The USS Escolar (SS-294) was a Balao-class World War II era submarine.
The namesake of the USS Escolar is a predatory fish of the open ocean related to the mackerels and tunnies.
The radio call sign of the USS Escolar was NAN-XRAY-KING-GEORGE.
On September 18, 1944, the Escolar, captained by Commander William J. Millican, left Pearl Harbor for her first and final war patrol. After topping off her diesel fuel at Midway Island, she joined the USS Croaker (SS-246) and the USS Perch (SS-313) as the leader of the wolf pack "Millican's Marauders." Their area of operation was the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea above the 30° north latitude line. 1
On September 30, 1944, the Escolar reported to her sister submarines that she was undamaged after engaging a small gunboat with her deck gun. Her last communication was with the Perch on October 17, 1944. At that time Millican advised the Perch he had not found any worthwhile targets in his area and the Escolar was then at the geographic position 33° 44′ N, 127° 33′ E, about 60 miles northwest of Sasebo. He also said he was heading toward the geographic position 33° 44' N, 129° 06' E, which was close to a major base of the Imperial Japanese Navy at Nagasaki. The Escolar was never heard from again. Neither the Perch nor the Croaker could raise the Escolar by radio after this transmission was received. 2
On November 27, 1944, she was reported as presumed lost.
The loss of the Escolar was made public on February 28, 1945:
Navy Department Communiqué No. 581, February 28, 1945
1. The submarines USS Escolar and USS Shark are overdue from patrol and presumed lost.
2. Next of kin of officers and crew have been notified.
The Escolar was the first of seven submarines built by the Cramp Shipbuilding Company in Philadelphia. All of these boats were not well built and were very unpopular in the submarine force. The company had failed because of poor management practices and labor difficulties. Other shipyards had to finish four other submarines on order. It is therefore possible that an operational defect caused by poor workmanship could have been responsible for the loss of the Escolar. 3
In June 1943, three lines of Type 93 influence mines were laid in southern parts of the Yellow Sea by the Japanese auxiliary minelayers Koei Maru, Shinko Maru, and Saigon Maru. In September 1943, the minelayer Nasami planted additional mines in the same areas and still more were laid in January 1944 by the minelayer Itsukushima. Millican knew there were minefields in his assigned area and in the area toward which the Escolar was headed and had indicated to the Perch on October 17th that the course he had plotted would not bring the Escolar into contact with any of them. It is possible that the Escolar unknowingly entered a minefield or struck a floating mine. 4
There were two antisubmarine depth charge attacks by kaibokans in the Escolar's area during the time period of her last patrol. On October 19, 1944, just outside the port of Sasebo, the escort vessel CD-34 detected an unknown submarine. Another escort vessel, CD-38, dropped thirty depth charges on it. The kill was confirmed by a heavy-oil slick and many interior ship fittings found floating on the sea. On October 22, 1944, in the sea area north of Ukushima Island in the Goto Archipelago, the escort vessel CD-30 using Type 3 sonar detected an object resting on the bottom in 90 meters of water. She dropped nine depth charges set to explode at 75 meters on it. Following the explosions, huge air bubbles rose to the surface followed by a "ghastly gush of oil." The next morning a large oil slick was observed at the site. It is possible the Escolar was the victim in either of these attacks. In his October 17th message Millican indicated he was headed to the Sasebo-Nagasaki area. 5
Of all the possible causes for her loss discussed above, the most probable one is that the Escolar struck a mine somewhere between the geographic position reported to the Perch on October 17th and the Sasebo-Nagasaki area. One of the most heavily mined areas in Empire waters was the trade route from Nagasaki to Shanghai, and the Escolar was headed into this nexus. 6
The Escolar is not credited for having sunk any enemy vessels.
A list of the personnel lost with Escolar is maintained at On Eternal Patrol.
1. Blair, Clay Jr., Silent Victory: The U. S. Submarine War Against Japan, p. 731; United States Submarine Losses World War II, p. 120.
2. Blair, Clay Jr., op. cit.; Lockwood, Charles A. Sink 'Em All: Submarine Warfare in the Pacific, p. 225.
3. Blair, Clay Jr., op. cit., p. 731n.
4. Miller, Vernon J., "U. S. Submarine Losses," issue 42, p. 122-123; Hackett, Bob, Sander Kingsepp and Erich Muehlthaler, "IJN Minelayer NASAMI: Tabular Record of Movement," published online at Combined Fleet; Holmes, Wilfred J., Undersea Victory: The Influence of Submarine Operations on the War in the Pacific, p. 393.
5. Miller, Vernon J., op. cit.; Hackett, Bob, and Sander Kingsepp, "IJN Escort CD-30: Tabular Record of Movement,"; Hackett, Bob, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall, "IJN Escort CD-34: Tabular Record of Movement,"; and Hackett, Bob, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall, "IJN Escort CD-38: Tabular Record of Movement," all published online at Combined Fleet.
6. Schratz, Paul R., Submarine Commander: A Story of World War II and Korea, p. 183.