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The Submarine

Spy Squadron

"On Arriving in Australia, Chick [Charles Thomas Parsons, Jr.] found that increasing numbers of guerrilla messages, directed to General MacArthur, were being received almost daily. All bore similar assurances - that the senders were faithful soldiers of the Philippines, desirous of getting in touch with the commanding general of the Southwest Pacific Theater for the purpose of setting up communications channels.

"These messages were answered in plain language. Through a special means of indentifying the senders, Chick worked out a secure secret code. Nevertheless there was not as of yet no general information available as to what was to be found in the Islands, nor to what extent an organized guerrilla movement had been started there.

"Despite the fact that he had only just escaped from the Islands, and fully aware of the consequences of capture and recognition by the Japanese, Chick volunteered to go in, contact the guerrillas, and bring out the desired information.

   "'Do you think you can get away with it?' he was asked.
   ""I can try.'
   "'Your height and color are about right, but you're pretty husky - for a Filipino.'
   "'I'll pass.'
   "'Suppose you run into the Japs?'

Chick's eyes opened wide. He stated the philosophy to which was to adhere for the next two years - with varying success.

   "'I don't intend to run into 'em. I'm not going in as a commando. I'm going in as a spy.'

"General MacArthur gave his consent. Chick was relieved of all Navy command and told to go ahead. Thus, with an original personnel of one man, was launched Spyron, or Spy Squadron - an organization to which the guerrillas were to owe everything in months to come.

To include the ideas of the Navy with those already worked out by the Army was, Chick found, a relatively simple matter. Operating in complete secrecy, and aided by the highest priorities, he began to gather supplies for his trip - a trip which he had decided should be made by submarine as a plane was too vulnerable and would attract too much attention."

Quoted from Rendezvous by Submarine: The Story of Charles Parsons and the Guerrilla-Soldiers in the Philippines, by Travis Ingham.

"I found out that the guerrillas in the Philippines had two radio stations, which guarded two different frequencies, and talked to Australian stations whenever necessary to arrange for supplies or rendezvous with the Seventh Fleet's 'guerrilla line' submarines, "Spyron," as they were unofficially labeled. I believed it would be valuable for our Subpac boats to be able to talk to those stations, and I contacted the lad who handled all the guerrilla details, Commander Chick Parsons.

"I had heard practically unbelievable tales of Parson's adventures, hence I welcomed a chance for a conference. He was in Brisbane momentarily, between trips to the Islands. Seemingly there was no place in the Philippines that he did not visit when occasion demanded, even though the Japs had put a price of 100,000 yen on his head. Chick said he felt flattered by the amount.

"Commander Parsons had organized the Spyron activity early in 1943 and had been placed by General MacArthur in charge of contacting, organizing and supplying the American and Filipino guerrillas. At first his operations were handled by means of special missions assigned to various submarines. Then, as business grew, our two largest submarines, Narwhal and Nautilus, were detailed to Spyron and made more or less regular trips. Other submarines were added until, at the end of the war, statistics showed that 19 different U. S. submarines had undertaken 42 missions in Spyron, only one of which failed - when Seawolf was lost.

"Parsons, then a naval reserve lieutenant and part-time consular agent for Panama, had been captured by the Japanese in Manila, tortured by them in old Fort Santiago, and exchanged via Gripsholm as Panamanian consul. Finally, he was sent by the Navy to Australia to work out plans for re-entering the Philippines. All resistance had not been crushed by the Japs and it was important for us to ascertain the extent of any guerrilla activity and to establish coast-watcher stations to report enemy ship movements.

"Hundreds of tons of supplies were delivered and hundreds of persons exchanged by submarines between Australia and the Philippines. About 120 radio sets were furnished to coast watchers and others. It was one of his coast watchers at San Bernardino Strait who sent a warning, paralleling that of Flying Fish, advising of the sorties of the northern Japanese task force just prior to the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

"Aside from arms and ammunition, the Spyron cargoes consisted of medicines, sewing kits, cigarettes (with the box bearing the promise, 'I shall return'), shoes and hundreds of thousands of counterfeit Japanese yen. Submarines made landings in practically all parts of the Islands and even occasionally came alongside a dock in Mindanao to the music of 'Anchors Aweigh,' by a bamboo band."

Quoted from Sink 'Em All: Submarine Warfare in the Pacific, by Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, USN, (Ret.).

The statistics in the tables below document that during the period December 27, 1942 to January 25, 1945, twenty guerrilla-line submarines attached to Spyron made thirty-eight war patrols during which fifty-eight special missions were successfully accomplished in the Philippine Islands. The forty-two missions cited by Vice Admiral Lockwood included Seawolf's mission, during which she was lost before reaching the Philippines, a mission performed by USS Harder in British North Borneo, and two special missions performed by Stingray in the Banda Sea area. They are not included in the tables below because they were not performed in the Philippines area in support of the resistance movement there.

The first Spyron mission was performed by USS Gudgeon. She sailed from Brisbane on December 27, 1942. Spyron was disbanded on January 25, 1945, after Nautilus offloaded the last of her forty-five tons of cargo at Baculin Bay on the western coast of Mindanao Island. Fifty percent of the special missions were performed by Nautilus and Narwhal; they also made forty percent of the patrols.

Alphabetical List of Spyron Submarines
Used in the Philippines

Sub SMs Ptrls
Angler-240 1 1
Blackfin-322 1 1
Bowfin-287 2 1
Cabrilla-288 1 1
Cero-225 1 1
Crevalle-291 1 1
Gar-206 3 2
Grayling-209 1 1
Gudgeon-211 2 2
Gunnel-253 1 1
Hake-256 1 1
Narwhal-167 18 9
Nautilus-168 11 6
Ray-271 1 1
Redfin-272 3 2
Seawolf-197 2 1
Stingray-186 4 3
Tambor-198 1 1
Thresher-200 1 1
Trout-202 2 1
Totals 58 38

Sequential List of Spyron Special
Missions in the Philippines

  SMs Sub Link
01 1 Gudgeon-211
02 1 Tambor-198
03 1 Gudgeon-211
04 2 Trout-202
05 1 Thresher-200
06 1 Grayling-209
07 2 Bowfin-287
08 1 Cabrilla-288
09 2 Narwhal-167
10 2 Narwhal-167
11 2 Narwhal-167
12 2 Narwhal-167
13 1 Angler-240
14 1 Crevalle-291
15 2 Narwhal-167
16 1 Nautilus-168
17 1 Redfin-272
18 1 Nautilus-168
19 1 Narwhal-167
20 3 Nautilus-168
21 2 Seawolf-197
22 1 Stingray-186
23 2 Redfin-272
24 2 Narwhal-167
25 2 Nautilus-168
26 3 Narwhal-167
27 2 Stingray-186
28 2 Narwhal-167
29 2 Nautilus-168
30 1 Ray-271
31 1 Cero-225
32 1 Blackfin-322
33 2 Gar-206
34 1 Gunnel-253
35 1 Hake-256
36 1 Gar-206
37 1 Stingray-186
38 2 Nautilus-168