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Liveblogging World War II: November 19, 1943


USS Sculpin:

George Brown was sent from his dive control station to assess the damage.

..Upon inspection, I found the after engine room had flooded to such an extent I believed it unwise to attempt to place a bubble in No. 4 Main Ballast Tank, which would have aided the trim considerably. The flow of water forward might short the main motor leads. We decided to bail the water forward to another compartment until we could trim the ship without endangering the main motors.

While a bucket brigade was being run by exhausted men in temperatures well over a hundred degrees, the temporary diving officer broached the ship. However, no one could be blamed for this as the depth gauge was stuck at 170 feet and the pressure gauges around the diving station were all flooded out.

When SCULPIN stuck her nose up, the destroyer saw it and came over again, dropping another string of depth charges which tore the radio transmitter from the bulkhead and smashed the receiver, popped light bulbs and severely damaged outboard vents in both torpedo rooms.

Finally Sculpin’s captain, Commander Connaway, decided to surface and fight it out with the deck gun. It would be a one sided battle but it gave them some chance. Fireman Baker was one of the men who went on deck to man the gun:

The next thing we know, the word is passed through the intercom phones,” Standby to Battle Surface!” Up to the surface we go, the hatch is open and we dash out on deck quickly to man the deck guns and have it out with him once and for all.

The day was a pretty one, with white caps coming over the decks. At first when we went out on deck we couldn’t see the destroyer. Then one of the men spotted it on the starboard side … right against the sun. He was about 3,000 yards off. Immediately we went to our stations on the gun and began to fire at him. We got off the first shot, which went over him. The second fell short.

In the meantime, he had begun to fire at us with machine guns and his 5-inch-70. All we had was a 3-inch-50. One of his shots hit us in the main induction, another went directly through the coming tower and came out the portside, killing a number of men inside, and also some men who were out on deck, hiding from the gunfire. Men were being killed from the machine gun fire as they were coming out of the hatches.

We had a fine crew… the guys really showed the guts they had. A. B. Guillot, Fireman first class, from Louisiana, was on the 50-caliber gun. The Japs made a direct hit on his gun and wounded him severely. I still remember how he looked with blood streaming from great rips in his chest, passing ammunition to the 3-inch gun until he fell over the side. J. Q. Harper, Torpedoman third class, stuck at his 20mm gun until the very end.

With Commander Connaway and other officers dead as a result of hits to the conning tower, the command of Sculpin passed to Lt. Brown. There was one more senior officer travelling on the Sculpin. Captain Cromwell’s role had been to organise the US submarines in a wolf pack later in the patrol, he was privy to high level Naval intelligence, including the Enigma traffic:

I informed Commodore Cromwell, who was in the control room, of my intentions. He told me to go ahead and he said he could not go with us because he was afraid that the information he possessed might be injurious to his shipmates at sea if the Japanese made him reveal it by torture.

I then rang up, ‘Emergency speed” and passed the word, “Abandon Ship”, and sent Chief Hemphill forward and Chief Haverland aft to pass the word in case the P. A. system was out. When they returned to the control room we waited one minute by the clock, then ordered the vents opened, knowing that it would spell the doom of the submarine in minutes and thereby rob the, Japanese of a valuable war trophy.