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Drum’s Notable Success


The first war patrol of the submarine USS Drum (SS-228), with Robert H. Rice at the helm, was conducted in Empire waters off Nagoya and Cape Omaisaki, Japan, from April 17 to June 12, 1942. The Drum was on station for thirty-one days. During this period Rice coordinated seven attacks, firing seventeen torpedoes and scoring four hits.

His first attack on an enemy ship as Drum's commanding officer is noteworthy. It occurred off Nagoya near midnight on May 1, 1942. Rice spotted a contact which he described as a medium-sized ship with "considerable top-hamper" (superstructure and rigging) about two miles on the port bow. He swung ship to close and attack it. At 0002 hours, Drum loosed two torpedoes at the ship from a range of 1,200 yards. One fish hit the target and exploded. Simultaneous with firing the second torpedo, a destroyer was sighted near the target closing Drum at high speed. Rice took Drum to 100 feet to avoid ramming. He fired one torpedo at the destroyer before pulling the plug. It missed. At 0010, Rice made a periscope sweep and found the destroyer lying to astern at a range of 1,500 yards. He fired three torpedoes at it. All of them missed. At 0155, Rice gave the order to clear the vicinity submerged. At 0200, the destroyer began making sporadic depth-charge attacks until 1800. Drum did not take any damage. At 2230, Drum stood to southward charging her batteries.

Once back at Pearl Harbor, Rice's division commander reviewed his patrol report and credited him with damaging a medium-sized freighter in this attack. However, probably as a result of enemy radio messages intercepted by FRUPAC and provided to SubPac before the patrol report made its way to ComSubPac, Robert H. English, Rice was instead credited with sinking a 9,000-ton seaplane carrier. As of the attack date, it was the largest naval vessel the Japanese had lost in the war. Postwar review of enemy records established that the vessel was the 10,930-ton seaplane carrier Mizuho. She was a diesel-engined successor to the Chitose-class seaplane carriers, and was intended for use during ocean operations with the fleet. She was built by Kawasaki at Kobe, Japan. Mizuho was launched on May 16, 1938; construction was completed on February 25, 1939. She was modified to carry twelve Type A midget submarines. Forty miles off of Cape Omaisaki, one of Drum’s torpedoes hit Mizuho’s port side causing her to list and starting fires. Over the next three hours, the flooding and fires worsened. The order to abandon ship was issued at 0300. At 0416, the Mizuho capsized and sank, taking 101 crew members down with her. The heavy cruiser Takao saved 472 crewmen.

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