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Guitarro (SS-363)

(SS-363: dp. 1,526; l. 311'9"; b. 27'3"; dr. 15'3"; s. 20 k.; cpl. 60; a. 1 3", 10 21" tt.; cl. Balao)

A ray of the guitar-fish family.

Guitarro (SS-363) was launched 26 September 1943 by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co. of Manitowoc, Wis.; sponsored by Mrs. Ross T. McIntire, wife of the Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery; and commissioned at Manitowoc 26 January 1944, Lt. Comdr. E. D. Haskins in command.

Guitarro departed Manitowoc for Chicago 13 February, and there she was place in a floating drydock. Steamer Minnesota towed the drydock to New Orleans, arriving 22 February, and there Guitarro prepared for sea. Steaming from New Orleans 1 March, she operated out of Balboa, Canal Zone, for several weeks and departed for Pearl Harbor 2 April 1944.

Arriving at Pearl Harbor 17 April, Guitarro prepared for her first war patrol off Formosa. She got underway on this duty 7 May 1944. On the night of 30 May the submarine encountered heavily escorted cargo vessel Shisen Man, and scoring two hits sent her to the bottom. She evaded counter-attacks by the screen ships and headed south for rendezvous with a wolf pack of four submarines under the command of Comdr. F. W. Fenno. On the night of 2 June Guitarro made a moonlight periscope approach and fired two torpedoes at frigate Awaii, sinking her immediately. The submarine was then forced down to avoid depth charge, torpedo, and aircraft attacks. She returned to Darwin, Australia, 19 June, and 2 days later sailed for Fremantle, arriving 27 June 1944.

Departing on her second war patrol 21 July 1944, Guitarro set course for the South China Sea off the west coast of Luzon. She commenced her approach to the lead escorts of a large convoy 7 August and after missing the first target scored three hits on frigate Kusakaki, blowing off her bow and sinking her in a spectacular explosion. The remainder of the convoy escaped as Guitarro eluded the determined attacks of an escort destroyer. She surfaced the next day to sink a small coastal vessel with her deck gun, and then steamed toward Cape Bolinao, where she was to rendezvous with Raton the next day.

Guitarro detected a convoy along the coastline 10 August, maneuvered from beachside, and fired four torpedoes. Tanker Shinei Man exploded and burned furiously as Guitarro dived to avoid depth charges. The submarine suffered considerable outside damage but no serious injury, and she departed for the vicinity of Cape Calavite with Raton. While submerged the morning of 21 August Guitarro heard a distant depth charge attack, and soon sighted the smoke of a convoy. Hampered by an unfavorable current and a radically maneuvering convoy, she was unable to mount an attack on two tankers ; but a cargo ship turned into her and received four torpedoes. Passenger-cargo ship Vga Maru was sunk, and Guitarro escaped amid a violent depth charge attack. The versatile submarine, finding the water too shallow for a torpedo attack, surfaced 27 August to engage three coastal tankers with her deck gun and succeeded in sinking Nanshin Maru. To other tankers were damaged but managed to escape into shoal water. Guitarro returned to Fremantle to complete her patrol 8 September 1944.

In company with Bream, Guitarro departed Fremantle 8 October 1944 for her third war patrol in Philippine waters. As the epochal Battle for Leyte Gulf developed, Guitarro played an important role. She sighted the Japanese Central Force under Admiral Kurita on the night of 23 and 24 October and tracked the ships through Mindoro Strait, unable to close for an attack. Her contact reports on the force were vital to the success of the ensuing engagements, which by 26 October virtually eliminated the remaining Japanese naval forces in the Pacific.

Guitarro, Bream, and Raton rendezvoused 30 October and the three boats attacked a convoy off Cape Bolinao that night. Unable to score any hits until the next day, Guitarro managed to work her way inside the screen and fire no less than nine torpedoes at 0847. She observed one cargo ship break in half and was rocked by a tremendous explosion from another direct hit on an ammunition ship. Guitarro was driven down 50 feet by the force of the explosion, prompting Comdr. Haskins to report : "The Commanding Officer never wishes to hit an ammunition ship any closer than that one." She teamed up with Bream and Ray 4 November to sink passenger-cargo ship Kagu Maru. After Bream's initial attack, Guitarro added four hits before diving to avoid escort vessels.

Remaining off western Luzon, Guitarro and her wolf pack next encountered cruiser Kumano in convoy. Damaged in the Battle off Samar, the cruiser had repaired at Manila and was en route to Japan when the submarines struck. Guitarro fired nine torpedoes and gained three hits, but failed to sink the cruiser. Pounded by torpedoes from the other boats, Kumano was finally stopped, towed ashore by one of her sisters, and eventually finished off by carrier aircraft 25 November 1944. Guitarro, meanwhile, had returned to Fremantle 16 November. For her outstanding performance on her first three patrols, the submarine was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation.

Guitarro departed Fremantle 11 December 1944 on her fourth war patrol, transiting Lombok Strait 17 December to patrol the South China Sea. After putting in at Mios Woendi 17 January 1945 for repairs, she made an attack with undetermined results on a convoy off Cape Batagan. Finding targets scarce, she returned to Fremantle 15 March.

The hard-working submarine again put out to sea 9 April on her fifth war patrol, and was unsuccessfully attacked by aircraft and a patrol boat in Lombok Strait. She then made her way to the northeast coast of Sumatra, where she engaged in a new mission, the laying of mines, oft Berhala Island. After an uneventful patrol astride the shipping lanes between Borneo and Singapore, Guitarro anchored off Saipan 27 May 1945. Next day she departed for Pearl Harbor, where she arrived 8 June.

Arriving at San Francisco 18 June 1945, Guitarro decommissioned at Mare Island 6 December and was placed in reserve. The veteran submarine recommissioned 6 February 1952, and after overhaul at San Diego engaged in a series of training exercises off the coast until 10 September 1953. She again decommissioned 22 September 1953 and underwent conversion to snorkel equipment at Mare Island Shipyard. Guitarro subsequently recommissioned 15 May 1954 and commenced the training of Turkish sailors prior to transfer to Turkey under the Military Defense Assistance Program. Guitarro decommissioned and was loaned to Turkey 7 August 1954 where she now serves as Prevese (S-22).

Guitarro was awarded four battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation for her service in World War II. Her first, second, third, and fifth war patrols were designated successful.

Published: Thu Apr 21 07:08:47 EDT 2016