Returned from the 4th patrol on 3 September, 1944 and conducted normal refit at the U.S. Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor. In order to take part on the coming Formosa raid and to be in a position inside the Formosa Straits to intercept Japanese reinforcements for the coming Philippine Campaign, training and loading were completed four days in advance of schedule. Loaded 24 Mark 18 Mod 1 torpedoes already prepared for the U.S.S. TAMBOR who had been delayed.
24 September 1944
1300 Departed for Formosa Strait via Midway, proceeding at full power to this last fueling base.
27 September 1944
0700 Moored at Submarine Base, Midway, and received their usual good welcome and services. With fuel in every available corner, departed at noon for our patrol area. Proceeding at two engine speed.
27 September 1944 - 5 October 1944: (East Longitude Date)
Routine training enroute to station showed gratifying results. Received information that the TRIGGER - SUNFISH pack were looking for a small Jap ship whose last reported position plotted directly on our track. We were apparently ahead of these boats which had left Pearl a few hours ahead of us and had proceeded via Saipan, we felt we stood a good chance of finding him first.
6 October 1944:
Ran into threatening weather which soon developed into a full-fledged typhoon. Continued on the surface still in hope of intercepting the enemy, but soon found ourselves on the inside semi-circle, with seas and wind which would prohibit any sort of attack if he were located. The barometer dropped to 27.80, the waves broke over the raised periscope, and even had small waves on their backs. It was a sight such as none of us had witnessed before. Needless to say, our bridge watch had been secured and the ship closed up, running on the battery. It was frankly considered too late to dive as we often hung at 60 degrees by the bubble inclinometer in the control room. What the momentary extra loss of stability on diving, especially if the ballast tanks flooded unevenly, would have brought about is still a question in our minds.
7 October 1944:
Having worked through to the safe side and with slowly moderating sea, proceeded toward Formosa Straits. Our first fix showed us having been set 60 miles in a direction opposite to that which we steered while pulling clear of the storm.
8 October - 9 October 1944:
As the sea permitted went to three-engine speed. Dived for one plane which we are quite sure could flap its wings however.
10 October 1944:
With the mountains of Formosa in view dead ahead from noon on and the top of Yonakuni Shima rising on our starboard hand, went to four-engine speed so as to pass into the Strait shortly after dark. About 2100 made contact with and tracked a small craft which turned out to be a patrol vessel when observed from 5,000 yards. Put him astern and continued on past Kirun around the northern tip of Formosa inside Kahei Sho and into our area.
11 October 1944;
ATTACK NO. 1
0400 When about four miles west of Puki Kaku made radar contact at 17,000 yards on a ship moving up the coast from Pakusa Point. Tracked him at 14 knots making us at first suspicious of his character, but as the range closed he was observed to be a large modern diesel freighter heavily loaded presenting a low silhouette. Moved on to his track and dived for one of those never failing crack-of-dawn attacks. Maneuvered for an 800 yard shot as he came by and fired three Mark 18 Mod. 1 bow torpedoes, spread to cover his length. The first two hit exactly as aimed sinking this overloaded ship immediately. Surfaced as soon as the smoke had cleared away to find no survivors and only wreckage and several empty landing craft half swamped, drifting about in the water. Proceeded at full power down the coast for a submerged patrol during the day well clear of the opposition which would arrive shortly. Dived off Pakusa Point where a north or south bound ship could be spotted coming in either direction, permitting a submerged attack if necessary, but preferably tracking until dark as these shallow waters cramped any ordinary evasion tactics. The west coast of Formosa is literally covered with airfields, and planes were in sight practically every periscope observation.
1000 A strong northerly wind sprang up against the prevailing current which quickly whipped the surface into a sufficiently severe chop to make depth control difficult. This same chop, however, was seen to stand us in good stead for at noon the masts of another north bound freighter were sighted down the coast. He was running inside the 10 fathom curve zigging frequently. Though we could reach his track by moving in at high speed and have some battery left for evasion, our original plan of tracking till dark seemed more prudent under the circumstances. There then developed our longest submerged tracking problem in which we moved with our target 27 miles up the coast. This seemed surprising but with the enemy zigging frequently and bucking a heavy wind and sea, his speed made good was little more than ours running on a straight course at 80 feet between observations. Our tracks converged and he passed directly over us at sundown.
ATTACK NO. 2
At dark we surfaced 4,000 yards astern of him, passed him up at the same range, avoided a couple of stationary patrols, moved on to his track, then turned for a stern shot as he came by. The night was black and spumey permitting us to lie with our stern to him at 500 yards as he bucked the heavy seas.
2100 With a salvo of three ready to fire with a liberal spread, fired a single Mark 18 Mod. 1 torpedo at his middle with practically zero gyro on a 75 port track. Our experience of the morning was not a mistake. We were clicking and this one hit with a terrific explosion. Only the first few members of the fire- control party to reach the bridge saw any of the ship before it went down. We now experienced something new in anti-submarine tactics in the nature of estimated 40 MM fire from the beach. It was directed straight up, however, and we were quite content to let them believe that our China based planes were aloft.
Proceeded down the coast avoiding the two stationary patrols and encountering a third which was easily shaken off.
12 - 14 October 1944:
0100 Sighted a properly lighted hospital ship on an northerly course which we looked over from close aboard. He appeared to be in every respect complying with International Law.
0600 Commenced submerged patrol off Formosa Coast. Only patrol boats and planes were sighted throughout the day. On surfacing proceeded to the northwest to a focal point of the probable shipping routes from both Takao and Kirun to Foochow. Foochow seemed the logical destination for any Japanese shipping in the Formosa ports which, forewarned, would be attempting to escape from our carrier strike. It turned out to be a focal point, but only for patrol craft. Much rainy, squally weather permitted getting clear of them on the surface after submerged approach, observation and evasion.
Conducted numerous searches along enemy retirement tracks until Formosa strike was completed. On these which lead up close to Kirun the fires set by our boys were observed to be blazing furiously day and night.
16 - 17 October 1944:
Moved over to the China coast and conducted submerged periscope patrol just south of Haitan Island. Only shipping of a thousand tons or less can follow the dangerous channels behind this island group. Our position appeared ideal to intercept any worthwhile shipping attempting to clear the Formosa area. However, absolutely nothing was sighted, and after two days in these treacherous waters we moved into the center of the Strait.
18 - 19 October 1944:
Patrolled in Formosa Strait, encountering nothing but patrol craft. We were greeted on surfacing by radar- equipped planes who seemed to be assisted in their search by the patrol which also possessed radar. As it appeared to be more of a case of being hunted than hunting, we moved northeast to our original lucky spot off Pakusa Point, then on around the northern tip of the island to patrol off the port of Kirun. Friendly radar showed on our SJ to the east, probably one of the TRIGGER - SILVERSIDES group. Other radar continued to be so strong on our detector on all the usual frequencies that we stopped worrying about it except to fill in the necessary log to help out in its future tabulation. Patrolling off Kirun was almost prohibitable due to the constantly changing weather and persistant large swells. The strong currents made it inadvisable to go very far into the outer harbor and the actual presence of shipping could not be determined.
19 October 1944:
Made radar contact at 36,000 yards on an enemy group heading south instead of north as expected. There followed an approach which quickly developed into a trailing operation as our target, a Katori cruiser and two destroyers, were making 19 knots. Their erratic zigs at least every three minutes permitted us to close on the quarter where with a bit of luck or with after torpedoes an attack would have been possible. Five times in a row we guessed wrong as to the direction of his next zig, and firing remained impossible as our slow Mark 18's just plain wouldn't reach him before he would have been off on another leg.
As it was necessary to slow to twelve knots before releasing these torpedoes, and the cruiser would be opening the range during this slowing down period, it was necessary to reach a position not more than 600 yards astern of the cruiser for an up-the-tail shot. Dawn was approaching and so was the Formosa Bank just north of the Poscaderas, when we crawled into 800 yards. That is as far as we got, however, for he illuminated us. We went down before the bullets landed and expected a severe drubbing from depth charges. We were disappointed in the outcome and swore never to be without steam torpedoes forward again.
The enemy evidently suspected other submarines and did not release the escorts to work us over. A air and surface craft search started about noon, but we were well to the north of their probing. On surfacing the Hunt was still on and with a sick radar we went north clear of the Strait for repairs and a little rest from almost continuous operations.
21 October 1944:
Continued submerged patrol north of the Formosa Strait then proceeded back to the China Coast off Turnabout Island.
2100 Tracked and nearly fired on a PC-DE type patrol proceeding down the coast in dark stormy weather. We didn't like the look of the situation as seas were rolling nearly over our bridge and his erratic zigs made a surface attack precarious. When the range was 2600 yards with angle on the bow about 30 d, as if by mutual consent the enemy reversed course and high- tailed it. We did likewise probably as happy as he at the outcome. Our evasion course headed us back toward the Formosa coast so continued on for a submerged patrol on the following day.
22 October 1944:
Continued on toward the coast commencing a submerged patrol at about 1000. The usual numerous aircraft were sighted during the day. Their quantity and types indicating an influx of planes probably as replacements for those destroyed during the Formosa raids and very possibly also for support in the Philippines.
1800 Shortly after surfacing the SJ radar became temperamental and quit. Our industrious radar technician and officer commenced the usual non-stop repairs. Headed north for a safer operating area until the were completed, as this was no place to be operating without an SJ.
23 October 1944:
ATTACK NO. 3
0050 On the first trial of the revamped SJ the operator reported land at 10,00 yards where no land should be. Commenced tracking, immediately discovering a small pip moving out in our direction. Put him astern and bent on the turns. He evidently lost his original contact on us for he changed course and commenced a wide swing about the convoy which was now also in sight. A submariner's dream quickly developed as we were able to assume the original position of this destroyer just ahead of the convoy while he went on a 2-mile inspection tour. The convoy was comprised of three large tankers in column, a transport on the starboard hand, a freighter on the port hand, flanked by DE's in both beams and quarters. After zigging with the convoy in position 3,000 yards ahead we dropped back between the tankers and the freighter. On the next zig., stopped and turned right for nearly straight bow shots at the tankers as they came by, firing two torpedoes under the stack and engine room space of the nearest tanker, a single torpedo into the protruding stern of the middle tanker and two torpedoes under the stack and engine space of the far tanker. The minimum range was 300 yards and the maximum 800 yards. Torpedoes were exploding before the firing was completed and all hit as aimed. It was a terrific sight to see three blazing, sinking tankers but there was only time for just a glance, as the freighter was in position crossing our stern. Completed the set-up and was about to fire on this vessel when Leibold, my Boatswain's Mate, whom I've used for an extra set of eyes on all patrols, properly diagnosed the maneuvers of the starboard transport who was coming in like a destroyer attempting to ram. We were boxed in by the sinking tankers, the transport was too close for us to dive, so we had to cross his bow. It was really a thriller- diller with the TANG barely getting on the inside of his turning circle and saving the stern with full left rudder in the last seconds. The transport commenced firing with large and small caliber stuff so cleared the bridge before realizing it was all above our heads. A quick glance aft, however, showed the tables were again turned for the transport was forced to continue her swing in an attempt to avoid colliding with the freighter which had also been coming in to ram. The freighter struck the transport's starboard quarter shortly after we commenced firing four torpedoes spread along their double length. At a range of 400 yards the crash coupled with the four torpedo explosions was terrific, sinking the freighter nose down almost instantly while the transport hung with a 30d up angle.
The destroyer was now coming in on our starboard quarter at 1300 yards with DE's on our port bow and beam. We headed for the DE on our bow so as to get the destroyer astern and gratefully watched the DE turn away, he apparently having seen enough. Our destroyer still hadn't lighted off another boiler and it was possible to open the angle slowly, avoiding the last interested DE. When the radar range to the DD was 4,500 yards he gave up the chase and returned to the scene of the transport. We moved back also as his bow still showed on the radar and its pip was visible. When we were 6,000 yards off, however, another violent explosion took place and the bow disappeared both from sight and the radar screen. This explosion set off a gun duel amongst the destroyer and escort vessels who fired at random apparently sometimes at each other and sometimes just out into the night. Their confusion was truly complete. It looked like a good place to be away from so we cleared the area at full power until dawn.
Our attack log showed that only 10 minutes elapsed from the time of firing our first torpedo until that final explosion when the transport's bow went down.
0600 Dived north of the Strait for submerged patrol.
2000 Surfaced. Nothing but patrol boats were sighted during the day, but at night a search similar to the one previously encountered indicated the possibility of this being a trap. In any case there was little doubt about the heat being on this area. Headed north where deeper water would at least give us a better sense of security.
24 October 1944:
0600 Commenced submerged periscope patrol. On surfacing at dark headed for Turnabout Island feeling that the Japs would sow scarcely run traffic other than in the shallow protected waters along the China Coast. On approaching the islands at a range of 35,ooo yards other than land pips appeared on the radar screen until at tracking ranges the SJ was absolutely saturated.
The Staff had been correct in their estimate of the situation that the Japanese would likely send every available ship in support of the Philippine Campaign. The Leyte Campaign was in progress and the ships of this convoy as in the one on the 23rd were all heavily loaded. The tankers all carried planes on deck, and even the bows and sterns of the transports were piled high with apparent plane crates.
ATTACK NO. 4
The convoy was tracked on courses following the ragged coast at 12 knots. The Japanese became suspicious during our initial approach, two escorts commencing to run on opposite course to the long column, firing busts of 40mma and 5" salvos. As we continued to close the leading ships, the escort commander obligingly illuminated the column with 36" or 40" searchlights, using this to signal with. It gave us a perfect view of our first selected target, a three deck, two stack transport; of the second target, a three deck one stacker; and of the third, a large modern tanker. With ranges from 1400 yards on the first transport to 900 yards on the tanker, fired two Mk. 18 torpedoes each in slow deliberate salvoes to pass under the middle and stack of the tanker. In spite of the apparent early warning and the sporadic shooting which was apparently designed to scare the submarine, no evasive tactics were employed by any of the ships. The torpedoes commenced hitting as we paralleled the convoy to search our next two targets. Our love for Mk. 18 Mod 1 torpedoes after the disappointing cruiser experience was again restored as all torpedoes hit nicely. We passed the next ship, a medium freighter, abeam at 600 yards and then turned for a stern shot at another tanker and transport astern of her. Fired a single stern torpedo under the tankers stack and one at the foremast and one at the mainmast of the transport. The ranges were between 600 and 700 yards. Things were anything but calm and peaceful now, for the escorts had stopped their warning tactics and were directing good salvoes at us and the blotches of smoke we left behind on going to full power to clear the melee. Just after firing at the transport, a full-fledged destroyer charged under her stern and headed our way and exactly what took place in the following seconds will never be determined, but the tanker was hit nicely and blew up, apparently a gasoline loaded job. At least one torpedo was observed to hit the transport and an instant later the destroyer blew up, either intercepting our third torpedo or possibly the 40mm fire from the two DE's bearing down on our beam. In any case, the result was the same and only the transport remained afloat and she apparently stopped.
We were as yet untouched, all gunfire either having cleared over our heads or being directed at the several blurps of smoke we emitted when pleading for more speed. When 10,000 yards from the transport we were all in the clear so stopped to look over the situation and re-check our last two torpedoes which had been loaded forward during our stern tube attack.
A half hour was spent with each torpedo, withdrawing it from the tube, ventilating the battery and checking the rudders and gyros. With everything in readiness started cautiously back in to get our cripple. The two DE's were patrolling on his seaward side, so made a wide sweep and came in very slow so as not to be detected even by sound. She was lower in the water but not definitely sinking. Checking our speed by pit log at 6 knots, fired our 23rd torpedo from 900 yards, aimed just forward of her mainmast. Observed the phosphorescent wake heading as aimed at our crippled target, fired our 24th and last torpedo at his foremast. Rang up emergency speed as this last torpedo broached and curved sharply to the left. Completed part of a fishtail maneuver in a futile attempt to clear the turning circle of this erratic circular run. The torpedo was observed through about 180d of its turn due to the phosphorescence of its wake. It struck abreast the after torpedo room with a violent explosion about 20 seconds after firing. The tops were blown off the only regular ballast tanks aft and the after three compartments flooded instantly. The Tang sank by the stern much as you would drop a pendulum suspended in a horizontal position. There was insufficient time even to carry out the last order to close the hatch. One consolation for those of us washed off into the water was the explosion of our 23rd torpedo and observation of our last target settling by the stern. Those who escaped in the morning, were greeted by the transport's bow sticking straight out of the water a thousand yards or so away.
Normal for locality patrol.
(D) TIDAL INFORMATION
(E) NAVIGATIONAL AIDS
As listed in navigational aids.
(F) SHIP CONTACTS
(G) AIRCRAFT CONTACTS
(H) ATTACK DATA
See attached report forms. (not transcribed)
(R) MILES STEAMED - FUEL USED
Not available due to loss of records in TANG.
Days enroute to area 15 Days in area 14 Days enroute to base -- Days submerged 10
(T) FACTORS OF ENDURANCE REMAINING
Torpedoes Fuel Provisions Personnel Factor Gals. Days Days 0 -- -- --
(U) COMMUNICATIONS, RADAR AND SONAR COUNTERMEASURES
Not available due to loss of records in TANG.
Report of the loss of the U.S.S. TANG (SS 306)
This report is compiled from my observation and the stories of the eight other survivors as related to me at the first opportunity after capture.
The U.S.S. TANG took on board the twenty-four Mark 18 Mod 1 electric torpedoes prepared for the U.S.S. TAMBOR who was being delayed. All torpedo personnel in the TANG had attended electric torpedo school and it is assured these torpedoes were properly routined while on station. In fact, the performance of the first twenty-three torpedoes in all running perfectly, with twenty-two hits, attests to this.
The last two torpedoes were loaded in tubes three and four during the final stern tube attack. After pulling clear of the enemy escorts opportunity was available to spend an hour checking these torpedoes before closing the enemy to sink a cripple. They were partially withdrawn from the tubes, batteries ventilated, gyro pots inspected and steering mechanism observed to be operating freely.
With the submarine speed checking at six knots and the ship conned for zero gyro, the twenty-third torpedo was fired. When its phosphorescent wake was observed heading for its point of aim on the stopped transport, the last torpedo was fired from tube number four. This torpedo curved sharply to the left, broaching during the first part of its turn and then porpoising during the remainder. Emergency speed was called for and answered immediately on firing, and a fishtail maneuver partially completed in an attempt to get clear of the torpedo's turning circle. This resulted only in the torpedo striking the stern abreast the after torpedo room instead of amidships.
The explosion was very violent, whipping the boat, breaking H.P. air lines, lifting deck plates, etc. Numerous personnel as far forward as the control room received broken limbs and other injuries. The immediate result to the ship was to flood the after three compartments together with number six and seven ballast tanks. No one escaped from these compartments and even the forward engine room was half flooded before the after door could be secured.
The ship, with no normal positive buoyancy aft and with three after flooded compartments, went down instantly by the stern. With personnel in the conning tower and on the bridge falling aft due to the angle, there was insufficient time to carry out the order to close the hatch.
Personnel in the control room succeeded in closing the conning tower lower hatch, but it had been jimmied in the explosion and leaked badly. They then leveled the boat off by flooding number two main ballast tank (opening the vent manually) and proceeded to the forward torpedo room carrying the injured in blankets.
When the survivors from the forward engine room and after battery compartments reached the mess room, the found water already above the eye-port in the door to the control room. On testing the bulkhead flappers in the ventilation piping they found the water not yet at this height. They therefore, opened the door, letting the water race through, then proceeded on to the torpedo room. This made a total of about thirty men to reach an escape position.
During this time all secret and confidential publications were destroyed first by burning in the control room, and then in the forward battery compartment as the control room flooded. This latter seems unfortunate since a great deal of the smoke entered the forward torpedo room.
Escaping was delayed by the presence of Japanese patrols which ran close by dropping occasional depth charges. This is unfortunate for an electrical fire in the forward battery was becoming severe. Commencing at about six o'clock, four parties left the ship, but only with difficulty as the pressure at one hundred and eighty feet made numerous returns to the torpedo room necessary to revive prostrate men.
At the time the last party escaped, the forward battery fire had reached such intensity that paint on the forward torpedo room after bulkhead was scorching and running down. Considerable pressure had built up in the forward battery making it difficult to secure the after torpedo room door sufficiently tight to prevent acrid smoke from seeping by the gasket. It was felt that this gasket blew out, either due to the pressure or an ensuing battery explosion, and that the remaining personnel were asphyxiated.
Of the thirteen men who escaped, five were able to cling to the buoy until picked up. Three others reached the surface, but were unable to hang on or breathe and floated off and drowned. The other five were not seen after leaving the trunk.
Of the nine officers and men on the bridge, three were able to swim throughout the night and until picked up eight hours later. One officer escaped from the flooded conning tower and remained afloat until rescued with the aid of his trousers converted to a life raft.
The Destroyer Escort which picked up all nine survivors was one of the four which were rescuing Japanese troops and personnel. When we realized that our clubbings and kickings were being administered by the burned, mutilated survivors of our own handiwork, we found we could take it with less prejudice.