In the midst of the fourth war patrol of USS APOGON (SS-308), on 12 July 1944, her crew discovered that enemy vessels didn’t have to employ explosives in order to cause serious damage.
APOGON’s assigned area for the patrol was in the Pacific Ocean between Formosa (modern-day Taiwan) and the Philippines; she was acting as part of a wolfpack with USS THRESHER (SS-200), USS GUARDFISH (SS-217), and USS PIRANHA (SS-389). Near midnight on 11 July, GUARDFISH made contact with what turned out to be a convoy of nine Japanese vessels and about six escorts. Just after 0200 on the twelfth, APOGON received the order to attack. The boat loosed six torpedoes an hour later; within 45 seconds she heard three explosions. Then things started to get dicey. “Sound reported a destroyer coming in at high speed on port bow,” the commanding officer wrote in the patrol report. In less than a minute, the vessel closed from 800 to 400 yards. “Had evidently seen my periscope wake and turned toward. Ordered 90 feet and commenced lowering scope but we hit his port quarter when scope was about half way down. Heard grinding and tearing noise lasting about 5 seconds and ship took a 15 degree heel to port. Water commenced pouring into conning tower through SJ mast fitting and around both periscopes. A few seconds later the first of seven depth charges went off—the first two were very close and overhead…. They shook us up a bit and helped push us down. We caught it at 430 feet…. Water was pouring in conning tower about 30 gallons/min. and drain pump could not keep up so started trim pump on bilges. There was no question of running silent now. Pump was very noisy and port shaft knocking loudly at this speed. Could now hear 4 escorts echo ranging on both sides, ahead and astern.”
APOGON was lucky—despite the racket she was making, she managed to slip away. Two hours later, just after 0500: “Secured from depth charge stations. Had hoped to surface before dawn to inspect damage but it was now too late. The Japs probably thought we were sunk anyhow as that [destroyer] really hit us and must have a good sized hole in his bottom port quarter.” At 0900, the boat surfaced so the crew could check the damage: “Periscope shears, periscopes and radar masts all bent to port at an angle of 47 degrees. All out of commission. All holding down bolts on shears were sheared off. About 6 or 8 feet of No. 1 periscope cut off cleanly. …Decided to proceed direct to PEARL, making best speed when I could during smooth weather. Was afraid rough seas might cause periscopes and masts to snap off and topple shears overboard. Caulked SJ mast fitting outboard with marlin and flax packing and wedged with wood. Made up tie rods to help hold shears in place.”
APOGON ended up stopping at Midway so her crew could further brace the periscope shears before they set out on the trip to Hawaii. Once there, the boat was drydocked so extensive repairs could be completed. She would venture out on four more patrols before the end of the war.