I HAVE ALWAYS been proud of the relationship between the Marines and the Submariners. A link exists between them, much more intimate than the prefix suggests, and this link was forged in the heat of the Pacific war. Submarines play an important part in a highly technical undertaking like amphibious warfare and the Marines owe a large measure of the success achieved in our assault on the Japanese Empire to the help received from the Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Jr.
[Submariners: Comrades in Arms · Makin Raid]
But the basis for this relationship was more solid than technical collaboration. Marines and Submariners shared the same characteristics and the bond between them was stronger than between any other two branches of the naval service. We were both volunteers; to a man, we deliberately chose the most hazardous type of service.
Danger was the bond. The Marine admired the Submariner, who cruised for months at a time in enemy waters, hundreds of miles from his base, along and unprotected except for his own resourcefulness, and hunted relentlessly by enemy ships. In return, the Submariner admired the Marine, who landed on hostile beaches in the mouth of enemy cannon, stormed massive concrete and steel fortifications and halted only when he was dead.
From contacts made at Pearl Harbor and more advanced bases and on joint missions against Japanese strongholds, an entente cordiale sprang up between the Marines and the Submariners, founded on this mutual admiration for the other fellow's handling of tough assignments. I am sure this comradeship will become traditional between the two services and future developments
in amphibious warfare will provide us with many more joint missions.
During the Pacific war, we were driven into each other's company by the similar role of very junior partners which was forced upon us. We were two smaller services standing out against the background of the greatest Navy in the world, with its 4,000,000 men, of which 13 percent were Marines and only 1.6 percent were Submariners. I felt that the top Navy brass turned equal frigidity on both branches.
It seemed to me, Charlie Lockwood and I sat together at the daily conference at Pearl Harbor, like two kids from the wrong side of the tracks, expected to know their place. We developed a sympathetic attitude towards each other's operations. Lockwood told me about the Submariners and I told him about the Marines and we shared each other's apprehensions and triumphs. We knew we were the tough boys and the Navy brass couldn't get along without us.
Very little was heard during the war about the lads of the submarine service. They did their fighting in the far reaches of the Pacific, not in the newspapers. Their operations, their losses and often their successes were cloaked in silence. There was a good reason for this reticence. Its imposition was necessary to prevent the Japanese from obtaining information upon which to build a pattern of submarine patrol areas and form discovering the endurance and radius of our submarines and the methods we used. It was also important at times to keep the enemy ignorant of the fate of his ships which failed to reach their destinations. This secrecy paid dividends in saving submarines and lives of Submariners.
But while this secrecy was not understood and was frequently resented by the public, the Marines understand its urgency. You will not find a single Marine who does not appreciate what the submarines did during the war. They were our advance ears and eyes, following enemy naval movements outside Japanese home ports; they were our first line of naval defense, obstructing enemy interference with landing operations and they sank more than five million tons of enemy shipping.
Starting the war with only 51 boats in the Pacific, the submarine force faced the terrific task of covering 8,000,000 square miles of ocean and clearing it of enemy shipping. The force expanded as fast as our shipyards could produce new craft, but never more than 200 submarines were employed in the Pacific. Although the Japanese claimed 480 were "sunk or probably sunk," our losses from all causes including accidents, were 52. The force numbered 4,000 officers and 46,000 men, of whom only 16,000 actually manned the submarines. Yet their record of sinkings is impressive. Excluding vessels of less than 1,000 tons, submarines sank 1,750 steel-hulled Japanese ships and threw the Imperial Japanese Navy for the loss of one battleship, eight carriers, 15 cruisers, 42 destroyers, 6 submarines, and other naval auxiliaries, patrol craft and other vessels, totalling 201 men-of-war. After the war, the Japanese informed us that 276,000 soldiers, sailors and civilians lost their lives in our submarine sinkings.
The popular conception of the role of the submarine, and indeed its main purpose, is the sinking of ships. This role was of vital importance because the steady rate of ship destruction prevented the reinforcement of enemy bases with men and material that would make our task of capturing these bases more difficult. A blockade was thrown around islands marked for invasion and few enemy ships ever broke through our underwater cordon to supply doomed garrisons. The Submariners were fighting marine battles long before we hit an island, disposing of the enemy before he had a chance to land, and destroying weapons and equipment we would have had to face.
As our amphibious operations progressed, Lockwood increased the density of his submarine patrols, tightening his stranglehold on the enemy's seaborne supplies. The final feat of the submarines came in 1945, when they ran under the extensive Japanese minefields in Tsushima Straits, separating Japan proper from Korea and Manchuria, and cut the enemy's last supply lines from the Asiatic mainland.
Submarine activities were closely coordinated with each new Marine invasion. The blockade was especially successful in the
Marianas. Saipan would have been a far tougher nut to crack had the Japanese been able to complete their fortifications. In addition to Tokyo's bad guess on our plans after the Marshalls which crippled Saipan by the diversion of priorities elsewhere, there was abundant evidence of material starvation because of the submarine blockade.
When Tokyo finally realized Saipan's plight and began rushing through a defense program, ship after ship carrying vital materials such as concrete, timber and steel, was sunk. The Saipan garrison command complained bitterly of idle hands and no supplies. Our losses at Saipan were heavy but they would have been much heavier if we had run into the fortifications Tokyo contemplated but was unable to finish before we attacked.
The submarines did us a good service at Iwo Jima. On this volcanic island, fortified to Gibraltar-like strength with every type of Japanese weapon we had encountered in the Pacific and a few more, such as 320-mm. mortars and "buzzbombs," the Marines ran into very little barbed wire. This lack of the most common method of obstruction, in the midst of such a mass of highly developed defenses, appeared strange until a prisoner enlightened us. He said supplies sent to the island were lost by submarine action.
Enemy survivors of torpedoed ships added their testimony to the effectiveness of the blockade. On almost every island in the Marianas, I found men from ships our submarines had sunk. They were remnants of divisions rushed to the Marianas as reinforcements, but who arrived there in lifeboats or by swimming ashore. The Marianas became islands of lost souls as far as the Japanese were concerned, since most of these survivors were more of a handicap than a help to the garrisons. They lost their weapons with their ships.
Our submarines tore great holes in convoys and attacked unremittingly, day after day, until they made their maximum kill. Elsewhere I have referred to the mystery of the missing Thirteenth Division from Manchuria, assigned to reinforce the Guam garrison. Although internal conditions in China and Manchuria probably caused the Japanese to change their minds about
moving this division, there was nothing fantastic in the G-2 suggestion that the entire convoy might have been sunk. A few days before the invasion of Saipan, a wolf pack nearly annihilated a convoy of enemy transports bound for the island with a division of troops. Five out of seven transports were sunk by our submarines, which kept up the attack for three days. The USS Pintado and the USS Shark distinguished themselves in this acton, which took place only nine days before we landed on Saipan on June 15.
Two thousand Japanese troops were drowned in this action, and the Saipan armory was unable to arm those who got ashore. How many lives of Americans in our amphibious force were saved by this action is difficult to estimate, but since the Marines would have borne the brunt of the reinforced Japanese strength on the island, we are grateful for our share of the lives saved.
While the submarines maintained this strict blockade and lightened our landing jobs, far out in the ocean other boats were keeping ceaseless vigil for retaliatory naval action by the Japanese, now that we were assailing their inner defenses. The challenge of an American attack on the Marianas was too serious to be ignored.
If the Japanese Fleet had caught us off Saipan, our first venture in the Marianas might have resulted in disaster, but we had perfect confidence that our advance submarine reconnaissance would warn us of any danger. This is precisely what our submarines did. First the Flying Fish (Commander Risser), then the Sea Horse (Commander Slade Cutter), then the Cavalla (Lieutenant Commander Herman J. Kossler) sighted the Japanese Fleet; and their reports gave a beautiful picture which enabled Admiral Lockwood to locate his submarines where he figured the two Jap forces would rendezvous, and Admiral Spruance went out and defeated the Japanese Fleet in the first battle of the Philippine Sea. This battle, resulting from the alertness of submarine captains, undoubtedly saved the Marine force ashore on Saipan from a serious threat. How these submarines operated is best described by a typical experience, that of the Cavalla.
On June 16, the day after we landed in Saipan, the Cavalla surfaced 700 miles west of the Marianas. On the horizon Commander Kossler saw a large group of warships. They couldn't be ours, because we had no ships in the area. Obviously they were Japanese. The ships were fifteen niles away when first sighted and as they came closer their recognition left no doubt. They were ships of the Japanese Fleet, heading est at about 19 knots. The submarine was making about the same speed and since the enemy ships were astern Kossler reversed his course and turned back to investigate.
"There was a carrier as big as the Empire State Building," he said, according to the account I heard later, "and I could make out about seven other ships, looking like battleships and cruisers, in two columns.
"I hadn't seen any report of a Jap task force in this area, but what a target! I could have got that carrier easy. You can imagine my mental struggle. The biggest bag I'd ever seen but I couldn't do a thing about it. I was on reconnaissance."
The Japanese Fleet was heading for Saipan and it was Kossler's primary duty to report its presence. If he attacked, Japanese destroyers would have held him down and he would have been unable to send his report.
As Kossler explained, "I decided to go down and submerged about 100 feet. Soon the Japanese ships began passing over my head. I started to count the screws and found there were far more than the original 15 ships I had guessed. It took over an hour for the procession to pass over me. Then I realized I had contacted the Imperial Japanese Fleet, or a large part of it.
"I couldn't get off my report immediately because two Jap destroyers astern of the fleet delayed me from surfacing. They kept crossing and weaving, as if they were covering the rear against possible submarines. But I don't think they spotted us. Anyway, they kept us down two hours but I eventually surfaced and got off my report."
This was the information that alerted Spruance's Fifth Fleet and helped score the first great victory of the Philippine Sea. Incidentally, Kossler was not robbed of his kill. Returning
from this patrol, he encountered another of Japan's big carriers, the Shokaku, hit it with four torpedoes, sank it and escaped after counting 100 depth charges exploding around him from enemy destroyers, who were hunting him.
Such was the type of long-range reconnaissance that kept us informed of Japanese movements. Similar stalking of Japanese naval units provided advance information for the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Nearer to Marine objectives, however, another type of reconnaissance simplified our landing tasks.
It is difficult to put men and equipment ashore without prior knowledge of conditions on the beach you intend to use. All our island objectives were minutely photographed before an operation and all pertinent information regarding beaches and terrain was studied and classified before we moved. But air photographed can be deceptive. While they provide a map-like view of the objective, which can be enlarged many times to reveal enemy defenses and other details, they are flat pictures and do not indicate topography.
Until our Photographic Reconnaissance developed the technique of oblique pictures, submarine photographic reconnaissance was an essential preliminary to any landing. Submarines went close in to our planned objectives and made pictures of landing beaches through their periscopes. They were able to get in undetected and the pictures they provided gave what might be termed a Marine's eye view of the beach before he hit it. Periscope level, at which the pictures were taken, was just what the Marine would see from his amtrack or landing boat. Supplementing this, the submarines provided valuable tide and reef data.
We had excellent submarine photographs at Saipan, Guam and Tinian,taken two months before we landed by the USS Greenling. These proved unusually valuable because of the absence of low obliques from other sources, and technically they represented a great improvement over previous efforts. At Iwo Jima, we had photographic coverage made by the USS Spearfish three months earlier, but by this time aerial photography had been improved and supplanted the submarine photographs.
The submarines also stayed around to help the men who were softening up the objective with naval and air strikes preceding an operation. Many an airman owes his life to the rescue service operated by our submarines in enemy waters, a service carried to the very beaches of Japan. These undersea watchdogs followed the course of raids and a downed aviator, floating in the water, was not astonished when a submarine popped up nearby and took him on board. The airman knew he could count on this service and it was a great morale booster. Altogether, our submarines rescued 500 American and Allied airmen, often under heavy fire. During our joint surface and carrier strike on Truk on April 1, 1944, one submarine, the USS Tang, electrified the fleet by picking up 22 downed American aviators.
There were occasions when resource and quick thinking were necessary. During one of the guam air strikes, an airman was shot down in shallow water and appeared to be a goner. He was close enough in shore to be a target for Japanese machine guns, and not far enough out for a rescue submarine, the USS Stingray (Commander S.C. Loomis), to surface and haul him on board.
This predicament did not daunt either the submarine captain or the airman. A telepathic liaison united them. The captain took his boat in as near to the beach as possible, until his periscope was showing. The airman saw it sticking out of the water and grabbed hold of it so that the submarine could tow him slowly out to sea where, in deep water, it surfaced and took him on board.
A picturesque chapter of the war involved the joint missions of the Marine Corps and the Submarine Force. When I was in the Caribbean before the war, we introduced submarines into one of the landing exercises to test the feasibility of landing scouts on hostile shores. In the graphically simulated conditions of the exercise, submarines put men ashore from rubber boats and the experiment indicated that this method could be employed in actual war.
In addition to the Marine Scouts, we formed Raider battalions, which did extremely useful work under hazardous conditions
in the South Pacific. Selected men were specially trained and equipped for landing unobserved on enemy islands and performing all manner of tasks. These ranged from reconnaissance to surprise raids and attacks on enemy positions, demolition of installations and destruction of equipment.
The type of man chosen for this job had to be tough. Our four battalions of Marine Raiders, eventually incorporated into the 4th Marines, were the elite of toughness. A 20-mile march with a hundred pounds of equipment on their backs, followed by hand-to-hand combat with a knife, was sometimes their role. They were taught all the of undercover combat, they could out-read a jungle-tracker and out-swim a fish.
The Raiders were a nightmare to the Japanese and engraved the name Marine on the memory of many a brown man. By the very nature of their organization, the Raiders were highly expendable.
In the South Pacific, they operated from nearby bases, or were put ashore in rubber boats from small craft that stole along the coast after dark. During the invasion of Attu, in the Aleutians, a company of Army Scouts was put ashore by the submarines Nautilus and Narwhal. These boats were available to us later in the Central Pacific.
These submarines have an interesting history. The Nautilus and the Narwhal were sister ships, and with the Argonaut, which we also used, were the largest submarines in the world, with the possible exception of a French boat and a few Japanese long-range boats used to supply their beleaguered bases in the South Pacific and take off important personnel after we bypassed and isolated these islands. The Nautilus and the Narwhal, 370 feet long, were built in 1930, when the navies of the world once again were getting lost in superlatives but the two submarines were never duplicated, principally because they were less maneuverable and less practical than smaller craft.
The Argonaut was a giant among submarines. Never has her like been seen, before or since, in our Navy. Three hundred and eighty feet long, she was built as a minelayer capable of carrying 60 mines. She was the last of the Argonauts pioneered by Simon
Lake, whose interest was attracted to underwater craft by Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Lake confessed that the french scientific romancer was "the director-general of my life," and the last Argonaut could have substituted for Verne's craft in size. She was commissioned in 1928 and came to her end in 1943, when she was reported missing in the Pacific.
Each of these three submarines had a complement of 80 men and were not only capacious undersea transports but were formidable ships, their armament including two six-inch guns, which could provide substantial fire cover for a landing.
The Marines first used submarines at Makin in the summer of 1942, on a raid which I deplored from the military viewpoint but which proved the value of underwater craft in an operation of this nature. This raid was made before I assumed command of the V Amphibious Corps at Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson had organized the Marine Raiders into the 2nd Raider Battalion, with Major James Roosevelt as his second in command.
Carlson embarked two companies of Raiders at Pearl Harbor on the Argonaut and the Nautilus for the 2,000-miles trip to Makin. The raiding party was well armed, with 55 caliber anti-tank guns, radio and other equipment. The Argonaut's< huge mine chamber provided space for storing this equipment and also for accommodating most of the troops. With the balance travelling on the Nautilus, the men reported a comfortable voyage.
Off Makin, the Raiders debarked in rubber boats and went ashore before dawn on August 17. The plan was to seize a few Japanese prisoners, destroy stores and installations and return to the waiting submarines. Essential surprise was achieved when these two underwater giants surfaced in the darkness and the men debarked. But after the Raiders got ashore without discovery a chance rifle shot disclosed their presence and the fighting started.
The two submarines gave them valuable support. With their six-inch guns, they shelled the lagoon and sank two Japanese
ships. Ashore, Carlson's men were attacked by a truck convoy, which they destroyed with an anti-tank gun, and then converted it into an anti-aircraft gun when a flight of Japanese bombers appeared. One bomber landed in the lagoon beside a big Kawanashi flying boat, which is about the size of our PR4Y. When the Marines opened fire with their anti-tank gun, the bomber tried to take off but was shot down a few feet off the ground. The Kawanashi was a sitting duck in the lagoon and went up in flames.
The plan called for the Raiders to evacuate the island that night, but a high surf prevented all but a few of the rubber boats making the return trip to the submarines. We lost a lot of equipment and half the raiding party was left on the beach until Carlson could improvise means of getting his men back to their home craft.
Daylight brought more Japanese bombers, compelling the submarines to submerge, and disaster stared the expedition in the face. The Raiders had lost most of their weapons and food when their boats capsized in the high surf and they tried to swim home. They were virtually powerless but Carlson, with typical Marine resourcefulness, sent his men foraging and, since many of the Japanese garrison of 250 had been killed, they had little difficulty in destroying the enemy radio station and gasoline stores and also collecting food.
They also found a large outrigger canoe and that night Carlson lashed his few rubber boats to the native craft and embarked his men, including wounded. This curious armada made the entrance of the lagoon, where the waiting submarines picked them up and returned them to Pearl Harbor. Thus ended the longest submarine raiding expedition ever undertaken.
Makin echoed loudly at the war trials in the Pacific when the Japanese rear admiral in command of the island was hanged at Guam for the torture-murder of eight Marines unfortunately left behind after the Carlson raid.
We again resorted to underwater craft during the Gilberts operation and with greater success than in the spectacular but almost useless Makin raid. After the seizure of Tarawa and
Makin, the neighboring Apamama Atoll remained to be captured. In planning for the Gilberts, the idea occurred to me that we could land Scouts on the main island of the Apamama Atoll by submarine to reconnoiter enemy positions before committing any sizable force.
Marine Scouts from the V Corps Reconnaissance Company, under Captain James L. Jones, embarked on the Nautilus at Pearl Harbor for this operation. They had a tough trip down to the Gilberts because the Nautilus was attacked at night by our own task force, which put a shell hole in her main engine air induction line. The submarine was diving when she was hit and she went down to 300 feet before her commanding officer got her under control. Captain Jones told me later he would not be averse in the future to ride in a surface ship.The scouts landed at night in rubber boats. The island was occupied by only a score or more Japanese, who held a strong machine gun position. Leaving a containing force to take care of this pocket until the main body of our men landed, the Scouts went on to seize the rest of the island and later the entire atoll at a cost of one killed and two wounded.
Apamama is probably the only atoll in history to be captured from a submarine. While the Scouts were ashore, the Nautilus stood off and shelled the main island with her six-inch guns, acting as a one-ship fire-support force. When Brigadier General Hermle landed with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, the conquest had been completed because the Japanese in the machine gun pocket realized the hopelessness of any resistance and committed suicide.
Apamama was a brilliant sideshow, on a small scale but efficiently carried out by Marine and submarine teamwork. I have often thought that, in the war to come, when all our warships are nothing more than giant submersibles, forced down into the ocean depths to escape the power of atomic bombs and other missiles, all amphibious operations will follow the pattern of Apamama, with Marine assault forces submerging and landing on hostile shores from beneath the sea.
These joint missions of the marines and the Submariners
gave the Corps a pretty good close-up of the men of the other service. The lads who manned the underwater craft were not supermen and possessed no supernatural qualities of heroism; they were top-notch American youths, well trained, well cared for and armed with superb weapons.
Charlie Lockwood was a neighbor of mine at Makalapa, the staff residential quarter at Pearl Harbor. Through my long friendship with this brusque and forthright submarine Admiral who lived only for the gallant deeds of his Submariners, I cam to understand their life of lonely heroism.
A remark of Lockwood's has become legendary in the Pacific. One of his best submarine commanders was detached for duty as an instructor at the Naval Academy. Before the officer left, Lockwood said to him, "Now don't teach those midshipmen that the Submariners won the war.We know there were other forces fighting there, too. But if they'd kept the surface forces and the fly-boys out of our patrol areas we would have won the war six months earlier."
Like Lockwood, I don't claim the Marines won the war. There were other forces there, too, but if we had had another division in 1941 we could have made certain the Submariners shortened the war by six months.
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