PROLOGUE TO WEWAK
Our Operation Order routed us through the vicinity of WEWAK, a more or less undetermined spot located in whole degrees of latitude and longitude as 4 degrees S and 144 degrees E. Air reconnaissance had reported considerable shipping there, and dispatches received enroute indicated continued use of this area by the enemy. The position of WEWAK HARBOR was determined as behind KAIRIRU and NUSHU [sp] ISLANDS on the Northwest Coast of New Guinea through the interest of D.C. KEETER, MMIc U.S. Navy who had purchased an Australian "two-bit" school atlas of the area.
Study of the harbor on our small scale chart immediately showed deep water and unmistakable landmarks, with tempting possibilities for penetration and escape. By making an accurate tracing slide, and using camera and signal light as a projector, a large scale chart was constructed of the whole harbor. All available information was transferred from sailing directions to this chart.
With everything in readiness adjusted speed to arrive off KAIRIRU ISLAND prior to dawn.
(All times K)
January 24th: 0330 Dived two and a half miles North of KAIRIRU ISLAND and proceeded around western end to investigate VICTORIA BAY. As Dawn was breaking, sighted small tug with barge alongside and a few moments later two CHIDORI class torpedo boats. As this patrol was underway, maneuvered to avoid, then came back for a better look into this mile deep bay. There was no other shipping.
Went around southwestern tip of KAIRIRU ISLAND to observe the strait between this and NUSHU ISLAND, a foul weather anchorage. Kept position out in, noting the set and drift, and light patches of water marking shallows. The water in general was a dirty yellowish green. With these in mind planned appropriate exit.
Saw what appeared to be tripod masts on the eastern end of KARSAU ISLAND, but either a patrol boat or tug in KAIRIRU STRAIT prevented further observation at this time. As the masts could well have been those of a ship behind KARSAU ISLAND, proceeded west hoping to round UNEI ISLAND, connected to KARSAU by a reef, and observe from between these islands and the mainland. However a reef with the seas breaking over it extended far west of UNEI frustrated this plan. Went back between KARSAU and KAIRIRU ISLANDS hoping to see further around the eastern end. The masts were not sighted again, but a photograph taken at their observation may yet disclose their presence.
At 1318 an object was sighted in the hight [sic] of NUSHU ISLAND, about five miles farther into the harbor, much resembling the bridge-structure of a ship. Commenced approach at three knots. As the range closed the aspect of the target changed from that of a tender with several small ships alongside to that of a destroyer with RO class submarines nested, the latter identified by the canvas hatch hoods and awnings shown in ONI 14. The meager observations permissable [sic] were insufficient for positive identification and the objects
alongside may have been the tug and barge first sighted at dawn in VICTORIA BAY.
It was our intention to fire high speed shots from about 3000 yards, which would permit us to remain in deep water and facilitate an exit. However, on the next observation, when the generated range was 3750, our target, a PUBUKI class destroyer was underway. Angle on the bow 10 port, range 3100. Nothing else was in sight. Maneuvered for a stern tube shot, but on next observation target had zigged left giving us a bow tube set up.
At 1441 fired spread of three torpedoes on 110 degree starboard track, range 1800 yards, using target speed fifteen since there had been insufficient time to determine speed by tracking. Observed torpedoes going aft as sound indicated 18 knots, so fired another fish with enemy speed 20.
Destroyer avoided by turning away, then circled to the right and headed for us. Watched him come and kept bow pointed at him. Delayed firing our fifth torpedo until the destroyer had closed to about 1200 yards, angle on the bow 10 degrees starboard. Then to insure maximum likelihood of hitting with our last torpedo on the forward tubes, with-held fire until range was about 800 yards. This last one, fired at 1449, clipped him amidships in twenty-five seconds and broke his back. The explosion was terrific!
The topside was covered with Japs on turret tops and in the rigging. Over 100 members of the crew must have been acting as look-outs.
We took several pictures, and as her bow was settling fast we went to 150 feet and commenced the nine mile trip out of WEWAK. Heard her boilers go in between the noise of continuous shelling from somewhere plus a couple of aerial bombs. They were evidently trying to make us lie on the bottom until their patrol boats could return.
No difficulty was experienced in piloting without observation out of WEWAK using sound bearings of beach noises on reefs and beach-heads.
With the aid of a one-knot set we surfaced at 1930 well clear of KAIRIRU and VALIF ISLANDS. Cleared area on four engines for 30 minutes on course 000 degrees T. Huge fires were visible in WEWAK HARBOR. We Wondered if they had purposely created these fires to silhouette us in case we tried to escape out of the harbor.
Slowed to one engine speed (80-90) at 2000. 2230 As the enemy convoy route from PALAU to WEWAK was known to pass between WUVULU and AUA ISLANDS commenced search by criss crossing base course at 30 degrees on two hour legs. 2345 Sent report of WEWAK engagement to COMTASK FORCE FORTY-TWO.