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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Sailfish

 

A large gamefish inhabiting tropical seas, related to the swordfish, but possessing scales and a large sail-like dorsal fin.

 

I

 

(SS-192: dp. 1,450 (surf.), 2,350 (subm.); l. 310'6"; b. 27'1"; d. 13'8"; s. 20 k. (surf.), 8.75 k. (subm.); cpl. 55; a. 8 21" tt, 1 3", 2 .50 cal. mg.; cl. Sargo)

 

The first Sailfish (SS-192), a diesel-powered attack submarine, was laid down on 18 October 1937 as Squalus by the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H.; launched on 14 September 1938; sponsored by Mrs. Thomas C. Hart; and commissioned on 1 March 1939, Lt. 0. F. Naquin in command.

 

On 12 May, Squalus began a series of test dives off Portsmouth. After successfully completing 18 dives, she went down again off the Isle of Shoals on the morning of 23 May. Failure of the main induction valve caused the flooding of her after engine room, and the submarine sank stern first to the bottom in 60 fathoms of water.

 

Her sister ship, Sculpin (SS-191), located the stricken ship and established communications. The newly developed McCann rescue chamber, a revised version of the Momsen diving bell, was used in rescuing the 33 survivors; but 26 men were trapped and lost in the flooded after portion of the ship.

 

The submarine was refloated using cables passed underneath her hull and attached to pontoons on each side. After overcoming tremendous technical difficulties in one of the most grueling salvage operations in Naval history, Squalus was raised; towed into Portsmouth Navy Yard on 13 September; and formally decommissioned on 15 November. The submarine was renamed Sailfish on 9 February 1940. After reconditioning, repair, and overhaul, she was recommissioned on 15 May 1940, Lt. Comdr. Morton C. Mumma in command.

 

With refit completed in mid-September, Sailfish departed Portsmouth on 16 January 1941 and headed for the Pacific. Transiting the Panama Canal, she arrived at Pearl Harbor in early March, after refueling at San Diego. The submarine then sailed west to Manila, where she operated with Submarines, Asiatic Fleet, until the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

That day, Sailfish departed Manila on her first war patrol off the west coast of Luzon. On the night of 13 December, she made contact with a convoy escorted by three Japanese destroyers. After two of her torpedoes missed a troopship, she fired two more "fish" at one of the three destroyers. She claimed a hit, but was forced to dive to escape the vigorous depth charge counterattack. Postwar analysis of Japanese records failed to establish damage to her target. She returned to Manila on the 17th.

 

Her second patrol began on 21 December and took the submarine to waters off Taiwan. On the morning of 27 January 1942, she attacked a cruiser and reported that the target was damaged. However, the damage could not be assessed since the heavy's two escorts forced Sailfish to dive deep and run silent. Running at 260 feet, the submarine eluded the destroyers and proceeded south toward Java. She arrived at Tjilatjap, Java, on 14 February for refueling and rearming.

 

Departing 19 February for her third patrol, she headed through Lombok Strait to the Java Sea. After sighting the cruiser, Houston (CA-30), and two escorts heading for Sunda Strait following the Allied defeat in the Battle of the Java Sea, Sailfish intercepted an enemy destroyer on 2 March. Following an unsuccessful attack on the Japanese warship, she was forced to dive deep to escape the depth charge attack of the destroyer and patrol aircraft. That night, she contacted a carrier-type vessel, escorted by four destroyers. Sailfish torpedoed and sank the aircraft ferry, Kamogawa Maru, near the approach to Lombok Strait. Leaving the ship aflame and dead in the water, Sailfish dove to escape vigorous depth charge attack. After eluding Japanese destroyers and aircraft, she arrived at Fremantle, Australia, on 19 March.

 

The Java and Celebes Seas were the areas of her fourth patrol-22 March to 21 May. She made only one contact and was unable to attack the target before returning to Fremantle.

 

The submarine's fifth patrol-13 June to 1 August-was off the coast of Indochina in the South China Sea. On 4 July, she intercepted and tracked a large cargo-type vessel but discovered the intended target was a hospital ship and held her fire. On 9 July, she intercepted and torpedoed a Japanese freighter. One of a pair of torpedoes struck home and the ship took a fifteen degree list. As Sailfish went deep, a series of explosions was heard, and no further screw noises were detected. When the submarine surfaced in the area an hour and one-half later, no ship was in sight. However, postwar examination of Japanese records confirmed no sinking in the area on that date. Sailfish observed only one other enemy vessel before the end of the patrol.

 

Shifting her base of operations to Brisbane, SS-192 got underway for her sixth patrol on 13 September and headed for the western Solomons. On the night of 17 and 18 September, she encountered eight Japanese destroyers escorting a cruiser, but she was unable to attack. On 19 September, she attacked a minelayer. The spread of three torpedoes missed, and Sailfish was forced to dive deep to escape the depth charge counterattack. Eleven well-placed charges went off near the submarine, causing much minor damage. Sailfish returned to Brisbane on 1 November.

 

Underway for her seventh patrol on 24 November, Sailfish proceeded to the area south of New Britain. Following an unsuccessful attack on a destroyer on 2 December, the submarine made no other contacts until 25 December, when she scored a hit on a Japanese submarine. Postwar analysis of Japanese records could not confirm a sinking in the area. During the remainder of the patrol, she made unsuccessful attacks on a cargo ship and a destroyer before ending the patrol at Pearl Harbor on 15 January 1943.

 

After an overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard from 27 January to 22 April, Sailfish returned to Pearl Harbor on 30 April. Departing Hawaii on 17 May for her eighth patrol, she stopped off to fuel at Midway and proceeded to her station off the east coast of Honshu. Several contacts were made but were not attacked due to bad weather. On 15 June, she encountered two freighters off Todo Saki. Firing a spread of three torpedoes, she observed one hit which stopped the maru dead in the water. Sailfish went deep to escape an ensuing depth charge attack and listened over the sound gear as the cargo ship, Shinju Maru, broke up and sank. Ten days later, she torpedoed and sank the passenger cargo ship, Iburi Maru, in the same general area. During the twelve hours period following the sinking of the Iburi Maru, Sailfish was pinned down by a sustained search and depth charge attack in which over 97 charges were dropped. She suffered only minor damage, and Sailfish set course for Midway on 26 June, arriving there on 3 July.

 

Her ninth patrol-25 July to 16 September, in the Formosa Strait and off Okinawa—produced no worthwhile targets, and Sailfish returned to Pearl Harbor.

 

After refit at Pearl Harbor, she departed on 17 November for her tenth patrol, which took her south of Honshu. Prior to arriving on station, after refueling at Midway, she intercepted a fast convoy of Japanese ships on the night of 3 December about 240 miles southeast of Yokosuka. The group consisted of a carrier, a cruiser, and two destroyers. Despite high seas whipped up by typhoon winds, shortly after midnight of the 4th, Sailfish maneuvered into firing position and fired a spread of three torpedoes at the carrier, scoring two hits. She went deep to escape the escorting destroyers, but resurfaced within a few hours to resume the attack. Before dawn, she fired another spread of three "fish," scoring two more hits on the stricken carrier. Eluding the Japanese ASW attack, which was hampered by the raging seas, Sailfish came to periscope depth at dawn and saw the carrier dead in the water, with a list to port and down by the stern. Preparations to abandon ship were in progress. Later in the morning, Sailfish fired another spread of three torpedoes, scoring two final hits. Loud internal explosions and breaking-up noises were heard, while the submarine went to test depth to escape a depth charge attack. Shortly afterwards, the carrier, Chuyo, went to the bottom.

 

After escaping a strafing attack by a Japanese fighter on 7 December, she made contact and commenced tracking two cargo ships with escorts on the morning of 13 December south of Kyushu. That night, she fired a spread of four torpedoes at the two freighters. Two solid explosions were heard, including an internal secondary explosion. Sailfish heard Totai Maru break up and sink as the destroyers made a vigorous but inaccurate depth charge attack. When Sailfish caught up with the other freighter, she was dead in the water, but covered by a screen of five destroyers. Rather than face suicidal odds, the submarine quietly cleared the area. On the night of 20 December, she intercepted an enemy hospital ship, which she left unmolested.

 

On 21 December, in the approach to Bungo Suido, Sailfish intercepted six cargo ships escorted by two destroyers. With five torpedoes left, she fired a spread of three, scoring two hits on the largest target. Diving to escape the approaching destroyers, the submarine detected breaking-up noises as Uyo Maru went to the bottom. Sailfish terminated her tenth patrol at Pearl Harbor on 5 January 1944.

 

After an extensive overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, 15 January to 17 June 1944, she returned to Hawaii and sailed on 9 July in company with Green-ling (SS-213) and Billfish (SS-286) to prey on shipping in the Luzon-Formosa area. On the afternoon of 7 August, Sailfish made contact with an enemy convoy. She maneuvered into a firing position and launched a spread of three torpedoes at a small tanker. One hit caused the tanker to disintegrate into a column of water, smoke, and debris.

 

The next target she contacted was a battleship escorted by four destroyers, which she detected shortly after midnight on 18 August. Sailfish fired a salvo of four torpedoes at the heavy, but one of the escorts ran into the path of the lethal fish and was severely damaged or sunk by one or more of the torpedoes.

 

On 24 August south of Formosa, SS-192 made radar contact with an enemy convoy consisting of four cargo ships escorted by two small patrol craft. Working into firing position, Sailfish launched a salvo of four torpedoes, scoring two hits. The cargo ship, Toan Maru, was enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Shortly afterwards, the ship broke in two and sank. Resurfacing after escaping a depth charge attack, Sailfish closed on a second cargo ship of the convoy, scoring two hits out of four torpedoes fired. The submarine's crew felt that the cargo ship either had been sunk or badly damaged, but the sinking was not confirmed by postwar examination of Japanese records. Sailfish terminated her eleventh patrol at Midway on 6 September 1944.

 

Her twelfth patrol—26 September to 11 December— was conducted between Luzon and Formosa, in company with Pomfret (SS-391) and Parche (SS-384). After passing through the edge of a typhoon, Sailfish arrived on station. On 12 October, she rescued eleven Navy fliers who had ditched their stricken aircraft after strikes against Japanese bases on Formosa. She sank a sampan and damaged a tug with her deck gun as the enemy craft tried to capture the downed aviators. The following day, she rescued another flier. The submarines pulled into Saipan, arriving 24 October, to drop off their temporary passengers, to refuel, and to make minor repairs.

 

After returning to the patrol area with the wolfpack, she made an unsuccessful attack on a transport on 3 November. The following day, Sailfish damaged two destroyers but was slightly damaged herself by a bomb from a patrol aircraft. With battle damage under control, Sailfish eluded her pursuers and cleared the area. After riding out a typhoon on 9 and 10 November, she intercepted a convoy on the evening of 24 November heading for Itbayat, Philippines. After alerting Pomfret of the convoy's location and course, Sailfish was moving into an attack position when one of the escorting destroyers headed straight for her. Sailfish fired a three torpedo spread "down the throat" and headed toward the main convoy. At least one hit was scored on the destroyer and her pip faded from the radar screen. Suddenly Sailfish received an unwelcome surprise when she came under fire from the destroyer that she had believed to be sunk. SS-192 ran deep, after ascertaining there was no hull damage resulting from a near miss from the escort's guns. For the next four and one-half hours, Sailfish was forced to run silent and deep, as the Japanese kept up an uncomfortably accurate depth charge attack. Finally the submarine was able to elude the destroyers and slip away. Shortly afterwards, Sailfish headed for Hawaii via Midway and completed her twelfth and final war patrol upon arriving at Pearl Harbor on 11 December.

 

Following refit, she departed Hawaii on 26 December 1944 and arrived at New London, Conn., via the Panama Canal on 22 January 1945. For the next four and one-half months, she provided training services out of New London. Next, she operated as a training ship out of Guantanamo Bay from 9 June to 9 August. After a six-week stay at Philadelphia Navy Yard, she arrived at Portsmouth, N.H., on 2 October and entered the navy yard for deactivation. Decommissioned on 27 October 1945, she was initially scheduled to be a target ship in the A-bomb tests or to be sunk by conventional ordnance. However, she was placed on sale in March 1948 and struck from the Navy list on 30 April 1948. The hulk was sold to Luria Brothers of Philadelphia for scrap on 18 June 1948.

 

She was awarded nine battle stars for service in the Pacific and received the Presidential Unit Citation for outstanding performance on her tenth patrol.

 

 


Sailfish (SS-192) in wartime black without identifying markings. She mounts a search radar antenna on its own mast alongside her periscope shears. Single 20-millimeter guns are carried forward and aft on the conning tower, which has been cut back since construction to accommodate them and to reduce the ship's silhouette. A 3-inch deck gun is mounted forward. In her new rig, Sailfish, one of the late-prewar predecessors of the wartime Gato and Balao classes, closely resembles them.