by Bart Bartholomew
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Division of Naval History ((DP-29)
Ships Histories Section
HISTORY OF USS SARGO (SS188)
USS SARGO (SS188) was built by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut. Her keel was laid in the builders yard at New London, Connecticut on 12 May 1937. She was launched on 6 June 1938 under the sponsorship of Mrs. Chester W. Nimitz, wife of Fleet Admiral Nimitz. SARGO was placed in commission at New London, 7 February 1939, when Lieutenant E. E. Yeomans, USN, assumed command. After a shakedown cruise which included visits to principal ports along the eastern seaboard of South America, she returned to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for post-shakedown and repair.
In July 1938, SARGO departed the east coast of the United States sailing via the Panama Canal to conduct operations on the west coast out of San Diego for the next ten months, then undergoing overhaul in the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Upon completion of overhaul, 24 November 1940, she conducted post-repair trials for ten days, then steamed to conduct operations out of Pearl Harbor. On 3 March 1941, Lieutenant Commander E.E. Yeomans., USN, was relieved of command by Lieutenant Commander T.D. Jacobs USN.
SARGO returned for a ten day visit to the west coast of the United States in July 1941, returning to Pearl Harbor for forty days of war patrol practice in the area between Midway and the Marshall Islands. She returned to Pearl Harbor for refit and on 23 October 1941, steamed to conduct operations at Manila, Philippine Islands until the advent of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
SARGO departed Manila on her first war patrol on 8 December 1941. She cleared Palawan Passage on 11 December. She entered her first assigned patrol area, 13 December 1941, near the mouth of the Gulf of Siam off the coast of French Indo China. Until 7 January 1942, her patrol was conducted in the South China Sea along the coast of French Indo-China, commencing near the mouth of the Gulf of Siam
and extending northward to the area adjacent to Cape Pedaran. During this time, she made a total of eight day submerged attacks, firing a total of thirteen torpedoes all of which missed their targets. Commander Jacobs was credited with one hundred per cent aggressiveness on this patrol. He could ascribe no reason for there misses except that the torpedoes were running deep and that the rudder throws were incorrect.( Tests made at Albany, Australia during ,June 1942., confirmed malfunction of Mark 14 torpedoes in depth and firing performance).
SARGO departed her patrol area 7 January 1942, entering Palawan Passage on 10 January. After clearing Sibitu Pass 13 January she arrived at Balikpapan, Borneo. 16 January, for fresh water and diesel oil, departing on 17 January 1942, for Soerabaja, Java. On 20 January, SARGO received a distress dispatch from S-36 addressed to all U.S. Men-O-War, "Aground Taku Bakang (Reef in Makassar Strait) Sinking." SARGO later received notice of position, latitude 5 degrees South, longitude 118 - 33 East, and remained on the surface to relay the message which was receipted for at 1009. A PBY plane was sent to ascertain conditions of S-36. By the time the plane arrived, Lieutenant J. R. McKnight felt that with assistance he could salvage his ship, and the plane continued to Makassar City to request assistance from the Dutch authorities. The next morning a launch arrived from Makassar, and two officers and 28 men were transferred to her, the remainder of the crew staying on board in the hope that S-36 might be hauled clear. Conditions became progressively worse. When the Dutch Ship SS SIBEROTE arrived on the afternoon of 21 January 1942, Lieutenant McKnight decided to abandon his ship and destroy her. All officers and men were saved and arrived at Surabaya on 25 February 1942, in SS SIEROTE. SARGO steamed to rendezvous with a patrol vessel for escort through the mine field 25 January 1942, and arrived Holland Pier Soerabaja Java
On 3 February, she unloaded eight torpedoes, 225 rounds of 3”50 caliber ammunition and practically all of her small arms allowance of small arms ammunition. On February 4, she loaded 666 cases of small arms ammunition (one million rounds) of .30 caliber ammunition, which were stored in her forward torpedo room (333cases); ships magazine (133 cases); and in her after torpedo room (200)cases. Each weighed about 116 pounds making a total load of approximately 77,300 pounds or 38.6 short tons.
On her second war patrol, commencing at 1542, 5 February,1942 SARGO got underway from Soerabaja, Java, bound for Parang, Polloc Harbor, Mindanao to deliver her cargo of ammunition to hard pressed Philippine Forces.
As previously arranged, she followed the Dutch Submarine
KING ELEVEN through the western entrance to Soerebaja Harbor and at sunrise, 14 February 1942, entered Polloc Harbor, submerged, to ascertain if United States Forces were still in possession of Parang. After closing within two miles of the Pier at Parang in order to see the American flag flying there she cleared the harbor until later in the day when she established communications with the Army on shore, using her blinker tube and U.S. Army personnel answering with a flashlight. At 1814, after SARGO had surfaced about one mile from the pier in Polloc Harbor, a fifty-ton barge moored alongside and at 2157, 666 cases of ammunition were unloaded. Twenty-four Army passengers, former ground crew members of the 14th Bombardment Squadron, Clark Field, Luzon were taken aboard and SARGO departed for Soerabaja, entering the Soerabaja Roadstead on 22 February 1942.
On third war patrol, SARGO departed Submarine Base Soerabaja, Java 25 February 1942, with thirty-one Navy Officers and men as passengers, bound for Exmouth Gulf, Northwestern Australia. While enroute on 28 February, she was directed to proceed to Fremantle, Australia.
At 1338,4 March 1942,a half-day out of Fremantle, SARGO'S port forward lookout, picked up an aircraft distant about five miles, flying just below a heavy cloud bank and headed directly for SARGO. She immediately submerged and an allied aircraft, mistaking her for an enemy, dropped two bombs. The first bomb exploded on the port quarter with no resulting damage. The second bomb exploded directly over her conning tower while SARGO was at an estimated fifty feet depth. This was a terrific explosion, glass rained down, power and lighting were lost, and depth gages were put out of order. Various other damage resulted but there were no personnel casualties. Power and lighting were restored at 1355, and SARGO moored at Fremantle on 5 March 1942, alongside HOLLAND. On 13,March 1942, Lieutenant Commander T.D. Jacobs, USN, was relieved of command by Lieutenant Commander R. V. Gregory., USN.
SARGO departed Fremantle on her fourth war patrol, 8 June 1942. She conducted patrol in Palawan Passage, closed the Malaya Coast and entered the Gulf of Siam, thence to the vicinity of North Natcena Island and Balapac Strait, steamed through Makassar Strait, returning to Fremantle on 3 August 1942. During this patrol only one opportunity for attack developed. This attack was made on a small tanker of estimated 1,000 tons, in Makassar Strait, 3 July 1942, but was unsuccessful. From 4 to 23 August 1942., SARGO was in upkeep status alongside HOLLAND and TRINITY.
SARGO departed Fremantle on her fifth war patrol, 27 August 1942,which she conducted in the Celebes and South China Seas. On 25 September 1942 off Palo Cesir de Mer Island, she sighted the masts of a motor cargo ship TEIBO MARU of 4,472 tons, and made a submerged torpedo attack, obtaining two hits. SARGO then surfaced about 450 yards distant and destroyed the enemy with 35 hits from her three-inch gun (10-31 N; 109-31'E). She returned to Fremantle on 25 October 1942. Lieutenant Commander R.V. Gregory, USN, was relieved of command by Lieutenant Commander E. S. Carmick, USN, 28 October 1942.
On 29 October 1942, SARGO departed for Brisbane, Australia where she underwent refit from 10 November to 29 November 1942. Her refit was first assisted by FULTON but continued after four days by SPERRY.
SARGO departed Brisbane on 29 November 1942, conducting her sixth war patrol while making passage to Pearl Harbor. On 31 December 1942, while patrolling off Tingmon Island, she fired a spread of four torpedoes at an enemy tanker of estimated 7,500 tons. Heavy explosions followed by weaker disturbances were heard but the results of this attack were not verified. On 21 January 1943, SARGO arrived at Pearl Harbor, departing 25 January for Mare Island Naval Shipyard where she arrived for overhaul, 31 January 1943. Overhaul was completed on 1 May 1943 and she departed San Francisco, 3 May 1943, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 10 May. From 21 May to 24 May 1943, she conducted torpedo firing practice in Hawaiian waters.
SARGO departed Pearl Harbor on her seventh war patrol, 27 May 1943. She arrived and departed Midway Island on 31 May and arrived off Wake Island on 5 June 1943. Between 7 and 9 June 1943, she was on Patrol Off Truk-Guam and Truk-Saipan shipping lanes. On 11 June she was off Fareulep Atoll, Carolina Islands and on 12 June, she submerged off Eauripik Atoll, Caroline Islands on southward patrol, then surfaced to intercept an enemy tanker. At 2345, she made a submerged attack., firing four torpedoes without result and the tanker turned sharply away. On 13 June, SARGO submerged ahead of a convoy of three cargo ships escorted by a sub-chaser. At 2209, she made a submerged attack on the convoy, sinking the passenger-cargo ship KONAN MARU of 5,226 tons (6-05'N; 138-25'E). On 14 June, SARGO surfaced to commence chase of the same convoy. At 1011, she submerged and complete her approach, scoring one hit on the larger cargo MARU, with undetermined results. The Japanese sub-chaser immediately took up search and four depth charges exploded close to starboard of SARGO who escaped without damage.
She retired southward, and after patrolling the passage between Woleai and Tfalik Atolls, Caroline Islands, departed 29 June 1943, for return to Midway Island. On 5 July 1943, she was 120 miles off Wake Island and continued northward, arriving at Midway on 9 July 1943.
SARGO departed Midway Island,1 August 1943, to conduct her eighth war patrol north of Truk and in waters of the Mariana's islands. During this patrol, 25 days were spent on station without attack on the enemy and SARGO returned to Pearl Harbor, 15 September 1943, for refit by HOLLAND. Her refit lasted three weeks, during which time Lieutenant Commander Carmick was relieved of command by Commander P. W. Garnett, USN.
On her ninth war patrol, SARGO departed Pearl Harbor., 15 October 1943. After a stop for fuel and fresh water at Midway Island, she steamed to areas around Formosa. On 9 November 1943, she sank the cargo ship TAGO MARU of 2868 tons (21-38'N; 131-19'E), with torpedoes and gunfire. Two days later 11 November, she torpedoes and sank the passenger-cargo ship KOSEI MARU of 3,551 tons, (27-26,N; 130-31'E). Afterwards she picked up a Japanese soldier, a survivor from the work of some other submarine. SARG0 returned to Pearl Harbor on 9 December 1943.
She departed on her tenth war patrol, 26 January 1944. This patrol took SARGO to the area around the Palau Islands, lasting 45 days, eighteen of which were spent in the patrol area. On 17 February 1944, she sank the passenger-cargo ship UCHIRO MARU of 6,534 tons (8-50 N"; 132-57'E). On 29 SARGO returned to Pearl Harbor, 12 March 1944.
After refitting, SARGO departed 7 April 1944, on her eleventh war patrol. Thirty days of this patrol were spent in the areas south of and adjacent to Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu, Japan. On 26 April 1944, SARGO sank the cargo
ship WAZAN MARU of 4,851 tons (33-30'N; 135-57'E). She returned to Pearl Harbor, 26 May 1944. Having conducted five patrols without overhaul, SARGO sailed to Mare Island Naval Shipyard where she was in overhaul status for about four month. During this time a new set of engines were installed.
On 13 October 1944, SARGO departed on her twelfth war patrol which commenced in the Bonin Islands and extended to the Nansei Shoto area. Two converted trawlers were raked with gunfire on this patrol and SARGO returned to Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 7 December 1944. On 26 December 1944, Commander P.W. Garnett was relieved of command by Lieutenant Commander J.M. Hingson, USN. At Majuro Atoll, she trained relief crews from GILMORE and BUSHNELL until 13 January 1945 when she sailed to Eniwetok Atoll, Marshal
Islands, where she was engaged in antisubmarine training operations. On 22 July 1945, Lieutenant Commander J. M. Hingson, USN, was relieved of command by Lieutenant Cormmander E.D. Quinn, USN. SARGO departed Pearl Harbor on 19 August 1945. She arrived at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 27 August for deactivation and was placed out of commission on 19 June 1946. Her name was stricken from the Navy list on 19 July 1945 when she was declared surplus. She was sold on 19 May 1947.
SARGO earned eight battle stars and other awards as indicated below:
PHILIPPINE REPUBLIC PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION BADGE: