The USS Sculpin (SS-191) was a Sargo-class World War II era submarine.
The namesake of the USS Sculpin is a spiny, large-headed, broad-mouthed, usually scale-less fish of the family Cottidae. Several species are found on the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America.
The radio call sign of the USS Sculpin was NAN-EASY-LOVE-SUGAR.
On November 5, 1943, the Sculpin departed Pearl Harbor for her ninth and final war patrol. She had been ordered to patrol north of the Japanese stronghold at Truk Atoll and to attack Japanese forces sortieing from Truk's northern passage during the Gilbert Islands campaign (Operation Galvanic). On November 7, 1943, she topped off her fuel tanks at Johnston Island, and then headed for her assigned patrol area with the Sculpin's new captain, Commander Fred Connaway, at the helm.
At the direction of Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Captain John P. Cromwell was aboard the Sculpin to coordinate wolf pack operations, as necessary. If activated by Cromwell, the pack would consist of either the Sculpin and the USS Searaven (SS-196) or the Sculpin and the USS Apogon (SS-308). Cromwell possessed extensive knowledge of the Operation Galvanic plans and of the Ultra intelligence system. Lockwood had cautioned him not to disclose any information about Operation Galvanic to the Sculpin's crew to eliminate the possibility of it being extracted from them by the Japanese. 1
On November 19, 1943, while making a surface end-around run to attack a Japanese convoy, the Sculpin was detected by the IJN destroyer Yamagumo and fatally damaged by depth charges. Due to the heavy damages she was forced to surface and fight the Yamagumo with her deck guns. It was a one-sided engagement. The ensuing gun battle killed Commander Connaway, his executive officer, and the gunnery officer, and inflicted additional damage to the Sculpin. Command of the Sculpin passed to the remaining senior officer, who ordered the boat scuttled and abandoned. After most of the surviving crewmen had escaped, the Sculpin was deliberately flooded with Captain Cromwell and eleven other men still aboard, some dead and others there by choice. Cromwell chose to go down with the boat to prevent the enemy from obtaining the secret information he possessed. For this action, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. 2
Forty-two of the Sculpin's crew members were picked up by the Yamagumo. One badly wounded sailor was thrown back in the sea by the Japanese. Two groups of crewmen were embarked on separate aircraft carriers returning to Japan. One group had twenty-one crewmen, and the other twenty. One of them, the escort carrier Chuyo, which was carrying the group with twenty-one crewmen, was sunk by the USS Sailfish (SS-192) and twenty of the American prisoners perished. The one survivor was able to grab hold of a ladder on the side of a passing Japanese destroyer and haul himself aboard it. He was eventually sent to the Ashio copper mines. On December 5, 1943, the other twenty survivors arrived at Ofuna, Japan and were also eventually detailed to the Ashio copper mines for the duration of the war. 3
On December 30, 1943, after the Sculpin failed to acknowledge several radio messages, she was listed as presumed lost. She was struck from the Navy list on March 25, 1944.
The Navy Department issued the following press release regarding the Sculpin's loss:
Navy Department Communiqué 510, March 18, 1944
1. The submarines USS Capelin and USS Sculpin are overdue from patrol and must be presumed to be lost.
2. The next of kin of personnel in the Capelin and the Sculpin have been so notified.
The Sculpin was awarded eight battle stars for her service in World War II, in addition to the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. She was scored by JANAC for sinking 9,835 tons of Japanese shipping in three vessels. Her Alden-McDonald score is five vessels sunk worth 10,049 tons and three vessels damaged for 13,248 tons. Her SORG score is seven vessels sunk for 42,200 tons and ten vessels damaged for 63,000 tons. 4
A discussion of Sculpin would be incomplete without mentioning her unique relationship with her sister ship, USS Squalus (SS-192). On May 23, 1939, Squalus suffered a catastrophic valve failure during a test dive off the Isle of Shoals, in the Gulf of Maine. The submarine sank to the bottom and came to rest keel down in 243 feet of water. Sculpin spotted Squalus's telephone buoy, and shortly thereafter thirty-three surviving crew members were rescued by a McCann Rescue Chamber. Twenty-three men died in the flooding aboard Squalus. On September 13, 1939, Squalus was raised and towed to the Portsmouth Navy Yard. She was refurbished and renamed USS Sailfish on February 9, 1940. Many consider it a cruel twist of fate that Squalus re-born as Sailfish sank the IJN escort carrier Chuyo, and with its sinking caused twenty members of Sculpin's crew to begin their eternal patrols. 5
Twenty-one Sculpin crew members survived the sinking and imprisonment.
A list of the men lost with the Sculpin is maintained at On Eternal Patrol.
1. Moore, Stephen L., Presumed Lost: The Incredible Ordeal of America's Submarine POWs during the Pacific War, p. 124.
2. Blair, Clay Jr., Silent Victory: The U. S. Submarine War Against Japan, p. 525; ; Miller, Vernon J., "U. S. Submarine Losses," issue 44, p. 54.
3. Moore, op. cit., p. 151-156.
4. Alden, John D., and Craig R. McDonald, United States and Allied Submarine Successes in the Pacific and Far East During World War II, Fourth Edition, see USS Sculpin (SS-191), Attack Nos. 36, 56, 58, 106, 200, 201, 202, 205, 229, 338, 353, 364, 370, 473, 884, 895, 900, 914, and 1018; Submarine war patrol reports on CD, data collected by the Submarine Operations Research Group (SORG) in the report "Results of U. S. Submarine War Patrols Listed Alphabetically by Name of Submarine"; Japanese Naval And Merchant Shipping Losses During World War II By All Causes, Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, USS Sculpin (SS-191).
5. Blair, op. cit., p. 67.