On 31 July 1945, USS BULLHEAD (SS-332) left Fremantle, Australia on her third war patrol, her crew probably hoping for a bit more action than they had experienced previously. On the first they had pulled lifeguard duty, rescuing three airmen, and bombarded radio installations in China. During the second they sank four small ships, totaling 1,800 tons, and damaged three more. This time they were headed to the Java Sea to join a wolfpack with USS CAPITAINE (SS-336) and USS PUFFER (SS-268); then, on 5 September, they would proceed to Subic Bay to patrol on their own.
On 6 August, BULLHEAD reported that she had passed through Lombok Strait. When CAPITAINE arrived six days later, she tried to contact BULLHEAD to set up a scouting line for the following day. She received no answer. On 15 August, CAPITAINE reported, “Have been unable to contact BULLHEAD by any means since arriving in area.”
At the time, the area was fairly crawling with subs—USS COD (SS-224), USS CHUB (SS-329), CAPITAINE, and PUFFER, as well as the British HMS TACITURN and HMS THOROUGH—and since most experienced at least one enemy attack, it is difficult to pinpoint the one that sank BULLHEAD. But Japanese records examined after the war point to one on 6 August, when BULLHEAD was presumably cruising on the surface off the coast of Bali. She was spotted by a Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-51 and attacked with depth charges. Two were direct hits; in the ten minutes that followed, the plane observed gushing oil and air bubbles rising from beneath the waves. It is assumed that the tall mountains on the land shortened BULLHEAD’s radar range, thus preventing her from picking up the airplane in enough time to dive.
BULLHEAD was the 52nd and final American submarine lost during World War II. She sank with a crew of 84 men aboard.