Through the periscope Pampanito's skipper, Lt .Commander Paul E. Summers (pictured on left), sighted a small convoy and escort ships moving on a radical zig zag course at 12 knots. Summers moved the submarine into attack position.

" 1326 - Set up looks fairly good, came left to 110 degrees for about 75 degrees starboard track on leading target. The escort is crossing over toward us from port to starboard bow of target. A second look disclosed a small mast well astern... of second ship in column. Probably another escort. 1330 - With track of about 75 degrees starboard, zero gyro angle and torpedo run of about 1400 yards, up periscope for final check on set-up, disclosing the following: leading escort was heading almost directly for us at range of less than 500 yards, leading target was zigging away to the left, with smoke billowing from his stack."

Summers took Pampanito down deep and began a cat and mouse game that was to last four days. The boat was depth charged and damaged as her skipper tried repeatedly to maneuver her into attack position. A few minutes later...

"1403 - 1405 - Received a string of 5 depth charges varying in depth from 150 to 600 feet, all very close.... we heard the screws of one escort through our hull, and the sound man distinctly made out a definite ping similar to a fathometer as the escort passed over us and let go his charges. This string of 5 depth charges caused considerable damage and shaking up of the boat....

1406 - We can definitely hear the two escorts now pinging on us."

Summers pulled the boat back for evaluation of damages; some quick repairs were made. Pampanito then moved ahead to the estimated position of the convoy, eventually catching up at dawn on April 10. Summers was now able to get his first clear view of the whole convoy. It consisted of two large freighters with three destroyers, one ahead and one on each flank, and a sub chaser astern. Summers tracked the zig-zagging convoy all day and was able to move into attack position that night. A nearly full moon had risen so Summers moved in on the side of the convoy away from it to avoid being seen.

"2155 - Fired spread of 4 torpedoes designed to get 2 hits. Track 81 [degrees] starboard, torpedo run 2450 yards.... With quick set-up on leading destroyer, fired... 2 torpedoes.... Noted starboard DD [destroyer] screen coming in fast on our port beam, too close for comfort. Evidently the DD at which I just fired had "Gotten the word too" for he is coming right rapidly...
2156-10 - Commenced evasive tactics.
2156-40 - First torpedo hit, with violent explosion felt throughout the ship. Target was probably carrying high-test gas in his tanks.
2156-58 - Second torpedo hit. These two explosions time exactly with the first and second torpedo runs....
2159 - First depth charge; not close.
2200 - Much noise, confusion and milling around in the direction of target.
2201 - Pattern of 3 depth charges, fairly close. At about 300 feet, commenced taking in water through the main air induction piping. #9 torpedo tube indicating sea pressure. Evidently outer door is leaking from last depth charging.
2202 - Pattern of 3 depth charges, fairly close.
2205 - Had to close the hull induction drains in engine rooms and maneuvering room as water is coming in too fast. Boat is getting very heavy. One of the poppet valves in the forward torpedo tubes stuck open on firing causing flooding of the forward torpedo room bilges.
2207 - Intermittent depth charges. None very close. A total of about 25 were dropped. Am having to use between 90 and 100 shaft turns with a 12-15 degree rise bubble to keep the boat from going any deeper...
2315 - Both sound head training motors grounded out due to bilge water running over the forward torpedo room deck with a 15 degree rise bubble. Tried using a bubble in safety tank twice to hold my depth, and each time it brought the DD's over again. Excessive noise being caused by the pressure forcing water into main induction piping....

11 April 1944

0015 - Destroyer screws going away.
0043 - Surfaced. All clear."

Summers pulled away to evaluate the damage caused by the depth charges. The convoy had moved over the horizon so Summers sent a message to USS Harder (SS-257), also in the area, in hopes that Harder could intercept them.

The outboard air induction piping was completely flooded, the sound heads were grounded out and number nine torpedo tube had flooded. The training motors for the sound heads were beyond repair and they were out of commission for the remainder of the patrol. Following the repairs Pampanito moved north to patrol the Guam/Palau convoy routes and stand another lifeguard watch. On April 25, unable to locate any targets and short on fuel, Pampanito left the patrol area and headed for Midway to refuel.

On May 8, 1944, after 54 days at sea, Pampanito returned to Pearl Harbor for refit.

The Second Patrol

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