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operational casualty

USS Seawolf (SS-197)

USS Seawolf (SS-197), a Sargo-class submarine, was the second submarine of the United States Navy named for the seawolf.

Construction and first deployment

Her keel was laid down on 27 September 1938 by the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. She was launched on 15 August 1939 sponsored by Mrs. Edward C. Kalbfus and commissioned on 1 December 1939 with Lieutenant Frederick B. Warder (Class of 1925) in command.

After fitting out, Seawolf departed Portsmouth on 12 April 1940 for her shakedown cruise which lasted until 21 June and took her as far south as the Panama Canal Zone. Seawolf was next assigned to the Pacific Fleet, home ported at San Diego, California. In the autumn of 1940, she proceeded to Manila Bay and operated from the Cavite Navy Yard. When war with Japan began, the submarine readied for sea and was on her first war patrol from 8 December to 26 December 1941.

Seawolf hunted Japanese shipping off San Bernardino Strait. On 14 December, she fired a spread of torpedoes at seaplane carrier Sanyo Maru in Port San Vicente; one torpedo hit, but did not explode. She promptly underwent her first depth charge attack but suffered no damage.

Early war patrols

Seawolf departed Manila on 31 December 1941 for Australia and arrived at Darwin on 9 January 1942. She loaded between 30 and 40 tons of .50-caliber antiaircraft ammunition for use by American forces on Corregidor and sailed for Manila Bay on 16 January. The submarine sighted seven Japanese freighters accompanied by four destroyers and a cruiser on 21 January, but had no opportunity to fire any of the eight torpedoes that she had aboard. The ammunition was unloaded on 28 January and 29 January at Corregidor. Seawolf then loaded torpedoes and passengers, and headed for Surabaya, Java.

Seawolf sailed out of Surabaya on 15 February and began patrolling in the Java Sea-Lombok Strait area. On 19 February, she fired four torpedoes at two Japanese freighter-transports in the Badung Strait. Damage to one was not ascertained, but the other was reported last seen down by the stern and listing to starboard. (However, Sagami Maru had been damaged by USAAF air attack, not by Seawolf's torpedo.)

A week later, she fired her stern tubes at a freighter and watched one hit forward of the bridge before going deep to evade depth charges from an escorting destroyer at which she had also fired. In March, Seawolf was hunting between Java and Christmas Island. On April 1, she stealthily approached the anchorage at Christmas Island where the Japanese invasion force lay at anchor. Seawolf fired a spread at the Japanese light cruiser Naka. One torpedo hit, causing significant damage to the ship, although not harming any of the crew. Naka was forced to return to Japan for repairs and was out of the war for almost a year. Unaware she had hit her target, Seawolf then underwent 7½ hours of depth charge attacks. On 1 April, she attacked two cruisers. A violent explosion was heard, but no flames were seen. Seawolf ended her patrol on 7 April at Fremantle and received the Navy Unit Commendation.

From 12 May to 2 July, Seawolf patrolled the Philippine Islands area. She attacked freighters on 20 May and 23 May, and on 12 June, 13 June, 15 June, and 28 June. On 13 June, she fired at two ships and her crew heard four explosions. The submarine was credited with sinking converted gunboat Nampo Maru on 15 June. Seawolf returned to Fremantle for three weeks before beginning her sixth war patrol. {The vessel sunk June 12 was the Burma Maru. See }.

Seawolf prowled the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea from 25 July to 15 September. She attacked a tanker on 3 August, sank Hachigen Maru on 14 August and Showa Maru 11 days later. She returned to Fremantle to refit and then hunted in the Davao Gulf area from 7 October to 1 December. Seawolf sank Gifu Maru on 2 November, Sagami Maru (7,189 tons) the next day, and Keiko Maru on 8 November. She ended her patrol at Pearl Harbor en route to the West Coast.

Overhaul and redeployment

Seawolf arrived at Mare Island on 10 December 1942 and underwent an overhaul that lasted until 24 February 1943. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 13 March and, on 3 April, stood out for another patrol. She ended this patrol early, on 3 May, because she had expended all torpedoes on enemy shipping near the Bonin Islands. On 15 April, she torpedoed Kaihei Maru, sank an old destroyer now known as Patrol Boat Number 39 on 23 April; and sank two 75-ton sampans with her three-inch (76 mm) gun.

Seawolf returned to Midway Island for refitting and departed that island on 17 May and headed for the East China Sea. She ran into several large convoys as she prowled from Formosa to Nagasaki. The submarine tracked a convoy of 11 ships and fired a spread of torpedoes at a large freighter on 6 June. One torpedo hit the target but proved to be a dud, and another passed under the freighter and hit an escort. Two weeks later, she fired a spread at four ships. One was hit in the stern and sank in approximately nine minutes. This was Shojin Maru loaded with troops. Seawolf returned to Midway Island on 8 July and, four days later, steamed into Pearl Harbor.

Her next patrol was from 14 August to 15 September. This patrol, in the East China Sea, was also ended prematurely due to firing all torpedoes. She sank 12,996 tons of enemy shipping, excluding two 75-ton sampans sunk by shellfire. Seawolf made contact with a six-ship convoy on her third day in the patrol area. She attacked day and night for three days before finally surfacing to sink Fusei Maru with her deck gun.

On Seawolf’s 11th patrol, in the South China Sea from 5 October to 27 November, she sank Wuhu Maru, Kaifuku Maru, and damaged a 10,000-ton cargo ship. The submarine refitted at Pearl Harbor and, on 22 December 1943, headed for the East China Sea on what was to be her most lucrative patrol. She attacked a seven-ship convoy on the night of 10 January and 11 January 1944 and sank three ships totaling 19,710 tons.

On 14 January, Seawolf fired her last four torpedoes at two merchant ships in a convoy, damaging one and sinking Yamatsuru Maru. She continued tracking the convoy while radioing its position to submarine . Whale arrived on 16 January and promptly attacked, damaging one ship and sinking Denmark Maru. The next morning, Whale damaged another before action was broken off.

Second overhaul and disappearance

Seawolf (Commander Albert Marion Bontier) returned to Pearl Harbor on 27 January and sailed for San Francisco, California, two days later. After undergoing a major overhaul at Hunters Point, the submarine headed west on 16 May. When she reached Pearl Harbor, she was assigned the task of photographing Peleliu Island in the Palau Islands, in preparation for the forthcoming attack on that stronghold. She carried out this mission despite constant enemy air patrols from 4 June to 7 July.

The submarine headed to Majuro for voyage repairs and was rerouted to Darwin. There, she received orders sending her on a special mission to Tawitawi, in the Sulu Archipelago. The submarine approached to within of the beach, picked up a Captain Young and took him to Brisbane.

Seawolf stood out of Brisbane on 21 September to begin her 15th war patrol under the command of Lieutenant Commander A.M. Bontier. She reached Manus on 29 September, refueled, and sailed the same day carrying stores and Army personnel to the east coast of Samar.

Seawolf and submarine exchanged radar recognition signals at 0756 on 3 October in the Morotai area. Shortly thereafter, a Seventh Fleet task group was attacked by Ro-41. Destroyer escort was torpedoed and sunk, and her sister (DE-403, Harry Allan Barnard, Jr., commanding) began to search for the enemy.

Since there were four friendly submarines in the vicinity of this attack, they were directed to give their positions and the other three did, but Seawolf was not heard from. On 4 October, Seawolf again was directed to report her position, and again she failed to do so. One of two planes from the escort carrier sighted a submarine submerging and dropped two bombs on it even though it was in a safety zone for American submarines. The site was marked by dye and Rowell steamed to the area and established sound contact on the submarine, which then sent a series of dashes and dots which Rowell stated bore no resemblance to the existing recognition signals. Rowell attacked with hedgehogs. The second attack was followed by underwater explosions, and debris rose to the surface.

Post-war examination of Japanese records shows no attack listed that could account for the loss of Seawolf. While it is possible that Seawolf was lost to an operational casualty or as a result of an unrecorded enemy attack, it is more likely she was sunk by friendly fire. 62 officers and men as well as 17 Army passengers were lost. She was the thirty-fourth U.S. submarine lost in the Pacific War, the second (after in the Caribbean) to friendly fire.

On 28 December 1944, Seawolf was announced overdue from patrol and presumed lost. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 20 January 1945.

Honors and awards

Seawolf received 13 battle stars for World War II service. She ranked fourteenth in confirmed tonnage sunk (71,609 tons) and tied for seventh in confirmed ships sunk (with and ), according to the JANAC accounting postwar.

The contributions and sacrifices of the Seawolf and her crew are officially commemorated in Seawolf Park, located on Pelican Island, just north of Galveston, Texas.

References

External links

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