From "Shorty " Evans Communications Officer
USS Queenfish (SS393)
Where We Were on the Last Day of WWII
"The Almost Last Patrol"
The Submarine USS Queenfish (SS 393) returned from its fifth
patrol to rest camp and overhaul on Midway Island on July 26,
1945. Midway Island was an exceptionally beautiful place to be
in rest camp with its "Gooneyville" Lodge and beautiful
beaches. It also had an unusual assortment of birds, including
the well-known Gooney Bird. All which furnished us with no end
The Queenfish had an enviable record in WWII. Although it
made only five patrols, it ranked in the top ten submarines in
We had been informed that on our sixth patrol, we were going
on a mission to bombard the northern Japanese islands. The Navy
wanted the Japanese to think that our fleet had the capability
of attacking any part of the Japanese homeland.
Yard workers had mounted a second five-inch twenty-five-gun
forward of the conning tower. We already had one aft. We were
to carry torpedoes only in the torpedo tubes. The torpedo racks
were to be loaded with five-inch ammunition. We were also going
to carry three hundred units of blood plasma, which was probably
fifty times our normal compliment. That alone gave us a hint
of what they thought might happen to us.
The thought of this patrol was of significant concern to me
since my duty station during battle station, surface, was Officer
of the Deck. I even made a pest of myself with our Yeoman making
sure my GI insurance was current and properly designated as to
We had completed our two weeks in rest camp and were on the
last day of our ten day training session in which the new crew
members were being worked into our team procedures. On the last
day of the session, you underwent indoctrination depth-charging
with the periscope up with a flag on it, which was visible to
the surface craft. A destroyer runs a parallel course with the
sub, about three hundred yards off beam, and drops several depth
charges. This is so the new crewmembers, which have never experienced
a depth charge, will get this experience on less than stressful
The destroyer usually made two runs on the sub, which surfaced
between each run and exchanged signals. Sometimes, the sub will
question the destroyer to assure that they were three hundred
yards away and maybe not only fifty or one hundred. It felt just
as bad at either distance, I guess.
Between runs, we lit off our radio receivers to check on radio
traffic and we heard these words, "...is officially over."
As communications Officer I went to the Captain to report significant
radio traffic. He said "Any messages, Shorty?" I said
that I thought the war was over and told him the words I had
heard. He said, "Well, let's dive and finish the depth charge
training." Under my breath, I said "Oh, Shhhelled walnuts!"
After our second depth-charge run when we surfaced, and lit
off the radio receiver quickly again, and got the whole message,
"The war is officially over." That night, we had a
special drinking party at the club. Drinks normally cost us ten
cents, but if the marine bartender was experimenting, he would
only charge us five cents. He experimented with drinks half the
night. Then, he joined us in our celebration. Drinks cost nothing
after he joined us. If the war had not ended, that sixth patrol
we were going on may very well have been our last patrol. We
would have had to close within three thousand yards of the shoreline
to effectively use our five-inch guns. This would not only expose
us to potentially devastating shore fire, but we would very likely
be in shallow water and would not be able to dive to escape unless
we ran on the surface for a significant distance out of sea.
When my then ten-year old daughter was on the affirmative
side of a debate, "Should the US Have Dropped the A-bombs
on the Japanese?" She had asked me for arguments. I said,
"If we had not dropped it, probably you nor I would be here
LT Howard (Shorty) Evans, USNR, Ret.
of where we were going on our 6th run is news to me as I was not so informed and I was Exec. I suspect
this was an unfounded rumor."
This is a non-Queenfish story but worthy of telling, as you'll see.
From a USS Bluebill crewmember
How "Cutie" saved
our Christmas Eve
The night was clear and warm. The moon was high, and we could see the outlines of the islands of Lombok
and Bali in the distance. We were heading north to our scheduled operating area off the east coast of what
was then called Indo-China. We were the US submarine BLUEGILL. We had just finished a refit in Fremantle,
the harbor of Perth, West Australia.
It was late Christmas Eve 1944 and many of us were reminiscing on Christmases past and praying that we
could see this one through for we were approaching Lombok Strait. "They" would be waiting for us on Lombok
and in the Strait; shore batteries on Lombok and anti-submarine patrol craft in the Strait. The Japanese
knew that Lombok Strait was the gateway through the Dutch East Indies where Allied submarines transited
from "down under" tothe Japanese-held islands and homelands to the north. Headquarters had not reported any of our submarines
lost in Lombok Strait, but we knew that the enemy had given some of them a thorough depth-charging
resulting in some physical damage to the subs and a great deal of nerve shattering apprehension for the
men. Furthermore, there was a strong current running through the Strait.
Tonight it was running from north to south. We knew if we transited it submerged, headway would be very
slow making us a sitting duck target for the anti-submarine patrol craft above. None of us cared for close
depth charges. Submarines on the surface are difficult to see at night unless they cross the moon's path,
but the moon was high overhead this night, so after mulling over the pros and cons, the Captain and the
Executive Officer decided to transit Lombok Strait on the surface. Our surface search radar was better
than that of the Japanese patrol vessels, and because of of the moon's position we figured we could pass
the Lombok shore batteries before they spotted us.
"What if the shore batteries have radar?" I asked. The Executive Officer, Bud Cooper, smiled and replied,
"George, we'll make the decision to stay surfaced or dive after they start shooting. I don't think they'll
hit us with the first shot." I muttered that maybe the Japanese had a William Tell on the island.
So we started up the west side of the Strait near Bali---as far as possible from Lombok Island. The Exec
and I were in the control room plotting our position; the Captain, Eric Barr, was on the "bridge". All
four engines were firing full blast; we were transiting at top speed, about 21 knots.
Suddenly there was a loud roar overhead, and I excitedly exclaimed, "Bud, a plane, we've been picked up by
an enemy patrol plane; we should dive right now."
"That's no aircraft; that's a large projectile passing overhead. And indeed it was, for instantly the
Captain yelled , "left-full rudder" to the helmsman. The Captain was salvo-chasing. Salvo-chasing means
heading for the last projectile's splash, a tactic for confusing the enemy's range and deflection
corrections. But the projectiles kept coming. "Clear the bridge!" the Captain yelled. "Level off at six
zero feet." Down came the lookouts, quartermaster and Captain, and we leveled off at that depth.
"Bud, that's a nerve racking experience, those projectiles were landing closer and closer; I thought it
best to get out of there," the Captain volunteered.
"Well, I'm sure the shore battery has radioed the patrol craft our position." the Exec replied and then
warned Sonar, "Keep a sharp listening watch for enemy propeller (screw) sounds. Enemy patrol craft will be
closing our position." We could have gone deeper, but an earlier dive did not show us any thermal layer
that we could hide under, so it was better to stay near the surface as long as possible so we could take
an occasional periscope look, even though it was night. But there was no time for a leisurely cup of
coffee for sonar reported, "High speed screws bearing 020, the bearing is steady, and they don't sound
like any patrol craft; they're destroyer screws!"
"Oh, God, the first team," I whispered. The Captain took a quick periscope observation and said he could
barely make out the ship, but that he could see the "bone in his teeth" (bow wave). He then passed the
word, "Rig for silent running and depth charges; diving officer, 360 feet," We had just settled out at 360
feet when sonar reported," Destroyer is 'pinging' and it looks like he has made contact on us." Our number
one sonar operator, Ware, kept the bearings coming and reported that the enemy was commencing his first
run. It was, and he was a professional.
What a way to spend Christmas Eve.
He dropped just four depth charges this first run. They were big, and they caused damage. There was an
electrical fire in the maneuvering room, and the diving planes were stuck into "hard-dive". Back in the
maneuvering room our veteran electrician, "Rabbit" Hare, was fighting the fire while holding in the
breakers so that we could "back-emergency"; in the after engine room our leading machinist, "Silent"
Turner, was bouncing among sea valves, closing those "backed-off" by the depth charges, and in the Control
Room our two stalwarts on the diving planes, Basil and Cerreto, were struggling violently to get control
of the planes. We finally stopped the dive at 525 feet, 200 feet below our test depth. Several more
depth-charging runs caused other damage, but we were able to hold our depth. It was then that Lt. Bucko
Stockton suggested that we use our Mk. 27 torpedoes. This was the first patrol on which we carried
Mk.27's. They were brand-new. These were the first acoustic torpedoes that the US Navy had introduced to
the submarine forces, and Bluegill was one of the few submarines to carry them. We had never fired one in
anger, but had made some practice runs off Fremantle. The explosive charge was about 90 pounds, and the
torpedo was designed to hit the enemy ship near the propellers. It was fired when the sound (noise) of the
enemy ship reached a certain decibel level. Of course it had to be fired during the destroyer's approach,
and before his depth charges exploded.
Many of us were skeptical of this "Cutie", as it was called, for it might give away our position if it
failed to explode. But Bucko was adamant, and the Captain was in a dilemma--though not for long. "Go
ahead, Bucko, but make it good," the Captain said. "Captain, we've been checking his noise level, and the
setup looks good." Bucko's crew was ready, and on the next destroyer run, he fired.
There was a long wait. We had missed. The destroyer was passing overhead and the first depth charge of
this run exploded close aboard. Our hopes and spirits were shattered, but suddenly sonar reported that the
destroyer's screws had stopped. Was he listening for us? Did he have us "cold" and was just waiting for
our next move? Or had "Cutie" performed as designed ?
Slowly our spirits started to rise and guarded smiles appeared, for we just kept creeping ahead on our
northerly course and never heard from the destroyer again. We guessed that "Cutie" had hit the destroyer
just after it had dropped the depth charge and before it exploded.
Bucko and his crew had performed magnificently; they were heroes. We "broke-out" the medicinal brandy for
we had been undergoing this ordeal for two hours, and it was time to relax.
And as we relaxed we heard over the loud-speaker system, Strain, the ship's cook, singing softly, "Silent
night, Holy night,."
He couldn't sing worth a damn, but we all hummed along with him.
Captain Jack Bennett XO Queenfish wrote:
Mark 18 Success
That was a good story about Bluegill's Mk 27 success in Lombok Strait.
Queenfish brought the first "cuties" out to Pearl. After commissioning we stopped in Key West en route the Canal to train for a week
with this new half size ASW torpedo against a local DE. It worked great and kept hitting his screws. We
offloaded our 14-3A warshots and filled up with Cuties, 2 to a rack, to deliver to Pearl. Then we carried
one in an after tube for the first several runs but never fired it.
When the Mk 18 electric became
available we carried it exclusively and had great success with it (after inactivating the magnetic feature
of the faulty exploders). This was strictly against CSP orders but the subs secretly did it anyway as the
contact feature worked. We got hits with up to 120 degrees torpedo gyro angles, which no one had reported
before. (This enabled us to fire at an AK and an AP from the middle of the convoy before firing at the
lead escort which had already passed, thus not alerting the main targets until we sank them. We had to
open out a little from the AP to get the after nest beyond 500 yds when the fish would arm. The Captain
could see the cigarettes glowing when the soldiers on deck inhaled. The loud breaking up noises were above
us as sections of the AP sank on both sides of us.
The remaining escorts dropped 6 charges and we went
deep, supposedly to reload and make an end around to hit the convoy again at first light. But we couldn't
reload below 150' as the fwd room shrank and the skids wouldn't line up with the tubes. I tried
unsuccessfully to get permission to plane up above 150' to reload. but most thought we'd sunk enough for
one night. (The COB and I just kept our mouths shut after my request was denied.)
Rambling again - sorry. - Jack