Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: DeLand, FL
Originally Posted by Pvt. Public
how well could a sub mask its signature if it sat as close to the bottom as possible in water shallow enough? i understand that a sandy bottom wouldnt echo, but what if its really rocky? and somewhat related, has a submarine ever settled on the bottom to avoid detection?
I can provide further info from an extinct website of the United States Submarine Veterans of World War II. Supposedly it is moving to another website administered by veterans, but these people are literally dying off quicker than they can shore up their websites and they haven't reached outside their own WWII subvet community. I think they don't believe we'd be interested and that this information is theirs alone. I'm going to quote the entire story rather than reference the Wayback Machine. This may be the only place left that will contain this story of the Tambor and the bright idea of grounding to avoid an escort. Let's just say it didn't work out too well. They were nearly killed by the escort and they very nearly couldn't surface after the hours long attack was over. I apologize for the long quote but it is necessary.
We Remember The Tambor
By: The Crew
Presented by: Ray Werbrich
It is truly said "War experiences are never forgotten." We may try, and try, but we can't forget. And even when we succumb to gentle urgings of friends to describe incidents that hold special meanings in memory, we tend to minimize the actual happenings -- often narrating things in a light vein lest we appear boastful.
Well, December 7th in 1941 came upon us all without warning. The TAMBOR, under the commend of Lt. Cdr. John Murphy, was the flagship of the Sixth Subron, patrolling off Wake Island. The TAMBOR was one hell of a good boat, and today, after some forty-five years, it somehow still feels strange to use the word war. We who served in her, can recall the many engagements she endured, and her ways of always somehow managing to come out in one piece. Well, nearly one piece. The TAMBOR was the first to report the location of the approaching Japanese task force off Midway island and this, for the TAMBOR and her crew, was the beginning of action -- action which today reflects a unique achievement, and well-deserved glory.
In the "Midway Battle" the TAMBOR received half-credit for sinking the Japanese cruiser Mikuma, and also for causing heavy damage to the cruiser Mogami without firing a shot. When the Japanese made a concentrated effort to salvage parts of the heavy cruiser USS Houston, the TAMBOR was dispatched to stop that operation. Further, the TAMBOR transported ammunition, medical supplies, and guerillas to the Philippines, laid mines in Hainan Strait, and engaged in many "wolfpack" operations.
Attesting to these exploits, as we all remember, TAMBOR's part in the Midway Battle was featured in Life magazine. Landing the guerillas at Pagodian Bay in Mindanao became a motion picture with John Wayne in the leading role. In another action, when the TAMBOR sank a Japanese gunboat; we made the front page of New York's Daily News and were written up and pictured in newspapers across the entire United States. The depiction of these actions can be read quickly and effortlessly, but the reading and visualizing can in no way be a substitute for the physical and emotional stresses endured by the Captain and the crew. Not to mention feeling the inherent quality and character of a submarine like the TAMBOR. We remember the TAMBOR for what she was. She survived more than seventy depth charges in just one attack in the China Sea! She could almost be heard to console us -- "Don't worry -- I'II bring you home."
With Lt. Cdr. R. Kefauver in command, we were making an end-around run to get ahead of a small Japanese convoy of one freighter, a tanker, and one brand new destroyer. The calculation was that the convoy would reach its destination the following day, and therefore, we had to close in, in a hurry for our attack. With the sky brightening in the east, we knew we had a now-or-never situation.
The tracking group began its work. Bill Shoop was on the radar in the conning tower calling out readings to William Wood and Elmer Atchison. Plotting officers, Vito Vitucci, radar officer, and Walter Post, T.D.C. operator. Battle stations were sounded at 0400.
In a flooded-down approach, we closed for the attack. Captain Kefauver, with the Executive Officer, Ed Spruance as Assistant Approach Officer, were on the bridge. Bill Reynolds was on the port side of the periscope shears, Tom Lampley on the starboard, and Clarence Erich to the stern.
Bill Reynolds was facing directly at the convoy. Later he said he got a queasy feeling in his stomach and a trembling in his hands and legs as he heard the target ranges shorten and the targets became discernable. The freighter and the tanker loomed into view, but the escorting destroyer was hidden by the haze.
The order to fire was given, and there was the usual gentle tug on the boat as the high-pressure air expelled the torpedo from the tube. Bill Reynolds' glasses were on the freighter. Ariake Maru. He saw the first hit ... a plume of sea water spewing upwards and a split second later ... the loud explosion! One Japanese freighter consigned to the deep.
Bill Reynolds shifted his glasses to the tanker, Goyo Maru. The methodical calculations, the torpedo on its way. Then the geyser and the explosion. Bill said he saw a flicker of flame appear from the stack, and then it died down completely but in the next instant there was a sight never to be forgotten. The whole horizon turned into day as the tanker exploded, lighting up the whole China Sea.
While our radar had picked up the relative position of the escort destroyer, we at last saw her in the brightness of the exploding tanker.
Radarman Bill Shoop's voice rose to high pitch. The angle on the bow was 90 degrees starboard. Within seconds it was 0 degrees. The range was closing fast.
The claxon sounded, Dive! Dive! All hands below! The bridge was cleared, the last man closing the hatch. Vents were opened and all eyes were on the depth gauge: The needle seemed to just hang there ... an eternity before the bow got on the down angle and we headed below.
But that Japanese destroyer had no intention of losing us. Even as we were diving, he was right on us. On his first run, he dropped about a dozen depth charges. We were thus forced to take evasive measures and race for deeper water.
Gordon "Red," Mayo was on the sound gear and he heard the destroyer change to short scale pinging, and increasedher speed. It meant that we could expect another run.
Captain Kefauver decided to head for the sea floor. Down...down...and we finally settle on sand at 268 feet. We were now a completely silent submarine just sitting and waiting.
The next string of charges were too close, far too close. Something was betraying our position to the destroyer up there. And that destroyer was stubborn -- for the next fifteen hours the TAMBOR was taking depth charge after depth charge. Every man was wondering how much pounding the TAMBOR could take without splitting her hull.
The depth charges came, one on top of another, and with the most uncanny accuracy! It was Bob Freedman who asked "Was that one closer than before?" Sitting next to him, Claude Brown just shrugged and didn't bother to define close or closer.
We were in shallow enough water to hear the destroyer's screws above us: the sound was like a train crossing a railroad trestle. First a distinct sound, like a hum, then increasing rapidly in volume to a roar as he approached, and then the sound decreasing quite rapidly. And on each run we had to take two depth charges. We could hear them hit the water, then, came the click of the firing pin, the snap of a detonator, and then the loud rumble of the depth charge. The sound and implication of a depth charge landing on the deck, rolling slowly, thump, thump, thump, across the deck, bouncing on the outer hull and then sloping in the sand can only be understood from experience. Just thinking of it... Pause, and then the renewed attack. We can think of it now, forty-five years later, and it still produces chills up and down your spine. Any one of those depth charges could have been the last one we would ever hear ...
The movie depictions of a depth charge attack, with the violent rocking of the boat (in the studio setup) and the crew being tossed around, is ludicrous. In reality, it just doesn't happen that way, as anyone in the crew can tell you. What really happens is something like an instant concussion! A shock! It can cause a lightbulb, hanging from a six inch cord, to burst. The shock of the concussion will cause pipe connections, gauge glasses, and mirrors to break.
Enginemen Ray Bouffard and Warren Link were standing at the throttle area of the engine room when one of the blasts went off and in that instant they found themselves staring at a wall of water.
"This is it!" they thought. Jack Semmelrath and John Scaduto, standing alongside Ray and Warren, thought the same thing. "Trapped ! No Escape! "
But the strange thing was that the wall of water didn't move. Reacting automatically, the men put their hands out to stem the flow, but their hands went right through the water! Then they realized that what had happened was the cooling water gasket flange on number two main engine had been forced loose and water was shooting across the entire area of the engine room.
Ray resolved the problem almost as quickly as it had happened. We waited, and we listened. The sound of air escaping under pressure was definite and unmistakable. We agreed that we had ruptured a line to our air bottles in the fuel ballast tank located just off of the battery compartment bulkhead. The situation was serious, because escaping air would indicate our position to the enemy. Knowing the depth, and the run of the current, that destroyer could figure out our exact location.
Captain Kefauver came through later for a personal assessment of our problems and the boat's condition. We had done the best we could under the circumstances, and the Captain knew it. He took the time to speak to each man individually. When living in close confinement for a long period of time you get to know unique characteristics that lock a man in memory, and Captain Kefauver added to that moment a remark that fitted the occasion and made the incident very special for us. As the Captain was turning to leave, he gave us a long look, then said. "Good luck. I'm proud to be your shipmate.
Yes, sir. We were proud to be in the TAMBOR, with him!
Topside, that destroyer was making perfect runs, dumping depth charges all the time. He just wasn't going to stop until he was sure he'd done a complete job.
In the TAMBOR everything was a mess. The conning tower and pump room bilges were full of water. With the air conditioning out, we were breathing humid air. Cork was everywhere. No need to say the situation was wearing us down. The crew members, in sleeping areas not assigned to specific duties tried to get what sleep they could.
But rest was impossible. Two depth charges were laid right on top of us! The destroyer turned and put two more so close that our ears rang. This was a contest -- who would stand the hammering best, the crew or the TAMBOR. It was definitely not the time for humor, but there's always one in every crowd. Fred Richardson said, "When you hear the rumble of the depth charges you know the TAMBOR has made another attack." He was right -- we never sank an enemy ship without getting depth charged.
Carlos "Nip" Howard, a very popular and valued shipmate, just five days earlier had saved us from being rammed. During a lull, after Fred's wry humor, we had time to reflect how Nip had fired his 20mm gun at nearly point-blank range at the bridge of the Shunai Maru, with the startling result that the enemy lost control and gave us the momentary advantage and time in which to sink him. Now Nip was sitting on the floor of the control room, staring into space. "Hey. Bill." Nip called out. "Are you scared?"
"Bill Reynolds said "no" in a flat voice. "l'm not either." Nip retorted dryly. Everyone laughed. At this point the only thing we had was a kind of suppressed bravado.
We went back to sweeping cork, paint chips, and glass on the control room deck. It was better to keep busy than to wonder how many more depth charges would be dropped on us, and how we would react to them. As two more depth charges went off, one of the men shook his head in wonderment, said, "Some boat -- she sure can take it." Now, thinking back, the remark certainly did justice to the glory of the TAMBOR.
The maneuvering room was having its troubles. The packing glands on both screw shafts were leaking. Long ago we had conceded that Roy "Foo" Rausher was the strongest man on the boat -- when Foo tightened something, it always took two men and a boy to loosen it. Yet even his strength was of no avail as he struggled to crank tight the nuts in an effort to stop the shaft leaks. When the water reached the motor room deck plates, we had to form a bucket brigade to the after torpedo room with Charles. "Chesty" De Bay, Rex Harvey. Robert Galloway, Robert Koostra, and Foo. They worked feverishly, bailing and passing buckets as fast as they could after every depth charge attack. Anticipating the next depth charges, they would shut the water tight door and wait out the attack.
The after torpedo room was having water problems. They had to chain-fall the escape hatch as well as the torpedo loading hatch because the latch dogs wouldn't hold tight after a close depth charge. The torpedo room bilges could accept more water than the maneuvering room, and the above procedure was necessary to protect the main motors from getting wet.
By now it was getting late in the day and we were counting on the telltale escaping bubbles to be difficult to spot by the enemy. Also, we felt our silence on the sea floor should make him believe he had destroyed us. After all, what boat could withstand seventy depth charges, placed quite accurately, and survive?
The hours passed. The TAMBOR lay silent on the ocean floor. All we could do was remain silent, and wait...
No sound was reaching us from above for quite some time, and Captain Kefauver decided to risk surfacing. Was the enemy cunning enough to be waiting for us? There was no way to tell. We went into action. But deciding to surface, and really surfacing were two different things. The TAMBOR had been sitting on the bottom for over fifteen hours, and the sand had locked her in solidly. Instead of being at 268 feet, we had settled to 280 feet! Even with all the tanks blown, she couldn't be budged. Power to the screws had to be used cautiously. The screws couldn't turn. We were stuck!
All stations had to be manned to react to surfacing and other necessary underway operations. We moved water. We pumped bilges. We even blew the heads. Inch by inch, and with thanks to William Blankenbaker, Chief of the boat, and his skill as a diving officer, he resorted to using air bubbles in the tanks for added buoyancy, and at last we broke loose. It was then a tense few minutes to the surface, all the while maintaining control of the boat. Blankenbaker had two compartments still partially flooded, so that keeping the TAMBOR level was far from an ordinary job.
With most of the gauges inoperative, we did not know how much pressure we had in the boat. The gauges were either not reading correctly because of the shocks from the depth charges, or broken glass had shifted the original setting.
When the Conning Tower hatch was finally opened, the pressure almost carried the man up the ladder. The sudden change in air pressure was far more than we had ever before experienced. In an instant the conning tower air turned to a smokey blue vapor, and topside the odor of diesel fuel was heavy. As we scanned an empty horizon, we breathed a sigh of relief.
When the engines were called on the line we found the governor base on Number 2 engine cracked. With some extra coaxing, the other engines responded. The seven hundred KW. auxiliary engine was put on battery charge, and, with some jury rigging, we finally got the governor to perform and eventually had all four engines putting distance between us and that unlucky location.
The time had arrived to assess our damage in detail, and then attempt to restore the TAMBOR to fighting trim. Even a casual glance told us that nothing had escaped serious damage, so we set to work.
It took many hours of concentrated work, with Bob Hunt directing the forward torpedo room repairs to restore the most crucial part to use and reload the torpedoes into the tubes. The turbo blower had been ripped off its base, the bolts totally gone. Gus Builder, Auxiliaryman, worked with Warren Link to fashion bolts on the boat's lathe from raw stock. Gus hand-filled the hex-heads on these bolts and retapped the old holes, making it possible to refasten the blower to its base.
Both our compressors were destroyed, almost beyond use, which meant we could not jam air. We would be restricted to the use of whatever air remained in the stored bottles for dives and torpedo shots. Not a good prospect. In the end. Gus and Art Stickle cannibalized two compressors into one good one. It goes without saying that the motor on the turbo blower needed repair. This was efficiently handled by "Chesty" De Bay.
There were two serious leaks in the high pressure line in the battery well, threatening a dangerous rise in pressure in the boat. William Wood and Gus Builder, with no concern for their own safety, stretched themselves flat on a rubber sheet placed over the battery cell tops. They repaired the leaks all right, but they also received several severe shocks before completing the job. Our air conditioning system was so full of line leaks that it could not be repaired. The refrigeration for our food freezer was also finished -- the food had already started to defrost. Number one periscope was flooded, as was the S.D. radar mast. The radio antenna was gone.
The radio compartment itself was not in bad shape, except for the damaged antenna allowing water to leak onto the transmitter. Bill Shoop. Harvey Rebensterf, and "Red" Maya divided the work into areas of expertise, and went to it. They somehow succeeded in getting a weak signal by running a lead from the transmitter through the control room and out the conning tower hatch. We stationed a man there with an axe -- just in case we had to dive in a hurry. Another antenna was rigged in make-shift style across the deck as far as its length allowed. Incidentally during this work "Red" Mayo discovered he was deaf in one ear from listening to depth charges on the sound gear. His condition lasted exactly ten days.
Robert Dye sat on the control room deck, struggling to fix the S.D. radar. The filament leads of the tube that drives the spark coil were shorted. Our cipher keys were outdated, and we had no reception from Pearl Harbor. Since our messages were not being received by our operational commanders, the TAMBOR, ten days overdue, was presumed lost. "Tokyo Rose," reported us as being sunk! This presumption was brought to the attention of Vito Vitucci's wife while she was on duty at the Naval Communications Station in Washington, D.C. But soon, as our weak radio transmissions were picked up, our real fate was known.
The conning tower, to keep the record straight. was a near total wreck. Glass. cork, charts, and anything else that could be torn loose was on the deck. The Torpedo Data Computer was hanging from its fastenings: two dials were missing, but we located them in the periscope well ! How to fish them out? Walter Post and Elmer Atchison made a yoke out of a pillow and two heaving lines and lowered Warren Link with a flashlight hanging from his neck to the bottom to pick up the much needed dials. Then, working continuously for fourteen hours. Post got the computer into operation and "Atch" managed to get the navigational and plotting gear in order.
The five inch fifty-one gun on the after deck was off its trunnions. Imagine the power of the depth charge that lifted such a weight! And with the muzzle bracketed in place.
The depth charges that went off real close to the TAMBOR left several large grey-white blotches on the superstructure. Subsequent examination revealed a twenty-one inch split in the port side of the fuel ballast tank. We had thus lost a few thousand gallons of fuel oil, along with the air we heard escaping from the air bottles. At the time the destroyer kept hammering us, that vast amount of fuel oil must have convinced the enemy that he had done us in completely. The TAMBOR, we felt, seemed to have her own way of fooling the enemy -- to protect us.
Now we shifted fuel, but soon realized that the only way to rid ourselves of the oil leak was to flush the tank, and this could be accomplished only by reconverting the valves in the superstructure. John Scaduto, our "Oil King." and Warren Link volunteered to make the conversion, which meant crawling among a jumble of lines and removing the blanking plates so the tanks could be blown and then be operated as a regular ballast tank. Captain Kefauver warned the men that he could not jeopardize the boat in the event of being spotted, and that he would dive if it become absolutely necessary.
"Yes, sir." And you can be sure a record was set for that type of conversion. The bolts had to be removed and kept in shirt pockets, and then reinstalled and tightened sufficiently to hold the pressure of the entire tank. All this was done by the light of a battle lantern which a man handled from the deck. When the job was completed, the valves were quickly tested -- when the high pressure air hit those valves there was a roar like the sound of a boat diving. As our "Oil King" ran past the men on deck on his way to the conning tower, he yelled. "Don't get in my way." So, with the fuel ballast tanks converted and flushed, the oil hazard was presumably, overcome.
The maneuvering room was under "Chesty" De Bay's care, and he had serious problems there. When we started the battery charge, it was with a full voltage ground. We had survived seventy depth charges, and now we faced a possible battery explosion that could wipe us out. "Chesty's" men scurried through the boat trying to resolve all kinds of electrical problems, and many days later, when we reached Midway, they were still chasing problems and fixing them !
In spite of our continuous efforts to pull the after torpedo room hatches tight, they were still leaking. A spirits tank had ruptured from the bulkhead where it had been secured with 3/4 inch bolts. The torpedo tube spindles were bent by the concussion and there was no way we could make them operational. The after tubes were useless. Ole Claussen George Venditelli, and Carl Johnson worked tirelessly to regain use of even one tube so we would have stern protection, but all their efforts were unsuccessful. To think that seventy depth charges could do this to the TAMBOR.
Nine days later the Captain's voice came over the P.A. system. "Boys. I've just completed a thorough inspection of our boat -- as you well know we're in one helluva shape. But I think she's good enough for another shot at "OL Tojo." so if you'll back me up I'd like to see what we can do to another convoy out there. I promise -- one more try and then we'll head for the barn." Objections? You kidding?
We sank another ship, the Ronsau Maru, with one good hit out of the torpedoes spread -- and we received the usual reply of depth charges for our audacity. But this time we were in deep water and our evasive action put us well in the clear. There was not even a close one. At last, we were heading for Midway.
The "Three Musketeers" from Philadelphia, Bill Raymond. Jack O'Brien, and Bill Shoop, finally got a chance to get together. They said they felt as if they were each returning from another world. Their experience had transformed them into true believers. There was only one thing they could say, the one thing all of us could say.
"Thank God -- and the TAMBOR.
How's that for lousy ASW by the Japanese? Who do you believe, the bean counters after the war (the Japanese sucked) or the Tambor crew (they never gave up and only left after they thought they killed us)? The ussubvetsofworldwarii.org site was full of stories like that and they are gone. Only the smug conclusions of the bean counters will remain soon. We spend a lot of energy preserving the boats. Many who did not sail them are working on them.
The stories are many times more precious. But they are dying daily. I have spent dozens of hours on the "Through the Looking Glass" site. I've seen half of it. If these subvets don't look and trust some people outside their own rapidly dwindling number, all these stories will die with them. With the stories will go the truth about how they fought on both sides of the war.
Last edited by Rockin Robbins; 01-30-2009 at 07:45 AM.