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Scamp I (SS-277)

USS Scamp (SS-277)

Scamp (SS-277) in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, 1943-1944. Ford Island is in the background. Official U.S. Navy photograph now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-63898.

(SS-277: displacement 1,525 tons (surface), 2,415 tons (submerged); length 311'8"; beam 27'3"; draft 15'3"; speed 20.25 knots (surface), 8.75 knots (submerged); complement 80; armament 10 21-inch torpedo tubes, 1 5-inch gun, 1 40mm gun; class Gato)

A grouper (mycteroperca phenax) of the serranidae family, common to the West Indies; so called from its ability to steal bait without being caught.


Related Resources:

United States Submarine Losses World War II

Scamp (SS-277) was laid down on 6 March 1942 at the Portsmouth (New Hampshire) Navy Yard; launched on 20 July 1942; sponsored by Miss Katherine Eugenia McKee, daughter of Capt. Andrew I. McKee, Planning Officer, Portsmouth Navy Yard; and commissioned on 18 September 1942, Comdr. Walter G. Ebert in command.

On 19 January 1943, after training out of New London, Conn., Scamp set course for Hawaii, via the Panama Canal. She arrived in Pearl Harbor on 13 February 1943 and, after receiving repairs to a broken crankshaft by submarine tender Sperry (AS-12) and the Navy Yard repair crew, the boat commenced final training in the Hawaiian operating area.


Scamp began her first war patrol on 1 March 1943. She stopped at Midway on 5 March, fueled, and then headed for Japanese home waters that same day. On 13 March, lookouts spotted smoke on the horizon and the submarine commenced a high periscope approach on the surface. After closing the range, Scamp submerged and approached the single enemy cargo ship, firing three torpedoes at 1,000 yards range at 0828. Unfortunately, all three torpedoes exploded prematurely. The alerted merchant ship took evasive action and, as she mounted guns fore and aft, Scamp did not surface to engage her with gunfire. Disappointed, the crew reported the exploder failures to Hawaii and replaced the magnetic coil core in three of the remaining torpedoes as a temporary fix.

Arriving in their patrol area off Kinkazan Island, northern Honshu, the crew kept watch for coastal ship traffic. At 1050 on 16 March 1943 lookouts spotted two cargo ships protected by a small torpedo boat, and the submarine commenced a submerged attack run. At 1138 Scamp fired the three "fixed" torpedoes from her bow tubes at the lead merchantman and again suffered a premature explosion, this time from one weapon just 15 seconds out of the tube. The immense geyser of water obscured the target and it was not until over a minute later that one of the other torpedoes was observed "porpoising ahead of and past the target." The third torpedo missed as well. As the cargo ship turned toward the submarine and fouled another shot, Scamp focused on the second ship, which had turned away. At 1146 she fired three bow torpedoes at a range of about 1,400 yards and again suffered one premature detonation, which obscured her periscope and she neither saw nor heard any hits. Less than ten minutes later, a Japanese Aichi D3A Type 99 carrier bomber (Val) arrived overhead and vectored the torpedo boat to her position. Scamp went deep to avoid attack and, after leveling out at 230 feet, the crew heard five depth charges explode about 200 yards astern. Attacks grew fainter as the submarine crept away. She surfaced for the night at 1928 and began deactivating the magnetic feature on all remaining torpedoes. Another worry, however, emerged; crewman H.R. Brinkley, F3c, began suffering from a case of appendicitis.

Scamp spotted no other targets until the afternoon of 20 March 1943, when a Japanese torpedo boat passed 9,500 yards ahead, too far for a reasonable shot. At 1725 that same day, however, Scamp closed and fired three torpedoes at a cargo ship. Forced down by a nearby escort, which passed close astern "with bone in teeth, no doubt after us," she observed no hits. At 1731 she fired three more torpedoes at a second target forward but her vision was again obscured, this time by poor depth control. Suddenly, eight depth charges shook the boat close aboard, and something hit the deck hard enough to be heard throughout the hull. Scamp dove to avoid the charging escort, dropping to 220 feet. A second Japanese escort then closed from the north and dropped five more depth charges, which kept the boat submerged. Scamp finally surfaced at 1931 and cleared the area to eastward, with her war diarist noting at 2145 that "Brinkley, our sick lad, had another relapse. Depth charging definitely not good for peritonitis." Japanese records indicate a small 1,338-ton freighter was hit by a dud torpedo that day, later running aground and abandoned owing to flooding. It was still there on 11 June 1943 when Runner (SS-275) destroyed the freighter with two torpedoes, with Scamp sharing joint credit for the kill.

Early in the midwatch that same evening, Scamp's radar picked up another target at 8,000 yards just as the boat was "caught cold right in the slick of as brilliant a full moon as ever was." The empty enemy tanker zigzagged in an attempt to avoid attack, forcing Scamp to try a long surface run to set up a firing solution. After three hours of maneuvering, Scamp fired her last two stern torpedoes at 0432 from a range of 2,000 yards. Following the sounds of one explosion, the tanker slowed, turned toward the submarine and began firing with her guns. Dipping to periscope depth, the submarine fired five of her forward torpedoes, hitting the tanker with one shot in the engine room and stopping its screws. At 0501, after noting that "an empty tanker doesn't sink easily with contact torpedo hits", the submarine lined up on the motionless ship and fired her last two torpedoes at a range of 1,000 yards. The first torpedo immediately broached and veered off course, while the second ran straight at the tanker and "kept right on running." Apparently the bow raised owing to flooding aft and since the torpedo "couldn't go through or over, it must have gone under. It was set at 10 feet." As the tanker's guns were "still shooting up the entire ocean," Scamp reluctantly withdrew to Midway for a refit, arriving there on 26 March. The submarine then moved back to Pearl Harbor on 7 April for magnetic degaussing and to receive a fresh load of torpedoes.

Scamp put to sea again on 19 April 1943, bound for the Southwest Pacific. She took on fuel at Johnston Island, then slipped between the Marshalls and the Gilberts to reconnoiter Ocean and Nauru Islands. When the boat crossed the equator at 1505 on the 27th, "Neptune [sic] Rex came aboard and held court." The next day she examined shipping channels at the islands but after finding both empty the submarine shaped course for the Bismarck Archipelago. On 11-12 May Scamp tried to intercept a convoy reported by Grayback (SS-208) but without result. Three days later, while cruising north of Manus, she held fire after closing what proved to be hospital ship Baikal Maru. Oddly enough, the submarine spotted two more hospital ships on 19-20 May, each identified by prominent red lights. On the afternoon of the 28th, however, her luck improved when Scamp closed and fired five shots at converted seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru just northwest of Kavieng, New Ireland, scoring three hits and stopping her quarry dead in the water at about 1303. Scamp, meanwhile, endured two dozen depth charges over the next half an hour before escaping the enemy escorts. She came up to periscope depth to observe the results at 1630 and saw the tender down by the stern and her men taking to boats. After recharging her batteries in the early evening Scamp returned to the scene and finished off her stricken adversary at 0114 on the 29th with two well-aimed torpedoes fired from 6,100 yards. All told, the five torpedo hits killed thirty-nine Japanese crewmen and three military passengers. Scamp then sailed for Australia, ending her second war patrol alongside Fulton (AS-11) at Brisbane on 4 June.

From Brisbane, Scamp departed on her third war patrol on 22 June 1943. She patrolled a scouting line off the Solomons and north to the Bismarck Sea. She passed the Shortlands on 14 July, trying in vain to obtain a firing solution on a pair of Japanese destroyers, which the war diarist described as "a heartbreaker to miss." Two weeks later, while cruising in the Bismarck Archipelago, Scamp made radar contact on a three ship convoy shortly after midnight on 27 July. During her approach, a Japanese destroyer passed astern and dropped two depth charges some distance from her. At 0240, she fired a spread of six torpedoes at an enemy tanker, claiming one hit, but Japanese records indicate no losses that day. She then went deep to avoid escorts and the six depth charges that immediately followed. The submarine surfaced at 0312 to find empty ocean.

Scamp then patrolled to the southeast of Steffen Strait, between New Ireland and New Hanover. At 1754 on 27 July 1943, she sighted Japanese submarine I-168. Nine minutes later, just as Scamp exposed her persicope, the enemy fired a torpedo from a range of about 4,200 yards. The American submarine immediately went ahead full and deep, levelling off at 220 feet and letting the torpedo pass overhead. Less than ten minutes later, she returned to periscope depth to engage her adversary and, at 1812, launched four torpedoes from her aft tubes as the Japanese boat passed astern. One detonation shook the sea shortly thereafter and a look through the persicope showed an immense pillar of brown smoke 500 feet high. Five huge explosions rumbled up from below, as the stricken 1-168 (Lt. Comdr. Nakajima Sakae) plunged to the bottom of the ocean.

Over the next three days, Scamp observed numerous enemy patrols in the shipping lanes between Kavieng and Rabaul. At 1405 on 30 July 1943 the submarine began an approach on a cargo ship but broke off upon sighting float planes overhead. At 1521 a nearby depth charge indicated the Japanese had probably sighted her and, as Scamp submerged to 100-feet, a second depth charge detonated very close to the boat, blowing out a half-dozen gauges and "giving everyone a good scare." After another week of fruitless patrolling, Scamp returned to base, arriving in Brisbane on 8 August. Aside from some maintenance issues, including a defective main engine blower, the only complaint from the war diarist was that the submarine had "carried a load of the toughest beef ever let loose for human consumption."

After a three-week refit at Brisbane, Scamp stood out on her fourth war patrol on 2 September 1943. She refueled at Tulagi, in the Solomons, and began a patrol in the Bismarck Sea on the 10th. Four days later, after dodging numerous enemy aircraft contacts, the submarine spotted an enemy destroyer. She closed the target submerged, with the Japanese warship pinging on active sonar the whole time, but could not get a clear shot. At 2025, with the range only 700 yards, the destroyer got a contact result, forcing Scamp to dive deep. Five depth charges detonated just ahead as she passed 120 feet, damaging all the forward torpedo tube gyro spindles. A few minutes later, as Scamp dropped down to 320 feet, four more charges exploded off her port bow. Following that close call, the submarine slowly cleared the area.

Scamp then spotted a convoy north of Manus at 0212 on 18 September 1943 and spent seven hours running ahead of its track to set up a well-planned ambush. At 1047, she fired three torpedoes each at two large merchant ships from a range of 1,800 yards. As in her March war patrol, the first torpedo exploded prematurely, but the third hit Kansei Maru in the forward cargo hold. This explosion caused flooding and killed one crewman and 23 Army passengers, forcing the other 1,000 people on board to abandon ship. The second merchantman, alerted by the premature, maneuvered to avoid the trio of torpedoes fired at her. Scamp then passed close under the wounded ship and her periscope came under gunfire from her victim, a danger only discovered when a shell bursting close overhead momentarily lifted her conning tower hatch, letting in some water. The Japanese escort Submarine chaser No. 38 then closed so quickly that Scamp "rigged for depth charge and sought solitude at 320-feet." The six depth charges that went off at 1101 proved very well laid, later described with some understatement as "the closest attack we had experienced at deep depth." Five more depth charges followed as Scamp turned away.

After surfacing over an hour later, she maneuvered back toward the sound of sonar pinging and sighted the stricken cargo ship at 1318, still being abandoned by passengers and crew. Closing submerged for another attack, the submarine managed to fire two torpedoes (which probably missed) before Submarine chaser No. 38 ran in for another depth charge attack. As Scamp passed 100 feet the escort unloaded 12-15 depth charges, whose explosions shook the boat "like a leaf in a high wind." The most dangerous result was flooding in the forward torpedo room and the boat took on almost four tons of water before two petty officers, F1c Wilbert W. Dalwitz and TM2c James H. Bradley Jr., managed to seal off the blown pit log. Two small fires, a leaking induction valve, dozens of blown gauges and bent stern planes rounded out the damage. Undaunted by this second depth-charging of the day, Scamp returned for a third attack after sunset, firing two torpedoes at the now abandoned Kansei Maru at a range of 6,500 yards. The first torpedo again detonated prematurely but the second exploded at the right time, though did not sink the ship. The submarine surfaced half an hour later to conduct repairs to her bow planes and recharge her batteries. Returning to the crippled ships' location at 2332, Scamp closed to 1,000 yards and fired one torpedo at a zero gyro angle and 90 degrees. The fish hit perfectly under the stack and the Japanese cargo ship finally began to sink, every man in Scamp getting a chance to view the stubborn Kansei Maru before she sank vertically, bow first at 0127 on the 19th.


Continuing her patrol between Rabaul and the Caroline Islands, Scamp happened upon a heavily-guarded six-ship convoy on 21 September 1943 and began to stalk it. After dark, she moved in for an attack but saw no results from three torpedoes fired owing to heavy rain. Her second attempted attack was then foiled by a severe rain squall. Scamp hounded the convoy all night and at 0943 managed to sneak within the convoy itself. Her attack was spoiled after the Japanese spotted her periscope and opened fire with machine guns and at least one large caliber gun. An hour later, Scamp launched a four torpedo attack at 450 yards but all missed owing to the sharp angle, and the submarine dove to avoid the two dozen depth charges that followed. Although approaching exhaustion, the crew continued the chase, firing four more torpedoes at 3,500 yards at around 0300 on the 23d, but again all missed. While still maneuvering to attack the convoy, she passed through the wreckage of the Kansai Maru and came upon an empty boat containing the sunken ship's logs and other documents. These were taken on board and later turned over to intelligence. Scamp made one more fruitless attempt upon the convoy, but was driven off by planes and kept down by a dozen or so accurate bomb attacks. On 24 September she sailed for home, reaching Brisbane on 1 October.


Following three weeks of repairs, Scamp cleared port again on 22 October 1943 and began her fifth patrol after stopping at Tulagi to refuel five days later. Initially the submarine proceeded north of the Bismarcks to interdict Truk-Rabaul convoys. On 4 November, lookouts spotted smoke on the horizon and the submarine began a slow approach. At 1954 Scamp fired six torpedoes at a large freighter from a range of 2,000 yards. As her war diarist noted with some exasperation, "for the fourth patrol out of five the first torpedo fired prematured in our face 13 seconds after firing." Sound operators heard three explosions at the end of the torpedo runs but Japanese records do not indicate any hits. In response to the attack, Scamp endured an hours' worth of depth charges, counting 34 explosions during careful, persistent attacks by the enemy escorts.

Moving to a position north of Kavieng, Scamp noticed an increase in enemy aircraft patrols, which made intercepting Japanese shipping more difficult. Still, the submarine managed to shadow a north-bound three-ship convoy on 10 November 1943 and, at 1129, fired four torpedoes at a range of 1,700 yards. Cargo ship Tokyo Maru evaded two of the shots but the third struck her between the boiler-room and No. 4 hold on the starboard side. The fourth torpedo exploded simultaneously a little short, causing no damage, a sympathetic explosion caused by the third hit that explained some of Scamp's earlier failures. Destroyer Shigure rapidly closed the submarine and dropped a dozen charges very close, forcing Scamp down to 350 feet, well below test depth. With rivets popping, two more accurate attacks of five, and then three, further depth charges convinced the submarine to retire. Scamp returned to the scene at 1225 to try and finish off the damaged cargo ship and at 1452 fired three torpedoes after carefully checking range and drift for two hours. The first torpedo again exploded prematurely after only 25 seconds, and Shigure "was on us in a flash." Two depth charge attacks kept Scamp quiet and, with the crew convinced the magnetic imploders were entirely untrustworthy, they watched from a distance as the undamaged cargo ship towed Tokyo Maru out of the area. Unbeknownst to the submariners, gradual flooding sank Tokyo Maru the following afternoon.


After deactivating the magnetic feature on all her remaining torpedoes, Scamp's crew set course south and caught sight of an enemy cruiser and destroyer on the morning of 12 November 1943. About twenty-minutes later Scamp fired a spread of six torpedoes, with one hit damaging light cruiser Agano. After suffering a series of depth charge attacks from the escort, Scamp carefully surfaced two hours later to see the light cruiser still dead in the water. As the war diary put it, "Another stopped ship! Why don't they sink or keep going?" The submarine then played cat and mouse with the escort, two newly arrived float planes and additional escorts that arrived that evening, hearing 74 depth charges over the course of the day that prevented a follow on attack by her or by Albacore (SS-218), who had also closed to try and attack the wounded cruiser. Scamp then moved south in a search pattern but never found the wounded cruiser, instead patrolling off Kavieng and Mussau in search of targets. On 18 November, she narrowly avoided an ambush by a Japanese float plane, whose two light bombs detonated overhead as she dove past the 45-foot mark. Upon surfacing the crew discovered fragments lodged in the periscope fairwater and in the radar mast. Scamp turned for home, returning to Brisbane on 26 November.


The submarine departed for her sixth war parol on 16 December 1943, arriving at Tulagi to refuel and receive minor repairs to her suddenly uncooperative dive planes. Mechanics from Fulton (AS-11) and destroyer tender Whitney (AD-4) temporarily patched the dive plane hydraulic system and tuned the sonar and radar gear, as the war diarist explained, "so that its efficiency was much greater than we had heretofor [sic] experienced." Departing Tulagi on 26 December, the submarine patrolled off Emirau Island in the Bismarck Archipelago before shifting north to Mussau and then the Truk-Kavieng shipping route. On 3 January 1944 her lookouts spotted a flight of eight Mitsubishi G4M Type 1 land attack bombers (Betty) flying south to Rabaul, and as they passed overhead were amused to note the Japanese planes were "trailed at a respectable distance by a B-24 (Consolidated Liberator bomber)." Numerous other aircraft sightings kept Scamp's lookouts busy until 6 January when a contact report from Blackfish (SS-221) sent the escort running north at flank speed. Sighting a nine-ship enemy convoy at dusk, Scamp closed to attack and fired four torpedoes at a small tanker at 2134. The first three torpedoes again prematured, all within 13 seconds of firing, and the fourth torpedo missed. Scamp was immediately boxed in by two enemy destroyers and suffered eight very well-placed depth charges, two directly overhead at a depth of 320 feet, which was "the most severe depth charging received at deep depth." After evading the escorts, and radioing in the premature torpedo problems, the crew once again deactivated all the magnetic exploders before recommencing patrols along the Rabaul-New Guinea shipping route. At this point the crew also discovered the hydraulic system was failing, but not enough to end the war patrol.

On 14 January 1944, Scamp slipped by two destroyers to launch six torpedoes at Nippon Maru, the middle of three large tankers in a Truk-bound fuel convoy from Balikpapan. Two contact-fuzed torpedoes struck the tanker in her port side engine room while the third hit blew up her fuel cargo, the catastrophic damage sinking the 9,975-ton tanker within two minutes and killing about 40 passengers and crew. Foiled by the escorts in an attempt to attack the other tankers, and with her hydraulic system now essentially frozen, Scamp retired to Tulagi on 20 January to receive repairs alongside gasoline barge YOG-41. Returning north the next day, Scamp patrolled near Truk and off Lyra Reef to act as plane guard for Consolidated B-24 (Liberator) bombers, before her again failing hydraulic system forced her into Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 6 February for a refit.


Following an overhaul of the hydraulic system and dive planes and the installation of a new 40mm gun forward, Scamp got underway for her seventh war patrol on 3 March 1944, a new commanding officer, Comdr. John C. Hollingsworth in command. The submarine first patrolled on a scouting line between Palau and Kavieng, and then off the New Guinea coast, but found no surface targets. She put in to Langemak Bay on 29 March for fuel and repairs to her torpedo data computer before sailing west to Philippine waters two days later. While enroute, Scamp engaged a small Japanese trawler with 4-inch gunfire on 4 April. In the hour-long running battle that followed the submarine's gun crew hit the trawler at least twice, which started a fire aft, but the trawler seemingly escaped at dusk when the deck gun malfunctioned. Japanese records indicate the 131-ton picket boat Suiten Maru later sank.

While south of Davao Gulf in the morning of 7 April 1944, Scamp encountered six cruisers escorted by eight destroyers and five aircraft. In the midst of setting up for a submerged attack on the enemy squadron, a change in speed heard through the sound gear and a quick glance through the periscope showed three enemy destroyers closing Scamp's position with "zero angle on the bow." Her commander later guessed the glassy sea gave her away to the patrolling aircraft. In any case, the boat crash dived to avoid depth charges and lost sight of the convoy. Scamp returned to the surface that afternoon to send a contact report but was forced down by a plane.

A little later, the boat again tried to radio a contact but a Japanese float plane diving out of the sun surprised her on the surface. As she crash dived at left full rudder to escape, a bomb or depth charge exploded against her port side, at frame 77, when she was about 40 feet down. The boat shuddered, with the crew violently thrown off their feet and the power knocked out. As the emergency lights flickered on the boat dropped steeply down by the stern, gradually picking up speed. The diving officer, Lt. Philip A. Beshany, began blowing out all tanks but to no immediate effect and "things looked pretty black." Scamp finally settled at 330 feet, hung for a moment and then started up rapidly. Men not required at maneuvering stations were ordered to the forward torpedo room to take the angle off the bow and, as put by the war diarist, they "...came through the control room like Notre Dame fullbacks and arriving in the Forward torpedo room were packed between the tubes like sardines." By venting and flooding everything the boat caught at 52 feet and started down again, an up and down process that happened three more times before the power came back on, reflecting considerable courageous effort by CEM(A) J. R. McNeil as the maneuvering room was full of toxic phenolic smoke. Restoring power literally saved the boat and she crept away at 150 feet, leaving a trail of oil and bubbles that attracted depth charges over the next few hours, though none too close. Scamp surfaced at 2103 with a 17-degree list and a wrecked superstructure, buckled hull plates and three blown fuel tanks. After three days of electrical repairs, the crew finally tuned up the radio transmitter and sent in a situation report. The boat slowly crept east, eventually rendezvoused with Dace (SS-247) on 10 April and the two submarines sailed to the Admiralty Islands, entering Seeadler Harbor that same day.

Following emergency repairs to her hull and superstructure by work crews from seaplane tender Tangier (AV-8), the boat shifted to Milne Bay on 22 April 1944 where she received additional work from repair crews from Euryale (AS-22). Proceeding on to San Francisco, Calif., via Pearl Harbor, in June, Scamp received a large number of naval officer visitors curious about the level of damage sustained by the boat, including Rear Adm. Edward L. Cochrane, Chief of the Bureau of Ships. The submarine then underwent three months of repairs and overhaul.

Scamp set out on her eighth war patrol on 16 October 1944. She fueled at Midway on the 20th, then set course for the Bonins. On 9 November, she acknowledged a message changing her patrol area. She reported her position to be about 150 miles north of the Bonins, with all 24 torpedoes aboard and 77,000 gallons of fuel remaining. On 14 November, she was ordered to take up life guard station off Tokyo Bay in support of B-29 bomber strikes, but failed to acknowledge the message. Scamp was never heard from again.

From records available after the war, it appears Scamp was sighted by Japanese naval aircraft and depth charged by Coast Defense Vessel No. 4 south of Tokyo Bay on 11 November 1944, which produced a large oil slick. Five days later two additional attacks occurred in the same area and "great explosive sounds came as a result of this attack." Scamp was probably sunk on one of those days. She was officially declared lost on 12 April 1945 and ultimately stricken from the navy list on 28 April 1945.

Scamp (SS-277) earned seven battle stars for World War II service.

Completely revised, Dr. Timothy L. Francis, 03 January 2008


Published: Fri Aug 23 10:05:24 EDT 2019