On 28 June 1937, the keel of PCU SAURY (SS-189) was laid at Electric Boat Company in Groton, CT. Between December of 1941 and November of 1944, SAURY successfully completed eleven war patrols and was awarded seven battle stars. But on the night of 12 February 1944, her crew discovered just how fickle Mother Nature can be.
As Theodore Roscoe described the scene in United States Submarine Operations in World War II, SAURY “was about a day’s run west of Midway, returning from patrol. Drumming along on the surface, she was making normal time, and the crew was engaged in such routine activities as standing lookout, polishing brightwork and plucking the hairs on a forearm. …Then at 2225, without warning or previous omen,” SAURY was “pooped,” or swamped with her hatches open.
In his patrol report, the sub’s commanding officer, Commander A.H. Dropp, described the situation like this: “[T]ook a big one over very suddenly causing a list of about 40 [degrees] port and taking much water thru the conning tower hatch and the main and hull inductions. The pooping sea caused the ship’s head to swing about 140 degrees in about a half a minute. Major damage sustained was grounding out of the main control cubicle. Due to heavy seas it was not advisable to proceed on direct drive engines and therefore lay to until control cell grounds were cleared….”
Auxiliary power was restored within 30 minutes, but it took nearly a full day of repairs before the boat was capable of resuming normal operations. “Fortunately the ‘pooping’ had happened outside of enemy waters,” Roscoe noted. “Dire consequences could have resulted, otherwise, for SAURY was unable to dive on her motors for 21 hours.” The boat returned safely to Midway, but, Roscoe writes, “all hands agreed they could have dispensed with the ‘pooping’ experience.”