Balao class submarine
1,550 Tons (surfaced)
2,429 Tons (submerged)
311.6' x 27' 3" x 16' 10"
10 x 23" Torpedo Tubes
with 24 torpedoes
1 x 5" deck gun
1 x 40mm gun
1 x 20mm cannon
Built by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine. Laid down December 27, 1942. Launched April 7, 1943. Commissioned July 31, 1943 as USS Aspro SS-309 with LtCdr Henry C. Stevenson in command.
After a shakedown cruise off Portsmouth, NH, Newport, RI and New London, CT. On September 17, 1943 departed via the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor arriving October 18, 1943.
First War Patrol
On November 24, 1943 departed Pearl Harbor on her first war patrol. On November 28, 1943 made a refueling stop at Midway before proceeding to the Formosa (Tawian) and Sakishima Islands. On December 15, 1943 she spotted a Japanese convoy consisting of one tanker, two freighters, and two escorts. The submarine fired torpedoes at the tanker and claimed a hit, but apparently failed to inflict serious damage.
Second War Patrol
Third War Patrol
Fourth War Patrol
Fifth War Patrol
On September 10, 1944 departed for her fifth patrol in the South China Sea. On September 30, 1944 off northeast coast of Luzon while in transit to the patrol area, she encountered a convoy of seven or eight vessels with four escorts and fired torpedoes that heavily damaged a freighter. Two days later, she attacked a tanker and heard breaking-up noises for 10–15 minutes. Through her periscope, she saw her victim listing to starboard with the bow high in the air. Soon Aspro lost sight of the ship and claimed to have sunk her. About an hour later, Aspro attacked another freighter in the same convoy. The ship was seen sinking in a vertical dive, stern first.
Next, Aspro rendezvoused with USS Hoe SS-258 and USS Cabrilla SS-288 to form a wolf pack. On October 7, 1944, USS Hoe spotted a large convoy of about a dozen ships. At 04:55, Aspro fired four torpedoes at a freighter and witnessed the ship's sinking. Shortly thereafter, she terminated her patrol at Saipan on 14 October and then proceeded to Pearl Harbor where she arrived on 25 October.
On October 6, 1944 spotted Japanese convoy MATA-28 after departing San Fernando. At 8:00am, fired three torpedoes by periscope at a tanker and claims one hit, but actually achieves no results.
Sixth War Patrol
On February 20, 1945 entered Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard for a three month overhaul. On May 31, 1945 departed for Pearl Harbor.
Seventh War Patrol
On June 25, 1945 departed Pearl Harbor traveling via Midway to refuel before taking up station off Japan. On July 8, 1945 assigned lifeguard duties to rescue downed aviators and on July 20, 1945 took up a new position to cover U. S. Navy carrier aircraft strikes over southern Honshū.
On July 25, 1945 fired torepdoes at a Japanese tug and claimed it sunk, her last torpedo attack during the Pacific War.
On August 3, 1945 entered Sagami Sea and proceeded to the northwest into Sagami Bay coming within five to six miles of the coast of Honshū to rescue 1st Lt. Edward "Ed" H. Mikes, Jr. who bailed out of P-51D "Mrs. Beak" 44-72561. Afterwards, B-17H "Bulgin Bessie" 43-39265 was sucessfully dropped him a Higgins A-1 lifeboat and he began motoring southeast while Aspro procceded northwest. Above, two PB4Y-2 Privateers from VBP-121 circled to protect the life raft. While attempting to preform the rescue, attacked by two F1M2 Pete biplanes, the submarine was forced to dive to avoid an attack. After manning the 20mm cannon to fire at the attacking biplanes, crew member Henry "Hank" Freeman dove into the water to aid the pilot until Aspro resurfaced and rescued both Mikes and Freeman. Afterwards, Freeman earned the Silver Star for "Conspicuous Gallantry" during the rescue and the Purple Heart for wounds he received.
On August 4, 1945 during the early morning hours, proceed to the south of Inubo Saki to assist B-29s searching for for P-51D 44-63974 pilot 2nd Lt. Ralph N. Heintz who bailed out in the vicinity. At 8:07am sighted the two B-29s near the coast and two Zeros dropping aerial phosphorus bombs. At 8:11am radar contact at 15 miles and dived, then surfaced at 8:52am. At 11:15am again made radar contact and observed the B-29s, the radar contacts were believed to be the bombers then two minutes later two radar contacts closing fast and dived before being strafed. After surfacing at 1:07pm, several bullet holes were observed near the periscope shears and a bullet threw splinters into the no. 2 periscope bearings causing it to become jerky and was not used to prevent further damage.
On August 13, 1945 returned to Midway ending her seventh war patrol. For World War II service, Aspro earned seven battle stars.
On September 1, 1945 departed Midway and ten days later arrived at San Francisco. On January 30, 1946 placed out of commission and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet berthed at Mare Island. On July 6, 1951 recommissioned and based at San Diego for two years off California. On November 9, 1953 again placed into reserve status at Mare Island and decommissioned on April 30, 1954.
On May 5, 1957 again recommissioned and had a shakedown cruise. On June 8, 1954 resumed active service off the west coast. In 1959 used in the filming for the Hollywood movie
Battle of the Coral Sea (1959) with scenes filmed aboard Aspro with lead actor Cliff Robertson. Afterwards operated in the western Pacific until the middle of 1959 and returned to San Diego on January 22, 1960.
Afterwards, overhauled and redesignated AGSS-309 and continued to operate off the west coast. Finally, on September 1, 1962 decommissioned. On October 9, 1962 struck from the Navy registry.
On November 16, 1962 sunk as a target by a single torpedo mark 37 fired by USS Pomodon (SS-486) as part of a service weapons test that impacted on the port side amidship and sank in 17 minutes in 630 fathoms roughly 16 miles off San Diego.
Aspro is listed on the Allied Submarine Plaque at Fremantle.
Note, for the August 3, 1945 resuce some sources incorrectly state the rescued pilot was
USS Aspro (SS-309) - Report of Seventh War Patrol pages 9-11
(Page 9) "Narrative (Cont'd)
3 August 1945.
0558 Sighted Pete at 10 miles, dived.
0857 Surfaced, proceeding to lifeguard station for days Mustang strike on Tokyo.
0955 2 B-17s, our Dumbos for today arrived
1015 4 Mustangs, our CAP reported.
1104 Heard over VHF that a pilot had parachuted in Sagami Nada [Sagami Sea]. Position give put him just inside the Bay [Sagami Bay]. Sent one of our B-17s to investigate. Second B-17 went to investigate fighter down in vicinity south of Choshi [sis Chofu?]."
"3 August 1945. (Con'td)
1115 First B-17 reported that he had dropped a wooden boat
1145 Two Privateers (B-24s) relieved out B-17 and returned to base. Privateers jettisoned their bombs. Our fighter cover said they could not remain with us more than two hours as their fuel was getting low.
1200 Entered Sagami Nada [Sagami Sea] - still had about twenty miles to go. Lat.s 35 - 03 N, Long. 139 - 27 E.
1256 Several Zeros attacked our fighter cover. In the ensuing dog fights, one of our Mustangs was shot down and his plane fell about 2000 yards on our starboard beam. At this time I had all lookouts in the forward part of bridge and was prepared to make a very fast dive if zeros attacked us. Privateers drove Zeros away. At this time we could see survivors boat from the bridge. Our fighter cover departed for base.
1303 Saw Zeros strafing our pilot. Told Privateers and they proceeded to drive Zeros away. Zeros had plenty of respect for Privateers and did not agains approach survivor or us.
1313 Observed Pete on starboard beam starting in for a bombing run on us. Told Privateers and they immediately drove him off. Privateers were flying about 100 feet over surface of water and keeping us in the center of a tight circle.
1318 Reached pilot; all back full. Pete started another run with Privateers working him over in a heavy cross fire. Our survivor was just about to get aboard when it appear that Pete was going to come on in. Cleared bridge after firing several bursts of 20mm most of which looked like hits in the left wing. Privateers were gradually crowding Pete off towards our bow.
1318-10 Submerged. As we were practically dead in the water we could only flood down and hope for the best. I could not see how the Jap could get through such punishment but he managed to release two bombs from an altitude of about 800 feet which fell 100 feet short on starboard bow, as we reached a depth of about 25 feet.
1320 Through periscope saw Pete crash in a cloud of smoke and fire about a mile off to port.
1326 Surfaced, CO to bridge survivor coming alongside.
1327 As I reached the bridge, saw another Pete starting another run on us from a high altitude. This time he was in the clear. All ahead full!
1327-40 Two bombs as we passed 45 foot. Things were beginning to look pretty grim at this point.
“(B) Narrative: (Con’t)
1333 At periscope depth saw Privateers splash the Pete who had just bombed us. They were certainly doing a magnificent job of culminating the Jap for us ad I haded to let them down after we had gone this far. Decided to make another try.
1335 Reversed course. Survivor kept right with us following our periscope around around - which helped considerable.
1343 After a careful search came to 40 feet and asked Privateers over VHF if it looked safe to surface. Answer “I believe so - we just splashed another Jap”.
1344 Surfaced, rescue part (2 men) on deck.
1345 Rescued Captain E. H. Mikes, USA at 35-11N, 139 - 20E. Told Privateers to depart and they really started reaching for altitude.
1346 Our radar screen showed clear, so we went ahead full speed hoping to get at least a few miles behind me before being driven down. If we submerged now we would still be in the Bay when we surfaced at dark.
1348 SD contact 6 1/2 miles, closing.
1348-02 Crash dived to 100 feet. No bombs or bullets. Our pilot was in good condition. His left arm was grazed by a bullet when his boat was strafed. The Jap had cut holes in his boat fore and after and had cut up both life rings. It is a miracle how they missed him. Administered medical alcohol to survivor.
1752 Sighted PC boat astern, probably searching for survivors as he was not pinging.
Sighted searchlights sweeping the surface to north of us. Surfaced after careful periscope, SJ [surface search radar] and SD [air search radar ] search and went ahead full power on 3 main engines, charging on the fourth. Commenced receiving reports from SJ on contacts all over the place. Ranges 900 to 2500 yards. Must have been birds."
Navy History & Heritage Command - Aspro I (SS-309)
NavSource USS Aspro SS-309
Pacific Air Combats WWII Voices From The Past (1993) by Henry Sakaida The Rescue of Ed Mikes pages 81-89, 93 (map)
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June 29, 2019
August 3, 1945 Rescue