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Special Missions

Bismarck Archipelago,

New Guinea,

& Solomon Islands

Unless otherwise indicated, the source for the information and quotes contained in this Web page is John Clear's collection of more than 63,000 pages of U. S. submarine World War II patrol reports, compiled from original U. S. Government microfilms.

08-Apr-42, USS Tambor (SS-198), War Patrol No. 2, LCDR J. W. Murphy, Jr.

On April 8 and 30, 1942, Tambor reconnoitered Greenwich Island in the South Shetland Islands. She did not report sighting anything unusual or noteworthy.

20-May-42, USS S-39 (SS-144), War Patrol No. 4, LT F. E. Brown

Nine days into her fourth war patrol, S-39 received a radio message from Brisbane ordering her to reconnoiter Deboyne Island in the Louisiade Archipelago and then to proceed to the Tulagi area. She made landfall at Deboyne Island on May 20th, but did not sight any activity or ships in its lagoon.

12-Jul-42, USS S-42 (SS-153), War Patrol No. 2, LCDR O. G. Kirk

S-42 left Brisbane on July 3, 1942, on her second war patrol. Onboard was Sub-Lieutenant Malcom Wright, a former New Guinea Patrol Officer, who worked for the Allied Intelligence Bureau's coast watcher network, code-named Ferdinand. S-42 had been charged with transporting Wright and his provisions to New Britain and landing him near Adler Bay, on July 12, 1942. The plan was for Wright to spend a week testing natives' attitudes to determine if they would agree to work with Ferdinand operatives by providing intelligence on Japanese activities on New Britain. Wright returned safely to S-42 on the night of July 19th, bearing a gift of native cloth for King George. They made it back to Brisbane safely, arriving there on July 28, 1942.

19-Jul-42, USS S-43 (SS-154), War Patrol No. 2, LT E. R. Hannon

On July 3, 1942, S-43 departed Brisbane carrying Allied Intelligence Bureau operative and Royal Australian Air Force pilot C. J. Mason. Mason had been ordered to travel to New Ireland to make contact with three coast watchers who had failed to appear at a submarine rendezvous at the end of May 1942. On July 19, 1942, Mason left the submarine in his collapsible boat and made way to land on New Ireland. The next night, Mason returned to the submarine. He was unable to contact the coast watchers on New Ireland or learn anything of them from natives ashore. Mason said that fifteen to twenty Japanese had taken over the plantation where he hoped to obtain information about the coast watchers. The plantation laborers had fled to the hills and the natives he spoke to were wearing arm bands with the Rising Sun insignia. On the night of July 21, 1942, Mason left the submarine in his collapsible boat and headed for a landing on Feni Island, where he would attempt to locate and rescue a coast watcher stationed there. On the night of July 22, 1942, S-43 launched two of her men in a rubber boat to pick up Mason on Feni Island. At 2205 hours Mason returned to the submarine and said he accidentally discharged his rifle while in his boat and blew a large hole in it. Mason said he contacted a native boy ashore who said the coast watcher was on Feni Island and that there were no Japanese on the island. He gave the native a note to take to the coast watcher to inform him to come to the village on the west point of the island, and upon his arrival there to signify his presence by lighting a fire. At 2135 hours a light was sighted by the submarine on the west point, however it was not visible when Mason returned at 2205 hours due to a rain squall. Mason decided to spend the night aboard the submarine and attempt contact with the coast watcher the following night. On July 23, 1942, at 1910 hours, Mason left the submarine in his collapsible boat, which had been repaired on the submarine. He was confident the coast watcher would remain at the village. He agreed to rendezvous with the submarine between 1900 and 2000 hours the next night. Mason did not make the rendezvous. S-43 returned for him the next three nights, but Mason never showed. Much later it was learned that Mason and the three coast watchers had been captured within eighteen hours of the rendezvous time. Other than that, nothing else is known of their fate.

05-Oct-42, USS Amberjack (SS-219), War Patrol No. 1, LCDR J. A. Bole, Jr.

On September 3, 1942, Amberjack sailed from Pearl Harbor for her assigned patrol areas off New Ireland and in the Solomon Islands. She was also assigned to perform special duties as requested by ComAirSoPac. On the night of October 2, 1942, Amberjack received a radio message instructing her to investigate Greenwich Island in the South Shetland Islands prior to October 8th. She made landfall there on the night of October 5th and at daylight began moving in a counterclockwise direction staying about one to one and a half miles south of the islands. On October 6th, she began moving in a clockwise direction north of the islands. A two day patrol of the atoll showed no change from a report submitted by Tambor on April 30th. A radio station, a water tower, several red-roofed buildings, and a boat landing were all seen on Ninakitsu Island. No planes or ships were sighted during the two days. On the night of October 6th, she set course to finish her patrol off Kavieng. On October 11th, she radioed Comsubpac to inform him she was heading back to Pearl Harbor due to air leaks in her ballast tanks, low fuel, broken sound gear, and a broken periscope. On October 15-16, 1942, during her return trip to Pearl Harbor, Amberjack conducted reconnaissance of Ocean Island. She noted that the southwest side of the island, near Home Bay, appeared to be home to a very large sugar mill. She also sighted a large power plant, two large mills used for crushing phosphate rock, numerous small red-roofed housing units arranged in rows, some warehouses, and several stores. No signs of activity in the power plant or mills could be seen. At Sydney Point she saw a watch tower and four or five shelters that could be machine gun emplacements. Just to the west of this site there was a beach lined its entire length with stakes, which probably supported barbed wire. Radio towers were situated on the top of the island. The Japanese flag was seen flying at four different locations on the island. On October 16th, Comsubpac ordered her to head for the U. S. Navy base at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides island group. She arrived there on October 19th and was directed by ComAirSoPac to moor alongside the tanker USS Lackawanna (AO-40) to have her 6A and 6B fuel tanks cleaned preparatory to converting these tanks to carry aviation fuel. On October 20th, she stowed two hundred one hundred pound bombs with all attachments in her forward torpedo room. On October 20th, she took on 9,000 gallons of aviation fuel in her cleaned fuel tanks. She also embarked fifteen enlisted men of the Army's 67th Fighter Squadron and 347th Fighter Group, then stood out of the harbor and set course for Guadalcanal to land the fuel, men, and bombs. On the night of October 25th, she received a radio message changing the delivery location from Guadalcanal to Tulagi Harbor. She made the delivery later that day. On October 26th, she stood out of the harbor and set course for Brisbane, having been informed by Comsubpac that she had been transferred to Comtaskfor 42. She arrived at Brisbane on October 30th.

14-Oct-42, USS Grampus (SS-207), War Patrol No. 4, LCDR J. R. Craig

On October 6, 1942, at Brisbane, Grampus embarked four Allied Intelligence Bureau coast watchers and their provisions. The submarine's operation order directed her to land these personnel on Vella Lavella Island and on Choiseul Island. Grampus got underway the next day. On October 14, 1942, at 0129 hours, Grampus flooded down and launched two of the coast watchers and their supplies off Vella Lavella. On October 20, 1942, the remaining two coast watchers were landed at Choiseul Island. For the next eight months, these coast watchers reported Japanese ships running down the Slot and organized natives to patrol the islands. They also rescued twenty-three downed U. S. airmen.

31-Dec-42, USS Nautilus (SS-168), War Patrol No. 4, LCDR W. H. Brockman, Jr.

At the request of the Allied Intelligence Bureau and Admiral Halsey, on New Year's Eve, 1942, Nautilus evacuated twenty-nine people, including fourteen Catholic nuns, from Japanese-held Bougainville Island.

04-Jan-43, USS Grayback (SS-208), War Patrol No. 5, LCDR E. C. Stephan

On the night of January 4-5, 1943, Grayback stood off Munda and served as a beacon for Army bombers during an air raid at that important enemy facility. After the raid, she received a radio dispatch instructing her to proceed to the west coast of Rendova Island. There she would send two of her crewmen ashore to rendezvous with six Army aviators from a downed B-26 bomber and make them ready for transfer to Grayback. At 0405 hours two Grayback crewmen were deployed in a rubber boat. Grayback then submerged to await a prearranged signal from the crewmen that all was ready ashore and they were en route back to the submarine with the six aviators. At 1000 hours the signal was received and the Grayback kept watch for boats approaching from the beach. By 2153 hours, both crewmen and the six aviators were safely aboard Grayback, where they received medical attention from the submarine's pharmacist’s mate. Grayback transported the aviators to New Farm Wharf, Brisbane, bringing an end to her fifth war patrol.

20-Jan-43, USS Greenling (SS-213), War Patrol No. 4, LCDR H. C. Bruton

On January 18, 1943, while on her patrol station in the Bougainville Straits, Greenling received orders from Comtaskfor 42 instructing her to leave her area the next day and proceed to the area of the Admiralty Islands to conduct reconnaissance of enemy activity there. She began her reconnaissance activities there on January 20th, observing and recording signs of activity or structures on Manus, Hermit, Pak, and Tong islands. At 2045 hours, on January 22nd, she sent a radio message to Comtaskfor 42 reporting the results of her reconnaissance activities.

08-Feb-43, USS Grouper (SS-214), War Patrol No. 4, LCDR R. R. McGregor

On February 9, 1943, while on her fourth war patrol, Grouper received a radio dispatch ordering her to rescue a downed aviator on Rengi Island. On February 10th, Grouper made landfall off Rengi Island and conducted a submerged reconnaissance of the island in preparation for the rescue of the Army aviator. At 1500 hours, she sighted the downed plane and other landmarks reported by the aviator. She then lay to about 750 yards off the beach facing seaward. She flashed the predetermined recognition signal, which was answered correctly from ashore. At 2030 hours the aviator was spotted in a rubber boat rowing to Grouper. They quickly boarded the aviator and stood out to sea.

28-Feb-43, USS Greenling (SS-213), War Patrol No. 5, LCDR J. D. Grant

Greenling left Brisbane on February 21, 1943, with six Allied Intelligence Bureau coast watchers and their supplies aboard. On February 28, 1943, the submarine landed the party at Baien, near Cape Orford, on New Britain. The party moved inland, constructed a platform in a tall tree, and started reporting via teleradio Japanese air and sea traffic moving up and down the coast.

29-Mar-43, USS Gato (SS-212), War Patrol No. 5, Part 1, LCDR R. J. Foley

Gato departed Brisbane on March 19, 1943, with orders to conduct unrestricted warfare against the enemy in the Solomon Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, and New Guinea areas. She had also been tasked with landing two coast watchers and eleven Australian Imperial Force (AIF) commandos and their supplies at Teop on Bougainville Island, and evacuating twelve commandos and twelve civilians from the same location. On March 29, 1943, while making ready to disembark the coast watchers and commandos with their supplies, LCDR Foley learned there were a total of fifty-nine souls ready to be evacuated ashore. The group included twenty-seven children, nine mothers, three nuns, and twelve AIF commandos. The numbers were a shock, but Foley decided Gato could handle them all for such a short trip. To save time, they commenced embarking and disembarking simultaneously. Native canoes proved to be very helpful. On March 31, 1943, the evacuees were transferred to Sub Chaser SC-531 off Florida Island. In the early morning hours of April 4th, off Tanga Island, Gato took what LCDR Foley described as "...practically a direct hit" from one of three depth charges dropped by an enemy escort vessel. Damages sustained made it obvious that the feasibility of continuing the patrol without repairs was doubtful. He informed Brisbane of their situation and headed for the barn. Gato arrived at Brisbane on April 11, 1943, for emergency repairs. Temporary repairs having been effected, she departed Brisbane on April 20th, to resume her fifth war patrol.

03-Apr-43, USS Drum (SS-228), War Patrol No. 5, LCDR B. F. McMahon

Drum departed Pearl Harbor on March 24, 1943, after a thorough overhaul at the Navy Yard there. On April 1, 1943, at 1200 hours, while at sea, she was transferred to Comtaskfor 72 at Brisbane. She proceeded southward while awaiting patrol orders from Brisbane. On April 3rd, she closed the west shore of Nauru Island and took eight reconnaissance photographs. No military targets were observed on land or at sea near that location. She then proceeded westward. On April 4th, she received instructions to establish patrol to the northeast of Kavieng, New Ireland.

29-Apr-43, USS Gato (SS-212), War Patrol No. 5, Part 2, LCDR R. J. Foley

Gato departed Brisbane on April 20, 1943, to resume her fifth war patrol after undergoing emergency repairs for damages incurred from depth charges during the first part of that patrol. She had aboard sixteen coast watchers and Australian Imperial Force Commandos and their supplies. The plan called for landing them at Teopasino Plantation on the northeast coast of Bougainville Island. On the night of April 29-30, 1943, the landing was accomplished. Gato also embarked a priest, a bishop, and a coast watcher and his scouts. On May 1st, Gato made a rendezvous with Sub Chaser SC-504 north of Florida Island and transferred the evacuees to her. Gato ended her patrol at Pearl Harbor on June 6, 1943, whence she would proceed to Mare Island for a thorough overhaul.

05-Jul-43, USS S-31 (SS-136), War Patrol No. 7, LCDR R. F. Sellars

On her seventh war patrol, S-31 was assigned the task of investigating reports received from citizens on Aneityum Island that Japanese submarines were using an area just off the island for recharging batteries. She got underway from Noumea on July 5, 1943, for this special mission. The plan called for S-31 to land three properly equipped men on the island to establish contact and communication channels with coast watchers stationed on the island. The contacts on the island would signal S-31 whenever a Japanese submarine was spotted. On the night of July 8th, the three men were successfully landed on the island using a rubber boat. S-31 then conducted photographic reconnaissance of the northwest quadrant of the island. On the night of July 13th, the landing party returned to the submarine. None of the sightings reported by the contacts proved fruitful. S-31 returned to Noumea on July 26th.

24-Jul-43, USS Guardfish (SS-217), War Patrol No. 5, LCDR L. G. Ward

Guardfish departed Brisbane on May 25, 1943, for her fifth war patrol. On her forty-second day of patrol she was diverted from her station on a scouting line south of Truk and ordered to proceed to Tulagi to prepare for and execute special tasks. She arrived at Tulagi on July 14, 1943, and took on 46,800 gallons of fuel. On July 21, 1943, she was underway from Tulagi with air cover for her special mission. Under cover of darkness, on July 24, 1943, Guardfish surfaced at Atsinima Bay on Bougainville Island and embarked twenty-two Australian soldiers, two survivors from a downed Catalina aircraft, seven Chinese nationals who had been hiding in the hills, twenty-four native police officers and scouts with four wives and children, one Fijian, and two coast watchers. With them safely aboard, she put out to sea to transfer the evacuees to an American sub chaser. Four nights later, the submarine returned to the same location and embarked two coast watchers, their assistant, a Fijian missionary, five scouts, and fifteen other individuals. In total, Guardfish took on eighty-five people for transport away from Japanese domination to freedom. (See Lord, Walter, Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomons, p. 200. The information about the sub chaser is reported in this book, but not in the patrol report. There is precedent for such transfers. See the entries for Gato, dated March 29, 1943 and April 29-30, 1943.)

28-Sep-43, USS Grouper (SS-214), War Patrol No. 7, LCDR M. P. Hottel

On August 25, 1943, Grouper departed Brisbane. On September 27, 1943, she made a rendezvous at sea with a U. S. Naval Liaison Officer and an Australian Imperial Force major, who were in charge of five Allied Intelligence Bureau intelligence teams consisting of forty-six people. The teams were embarked from two artillery lighters. Six seven-man rubber boats and 3,000 pounds of freight and equipment were stowed. On September 28, 1943, Grouper landed the teams and their cargo at Cape Orford on New Britain. Three radios were lost in heavy surf. One man injured his back so badly he had to stay aboard the submarine. Air drops replaced the radios within a few days.

25-Oct-43, USS Guardfish (SS-217), War Patrol No. 6, LCDR L. G. Ward

General Douglas MacArthur wanted Admiral Halsey's aircraft to be based within fighter range of the Japanese fortress at Rabaul in order to neutralize enemy forces at that stronghold. He also needed Halsey's aircraft in that area to cover Allied forces pushing through New Ireland. On September 22, 1943, Halsey chose Torokina, at Empress Augusta Bay, as the location for an airfield. A landing in force there was scheduled for November 1, 1943. MacArthur ordered that three coastwatching parties be landed on Bougainville to support this operation. One party would go in with the marines at the landing. The two other parties would be landed by Guardfish, one each for southern and northern Bougainville. On October 25, 1943, she departed Tulagi Harbor with the coastwatching parties aboard. On October 26, 1943, at 2020 hours, she completed the landing of four coast watchers of the southern party at Atsinima Bay on Bougainville Island. Two nights later, she landed three coast watchers of the northern party just off the mouth of the Kiviki River. Guardfish then departed the area to conduct a survey mission of areas along the western Bougainville coast.

30-Oct-43, USS Scamp (SS-277), War Patrol No. 5, CDR W. G. Ebert

On the night of October 30-31, 1943, Scamp landed two coast watchers and nine natives at Cape Bun Bun on New Ireland. The coast watchers remained there for three weeks, collecting intelligence about a new airfield constructed by the Japanese at Borpop, further north. The party withdrew safely via PT boat on the night of November 26, 1943.

25-Dec-43, USS Peto (SS-265), War Patrol No. 4, CDR W. T. Nelson

On December 19, 1943, while on patrol north of Kavieng, Peto received a dispatch order directing her to proceed to Tulagi for a special mission for Admiral Halsey. She arrived at Tulagi on December 25, fueled to capacity, and embarked Harry Murray and Bill Dolby, who were both coast watchers of the Allied Intelligence Bureau's North Eastern Area Section; four natives employed by Murray and Dolby; and a ten-man U. S. Marine Corps survey team consisting of technicians assigned to select landing beaches, airstrips, and camp sites. Peto departed Tulagi the same day. Her assignment was to land the men at Boang Island in the Tanga Island group, to the east of New Ireland, so they could evaluate its potential as a airfield site. Murray would command the party while ashore; the officer in charge of the Marine team would command it afloat. On the night of December 29, in a dark night with a choppy sea, Murray's boat party was landed on Boang Island, but the second half of the party was unable to pick up Murray's signal from the shore and remained aboard Peto. Natives informed Murray there were only ten Japanese on the island and other islanders had reported Murray's presence to them. Murray reasoned that the Japanese would probably try to ambush his team near the boat so he laid a trap for the enemy. Six of the Japanese soldiers walked blindly into it. Murray's team killed their officer and three others. The remaining two fled. On December 30, the Marines completed their survey during the day. That night, Murray's seamanship brought them back to the safety of the submarine. On January 2, 1944, Peto returned her passengers to Tulagi and the next day headed for Brisbane, where she arrived on January 7. (See Powell, Alan, War by Stealth: Australians and the Allied Intelligence Bureau 1942-1945, p. 228-229.)

06-Jan-44, USS Gato (SS-212), War Patrol No. 7, LCDR R. J. Foley

On January 6, 1944, Gato reconnoitered the Green Islands, took depth soundings, photographs, and measured currents. The data was turned over to a representative of Admiral Halsey at Tulagi on January 8, 1944.

30-Jan-44, USS Blackfish (SS-221), War Patrol No. 7, LCDR J. F. Davidson

On January 28, 1944, Blackfish arrived at Tulagi for a special mission for Admiral Halsey. She topped off her fuel and took on provisions. The next day she embarked a party of two men and six officers with equipment. They were a U. S. Marine Corps survey team consisting of technicians assigned to select landing beaches, airstrips, and camp sites. That night she got underway for the Fenni Islands. During the special mission, Blackfish landed the survey party and their equipment at Emirau Island, Mussau Island, and the Fenni Islands. As a result of their survey, a bomber and fighter airfield was constructed by the United States Navy Seabees on Emirau Island after the landing on Emirau in March 1944. Blackfish transported the survey team back to Tulagi, arriving there on February 8.

05-Feb-44, USS Gato (SS-212), War Patrol No. 8, LCDR R. J. Foley

On February 2, 1944, Gato got underway from Milne Bay, New Guinea, for a special mission to evacuate personnel from a location near Matanakunai, on New Britain. On February 3, she rendezvoused with two PT boats off Dreger Harbor, south of Finschhafen, New Guinea. The two PT boats escorted her to the northern limits of Vitiaz Strait, where they parted ways. On February 5, she reconnoitered Open Bay to locate the point designated for the evacuation. At 1100 hours, she spotted the proper security signal ashore and that night she surfaced close to shore in a trimmed down condition. At 2100 hours, she launched two of her rubber boats to ferry the evacuees from shore. In short order, eight men were embarked and Gato headed seaward. The evacuees were: Wing Commander W. Townsend, Commanding Officer, 22nd Squadron, RAAF (shot down at Palmalmal, November 3, 1943); Major A. W. Roberts, AIF (ANGAU), a coast watcher attached to AIB; Captain Fred Hargesheimer, USAAF (bailed out of his P-38 near Ubili, June 5, 1943); Lieutenant Edward J. Czarnecki, USAAF (bailed out of his P-38 near Wide Bay, October 23, 1943); Lieutenant Carl G. Planck, USAAF (crash landed in water off Talili Plantation, November 2, 1943); Flying Officer D. McClymont, RAAF (shot down over Palmalmal, November 3, 1943); Lieutenant O. N. Clertsen, USAAF (crash landed a P-38 eight miles off Wide Bay, November 3, 1943); and Master Sergeant G. R. Manuel, USAAF, Bombardier of a Flying Fortress and its only survivor (bailed out six miles off Put Put Harbor, May 21, 1943). The airmen had been rescued and protected by coast watchers and friendly natives. Gato disembarked the evacuees at Dreger Harbor on February 7, 1944.

21-Jun-44, USS S-47 (SS-158), War Patrol No. 7, LT F. E. Haylor

On March 17, 1944, S-47 arrived at Milne Bay and became a member of Task Force 72. For the next two months she conducted ASW training for Seventh Fleet minesweepers. On June 17, 1944, she shifted to Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralty Islands, whence she departed on June 17 to support the Allied thrust along the New Guinea coast, from June 21-30, 1944. There is no record of what type of assistance S-47 provided during the campaign in existing records. It probably involved reconnaissance, weather reports, and measurements of sea currents and tides.