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351 pagine
7 ore
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Pubblicato:
Nov 6, 2015
ISBN:
9781786257734
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Libro

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From Pearl Harbor to her last and fatal voyage—the heroic story of America’s most daring World War II submarine, as told by the only surviving member of the crew.

The U.S.S. Wahoo was the most successful submarine in the World War II Pacific fleet. She was the first to penetrate an enemy harbor and sink a Japanese ship. She was the first to wipe out an entire enemy convoy single-handed. In her 11 short months of life she managed an incredible 21 kills.

Just 45 minutes before leaving Midway for her last—and fatal—patrol, her Chief Yeoman Forest Sterling was transferred to other duty.

The result is this book—Sterling’s fantastic yet completely authentic account of a remarkable crew and captain, and the ship they lived and died for.

“Many will remember the newspaper stories during World War II and the photo of Wahoo with a broomstick tied to her periscope signifying a clean sweep...But (here is) the full story from the yeoman who made all the patrols...except the last one.”—Medal-of-Honor winner Captain E. B. Fluckey, USN
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Nov 6, 2015
ISBN:
9781786257734
Formato:
Libro

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Wake Of The Wahoo - Chief Petty Officer Forest J. Sterling

Wake of the Wahoo

FOREST J. STERLING

with a Foreword by

Charles A. Lockwood,

Vice Admiral, USN, Ret.

This edition is published by PICKLE PARTNERS PUBLISHING—www.picklepartnerspublishing.com

To join our mailing list for new titles or for issues with our books – picklepublishing@gmail.com

Or on Facebook

Text originally published in 1960 under the same title.

© Pickle Partners Publishing 2015, all rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted by any means, electrical, mechanical or otherwise without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Publisher’s Note

Although in most cases we have retained the Author’s original spelling and grammar to authentically reproduce the work of the Author and the original intent of such material, some additional notes and clarifications have been added for the modern reader’s benefit.

We have also made every effort to include all maps and illustrations of the original edition the limitations of formatting do not allow of including larger maps, we will upload as many of these maps as possible.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS 3

Flypaper 4

FROM THE REVIEWS 5

Dedication 6

Foreword 7

Preface 9

1 10

2 17

3 21

4 25

5 56

6 71

7 88

8 97

9 120

10 128

11 158

12 168

13 181

14 190

15 206

REQUEST FROM THE PUBLISHER 212

Flypaper

From Pearl Harbor to her last and fatal voyage—the heroic story of America’s most daring World War II submarine, as told by the only surviving member of the crew.

11 October, 1943, La Perouse Strait

Our plane found a floating sub and attacked it with three depth charges...

For some this excerpt from a Japanese war record is the official epitaph of the U.S.S. Wahoo and its 80 fighting men. For many more the real epitaph will be this account by a crew member who knew each of them so well.

He knew their fears, their courage, their humor before, during and after an attack. He knew the terror and triumph of a successful patrol.

And he knew a strange, forbidding sensation as he stood alone at Midway, transfer orders in hand, watching the Wahoo head out for her seventh—and last—patrol.

"Many will remember the newspaper stories during World War II and the photo of Wahoo with a broomstick tied to her periscope signifying a clean sweep...But (here is) the full story from the yeoman who made all the patrols...except the last one."—Medal-of-Honor winner Captain E. B. Fluckey, USN

FROM THE REVIEWS

"A vivid account of the sinking of 21 ships by the Wahoo and a fine portrait of her skipper, Mush Mouth Morton, now as much a part of naval lore as John Paul Jones."—Birmingham News.

"Forest Sterling writes of his beloved and respected skipper, of brave Dick O’Kane, the executive officer, and of all the crew from the ship’s cooks to its young officers with their brand-new commissions. He is blunt when he describes the fear that could grip his buddies during an attack and their superstitious belief that Wahoo would not survive the war. He describes long, bitter hours on night watch; the crackling humor in ship’s quarters, and the happy days on leave in Brisbane and Pearl."—Rutland Herald.

Reading this book is like listening to a well-told story, given in person.—Springfield Republican.

One of the finest naval stories to come out of World War II—Springfield News-Leader.

The U.S.S. Wahoo was the most successful submarine in the World War II Pacific fleet. She was the first to penetrate an enemy harbor and sink a Japanese ship. She was the first to wipe out an entire enemy convoy single-handed. In her 11 short months of life she managed an incredible 21 kills.

Just 45 minutes before leaving Midway for her last—and fatal—patrol, her Chief Yeoman Forest Sterling was transferred to other duty.

The result is this book—Sterling’s fantastic yet completely authentic account of a remarkable crew and captain, and the ship they lived and died for.

Dedication

In the Harbor of Supreme Sacrifice are 52 American submarines lost in World War II. Among them, flying a string of 21 or more Japanese miniature flags, is the Wahoo. Her crew is ashore in the best hotel available, and you can bet that they’re having one helluva good time. This is the ship and the crew to whom I dedicate this book.

"Go tell the Spartans, thou that passeth by;

That here, obedient to their laws, we lie."

Foreword

Wake of the Wahoo tells the story of men who go down to the sea in ships that have their load-lines over their hatches. From the uninhibited point of view of an enlisted man Chief Yeoman Forest J. Sterling, USNFR, who made five war patrols in the Wahoo, with keen observation and vivid coloring has written the story of a fabulous ship, of her skipper—who, like Gunga Din, didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear—and of life in a World War II submarine.

Close are the relationships between submarine officers and their men—and staunch are the mutual loyalties which bind them into one splendid, fighting unit. They are all part of a team in which every player is on the line—none sitting on the benches. Even so, we who gave the commands—called the signals—never knew their full impact upon those who executed them. Nor did we know of all the thinking and planning and experimentation that went on in the clever minds of our crew members, which resulted in suggestions for better ways of doing things, better tactics, better ways of winning the war. The Wahoo was a shining example of just such teamwork—of the strength for which unity is famed. On this point, Sterling’s book will be most gratifying to all wartime submariners and most illuminating to our civilian friends.

Submarines attract youngsters in whom the spirit of adventure is strong. Luckily, to such men, creature comforts, which in submarines admittedly are meager, are of little importance. These men glory in Spartan living at sea. They are given responsibility early in life and develop resourcefulness, initiative and leadership in their daily life and associations.

When a natural leader and born daredevil such as Mush Morton is given command of a submarine, the result can only be a fighting ship of the highest order, with officers and men who would follow their skipper to the Gates of Hell....And they did.

Morton lined up an impressive number of firsts during the short ten months that he commanded the Wahoo: first to penetrate an enemy harbor and sink a ship therein; first to use successfully a down-the-throat shot; first to wipe out an entire convoy single-handed.

There have been stories in the press and elsewhere about a submarine which penetrated Tokyo Harbor, but they are fiction. Wewak by the Wahoo, Wenchow by the Barb, Christmas Island by the Seawolf, and a few others are true. But no one entered Tokyo Harbor.

Morton also had another important technique in which I believe he was first: the use of his Exec to handle the periscope while he, the Captain, watched the TDC (Torpedo Data Computer) and the plot. Captain Slade Cutter of the Seahorse was another exponent of this technique. As he explained it to me, In a surface night attack, if I stay up on the bridge, the target gets to look awful big and I get scared and fire—at too long a range. So I stay down in the Conning Tower, watch the radar and the plot and fire at the proper time. I let the Exec stay up on the bridge and get scared!

Morton’s reasons were probably the same except that I doubt that either of these fire-eating daredevils was ever scared....That I cannot imagine.

Incidentally, each of them piled up a score of 19 personal kills. The only man who surpassed them in the entire Submarine Force was Captain Dick O’Kane, with his 24 kills in the Tang before she was sunk by one of her own torpedoes with the loss of all but nine of her crew.

Forest Sterling was aboard when the Wahoo sank 20 of the 21 ships credited to her before her seventh and final war patrol—all but the last four in the Sea of Japan. Dick O’Kane was at the periscope while Morton ran the attack. Watching two such top-notch submariners in action—one of whom was to become a legend, the other to win a Medal of Honor—was a wonderful experience for which many men would practically have sold their birthrights.

Fate decreed that Sterling was to be detached as the Wahoo left Midway on her last fatal patrol that he might live to paint for us a splendid word picture of this fabulous Wahoo and her equally fabulous Captain and crew.

For this we are thankful.

Just where in Davy Jones’ Locker, the Port of Missing Ships, lie the bones of the Wahoo and her gallant crew, we will probably never know. Post-war examination of enemy records reveals a report that, on 11 October, 1943, in La Perouse Strait, Our plane found a floating sub and attacked it with three depth charges.

That may be the epitaph of the Wahoo and 80 American fighting men.

May God rest their souls.

CHARLES A. LOCKWOOD Vice Admiral, USN, Ret.

I. FOREST J. STERLING

Preface

This is the story of the USS Wahoo, October 1942-September 1943, as I remember it. The patrols and the actions she went through are a matter of record, but what the crew were doing during these often exciting moments can only be told by someone who was there. The conversations in many instances are imaginary but what was actually spoken was in effect the same.

It has long been a spur to this writer to recreate those forgotten scenes. Two years ago while watching The Silent Service, a TV program, Rear Admiral Dykers, USN (Ret.), introduced Vice Admiral Lockwood, USN (Ret.), as the enlisted man’s friend. I wrote Admiral Lockwood and described my idea for this book. His answer was an encouraging Go ahead. A year later, I wrote the Admiral again saying that the manuscript was finished. Without his subsequent help and encouragement, it is doubtful whether the book would have become printed at all. Therefore, I accord him every recognition and thanks that I can give in this endeavor.

Encouragement is something that I have been most fortunate in receiving: My wife, Marie; mother, Pearl Wynn; Lot-tie (Rennels) Cervine; Evelyn Smith, M.A.; Alfred O. Wilkinson, Ph.D.; William H. McEnroe, M.A., Ventura College; Claude F. Shouse, Ph.D., San Diego State College and many, many friends.

FOREST J. STERLING

1

I SAT on my sea bag in the shade of a palm tree and gazed moodily at the U.S.S. Wahoo moored securely to the north side of one of the U. S. Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, piers.

It was so peaceful on this October day of 1942 that I had difficulty believing that nearly the whole world was at war. A war that was a hazy nebulous something which kept daily newspapers headlined with urgent news of its consuming progress. Headlines that stirred emotions much the same as a good radio announcer can sway his audience with the rise and fall of events in a close baseball game without the reality of actual participation.

I pulled my eyes away from Wahoo long enough to make a visual search for the evidences of war and found them. A broad black band of mourning encircled the littoral shores of Pearl Harbor, bearing mute testimony to crude-oil vomitings from ruptured bowels of mortally wounded ships on the morning of December 7, the year before. Men in uniform and civilian Navy Yard workers were moving hurriedly in all directions. Familiar ship repair noises were all around me, made even more conspicuous because of the wartime urgency that bred them. Above Hickam Field I glimpsed several blimps straining in unsuccessful effort to snap free from their steel cable anchorages. And of course, there was Wahoo waiting patiently for me to come on board.

Twisting around, I could see a gray three-story building with screened porches, which was the submarine base main barracks. Towering over the building were coconut palms, whose fronds were suddenly stirred by the invisible mischievous fingers of a more vigorous zephyr shaking loose musical rustlings to please the ear. By twisting a bit further, I could see a portion of the Koolaupoko mountain range.

I tried to visualize the trade winds coming out of the northeast and striking against this volcanic barrier from the windward side of the island. The winds were carrying minute hitchhiking particles of moisture which collected rapidly into cumulus clouds above the Pali. In an hour these clouds would unshackle themselves from the volcanic ridges and drift across Oahu Island, raining heavily on the verdant igneous slopes below, flooding the sugar-cane and pineapple fields. Countless rainbows would fill Nuuanu Valley in the process.

A steady warm breeze with a saline tang came from the direction of the jagged high mountain range, bringing with it the subtle scent, the sweet fragrance and delicate lure of tropical flowers accumulated along the way, seducing my olfactory sensory perceptions into a deceptive feeling of peacefulness. Where it caressed the bare skin of my face and arms, it tended to lull me into drowsiness.

There is a brief and relaxing sense of freedom that comes between assignments of duty. To prolong the sensation, I lit a cigarette as an excuse for delaying my reporting on board. Again I forced my attention back to Wahoo and studied her lines. She looked little different from the other submarines scattered along the piers but somehow, to me, she seemed to have a definite personality. At the moment she was not a pretty ship. She had great salt-encrusted sores along her hull and about her superstructure. She carried no life lines and her decks were barren of benches—for Wahoo had been stripped for action and there was no fat showing. Wahoo had just returned from her first war patrol. Her only identification was the large numerals, 238, which stood out against a black background on her superstructure. Somehow she reminded me of a Viking ship, and I thrilled to the similarity.

I finished the cigarette, arched the butt gaily over a sign that read No Smoking Permitted on the Piers, adjusted my white hat, thumbed the belt line of my dungarees, raised the soiled sea bag to my shoulders, and sauntered down the pier. Teetering across a wobbly gangway, I dropped my sea bag on Wahoo’s deck, saluted the Stars and Stripes on Wahoo’s fantail, and turned to the Gangway Watch. He returned my salute with military briskness.

I handed him a copy of my orders and waited while he retrieved a grease-smudged, green-backed notebook from a hidden niche somewhere about the deck gun. He began laboriously to copy my name, rate, service number, authority for transfer, and the time of reporting on one of the pages. While he was absorbed in this chore I looked him over. He was physically well-built and had a clean-cut serious intelligent demeanor. About his slim waist he wore a web military belt over clean, pressed dungaree trousers, to which was attached a well-used and time-polished holster. From the holster protruded the handle of a forty-five-caliber automatic. His clean white hat was squared and his shoes were polished to a mirror finish. In my seven years in the Naval service, I had become accustomed to the easy American slouch that most submariners affected, which could be snapped into military erectness on command, but here was a man who was the perpetual cadet. Above his shirt pocket I noticed the neatly stenciled letters of his name and rate, Carr, W. J., GM1. He snapped the book shut and without looking pointed to the dog hatch. Mr. Henderson is the duty officer. You will find him in the wardroom.

Okay, thanks. I smiled at him and dragged my sea bag to the opening. Looking down I could see into the lighted depths of the control room. A smell of diesel oil came up to greet me with nostalgic delight. Look out below, I shouted and handed my sea bag over to the control of gravity. It landed with a loud whump on the deck below, and I followed it down, aided by the more conventional metal ladder that was attached to the sides of the cylindrical shaft. At the bottom I turned and looked around.

The Below Decks Watch was seated on a high stool with both elbows on the chart table in the center of the control room. His chin was cuddled in the palms of his hands. His eyes had but recently lifted from a comic book, which lay open in front of him on the table, and he was staring at me. There was no expression on his poker face above which all the hair had been clipped. His shirt said his name was Witting, R. L., F2 but he said nothing.

I stuffed my sea bag behind the emergency helm and looked about. My eyes wandered over the air manifold, the electric switchboards, bow and stern planes, hull opening indicators (Christmas tree), and finally back to the Below Decks Watch. Witting had become reabsorbed in the perils of Bugs Bunny, and I decided to disturb him no further.

Relief crew sailors and civilian yard workmen were moving along the passageway with one or the other stopping now and then to look around speculatively and to jot scratchy notations in little black notebooks. Occasionally, a yard workman would come in hurriedly, glance at a paper in his hands, and then stretch his neck to look around or under or over some piece of machinery, valve, or pipe, or perhaps disappear down the pump-room ladder in search of a deficiency that had been reported. Aft, someplace, an automatic air-chipping hammer began a staccato which was shortly joined by the hiss of an acetylene torch. The smell of fresh paint was being added to the organized confusion.

I made my way to the open forward watertight door, threw a leg over the low oval-curved sill, bent my back and head sufficiently to duck through, and straightened up in the passageway leading into the forward battery. On my left were green hanging curtains, which closed off the chief petty officers’ sleeping quarters, and on my right was the closed door to the yeoman’s shack. This small office, four by three by five and a half feet high, would be my own little baliwick for some time to come. I resisted an impulse to look inside and instead went down the narrow passageway that was officers’ country and was broken up into tiny staterooms with green curtains hanging loosely or pulled back from the door openings. Above me I could hear the purring of an overhead motor to the forward battery ventilation system. In here there was a slight acid smell that came from the batteries below deck. I removed my hat and stepped to an open doorway of the officers’ wardroom on my left.

A young dark-complexioned officer was seated alone at the after end of a dark-green, cloth-covered table, along each side of which ran leather upholstered benches that could seat eight officers. The officer’s khaki shirt was open at his throat and two silver bars decorated the corners of his collar. He shifted about to face me, still clutching several pieces of official correspondence, which he had evidently been sorting into different piles in accordance with their importance. He raised tired brown eyes to my face and said, Yes?

I replied, Reporting for duty, sir, and handed the lieutenant my orders and a sealed manila envelope containing service record, pay accounts, and health record.

The lieutenant looked at me absent-mindedly for a few seconds, as though his mind was still reviewing the contents of the correspondence, and then he seemed to awaken. Thrusting out his hand, he said warmly, Welcome aboard.

I shook his hand and answered, Thank you, sir.

He glanced at my orders and began to smile broadly. "You’re a third-class yeoman. Can we ever use you! We haven’t had a yeoman since Wahoo left Mare Island. He paused before looking at me again and explained, The pharmacist’s mate has been doing all the paper work. You’ll probably find the office in something of a mess."

Yessir, I said lamely, feeling vaguely puzzled.

I’m Lieutenant Richie N. Henderson, he stated and opening up the brown envelope started thumbing through my service record. While he was doing this I glanced about the wardroom. Cabinets were fitted into both ends of the room, and from past experience I guessed that in the forward cabinet would be the officers’ silverware and tablecloths while the after cabinet would probably contain books and navigation charts. An idle record player sat in a corner. An opening in the forward end of the room led into the pantry, and I could see the white-coated back of a colored steward moving about. A rack contained many creased and thumbed copies of magazines, and I noticed idly that they dated back several months.

I see you have broken service, Lieutenant Henderson said.

Yes sir, I came in, in ‘30, and got out in ‘37, I replied and as an afterthought: "It was all sub duty, sir. Holland, Barracuda, Nautilus, Sail 40, and Canopus."

Lieutenant Henderson grinned and said, Well, then, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting things straightened out. You know where the office is, and there will be a Duty Officer here to sign correspondence each day. Most of the crew will be at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for two weeks yet, so just make yourself at home.

I took my orders and records and retreated back down the passageway. At the yeoman’s shack I cheerfully opened the door. Eight mailbags were jammed into this small space and each was bulging with mail. Sorrowfully, I softly closed the door and slipped into the control room. Witting was lost in a comic dreamworld and apparently did not see me dragging my sea bag along the deck as I plodded aft. Passing through the crew’s messroom and on into the after battery crew’s sleeping quarters, I found an empty top bunk under a ventilation blower and near the medicine cabinet. I tossed my sea bag on it and returned to the messroom.

A heavy-set sailor with sad eyes and a double chin was puttering around in the galley. When I paused at the door to look in, he turned and scowled at me. A cigarette was hanging from his lips. Well, wataya want? he questioned.

I’m the new yeoman reporting aboard, I answered, waiting for a reaction.

So?

This was not the reaction I wanted. I said, So you’ve got about the best-lookin’ galley and messhall I’ve seen on a submarine.

You ain’t been on many submarines. He glowered back at me. And besides, it’s not a messhall, it’s a crew’s mess-room.

I stand corrected, I answered acidly, but on the other subs I been on we always called it messhall.

Only shore bases have got messhalls, he said adamantly. Okay, so it’s a crew’s messroom, if you want to get technical, I retorted angrily.

He stared at me a long time, and finally reached down, he opened an oven door, drew out a baked ham, and cut off a large slice. Building a man-size sandwich, he pushed it toward me. His cigarette had burned close to his lips. He removed it simply by opening his mouth and letting it fall into a garbage pail. He leaned toward me confidentially. My name’s Rowls, and I’m the First-Class Ship’s Cook on board. What I would like to know is will you take over typing my weekly menus for me? I ain’t so good on a typewriter.

Munching on the sandwich and with a cup of coffee in hand, I returned to the ship’s office. I emptied the mailbags, stacked the empty sacks under the small-arms locker, separated the magazines from the pile, took them into the wardroom, and dumped them on the table while Lieutenant Henderson looked on. An eager look came into his eyes as he noted the latest issues. There were several copies of each magazine, and I knew that they would find their way into the messroom via the chiefs’ quarters before long.

I went back to the office and looked for an incoming mail log. Not finding any, I made one up and began to segregate the mail by bureaus and commands. I found a letter opener and started opening letters I thought’ might be most important. By 0200, I began to feel weary and closed shop. I took my shoes off and climbed into my bunk boots-and-saddle without even a mattress cover and fell instantly to sleep. The night shift was working on Wahoo but I heard nothing. At 0830 the next morning, I had eaten and was working away completely absorbed in my new duties.

By the middle of the second week I could see results. Most of the correspondence had been answered. Wahoo’s officers had returned to the ship on duty days and I met them all with the exception of the Commanding officer. They would rough-write answers, sign smooth correspondence, and leave directions for whatever important items they wanted handled next. I found time to inventory my supplies and restock from the submarine base G.S.K. It was disappointing to discover I could not get paper clips or fasteners because of the metal shortages, but I solved the problem by going through the files and service records and accumulating a large box of both. Rubber bands I could do nothing about. Those I could obtain were of synthetic rubber and broke with the slightest stretch. I brought all back reports up to date and was thumbing through the men’s service records, shaking my head at the carelessness and discrepancies I was finding, when I became aware that Lieutenant Henderson was standing at the door watching me.

How’s everything going? he queried.

I can see daylight, I grumbled, but I’ll never get everything done that has to be done before we go on patrol, sir.

Lieutenant Henderson spoke softly. I think you’ve done a fine job. In fact, I told the Exec just that and suggested that you spend the next few days at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. But of course if you’re too busy...

My eyes must have lighted up like a neon sign. Sir, I wish to report that as of this instant the ships clerical work has been brought up to date.

Well, all right. Lieutenant Henderson laughed. Shove off when you feel like it. The Exec has granted permission.

An hour later I stepped out of a taxicab at the entrance to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I checked in and found that it would cost me twenty-five cents for fresh linen. Next, I was assigned to a room on the third floor with windows facing out on Waikiki Beach and a view of the never-ending march of those famous white breakers. In the background was Diamond Head. Six beds in the room indicated that I would share this paradise with five other men, but somehow I did not seem to mind at all.

With a few

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