The third war patrol of USS AMBERJACK (SS-219) began with a false start on 24 January 1943. She had concluded her previous patrol just thirteen days before, but she was needed back on the water so her refit was cut short. But leaks developed as she left Brisbane, so she turned around. She left again, for good this time, two days later.
On 1 February AMBERJACK reported sinking a two-masted schooner. She added a 5,000-ton freighter, taken during a nighttime surface attack, to the tally on the fourth, although the prize came with a price: Chief Pharmacist’s Mate Arthur Beeman was killed by machine-gun fire while attempting to assist an officer who had been wounded in the hand. The boat sent her last transmission on 14 February, stating that she had taken a Japanese airman prisoner the day before and had subsequently been forced deep by two enemy destroyers. After repeated orders to check in went unanswered, AMBERJACK was declared overdue and presumed lost on 22 March.
Japanese records examined after the war state that on 16 February two Japanese vessels, a torpedo boat and a submarine chaser, escorting a converted transport ship spotted four torpedoes streaking towards them. The ships evaded the torpedoes and contacted a patrol aircraft, which depth charged the sub from which the fish had come. The two escort vessels joined in, dropping depth charges of their own. The top of the sub’s conning tower broached for a moment and then sank. Soon after, an oil slick spread across the surface and the escorts homed in on it, dropping still more depth charges into its midst. The attack ceased when what the report describes as “parts of the hull” floated to the surface. The Japanese ships recovered some of the debris, including a life raft with the words “Philadelphia Navy Yard” printed on its side. It is likely that this was the attack that destroyed AMBERJACK, although it is possible that the unlucky boat was USS GRAMPUS (SS-207), which was lost at approximately the same time and in the same area.
Regardless of precisely when her loss occurred, AMBERJACK, the recipient of three battle stars for her wartime service, took 73 men to the bottom with her.