War Patrol #1

For the official war patrol report from Lt.Cmdr Hyde, click on Patrol Report

For the first war patrol of the Bergall, she was part of a submarine wolf pack group comprising Darter (Lt-Cdr McClintock), Dace (Lt-Cdr Claggett), Rock (Lt-Cdr Flachsenhar) and Bergall (Lt-Cdr Hyde) and they operated west of Palawan.

The Bergall's first war patrol started 8 September, 1944. She was assigned to the Seventh Fleet and sent from Pearl Harbor to the South China Sea off the coast of Annam in the vicinity of Cape Varella and Perforated Rock (off the Indo-China coast). The submarine sailed to the Marianas, mooring alongside Holland (AS-3) in Tanapag Harbor at Saipan on the 19th. The next day, she headed west into the Philippine Sea. On 22 September, Bergall's bridge crew sighted another submarine, which dived shortly thereafter. After clearing the area, the American boat radioed a contact report. While endeavoring to send a follow-up message the next day, Bergall had to submerge quickly when a Japanese Yokosuka P1Y "Frances" twin-engined bomber came along and dropped a depth charge on her wake. As the submarine worked toward the assigned patrol station off French Indochina, four more Japanese planes harassed her progress, delaying her arrival off Cap Varella until the 29th. After allowing five small ships to pass by, Bergall battle surfaced on 3 October in an attempt to sink a 150-ton cargo ship with gunfire. She surfaced at long range, about 3,500 yards away, and her gunners opened fire with 40-millimeter and 5-inch guns. The Japanese cargo ship took at least one 5-inch hit and immediately turned for the beach. This attack was cut short, however, when a Mitsubishi F1M2 "Pete" observation floatplane flew into the area and forced Bergall to submerge. For the next five days, she unsuccessfully patrolled the offshore shipping lanes before closing Phanrang Bay on the 8th.   She was the flagship of Sub-Div 262 and the charge of the tender Anthedon. She was young, therefore eager, untested, therefore bloodthirsty. Her first contact came a day and a half west of Saipan when in the high periscope she sighted a small boat containing five Japanese infantrymen. The Bergall closed, attempting rescue, but the efforts were abandoned when the Japanese made gestures which indicated that they wanted no part of her. The Americans marveled at the pride and insolent bearing of the enemy, admired their courage and pitied their stupidity.  On 9 October, she had made her first torpedo attack demolishing a seven hundred ton AK with three torpedoes fired from her stern tubes, sinking her at 11-40N, 109-12E. But this was all small stuff and not at all what the Bergall had come to hunt.  A postwar records review, however, did not indicate any Japanese losses in that area, and Bergall did not receive credit for this sinking.

But it wasn't until 13 October, that the Bergall began really to join the conflict. At 0800 a tanker (AO, some 2,000 tons), a medium cargo ship (Shinshu Maru, 4,182 tons) and two escorts stood out from Camranh Bay and headed south. This was indeed worthwhile; the Bergall closed to do battle and battle she did till 1400. The medium cargo ship went down at 0915 at 11d-52'N, 109d-20'E from a four torpedo salvo.  
Landing Craft Carrier Shinshu Maru

At that point, one of the escorts began to close Bergall rapidly. The submarine turned sharply, dived, and headed out to sea. The crew heard two loud explosions and breaking-up noises, signifying the end of Shinshu Maru, a 4,182-ton merchant tanker. Over the next five hours, Japanese forces tried to retaliate, dropping 30 depth charges and four aircraft bombs in an unsuccessful attempt to sink Bergall; patrol vessel No.7 Taiwan Maru picked up ten of Shinshu Maru’s survivors. The depth charge attack was in no way severe but neither was it superficial. The crew behaved with normal courage, made a couple of mistakes, one of which hitting bottom, could have been grievous but wasn't, was elated with it's first real success, and generally proved equal to it's first real job as it was later to prove equal to nearly as severe a test as any boat was asked to meet at through war.

In the shallow waters, Bergall was forced to go as deep as possible and contacted the sea floor. The depth charges held her down as she scraped along the bottom trying to find deeper water. The depth charges were then replaced with bombs from enemy aircraft which was close in. The Commander (Johnny Hyde) came up to periscope depth to assess the situation and saw why the aircraft bombing were so accurate. In dragging along the bottom, the Bergall had created a wake of mud behind her that pointed the aircraft directly to her position. The detection was so clear that two airplane were seen running a tag-team, one would be dropping his bomb and the other would have returned to base to be reloaded. It was later recorded that over the next five hours, Japanese forces tried to retaliate, dropping 30 depth charges and four aircraft bombs in an unsuccessful attempt to sink Bergall.   Japanese Patrol vessel No.7 (Taiwan Maru) later picked up ten of Shinshu Maru's survivors.   At 1400 the Bergall finally found deeper water and was able to escape the area. The Bergall surfaced later and radioed that she was no longer a virgin.

Through the nights and days of the 24th, 25th and 26th of October the United States Navy met and defeated the major effort of the Imperial Navy of Japan. Submarines discovered the enemy, pounded at him during his approach to Leyte Gulf, and harassed his retreat. The submarine then moved farther south, cruising along a patrol line near Saigon until the 24th. She then received orders to patrol the Balabac Strait near Palawan, between Borneo and the Philippines, made no contacts other than airplanes and patrol boats throughout the three day engagement, but had the thrill of holding ring-side tickets, and on the following day sank the largest merchant ship it was to sink - a 17 thousand ton tanker (later listed as 10,528 tons). The attack was made on the surface at night and was consummated with dispatch. Donald Small was the radar operator that made the contact. "There was a lot of land clutter on the radar screen when two targets suddenly appeared. I checked on the chart of the area to see if I had missed something before and there was nothing on the chart, so it had to be ships." The two contacts were so large that they were at first thought to be small carriers; the radar had contacted them at a great range. When they became visible they were found to be large oil tankers (AOs) accompanied by one large and one small escort, and, at a range of 3,500 yards, Bergall fired six torpedoes at the large tanker. Four hits blew the second AO right out of the strait, and the counter-attack, depth charging excited no one but the Japanese. Shortly thereafter, multiple explosions accompanied by a large sheet of flame indicated the four hits. The other cargo ship fled into shoal water, and the American submarine withdrew into Balabac Strait. Twenty minutes later, the target pip disappeared from Bergall's radar screen, marking the demise of Nippo Maru, a 10,528-ton tanker. She went down off the north-east coast of Borneo at 7d-09'N, 116d-40'E.   The Bergall actually got BOTH tankers!   It's just that one didn't sink outright, the second tanker, Itsukushima Maru (10,006 tons), was left still hanging on, dead in the water, until sunk by a PBY two days later... all part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

24 October 1944:
Brunei. The ITSUKUSHIMA MARU loads 13,000-tons of oil. Departs with oiler NIPPO MARU escorted by kaibokan CHIBURI and CD-17, CD-19 and CD-27 to refuel Shima's force.

25 October 1944: Operation "SHO-I-GO" (Victory) - The Battle of Leyte Gulf:
In the course of battle, Kurita loses superbattleship MUSASHI, cruisers ATAGO, MAYA, CHOKAI, CHIKUMA and SUZUYA with KUMANO and TAKAO damaged severely. Several destroyers are also lost and damaged. Nishimura loses old battleships FUSO and YAMASHIRO and cruiser MOGAMI. Shima arrives behind the carnage wrought on Nishimura's force and wisely reverses his small force's course away from certain destruction.   After the battle, ITSUKUSHIMA and NIPPO MARUs are ordered to return to Brunei.

27 October 1944:
Balabac Strait, W of Palawan Passage. At about 0400, LtCdr John M. Hyde's USS BERGALL (SS-320), on patrol near Dangerous Ground, makes SJ radar contact on two targets at a great range. Hyde begins an approach on the surface. When the contacts became visible they are identified as large oilers accompanied by one large and one small escort.

Hyde sets up and fires six torpedoes at the targets. At 0440, ITSUKUSHIMA MARU is hit by one torpedo. At 0445, the second oiler in line, NIPPO MARU is hit and sinks at about 0510 at 7-17N, 116-45E. ITSUKUSHIMA MARU remains afloat, but goes dead in the water and begins drifting. The escorts counter-attack and drop depth charges, but BERGALL clears the area on surface.

Nippo Maru (Nichiho Maru)

29 October 1944:
Marudu Bay, Kudat, N. Borneo. ITSUKUSHIMA MARU is attacked and bombed by a lone Consolidated PB4Y (B-24)"Privateer" of VPB-115.

1 November 1944:
ITSUKUSHIMA MARU sinks at 05-04N, 119-47E. A total of 41 crewmen are killed in the submarine and air attacks. Destroyer SHIGURE rescues survivors.

10 December 1944:
ITSUKUSHIMA MARU removed from the Navy List.

Itsukushima Maru, circa May 1944

The Bergall cruised south along the coast of Sarawak and passed through the Karimata Strait on 1 November. On the 2nd of November, off the south coast of Borneo, she came across a small sailboat loaded with cargo. After the submarine stopped to investigate, the boat’s native crew leapt into the water on the opposite side of the sailboat. The Americans opened fire with 20-millimeter and 40-millimeter guns, destroying the boat “to protect our topside personnel from possible treachery.”

History is a dull thing when it treats of facts and dates and ignores personalities. The first patrol of the Bergall was concluded without other events worth recording except for an exciting few minutes in Lombok Strait when a patrol boat nearly succeeded in wedging the American submarine between itself and Noessa Besar, but did succeed only in lighting the night sky with automatic fire which fell far short. The Fremantle rendezvous was made the morning of 8 November and the patrol was declared successful by a wide margin. Yet should not history record the comedy relief afforded when Ensign Welch, stationed on the sound gear during the depth-charging on October 13, having heard nothing for three minutes sent word to the conning tower, "All Clear" and was greeted immediately by the five closest explosions of the entire attack? And should not it be admitted that the worst fright most of the crew experienced was during a routine dive when a green officer with a powerful voice used the general announcing system for the first time? Previously the officer had been forgetting to press the toggle which would send his voice through all compartments as he shouted, "Clear The Bridge." Due to a positively marvelous excess of lung power which the officer possessed no one had ever failed to get the word, but the same voice amplified by the announcing system and tinged with the excitement which one feels in a new job proved terrorizing and brought a good percentage of the crew out of their bunks into the control room. It also cured at least one case of constipation.

(From personal accounts by shipmates)


As an aside to the previous long service of the Itsukushima Maru, she was torpedoed but not severely damaged a few months earlier by the unique subamrine, USS Narwhal, on her 12th patrol... 

Following a relatively short refit, Narwhal set out for the Philippines for her eleventh war patrol (7 May-9 June, 1944), Cdr. Jack C. Titus in command. While en route, the boat unsuccessfully attacked a convoy on the 19th. Poking quietly into Alusan Bay off Samar the submarine landed 22 men and unloaded 25 tons of supplies on the night of 24 May. The crew also provided diesel fuel and lubricants for local boat operations as well as flour, electric lamps, radio parts and 20 mm ammunition from ships stores. Proceeding over to Mindanao the following week, another 16 men and 25 tons of supplies were landed near Pagadian Bay on 1 June before the boat turned for home.

At this point, Narwhal began showing signs of her age as her diesel engines were suffering from lack of proper maintenance. Captain Titus noted he now regarded “the ship as having a certain charm similar to that possessed by an elderly gentlewoman of the old school. However, as with all elderly persons, there are certain infirmities worthy of mention.” These difficulties included almost continuous engine oil leaks, high noise levels in machinery both surfaced (and more dangerously) submerged, and a very smoky diesel exhaust. Despite these problems, the boats cargo and passenger capacity were too valuable to give up and the boat continued on its assigned missions of delivering and installing a network of coast watchers, weather observers and aircraft spotters throughout the southern and central Philippines.

After hasty voyage repairs in Darwin, Narwhal loaded cargo and supplies for a trip to the Dutch East Indies. Departing on her twelfth war patrol (10 June-7 July), she sailed for Ceram Island and a reconnaissance of the Japanese-held petroleum facilities at Bula. Submerging off that port on 13 June, she sighted a large two-mast schooner standing east out of the bay with other schooners anchored in the harbor. Concluding these ships were carrying oil to Japanese garrisons in the region, the submarine spent the rest of the day conducting a careful reconnaissance of the town, fixing the position of oil storage tanks, a boiler house and pipeline pumping station. That night Narwhal closed the shore and fired 56 rounds of 6-inch projectiles into these targets, destroying three gasoline and oil storage tanks and setting fires around the power-house and pumping station area. When enemy shore batteries worked shell splashes to within several hundred yards, the crew secured her guns and “advanced away from the enemy.” Ships’ company was gratified to see the glare from the flames at Bula as far away as two-dozen miles.

Cruising north to Panay, she moved off Lipata Point and surfaced at sunset on 20 June to rendezvous with local boats. The presence of a nearby Japanese garrison proved worrisome for the nine and a half hours it took to unload her cargo and four passengers, however, and the crew departed with 14 evacuees embarked with some relief. The still loud and smoky engines attracted a Japanese sub chaser to her wake but the slow craft was thrown off her trail in the early morning darkness. Narwhal came across powered sailboat No. 2 Shinsu Maru southwest of Culasi a few hours later and sank her with 6-inch gunfire. Turning for home, the submarine sailed into the Sulu Sea and, after dodging past two small escorts, damaged Japanese tanker Itsukushima Maru with two torpedoes on the 22nd.

On to War Patrol #2

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