Just over a week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, USS SILVERSIDES (SS-236) set out for Hawaii, eager to get into the fight. The very first page of her very first patrol report details the boat’s maiden encounter with an enemy vessel, as well as a moment of tragedy.
30 April, 0951: “Underway from Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, for assigned area, via Midway. Enroute made deep dive for trim and tightness, daily surprise dives and battle surface drill, firing 10 rounds target ammunition from deck gun.”
4 May, 0910: “Entered Midway, took on 14,000 gallons fuel oil, transferred one [Sailor] to NAS [Naval Air Station] for chronic sea sickness. Departed under air escort at 1220.”
10 May, 0805: “Encountered enemy trawler of about 350 tons on patrol 600 miles off Japan, 540 miles north of Marcus. Engaged him with deck gun and machine guns. He replied with machine gun and rifles. In closing to finish him off he got in one burst at the gun crew and bridge, killing the second loader instantly. Choppy sea made pointing erratic and several times gun crew was knocked away from gun. After at least 12 hits by 3” and machine gun bursts he was on fire but did not sink. Since he could not reach land in his condition and further expenditure of ammunition was futile, resumed course. At 1000 sighted masts of medium sized freighter heading for trawler’s position, believed to be supply ship for trawlers on patrol. Commenced approach, but freighter evidently saw burning trawler and hauled out to north away from us. Minimum range 12,000 yards. Remained submerged in vicinity of trawler for four hours in hope that supply ship would come back but no luck. Surfaced at 1504 and continued on toward area.”
10 May, 1900: “Buried remains of HARBIN, Mike, …T.M.3c [Torpedoman’s Mate, Third Class], USN, at sea with appropriate ceremonies in Latitude 33-13-30 North, Longitude 151-57-30 East.”
Petty Officer Harbin, killed less than two weeks into SILVERSIDES’ first patrol, would be the boat’s only casualty in the 14 total patrols she completed during the war. (Fourteen may not seem like a large number of patrols until you consider the fact that the record holder, USS STINGRAY (SS-186), made 16.) SILVERSIDES sent 90,000 tons of enemy shipping to the bottom, a total second only to that of USS TANG (SS-306); she was awarded 12 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation.