Notes of interview by Lt. H.S. Kueh, USNR.

Pearl Harbor Attack.

  1. The Thresher's first three war patrols.

    1. The Thresher's first war patrol was uneventful from the time she got under way in October 1941 until she was about 40 to 50 mile from Pearl Harbor, on December 7th.

      1. We were under DD escort when the first message came out of Pearl Harbor, "Pearl Harbor Attacked, this is not a drill."

      2. We continued on with our escort, and he took us around one friendly Task Force that was sighted.

        1. When we were well clear of the task Force, he decided to go and join up with them.

        2. We said that was all right, and released him. Our intentions were to proceed submerged until dark.

      3. As we were submerging we received a message from ComSubsPac, that the escort was not [to] leave us under any condition.

        1. After breaking that message, we put up our vertical antenna, contacted the escort and arranged to meet him at the same time, where we had dived.

        2. Sometime thereafter, an old four stack destroyer, which looked exactly the same as the one assigned to us as escort passed the rendezvous point. We thought we had positively identified him, as the one we were supposed to meet.

        3. Immediately, when we broke surface, the destroyer turned directly toward us, and commenced firing with his forward gun; however, he was short.

        4. Naturally we made a record dive, and the last I saw of him he was headed directly at us.

          1. I assumed then that he was attempting to ram us, and expected a depth charge attack.

          2. We went down to test depth very quickly, commenced evasive action, the destroyer passed astern of us.
          When it became apparent that he was not going to depth charge us, we attempted to establish our identity, by using under water sound gear. However, I don't believe he heard us.

      4. As soon as we were clear, we informed ComSubsPac of the attack, and requested further instructions. All during that afternoon, we made attempts to meet an escort at new rendezvous position, all were unsuccessful.

      5. That night on the surface we established communications with the escort, but never could make contact.

        1. We spent the entire time dodging and ducking all kinds of craft on the surface. We had no friends.

        2. We were finally directed to proceed unescorted.

        3. They said the boom would be open at a definite time, so the Thresher could enter.

        4. When we tried to come in, in the morning, we were constantly driven off.

      6. Our main reason for being anxious to get in was that we had a badly, in fact, critically injured man aboard.

        1. A heavy sea broke over the bridge, and he broke a leg, and had various internal injuries when he fell down from the lookout platform.

        2. He died the next morning while the Thresher was still at sea, and just after we had been bombed.

      7. After we were unable to enter Pearl Harbor, at the assigned time, we were given an area in which to remain submerged.

        1. While in this sanctuary we were driven down many times by destroyers.

        2. Also, while in this sanctuary, we were bombed by army planes.

        3. We heard the destroyers pushing over depth charges on what they thought was a submarine contact, some distance away from us.

      8. Between 11 and 12 o'clock in the morning of the 8th, our Division Commander came out in a destroyer and cleared the area of all shipping.

        1. After exchanging pre-arranged signals, he escorted us in.

        2. It was much too late to save our man, as he had died earlier in the morning of his internal injuries and shock.

      9. Later on, we met some people off a tanker which had encountered us during the night.

        1. They had an ex-submariner on there as a chief signalman.

        2. They had seen us in spite of our trying to avoid, and this man realized our plight.

        3. They wanted to serve as escort for us.

        4. Most of the story is indirect however, and may not be true.

      10. While we were tied up in Pearl Harbor at this time, we had a merry chase always ready to go because more raids were expected. We were covered with canvas and trees. The Captain always felt silly sneaking around the harbor with this gear.

    2. Our second patrol was long, but relatively uneventful.

      1. After the Marshalls Islands raid, for which we had been reconnoitering, we went on patrol.

      2. We sank our fist AK on that trip, and it was the first time anyone on the ship had heard a torpedo explode.

    3. My last patrol on the Thresher was an eventful trip to Tokyo.

      1. Our fist contact was a small tanker.

        1. We fired on the surface and short our torpedoes directly under the target with no explosion.

        2. We thought perhaps that it might be a Q-ship, and therefore left them alone.

      2. A little while later off Oshima about two or three miles from the light we fired two at a big freighter entering Tokyo.

        1. They either missed, or he saw the torpedoes coming in toward him.

        2. We fired at another freighter at the same place, which had it's back broken in plain view of the lighthouse keeper.

        3. Few minutes later we heard a series of explosions, which we thought were depth charges. Later we revised our opinion to bombs.

      3. We cleared the passage between Oshima and the mainland, and in the afternoon we were detected either by a PT boat sent to look for us or by aircraft.

        1. The fun started then and we estimated three or four anti-submarine vessels conducted this depth charge attack.

        2. We were under continuous attack from before noon until midnight.

        3. This depth charging did enough damage to the ship to cause us to clear the area and return to Pearl Harbor.

        4. In order to get clear, we had to surface that night within two miles beyond a Submarine Base.

        5. One bit of humor occurred out of this fracas. When our crew entered, Bryant and I were standing in the control room, each equipped with dark glasses and a 50-calibre machine gun, and ready to take the deck on surfacing. Neither would admit we were scared, saying "No good Irishman ever gets scared." But each reported many times as saying "I'm homesick."

      4. This is one of the most sever depth chargings in the early part of the war. Later on, Capt. Jenson set an all-time high record for long depth charge attacks. In the Puffer they were continually attacked for 38 hours. An Englishman, Lt. Comdr. Lakin, received a 37 hour attack one time.

  2. The Puffer's trip from Manitowoc to Brisbane.

    1. The Puffer was the fourth boat built in Manitowoc.

      1. My home is at Sheboygan, Wis., 30 miles from Manitowoc.

      2. Capt. Nichols was at Manitowoc, acting as Division Commander.

      3. At Manitowoc the attitude is not so much antagonism as ignorance.

        1. Many people regard the war as remote, and few realize the seriousness of it.

        2. In general their attitude is similar, and their workmanship is considered very high.

      4. The Puffer has Winston engines and GE controls, and motors.

        1. Our batteries are the standard Exide lead acid batteries.

        2. Some boats have been satisfied with the newer Edison Cells.

    2. The Puffer went down the Mississippi at the crest of the flood, during April and May of 1943.

      1. We stayed in commission all the way down the river. The Pompon was the first to stay in commission.

      2. Ship was taken through Chicago at dawn.

        1. The river was patrolled by police craft all the way down.

        2. We got through the heart of Chicago, before it was really light.

        3. Two tugs take you through the Chicago river, one at your bow and one at your stern.

      3. After getting through the canal, we waited four days for Mississippi River tugs to get us.

        1. The Commanding Officer in the Minnesota, the tug that pushed us down the river, is quite a character.

        2. He's a very cagey gentleman; one of the best ship handlers I have ever seen.

        3. We tied up to sycamore trees, two nights in row, with a ten miles run in between. This was because we wanted to avoid the day traffic around St. Louis.

      4. One of her pilots was only 22 years old, he had been with his father since he was 11 years old.

        1. He was a good pilot too.

        2. In the wardroom during lunch, he looked over our books and picked a good one to discuss.

        3. They are fine people but have peculiar psychology and peculiar expressions.

      5. As we were coming into New Orleans, the current was running between 5 and 7 knots. It made ship handling a novel experience.

      6. In New Orleans we had to have our periscope and antenna mast on deck.

    3. Submarine Squadron Three, under Commander Jesse Hull, was at Panama when we arrived there, for our three day training period.

      1. From Panama, we went directly to Brisbane.

        1. We were quite low of fuel when we arrived there.

        2. Boats now stop at Galapagos for fuel.

      2. We received normal repairs in Brisbane and proceeded to Darwin inside the Barrier Reef.

  3. Submarine strategy, and areas under CTF-71 Operational control.

    1. Passages.

      1. Makassar is large and much used; secondary route through Karimatta.

      2. Submarines generally north to Lombok.

      3. Submarines do not use Sunda. It is shallow for about 40 miles of the whole passage.

        1. It is readily mineable.

        2. The Japs have to protect it because it is so close to the main base at Singapore.

        3. Lombok Strait is used almost exclusively.

      4. Jenson wrote a report showing the advantages and disadvantages of the various passages through the Malay Barrier.

      5. There is a thin line of traffic through Surigao and San Bernardino, most of it however, goes through Verde Island Passage, Bolo Strait, and Basilan to Chau.

      6. From Chau Bay around Halmahera, convoys proceed along the north coast of New Guinea to Tarong and Manokwari.

        1. East of Mames Bay--sea trucks are used almost exclusively.

        2. North of New Guinea freighters are used.

        3. Traffic in Chau Bay also runs to Ambon.

        4. From Ambon it shuttles Makassar, and Surabaya.

    2. Port and Bases

      1. Balikpapan is the only important base on Makassar Strait.

      2. However, from Makassar City some lumber and small quantities of rice are exported.

      3. Kema Coma is one of the main source of nickel. Our air raids have curtailed its production somewhat, but I don't know how much.

      4. Ambon is being built up to a large military base. Most recent development there of all, has been army construction.

      5. Surrounded by six air strips and sea plane basins, Morotai is most recent base to be built up.

        1. It is on the northeastern part of Halmahera.

        2. It is used as a staging point aboard ship from Formosa and the Philippines.

      6. Manila is still the largest station and supply center.

      7. Saigon furnishes the greater part of the rice, exported to Japan from Indo-China.

    3. Oil Sources.

      1. Surabaya, Balikpapan, Singapore, and practically every port on Sumatra furnish oil in varying quantities.

      2. In Java, Samarang, Surabaya are the two main sources.

        1. The Dutch fairly well destroyed the oil refineries.

        2. However, they could not destroy the wealth itself.

        3. At Balikpapan they did not try to enforce this policy too well.

      3. Celebes has no oil port to amount to anything.

      4. On Borneo and Balikpapan, Tarakan and Miri in the last month are all in reasonable production.

        1. The recently built up sources at Miri called for pressure from submarines. It is their advantage to shorten their line by using Miri. The army needs more food, also, the Japanese Navy probably is requiring more oil for this extended operation.

    4. We realize that the strategic picture on Japanese shipping routes are changing all the time.

      1. In the last fifteen days it has been a different opinion. There is much more traffic on the west coast of the Philippines, and much more moving north east from Balikpapan, especially oil and coal.

      2. More and more ships are coming in to Surabaya, Balikpapan and Tarakan for fuel.

      3. Formosa-Singapore shipping has increased lately.

      4. The Japanese are paying a great deal more than they did a few months ago.

      5. More reason for ships on Japanese trade routes are (a) submarine attacks, (b) efforts to increase air coverage, (c) due to loss of shipping, the Japs often put supplies on any available ship. This is often effected by destroyer on a more direct route.

      6. Most of these ships still hug the coast as much as possible.

      7. In recent months traffic has increased tremendously in New Guinea, Solomons, New Britain areas.

      8. We now have many submarines that can cover South China Sea however, we can now cover areas which we could never do before.

        1. Area designations have been changed so that there can be greater area coverage.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey