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The USS Snook (SS-279) was commissioned at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine on October 24, 1942 and placed under the captaincy of Lieutenant Commander Charles O. Triebel (“Chuck”). She and her crew then underwent extensive training and shakedown exercises off the New England coast. On March 3, 1943, she was underway from New London bound for Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal. She arrived at Pearl on March 30, 1943, and was dry-docked for minor repairs and alterations. In preparation for her first patrol, she embarked fourteen Mark 14-3A torpedoes and twenty-four Mark 12 mines. Her patrol operation order directed the mines be planted in the Yangtze River Delta, off the Shengsi Islands in China’s Dinghai District. On April 10, 1943, Chuck reported the Snook was ready for sea. They were underway the next day and headed for Midway. Her escort dropped two depth charges nearby for indoctrination purposes and then headed back to Pearl. Chuck supervised daily surfaced and submerged training exercises, dives, and fire control drills while en route to Midway. He also made sure Snook ran a zigzag pattern while surfaced. Near daybreak on April 15, 1943, a Navy flying boat escorted the Snook into Midway where she fueled to capacity, underwent minor repairs, and got underway for the East China Sea the same day.

From April 16-24, 1943, Snook continued her daily routines – drills, exercises, and zigzagging. On April 25th at 1530 hours, Snook surfaced for gun action against a fishing boat. After twenty minutes of concentrated fire from her three-inch and twenty-millimeter guns, the vessel was a left a mass of wreckage. Snook then submerged and avoided other contacts for she was nearing the deployment point for her cargo of mines. After carefully avoiding an enemy destroyer, picket boats, and other surface vessels, on April 30th she rested at a depth of seventy-five feet while the “eggs” were deployed in less than two hours at 30°-21′N, 122°-30′E. Later that night, Snook surfaced and began patrolling in the Saipan-Shimonoseki shipping lanes.

On May 1, 1943, after dusk, while running on the surface, Snook sighted a junk with his sails down and fish nets out. They went alongside the junk and found it was manned by a friendly Chinese crew. Chuck sent them a loaf of bread and a can of tomatoes; the junk crew reciprocated with a dozen dry salted fish. The Snook then headed for the Shantung Peninsula and the shallow Yellow Sea. On May 4, 1943, Chuck began patrolling along a line that intersected the Dairen-Gulf of Bohai shipping route. He used the lighthouse on Round Island as navigational fix.

On May 5, 1943, at 1818 hours, Snook began tracking two freighters in line standing out of Dairen into Korea Bay. At 2210 hours, running surfaced using SJ radar data, Snook fired three torpedoes at the trailing freighter from a range of 1,100 yards. The first torpedo hit him and he sank by the stern. Chuck believed they had sunk a 4,000-ton cargo ship; postwar analysis would document it was the 1268-ton passenger-cargo vessel Kinko Maru. The leading freighter went to flank speed to escape the same fate. Thirty-eight minutes and five torpedoes later, one of Snook’s fish sank the fleeing freighter. This attack was also made while Snook was running on the surface using SJ radar data. Chuck believed they had sunk a 5,700-ton cargo ship; postwar analysis would document the victim was the 3,194-ton cargo vessel Daifuku Maru. Chuck surmised the freighter’s captain had likely radioed for help, so with six torpedoes left he pointed Snook’s bow south.

On May 7, 1943, at 0050 hours, again employing a night-surface-radar approach, Snook found herself in front of a convoy consisting of two large and three small ships. At 22,000 yards, the five pips were coming in strong on the SJ radar screen. By 0230 hours, it was clear they were looking at two big ships in the middle of the formation, led by a smaller one about 2,500 yards ahead, and two destroyers, one on each flank. At 0325 hours, from a range of 2,700 yards, Snook sent a four-torpedo spread into the formation of ships. However, only three left the tubes. The fish in tube nine was reported as a hot run, but a post-attack investigation would prove this report inaccurate. The problem was a defective stop bolt that had caused the torpedo’s propellers to run while it was still within the tube. The torpedo left the tube on a second attempt to fire it. Based on two explosions and the disappearance of one of the blips from the radar screen, Chuck reported Snook had probably sunk a 7,000-ton freighter or transport; she would later be credited for sinking the 4,370-ton cargo vessel Tosei Maru. Snook submerged as dawn approached and continued patrolling to the south.

On May 11, 1943, Snook reached the mouth of the Yellow Sea and steered east toward the Goto Islands and the Nagasaki-Shanghai shipping corridor. While en route they discovered their SD radar was no longer working. On May 13th at 2121 hours, using a night-radar-periscope approach, Chuck began the final phases of an attack on a ship they had been tracking for the past four hours. In these waters it was important to verify the ship’s nationality was not Russian. No such markings or flags were observed through the periscope. Snook’s last two torpedoes were made ready and fired from a range of 1,500 yards. One of the fish hit him 35 seconds later and exploded loudly. The ship blew up and sank. Snook surfaced and investigated the debris field, but did not find any survivors. Chuck estimated they had destroyed a 2,210-ton cargo ship. Postwar analysis by John D. Alden credits Snook for sinking the 220-ton steel trawler Wakakusa Maru, killing eight people. Following this action, Chuck gave the order to head back to Midway Island.

On May 16, 1943, at 1400 hours, Snook was about 80 miles west of Torishima Island when she sighted a 80-ton diesel-powered trawler coming out the haze about 5,000 yards away. Chuck took the boat to periscope depth and watched him pass by at 800 yards. He concluded the trawler looked harmless except for a suspiciously large pile of lumber stowed aft, a radio antenna, and a rising sun bull's-eye painted on its bow. Chuck ordered battle surface for gun action. In a rain squall they shot numerous holes in the trawler. It was carrying too much wood to sink and was too wet to burn. They went by close aboard, but did not find any sign of life. Postwar analysis by John D. Alden credits Snook for probably damaging an 80-ton trawler in this gun action. At 1800 hours, Snook sent a dispatch to Comsubpac saying they were through the “picket” fence in the Bonins and heading home. Thenceforth they enjoyed uneventful cruising and made it back to Midway safely on May 23, 1943.

John D.Alden’s analysis credits Snook for damages inflicted to Japanese shipping by the mines she planted during this patrol. On May 29, 1943, the 3,948-ton ore carrier Hakozaki Maru was possibly damaged and on May 30 1943, the 1,992-ton cargo ship Takamisan Maru was possibly sunk, by mines planted by Snook.

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