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The Deadly

Radar Contact

Sixty-eight years ago today the submarine USS S-44 (SS-155) was stalking a radar contact east of Kamchatka Peninsula in the Kurile Islands. Her radar operator had identified the contact as a Japanese merchant ship. The S-44 gave the order for “Battle surface gun” and her deck gun was manned and ready. As the contact came into view her gunners opened fire on the merchant. Almost immediately the merchant began to return its own very accurate gun fire at the submarine. Soon it was obvious the radar contact was actually an enemy escort ship armed with better guns than the S-44 and charging her with a bone clenched in its teeth. In just seconds the submarine was critically damaged and taking on water. The captain gave the order to abandon ship. Only eight men made it into the water before the S-44 dived into eternity. The victorious enemy vessel was the 860-ton IGN Shimushu-class escort ship Ishigaki. Her captain ordered only two survivors be pulled out of the frigid water. They would serve as his proof of victory over the arrogant American submarine that had dared to challenge him. The rest of the Americans would be left to know death from hypothermia in the 40-degree water. Besides there might be other American submarines lurking nearby so a hasty departure was expedient. The two submariners were taken to the Japanese naval base at Paramushiro Island where they were beaten. Later they were transferred to the Naval Interrogation Camp at Ofuna where torture was commonplace. The two submariners spent the last year of World War II working in the deadly Ashio copper mines. They were repatriated at the end of the war and provided evidence of atrocious war crimes by their captors.

USS S-44

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