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Tambor Class Submarine
1,475 Tons (standard)
2,370 Tons (submerged)
307' 2" x 27' 3" x 14' 7.5"
10 x 21" Torpedo Tubes
(6 fwd, 4 aft) with 24 torpedoes
3" deck gun
Built by Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut. Laid down April 3, 1940. Launched January 31, 1941. Commissioned on June 30, 1941 as USS Grayback SS-208 with Lieutenant Willard A. Saunders in command and attached to the Atlantic Fleet.
Conducted her shakedown cruise in in Long Island Sound operating from Newport, New London, and New York. On September 8, 1941 departed New London with USS Grampus (SS-207) for patrol duty in the Caribbean Sea and Chesapeake Bay and then arrived at Portsmouth on November 30, 1941 for overhaul. Afterwards, departed bound for the Pacific and transited the Panama Canal then proceeded to Pearl Harbor arriving February 8, 1942.
On February 15, 1942 departed Pearl Harbor on her first war patrol off Saipan and Guam. There she had a four-day encounter with an enemy submarine; the enemy I-boat fired two torpedoes at Grayback on the morning of February 22, then continued to trail her across the Pacific. Grayback spotted the enemy conning tower a couple of times, and the Japanese ship broached once; but the Grayback could not get into position to attack. After four days, Grayback shook the enemy sub and continued on patrol. On March 17 she sank her first ship, a 3291-ton cargo ship off Port Lloyd then returned to Pearl Harbor on April 10, 1942 ending the patrol.
On May 4, 1942 departed Pearl Harbor with air cover and DD-435 to the central Pacific. On May 13, 1942 at dawn passed within 145 miles of Makin Island. On May 16, 1942 arrived Ocean Island and made no sightings. During this patrol, Grayback found no targets and even patrolled on the surface during the day. On June 22, 1942 arrived to Fremantle ending the patrol.
Third War Patrol
On June 22, 1942 departed Fremantle on her third war patrol and proceeded to the Lombok Strait. On July 21, 1942 passed Lombok Island and the next day spotted two small fishing boats. On July 24, 1942 entered Makasar Strait and at 7:30pm fired on by a small patrol boat and made a deep dive expecting a depth charge attach and was chased until 10:10pm. On July 25, 1942 at 1:25am surfaced and cleared the area. On July 26, 1942 spotted small Maru on a parallel corse and attempted to get into an attack position. On July 27, 1942 entered the Celebes Sea. On July 30, 1942 entered the Balabac Strait bound for the South China Sea then returned via the same route. On September 3, 1942 returned to Fremantle ending the patrol. Afterwards, back to Pearl Harbor for an overhaul with SJ radar installed, de-gaussing cable reinstalled and sound tested with four days of training activities.
Fourth War Patrol
On October 19, 1942 departed Pearl Harbor under the command of LtCdr John E. Lee on her fourth war patrol escorted by USS Boggs and for the next three days made dive tests and drills while proceeding westward. On October 23, 1942 roughly 600 miles east of Wotje when the submarine made a radar contact and submerged. On October 24, 1942 directed to patrol off Buka Passage but four days later instead ordered to patrol off Truk.
On October 29, sighted an unidentified plane and submerged then surfaced and received a near miss from a a bomb or depth charge. At 2:29 spotted three ships including two tankers and a destroyer. Fired torpedoes at the rear tanker but missed because it turned and was again depth charged by an aircraft. Afterwards, dove as the destroyer made several depth charge attacks over two hours but all exploded astern and departed by 5:00pm.
On October 31, 1942 began patrolling off Otta Pass south of Truk. On November 3, 1942 at 4:15am spotted a freighter and attempted to attack but was unable to get close enough. At 12:31pm while submerged at 100' three depth charges exploded in the vicinity. On November 5, 1942 again depth charged and evaded patrol boats. On November 6, 1942 spots a Chiyoda type seaplane tender and fires three torpedoes claiming two hits, but fails to score any. Afterwards, attached by a E8N2 Dave floatplane that drops 3 x 60kg depth charges that caused minor damage. On December 13, 1943 ended the patrol at Fremantle.
Departed Australia on December 7, 1942. A week later, Pharmacist's Mate Harry B. Roby was called upon to perform an emergency appendectomy, the second to be done on a patrolling submarine. With Grayback running a hundred feet beneath the surface, the untutored Roby successfully removed the infected appendix, and his patient was back standing watch by the end of the patrol. On December 25, Grayback surfaced to sink four landing barges with her deck guns. Four days later she was again fired on by an enemy submarine but maneuvered to avoid the torpedoes. On January 3, 1943 sunk I-18, one of 25 Japanese submarines destroyed by western submarines during the war.
On January 5, 1943 Grayback served as beacon ship for the shore bombardment of Munda and during the early morning she received word that six crew from B-26B "Queenie" 41-17586 shot down two days earlier were awaiting rescue on Rendova Island. Grayback sent ashore two men, then submerged at dawn to avoid enemy aircraft. The submariners found the aviators, three of whom were injured, and together continued to hide in the jungle. As night fell, Grayback surfaced offshore and by coded light signals directed the small boat back to the submarine. For this action skipper Edward C. Stephan earned the Navy Cross and U. S. Army Silver Star.
Grayback continued on patrol, torpedoing and damaging several Japanese ships. On January 17 she attacked a destroyer escorting a large transport, hoping to disable the escort and then sink the freighter with her deck guns. However, the destroyer evaded the torpedoes and released 19 depth charges on the submarine. One blew a gasket on a manhole cover and caused a serious leak and retnred to Brisbane arriving February 23, 1943.
Two nights later, 20 December to 21 December, she spotted another convoy of six ships; and, after an end-around run she fired a spread of nine torpedoes into the heart of the Japanese formation. This first attack sunk one freighter and damaged another before Grayback dived to elude depth charges. Three hours later she surfaced and sank a second freighter. After an unsuccessful attack the following night had exhausted her torpedo supply, Grayback headed home. The submarine surfaced 27 December and sank a fishing boat with deck guns before returning to Pearl Harbor on January 4, 1944.
Afterwards, CO Commander John Anderson Moore earned the a second Navy Cross (Navy Cross with gold star) for his actions with the citation published in the Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 330 (September 1944). Grayback has been awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for the period of her last four patrols (Sixth Patrol to Ninth Patrol when lost).
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