Archive for July, 2017

The Submarine and The Train

Submarines are the silent protectors of the oceans. They are shrouded in mystery with much of their technology listed as classified material. Powerful cities moving through the waves, submarines are trillions of tons of high tech power and stealth capabilities. While submarines carry massive power, that power is isolated to the waters. Submarines monitor shore and port activities. They monitor surface ships and other submariners. When it comes to a land attack, one does not think about a boat. This is the story about the time that a submarine took out a train.

Commander Eugene B. Fluckey, USN – Photograph dated 20 August 1945. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

 

June 1945 saw the USS Barb in her 12th and final war patrol.  The Barb was a Gato-class, diesel powered submarine that had helped her commanding officer Lt. Cmdr. Eugene B. Fluckey earn a medal of honor in their 11th war patrol. During the war, the Barb sunk Japanese supply transports off the northern coast of Japan. She was also the first submarine to launch ballistic missiles onto Japanese soil. The crew of the Barb had, over time, noticed trains bringing supplies to enemy ships on the Japanese island of Karafuto. They had already had successful missions stopping supplies from getting to the fleets by transport ships. Fluckey and his crew wanted to find a way to keep the supplies from getting to the transport ships. Attempting to take out a train by submarine had never been done before and proved to be not only difficult but also dangerous. If the shore crew would try to put explosives under the tracks, they would be at serious risk of getting caught. It was Engineman 3rd class Billy Hatfield that offered up a solution that proved to work. The crew would tie a micro-switch on the track that would trigger a set of explosions once the train went over the device. Once weather provided enough cloud cover, the Barb came within 950 years of the shoreline. Just after midnight on July 23, 1945, the shore crew slipped into their small boats and headed to shore. According to a passage in his book, Thunder Below, Fluckey is quoted as telling the crew, “if you get stuck, head for Siberia, 130 miles north, following the mountain ranges. Good luck.” This shore crew of Navy sailors led by Hatfield was the first American combatants to set foot on Japanese soil during the war.

While this mission was safer than the original alterative, it still had its dangers. The crew landed near the backyard of a Japanese home but thankfully were able to go by unnoticed. Once at the tracks, three men set up guard posts. However, they then realized that a water tower nearby was actually a Japanese lookout post. Yet again, thankfully the crew went by unnoticed.  They worked quickly and silently, just like a submarine, to dig holes for the 55-pound explosives and detonator switch. Just as they were about to finish, an express train came hurling by, forcing the men to run into the brush nearby and wait for it to pass. Once they had finalized the detonator switch, they headed back to the Barb, which was now within 600 yards of the shore. The entire mission was one of close calls and sheer luck. It was this way all the way to end. The men were halfway to safety when another train came down the track headed in their direction. At 1:47 AM, the train hit the micro-switch. Barely missing pieces of the explosion, all of the men were back on the Barb by 1:52 AM. Once they were clear of the shore, Fluckey ordered all non-essential hands on deck to share in the achievement. The Barb’s final patrol ended on Aug 2, 1945 at Midway. It was only a few short days later that the Japanese surrendered with the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II.

 

Members of the submarine’s demolition squad pose with her battle flag at the conclusion of her 12th war patrol at Pearl Harbor, August 1945. During the night of July 22-23, 1945 these men went ashore at Karafuto, Japan, and planted an explosive charge that subsequently wrecked a train. They are (from left to right): Chief Gunner’s Mate Paul G. Saunders; Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Billy R. Hatfield; Signalman 2nd Class Francis N. Sevei; Ship’s Cook 1st Class Lawrence W. Newland; Torpedoman’s Mate 3rd Class Edward W. Klingesmith; Motor Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class James E. Richard; Motor Machinist’s Mate 1st Class John Markuson; and Lt. William M. Walker. This raid is represented by the train symbol in the middle bottom of the battle flag. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The USS Barb’s battle flag that hangs in the museum reflects its many accomplishments. It took part in twelve war patrols – five in Europe and seven in the Pacific. Members of the crew earned numerous accolades, including Six Navy crosses, 23 silver stars, 23 bronze stars and a Medal of Honor, a presidential Unit Citation, a Navy Unit Commendation, and eight battle stars; 34 merchant ships damaged or sunk, five Japanese’s warships damaged or sunk, rocket and gun symbols to denote shore bombardments, and lastly, a train to commemorate the Barb’s final war patrol. The merchant ships sunk or damaged are denoted by white flags with either solid or hollow red suns in the center. One case is represented by a German Nazi flag symbolizing a tanker sunk in the Atlantic. Rising sun flags represent the five Japanese warships sunk or damaged. The largest rising sun depiction in the top center represents Unyo, a 22,500-ton escort carrier. The smaller merchant flags with the numeral “7” represents seven smaller carriers that were less than 500 tons each. The gun and rocket symbols represents shore bombardments including the train at the middle bottom. Despite the remarkable feat of “sinking a train”, it is said that if you asked Fluckey which award he was most proud of, it was the Purple Heart award which is not on the flag. Despite sinking the third most tonnage during WWII, not a single sailor lost his life or was wounded on USS Barb.

USS Barb Battle Flag on Display in the Museum above the Medal Of Honor Room. Photo Courtesy of Erica Buell

Medal of Honor wall featuring Fluckey and his accomplishments.

The Submarine That Toured America

The Submarine Force Museum is known for being able to tour the first ever nuclear-powered submarine. While the Nautilus is the only submarine at the museum that can be toured from the inside, it doesn’t mean that it is the only submarine on display. Standing outside of the museum doors, a row of smaller submarines greets visitors. People may be surprised to see a submarine on display, on concrete, on a walkway in front of the museum. The “Type A”

Photo of the HA-8 outside the museum. Photo Courtesy of Erica Buell

submarine on display is not your typical submarine and recalls a time in our nation’s history when a Japanese submarine was generating ticket sales across the country.

 

On December 7, 1941, America was thrust into WWII with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The aerial strike in Hawaii was devastating and began a series of events that would lead our government to declare war on Japan. While the facts of that day can be found everywhere, many people aren’t aware of the Japanese naval attack that was also occurring at the same time. The Imperial Japanese Navy sent a group of submarines to surround Oahu to sink any American ships that attempted to flee. Some of these submarines were equipped with top secret “mini-submarines” that were each armed with two torpedoes and carried two crew members. The plan was for these “mini submarines” to surface and fire their torpedoes during the aerial attack. While we all know the very devastating effect of the air attack, the submarines failed in their mission. Only one was able to escape but was sunk once out of the harbor. Another washed ashore the next day and its surviving crew member was captured. A third submarine was sunk before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It had been seen following a U.S. ship that

https://chs.org/2010/05/buy-war-bonds/

was heading into the harbor. The failed mission of the “mini submarines” is not the end of their short history. The submarine captured by the U.S on December 8th was studied by our government and then was used to garner support for the war effort and sell war bonds. This was an effective way to show the American people exactly what they were fighting against.

War bonds are debt securities that help to finance military efforts in times of war. Sold by the government, they are usually retail bonds marketed to the public or wholesales ones sold on the stock market. During WWII, posters encouraged citizens to show their patriotism and buy war bonds and many different events were held throughout the country to encourage sales.  However, promotional art and film reels of the frontline could only elicit so much support. But a Japanese submarine provided a physical reminder of what Japan had done to them and promote the rally cry “Remember Pearl Harbor”. The “mini submarine”, or HA-19, that was captured on December 8th was sent around the United States on war bond rallies between 1942 and 1945. Admission to view the submarine was made possible through the purchase of war bonds and stamps. One stop on its tour was Washington D.C. on April 3, 1943.

postcard printed to publicize the submarine’s tour showed the trailer on which it was transported and exhorted American’s to avenge Pearl Harbor by buying war bonds. Photo courtesy of Arnold Putnam.

Upon arriving in Alexandria, Virginia, $40,000 was raised in a little over 20 minutes with a total of $1,061,650 by the end of the day.  When she made her way to Hartford, Connecticut, $250,000 worth of bonds were sold with over 20,000 people descending to the city center to view the submarine. War bonds were crucial to the war effort and kept troops supplied with what they needed. While the HA-19 was the more popular

A sailor posed next to the conning tower of the HA-19 on the Capitol grounds. The war bond rallies focused on the supposed small stature of the Japanese and their “midget” submarines and likened this smallness of size to smallness of character and to the perceived perfidy of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Library of Congress

“mini submarine” due to its involvement at Pearl Harbor, she was not the only one to participate in war bond rally tours.

 

On May 7, 1943, a Japanese midget submarine was salvaged off the coast of Guadalcanal. The HA-8, as she is known, was launched on November 11, 1942 from her carrier submarine I-16. During the launch, her rudder was damaged and lost steering. The mission was aborted and the submarine was scuttled. HA-8 has a length of 79 feet and a displacement of 46 tons. She arrived in Groton as part of one of the War bond efforts between 1943 and 1944. She is just one of four Type A midget submarines on display in the world, including HA-19.  While a novelty now, submarines such as HA-8 and HA-19 served as a stark reminder in the 1940’s that the world was not as large as everyone thought. The fight had been brought to our shores, and our military was doing what they had signed up to do – to defend and protect.

HA_8 at the Submarine Museum. Photo Courtesy of Erica Buell

 

 

 

 

 

Steel Beach Picnic

This week, the smells of summer can be found in backyards, driveways, and parks around the country. The fourth of July is celebrated with BBQ’s and fireworks and usually time in the pool or on the beach. As we celebrate with family and friends, we can’t forget those who are always on watch in our Navy. But just because a submariner is currently deployed, it doesn’t mean that a little fun and celebration can’t be had.

Life on a submarine can be boring. And for the most part, you want it to be. Submarine movies like to have us believe that it’s all action and secret missions. But most of the time it is routine patrols with the crew taking turns sleeping, eating, and standing watch. So, what do submariners do in their down time? While there isn’t always a lot of downtime between routine maintenance and studying for qualifications, down time does occur.  Most of a sailor’s down time will be spent in the mess hall. They watch movies, play video games, play cards, or just sit around and hang out. Sometimes they will get in a gym workout or run. Yes, submarines have gyms. Some modern-day subs are the length of two football fields and seven feet tall. So, while most of the space is taken up with state of the art navigation and warfare equipment, there is still a little room for a treadmill or two. What equipment comes aboard can vary depending on the type of submarine. For instance, an SSBN has a little more space than an SSN. Sometimes there will be a stationary bike or row machine and other times a weight machine with adjustable dumbbells. As far as a run is concerned, if a sailor does 17 laps in an SSBN missile compartment upper level, they have gotten in a nice one mile run! Even this can all get mundane after months at sea and sailors need to let off some steam. So, when weather and schedule permits, a captain may call for a Steel Beach Picnic.

A steel beach picnic is just as it sounds. A picnic topside of the submarine. The cook will bring out a grill and cook up some burgers and hot dogs and the crew will eat on top of the submarine and relax in the sun. For the most part, while out to sea, the Navy maintains a no alcohol policy. However, when a ship or submarine has been out for over 45 days, the captain can request a ‘beer day’, which allows the crew to really get a chance to unwind and feel a little taste of home. Depending on mission status and location, this can be held on the same day as a steel beach picnic. The captain may also allow a swim call. During a swim call, sailors will use the top of the submarine as their diving board and get to swim in the world’s best swimming pool – the open ocean. These activities allow a submariner some fresh air, sun and a little fun during long deployments. Therefore, this week, we would like to share some of our favorite images from Steel Beach Picnic’s and swim calls in the US Navy.  We hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th!

Steel Beach Picnics are not new to the Navy http://www.scout.com/military/warrior/story/1731342-photo-essay-life-on-a-navy-submarine

 

                          Need a raft? A submarine will do!
                             Photo from Business Insider

              Just catching some sun – Navy style!

 

                                  Who’s Hungry? https://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/steel-beach-when-us-navy-ships-throw-giant-beach-picni-1658725234

 

 

                                One, Two, Three, JUMP!ttps://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/steel-beach-when-us-navy-ships-throw-giant-beach-picni-1658725234

 

                                               Cannon Ball!
http://www.scout.com/military/warrior/story/1731342-photo-essay-life-on-a-navy-submarine

 

                                         Swim Anyone?
http://www.businessinsider.com/swim-call-2016-6/#a-sailor-from-the-uss-mobile-bay-jumps-into-the-pacific-ocean-1