Third War Patrol
Copyright © 1999 Ronald D. Stalma
For the second time, the officers and men of the Springer invaded Camp Dealey, for two short weeks. After losing a close athletic tournament, the crew returned to the boat on June 3, 1945. "We came in and went to the rest camp for two weeks, and a relief crew took over; they refit the sub. There were poker and crap games going on at the rest camp. Also we played different games with another ship, we lost at tug of war; they had heavier men than we had!" Lieut. Commander J. F. Bauer, USN, relieved Commander Russell Kefauver as Commanding Officer. Lt.(jg) Gibson returned aboard, since recovering from an appendectomy. More training was commenced on June 6, and finished on June 14. The Springer was ready again for sea on June 16.
At 6:30 AM, the Springer departed Guam with escort DE701 (Osmus), for a third war patrol. Her orders were to proceed to Saipan for torpedoes, then to the vicinity of Tokyo Bay, for offensive patrol and life guard duty. At 3:00 PM, on the same day she entered Tanapang Harbor, Saipan, and moored to the USS Orion. The next day, June 17, at 2:00 PM, she departed Saipan with escort LCI 322, enroute to the patrol area. Commander Bauer made note of the "genuine hospitality" offered, saying that "it would not be forgotten to soon." On the way to the patrol area, Springer exchanged calls with USS Jack, and USS Peto. She stood by in the patrol area for many B-29 strikes. Later, at 10:05 AM, on June 26, they received word of a downed B-29, Albatross 11. Springer headed out to the area of the downed plane. At 10:30 AM, they observed their own B-29 cover and two other planes making bombing and strafing runs on a schooner and two split-kits. The targets were burning, and the planes radioed that Springer's help was not needed. Meanwhile, Trepang had already investigated the B-29 wreckage (Albatross 11); no rafts were sighted. At 11:00 AM, Springer received word of another B-29, Albatross 12, downed south of their position. They headed out and rescued seven men from the sea. About an hour later, the lookouts sighted another man, and they pulled him out of the water. The pilot reported that two additional crew members had jumped, so they continued the search until dark, with no results. On June 27, the Springer rendezvoused with the USS Tigrone, and transferred the "zoomies" (airmen) to her. In the middle of the transfer, a radio message came in from a "boxkite" (rescue & search plane) that a B-29 crew (eight goodyears) downed the pervious day were floating a mere seven miles from the Japanese seaport of Nagoya, about fifty miles northwest of the Springer. As they had a little bet on, Springer commenced a race with the USS Trepang, who had a five-mile headstart for the downed "zoomies"! Upon reaching the group first, with a 20,000 yard lead, the Trepang picked up all but one man. The Springer rescued the other man, Lt. colonel Howard F. Hugos, who was on a raft. These men were from the Albatross 11, which was downed the previous day. Several days later, the Springer rendezvoused with the USS Devilfish, and transferred the "zoomie".
July 1, Springer experienced a problem with No. 1 periscope. It seems that during the last refit at Guam, Sub Division 82, on the Proteus, pulled the cylinders and pistons through misunderstanding a request. Proteus did not have piston "O" rings similar to that of Springer. So, they replaced them with obsolete types. By the time that the mistake was realized, it was to late to change them back. On July 1, during a mourning routine exercise, No. 1 scope refused to raise. The port piston was functioning normally, but the starboard piston was frozen. After a few more attempts to raise the scope, it worked. When they tried to lower it, the starboard piston was frozen again. The crew ended up disconnecting the starboard piston from its yoke, and lowering the scope with the port piston and block and tackle. Upon examination, they discovered that the yoke retaining ring was stripped, and the piston rods were bent. July 4 came a few days later, and MOMM 2nd Class Andrew Stalma described how the crew of the Springer celebrated the Fourth of July that year. He said, "On the night of July 4, the lookouts sighted a few mines, and the captain let the crew have a little target practice. I jumped ten feet that night! I was sleeping when they hit the first of the four mines with rifle fire, it sounded like it went off right underneath me!" On July 9 at 10:05 AM, an enemy plane was shadowing Springer's position. They dived quick, when the plane tried to sneak in to attack. At 12:05 PM, Springer's cover, a B-17 and three fighters, arrived on the scene. The fighters went after the enemy plane, made one pass and scored several hits. They ended up chasing him inland. During the dogfight, one of our fighters seemed to be damaged. The pilot jettisoned his bombs and dived. During the dive the fire went out, and the pilot radioed that he was OK.
It was on July 17, 1945, that Springer commenced patrolling in Kii Suido, but no contacts were made. She was sighted daily by a Japanese float plane, and of course, she dove immediately. The aircraft always dropped two depth charges to wake up the Springer in the morning. "Every morning I would hear one men say, well, here comes the milk man, and down we'd go. The same particular enemy plane came by every day at 4:50 AM. We patrolled that area every day, and so did that enemy plane! I always wondered why they didn't send a ship out looking for us, since the plane would have reported our position daily." About that time, our own aircraft had reported five or six ships in Tanabe Bay, so the Springer closed into the harbor to take a look. Having not sunk any ships on this patrol, the captain was anxious for a target. "We had just received a message that there was a possibility of Japanese ships in the harbor. A new captain was assigned to us on that patrol run, and he wanted a ship bad. He gave the order to go into the harbor hunting. On the way in, radar picked up something, but they could not tell what it was. I was in the control room at the time, and they had all the pictures of Jap ships spread out, trying to figure what it was. The contact was making four knots, and by the time we got into the harbor, it was dark. So, the captain ordered the gun crew out. When I got up there, I couldn't believe what I saw! The whole Japanese coast line was all lit up. Our planes must not have made night bombing runs then. I remember one man from the gun crew - he got nervous when he saw all the lights on the coast, and said; "Andy, let's get the hell out of here, and go below!" We fired a shell near the target, and when it went off, it lit up the area. But, the joke was on us! It turned out to be a big, gray, harbor buoy that had broken loose from its moorings! We dared to go in as far as we could, but we didn't contact any ships, so we departed the area." At 5:00 PM, on July 23, the Springer departed her station for Guam. She arrived at Guam from her third war patrol on July 27, having gone 8,461 miles, after consuming 70,680 gallons of fuel, with a duration of 42 days. Springer commenced refit by Submarine Division 341, alongside the USS Fulton. This patrol was the Springer's third successful war patrol, and a third Combat Star was authorized. The crew rested again at Camp Dealey. This time they won the athletic contest, before returning to the ship. On August 11. Lieut. Earley was detached, and Lieut R. Belt came aboard as his relief. Springer went through another training period, and was scheduled to depart on her forth patrol, when hostilities ceased with Japan. Several days later, Lieut. Putnam, and Lieut.(jg) Gibson were detached, and sent to Japan as part of the prize crews that were taking over the Japanese submarines. The Springer ended the war with three combat stars, four ships sunk, and nine airmen rescued. She had also destroyed nine mines. On August 17, Springer departed, and headed for the west coast of The United States, where she arrived at Mare Island on September 5. Shortly after, she was attached to Mare Island Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet. Springer was decommissioned on June 26, 1946, and recommissioned on September 6, 1951. She was decommissioned again on November 14, 1952, and recommissioned a third time on June 26, 1953. Her final decommission was on January 23, 1961, and she was lent to the Republic of Chile and commissioned in the Chilean Navy as the SS Thomson. Her name was struck from the Navy list on September 1972, when her hulk was sold to the government of Chile as scrap. RDS