The keel of USS S-28 (SS-133), which would see action in World War II, was laid down in April of 1919, just months after the end of the first Great War. Commissioned on 13 December 1923, she spent most of the first sixteen years of her life taking part in various exercises. She was in the midst of being overhauled at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California when the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor. After returning to sea, she spent a few months continuing the training activities that had occupied her time before the outbreak of war, but before long she and several other S-boats were sent north to Alaska to defend the Aleutians against a possible Japanese invasion.
Although the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor just days after S-28 arrived in the area, the sub saw little action. She launched her first torpedo on 18 June; it missed, and the boat was subsequently attacked—although not damaged—by her intended target. She would not take another shot until her third war patrol, in October, but a ground in her fire-control circuits caused a torpedo to fire accidentally. The target escaped unharmed. The next three war patrols were even less inspiring—no enemy vessels at all were spotted.
S-28’s seventh war patrol got off to a similarly unpromising start when, on 15 September 1943, her port main motor began smoking and sparking; it took crewmembers fourteen hours to fix it. Four days later she launched a spread of torpedoes at an enemy ship; all missed and the vessel began dropping depth charges. Although S-28 was unharmed, it must have been a frustrating experience. But the situation was about to improve. Just hours later, the boat fired a spread of four torpedoes at what turned out to be a 1,400-ton gunboat. Within three minutes Katsura Maru Number Two was sinking by the bow.
At the conclusion of the patrol, S-28 turned south and made her way to Pearl Harbor for overhaul. For more than six months after the work was completed, she remained in the area for training. On 3 July 1944, she ventured into the waters off Oahu with the Coast Guard cutter RELIANCE to conduct antisubmarine warfare exercises. The final exercise began at 1730, but soon after that RELIANCE began to have trouble communicating with the sub; the last contact was made at 1820. Then there was silence.
RELIANCE called for assistance, but the ensuing search was in vain. An oil slick appeared in the area two days later, but the water was so deep that an investigation was impossible. The cause of the boat’s loss has never been determined.
S-28 received one battle star for her wartime service. Forty-nine men went to the bottom with her.