Built by the Electric Boat Company, Groton, CT. Laid down February 25, 1935. Launched May 9, 1936 sponsored by Mrs. Thomas Withers. Commissioned November 19, 1936 with Lieutenant Commander George C. Crawford in command.
After her shakedown cruise, Perch joined the Pacific Fleet Submarine Squadron 6 (SubRon 6) during November 1937. The following spring she was engaged in the annual fleet exercises and completed a survey of the Aleutian Islands and served with the fleet off the East Coast.
In October 1939, Perch departed San Diego for Manila as a division flagship and made a summer cruise in 1940 to Tsingtao and Shanghai. She spent the year preceding the war in operations around the Philippines. Perch rendezvoused with two transports off Shanghai and escorted the Fourth Marines from China to the Philippines.
At the start of the Pacific war, Perch was under the command of Lieutenant Commander David A. Hurt and based at Cavite Navy Yard. Departed on December 10, 1941 prior to the destruction of the installation by Japanese bombers.
That night, Perch slipped passed the minefield off Corregidor and scouted between Luzon and Formosa. Failing to find targets, she proceeded to Hong Kong. On December 25, 1941 Perch fired four torpedoes at a large merchantman, all miss. A few days later, she torpedoed an 8000-ton Japanese merchant ship, but escorts prevented Perch from observing the kill. Afterwards, the submarine proceeded to Darwin making several unsuccessful attacks en route.
After repairs at Darwin, Perch patrolled Kendari to scout the harbor and made several attempts to get through the narrow entrance to an attack position. After a week of close contact with the enemy and obtaining information, Perch continued to search for targets. In a night attack on a large merchantman off the eastern coast of Celebes (Sulawesi). Perch was hit in the superstructure, forward of the pressure hull of the conning tower, by a high explosive round which blew away the bridge deck, punctured the antenna trunk and temporarily put her radio out of commission. Her crew made a courageous effort to make repairs on deck ant night in enemy patrolled waters then proceeded to the Java Sea.
On March 1, 1942 during the evening, Perch surfaced thirty miles northwest of Surabaya on Java and initiated an attack on an enemy convoy landing troops to the west. Two enemy destroyers dropped depth charges and caused her to dive until reaching the bottom at 135'. Several more depth charge attacks caused extensive damage, putting the starboard motors out of commission and causing extensive flooding throughout the boat. After repairs, Perch surfaced at 2am, but was driven down by destroyers. The loss of oil, and air from damaged ballast tanks, convinced the enemy Perch was breaking up and they went on to look for other kills, allowing her to escape.
With only one engine in commission, the crew made all possible repairs. During the early morning of March 3, 1942, the sub surfaced but was surrounded by two cruisers and three destroyers. As shells straddled the boat, Captain Hurt ordered: "Abandon ship, scuttle the boat." First Lieutenant Kenneth G. Schacht was awarded a Navy Cross for assisting in the scuttling in the Java Sea. Perch received one battle star for World War II service.
Fate of the Crew
On March 1, 1942 the entire crew of fifty-four enlisted men and five officers were captured by Japanese destroyer Ushio and became Prisoners Of War (POW). They were transported to Java and detained at the Java POW Camps D.X.Y. at Batavia.
During captivity, six died of malnutrition:
1) MM1c Frank Elmer McCreary, 3461679 died January 4, 1943.
2) CMM Albert Kenneth Newsome, 2655346 died April 6, 1944.
3) Houston Ernest Edwards, 3554635 died on July 10, 1944.
MM1 Charles Newton Brown, 2015730 died of pellagra vitamin deficiency disease on April 18, 1945.
5) Robert Archibald Wilson, 2233464 died June 15, 1945.
Philip James Dewes, 129560 died on July 9, 1945.
The others crew members survived captivity and were liberated at the end of World War II in the Pacific.
Captain Lt. Commander David A. Hurt was transfered to Japan and detained at Omori POW Camp. As a prisoner he was a father figure to younger officers and enlisted men. At the end of the war he was release from Tokyo POW Camp Branch #2 (Kawasaki) Tokyo Bay Area 35-139 and returned to the United States.
Captain David A. Hurt Survived Omori POW Camp, where he was known as a 'father figure" to the younger officers.
Of the six Prisoner Of War (POW) crew members that died in captivity, their remains were transported to the Philippines and United State for permanent burial.
McCreary is buried at Manila American Cemetery at plot B row 10 grave 110.
Houston Ernest Edwards is buried at Knoxville National Cemetery at section A, site 5693.
Charles Newton Brown is buried at Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira, NY at plot C, grave 3219.
Robert Archibald Wilson is buried at Beverly National Cemetery at plot F, grave 1734.
The burials of Albert Kenneth Newsome and Philip James Dewes is unknown, presumed to be in a private cemetery in the United States.
David Albert Hurt died November 23, 1945 due to a hunting accident. He is buried at Jeffersonville Cemetery in Tazewell VA. He is also memorialized on the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, VA.
During November 2006, MV Empress made a sonar contact with an underwater target in the Java Sea north of Surabaya. On November 23, 2006 a group of divers off MV Empress including Vidar Skoglie, Kevin Denlay, Dieter Kops, Mike Gadd and Craig Challen dove the site and confirmed it was a submarine and located a plaque with "USS PERCH SUBMARINE" on the conning tower.
Kevin Denlay adds:
"Disappointingly, as we have found on many of the other Java Sea wrecks we have discovered over the years, visibility on the bottom, below the thermocline, is often very poor, and Perch is no exception. On the few dives we did on Perch visibility varied from between five and fifteen feet effective on the wreck, that is, making out any detail beyond this was impossible. It was also quite dark, although the low light capability of the video camera 'enhances' the light levels so the images don't look as dark as what it really was to the eye."
Discovery of USS Perch (SS-176) the Java Sea reveals a wartime secret by Kevin Denlay
On Eternal Patrol - USS Perch (SS-176)
World War II Prisoners of War Data File - David A Hurt
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Charles N Brown
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Philip J Dewes
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Houston E Edwards
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Frank Elmer Mc Creary
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Albert K Newsome
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Robert A Wilson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Frank E. McCreary
FindAGrave - David Albert Hurt, Sr (photo)
Frank Elmer McCreary (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Charles Newton Brown (photo, Virginia War Memorial photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Robert Archibald Wilson (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Houston Ernest Edwards (photo, grave photo)
The Guardian "British second world war shipwrecks in Java Sea destroyed by illegal scavenging" by Oliver Homes and Luke Harding November 16, 2016
"The 91m US submarine Perch, whose entire crew were captured by the Japanese, had been totally removed, the report said"
History of War: "Java Sea Shipwrecks of World War 2: One of the men who found them reflects on their loss" by James Hoare November 23, 2016
Thanks to Kevin Denlay for additional information.
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October 23, 2019