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The USS Trigger (SS-237) was commissioned on January 30, 1942 at Mare Island, with Lieutenant Commander Jack H. Lewis as her captain. She made her first test dives in San Francisco Bay and then headed for San Diego for a month of intensive training. Following that she headed back to Mare Island for final loading for war. On May 22, 1942, she sailed for Pearl Harbor, arriving there the following week. She and her crew expected to get the usual training and indoctrination at Pearl, however due to the threat of a Japanese invasion at Midway Island every available submarine was needed to check the Japanese thrust. Trigger was ordered to join a group of boats already on station northeast of Midway. She sortied for Midway with Task Group 7.2 on May 29, 1942. Shortly after she arrived on station she received new orders to close Midway and to patrol two miles off its shore. She raced to that position and just before dawn sighted the lights of Midway dead ahead. Catastrophe then struck. Trigger had cut the eastern reef much too closely. With a sickening smash the submarine ran head on into a submerged coral wall. The boat’s bow pointed skyward and then came to an abrupt stop. Lewis ordered the crew to lighten ship. They then backed emergency with no luck. Trigger was stuck. A message was sent to Comsubpac telling him of their situation. Another one was sent to Midway asking for assistance. With dawn now breaking things were looking bleak. Enemy aircraft would surely spot them now. As it grew lighter a small tug boat steamed out of the channel from Midway lagoon and tied a hawser to Trigger’s stern. The tug pulled while the Trigger backed with full power. The submarine did not budge. Then the hawser broke. Just as the tug was about to recover the hawser to try again, the submarine miraculously started to move. Trigger’s engines backed again with full power and she bounced off the reef. The incident left a gaping hole in Trigger’s number one ballast tank, but she stayed on station for a few more days in case any Jap ships might still be around. On June 9, 1942, she was ordered back to Pearl for repairs at the dry dock. After the dry-docking the crew started the training period they should have had when they first arrived at Pearl.

After Trigger tied up at Pearl her captain, Jack Lewis, was hospitalized with pneumonia. He was relieved by Commander Roy S. Benson, whose nickname was “Pigboat Benny.” On June 26, 1942, the Trigger departed Pearl Harbor for her first war patrol. Her orders instructed her to proceed to an area off Chuniksak Point, Attu Island, and await further advice from Comtaskgroup 8.5. This was not considered to be a choice assignment. Sailors, soldiers, and aviators alike viewed duty assignments in this area of perpetual snow and fog as equivalent to time spent in the brig. The islands at Attu and Kiska had been occupied by 1,800 Japanese troops on June 7, 1942. Japan’s objective was merely to hold Attu and Kiska. The American objectives were threefold: prevent any further Japanese military build-up in these islands; disrupt sea communications with the Japanese homeland; and reduce through naval and aerial bombing the usefulness of these islands to the enemy. The assets devoted to these objectives by the American side were limited because of the need for resources at Guadalcanal, Gona-Buna, and the central Solomons area. Rear Admiral Robert A. Theobold, Commander North Pacific Force, was responsible to Admiral Nimitz for keeping the Japs on Attu and Kiska under control until resources could be freed-up. The Trigger would supplement the limited force of fleet submarines already patrolling the sea around Attu and Kiska – Finback, Triton, Growler, and Grunion. Theobold also had at his disposal six S-class submarines, a sizable cruiser task force, a destroyer striking group, a flock of Coast Guard cutters, and other small surface craft.

On July 5, 1942, Trigger arrived on station and soon received a dispatch from Comtaskgroup 8.5 ordering her to begin searching the various bays, inlets, and harbors about the two islands for signs of enemy activity and shipping. From July 5 to August 8, 1942, Trigger reconnoitered enemy holdings at Etienne Bay, Abraham Bay, Holtz Bay, Chichagof Harbor, Sarana Bay, Kiska Harbor, Cape Wrangell, and Chuniksak Point. Comtaskgroup 8.5 was notified of any such activity. Due principally to the heavy fog and mist blanketing these areas Trigger was not able to attack any enemy vessels before they became invisible. On August 8, 1942, Trigger received orders to proceed to the base at Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island. She arrived there on August 10, 1942. The next day she transferred eight Mark 14-1 torpedoes, eight Mark XVI torpedoes, sixteen warheads, and two main engine cylinder liners to the submarine base at Dutch Harbor. She also fueled to capacity and took on water and provisions. On August 12, 1942, she began her return voyage to Pearl Harbor, arriving there on August 18, 1942.

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