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Becuna (SS-319)


A variety of large barracuda.

(SS-319: displacement 1,525 (surfaced), 2,415 (submerged); length 311'9"; beam 27'3"; draft 15'3"(mean); speed 20.25 knots (surfaced), 8.75 knots (submerged); complement 81; armament 10 21-inch torpedo tubes, 1 5-inch, 1 40 millimeter 1 20 millimeter, 2 .50-caliber machine guns; class Balao)

Becuna (SS-319) was laid down on 29 April 1943 at Groton, Conn., by the Electric Boat Co.; launched on 30 January 1944; sponsored by Mrs. George C. Crawford; and commissioned on 29 May 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Henry D. Sturr in command.

After shakedown training out of New London, Conn., the submarine headed for the Pacific and arrived in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on 29 July 1944. She conducted additional training in the Hawaiian Islands before departing Oahu on 23 August for her first war patrol. After patrolling for a month without spotting anything but aircraft, the submarine surfaced on the afternoon of 25 September; and her lookouts spied a convoy of three merchantmen escorted by a destroyer. Becuna submerged and fired a spread of six torpedoes. While she evaded a depth-charge attack, her crew heard an explosion but could not verify any sinking. She had a similar experience on 8 October when she launched torpedoes at a heavily escorted tanker north of Palawan Passage in the Philippines. Again her crew heard two distinct explosions but were too busy dodging depth charges to observe the results of the attack. The following day, however, the submarine recorded her first verifiable success when she joined Hawkbill (SS-366) in sinking the 1,943-ton freighter Tokuwa Maru. Though she also claimed to have destroyed two tankers out of the convoy, postwar examination of Japanese records failed to verify those kills. Later in October, Becuna put into Fremantle, Australia, for refit.

On 16 November 1944, the submarine stood out of Fremantle and embarked on her second war patrol. She cruised the waters off the southern coast of Indochina on the prowl for any Japanese fleet units. On 23 December, two days before Christmas, Becuna encountered heavy cruiser Ashigara and light cruiser Oyodo, mistakenly identified as a Yamato-class battleship and a Nachi-class cruiser. Lack of time, however prevented the submarine from achieving a favorable setup before they entered Cam Ranh Bay. The remainder of the patrol proved almost equally unsuccessful. She destroyed mines and, on her way back to Fremantle, sank two sea trucks with her deck gun just north of Lombok Strait.

After refit at Fremantle in January 1945, Becuna embarked on her third war patrol in February. She returned to the coast of French Indochina where she encountered a Japanese convoy off Cap Padaran on the morning of 22 February. She fired a spread of torpedoes at the merchant tanker Nichiryu Maru and sent the enemy to the bottom. For her trouble, the submarine endured a barrage of 70 depth charges from two escort vessels before escaping. The remainder of the patrol proved to be a fruitless search for enemy shipping, after which time she put into Subic Bay, Luzon, for refit. Her fourth war patrol, carried out in May and early June, proved totally unsuccessful. The submarine made no enemy contacts whatsoever.

She carried out her fourth refit at Fremantle during mid-June 1945. On the 21st, Becuna got underway for her fifth and final patrol. That one also proved unproductive despite several encounters with the enemy. On two occasions, Japanese floatplanes on antisubmarine patrol subjected her to bombing attacks. Then, on the night of 15 July, Becuna made radar contact on a single fast moving target in the Java Sea. After tracking it for several hours, she fired a spread of torpedoes in a night surface attack. They all missed, but Baya (SS-318) took up the chase and sank the Ambon-bound torpedo boat Kari. Becuna concluded the patrol at Subic Bay late in July. While she was still undergoing refit, the Japanese capitulated, and hostilities ceased on 15 August 1945.

Becuna returned to the United States at San Diego on 22 September 1945. Following the war, she remained in active service with the Pacific Fleet conducting the usual peacetime type training missions and participating in various multiship exercises. In April 1949, however, she was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet as a unit of Submarine Squadron (SubRon) 8. The submarine operated out of Groton, Conn., frequently serving as a school ship for students at the Submarine School. That duty continued until November of 1950 when she entered the yard of the Electric Boat Co. in Groton for Greater Underwater Propulsive Power (GUPPY) IA conversion. During the following nine months, she received additional batteries, a snorkel, and a streamlined sail as well as a number of other modifications to various items of equipment.

Becuna completed the conversion in August 1951 and then conducted refresher training in the West Indies. The submarine returned to New London in September. Over the ensuing 18 years, Becuna continued to operate out of Groton performing a variety of peacetime missions, mostly of a training nature. She deployed periodically to the Mediterranean where she made numerous port visits. The submarine served as a training platform for students at the Submarine School. Prospective submarine commanding officers went out on their familiarization cruise in her. She provided test services to the Test and Evaluation Force and trained naval reservists. Becuna participated in many exercises with U.S. and foreign naval units. She occasionally visited northern European ports and was a frequent caller in Canadian, east coast, and West Indian ports.

At the end of that long tour of peacetime duty, the submarine was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 7 November 1969 at Philadelphia. She remained in reserve at Philadelphia until 15 August 1973 at which time her name was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. In 1974, a prospective transfer to Venezuela fell through. On 21 June 1976, she was donated to the Cruiser Olympia Association for use as a memorial.

Becuna earned four battle stars during World War II.

Raymond A. Mann

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

26 October 2021

Published: Tue Oct 26 11:54:25 EDT 2021