The red rock fish of the Pacific coast.
Tambor (SS-198) was laid down on 16 January 1939 by the Electric Boat Co., Groton, Conn.; launched on 20 December 1939; sponsored by Miss Lucia Ellis; and commissioned on 3 June 1940, Lt. Comdr. John M. Murphy, Jr., in command.
After fitting out at New London, Tambor got underway on 5 August 1940 for her shakedown cruise which took her to New York City; Washington, D.C.; Morehead City, N.C.; and Houston, Tex. Following further training off Colon, Canal Zone, the submarine returned to New London before holding her acceptance trials and undergoing a post-shakedown overhaul at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard. After conducting experiments measuring the effectiveness of depth charges, Tambor reported in May 1941 to the Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet.
Tambor began a routine peace-time patrol of Wake Island in late November 1941 and, when war with Japan broke out, she began her first war patrol. However, she was forced to return to Pearl Harbor with one engine out of commission. Routed back to Mare Island where the damage was repaired, the submarine returned to Pearl Harbor in March 1942.
Tambor began her second war patrol on 15 March when she stood out of Pearl Harbor to reconnoiter the areas around Wake, Truk, New Ireland, New Britain, and Rabaul. She made unsuccessful attacks on enemy ships on 30 March and 6 April. On 16 April, she fired two torpedoes at a tanker. One hit, but the submarine's report that the target had been sunk was not verified by postwar examination of Japanese records. Tambor returned to Pearl Harbor on 12 May.
After refitting, she was then assigned to Task Group 7.1. The group of six submarines sailed for Midway Island on the 21st to begin patrolling a 150-mile circle in anticipation of the invasion fleet that intelligence had reported was en route there. At 0215 hours on 5 June, Tambor sighted four large ships at a range of three miles. Three others soon appeared, but two hours passed before the fleet was identified as two Japanese cruisers escorted by five destroyers. The ships soon outdistanced the submarine; but she promptly radioed their position to Midway. Two days later, Tambor sighted a scout plane seven miles away; and she went to 140 feet. Two depth bombs, which exploded close aboard, damaged both her periscopes and cracked all four battery blower motors; so Tambor returned to Pearl Harbor on 16 June for repairs.
Her next patrol began on 24 July and ended on 19 September at Fremantle, Australia. Tambor searched for enemy shipping in the Marshall Islands. On 7 August near Wotje Island, she sank the converted net tender Shofuka with one torpedo which broke her in half. Tambor remained in the Marshalls until the 19th when she was ordered to patrol the southern passages to Truk. As there was time to spare before she was to take station there, she prowled through the Caroline Islands. On the 21st near Ponape, the submarine fired a spread of three torpedoes at a freighter and her escort. The first hit the target amidships and the other two aft, blowing off the stern. Shinsei Maru No. 6 quickly sank. On 1 September, she fired four torpedoes at a tanker off Truk and damaged it with one hit.
Tambor sailed for Hainan Strait on 12 October and laid mines there. On 3 November, she fired three torpedoes at a freighter, but all missed. The submarine eluded detection; and, 30 minutes later, she fired two more. One hit amidships, and Chikugo Maru went under by the stern. On the 6th, she fired two torpedoes at a cargo-passenger ship flying the French flag, but both missed. On the 10th, she closed an unarmed sampan, took its crew on board and sank it by gunfire. Tambor returned to Fremantle on 21 November for refit during which her deck gun was replaced by a modern 5-inch gun.
From 18 December 1942 to 28 January 1943, Tambor patrolled Soenda Strait between Krakatau and Thart-way Island. The only target sighted was an enemy destroyer which she attacked on New Year's Day 1943. The submarine's spread of four torpedoes missed, and she went deep to avoid the 18 depth charges that followed.
Tambor sailed from Fremantle on 18 February to carry out a special mission in the Philippine Islands. On 5 March, she landed a small Navy party (with 50,000 rounds of .30-caliber ammunition, 20,000 rounds of .45-caliber ammunition, and $10,000 in currency) on southern Mindanao. On the 22d, she fired three torpedoes at a naval auxiliary southwest of Apo Island and saw one hit. Seven days later, she scored one hit on a freighter out of three torpedoes fired. The submarine returned to Fremantle on 14 April for refit and the installation of a 20-millimeter gun forward of the bridge.
Tambor's seventh patrol took her north of the Malay Barrier from 7 May to 27 June 1943. On 26 May, she fired a spread of three torpedoes at a tanker, all misses. Three days later, three more missed a cargo ship. She tried again several hours later, saw two of the three torpedoes fired score hits, and heard three explosions. As the target was sinking, she fired another spread of three at an accompanying freighter. Some of the crew of Eiski Maru escaped in two lifeboats. On 2 and on 6 June, she fired spreads of three torpedoes at cargo ships. The first appeared to break in half, and the second seemed to sink; but there is no record of the sinkings in Japanese official records. On 16 June, Tambor fired her last three torpedoes at a tanker off Cam Ranh Bay but all missed.
Tambor stood out of Fremantle for the last time on 20 July en route to Lombok Strait. On 3 August, she sighted five cargomen and a destroyer in Palawan Passage. Three shots at a freighter produced two hits, and one fired at another target missed. However, Japanese records do not indicate any sinking. On 21 August, she sighted an unescorted convoy of three tankers and five freighters. She fired five torpedoes at a pair of freighters, but scored no hits. Two more sped toward a tanker and produced one explosion but no apparent damage. The next day, she sighted another convoy heading in the opposite direction. Making a submerged attack, Tambor fired five torpedoes at a large freighter. Three made perfect hits amidships, but all bounced off the side of the ship without exploding. The submarine set sail for Midway Island and arrived there on 7 September. She departed for Pearl Harbor the next day for repairs. Ordered to return to the United States, Tambor arrived at San Francisco on 20 November for an overhaul.
Tambor returned to Pearl Harbor on 15 December 1943 and held refresher training during the remainder of the month. She began her ninth war patrol on 5 January 1944. Her assigned area was in the East China Sea. She sighted a Katori-class cruiser on the 22d, but lost contact in a rain squall. Six days later, she contacted a convoy of nine ships heading north and tracked it until 0156 hours the next day. She then fired two torpedoes at a cargo ship in a surface attack. Both hit and sent Shuntai Maru down by the bow. An escort headed straight for the submarine and ramming seemed inevitable. Tambor opened fire with her aft 20-millimeter gun and turned hard to port causing the escort to pass 20 yards astern. After evading the escort, the submarine tried to regain contact with the convoy but failed.
On 2 February, she began tracking two ships. The following morning, she fired two torpedoes at a cargo ship, and both hit amidships. She directed two more at a tanker, and one hit forward of the target's stack. Both Ariake Maru and Goyo Maru sank. Tambor went deep and remained on the bottom under depth charge attack from 0418 to 1315. Ten days later, she encountered another three-ship convoy. In a night surface attack, the submarine fired a spread of three torpedoes at a cargo ship. As Tambor submerged, her crew heard one hit and sink the passenger-cargo ship Ronsan Maru.
After repairs at Pearl Harbor, Tambor put to sea on 9 April en route to the Marianas. On 18 April, she attacked a 250-ton trawler loaded with food and fresh vegetables. A boarding party from the submarine killed seven members of the Japanese vessel's crew and captured the second officer. The Americans removed the ship's papers and left her afire and sinking. On 10 May, she contacted an eight-ship convoy, escorted by five destroyers and two destroyer escorts. In a submerged attack, Tambor fired four torpedoes at a cargo ship and heard two explosions. The submarine went deep and received 50 depth charges from the escorts. Tambor surfaced later and attempted to close the convoy once more. However, a destroyer picked her up and subjected her to another depth charge attack. On 26 May, she scored two hits which sank Chiyo Maru. Tambor's 10th patrol ended at Midway Island on 2 June.
The submarine conducted her next patrol in the waters off southern Hokkaido and near the Kuril Islands from 16 July to 23 August. She fired three torpedoes at a freighter on 28 July and heard three explosions. However, a dense fog prohibited her seeing the results. On 13 August, Tambor made a surface attack against a cargo ship and then photographed Toei Maru as she lowered two lifeboats and sank in 20 minutes. After returning to Midway, Tambor continued to Pearl Harbor for an overhaul and upkeep period.
Tambor returned to Midway on 6 October and sailed the next day for the Tokyo Bay area. On the 15th, she fired four torpedoes at three radar pips and heard one explosion. She was forced to go deep to evade 26 depth charges that were rained down around her. She emerged with no damage and attacked an escort four days later. Tambor fired four torpedoes and heard four explosions, but no sinking was verified. The submarine returned to Saipan from 8 to 10 November and then resumed her patrol.
Shortly before midnight on the 15th, Tambor fired three torpedoes at a patrol boat, but scored no hits. Forty-five minutes later, three more missed. At 0610, the submarine's commander decided to battle on the surface with his deck guns. Thirty minutes later, as the target began to sink,Tambor's crew took two prisoners from the water. She transferred them and a wounded crewman to Grayson (DD-435) on the 18th. Tambor ended her last war patrol at Pearl Harbor on the 30th.
Routed onward to the United States, Tambor arrived at San Francisco on 10 December 1944. After an extended overhaul, the submarine sailed for Puget Sound on 9 March 1945. Upon her arrival there, Tambor began training operations with Navy patrol aircraft under Fleet Air Wing 6. On 17 September, she departed the west coast for Portsmouth, N.H. Tambor was decommissioned there on 10 December 1945 and placed in reserve. In April 1947, the submarine was assigned to the 9th Naval District to train naval reservists; and she reported to the Naval Reserve Training Center, Detroit, Mich., on 8 December. Tambor remained on duty as a reserve training ship until 1959 when a Board of Inspection and Survey found her unfit for further naval service. She was struck from the Navy list on 1 September and subsequently sold for scrap.
Tambor received 11 battle stars for World War II service.