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The fourth patrol of the USS Bergall was it's most difficult as well as the only one she made which was not successful. The patrol was made off the coast of Indo-China, once again near Varella and the three indistinguishable: Hong Dom, Hong Dong and Hon Lon, which by now the radar men and ODís had learned to call, respectively, New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Following two weeks of repairs alongside tender Griffin (AS-13), the submarine put to sea early in March for her fourth war patrol, in the company of Blueback and Blenny (SS-324). Bergall sailed to the coast of French Indochina and took up a lifeguard station off Cape Varella on the 7th. She stayed there, battling rough seas and dodging packs of fishing boats, until 15 March when she sailed north to rescue four American aviators spotted in a life raft.
The enemy gave Bergall's crew several bad starts during this period, including one during which Japanese escorts randomly dropped depth charges nearby and two others in which Japanese submarines fired torpedoes at her. The American submarine sailed to a position off Java on 8 April, but more frequent Japanese air patrols forced Bergall to submerge almost every day.
Nothing was accomplished except the rescue, on March 15th, of four badly damaged American B 25 bomber aviators, the destruction of two or more Japanese torpedoes (which failed to hit her and are presumed to have sunk), and the growth of much gray hair.
The Blenny was supposed to take the rescued pilots from the Bergall before the Blenny headed back to Subic Bay. Instead, two of the airmen were transferred from the Bergall to the Blueback. The Blueback then transferred them to the Blenny for the ride home. Seems like those aviators got in some good sub time!
On March 25, 1945, the Blueback and the Blenny made their transfer. 2nd Lieutenant Arthur J. McGrane (02057085), USAAF pilot and 2nd Lieutenant Joe A. Groves (0765487), USAAF navigator of the B-25 went aboard the Blenny. They and two other airmen had ditched their bomber south of Hainan and had been adrift 4 1/2 days in a rubber boat before being rescued by the Bergall. McGane had several broken bones in his left hand and Groves was uninjured except for a few cuts. The other two survivors were too badly injured to justify removal from the Bergall at that time. The two airmen on the Blenny reached Subic Bay on the 25th of March, on her return from her war patrol. The two that remained on the Bergall were really hurt and also suffering from exposure after being on that raft. This was TSgt. William "Shorty" Burhans and Sgt. Nare. They had one of the guys in a forward torpedo room sack, and the first dive after he came aboard, it lifted him right out of the sack. He said, "I'd rather get shot down ten times than make one dive on these things".
As the Bergall continued with her mission, the Japanese conducted an excellent war of nerves. Their own submarines stalked the giant American wolf packs constantly; their convoys made false starts, their planes patrolled all night. They had sent escorts out merely to toss surplus depth charges into the sea, and occasional random shots came too close to be entirely laughable. "We got the crap kicked out of us from those Jap depth charges. I kept track in the FTR of how many and it totaled 185. We also had to use our signal gun tube in the ATR to send out a missile (decoy) that made the sound of a sub's screws to draw the Japs away from us. We were in a small harbor on the China coast chasing some small freighters." (George Marquis) But the only contacts which the Bergall made were two hospital ships, and five DEís which were let pass so that the enemy they were escorting could be fired upon; (the convoy never materialized having been sunk south of the Bergallís station by the Blackfin and the Bluegill). The Bergall returned to port on 17 April, 1945 and port never looked better. It's assumed the two airmen didn't ask for more sea duty!
(From personal accounts by shipmates)
On to War Patrol #5
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