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Sea Devil I (SS-400)

(SS-400: dp. 1,526 (surf.), 2,321 (subm.); 1. 311'6"; b. 27'3"; dr. 15'3"; s. 20 k. (surf.), 9 k. (subm.); cpl. 66; a. 1 5", 1 40mm., 1 20 mm., 10 21" tt. cl. Balao)

Mania birostria, the largest of all rays, noted for power and endurance.


The first Sea Devil (SS-400) was laid down on 18 November 1943 at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard; launched on 28 February 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Sherman K. Kennedy; and commissioned on 24 May 1944, Comdr. Ralph E. Styles in command.

Completing shakedown training at New London, Sea Devil departed that port on 11 July 1944 and arrived at her home port, Pearl Harbor, on 9 August to join Submarine Division (SubDiv) 281 and prepare for her first war patrol. On 3 September, she sailed west. By the 15th, she was 500 miles off Honshu, and, during the early morning darkness, made contact with her first enemy ships, two sampan-type patrol vessels. Rough seas, however, precluded an attack; and she continued on to patrol in the shipping lanes to Japan's major ports: Yokohama, Kobe, and Osaka.

On the 16th, at 0432, Sea Devil made her second contact; submerged; and commenced closing the target. At 0538, the enemy, a cargo submarine, was sighted. At 0545, Sea Devil made her first attack. Four torpedoes were fired. Two exploded against the target. Sea Devil lost depth control. A minute later, periscope depth was regained. Brown smoke marked the enemy's previous location. Seven underwater explosions followed. By 0553, a large oil slick covered the site where I-364 had gone down.

Sea Devil reloaded and continued to move closer to Japan. On the 17th and 18th, mountainous seas inhibited hunting. On the 21st, the submarine commenced running along the 100 fathom curve, but the strong Kuroshio Current there caused her to lose ground and forced her to shift her course.

On the morning of the 22d, she made several contacts, but all were too small. During the early afternoon, she sighted a small convoy and fired on a freighter. The target turned toward the submarine. Sea Devil went deep. An hour later, the surface ships had gone, and the hunted submarine again became a hunter.

During her remaining 22 days on station, Sea Devil attacked several targets, but scored on none. In mid-October, she headed for Majuro for refit; and, on 19 November, she got underway for the waters west of the Nansei Shoto.

At the end of the month, Sea Devil entered the East China Sea and turned toward the Kyushu coast. On 1 December, just prior to midnight, she made radar contact with a distant convoy and commenced running with the state, five sea on four engines to gain position. At 0239, on the 2d, she changed course to close the convoy. A minute later, she took a wave over the bridge which knocked the starboard lookout onto the bridge deck; flooded the main induction and both engine rooms to the lower deck plates; and sent water through the supply line into the after battery compartment, the crew's mess, and the radio shack. A solid stream came into the control room via the conning tower. But, other than numerous electrical grounds, no damage was sustained.

By 0320, Sea Devil was 1,200 yards ahead and 3,000 yards off the port track of the convoy. The radar showed II definite targets and indicated the presence of others. Weather and visibility, however, worked against a night surface attack.

At 0322, a floating mine was sighted less than 100 yards off the port bow. Sea Devil swung right with full rudder. Ten minutes later, she submerged and commenced her approach, heading for the port flank of the convoy.

By 0400, the moon had clouded over. Periscope observations became progressively more difficult. At 0413, an escort, pinging, passed Sea Devil close aboard. Sound conditions were also poor.

At 0414, Sea Devil commenced firing. Four Mark 18 torpedoes headed for a medium-sized freighter, but all missed. At 0424, she fired No. 5 and No. 6 tubes at a large ship 600 yards away. Forty seconds later, the torpedoes hit, throwing a huge column of debris into the air. At 0425, Sea Devil swung right to avoid an escort ahead of the ships in the center column.

By 0427, water was over the deck of the stricken merchant ship. At 0428, another escort passed Sea Devil. A minute later, Sea Devil fired four torpedoes from her stern tubes at a large passenger/cargo maru 1,300 yards away. A look around through the periscope then revealed a larger freighter in the center column, less than 150 yards away and headed directly for the submarine.

Sea Devil went deep. At 0430, she was jolted by a tremendous explosion. Her torpedoes had hit, and from the concussion it appeared that the ship had been carrying ammunition. Breaking up noises quickly followed the explosion.

Sea Devil leveled off at 500 feet and rigged for depth charging. Twelve were counted; none was close. Escorts milled about overhead for the next 40 minutes; then the sound of screws faded out. Pinging was heard for a while longer, and distant depth charges were heard for several hours.

After sinking Akigawa Maru and Hawaii Maru, Sea Devil continued to patrol the sea lanes to Kyushu. On the 4th, she received a positive ship contact report from a China-based B-29, but the position was too distant. On the 5th, she sighted only two small fishing trawlers. Then, on the evening of the 8th, she made radar contact with four distant targets zigging on various courses toward Nagasaki.

Sea Devil went to full power on four engines and began gaining slowly. At 16,000 yards, the radar pips were estimated to be one BB or CV, two CL's, and four DD's. Darkness and intermittent rain squalls interfered with visibility.

By 0000, 9 December, Sea Devil had gained a good position 10,000 yards ahead of the nearest escort and 3,000 yards off the port track of the largest pip. At 0005, she began a submerged radar approach. At 0017, she began tracking by sound, and, ten minutes later, she fired four Mark 23 torpedoes at the target. Two hit. Poor visibility precluded a damage assessment.

Sea Devil went deep and rigged for depth charging; but, by 0050, the sounds of searching surface ships faded out. At 0107, the submarine surfaced and headed up the target's track. An hour later, she reversed her course and headed back to her patrol area. That evening Plaice (SS-390) confirmed Sea Devil's hits, but was unable to provide a damage estimate. Later reports identified the damaged ship as the carrier Junyo, which was subsequently damaged further by Redfish (SS-395). Junyo remained in the repair yard through the end of the war.

At mid-month, Sea Devil moved further south to patrol off Okinawa; and, on the 29th, she headed for Midway and Pearl Harbor.

On 7 February 1945, Sea Devil cleared Pearl Harbor for her 3d war patrol. On the 19th, she arrived at Saipan for training in wolfpack tactics; and, on the 27th, she sailed for the Yellow Sea in company with Tench (SS-417), Guardfish (SS-217), and Balao (SS-285). At the end of the month, she was diverted to search for downed aviators; and, on 3 March, she continued on to her patrol area to further decrease the declining traffic between China and Manchuria, and the Japanese home islands.

For over a week, fishing junks, sailing junks, and floating mines provided the only contacts. On the 24th, she sighted a large tanker with four escorts but lost the convoy. On the 25th, she sighted and evaded a Japanese hunter-killer group. On the 29th, she sank or exploded four mines and attempted to do the same to two others.

Fog shrouded her area during the last days of the month. On 2 April, visibility was still poor, less than 1,000 yards. At 0710, she made radar contact with an enemy convoy-four merchantmen and three escorts. At 0915, she commenced firing at the lead merchant ship. Forty seconds later, she fired at the next ship. She then swung around to bring her stern tubes to bear on a third merchantship; found herself well inside the escort on the convoy's starboard quarter; continued swinging and fired three stern shots at the escort. Between 0819 and 0822, seven hits were heard and felt.

Sea Devil then left the formation and opened range to reload. The radar screen now showed only three small pips. The 3d torpedo of the 1st salvo had apparently missed its target and run on to hit the third maru.

After reloading, the submarine tracked the remaining units of the convoy. Shortly after 1000, she fired on and damaged one of the escorts. Forty minutes later, she fired on the remaining merchantman and observed it suddenly disappear from the radar screen. After 1100, she made her way through the wreckage to pick up survivors. Only four allowed themselves to be picked up; and, of these, one died of his wounds.

Of the seven ships, Sea Devil had sunk three, Taijo Maru, Edogawa Maru, and Misshan Maru, and had damaged the fourth maru and at least one of the escorts.

The submarine remained in her Yellow Sea patrol area for another three days, then headed for Midway. On the 6th, however, she received orders to patrol south of Kyushu; and, on the 8th, she was ordered closer to Okinawa in search of four downed Marine Corps pilots.

The pilots, from Essex, had been covering the movements of Yamato and, on running low on fuel, had ditched in a location they thought to be near Okinawa.

Prior to midnight, on the 8th, Sea Devil located three of the pilots 200 miles northeast of Okinawa. The search for the fourth continued through the night. With dawn on the 9th, friendly planes joined in the search. But they, too, were unsuccessful; and, in the late afternoon, the submarine continued southeastward.

On 13 April, Sea Devil arrived at Saipan. On the 20th, she completed her patrol, for which she was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation, at Midway. On 28 May, she was back at Saipan; and, on the 30th, she, with Ronquil (SS-396) and Paddle (SS-263), got underway for the East China and Yellow Seas. On 6 June, she entered the East China Sea via Tokara Kaikyo and headed northward to the Yellow Sea. On the 7th, she made her way through the islands of southwestern Korea; and, on the 8th, she commenced patrolling between the Shantung peninsula and Korea.

On the afternoon of the 14th, a cargo ship, with an escort on either side, was sighted through the high periscope. Sea Devil submerged; manuevered into position; fired four torpedoes -down-the-throat;- then changed course radically to avoid a collision with the target. Twenty-three seconds after firing, two of the torpedoes hit the target. Wakamiyasan Maru went under. Her escorts dropped depth charges. Five were fairly close. Sea Devil dropped below a 20- temperature gradient and worked her way out.

On the morning of the 21st, she sighted three armed trawlers, one under tow, headed from Shantung toward Korea. At 0943, she surfaced and, three minutes later, commenced firing with her 5-inch gun, 40 millimeter, and 20 millimeter guns. The 40 millimeter soon jammed, but fire from the 5-inch gun and 20 millimeter guns sank the trawler being towed and left a second burning and settling. The third, the towing vessel, cast loose and headed west under full steam. Sea Devil picked up three survivors and moved south to patrol in another area.

Poor weather impaired hunting during the next six days. On the 27th, however, she was able to take photographs of Saishu To and Chiri To; and, on the 29th, she was diverted to search and rescue operations.

Assisted by a Coronado and a PBM. she picked up a PBM crew from Rescue Squadron 4, Kerama Retto, onthe evening of the 30th; then located the pilot of an Army P-47 based at le Shima. Another man, who had become separated, was located by accompanying aircraft the following morning and was picked up before noon.

Sea Devil remained on life guard duty in the northern Ryukus and southern Kyushu area until 10 July, then headed east to Guam for refit and the installation of Loran equipment and a radio direction finder. On 9 August, she headed back to the Yellow Sea. On the 14th, she transited the Nansei Shoto, passing south of Akuseki Shima; and, on the 15th, after entering her patrol area, she received word of Japan's acceptance of Allied surrender terms.

For another two weeks, Sea Devil remained in the area, looking for and sinking mines. On the 27th, she sighted a fishing vessel near a mine. Closer inspection showed that the fisherman was using the mine as a buoy and had secured his net to the mine horns. On the 28th, the submarine was ordered to Guam; then diverted to Subic Bay, where she arrived on 3 September.

Within a few weeks, Sea Devil was joined by seven other submarines of the new, postwar submarine squadron, SubRon 5. Through the fall, she operated out of Subic Bay, conducting intensive training operations necessitated by a heavy turnover in personnel. On 1 December, she sailed for San Francisco for overhaul; and, on 23 April 1946, she returned to her home port, Pearl Harbor.

Three days later, SS-400 again headed west. On 16 May, she returned to Subic Bay; and, on the 23d, she continued on to Tsingtao where she provided antisubmarine warfare training services to TF 71 into July. On the 5th, she sailed for Shanghai, whence she proceeded back to Pearl Harbor. From 26 July 1946 to 5 May 1947, she conducted operations in the Hawaiian area. Overhaul at Mare Island took her through the summer. In early October, she returned to Hawaii; and, on the 27th, she sailed westward for another tour in the Far East.

A simulated war patrol and the provision of ASW training services occupied her during her deployment; and, on 8 January 1948, she returned to Pearl Harbor whence she operated until ordered to Mare Island for inactivation.

Sea Devil was decommissioned on 10 September 1948 and remained in the inactive reserve through the end of the decade. Two months after the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, however, she was ordered activated; and, on 2 March 1951, she was recommissioned, assigned to SubDiv 71, SubRon 7, and based at Pearl Harbor.

Through the summer, Sea Devil operated in Hawaiian waters. In September, she returned to the west coast to provide ASW training services for Fleet Air Wing 4 in the Puget Sound area. In mid-November, she returned to Hawaii, where she conducted local operations through the winter. From mid-April to mid-June 1952, she underwent overhaul at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard; then resumed local operations. In late September, she sailed west for her 1st deployment to the western Pacific since recommissioning.

Sea Devil arrived at Yokosuka on 7 October and commenced providing services to TF 96, which conducted ASW training exercises and maintained preparedness for hunter-killer operations in support of the United Nations effort. In late January 1953, she was detached for patrol purposes. Toward the end of January, she returned to Yokosuka; and, on 3 March, she sailed for Pearl Harbor.

On 30 June, Sea Devil again got under way for Puget Sound where she provided services to Fleet Air Wing 4 before heading for San Francisco on 20 August to begin inactivation. On the 28th, she was placed in commission, in reserve; and, on 19 February 1954, she was decommissioned.

Three years later, Sea Devil was again activated; and, on 17 August 1957, she was reeommissioned and assigned to SubRon 5 at San Diego. For the next year, she conducted training operations off southern California andin the Puget Sound area, then prepared for deployment to the western Pacific. From November 1958 to April 1959, she provided services to 7th Fleet surface units and to Fleet Marine Force Pacific. In May, she returned to San Diego. On 1 July 1960, she was redesignated AGSS-400; and, from that time through 1963, she was primarily engaged in training operations off the west coast. Only two deployments to the western Pacific, February-August 1961 and June-December 1963, interrupted that schedule. With the year 1964, however, Sea Devil commenced inactivation for the last time. On 17 February 1964, she was decommissioned. Her name was struck from the Navy list the following July, and she was subsequently sunk as a target.

Sea Devil (SS-400) earned five battle stars for her World War II service.

Published: Tue Sep 08 08:53:30 EDT 2015