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Memories of Paul M. Fields (Sailor, rest your oars!)

From the Bergall's commissioning picture, top row, left to right shows L. B. Bilbro - Paul M. Wanhaaho(Fields) -L. J. Regan. On the bottom row is G. A. Oliver - G. O. Benike - H. J. Argentino

At a Michigan Technological University's 4th of July block party in 1994, Paul was asked to speak about his war experiences. He spoke about his memories of the second war patrol of the USS Bergall.

"It was a typical tropical day; of course being in the black gang I didn't see the sun. Only the Captain the diving officer the quartermaster and the lookouts saw the sun. We could only look at the clock and try to imagine what was going on topside...On this patrol the second we were headed up Into the Gulf of Siam to lay a mine field. We had mines which we could push out of the torpedo tubes. The Gulf is shallow where we could not dive so we timed our arrival just as it got dark.

We were close to where we were to lay the mines when we picked up two ships on radar. The Captain had to make up his mind as to whether we should sink the two ships and then go lay the mines or to go lay the mines. Looking at our primitive radar the Captain decided to sink what appeared to be two transports running on an over-lapping course.

Imagine our surprise when we found out that it was two heavy cruisers. Using radar, six torpedoes were fired from the forward tubes. One of them must have hit the magazine because one cruiser blew apart into two pieces. The other one must have been hit also because he turned his searchlight on and started firing. One 8-inch shell hit us by the forward loading hatch and knocked it off kilter. A little forward of where it hit were the extra torpedoes and a little aft was the first fuel tank. One man of the loading crew was sitting in the hatchway between the torpedo room and the forward battery. A piece of the hull flew through the step between the rooms and just missed the man.

The cruiser probably didn't know who we were as he barreled one way and we the other. The 8-incher did not blow up when it hit us.

Then began the job of getting back to the Fremantle which was about 1600 miles away. We stuffed mattresses into the hole to keep the waves out and welded deck plating to keep the mattresses in place. The pressure hull was damaged to the extent that water would come in each time the waves would come over us. We removed everything we could from the torpedo room because as a last resort we could dive and flood the room. We didn't know if we could come up again, but we could try.

We radioed our base for instructions and they thought we were still in the Gulf so they told us to scuttle and get off on an island and another submarine would pick us up. A vote was held and all officers and one man voted to scuttle. We were thinking of 30 days survivors leave in the States. We rigged up the guns topside and went merrily on our way. On the first day, a plane came over and after studying us decided that we were Japanese because we made no hostile moves.

One day we picked up radar interference and so contacted the USS Angler (SS240) which was going on patrol. That night everybody except the officers department heads and a few men went over to Angler. The skeleton crew took the Bergall, accompanied by the Angler, through the Karlmata Straits and thence to the Lombok Straits...On arriving in Fremantle we were sent to a hotel, which is standard procedure.

Three days later we were called back and told the Bergall was fit for sea. The Navy Yard had cut the damaged 3/4-inch piece out and bent a new piece in place. The Captain was awarded the Silver Star for saving the Bergall and the others received medals. The boat received a Navy Unit Citation."

Seaman Paul Wanhaaho ( he later changed his last name to Fields) served on the Bergall during WWII. He was an MTU Alumni, retired Mechanical Engineer from AC Delco and a published author.

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