26 May 1945 found USS PIPEFISH (SS-388) pulling lifeguard duty off the coast of Japan; it was to expected that some of the bombers from the day’s attack on Tokyo might end up in the water. Excerpts from that day’s entry in her fifth war-patrol report reveal the successes and heartbreaks of such a mission.
0815-0859: “Sighted large life raft. Picked up T/Sgt. William F. Linki, A.U.S. [Army of the United States] uninjured. Picked up S/Sgt. Robert W. Riherd, A.U.S. uninjured. Picked up Sgt. Herman C. Knight, A.U.S. uninjured.”
0925: “Recovered Elby W. Hudson Jr., 1st Lieut., A.C.A.U.S. [Air Corps, Army of the United States] dead from drowning and/or exposure probably latter. Hudson had been in the water about six hours.”
1020: “Recovered George W. Shaw, Sgt., A.U.S. dead from drowning and/or exposure probably latter. He had been in the water for about seven hours.”
1040: “Recovered Sgt. Oakley A. Simon, A.U.S. dead from drowning and/or shock. He had been in the water for approximately seven hours. This is getting to be very gruesome. …These three men showed no signs of external nor internal injuries. I believe that they were all dead when they were picked up, however, we treated them until rigor mortis set in.”
1053: “Sighted unopened life raft and parachute….”
1153: “Sighted partially inflated rubber life raft.”
1205: “Sighted partially inflated rubber life raft, getting slightly discouraged.”
1344-1352: “Sighted rubber life raft. Commenced maneuvering to close raft. Noticed there was some one on the raft but that he was all covered over with a rubber sheet. He has no idea that we are here. One of the men called out ‘Say Mac what are you doing?’ Mac came out from under the sheet in a hurry. Rescued Robert A. Calridge, 2nd Lt. A.C.A.U.S., well and uninjured.”
1405-1424: “Sighted rubber life raft flying a red flag, commenced maneuvering to close raft. …Rescued Abram Grossman, 1st Lt. A.C.A.U.S. uninjured but quite weak. He had to be carried below. He would not let go the flag pole with the red flag until we were about to carry him aboard….”
1524-1552: “Sighted man in water with a large shark apparently feeding upon him. Commenced maneuvering to pick up body meantime firing at the shark in an attempt to drive him away. This was the first indication that there were sharks about. Had first look at man. It was the most horrible sight I had ever seen. I was slightly tempted to just get his dog tags and leave him in the water, however…recovered the body of 1st Lieut. Harvey L. Swensen dead from drowning and/or shock. He had been in the water for about 12 hours. Swansen’s body was badly mutilated by sharks. He was partially scalped also the right shoulder and arm were eaten away to the bone.”
1607: “Sighted empty life jacket.”
2300: “The remains of Elby W. Hudson Jr.; George W. Shaw; Oakley A. Simon and Harvey L. Swensen were committed to the deep with appropriate Naval and Religious Services.”
Thus ended a single day of lifeguard duty for PIPEFISH—five survivors, four losses.