Built by Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. Laid down during April 1940. Launched on November 29, 1940 sponsored by Mrs. Walter S. Anderson, wife of the Director of Naval Intelligence. Commissioned on May 1, 1941 with Lieutenant Commander Allen R. Joyce in command.
On June 20, 1941 Grenadier participated in the search for O-9 (SS-70), which failed to surface after a deep test dive, and was present two days for memorial services over the spot where O-9 and her crew lay. Next, a shakedown cruise in the Caribbean Sea then returned to Portsmouth on November 5 for refit. Less than three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Grenadier departed for the Pacific to join the submarine fleet.
First War Patrol
During February 4 - March 23, 1942 patrolled near Honshu, Japan. She locating several targets but achieved no sinkings.
Second War Patrol
On April 12, 1942 departed Pearl Harbor to patrol the Shanghai-Yokohama and Nagasaki-Formosa shipping lanes. On May 8, 1942 she torpedoed and sank Taiyō Maru.
Third War Patrol
On 25 May Grenadier was diverted from her patrol area to Midway, where she formed part of the submarine patrol line as the American fleet in a bloody but brilliant battle handed the Imperial Navy its first defeat in some three hundred years. Grenadier’s third war patrol was in the Truk area, heavily patrolled by enemy ships and planes. Although she sighted some 28 Japanese ships, enemy planes effectively hampered her, and she returned to her new base, Fremantle.
Forth War Patrol
On October 13 to December 10. After laying a minefield off Hai Phong and made an unsuccessful attack on a large freighter. During the severe depth charging which followed, sea water seeped into the batteries; Grenadier’s crew suffered headaches and nausea from chlorine gas poisoning for the remainder of the patrol. To increase the misery, on 20 November Grenadier spotted a Ryūjō class aircraft carrier, escorted by a cruiser and a destroyer, heading through the Strait of Makassar too distant to shoot. Grenadier surfaced to radio the aircraft carrier's location and course to Fremantle in hope that another submarine could capitalize on it.
Fith War Patrol
Under the command of Willis Lent, between January 1 to February 20, 1943, brought her considerably better fortune than earlier patrols. A 75-ton schooner fell victim to her deck guns 10 January, and two days later Grenadier sighted a small tanker with a barge in tow. Judging the target not worth a torpedo, she slipped silently into the column behind the two Japanese ships. At dusk she battle surfaced. With binoculars lashed to the deck guns as sights, she raked tanker and barge sinking them immediately. The remainder of her patrol, along the Borneo coast through shallow and treacherous waters, was hampered by fathometer failures. She conducted an aggressive attack on two cargo ships January 22 but did not sink them.
Sixth War Patrol
Departed Australia on March 20 for the Strait of Malacca, gateway between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Patrolling along the Malaysia and Thailand coasts, Grenadier claimed a small freighter off the island of Phuket on 6 April.
She remained in the area and late in the night of 20 April sighted two merchantmen and closed in for the attack. Running on the surface at dawn 21 April, Grenadier spotted, and was simultaneously spotted by, a Japanese plane. As the sub crash dived, her skipper, Commander John A. Fitzgerald commented: "we ought to be safe now, as we are between 120 and 130 feet.". Just then, bombs rocked Grenadier and heeled her over 15 to 20 degrees. Power and lights failed completely and the fatally wounded ship settled to the bottom at 267 feet (81 m). She tried to make repairs while a fierce fire blazed in the maneuvering room.
After 13 hours of sweating it out on the bottom Grenadier managed to surface after dark to clear the boat of smoke and inspect damage. The damage to her propulsion system was irreparable. Attempting to bring his ship close to shore so that the crew could scuttle her and escape into the jungle, Commander Fitzgerald even tried to jury-rig a sail. But the long night's work proved futile. As dawn broke, 22 April, Grenadier’s weary crew sighted two Japanese ships heading for them. As the skipper "didn't think it advisable to make a stationary dive in 280 feet of water without power," the crew began burning confidential documents prior to abandoning ship.
A Japanese plane attacked the stricken submarine; but Grenadier, though dead in the water and to all appearances helpless, blazed away with machine guns. She hit the plane on its second pass. As the damaged plane veered off, its torpedo landed about 200 yards from the boat and exploded.
Toward morning what appeared to be a destroyer, but was actually
an 1800-ton merchantman and an escort vessel were seen on the horizon,
and a plane was driven away by gunfire. The skipper decided to scuttle
the ship on April 22, 1943 by opening all vents.
Fates of the Crew
The Japanese merchantman picked up eight officers and 68 enlisted men and took them to Penang, where they were questioned, beaten, and starved before being sent to other prison camps. They were then separated and transferred from camp to camp along the Malay Peninsula and finally to Japan. First word that any had survived Grenadier reached Australia on November 27, 1943. Despite the brutal and sadistic treatment, all but four of Grenadier’s crew survived their two years in Japanese hands.
The prisoners spent most of their time confined
in small classrooms and cells in a convent in Malaysia, facing hunger
and extremely harsh treatment. The men scratched their names on two sections of a wall and one of
the wooden doors. Crewman Thomas R. Courtney described the two-year stay in captivity
as a "living hell".
In 1982, surviving crew members began sending money
to the convent to support its work. Crew member Robert W. Palmer began
writing to the school board chairman, Sister Francis de Sales.
Francis replied (via USS
"For many years 'the writing on the wall' which we
regard with such reverence was, to a certain extent, shrouded in mystery.
All we knew was that these brave men were the crew of an American submarine,
who suffered cruel torture on our premises at the hands of the Japanese.
Also, a memorial to the U.S.S. Grenadier is located at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park in Buffalo, New York.
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March 5, 2013