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The Intractable Oil Leak


On September 28, 1943, the submarine USS Cisco (SS-290), captained by Commander James W. Coe, dived into eternity with all 76 hands. The depth charges thrown by the IJN riverboat Karatsu, which was originally the U. S. gunboat, USS Luzon (PR-7), had found their mark, as had the bombs dropped by two enemy “Kate” attack bombers. The Cisco could not withstand more punishment. The black ooze coming from her intractable oil leak left a trail on the water’s surface like footprints in the sand. The Karatsu and the Kates used them as a target. Gradually the slick grew bigger and bigger. Soon it was obvious a submarine had died. The Cisco never made it to her assigned patrol area in the South China Sea between Luzon Island and the coast of French Indochina. The bottom of the Sulu Sea would be her final resting place. During trial runs Coe had complained about a chronic oil leak which he characterized as “..a serious liability in wartime operations.” After every repair it would stay fixed for a while and then start leaking again. Even on this first and final patrol he had to return to Port Darwin to have it fixed. He finally got underway for his date with destiny on September 20, 1943, and headed for her assigned patrol area resolved to carry out his orders. If the leak recurred, he would have to deal with it at sea.

USS Cisco

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