SUCCESS AND FRUSTRATION
by Cornelius Russell
Carrying thirteen tons of torpex loaded in twenty-four warheads
attached to Mark XIV and XVIII torpedoes (new electric fish), the USS
BONEFISH S223) entered the Celebes Sea. Four enemy convoy routes ran
through the area. It was midnight, 23 April 1944 and the fourth
war patrol in succession for the Captain and fifteen others. The first
sighting was a dim red light. Investigation showed the light used by a
fisherman. At 0706 AM an aircraft dove out of the clouds and
forced BONEFISH to crash dive. The first of many such encounters.
Surfacing thirty minutes later, interference on the new Sugar Jig (SJ)
radar was interpreted as coming from another U.S. submarine in the area.
The SJ was just one of the modifications completed during the last
The USS ORION and Submarine Relief Crew 161 refitted the BONEFISH
while her crew was on a well-deserved two week leave at a submarine rest
camp. The new SJ and PPI radars were installed. Number one and two main
engines were overhauled and the four main engine mufflers were renewed.
Number four main ballast tank was converted to a fuel oil ballast tank
and additional ammunition stowage was installed topside. These jobs in
peacetime would have been accomplished at a Navy yard. The BONEFISH
crew returned from leaves on 29 March and preparations for war patrol
GM1C(SS) C.R. Bartholomew
New London Submarine Base October 1944:
Rear Admiral Daubin, ComSubLant, 1944 pinning BRONZE STAR
Getting underway on 5 April, a
routine test dive turned out to be not so routine. Water poured into the
conning tower. A hole had been burned the hull while the Relief Crew had
stalled the new radars. After another day in port for the patch job, the
intensive training commenced. The training ended 13 April and BONEFISH
departed for the assigned patrol area via Exmouth Gulf, a fuel stop on
the Northwest coast of Australia.
The SJ radar broke down. Parts were
ordered by radio to be delivered to Exmouth Gulf. As the fuel tanks were
topped off, the radar repairs were made. BONEFISH headed north and then
east toward Ombia Strait. The usual and shorter route north, Balabac
Strait was mined and patrolled by many antisubmarine vessels. There were
also many shore batteries on both sides of the narrow strait ready to
blast any submarine that came in range. The Ombia Strait transit was
uneventful. By radio, BONEFISH’S patrol area was changed to the
Celebes Sea. This was greeted with enthusiasm because of her earlier
good luck in that area.
In the Celebes Sea at 1050 AM on 1
April, smoke and then the mast of ship was sighted by a lookout. The
enemy AK, AGUN MARU, was escort6d by a CHIDORI, a very effective
antisubmarine ship, and six minelayers. The BONEFISH was in good
position for the intercept, so she dove.
The forward torpedoes were made
ready. Through the periscope the range and course of the enemy was
checked. After belching a cloud of lack smoke, the AK and escorts
changed course and headed for the shallow coastal waters. Surfacing and
using four main engines even though the mufflers on number three and
four leaked exhaust gas and sprayed sparks, the chase was on.
Six loaded sea trucks heading the
same direction were bypassed. It was decided they would be sunk with
gunfire after sinking the AK and CHIDORI using torpedoes. Arriving at
the point where the AK would have to leave allow water, speed was slowed
to one engine. Staying on the surface after sunrise and keeping the AK
in sight by using the raised periscope, BONEFISH came under attack.
Barreling out of the sun, an enemy
aircraft forced BONEFISH to crash dive. Later surfacing and with the
watch scrambling to the bridge, two planes again forced BONEFISH to
dive. After waiting an hour to surface, neither the AK nor escorts or
the sea trucks could be located. That night two target blips appeared on
the radar screen at 15,000 yards.
The targets were sampans and low
visibility prevented sinking them by gunfire. Two days later in the
afternoon, an enemy AK, MYOGI MARU, heavily laden and escorted by a
subchaser was sighted heading into the Sarangania Strait.
BONEFISH reached the Strait first
and dove for the attack. The strong current in the Strait prevented
BONEFISH from getting into firing position. The AK, leaving a trail of
black smoke, was easy to follow. Using three engines for propulsion and
one for battery charging, BONEFISH raced ahead on the surface and
reached torpedo firing position. It was a black, misty night with no
Using the electric motors because
the diesel engine exhaust would give her position away, BONEFISH charged
the enemy ship. Four torpedoes were fired. One blew an escort out of the
water. A second burst under the AK. Turning sharply, BONEFISH sped way
while the two remaining sub chasers dropped depth charges at random. The
AK disappeared from the radar screen indicating it had sunk. Exploding
depth charges could be heard astern as the torpedo tubes were reloaded.
After midnight BONEFISH returned to the Sarangania Strait south of
Mindoro Island in the northern part of the Celebes Sea.
That night an enemy patrol boat was
avoided. Before sunrise the 4,468-ton HEITO MARU fully loaded, making
thirteen knots and escorted by a depth charge carrying minelayer, came
into the area. The enemy's high speed made it impossible for the
BONEFISH to get into optimum torpedo range. At 3,800 yards four
torpedoes were fired.
The first torpedo ran erratic
leaving a trail of smoke alerting the minelayer. The minelayer dashed
toward BONEFISH forcing her to dive. Three torpedo hits were heard as
the angry minelayer passed over the BONEFISH.
Two heavy depth charges set to
explode deep rattled the hull. A third depth charge shook the stern.
Several aerial bombs followed. Evasive maneuvers were successful. The
torpedo tubes were reloaded. Ten hours later with no aircraft in sight,
BONEFISH surfaced and continued her hunt for torpedo or gun targets.
Enemy aircraft played hide and seek
with BONEFISH on 28, 29 and 30 April. She was up and down like a roller
coaster. At 2016 on 30 April, three enemy ships appeared on the SJ radar
screen. They were at 15,000 yards.
Because of the dark land background
and rain, the ships could not be identified from the bridge. Flashes of
lightning and short periods of moonlight between squalls did not help.
While waiting for the moon to set, BONEFISH maneuvered into torpedo
attack position. Shortly after midnight, the hunter became the hunted.
Peering through binoculars, the
bridge crew saw what they believed could be gun flashes from the enemy
ships. Projectiles plopping in the water, some exploding, around
BONEFISH made the bridge crew realize they were under fire. A convenient
rain cloud allowed her to hide. After moonset, BONEFISH dove and waited.
The three ships were sub-chasers making a sweep to clear the area of
submarines. Rigged for silent running, BONEFISH was not detected as the
sub-chasers passed overhead. After surfacing, BONEFISH was ordered by
radio to patrol the Sulu Sea.
Twice on 2 May BONEFISH was forced
to crash dive by enemy air patrols. That evening she entered the Sibutu
Passage. A gun firing PT boat chased her. Using four engines and
reversing course, she left the Passage and the PT boat behind. After
moonset, BONEFISH submerged at the north entrance of the Sibutu Passage.
Taking advantage of the two and a half-knot current pushing her, she
avoided the many patrol boats wandering back and forth. Surfacing she
headed for the convoy lanes in the Sulu Sea.
Air patrols were numerous and many
crash dives were made. On 4 May at 0710, surfacing from a forced dive,
smoke from three ships was sighted. While racing to get into torpedo
firing position, an enemy aircraft came screaming out of a cloud
catching BONEFISH by surprise.
The emergency dive took her to two
hundred feet and no aerial bombs exploded. It was decided the plane
hadn't detected her. BONEFISH planned up to periscope depth. As the
periscope broke the water's surface, one aerial bomb violently shook the
conning tower. While going deep, the second bomb jolted the hull.
Leveling off at 250 feet, a check was made for damage.
Internal paint chips and other
damage put number two periscope out of commission. Number one was out of
collimation and could only be used with great effort. The radio antenna
trunk was flooded. The main hydraulic system was out of commission. That
made hand steering and operation of the bow and stern planes tiring.
Many rivets and bolts on the bulkhead stiffeners had been sheared.
Broken light bulbs, dishes, cork and paint chips were scattered
throughout. While cleaning up, light fast screws and echo ranging, the
sign of an enemy destroyer, was picked up on sonar.
The destroyers started dropping
depth charges at 0830 AM. Twenty-five heavy charges set to explode deep
bounced BONEFISH around. A wicked salvo of eleven shook the hull before
evasive maneuvers were successful. The attacker's propellers sounds
faded. BONEFISH came up to periscope depth for a look. The enemy ships
were seen disappearing behind Pangutaran Island. A RUFE
aircraft-patrolling overhead kept BONEFISH submerged until 1754. Upon
surfacing, more damage was discovered.
The searchlight was demolished. The
glass cover to the bridge gyro repeater was smashed and the instrument
flooded. The bridge talkback system wouldn't work and some bridge
superstructure plating were badly warped. The next two days was spent
dodging sub-chasers. On 7 May, the USS FLASHER (SS249) radioed BONEFISH
that a MARU was entering her patrol area.
The MARU turned out to be a
well-marked enemy hospital ship. Later that day sonar picked up echo
ranging indicating an escorted convoy was in the area. The convoy was
identified as a 8,800-ton AP, a smaller AK, three sub- chasers and a
CHIDORI escort doing the echo ranging. The stern torpedo tubes were made
The four torpedoes parted the
water, making forty-five knots. Three ran hot, straight and normal. The
fourth was smoking and sighted by the crew of the CHIDORI. She charged
BONEFISH while three of the torpedoes blasted holes in the AP.
BONEFISH was passing 250 feet when
the first depth charges exploded over her while she hid under a thermal
layer of water and reloaded the stern torpedo tubes. When the enemy
left, BONEFISH surfaced. The air patrols made crash dives almost
routine. During a lull in the air coverage, a thirty-ton sailboat was
Manned by a hungry Filipino crew,
it carried six logs as cargo. Food and cigarettes were given to the
crew. Two days later the ITUKUSIMA, a large minelayer, came into view
with a TIDORI torpedo boat escort.
A submerged approach was made. Four
electric torpedoes, the last in the after torpedo room, were fired. An
error in the torpedo setup caused them to miss. Exploding at the end of
their run, they alerted the TIDORI. It dropped four depth charges but
none near BONEFISH. Later while patrolling on the surface off Tawi Tawi
Bay, a three-tanker convoy with three destroyer escorts was intercepted.
The convoy was making fourteen
knots. The largest tanker, GENYO MARU, was selected to receive
BONEFISH'S last six torpedoes. A destroyer, HIBIKI class, passed close
ahead of BONEFISH as the convoy zigged bringing the GENYO MARU into
The forward torpedo tubes were
fired. Number six tube refused to fire electrically or manually. The
first Mark XIV torpedo exploded against the tanker's bow. The second
exploded under her bridge, and the third blew her stern off. The tanker
was enveloped in smoke and flame. The fourth torpedo exploded under the
destroyer, INAZUMA, which blew apart and sank. Down emergency was
ordered as the two remaining destroyers charged in to work her over with
The first charge shook the bull as
BONEFISH was passing 200 feet. The attackers dropped twenty heavy depth
charges before quitting. The crew felt, with only one defective torpedo
aboard, it was time to leave the area. It wasn't.
The crew faced their most
frustrating days. After the attackers faded away, BONEFISH planned up to
periscope depth. When the periscope was raised, a destroyer charged it
and a circling RUFE airplane dropped two aerial bombs. The destroyer
used echo ranging trying to locate BONEFISH as she ran silent and deep.
No depth charges were dropped, surprising the crew. But several sets of
fast screws were heard passing overhead. They were followed by slower
and heavy screws indicating large ships. Risking being mauled by the
destroyers, BONEFISH planed up to periscope depth. The view brought
tears to the Captain's eyes.
A large enemy task force was
passing overhead. Three battleships, three heavy cruisers, one light
cruiser, one aircraft carrier and eight destroyers were in the group.
BONEFISH'S one defective torpedo and her 4"50 caliber deck gun were
no match for the armada.
The one chance in the war to wreak
havoc on the enemy fleet passed. After twenty hours and twenty-seven
minutes submerged, BONEFISH surfaced and followed the task force toward
Destroyers blocked the way through
the Passage so BONEFISH headed for Doc Can Island Passage. After
midnight when radio conditions were best, the sighting message was sent.
BONEFISH was ordered to patrol off Tawi Tawi Bay where the task force
The next five days were spent
surveying the task force anchored in Tawi Tawi Bay. More ships arrived
to join the task force. Enemy air patrols were seen with every periscope
look. Destroyers made racetrack shaped patrols outside the Bay and
dropped a depth charge at each turn. A U.S. submarine with a full load
of torpedoes relieved BONEFISH on 21 May 1944.
BONEFISH crossed the equator
heading south on 23 May. Enemy aircraft were sighted daily until the
Indian Ocean was entered. She arrived at Fremantle on 30 May 1944. The
Captain and fifteen others who had been aboard since the commissioning
were transferred to new construction in the
States or to a submarine relief
crews. Five successful attacks had been made. BONEFISH had been on the
receiving end of over eighty depth charges and fifty aerial bombs. The
successful patrol earned another star for the Submarine Combat Pin and
the Navy Unit Citation.
Under a new Skipper, BONEFISH
continued her aggressive attacks on the enemy. Eleven cargo ships, one
destroyer, and a small intercoastal steamer have been credited to her
record. She earned eight stars for the Navy Submarine Combat Pin and
five stars for the Navy Unit Citation. She had two Skippers each earning
three Navy Crosses, a Silver Star and Bronze Star. Other crewmembers
received Silver and Bronze Stars for specific acts of bravery or
service. BONEFISH and her entire crew were lost in the Japan Sea on 18
June 19,45 two years and eighteen days after commissioning at New
Lost June 18, 1945
ABEL, D. A.
ADAMS, T. B., JR.
ADAMS, W. S.
AMBURGEY, L. M.
ANDERSON, G. I., JR.
AURELI, S. J.
BECK, M. L.
BROWN, R. W.
BROWNING, J. A.
BURDICK, C. A.
CANFIELD, K. T.
COLEMAN, J. A.
COOLEY, Q. L.
DANIELSON, 0 . C.
DUNN, D. H.
EDGE, L. L
ENOS, E. R.
EPPS, W. H., JR.
FELD, P. E.
FOX, D. C.
FRANK, R. E.
FUGETT, M. A.
FULLER, G. M.
HACKSTAFF, H. J.
HARMAN, G. P.
HASIAK, J. J.
HESS, R. D.
HOUGHTON, W. S.
JENKINS, R. W.
JOHNSON, J. C.
JOHNSON, S. E., JR.
JOHNSTON, T. M.
KALINOFF, M. W.
KERN, F. B.
KING, E. W.
KISSANE, J. E.
KNIGHT, F. S.
LAMOTHE, J. N.
LARACY, J. J. JR.
LEWIS, M. A.
LOCKWOOD, T. G.
LYNCH, J. F.
MAGHAN, A. G.
MARKLE, J. E.
McBRIDE R. J.
MILES, H. V., JR.
NESTER, S. A.
NEWBERRY, J. R.
O'TOOLE, W. P.
PAULEY, G. W.
PHENICIE, J. E.
PRIMAVERA, L. J.
PRUNIER, G. A.
QUENETT, C. F.
RALEY, C. H.
RAY, R. C., JR.
RAYNES, J. A.
REID, J. A.
RHANOR, C. J.
RICE, R. M.
ROSE, R. A., II
SCHILLER, R. G.
SCHMIDLING, C. J.
SCHWEYER, R. G.
SMITH, L.G., JR.
SNODGRASS, R. L.
STAMM, R. S.
SURBER, R. M.
TIERNEY, D. R.
VELIE, R. C.
VINCENT, T. F., JR.
WILSON, J. R.
WILLIAMS, J. J.
WILLIAMS, I. R., JR.
WILLIAMS, T. F.
WINEGAR, C. D.
WOLFE, L. E.
WRIGHT, G. W., JR.