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Warder’s Torpedo Woes


The fourth war patrol of the submarine USS Seawolf (SS-197) elapsed fifty-one days at sea, under the captaincy of Frederick B. Warder. She departed Surabaya, Java on February 15, 1942, and hunted enemy shipping in the Surabaya and Java Sea areas, the southern approaches to Sunda Strait, the Australia to Sunda shipping lanes, and the waters surrounding Christmas Island. During the patrol, Warder orchestrated eight torpedo attacks against Japanese shipping – on February 19 and 25, March 31, and April 1 – firing a total of nineteen Mark 14 torpedoes and scoring ten hits. The Seawolf’s patrol ended on April 7 when she anchored in Gage Roads at Fremantle.

At Fremantle, based on Warder’s patrol report, Seawolf was credited by ComSubsAsiatic for sinking three Japanese ships – a transport, a destroyer, and a light cruiser – for 14,000 tons. She was also credited for damaging five enemy vessels – two transports, one cargo ship, and two light cruisers – for 30,000 tons. The postwar JANAC analysis did not credit Seawolf for any sinkings because there was no evidence to support them. According to John D. Alden, Japanese records reveal that on April 1, 1942, at 10° 23’ 60.000″ S, 105° 43′ 0.000″ E, at about 0500 hours, one of Seawolf’s torpedoes hit the 5,195-ton IJN light cruiser Naka in her starboard side forward. The Naka was damaged and towed to Banten Bay by the light cruiser Natori. She arrived at Singapore on May 10 for temporary repairs, and thence steamed to Yokosuka and Maizuru for permanent repairs, which were completed in April 1943. Thus, she was out of service for one year. There is no other evidence of any sinkings of or damages to enemy ships as a result of attacks by the Seawolf during her fourth war patrol. It is likely that poor torpedo performance – deep running, premature explosions, and duds – facilitated escape by so many of her prey.

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