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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
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S-32

 

(SS-137: dp. 854 (surf.), 1,062 (subm.); l. 219'3"; b. 20'8"; dr. 15'11" (mean); s. 14.5 k. (surf.), 11 k. (subm.); cpl. 42; a. 1 4", 4 21" tt.; cl. S-l)

 

S-32 (SS-137) was laid down on 12 April 1918 by the Union Iron Works, San Francisco, Calif.; launched on 11 January 1919; sponsored by Miss Margaret Tynan; and commissioned on 15 June 1922, Lt. Edward E. Hazlett, Jr., in command.

 

Soon after commissioning, S-32, assigned to Submarine Division 17 and homeported at San Pedro, Calif., was ordered to New London, Conn. She was decommissioned there on 25 September 1922 and after engineering alterations by the prime contractor, the Electric Boat Co., and the engineering sub-contractor, the New London Ship and Engine Co., she was recommissioned on 21 February 1923. Temporary duty with Division 11 then took her south to the Caribbean and the Canal Zone for winter exercises with the Fleet, after which she rejoined the S-boats of her division, now designated Division 16, and returned to San Pedro.

 

During the summer of 1923, she participated in cold weather exercises in the Aleutians. In the fall, she resumed local operations off southern California and, that winter, she returned to the Canal Zone. In April 1924, she moved back to San Pedro, whence she operated into 1925. Early that year, however, her division was transferred to the Asiatic Fleet and its submarines shifted to Mare Island to prepare for the transpacific crossing.

 

On 15 April 1925, S-32 departed San Francisco for the Philippines. She arrived at Cavite in mid-summer and through the winter of 1926 conducted local exercises in the Luzon area. That spring, she deployed to the China coast, conducting exercises both en route to and from her summer base, the former German base at Tsingtao. Overhaul followed her September return to the Philippines and completed an annual employment schedule which she maintained for the next six years.

 

In 1932, Division 16 was ordered back to the eastern Pacific. S-32 departed Manila Bay on 2 May and, at the end of the month, arrived at Pearl Harbor, her homeport for the next five years. In June 1937, she sailed for the east coast. In August, she reported for inactivation at Philadelphia and, on 7 December, she was decommissioned and berthed at League Island.

 

Within two years, however, Europe was at war. Hostilities soon extended across the Atlantic; and, in the summer of 1940, S-32 began activation.

 

Recommissioned on 18 September 1940 and assigned to Division 52, S-32 conducted trials out of New London through November and, in December, proceeded to the Panama Canal Zone, whence she operated until April 1941. She then returned to New London but, toward the end of April, moved south again, to Bermuda. Through May, she patrolled and conducted training exercises out of the St. George's base acquired in the destroyers for bases agreement. In late June, she resumed exercises out of New London. In September, she moved down to Philadelphia for an overhaul; and, by December, she was back in Connecticut. With 1942, however, she received orders back to Panama.

 

She arrived at Coco Solo in February. During the spring, she conducted two defensive patrols in the Pacific approaches to the canal and, in June, she proceeded to San Diego en route to the Aleutians. In early July, she arrived at Dutch Harbor; and, on the 7th, she departed that Unalaska base on her first offensive war patrol. She patrolled the fog-covered waters of Rat Island and Oglala passes into August; then shifted to an area north of Attu, returning to Dutch Harbor on the 10th.

 

Twelve days later, she departed on her fourth war patrol. Moving westward, she hunted in the Japanese traffic lanes between Kiska and Attu during the first week of the patrol. On the 28th, leaks developed in the after trim tank, but were compensated for by placing nine tons of water in the forward trim tanks. Although this meant that space was left to accommodate water for only one torpedo reload, depth control was regained, and, with fuel suction shifted forward, reload capability slowly improved. On 29 August, she was off Amchitka to check for enemy shipping in sheltered areas on that island's north coast; then, on the 31st, she headed east to cover the Allied occupation of Adak. On 14 September, she returned to the junction of Eat Island and Oglala passes where she continued her patrol for another six days. On the 20th, she headed for Dutch Harbor.

 

Arriving on the 23rd, S-32 departed again on 8 October. During a trim dive, a fuel discrepancy, caused by the presence of water in the line during fueling at Dutch Harbor, was discovered. On the 12th, the S-boat ran out of reserve fuel in the No. 3 main ballast tank. The discrepancy was approximately 9,000 gallons, but S-32 continued west, into the Kurils.

 

On the 17th, she arrived off Paramushiro and, that evening, she took up station off the southeast coast of the island to patrol the entrances to Musashi Wan and Onekotan Strait. On the morning of the 18th, she sighted two ships at anchor in Musashi Wan; and, after a periscope check disclosed no other ships in the area, she began working her way to an attack position west or southwest of the targets. Moving slowly, with short and infrequent periscope exposures, through the calm and poorly charted bay, she went up for a final check at 1023. While looking, she struck an uncharted sand bar. The S-boat, her tubes ready for firing, angled up 10. Her depth gauge showed 32 feet. During the next few seconds she slid over the bar, apparently showing periscope shears, bow, and, possibly, the whole bridge structure; then, over the bar, she took a down angle at high speed. At 1025, she fired. Two torpedoes, set at six feet, were sent against each of the targets. On firing the fourth and final "fish", she changed course and maneuvered at high speed toward the open sea. Two explosions were heard as she cleared the immediate area. At 1045, she came to periscope depth to observe the damage.

 

One of the targets was afire amidships and had settled somewhat; she was anchored in shallow water and might have been resting on the bottom. The second target was obscured by the first. S-32 went to 80 feet and proceeded out of the bay. At 1205, she resumed her patrol east out of Onekotan Strait. That evening, she turned toward the Aleutians; and, on the 27th, she arrived at Dutch Harbor.

 

From Dutch Harbor, S-32 returned to San Diego. Overhaul followed her 11 November arrival; and, from 21 to 25 December, she tested newly installed equipment: a fathometer, radar, and keel-mounted sound gear. From 28 December 1942 to 26 January 1943, she provided services to the West Coast Sound School; and, on 6 February, she headed north toward Dutch Harbor.

 

S-32 departed Unalaska on her 6th war patrol on 25 February. En route to her assigned station off Attu, she encountered very rough seas, strong winds, rain, mist, and fog. On the 26th, rolling was measured as much as 65 to starboard.

 

Progress west was slow; but, on 1 March, she set a course toward Holtz Bay to check for enemy shipping. The next day, heavy mist and fog hindered her recon-naisance of Stellar Cove; and she turned to the coastal shipping lanes to intercept enemy traffic between Cape Wrangell and Holtz Bay. The entrances to the latter, to Chichagof Harbor, and to Sarana Bay, however, were her primary hunting grounds. On the night of 9 March, off Holtz Bay, she attacked and damaged an enemy destroyer, then underwent a brief depth charging. Leaks caused by the depth charging were minimized, and S-32 continued her patrol.

 

Four nights later, on the 13th, seventeen miles north of Holtz Bay, she attacked an enemy submarine which was lying to on the surface with her engines smoking. At 2059, the S-boat fired two torpedoes at ten-second intervals at the enemy. At 2100, she went deep; and, as she passed 50 feet, one torpedo exploded. At 2120, S-32 came to periscope depth, but the fog had closed in. The target was no longer visible.

 

On the afternoon of the 15th, a second submarine was sighted. The weather, for the first time, was "perfect for a periscope approach." At 1727, S-32 fired a three-torpedo spread; estimated range 2,500 yards; track angle favorable. 'About two and a half minutes later, a muffled explosion was heard in the torpedo room. No explosion was heard by the control party. The S-boat went to periscope depth. Smoke was pouring skyward from the enemy's conning tower. A photograph was taken of the scene as the damaged target headed for the nearest beach. At 1736, however, the enemy disappeared from view. Sound reported that the enemy's screws had stopped.

 

S-32 departed the Attu area early on the morning of the 17th. On the 20th, she moored at Dutch Harbor; and, nine days later, she again sailed west. En route to Attu, cold weather caused icing on the superstructure, but the seas remained fairly calm and the sun was occasionally visible. On 3 March, however, as she approached Attu, more normal Aleutian weather closed in. From then to the 16th, snow and rain storms were almost continuous; seas were rough; winds were strong; and periods of sunlight were limited. At 0157 on the 10th, while patrolling on a north-south line out of Holtz Bay, S-32 picked up a target on radar, some 7,000 yards away. Ten minutes later, a second smaller ship was detected ahead of the first target. Five minutes after the appearance of the second ship on the screen, the first ship was sighted, range about 2,000 yards. S-32 fired four torpedoes. Two very loud explosions were heard and were followed by distant rumblings. At 0219, at a range of just over 3,500 yards, all traces of the ships disappeared from the screen.

 

On 16 March, S-S2 set a course for Dutch Harbor. On the 20th, she arrived and commenced refit. On 4 May, she again sailed west. En route to the Kurils, she patrolled across possible Japanese reinforcement routes to Kiska and Attu, but almost zero visibility during the passage hindered hunting. On the 12th, she entered her assigned area off Paramushiro. The next day, she obtained her first fix, off Onekotan, and commenced patrolling across the approaches to Onekotan Strait and Musashi Wan. Visibility remained poor; seas were rough. Her radar, which had gone out of commission on the llth, functioned improperly throughout her short time on station. On the 15th, the port main motor armature developed a zero resistance to ground. Repeated repair attempts failed, and the motor was secured. S-32 turned back toward Unalaska and moored at Dutch Harbor on the 23rd.

 

On the 27th, the submarine departed the Aleutians for the last time; and, on 6 June, she arrived at San Diego, where she provided training services for the remainder of World War II. Then designated for inactivation, she arrived at San Francisco on 13 September 1945 and was decommissioned at Mare Island on 19 October. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 November 1945, and her hulk was sold for scrapping to the Learner Co., Oakland, Calif., in May 1946.

 

S-32 earned five battle stars during World War II