During the early months of 1942, the Japanese, fresh from their successful attack on Pearl Harbor, began gobbling up territory in southeast Asia. An invasion of Java was imminent. Several American submarines were dispatched to attempt to prevent it, including USS PERCH (SS-176).
On the night of 1 March she was spotted on the surface and although she executed a crash dive she was still damaged by a string of depth charges. When PERCH came to the surface to inventory her injuries on the night of 2 March, crewmembers found electrical grounds, battery issues, and a severe leak in the engine-room hatch. In addition, the port screw was all but useless. A test dive was attempted the following day, but there were so many leaks that the boat had to return to the surface immediately. Then three Japanese destroyers and two cruisers appeared on the horizon, opening fire as soon as they were in range. PERCH’s deck gun was out of commission and she was incapable of launching torpedoes.
The commanding officer finally made the call: the boat would be scuttled. The entire crew made it off and were picked up by the Japanese ships. All but six of the 59 officers and enlisted men would survive the war in POW camps and return home.
Hear PERCH survivor Ernie Plantz speak about the boat’s loss and his time in the camps at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkfCq4cJMqc.