Monday’s “Tidbit” about memories of USS HADDO (SS-255) included the entry, “When Porter was left topside on a dive in the warzone, the tough time we had finding him, and how ‘Doc’ (Lilly? or Wortham?) took care of him?” Harry Heflin, first-class radioman aboard the boat at the time, fleshes out the recollection.
“ELTON PORTER’S EXPERIENCE; JULY 5, 1945; NINTH WAR PATROL OF USS HADDO (SS 255)
“IN YELLOW SEA
“CAPTAIN FRANK LYNCH WAS THE SKIPPER
“HADDO dived for submerged patrol of [China’s] Laotiehshan Channel. Lookouts on station were sent below in order to dive the boat. 1 hr and 18 minutes after the dive, it was discovered that Porter was missing when he didn’t show up at his post. They immediately surfaced, turned the boat about to go to the Longitude/Latitude where they submerged. The search was commenced at two-engine speed.
“Porter’s duty topside was after lookout. When he realized the boat was submerging he was at the after lookout position and due to bad weather and his heavy gear, he did not hear the klaxon sound.
“On starboard lookout was QM John Sampson. Others on duty topside were Officer Nason, Jakubowski was on Port Lookout. They had been topside about ½ hour when the klaxon sounded.
“The weather conditions were foggy, windy, chilly. The sea was rough and there was zilch visibility. The water was cold, 65 degrees. The sea was Stage 3 on a scale of 1-5.
“When Porter was asked if the thought came to his mind that he knew the boat marked longitude and latitude when they submerged and that they would come back to look for him, he said, ‘Yes.’
“Do you remember thinking this right away or later? He said, ‘Right away.’
“When he heard the main induction he knew it was too late. He quickly tied his binoculars to the frame work of the hatch, took off his heavy foul weather jacket with hood and got out of his shoes. He then went over the side to keep from getting sucked under.
“Porter’s first thoughts: He knew the boat’s procedure. With the fog, the high velocity of the wind and the high waves he knew this was a strange sight. He thought, ‘I’m really too young to die.’ He said he made some promises: Did not say what they were….
“Officer Nason said he didn’t know why they missed the count. There were 5 men topside. Later in discussion, Gunner Wolber said, ‘When I was closing that hatch from the inside, I knew it was too hard to close.’
“Elton Porter II was a strong 18 year old when he first boarded the USS HADDO. He had grown up near the Gulf of Mexico and was a strong swimmer. He immediately made water wings out of his pants as submariners were taught in their training. The bad news was, one leg of his pants had a hole in it. Despite the disadvantages, Porter stayed afloat 3 hours and 16 minutes.
“When the boat surfaced the visibility was about 300 yards. Gunner Wolber sighted something on the port beam at a range of 1000 yards. This was a most remarkable sighting, in that visibility could not have been more than 500 yards and that neither he nor anyone else sighted the man again until the range had closed to about 500 yards. As they got closer, Nason dived into the water and assisted Porter on board.
“The fact that Porter had blown up his trousers had probably made him more susceptible to the effect of the wind and hence his drift was some 3,000 yards from the point of dive.
“No sharks. He reported that he had seen no sharks. Since he had been raised near the Gulf of Mexico, he was a strong swimmer and accustomed to swimming in rough water. …He was in surprisingly good condition….
“The first person Porter remembers seeing on board was Doc Wortham (Medical Personnel). Doc took him to the forward Torpedo Room. He had him to drink and he threw up. Doc stayed with him all day and all night. Porter was dehydrated. Doc gave him 5% glucose in the vein for 5 or 6 hours.
“The crew of the Haddo were thankful to have Porter back on board. To their knowledge there has never been a similar report from any submarine.”