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USS Springer
Second War Patrol
Copyright © 1999 Ronald D. Stalma

     While Springer was being refitted in Guam by Submarine Division 82, alongside the USS Proteus, her crew enjoyed fourteen days of rest and play at Camp Dealey. The men returned to the ship on April 9, and commenced training again. Then, on April 20, Springer was ready to strike again. She sailed in the company of the USS Trepang, and the USS Raton, with Commander Kafauver commanding a Wolf-Pack, enroute to the Yellow Sea area. Now this area was considered a "hazardous duty" area, due to it's vast stretches of shallow water. This was not a place for a submarine crew to play "cat and mouse" games with the enemy.
     Eight days later, on April 28, Kafauver decided to take a look at Tomei Harbor, on Fukue Shima. He notified the Trepang and Raton of his intentions, as he planned to sail south of Fukue Shima, so that he could cover both southern approaches. At 1:35 AM, a bearing fix placed Springer in the middle of the southeast channel, 1.3 miles east of where Kafauver expected to be. Then, at 5:15 AM a Teretsuki class destroyer Submarine Chaser No.17, and a large transport, were sighted heading out of the harbor making 16 knots at a range of 7500 yards. Anticipating a kill, Springer attempted to close in , but unfortunately she could not get any closer than 6500 yards. The enemy was not taking any chances, as he was hugging the coastline very closely. Around 6:24 AM, 14 explosions were heard, so commander Kafauver, concerned with the whereabouts of Trepang, turned around and headed back out of the harbor. Later, in communicating with Trepang, it was found that when she was stationed outside of the harbor, she attacked and sank the transport. Trepang dived at once, as the sub chaser spared no expense in depth charging her. Quick to act, the Trepang out-maneuvered the sub chaser and slipped away. While Springer was heading back out of the harbor at 7:57 AM, sound picked up pinging. At 8:16 AM, she sighted the returning destroyer, minus the transport at a range of 8250 yards. Captain Kefauver gave the order to move in closer, and the Springer maneuvered into a what the Captian called "a lovely position" at 4500 yards, with zero angle on the bow. He decided to ease off track, but the target turned towards Springer, giving her a 10-degree angle on the bow. Commander Kafauver decided that the only solution would be a shot "down the throat". At 1700, yards the periscope was raised as Springer prepared to fire, but the target had turned again, giving them a 65 degree starboard angle. A quick change in setup was configured, and at 8:30 AM, with the crew tense, Springer fired three of her torpedoes from a range of 1500 yards, set at six feet deep, and a 50-degree right gyro at the Destroyer. A Mark 14, from tube No. 1, a Mark 23 from No. 2, and a mark 14, from No. 3. Observing the first fish hitting the aft section of the target, the Captian prepared for trouble. Somehow, the target turned, by either being blown around, or moving toward Springer, by listing heavily to port. The order was given to dive, and as the Captian put it "we went deep rigging for our first shellacking". A few minutes later, after hearing only a few popping noises, she came back up for a look. The target's aft section was blown off, was bent nearly 90 degrees upward, and went dead in the water. MoMM 2nd Class Andrew Stalma reported, "I never saw anything like it! The whole after-deck separated from the ship. It just went vertical into the air when we hit it! The Japanese were trying in vain to patch up the damage from the torpedoes with mattresses! Then, we sighted a plane circling over the target, inspecting the damage. The Japanese finally realized that the effort was futile, and decided to abandon ship. We saw two Japanese officers causally walking out of the forward hatch, as if on a Sunday stroll, all dressed to the hilt with swords and sashes. It was remarkable; one had a sash that trailed from the main deck clear down to the water's edge. They all seemed willing to fight when they didn't even have a ship left to fight with! Then captain said, "Well this joker, (he always called the enemy "joker") doesn't want to go down, so we'll give him another fish." Twenty-seven minutes later, Springer fired a Mark 14 from tube No. 5, at range of 800 yards. The torpedo ran just ahead of two lifeboats and one raft, and missed the ship. At 8:55 AM, a plane was sighted over the target as Springer fired a Mark 23 from tube No. 6, with the result being the same as tube No. 5. This one passed right under the loaded life raft, causing a flurry of excitement on the raft, scaring the pants off those Japanese. Kafauver turned and opened out for a stern shot, maneuvering again into firing position. At a range of 950 yards, a Mark 14, fired from tube No. 8 at the stack, hit under the No. 1 turret. This eliminated the bow and two loaded lifeboats, leading to the demise of Sub Chaser No. 17. It sank vertically a minute and a half later, at a 180-degree dive angle. Sub Chaser No. 17, at 167'4" length x 22'0" beam x 9'0" draft, 460 tons, could do  16 knots. She sported 1 x80mm HA gun,  2 x 13mm AA, 136 depth charges, and 56 25mm free-swinging mount guns. One plane circled during the attack, but made no attempt to bomb Springer. As the Captain commented, they were probably muttering their well-known "what a deplorable situation." Four hours later, sound picked up screws and Springer observed two trawlers on an A/S sweep. Two planes came by, this time loaded with bombs looking for Springer. The Captain decided that since they were down since 1:35 AM, for eleven hours, to let these pass without bother. So he gave the order to go deep and cleared the area, surfacing at 2:00 PM, one hour and fifteen minutes later.  
     On April 30, after four days of peace, the Springer had radar contact with three new targets. At 10:25 AM, the Captain attempted to contact Trepang and Raton, but only Trepang answered. Picuda was also in the area and answered, but was to far away to be of assistance. The morning was very foggy, so Kefauver decided that the thick fog would make a nice cover to slide in under. The contacts were identified as one large freighter, a destroyer, and another destroyer-escort. Reports were sent to Trepang concerning the zig-zag plan of the targets. Then, two hours later, the Captain took the opportunity to position the Springer right between the ships, hoping for a daring double kill, with the aft tubes firing on the destroyer, and the forward tubes eliminating the freighter! Meanwhile the Trepang had reported that she had positioned herself on the opposite flank of the targets. By noon, Springer closed to a range of 4750 yards, while obtaining a favorable firing position. As the convoy zigged the escort was now 1,500 yards ahead of Springer, but now the tide was turned against Springer. The fog which had been very thick lifted quickly, leaving Springer naked, in full view of an angry destroyer escort. The DE was located at a bearing of 130 degrees relative, with 110 degrees angle on the bow.  The DE wasted no time in turning toward the Springer while firing all  guns. With machine gun fire raking across Springer's deck, the DE trained her large guns on Springer and commenced firing. Kefauver changed set up and fired three Mark 14's "down the throat" from tubes 8, 9, and 10 at a range of 1000 yards, and dived fast. This was primarily to bother the destroyer, and possibly divert his attention for a moment while Springer dove deep. Tube No. 7 was made ready  with a special surprise for the escort -- a Mark 27 acoustic torpedo. As she dove and rigged for silent running, the men fully knew what was coming next. Twenty-seven very close depth charges came down the pike, pounding down around her. ( MoMM A. Stalma reported that it seemed like twice that amount!) Speakers were knocked off the bulkhead, bulbs smashed as she shook from the force of the explosions, and valves lifted their seats. Imagine sitting in a steel drum, with a freight train passing by, and then someone pounding on the side with a sledge hammer! That is very similar to the sound of a destroyer passing overhead, as depth charges exploded around a sub!
     Things seemed to look bad for Springer, and the men's nerves were tested as they rode out the attack. With all the noise in the water from the depth charges, it was likely that the Mark 27 was not able to hone in on the destroyer. As Springer finally evaded the destroyer, sound reported an explosion some distance away. All was quiet, so she eased up for a look. The last explosion was a torpedo fired by the Trepang at transport number 146, which was now dead in the water. The DD and DE, not realizing that there were two subs in the area, moved to about 8 miles, out searching for Springer. Trepang reported that she was moving in to finish off the target, thereby sinking it.  
     May 1 came, as Springer commenced a radar approach at 13,000 yards, on two ships out on an A/S sweep at 12:30 AM. Springer sent a message to Trepang, but still couldn't contact Raton. At 2:15 AM, radar picked up another pair of ships at 6,140 yards. Springer hauled out of there on all four mains and dove at 6:00 AM, not knowing what she was up against. She surfaced at 7:30 PM, and at 9:00 PM, SJ radar contacted something at 36,000 yards. As Springer closed to 1800 yards, the contact turned out to be two small fishing boats, so she headed out north.
     May 2, at 8:00 PM, an SJ contact of three ships at a range of 36,000 yards was made. Then at 9:16 PM, Springer received word that Raton was busy chasing after another contact, and Trepang was too far away to be of assistance. She manned night battle stations at 10:43 PM, and at 10:51 PM, determined the contacts to be either a destroyer, or a destroyer-escort, with two small ships on it's starboard bow. Springer moved in to 3310 yards, and obtained a favorable firing position. Four torpedoes were fired from tubes 6, 5, 4, and 3. A Mark 23, Mark 14, Mark 23, and a Mark 14, with an 8-second firing interval for each. One small explosion was heard, and then two more heavy explosions came next. One torpedo hit the magazine, and the target blew up with such tremendous force that the Springer shook from the explosion. That ended the career of the Oga. She was an Ukuri-class escort, 258'5" length x 29'10" beam x 10'0" draft. At 940 tons, she could do 19.5 knots. She sported 3 x 4.7mm AA, 6 to 20 25mm AA, 1 x 3" AS mortar, and 120 depth charges. She was  put in service on April 5, 1945, and put "out" of service by Springer! As Springer closed again to 3600 yards, the remaining two targets were small patrol craft. Captain Kafauver considered that the enemy was now alerted, so he moved Springer northward. Meanwhile, as Springer had lost radio contact with USS Raton, it seems that Raton had her hands full also, the night of May 2. She had made contact with three targets off the Shantung Peninsula. That night, she torpedoed a loaded tanker in a surface attack, the Toryu Maru. Earlier on in the day, despite gunfire from two Japanese escorts, Raton also sank a medium-sized cargo ship, the Rezikan Maru, in a submerged torpedo approach. The following night, May 3, Springer made radar contact at 60,000 yards. She commenced radar approach at 20,480 yards on ship that was on an A/S sweep. Trepang reported a contact and was investigating, while Raton was farther north. Manning night battle-stations, Springer closed and fired four torpedoes, a Mark 23, Mark 14, Mark 23, and Mark 14, at 6 second intervals from tubes 6, 5, 4, and 3. Three hits were observed on the enemy ship, 2700 yards away. These were also felt, and followed shortly by a huge underwater detonation. Meanwhile, at 11:09 PM, a huge flash on the horizon to the west was observed, followed by an underwater detonation wave. The fish from the Trepang had found their mark in a successful attack. Springer's target had capsized, but still stayed afloat, so at 11:30 PM, Springer fired a Mark 14 and Mark 23 from tubes 1 and 2 at the target which was dead in the water. Both of these torpedoes missed. As she was circling the target, it suddenly disappeared.
     May 4, at 1:30 AM, Springer closed upon a large oil slick with lots of debris, while looking for survivors from Japanese Coastal Defense Vessel No. 25. The captain sent a seaman in a raft to see if there were any survivors, but all he found were some charts and two oars. Coastal Defense Vessel No. 25 was a C-Type patrol vessel, 221'5" length x 27'7" beam x 9'6" draft, 745 tons, and would do 16.5  knots. She sported 2 x 4.7" guns, 4 to 6 25mm AA, 1 x 3" AS mortar, and 120 depth charges. The next evening Springer departed the area for lifeguard duty, for Aircraft Carrier strikes on Honshu, and also for a rendezvous with Scabbardfish to transfer papers. On May 4, a plane closed to 4 miles, forcing Springer to dive at 6:35 AM. She surfaced at 7:42 AM, and at 10:00 AM, sighted two B-29's and had a not-so-friendly exchange with one of them. Machinist Mate 2nd class Andrew Stalma said; "On that particular patrol, a B-29 started firing on us! We had walkie-talkies to communicate with the planes, and the captain radioed to them, "What the #@$& are you shooting at us for?" the plane radioed back, "If you haven't anything important to say, keep off the air!" We never did find out why they fired on us!" Captain Kefauver noted in his report that the B-29's were not following the newly established procedure of remaining outside the 8-mile limit, until exchange of recognition. Things were pretty routine until May 14, when at 6:50 AM, an enemy fighter (Zeke) was sighted, coming in fast and low, on the Springers starboard beam, so she dove fast! She surfaced soon after, and observed a dog fight between the Japanese plane and four of our planes from the Aircraft Carrier. The Japanese plane ended up being shot down in flames down by our planes, the pilot dead. Springer picked up the dead pilot, his papers were taken, and he was tossed back into the sea. Springer had quite a bit of trouble on this patrol with the SJ radar. Six tubes, one rectifier, two voltage regulators, a transmitter tube, and a local oscillator tube had been replaced. There were three spare oscillator tubes on board, with the first two being shorted. The third, when tried, was operational. Interestingly enough, extraordinary ranges were obtained with the SJ in the Yellow Sea area. The Captain believed it to be due to a temperature inversion. The Captain also reported that the SD radar was quite a sturdy piece of equipment, for they used it quite a bit during lifeguard duty. It could pick up a B-29 at 45 miles, an F6F at 35 miles, but "didn't" pick up that Zeke that rode the beam about 50 feet off of the water, on May 14!
     That evening, the Springer departed the patrol area for Guam for refit. She arrived at Guam from her second war patrol of 29 days on May 18, 1945. She consumed 71,628 gallons of fuel, and traveled a distance of 6,261 miles. at Guam, she was  refitted by Submarine division 161, alongside the USS Proteus. Another successful mission and a second Combat Star was authorized.  RDS