S-36 (SS-141) was laid down on 10 December 1918 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., San Francisco, Calif.; launched on 3 June 1919; sponsored by Miss Helen Russell; and commissioned on 4 April 1923, Lt. Leon C. Alford in command.
Following trials, S-36 operated along the west coast, with interruptions for exercises in Alaskan waters in June 1923 and for fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean during the winter of 1924, until the following summer. Then assigned to the Asiatic Fleet, she moved west in mid-September and arrived at the Submarine Base, Cavite, P.I., on 4 November.
For the next sixteen years, she remained in the western Pacific, conducting exercises and patrols and undergoing overhauls in the Philippines during the winter and operating off the China coast, out of Tsingtao, during the summer months. With the increase of hostilities on the mainland, however, summer deployments were shortened and individual patrols were extended throughout the Philippines, into the South China Sea, and, in 1938, to the Netherlands East Indies.
From April to June 1940, the S-boat conducted her last China deployment and for the next year and a half remained in Philippine waters. By December 1941, the fleet had been alerted to the possibility of a Japanese attack. On the 2d, S-36's scheduled overhaul was cancelled and she was ordered north on patrol.
Water, stores, and torpedoes were taken on; and, at 0100 on the 3d, she got underway. By late afternoon, she was off Cape Bolinao, where she passed several Yangtze Patrol gunboats working their way to Manila. At 1930, she entered Bolinao harbor, where she remained on continuous alert for the next week. On 8 December, she received the news that the Japanese had started hostilities.
A few hours later, S-36 began sighting enemy planes; and, that afternoon, she took up patrol duties between Cape Bolinao and San Fernando. On the 9th, excessive air leaks developed, but she remained on patrol. On the 10th, the crew listened to radio traffic as the Japanese bombed Cavite. After the raid, the submarine's radio operator was unable to raise the station. On the 12th, S-36's electrical steering failed. She was still unable to contact Cavite. Exhaust valve leaks appeared on the 13th; and, on the 14th, she received an urgent message requesting her position. None of her previous messages had gotten through. Two days later, she was ordered back to Mariveles, if able.
She headed back, still unable to transmit and with worsening air and salt water leaks. Four days later, she anchored off Mariveles. Before the end of the month, repairs had been made; stores had been replenished; and the S-boat had begun a final patrol in Philippine waters before heading south to join the Allied forces gathering in the East Indies.
Clearing Mariveles harbor on the 30th, she immediately commenced patrolling the Verde Island Passage. On 1 January, she reconnoitered the north and east coast of Batangas Bay, thence moved to the west and south of Verde Island. In mid-afternoon, she sighted a small transport moored to the seawall at Calapan, Mindoro; fired one torpedo; and sank the target.
For seven more days, she maintained her patrol in the Verde Island Passage. On the 8th, the port engine air compressor failed, and, because of battery water consumption and the distance and time to be involved in the transit to the East Indies, she began making her way south. On the 10th, the starboard engine air compressor became troublesome. On the 12th, she hunted in the Sulu Sea. On the 13th, her port main motor went out of commission. On the 14th, she continued her hunting in the Sulu Sea.
On the morning of the 15th, at the approximate intersection of the Sibutu-Makassar and Davao-Tar-akan routes, diving was delayed by oil supply failures to the starboard engine, and she was sighted by a Japanese destroyer.
Without correcting the lubrication failure and with one engine out, S-36 submerged and prepared to fire within minutes. But the destroyer was the quicker. Before the submarine could fire, the enemy had dropped seven depth charges which exploded off both quarters of the S-boat.
Immediate damage included the loss of power control over the bow planes; gyro compass failure; blown fuses on the starboard lighting circuit; and broken lights in the motor room. By the time she reached 150 feet, her gyro compass was again working and she began turning slowly to starboard. The destroyer was kept astern.
S-36 ran at one-third speed, her depth control and trim poor. Soon her main motor bearing began smoking; oil was applied by hand squirt gun. At about 0630, almost an hour and a half after the initial contact, she lost depth control. Her trim pump stalled.
The No. 2 main ballast was blown and at 230 feet the boat began to rise. Previously taken steps were reversed; venting and flooding was begun. She stopped at 90 feet.
The destroyer continued to hunt. S-36 continued to fluctuate between 100 and 200 feet. Life jackets and escape lungs were issued. At 0700, control was reestablished; and, at 0705, she heard the last efforts of the destroyer to locate her. Still in critical condition of trim and propulsion, she cleared the area and about noontime began making repairs to her port main motor. By 2030, the motor was operating "after a fashion." Within six hours, however, it was smoking. The battery charge was secured. At 0320, on the 16th, the starboard motor lubrication supply again failed.
With dawn, S-36 submerged. Two hours later, she sighted the Celebes coast. At noon, fire broke out in the main motor auxiliary circulating pump and was extinguished. After 1900, she surfaced; and, at 2308, she passed North Watcher Island.
On 17 June, she received orders to proceed to Soera-baja. Both port and starboard shafts went out of commission during the day and one man collapsed from heat, but the main motor lube oil pumps were repaired. On the 18th, S-36 had her "1st day since January 8 with no major part of engineering plant out of commission." She continued through Makassar Strait.
At 0404 on the morning of 20 January, she ran hard aground on Taka Bakang Reef. For over 24 hours, the crew battled to save the submarine. But chlorine gas, generated by her flooded forward battery, and the hostile waves and currents of the sea combined against them. A plain language request for aid was sent out; and, on the morning of the 21st, a Dutch launch, Attla, was dispatched from Makassar City. By noon, the launch had taken off most of the officers and men of S-36. At 1330, the fight and the submarine were abandoned. The last to leave left her rigged to flood.
The crew, transferred to SS Siberote, were taken to Makassar City, then to Soerabaja, whence they were reassigned.
S-36 was awarded one battle star for her World War II service.