May and June of 1945 found USS TIGRONE (SS-419) on lifeguard duty off the coast of Honshu, Japan. It was the second war patrol the boat had ever set off on, having been commissioned only the previous October.
On 25 May, TIGRONE rescued her first downed aviator: 2LT Walter W. Kreimann, attached to the 19th Fighter Command in Iwo Jima. “He had bailed out when his plane caught on fire due to unknown causes and was suffering from second degree burns about the face and neck and a deep cut in his left leg below the knee,” TIGRONE’s captain wrote in the patrol report. “He was in good spirits and mighty glad to be aboard. Told us his wing had knocked down four Jap planes and burned about three on the ground. His chief regret was the loss of his movie films of the day’s operations which he said were pretty good.” TIGRONE would pick up 28 more airmen over the next several days—five on the 28th, sixteen on the 29th, and seven on the 30th—although one man would, on the 29th, succumb to injuries he received when “the port propeller of his plane [tore] through the…cockpit when the plane nosed into a wave while attempting to take off.” Shortly after the last seven survivors were taken onboard on the 30th, the captain fired off a message: “TIGRONE has saved the Air Force and is now returning to Iwo Jima with 28 rescued zoomies.” By 2 June, the boat and her 81 crewmembers were back at sea; the captain chose to spend much of 4 June submerged so his men could “get much needed sleep…. All hands are still pretty well pooped from lack of proper rest during [the] time the twenty eight aviators were being cared for. The dunkees had been allotted all sleeping space possible as they all suffered a little from shock.”
TIGRONE was scheduled to resume normal offensive operations, but radar malfunctions and trouble with shaft noise forced her commanding officer to ask that she be assigned to lifeguard duty once again. On 26 June, the boat rescued an aviator who had been in the water less than six minutes—the sub’s crew had actually watched him bail out of his plane. The next day, TIGRONE collected two survivors from USS TREPANG (SS-412) and eight from USS SPRINGER (SS-414); the day after she transferred twelve from USS PINTADO (SS-387). Then she set a course for Guam, arriving on 3 July to disembark all 23 survivors.
The 52 airmen TIGRONE returned to land over the course of the patrol constituted a new submarine-force record. The Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet extended his congratulations to “the commanding officer, officers, and crew for this outstanding patrol” and commended them for “the excellent judgment, splendid navigation, and determination displayed by the TIGRONE in effecting these rescues….” The boat’s C.O. was a bit less staid in his assessment. “The TIGRONE proved to be a super excellent life saver,” he wrote. “Persistence, rare judgment and fine navigation resulted in the rescue of a record-breaking total of twenty eight aviators during the first section of the patrol and one during the second.”
TIGRONE completed one more war patrol before the cessation of hostilities and received two battle stars for her service. When she was finally decommissioned, on 27 June 1975, she was the oldest submarine still in commission and the last to have taken part in combat operations during World War II.