Feb 162009
Submarine Pirate Ensign

The USS HARDER’s (SS 257) Fifth Patrol Report is online at the National Archive’s Navy Records site.  The three page report is also available right here on malum.org.

Some prime examples of the crew’s unquantifiable excellence:

Bridge lookout sighted float type plane; – close.  Made quick dive to 120 feet.  Bomb exploded as we passed 75 feet; – also close!  The sub was thoroughly shaken and the event resulted in an early and prompt reveille for all hands but no damage of a serious nature was sustained.

At 3000 yards, both destroyers zigged 30 degrees to their right… and the picture became “just what the doctor ordered” for the HARDER.  At a range of 1000 yards on the nearest target, both destroyers were overlapping, with a 100 degree port track showing.  Gyros were near zero and torpedoes set for running at 6 feet.

Sighted aircraft… flying at a height of 100 feet, coming in off our starboard quarter and almost on top of us… He whizzed by the starboard beam at a range of about 100 yards!

Submerged to 150 feet.

First aerial bomb.  Not close.

Second aerial bomb; – damned close.  Increased depth to 200 feet.

And, in case you you think these events didn’t induce a pucker factor of at least 8 on the men experiencing them, a small, understated disclaimer is included in this report:

The above listed pandemonium may not be in exact chronological order but is as accurate as the happenings over that eventful few minutes can be remembered.

I can’t believe the amount of brass these WWII submariners carried onboard.  Submarine piracy via the G.S. PATIENCE may have its small adventures, but there is no way in hell we’d face off against two destroyers.  You can bank that promise.

On August 24th, 1944, during her following patrol, the HARDER and her crew were lost outside of Dasol Bay (Philippines).

At 0828 she (Japanese Patrol Boat No. 102) commenced a lethal series of depth charge runs, each charge set to detonate at a depth greater than the last. Somewhere below, the gallant HARDER was firmly bracketed, and the fifth salvo touched off explosions that finally ended the lives and career of HARDER and her entire crew.

Hit ‘Em Again, Harder.

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Feb 152009


By Rudyard Kipling


“Tin Fish”


The ships destroy us above
And ensnare us beneath.
We arise, we lie down, and we move
In the belly of death.

The ships have a thousand eyes
To mark where we come . . .
And the mirth of a seaport dies
When our blow gets home.


We agree with this poetous bastard.  A submariner’s life is a perilous life but, where they tread, doom follows.

In the case of the G.S. PATIENCE, doom and felony.

In The Fringes of the Fleet, Kipling also discussed the surface ship community’s low opinion of submarines:

The Trawlers seem to look on mines as more or less fairplay. But with the torpedo it is otherwise. A Yarmouth man lay on his hatch, his gear neatly stowed away below, and told me that another Yarmouth boat had “gone up,” with all hands except one. “‘Twas a submarine. Not a mine,” said he. “They never gave our boys no chance. Na! She was a Yarmouth boat -we knew ‘em all. They never gave the boys no chance.”

Apparently, the skimmers would rather have been blown up by a mine than torpedoed by a submarine.  We’ve found that this ingrained fear still exists and has often worked to our benefit.

Feb 152009

Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson VC, the Controller of the Royal Navy, stated in 1901 that, “Submarines are underhand, unfair and damned un-English.  The crews of all submarines captured should be treated as pirates and hanged”.

Subsequently, (via the Royal Navy Submarine Museum):

Lieutenant Commander (later Admiral Sir) Max Horton first flew the Jolly Roger-two flags in fact- on return to harbour after sinking the German cruiser Hela and the destroyer S-116 in 1914; but the Black Flag of old-time pirates was not generally flown by submarines, to show their successes, until the Second World War.

So, the Brits acknowledged early the suitability of these great vessels for piracy, although their use of the jolly roger was intended as an indicator of bravado and stealth rather than of lawlessness.

The good crew of the G.S. PATIENCE, though, prefer to exemplify the lawless tradition of the flag, and concur with the good Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson’s impression of the submarine’s potential.

Feb 142009

In recent months at least 25 ships of British registry have been attacked in the Mediterranean, numerous Russian ships have been sunk, French merchantmen have been fired on. Last week the British destroyer Havock was also on Mediterranean patrol, off Alicante. Shooting past her went the long white wake of a submarine torpedo. Out crackled a message for help and whooshing overboard went a cylindrical depth charge, then another and another till seven had geysered salt water up into the air. The destroyer Hasty zipped at 38 knots to the rescue of her sister ship, but by the time she got there the surface of the sea was iridescent with oil. The mystery submarine had apparently been sunk. Two days later the British tanker Woodford was sunk by two torpedoes fired at point-blank range from a submarine whose identifying number had been crudely painted out.

It was the damned Italians, ne’er do wells and treacherous bastards, all. Submerged wrath, indeed. The Russians cried foul, but Italy cared not a bit.

Feb 122009

TIME Magazine, 1981:

The released Soviet sub heads for port and hard questions

The antiquated gray submarine was towed part of the way down the channel it had navigated on its own ten days before. Finally it cast off. Then, joining the flotilla of naval vessels hovering anxiously beyond the twelve-nautical-mi. limit, Soviet “Whiskey”-class submarine No. 137 headed for its home base at Baltiysk, near the port of Kaliningrad. So ended, peacefully enough, the diplomatic uproar that began when Sweden discovered the sub on a reef in a restricted military zone only nine miles from Karlskrona, an ultrasensitive naval base on the Baltic Sea.

The rest of the story.