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USS PAMPANITO (SS-383)


THE SECOND WAR PATROL

JUNE 3 - JULY 23, 1944
During the refit period that followed her first patrol Pampanito underwent several modifications. Main Ballast Tank #4 was converted to a variable tank designed to carry fuel oil at the beginning of a patrol and to be flushed out at sea when the fuel had been used to again become a ballast tank. This conversion greatly extended her patrol range. The conning tower was fitted out with a dead reckoning tracer (DRT), an automatic plotting device, which was the second such unit on board. Additionally, a VHF radio system was installed for short range communications with airplanes while Pampanito was on lifeguard duty, and with other submarines while operating in wolfpacks.

On June 1,1944 Summers received new orders. Pampanito left for Midway Island two days later where she rendezvoused with a sub tender, a repair and supply ship, to undergo periscope repairs and take on 20,000 gallons of fuel oil. Pampanito left Midway on June 8, and headed for her patrol area at two engine speed.

June 9 was omitted from the calendar as Pampanito crossed the international date line on her way to patrol off the southern coast of Japan. Pampanito was experiencing high seas and typhoon like winds when the Japanese island of Tori Shima was sighted on June 15. The foul weather continued. Navigational star sights could not be obtained as she moved northward through the islands off the southern tip of Japan. As Pampanito penetrated deeper into enemy waters, she maintained a routine of staying submerged during the day and traveling on the surface at night to run the diesel engines to charge the batteries. Her engines could not be run while she was submerged because U.S. subs were not fitted with snorkels that carry oxygen to burn the fuel and allow exhaust gasses to escape while submerged. When Pampanito traveled on the surface during daylight hours, lookouts kept a watchful eye so that she could dive if an enemy plane was spotted or target moved into range.

As skies cleared and the seas turned glassy, Pampanito approached the Bungo-Suido, the straits between the large Japanese islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. At 0350 hours on the morning of June 23 the Officer of the Deck, the Navigator, and one lookout sighted a torpedo wake crossing Pampanito's bow. Left full rudder was ordered at flank speed to parallel the track of the oncoming torpedo. Another torpedo wake was sighted proceeding up the starboard side. ( Steam turbine driven torpedoes left a visible wake of exhaust gasses.) Summers states in his patrol report:
"The night was clear and I'm sure if there had been a submarine on the surface we could have seen it. As it turned out, I feel certain that a submerged enemy submarine had fired at us and his misses were due merely to the fact that we were zig-zagging, for which I am now very thankful."

Pampanito submerged and attempted to pick up the sound of the attacker's screws. Nothing could be heard. At 2300 hours Summers received orders to remain in the area until the night of June 27 to intercept the remnants of a crippled enemy task force returning from the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Whale (SS-239), Grouper (SS-214), and Batfish (SS-310) were also patrolling this area, but no contacts were made. During this time Pampanito was able to detect enemy radar from shore that revealed her position, and she submerged to keep her position unknown. Several potential targets were sighted over the next few days, including a destroyer and a nine-ship convoy, but the need to dodge patrol craft combined with the pull of strong easterly currents made attack positions too difficult to set up and maintain. Matters were further complicated when both periscopes began fogging, and there was no nitrogen gas left aboard to dry them out.

By the night of July 5, as Pampanito traveled through the seven mile wide channel between the islands of Nii Shima and Kozu Shima, the sky had cleared and a moonlit night revealed a clear view of both islands. Just after noon on July 6, a convoy consiting of two medium AK's (armed amphibious transports) and a tanker, with three escorts and air coverage from three planes, was sighted. It was a calm afternoon with glassy seas making it difficult to make an approach that offered an opening through the enemy screen. Summers fired a three-torpedo spread from the stern tubes at the leading target and one torpedo hit. The depth charge attack that followed drove Pampanito deep and the results of the attack could not be observed. Summers stated in his report:

"1340 - First of eleven depth charges; all big and set shallow but not close. This was the most half-hearted depth charging I have ever witnessed, mainly due, I believe, to the fact that the enemy had no idea where we were ( because we had fired Mark 18's ** ) and could not hear or pick us up in the shallow water to seaward of the attack because of the sharp temperature gradient."

** Mark 18 torpedoes were electric torpedoes that left no visible wake.

The target's screws had stopped and the sound of a ship breaking up could be heard by the crew. A later periscope observation revealed that the leading ship was dead in the water, apparently hit by the second or third torpedo which had run under the escort. The enemy ship and the escort had such close air cover that Summers decided to pull away submerged at 250 feet. Later that night, a lookout reported a periscope 1500 yards to port. A few minutes later, radar revealed a plane closing in. That night the lookouts had the first night sighting of an enemy patrol airplane, which had been numerous during the daylight hours. They were apparently searching for Pampanito following the attack. Pampanito dove and resumed the patrol while moving on to the next patrol area. Just before dawn on July 16, Pampanito was patrolling on the surface west of the island of Hachijo Shima with a partial moon silhouetting her as she moved along at 19 knots. At 0340 a torpedo wake was sighted moving toward her port beam. Pampanito immediately came left to parallel the track of the torpedo. It was estimated later that the torpedo crossed Pampanito's bow as she turned, narrowly missing her by 3 to 5 yards. Summers again attributed the miss to the zig zag course he had kept.

That same day Summers received a report of an enemy convoy approaching, and he spent an extra day in the area in search; however, a U.S. submarine was the only vessel sighted. Diminishing fuel supplies forced Pampanito to leave the area and head for Midway to meet the sub tender USS Proteus (AS-19) to undergo refit.

Pampanito arrived at Midway on July 23. Following Summers' report of the second war patrol Admiral Lockwood, Commander of the Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet, speculated that the torpedoes fired at Pampanito may have been fired by a midget Japanese submarine. The Commander of Submarine Squadron 20 also noted an increase of land based enemy radar based on Summer's patrol report.

Pampanito was refitted and prepared for her third patrol.

The Third Patrol

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