In April of 1944 The Herald gave a report from Sylva’s Jack C. Allison, who served on the submarine USS Halibut, regarding his adventures. As news from combat zones was heavily censored, Allison wasn’t able to provide many details, but due to actions that had been previously reported was able to give some details as to the sub crew’s heroics.
Submarine warfare in the Pacific is somewhat overlooked due to the massive fleet and land battles that took place in that theatre of war.
During the attack on Pearl Harbor ,Japanese plans gave scant attention to the U.S. Navy submarine base, choosing to ravage the surface fleet and airfield.
It was a decision that would prove costly.
In the early stages of the war in the Pacific, submarine technology, tactics and weaponry were in a somewhat experimental, developmental phase. That may have contributed to Japanese naval leadership not counting on the “Sea Wolves” to be much of a threat.
A threat they were, and a devastating one. After the war Admiral “Bull” Halsey said, “If I had to give credit to the instruments and machines that won us the war in the Pacific, I would rank them in this order; submarines, first, radar second, planes third, and bulldozers fourth.”
Here’s the Herald report from April 5, 1944:
Jack C. Allison, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Claude Allison, is spending a 30-day leave with his family. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy in January, 1941, and received his four months boot training at the Naval Training Station at Norfolk, Va., and then took a 16-weeks course in Apprentice Machinist School at the Naval Operating Base there. He was then transferred to New London, Conn., for six weeks Submarine school and then took 12 weeks Submarine Diesel school. He was then sent to Portsmouth, N. H., to become a member of the U. S. S. Halibut. Jack left the States on June 10, 1942 at which time the boat was assigned to the Pacific Fleet. Since that time he has completed eight successful patrol runs which have been in various parts of the Pacific. He has been commended by Admiral Lockwood, Commander of the Submarines Pacific Fleet, for his part in the success of the patrols. The commanding officer of his boat has received five Navy crosses and two silver stars. He was awarded the submarine combat insignia with stars denoting the successful patrol runs he has made. When we asked him to give us a story of some of his experiences he said there was not much to tell, then we asked him what had been the biggest thrill, since he had been in submarines. He said, “My biggest thrill was when I saw Mount Fujiyama through the periscope, and then that night we saw the lights from the houses and the automobile lights of Japan reflected on the snow. That same night we sank two large and heavily loaded Japanese transports.” This incident has been reported many months ago, and that was the only reason he told us about it. He went on to say, “The next night after the sinkings, Tokyo Rose, a Japanese news commentator, reported the sinking of an American submarine which had unsuccessfully attacked two innocent Japanese troop ships. We listened to the report of our sinking as we lay safe off their shore. “Tokyo Rose’s motto is ‘You build them America, and we sink them.’ The skipper was so mad that he sank another small freighter before daybreak, just to prove we were still there.” When asked about the life aboard a submarine, Jack told us that there is no distinction as to rank or rate, except the respect the crew holds for their officers. “We have everything on board from a sewing machine to an automatic ice cream freezer,” he said. He told us that the food was delicious and after each successful attack the cooks treat the crew to some favorite dish.
… He would not disclose the number of ships his sub has sent to Davy Jones’ Locker. In closing he said, “The Japs will try their best but they will never outsmart the American submarine skippers.”
The U.S. submarine fleet had its share of losses in the war – 52 submarines and 3,506 men. The Halibut’s run ended with a submarine so heavily damaged in a Japanese attack it was deemed no longer seaworthy.
But it meted out a staggering amount of damage, enough to shape the course of the war. Comprising about 1.5 percent of the U.S. Navy, the submariners accounted for 60 percent of Japanese merchant shipping losses – 1,200 vessels, in addition to 30 percent of Japanese Imperial Navy losses. Those actions cut off supply lines to Japan from its Pacific and Asian holdings, drastically reducing its ability to wage war. Japan only received about one-tenth of the oil it needed to keep its economy running during 1944-45.
Submarines were used extensively in scouting, and in rescuing downed American pilots. More than 500 rescues occurred, including that of future President George H.W. Bush.
One enterprising commander launched a raiding party that blew up a Japanese train.
U.S. submarines were built for the vast expanses of the Pacific, with a range of more than 11,000 miles and an ability to remain on patrol for weeks, even months, at a time.
And built they were, saturating the waters of the eastern Pacific. In the latter stages of the war, areas of the ocean around Luzon were referred to by the Japanese as “the Sea of the Devil.” A common saying was that a person could walk from Singapore to Tokyo on American periscopes.
On Oct. 10, 1945, Allison reported to the Herald that he’d made nine patrol runs, each lasting three months, and that the Halibut had sunk seven men of war and five merchantmen, “damaging an equal number of the same.”