MIRACLE

IN THE
PACIFIC

J.D.BATT
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MIRACLE IN THE
PACIFIC
Fourth War Patrol of the Submarine Wolfpack

USS DACE & USS DARTER
A TRUE STORY

by Jeffrey D. Batt

Artist's Impression by Gerald Levey

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The story you are about to read is based on true events. To the best of the author's
knowledge it is told as accurately as possible, given the wealth of material information left
behind. The events within are virtually unknown to the rest of the world, but they amount
to one of the great forgotten stories of the Second World War. All of the evidence to write
this story had been collected, archived and meticulously preserved by the efforts of one
man. An individual who knew it better than anyone, for he himself had survived it. Unlike
many veterans who never talked, this one was proud of everything he did in service to our
country, and the honors remained with him until the day he died. It is the honest belief of
the author that the man in question would not only condone the telling of this story, but
would encourage it. Veterans of this great generation of the last century are dying every
day, as the final chapter of their epic stories come to a close. And so it is up to the next
generation to carry on their tales of sacrifice, honor and courage, and bear this torch
aloft so that the memories of these brave men may never be extinguished.
-With utmost respect and admiration from a proud grandson.

Hugh N. Siegel, 1942 Official Navy Portrait

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"The Darter"
The Darter was her name, sir
And a mighty craft was she
There never was a prouder crew
Than on the day she hit the sea.
Our sub she was, sir, all of her
To always love and honor true
The flag she carried waving high
Symbolized our cause in Red, White and Blue.
As I stood there on the bridge
I knew I'd not forget the sight
Of this beauty, long and silvery grey
and silent as the moonlit night.
We knew not what our destiny
But this we all did know
That where she sailed 'ere near or far
With her to the end we'd go.
This was my first time out to sea
And thoughts ran through my head
Somehow I could not help but fear
A fear half longing yet half dread.
The Skipper's order came, submerge!
And silence closed upon the men
As down she sank fathoms deep,
Would we bring her up again?
I tried to think of my duty here
To push this thought aside
I looked to Andy at my right
Was this a man or coward by my side?
I who had feared no man nor beast
Would shirk from depths so great
I prayed to God for courage
That I might stand and face my fate.
My prayer was answered as I prayed
I felt my tears dissolve and courage come
And knew whatever harm should threat
I'd guide the Darter safely home.
--Francis Elaine Anderson, 1942
girlfriend of sailor Tom Bates, Quartermaster Third Class, SS-227

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PROLOGUE: THE WEAPON
It was a new age of war at sea.
The age of ironclads had begun during the War of the Rebellion almost a century before, when two
vessels unlike the world had ever seen had faced off at the battle of Hampton Roads in 1862. One ship,
the CSS Virginia, was the pride of the Confederate navy. Salvaged from a scuttled vessel and rebuilt with
thick armor plating of iron, many said she was too heavy to float. Her sides were sloped to deflect
cannon shot and her odd angles were broken only by her boiler smokestack. She rained terrible
destruction on the Union's fleet, splintering its wooden sailing ships and turning them into so much
driftwood and torn wreckage on the river floor. It was an infernal machine, a swimming turtle beneath
a shining carapace of metal bristling with guns, concealing a hellish fire within its heart that belched
smoke into the cold air. None it seemed could stay afloat under her relentless barrage...until she finally
met her match in a mysterious opponent even more unusual than herself.
The Northern adversary USS Monitor did not even look like a ship. She was more of a barge, lying flat
and so low in the water that waves broke over her deck. The vessel had a single tower from which two
guns protruded, and was able to revolve around its axis to fire in any direction. Unlike the Virginia,
which had to broadside or face her opponent head on with fixed guns. The two monstrous vessels circled
round and round each other for hours, trading volley after volley of solid shot, but the cannonballs
only bounced off their hulls. The match had no victor and the fight was a draw, as neither was able to
sink or disable the other. But this indecisive face-off had forever changed the landscape of war on the
sea.
A year later, the Rebels came up with a dastardly new weapon: a vehicle that could travel unseen
beneath the water. Armed only with a single „torpedo,‟ actually a water mine filled with explosives, at
the tip of a lance-like rammer on its prow. The „boat,‟ christened the Hunley after its maker, was little
more than a hollow metal tube with a propeller shaft running straight through from stem to stern, hand
cranked by each of its crewmen. The vehicle proved to be a deathtrap; it sank in shallow water and
drowned its first crew before it could even damage an enemy ship. Undaunted, another crew bravely
volunteered to make a second attempt. They too perished, and the vessel was brought up and its bodies
removed a second time, and a third crew entered the deathtrap. These men also drowned, and the boat
lay on its side at the bottom of the channel for a hundred and forty years. What sort of grim resolve did it
take for men to enter such a situation, knowing they faced certain death? A dark and silent age in naval
warfare had begun...the dawn of the submarines.
The Great War saw another horrific use of this stealthy new invention, as the German Empire created
the Unterseeboot, the U-boat. These ships were little safer than the Hunley, a weapon deadlier to its
own crew than to its enemy. But the U-boats were a devastating weapon for the German navy. They
sank hundreds of Allied ships, most of them civilian merchant vessels. And in fact it was one such
target, a civilian ocean liner called the Lusitania, that angered America and caused us to enter the First
World War. From then on submarines were labeled as commerce raiders and pirates. Their U-boats
tended to hunt in pairs, one acting as a decoy to lure the enemy to the other, and for this reason they
were called 'wolf packs.' Their strategy was silent, swift and deadly. The first an enemy knew about
them was when they torpedoed their vessel and it exploded and sank. The numbers of men and
tonnage lost were almost uncountable, not to mention the loss of valuable supplies and goods both
military and non-military in nature.

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The American Navy discovered at its height of power that in spite of its dangers, the German
submarine as a stealth weapon was one of the few things the Huns did right. Their strategy was
ruthlessly efficient, perfectly covert and killed without warning or mercy. It crippled the British naval
forces, once considered the strongest in the world, and brought the United Kingdom to the brink of
surrender; before America came to their aid. Over the next twenty years, from 1918 to 1938, the Allies
developed this new weapon in secret and perfected it. And it was not a moment too soon.
In December 1941, the war came to us. Another powerful empire was taking the role of aggressor
alongside Germany, destroying our Allied fleets and using any means necessary to hit our forces the
hardest where we were the weakest. It was the empire of Japan. The monumental loss of human life at
Pearl Harbor called for a retaliatory strike...and so America's days of neutrality and pacifism were over.
The sleeping dragon had awakened.
This was a different kind of war. The Germans were stubborn and fought to the last man, but they
would surrender if they sensed being cornered and had no escape. The Japanese would not. They had an
honor code passed down through centuries from the ancient Samurai, which taught them it was better
to die a gory death with honor than to surrender and live in shame and defeat, which they believed
brought great dishonor to one's family. These men were fully prepared to die and take as many enemies
to Hell with them as they could. The Japanese fleet was the strongest oceanic power on the planet, and
they had already shown their ability to strike quickly with superior force and utterly obliterate their
enemies.
Even at half strength after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the American fleet was still a force to be
reckoned with. We had battleships, armed with massive 18-inch guns on revolving turrets that could
throw explosive shells over twenty miles. Destroyers and cruisers for support, and aircraft carriers to
launch squadrons of fighters. We had better technology than the enemy did; more effective radio, sonar
and radar that the enemy was vying to get their hands on. Though our real strength lay in a much
smaller and seemingly insignificant weapon, often overlooked due to its small size: the submarine.
Aboard a submarine could be found a companionship and a closeness present in no other branch of the
military. These remarkable men lived utterly without privacy, sealed in a narrow steel container for
months at a time, sharing everything and hiding nothing. They had to be trained to function flawlessly as
one organism, a perfect team; able to respond to a life or death emergency in seconds flat. They had to be
taught to live, fight and survive in a very cold, dark and inhospitable environment where human life was
as easily snuffed out as a candle flame. The only other men routinely put in such a hostile and unforgiving
environment today would be astronauts in outer space. It was not a job for the lazy, the weak, the
foolhardy or the cowardly.
In order to become a submarine sailor you had to be exceptional in many ways. In strength, reflexes,
intelligence, cunning and bravery...but most of all, resourcefulness in the most desperate of situations.
To be a submariner was an honor bestowed to very few: the Navy's best of the best. The training was
long and arduous, even deadly at times, and the physical and mental trials were exceedingly harsh. To be
given the „dolphins‟ pin and qualify for crewmanship aboard a submarine was a rare privilege, and these
brave and lucky men entered a mysterious secret brotherhood known as the Silent Service. It is one such
man that this narrative will follow.

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CHAPTER 1: THE MAN
Ever since he was a young boy, he had always longed for the sea. His father had been a sailor. Like
him, he had enlisted to answer the call and fight for our nation in the prime of his youth. This was at the
end of the last century when the power of steam, iron and steel ruled the ocean. His father had joined the
Navy during the war with Spain in 1898, serving as a gunner's mate aboard two steamships: the USS
Indiana and the USS Lancaster. His one ship had served as a training base and later the defense of a
harbor, and the other had seen combat in China as the United States and Britain launched a joint land and
sea effort into a now forgotten conflict: the Boxer Rebellion.
His father seldom spoke of his adventures, but he did remember how he loved exploration. As the story
went, every time the boat stopped at an island in the Pacific his father would go ashore, wander off on
his own into the jungle and intentionally get himself lost. The ship would send out search parties to find
him and he sometimes was demoted in rank for disobedience, but he was never court-martialed or
kicked out of the Navy and so that was just fine for him. It seemed this sense of adventure had been
passed to his son. Later in life his father became a fireman, rescuing others in danger at the risk of his
own life. It was this passion for adventure, danger and the unknown that greatly inspired the young
sailor in question.
By an ironic twist of fate or coincidence, his father's boat had passed through the Philippine Islands
and the Palawan Passage on its way to China at the turn of the century. And roughly 40 years later, his son
would be drawn to almost the exact same place, where a unique and life-altering destiny would await him.

CHAPTER 2: HIS LIFE AND TIMES
The star of this story was born on March 11, 1919. He was the baby of the family, and his arrival was
happy but unexpected. He had spent his earliest years in the Roaring Twenties, and was still a grade
school student when the Great Depression swept across the country like an inexorable flood. Robbing
millions of people of their homes, their jobs and their hope for any sort of a future. Then the War came to
our borders. The economy jumpstarted itself overnight and again grew into a mighty industrial machine,
building the strongest military forces on earth. Seeing many of his friends pressed into service around
him, he chose to enlist so he would not be drafted. Naturally, he chose the Navy.
This man had a unique gift. Since an early age, he had taken more than just a casual interest in the
development of a wondrous new invention and everything about how it worked: the radio. (A technical
marvel that was just as amazing to kids in the 1930's as computers, video games and mobile devices are
today) The 'wireless,‟as it was called then.
Nearly from the time Marconi invented the wireless radio and perfected it in the first two decades of
the 20th century, he followed this miracle of communication and wanted to learn everything he could
about it. His own grandfather would have scoffed at the idea of a black box powered by lightning, able
to speak to another box hundreds of miles away on invisible waves that traveled through the air. But it
did something the telegraph and the telephone could not. It was portable, it did not need wires at all.
The early days of radio saw units as big as a modern refrigerator; over the years these grew small enough
to sit on a table. And the young man was fascinated with how they worked.
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As early in his boyhood as he could remember, he had been taking electronic stuff apart to figure out
its inner workings and trying to put it back together, with varying degrees of success. Anything
electronic was fair game, although he loved to tinker with radios the most. This was a time when radios
were big and heavy contraptions with large, clearly labeled components. Big capacitors, bundles of
wires and vacuum tubes. It was possible to ascertain how a device worked simply by looking at it, as it
was more mechanical than electrical. Tuners used big coils with needles that traveled back and forth, or
rotating interleaving discs turned by a knob, and dials and switches had revolving plates attached to
wires. He quickly learned which wires did what, because connecting stuff the wrong way made sparks
and smoke and then the thing wouldn't work anymore. The best things inside these radios were the
vacuum tubes, of course. He marveled at how these blown glass cylinders were made and the secrets
they held. When they were turned on the filaments inside the vacuum tubes glowed like light bulbs,
throwing off a soft orange light and warmth. But exactly how they worked he did not fully understand,
and so he set out to learn.
As he grew into his teenage years, he began to study electronics theory. He built crystal radios and
spent hours fiddling with them, trying to boost their power and see how many frequencies he could pick
up. He learned how to draw schematic diagrams, the symbolic language explaining how parts integrated
together and their power ratings. It was around this time, the mid-to late 1930s, that his parents got him a
subscription to QST magazine, he taught himself Morse Code and studied to apply for a Ham license
from the American Radio Relay League.
What did the word „Ham‟ mean? It was a nickname for an amateur radio operator. The origins of the
word were shrouded in mythology. There was an urban legend that a guy had fixed a radio once using a
piece of ham from his ham sandwich. Sounds like a dumb story perhaps, and likely not true, but the
name stuck anyway.
After long and tedious hours of studying electronics theory, design and engineering and still more hours
of code practice with an old telegraph key he had hooked up, he finally obtained his Ham license in
1937.
The call signs for radio operators were letters and numbers. His first call sign was W3GYY, spelled out
in phonetic as “Whiskey - Three - Golf - Yankee –Yankee.” His first radio set he had built himself from
a mail order kit. It was a far cry from the old tin cans and string he had played with as a kid. With a
special antenna his father helped him mount on the roof, he could now reach all over the country and talk
to people in places like California, Hawaii and even Canada as if they were sitting next to him. Without
paying for long distance, either! Every time you talked to another Ham somewhere, the formal thing to
do was send him a postcard in the mail with your call sign on it and where you were from; this was
known as a QSL. The walls of his bedroom quickly became plastered with QSL cards. Wireless
communication in those days really was a marvel. You had to be alive then to know just how exciting it
was.
Every day at school, all he could think about was getting home so he could tune around on his radio set.
And every time he got on the air, all he heard about was the war brewing over in Europe. Scary and
foreign-sounding names being thrown around like Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. The invasion of
Poland by the Germans, the sinking of British merchant vessels by the Japanese navy. The international
tension was building up; tons of innocent people were dying over there, every minute of every hour.

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The United States, as reassured by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, remained neutral in all this... not
wanting to rub our noses in European business. We manufactured weapons with our lend-lease program
and sent some of our fighter pilots over there to fight the Japs and the Luftwaffe, engaging the threat
only indirectly. But everyone knew it was only a matter of time before something would happen to draw
us directly into this inevitable war.

On December 7 1941, the Japanese changed all that. The war wasn't over there anymore. They
brought the war to us.

The brutal and relentless surprise attack on that unforgettable Sunday morning, against soldiers and
civilians alike, was what spurred an angry nation to action. Enough was enough. It was time to stop
bickering and go to war, hammer those Germans and Japs hard with everything we got. Praise the Lord
and pass the ammunition.
All over the nation, the call to serve entered every facet of civilian life. Recruitment offices sprang up
in every town of every city, in every state of America. It was cried out by paperboys in the streets, it
was blared out in schools, offices, travel agencies and department store windows, even preached about in
churches. Service Before Self: Enlist Now...they said. Avenge December 7th, said a poster of a defiant
sailor, shaking his fist at the Japs for bombing Pearl Harbor. There was even a call for women to enter
the service. We Can Do It! said grungy, overalled Rosie the Riveter, rolling up her sleeve to show her
bulging biceps. Everywhere you looked, there was an overwhelmingly positive attitude that permeated
every aspect of American culture. We can win. We will win. We MUST win.
In April 1941, the draft was reinstated. Every American boy at the age of 18 was given a selective
service lottery number, and how low or high that number was served as a good indication of how likely he
was to get picked.
Well, our young strapping lad decided he wasn't going to get drafted in the stupid Army to put on that
ugly green uniform, go over there and get himself blown up for a point on some map. And the crazy
stuff the Marines did was little more than suicide. He didn't like the Germans, but he hated the Japanese
even more. So his mind was made up...he wanted to enlist in the Navy Reserves.
Our young hero's name was Hugh Nelson Siegel. His family and friends called him Hughie for short,
pronounced “Huey.” Some said his middle name was in honor of Admiral Horatio Nelson, but that
matter was up for debate. He was 23 years old by this time, with high school and some college behind
him and a good job already in the engineering field. In 1942 he was working as a lens grinder for a
precision optics production plant in Camden, New Jersey. He could either take the train across the bridge
or the ferry from Penn's Landing, which he no doubt preferred because it was a boat. It was not an easy
job, requiring a lot of math skill and fine dexterity, but the hours were okay and the pay was good
enough to finance his expensive radio hobby. While he was over there across the river, he would often go
visit his friends and relatives.
There was a certain girl he was interested in, a childhood friend he had grown up with. Her name was
Jeanette and she was still a teenager, working as a typist and secretary in Camden. They frequently
sent typewritten letters back and forth, and he thought Jeanette, or Jan as she was called, had more than
just a crush on him. She really admired Hughie from a young age, and had always looked up to him
like an older brother. Telling her he was going off to war was one of the hardest things he ever had to
do. She promised to write him letters and to stay in touch as often as they could, and she would pray
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for him every single day he was away; and this gave him comfort. Hugh was raised Episcopalian and Jan
was raised Catholic. It was something he did not think about much, but Jan had told him to say the
rosary before bed, a habit that certainly would give him strength for the perilous adventures that lay
ahead.
Hugh grew up in a town house on Deveraux Street in Philadelphia, not far away from a Navy yard
where he could watch enormous battleships come and go. As a boy his father would take him down to
the shipyard and see the men working on the docks, watch the big grey steamships maneuver about the
harbor, and tell him some stories of his own adventures on the high seas. Of course, he was hooked. So
Hugh was a natural shoo-in for the Navy.
Hugh marched right down to the Navy yard and signed up for the Navy Reserves on April 29, 1942. He
skipped a couple grades because of his civilian experience, and they made him a Radioman 2nd class.
Within a month, he had breezed through basic training and was on to the harder stuff: intermediate
electrical and radio theory at the training academy in Grove City, PA. By September he was in
California, at another training school for radar and sound equipment theory. They were training him to
operate the eyes and ears of a submarine: radio, radar and sonar.
On May 17, 1942 Hugh received a sad telegram: his father had died suddenly of a heart attack while
responding to a fire call. From then on, he knew that he had to stay in the Navy and serve in memory of
him.
He earned his qualification and opted for the Submarine Service, for personal reasons. First, it seemed
exciting to him. Second, it was dangerous. And third, he wanted to overcome one of his few lifelong
fears: claustrophobia. In March of 1943 he was transferred to the submarine school in New London,
Connecticut for his submarine training. And so the great adventure of his life was about to begin.

CHAPTER 3: THE TRAINING
American submarine service training was a very secret affair; mostly classified. He arrived in a bus
full of men at this training base on the coast, chosen because its underwater topography and currents
were an accurate simulation of the conditions submariners would face at sea. This was not far from the
city of Groton, also in Connecticut, where the Electric Boat company was based that built these
submarines. Connecticut had been a seaport for over a hundred years, and whalers and oceanic
explorers often embarked from this location on great adventures. It was a fitting place for him to
embark on his own.
The next few months held the most intense training he had ever imagined. First there was a rigorous
physical examination where he was poked and prodded, inspected and experimented on like a lab rat.
Next came the process of conditioning his body for the hostile environment of the ocean depths. He
was locked in a chamber with several other men and the room was pressurized up to fifty pounds per
square inch. The air inside grew very thick and hard to breathe, and it ruptured some men's eardrums. If
they knocked on the hatch and begged to be let out of the chamber, they were kicked straight out of the
program. His nose bled a tiny bit, but he survived and his hearing was intact.
Once he passed that, he had to enter an intensive psychoanalysis. The docs interviewed him privately
and asked him very deep, probing and highly personal questions about things people don't ever talk
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about. His reaction to these questions would determine if he was fit to enter a world without privacy. He
was calm and answered them all openly and honestly, as he was a good man with a clean record and
nothing to hide. Where many failed, he passed.
Then it was back to more endurance tests. The scariest one he remembered was being locked inside a
room full of pipes. After an alarm sounded, the plumbing sprung high-pressure 'leaks' and these valves
opened up, flooding the room with salt water. It blasted him from all directions with the force of fire
hoses, gallons and gallons and gallons a minute. At first the water was warm, and then it became
freezing cold. As his body numbed in the ice water and he fought to stay conscious, he and the other
men had to work feverishly as a team to seal all the leaks, close the valves and cut off the water before
they drowned. Some men occasionally did, and those who didn't quickly learned that a moment's
hesitation could mean death. Their efficiency was gauged by how much time it took to work together
and stop the leaks.
Then there was a final and most nerve-wracking test, which would determine their ability to escape
from a stranded submarine underwater. At this time, the current sub models were only depth rated to
about 300 feet. If a sub foundered in shallow water the crew were expected to don a special rebreathing
apparatus, open the hatch and swim to the surface to await rescue.
The Momsen Lung was an ingenious device with an inflatable air bladder, a scuba-style mouthpiece
and nose clips, worn across the chest and underneath the chin. It filtered and recycled the carbon
dioxide exhaled by the seaman and created clean oxygen for him to inhale. Out with the bad, in with the
good.
The Momsen Lung was tested in a silo-like tower over a hundred feet tall, which could be filled with
25 feet, fifty feet or a hundred feet of water. The men would enter an airlock at the bottom, expected to
open a hatch and shoot a rescue buoy to the surface, and then make their slow ascent. They had to
breathe slowly and calmly and pause at regular intervals to take 10 deep breaths, to adjust their bodies to
the pressure and avoid nitrogen poisoning in their blood. They were instructed to hold on to the rope and
climb their way up it knot by knot, or they could kick toward the surface if they were brave. After they
had ascended 25 feet, they did it again at fifty, then a hundred. Many men volunteered to do the 100foot ascent right away, knowing they would be disqualified instantly if they objected. After making it
that far, who would want to end up swabbing puke and seagull crap off the deck of a freighter to Hong
Kong while his buddies got to be in a submarine? No one.
Somehow Hughie overcame all these challenges with his mind and body intact, and he earned his
dolphins. By this time he was shipped out to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was assigned to a training boat
called the USS Paddle for a trial run, in which he had to demonstrate his working knowledge of all the
communication systems on the boat. Radar, sonar and radio. By this time it seems he had overcome
his claustrophobia. The Paddle went on its first war patrol to Midway Island, and as luck would have it
they ended up face to face with two Japanese cargo ships and their escorts. They torpedoed and sank a ship
called the Ataka Maru, and returned to Pearl Harbor victorious. The entire crew had performed
admirably. By this time it was September 1943. They were transferred to the USS Griffin, and this time
Hugh was a radar repair technician.
The crew put together on this mission soon learned they were to become the crew of a new Gato-class
sub recently commissioned, called the USS Darter. The transfer date was set for November 28, 1943.
And here is where the fateful ship enters the story.
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CHAPTER 4: THE MACHINE

U.S.S. DARTER
Submarine, Gato-Class, official designation SS-227
Commissioned 7 September 1943
Displacement: 1,526 tons surface, 2,410 tons submerged
Length: 311 feet, 9 inches
Power: 4x 12-cylinder GM-Winton Diesel engines, 5,400bhp/2,740shp
2x drive-shafted electric motors with acid storage batteries for internal power
Fuel capacity: 17,000 gallons diesel gasoline, 700 gallons lube oil storage
Test depth rating: 300 feet
Max speed: 20 knots surfaced, 8 knots submerged
Armament: 20x Mark-14 Torpedoes fit 21” tubes, 6 fore, 4 aft
Secondary armament: 1x 3” deck gun, later 4” deck gun, 2-man anti-aircraft gun
2x .50 cal. machine guns, rail-mounted
2x Browning .30 cal. machine guns, rail mounted
40mm mounted gun, 120rounds/min
2x 20mm mounted guns, 450rounds/min
Crew Armaments: 2x M1 Thompson submachine guns
2x Browning Automatic Rifles
12x .45 cal pistols, flare pistol, line-throwing gun,
smoke bombs, flares, false target shells, hand grenades,
3x 55lb demolition charges for scuttling, dynamite caps and timers

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They were not the first crew to be aboard Darter and were not present for her launch. Hugh's boys were
actually the second, otherwise known as the relief crew. They were slated to depart on their first war
patrol aboard the new ship on December 21, 1943. In the intervening month before the crew's maiden
voyage, they stayed at the base on Pearl Harbor and enjoyed whatever recreation the Navy had to offer.
'R&R' time in Honolulu, which stood for rest and relaxation , was a little slice of paradise for
Navymen. There were beachside resorts where men could enjoy athletic pastimes such as surfing,
swimming, tennis, boxing matches, ping-pong, archery, volleyball, badminton, billiards and card
tournaments; something for everyone. There were parties on the beach almost every night, with great
music and dancing. Here was where some sailors got into trouble. Many Navy enlisted men would blow
most or all of their money on entertainment and alcohol, some went to dances to get laid while others
went to the local bars to look for fights. The sailors would mix and mingle with Marines and base
personnel, generally avoiding or getting into brawls with Army soldiers and pilots. Another vice
among the men was smoking and gambling with cards and dice. Hughie didn't partake in these though.
He enjoyed the occasional cigarette, but that was it.

Sailors were issued cigarettes with their government supplies. Non-smokers would use this as barter
currency or bargaining chips. For example, another sailor might nudge you in the arm and say: “Hey
Smitty, I'll give ya two packs of my best cigs if you introduce me to that girl over there…” or at a dance
someone might say “I'll bet you this cigar you won't ask that woman to dance!”
The enlisted sailors would go to these parties and dance and drink the night away, while the officers might
dress up in their fancy white suits and have private dinner parties, drinking exotic wines and champagne
instead of guzzling beer.
Officers and enlisted men in this military didn't associate much, there was still a lot of segregation. You
might ask why it was done this way. It was believed that officers fraternizing with enlisted men could
form attachments to people they might one day have to send to their deaths, and so it was tactfully
avoided. A sailor might know the first name of his next in rank, but not the names of the officers above
him. The ladder of command was long and had many steps, and each step above the current one had a
new set of responsibilities. As the „Bluejacket's Manual‟ tactfully put it: “Know your job. Know the job
ahead of yours.”
The expression drunk as a sailor was no exaggeration in the Navy. A lot of these men would imbibe
anything they could get their hands on to get the slightest buzz, even if it meant mixing their own
concoctions. One of the most dangerous was something they called Pink Lady.
The mystery brew known as Pink Lady was an alcohol-based liquid used as a cleaning solvent by the
Navy. It was pinkish in color and came in big metal drums. Sailors would distill it to extract the
alcohol using all sorts of clever methods. Though if it was done wrong, which it frequently was, it
became poisonous. Men got very sick from it, and some occasionally died as a result. Other men who
were just plain stupid or crazy tried to make potent cocktails of poisonous chemicals, such as
insecticide or mosquito repellants. This caused nerve damage, paranoia and hallucinations, and what
could best be described as insanity. Containers of apple or grape juice were also kept in secret places
and allowed to ferment over the course of a month. This was the least dangerous method, though it
smelled awful and tasted even worse.
The officers were required to enforce disciplinary action for such illegal activities, but in most cases
they did nothing and simply wrote in the logbooks that they did. If an officer caught a man trying to
13

distill alcohol, the most he might do is say to the man privately: “Now I won't write you up, but don't
let me catch you doin' that again. Here son, I'll show ya the proper way to do it, see you rig it up like
this…”
Once again, our hero didn't do this sort of thing. He might have enjoyed a cigarette once in a while and
had a drink or two socially, but he managed to stay out of trouble and he was nobody's fool. He was
careful with his money, too. Many of his paychecks were sent home to his mother; he only kept a
meager amount for himself which he mainly used to buy necessities.
Well before he knew it, December '43 rolled around, and they were far out at sea on the Darter's first
war patrol. And he was once more in the tedious routine of mind-numbing boredom punctuated by
moments of mind-shredding terror that made up the dangerous life of a submariner.
The first war patrol of the new ship was plagued by equipment failures. Some seals were made of
mismatched metals, and they corroded and so leaks sprang up. They had to turn around on Christmas day,
after just four days at sea, for a serious leak that developed in the aft trim tank. They had to high-tail it
home because they were racing the edge of a hurricane. The winds and waves were so brutal they
crumpled part of the conning tower and water came in because the deck was always flooded.
While at the base, the radar system was replaced and other parts of sub were upgraded. Her diesel
engines were overhauled for oil leaks and some faulty gasket seals. It was normal for new ships built in
wartime to have some problems that needed to be ironed out. Subs were often hastily fabricated and
assembled by shipyard mechanics who weren't always trained up to Navy standards.
New Year's Day 1944 came and went, and on the 23rd the crew of the Darter made their first equator
crossing. The first crossing was a big deal aboard a Navy ship. Each crewman got a small card as a
memento of the event, called an “Ancient Order of the Deep” and it was jokingly signed Neptunus
Rex, king of the sea. Darter was patrolling right along the equator line during this time. The
helmsman, without much else to do, decided to turn the rudder fifteen degrees back and forth so the
boat would hop over the equator every 15 minutes or so, “just for the hell of it.” With a crossing every
six minutes, that equals ten times an hour.... 240 times a day, 1,680 times a week. No other boat in the
war could have even come close to this record! 1
At the end of a long war patrol, the submarine was to dock in Tulagi Bay to refuel and resupply. It was
like the gas station of the sea, their one-stop shop for quick repairs, food, ammo, mail exchange, you
name it. The Australian capital of Sydney was 'home base' for the Darter crew, this was where they had
most of their fun. When the ship was docked, the men were turned loose and put on shore leave to
stretch their legs. Shore leave in the Navy was called liberty. Men were issued passes called liberty
cards, sometimes called “get out of jail free” cards. With their ship's name, their thumbprint and the name
and signature of their commanding officer, as well as the expiration date and time. For example, they
might have to be out of the bars and off the street by midnight, and back on the boat by seven o'clock
the next morning. Hugh and the rest of the men had some great times in Sydney, and the stories from
these exploits, be those real or imaginary, would keep them entertained on the long and tedious days of
patrol ahead of them.
The second war patrol aboard the Darter wasn't very exciting... but there were some interesting stories.
During surface patrol, high command wanted the Jap fleet to know the submarine wolf packs had
cleared an area, so they wanted crew to pull up trout lines and fishing nets. The men took any fish they
14

found and cooked excellent meals in the galley. The blue glass floats that kept these nets from sinking
were worth a lot of cash in Honolulu, so men saved them.
The unwritten rule on a submarine was you could keep anything you found as spoils of war as long as
you could stow it safely until you returned to port. So the men slept with these glass balls in their
bunks. When the men got tired of sleeping with them, they asked to go topside and chuck them
overboard. (All the sailor jokes about holding your balls in bed every night aside) Hugh decided to
keep his as a memento.
Flying fish sometimes littered the deck and got caught between boards and railings while surfacing.
The Lieutenant made the crew collect these critters that were half fish-half bird, and the chef cooked a
fine British seafood breakfast that was enjoyed by all. Sailors certainly enjoyed much better meals
than the Army.1
It should be mentioned here that the Darter was not alone at sea; it was one half of a pair of submarines.
The sister sub to the Darter was an identical vessel called the USS Dace. All the Gato-class boats were
named after small fish. The Dace and the Darter traveled together, hunting in a pack like wolves, hence
the term “wolf pack.” Every night the two ships would make rendezvous, that is they would pull up
alongside each other and the Skippers--the captains of each ship--would meet, discussing navigation
and strategy over cups of coffee and cigarettes. The tiny rubber dinghy did the ferrying back and forth on
a guide rope. Sometimes if seas were rough they would signal to each other with lights, yell over a
megaphone, speak in code words via radio or tap it out in Morse.
The Skipper of the Darter was Captain David H. McClintock, a Pearl Harbor survivor who was
known for being particularly fearless. The Skipper of the Dace was B.D. Claggett, known as „Clagg,‟
and he was known for his split-second decisions that saved lives. The two Skippers were best friends,
and no two more ideal men could have been selected to lead a submarine wolfpack. The Dace had
many interesting stories of its own to tell, as her crew was somewhat rambunctious...but those are better
left for another time.
There were other events that stood out in his memory. Once during the third patrol, in June of '44, the
boats went ashore on a tiny nameless island in the Pacific. They had a great time swimming and
playing on the beach. Well, it turns out a Navy supply ship had dumped a bunch of stuff overboard and
these big crates washed up on the shore. The Darter men opened them up and they were full of gas
masks. The Germans and Japs ended up not using poison gas at all this time around, and these were
discarded at every opportunity as dead weight. So seeing all this loot abandoned on the beach, the men
made the best of the situation. They cut away the filter canister portion from the hoses on the masks and
used them as diving goggles. The rubber hose made a perfect snorkel when it was held out of the water.
Boy, he remembered how clear and clean that water was. It looked like a swimming pool. There were
plenty of fish, interesting anemones and other sea creatures; shells to collect. It was much more fun than
the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe a war patrol in the Pacific wasn't so bad after all.
At the end of this patrol when they returned to Tulagi for resupply and repairs, Hugh and some of the
other tech crew figured it was time to upgrade their radar. The old SD-type radar dish had to be turned
270 degrees before diving, to avoid tearing it off its mount. It was also narrow in range, the gain
wasn't very good, and the images on the screen were harder to make out. It was a flat parabolic dish, and
it wasn't directional. It was okay at proximity, like you could tell how far away something was from the
ship; but not its heading, size or what direction it was coming from.
15

So, when nobody was around, two of the radar operators covertly commandeered and installed a
newer SJ-type radar dish, swapping their old one with another sub docked next to them. They made
such quick work with the wrenches getting those bolts off, and they didn't make a sound. This small
upgrade would make a big difference later on. The SJ dish was a parabolic one bent in a curved shape,
which made it directional and very focused. With this, Darter could now identify a target's direction
and heading and it had far greater range. Amazingly, the Skipper never noticed...he just assumed it was
part of the new upgrades for the ship. The mischievous crewmen knew she would be far out at sea before
anyone noticed their little prank.
The SJ radar also was hooked directly into the sound gear, so radar and sonar were now tied together. It
was possible to covertly and silently signal another sub, just by „pinging‟ it with a few taps in Morse
Code from a key which had been installed in the radio shack. Hugh naturally handled this fine piece of
equipment, as he was the best code tapper on the ship. It made no sound, but from the other ship their
dot on the radar scope would blink on and off. It was very focused and point-to-point, so it was next to
impossible to eavesdrop. This became the standard medium of communicating at night or when submerged.
All of these things were stuff the Japanese would just love to get their hands on. Which is why the crew
had strict orders to destroy, toss overboard or render useless any electronic equipment in the event of
capture, and then scuttle the ship to bury the evidence. This was in the back of their minds all the time.
It was vitally important we didn't give the enemy any undue advantage over us with our own captured
technology.
On a side note, it was recorded in the log on this patrol that one crewmember sustained an injury. The
Chief Motor Machinist's Mate named Tommy James got his head cut open by flying pieces of a
ruptured valve when pressure was not properly shut off. It was the only significant injury aboard the
sub that required medical treatment. With everything in the vessel under such intense pressure at depth,
it was quite a hazard when things sprung leaks. For example, a bolt flying out of a burst pipe flange
would ricochet around the cabin like a rifle bullet. If it hit a man in the head it was like a gunshot. It
could kill you instantly. Light bulbs and gauge glass could shatter, making dangerous shrapnel. The
submarine was not a friendly place to be underwater, especially if under attack. He had heard stories
from the Great War about men getting concussions, broken bones and losing teeth from being tossed
around so violently when depth charges exploded close enough. The hull of the ship would expand and
contract, flexing like a living, breathing thing. Sometimes to illustrate this, men would string up a wire
from one side to the other. When the ship dived, the line would slacken up and a huge bow would form
in the middle so low you could almost play jump rope with it.
Really... a submarine was a deathtrap, plain and simple. Navy life insurance for the Silent Service was
very expensive but necessary. It was a common tactic used by veteran sailors to scare new recruits;
when the depth charges began to rain down on their helpless boat, they would look the young ones dead
in the eyes and say “Is your life insurance policy paid up, boy? Better check next time we're in port…”

On September 1st 1944, Darter and Dace departed Brisbane on their fourth war patrol. They were now
officially designated a task force, called Task Force 'M' for the Darter's captain, David McClintock. The
men jokingly referred to their wolf pack as the “Double D's.” Whether this referred to the first letter of
both ships' names or the women's bra size was largely a matter of opinion. Humor had its place in
every branch of the military; it reached an unusual height in the Submarine Service because it helped
16

offset the incredible danger. Men were always playing practical jokes on one another, usually harmless
and nothing worth a court martial.
A Lieutenant Commander aboard Darter by the name of Charles Gebhardt fancied himself a cartoonist.
He would make these little funny sketches and drawings, pin them to bulletin boards in the galley and
occasionally tape them to bulkheads so men could have a laugh. They were caricatures of how crazy,
cramped and hectic life was aboard the sub. Things like torpedo detail, deck gun loading, deck watch
and the call to battle stations were turned into a chaotic mess of tumbling bodies and yelling figures
who of course all looked vaguely like Popeye the Sailorman. Some of these poked fun at other
crewmembers. His personal favorite depicted men getting ready to go up on deck to fight with all
sorts of exotic weapons. And in the midst of it all, Emmons, the bearded ship's cook with a meat
cleaver stuck in his belt, being told by a Popeye-faced skipper that he couldn't throw his biscuits at the
enemy. Some men tore these down in fuming indignation; others were amused at never knowing
where one of his cartoons would pop up next. Hugh saved or copied down all the cartoons he could,
because he liked them. He figured it would be one good memory of his time aboard in the future.

Author's Note: For visuals of all these cartoon drawings, see
<http://grandpasnavy.blogspot.com/2013/04/funny-cartoonsof-life-aboard-uss-darter.html>

The routine during these long sea patrols became monotonous and dreary. The men worked in shifts,
and the only thing they wanted to do when not working besides eating was sleeping. They ate and slept
in shifts, too. The bunks were never empty. When you got off watch duty you'd go back to your bunk
and find a guy already sleeping in it. Some enlisted men even borrowed the writing desk in the officer's
quarters to do their studies for qualification during their down time. But these quarters always had to be
vacated before the occupant returned. There was not enough sleeping or eating space for everyone
aboard at once; the Navy had done this on purpose because about half the crew always had to be on the
alert.
17

In between surface drills the men on duty liked to play cards. 'Acey-Deucey' was a popular card game.
Men would gamble with shore leave passes, ration tickets, packs of cigarettes and their meager
paychecks. At night the men on deck watch had to have their eyes adjusted to see in the blackness, so
special lights were turned on that bathed the conning tower and control room in a deep red, like a photo
darkroom. When turning the lights down low wasn't practical or safe, the men would wear red-tinted
goggles to adjust their vision instead, and they would wear them for 15 minutes while sitting at a card
table or smoking a cigarette. The Navy had special decks of playing cards made with the hearts and
diamonds printed in black, since the red suits would be invisible with the goggles on.1
Surface watch, night or day, was long and boring. These men had to be amped up on so much coffee just
to stay awake. They would be stuck leaning against the deck railings for hours on end, staring through
binoculars at the horizon, being pounded by salty spray and biting cold winds. If anything was sighted,
the men had to sound the alarm and within seconds the ship would be on full alert. Usually the order was
Possible enemy sighted. Dive! Dive! Battle stations! The 'Ahooga' and warning bells would sound,
followed by the Bong, bong, bong, bong of the electric bell, and the shouts of men scrambling down the
hatch. The deck officer would yell out their numbers as they went below to make sure everyone was
down, and each man had to answer. Number one...Aye! Number two...Aye! Number three...Aye! and so
on. Then the hatch was closed and the locking wheel spun home before too much seawater poured in.
Sometimes they had to go down so quickly that one or two men were stuck on deck with water rising
up to their necks. These men were expected to grab on to the periscope or the radio mast, and hold on for
dear life as the sub pulled them along through the waves. Then after a few tense minutes of scanning
the radar and sonar, the “All clear!” would be sounded and the ship would surface again, only to repeat
the entire ordeal less than an hour later at the next false alarm. A diesel submarine needed air to run its
turbine engines, so beneath the surface it could only be propelled by electric motors. These were fed by
batteries, which had to be recharged on the surface after only a few hours of operation. The batteries were
connected to generators with the engine drive shafts running through them, so when the diesels were
running it also powered the ship and juiced up the batteries. The batteries were sometimes prone to leaks,
though, and the chemicals in them would create clouds of toxic chlorine gas and noxious fumes;
during which case the ship would have to be surfaced and the gas allowed to escape or the crew would
suffocate.
Sometimes days would pass by without seeing anything, other times they could be diving and surfacing
every few minutes. It was better to spend as much time below the surface as possible, to avoid being
spotted by planes. It was those damned planes they worried about the most.
One close call almost resulted in the sinking of Darter by friendly fire.
On the 3rd of October '44, the Darter and Dace were to cover the Western approach to Balabac Strait.
They patrolled submerged at almost all times, due to an incident earlier in the month where the Darter
was surfaced and a passing American plane almost bombed them.
The men saw a plane that spotted them, and they hoped it would keep going but it didn't. It turned
around and came back at them. The men panicked and scrambled to get below deck as they heard the
engines whine, it was diving. Someone got the bright idea of signaling with the emergency flares,
using the launch tubes at the tip and the stern of the boat. But the flares were faulty and didn't launch.
One of them exploded in the tube when the cord was pulled, this blew McClintock off his feet and
knocked him on his rear end, almost deafening another crewmember standing by. The brass signal letters
meant to be laid on the decks to spell messages to aircraft also pitched off the deck and were lost
18

overboard in the rough sea. Attempts to hail the plane by radio and code were unsuccessful, and finally
the American flag was brought out on deck attached to a length of pipe and fluttered around. The bomber
was waved off at last. Hughie was on the radio at the time, and he said the planes were talking on 2716
kilocycles. He heard them say “ ...It may be an American sub...” Dave said “You tell them you're damn
right it's an American sub, and to go away, they make us nervous.”1

The Seawolf, SS-197 was not so lucky. It was sunk in the same passage by an American destroyer, the
USS Rowell earlier that day and went down with all hands. They had heard it on the radio. It was one of
the few friendly fire incidents of the Pacific, which were not widely publicized.
The routine became nail-biting after awhile, ridden with paranoia and anxiety. Plane sighted... dive...
wait submerged for the bombs to fall... signal all clear... surface again to charge batteries. Rinse,
repeat. At one point during rendezvous a line was thrown across and the crews exchanged movie films,
since each crewmember had already watched the same movies five or six times. The tedium and
anxiety of the endless false alarms was getting unbearable.
On October 20, the men heard on the horn that the invasion of the Philippines had begun. General
MacArthur had landed his Marines on Leyte Island. It was only at this point that the Darter and Dace
captains learned why they were on patrol in this area. They carried out their orders silently and never
questioned why. If brass told them to go somewhere, they went. Being so isolated and alone on the
open sea, it was easy to forget that there was a war going on, as each man was fighting his own private
war against boredom, fear, anxiety and homesickness.
Nobody exactly knew where the orders were coming from or how the officers received them. There
was a vast network of spies and liaisons in the Allied forces that operated around the clock in the
Pacific Theater, but there was one mysterious entity that ruled over the whole effort. It was from that
high place that these orders came. Its official code name was ULTRA. No man under the grade of
Lieutenant was allowed to even speak of it or ask questions about it. This source was referred to only as
'it,' and it's name was only whispered, never spoken.
As far as the Navy was concerned, 'it' was God.
The crew's only confirmation of these rumors from on high were when the girl calling herself
Tokyo Rose was heard over shipboard radio. She addressed their suspicions that the Philippines were, in
fact, invaded. “The Americans have invaded the island of Leyte, and they shall all die. You boys should
turn back now, if you know what's good for you. You're all alone out there, too bad your sweethearts
won't be waiting for you if you get back home. They're already dancing with someone new. We now
return to our appropriate musical number…” She softly crooned away in that sweet voice of hers.
Well if she came on the air, it had to be true. Some men looked at each other, grim faced. Others
laughed, came up with pet names and cracked jokes. Somewhere in the sub would always be heard
some lewd comment like “What's your number, torpedo tits?” to the sound of guffawing laughter.
They tried to speculate what she might look like, or how old she was. You could tell these men were
lonely, if the mere sound of a pre-recorded female voice was enough to get their fantasies going.
“Tokyo Rose” was an unidentified radio announcer, a propaganda tool of the Japanese. She spoke
perfect English, and she tried to scare American sailors by exaggerating Allied casualties and
constantly informing them of their impending deaths, warning them to turn back; and disdainfully
19

reminding them their sweethearts at home were dancing with other men and probably being unfaithful.
The goal of these broadcasts was to demoralize Allied fighting men and make them miss home. If
Tokyo Rose came on the air, you knew it was serious and the Jap fleet was up to no good.
(Tokyo Rose may not have been positively identified, but her Western counterpart Axis Sally came forward decades later
and was tried and convicted of war crimes. Axis Sally was an American citizen with strong sympathy for the Nazi cause.
She died in Columbus, Ohio in 1988. (FUBAR: Soldier Slang of World War II)

The role of Task Force 'M' was now clear. Their mission was to patrol the Palawan Passage in an area
commonly called the Dangerous Ground, and set up a trap for Japanese ships passing through on their way to
interfere with the Leyte landings. They wanted to 'interfere with the interference', as it were. It was
like two tiny mice setting a trap for an elephant. Sounded simple on paper.
But this was easier said than done. The area they had to patrol was huge; hundreds of square miles of
open sea, and they were just two tiny subs. They would be considered the forward picket line. If the
Fleet passed through, both submarine crews knew they would have the best chance at getting the first
shot. But which boat would be the lucky one to spot the enemy first? Only time would tell.

CHAPTER 5: DAY OF DESTINY
Place: Palawan Passage, South China Sea, Philippines
Date: October 23, 1944
Time: Dawn, less than 24 hours before the Battle of Leyte Gulf

He hadn't slept well tonight. But when did he ever sleep. The only private space he had wasn't even
his all the time. It was a small bunk, about two feet by six feet by two and a half, little more than a shelf
with a thin pad that could be swung up against the wall. His bunk was always occupied, whether he was
in it or not. There was no privacy aboard a boat, none at all.
He gazed up at the small photo of Jan, his girl back home. He had taped her to the underside of the
bunk above him. Her gentle face and warm smile was barely visible in the soft red glow from the control
room. The sleeping berths always had lights on, but they were turned down low. He could still hear
talking and get whiffs of smoke from the men sitting in the bunk below him and loitering in the narrow
aisle. The 'corridor' through the length of the ship was barely wide enough to walk through, even if you
shuffled sideways. In some places you could hold out both arms and touch either side of the inner hull.
Day and night aboard a sub were meaningless. The only difference was they kept the red lights on in
the control room at night. Occasionally they turned some lights off when they knew the men needed
sleep. But there was always that red glow coming in through the open bulkhead hatch.
The young sailor hadn't really slept at all, his mind had just entered a torpid state of half-consciousness.
He was dimly aware of the activity and noise that was all around him. No part of the ship was quiet.
The aft torpedo storage room was always active. His back was up against the curved wall of the ship; he
felt its gentle vibration and a low hum as the electric turbines propelled the silent fish through the
darkness. There was a pipe going through his sleeping space, it was a small one; but he heard some
water gurgling through it and a slight hiss of pressure. Somewhere else in the ship, one of the crewmen
must be taking a shower. Imagine sleeping in the boiler room of a hotel basement, right next to the hot
water heater, with lights shining in your eyes.
20

There was the sound of low murmuring and quiet gossip from the other bunks, and occasional shuffling
as men slid sideways past him, gently brushing the edge of his bed with their clothing. Somewhere else,
he could hear a rhythmic knocking sound, perhaps a man had a uniform in the dryer. His nose sniffed
the pungent smell of diesel fumes, oil and sweat, and a wisp of cigarette smoke that always seemed to
hang in the air with nowhere to go. The air felt stale and heavily recycled. He couldn't hear the diesel
engines, just a low hum. If the electrics are going, we must be under the surface, he thought. There was
no porthole on the wall, in fact no windows in the sub of any kind, but he knew the watery environment
outside the thin steel wall was pitch black and cold; and there was intense and crushing pressure. He
heard and felt the hull creak slightly under its relentless attack. Sometimes he had a faint anxiety in the
back of his mind that a leak would spring up, and he'd drown in his sleep...or that the pressure would
rupture the hull and crumple it up like a beer can. He never quite got used to the fear, but simply learned
to ignore it.
To the rear of the crew berths was the engine compartment, and then the aft torpedo room. He tried to
spend as little time in those places as he could. One, it smelled terrible. Two, he didn't like to stand
around tons of explosives in a thin metal shell. These torpedoes were supposed to be inert until armed,
but you never knew how reliable the detonators were. One spark or electrical short could blow them all
to Hell in a fraction of a second. Despite that fear, some men slept in bunks right beside them.
He had nodded off for what must have been fifteen seconds, when a flashlight was shined directly in
his eyes. He grimaced and put up his hand to shield from the light. A familiar voice said “Psst. Hughie.
Is that you?” He felt a fist nudging his shoulder.
“I came back to make sure you're awake, bucko. Radar watch in 10 minutes. Your number's up, I need
to get some shut-eye. All the other bunks are full.” He asked what time it was, too groggy to glance at
his watch.
When he heard it, he jolted up with a start...and clocked his noggin on the bunk above him. He rubbed his
forehead, silently cursing and massaged his temples. He rolled out of bed and stood up, as he was
already fully clothed in his khaki pants and blue shirt. The man who had awoken him swung his leg up
and rolled into the bunk he had just occupied himself, turned his back to him and was snoring already.
Blinking, the young sailor stumbled his way past the other sleeping men and ducked through the hatch into
the next compartment.
He was in the control room. The control room of a submarine was the brains of the whole operation. It
was always noisy in here. Men were hunched over their instruments, some staring at dials and knobs on
panels, others sitting with their hands grasping large wheels, like bus drivers only not going anywhere.
Above his head and through the not very thick deck plating, he could hear men shuffling around inside
the cramped conning tower. He was fairly on the short side and didn't have to worry about clocking his
head much, but some of the taller men had to duck around light fixtures, random knobs and exposed
piping that snaked all over the ship like arteries inside a whale. He pushed his way past the men on
station and settled into his little corner where the circular radar screen was. As a qualified sailor, he didn't
have to go topside unless he wanted to; he was kept down inside the bowels of the beast where his
mechanical and electrical wizardry was needed the most. After all, the Navy didn't go to the trouble of
embroidering those lightning bolts on his sleeve for nothing.
He plopped himself into the seat in front of the radar panel, hunched over the scope and resumed his
tireless scrutiny, trying not to let his eyes go screwy from fatigue. That was how he really knew he was
tired. When his eyes wanted to close on their own and could no longer focus. Absently, he picked up a
21

mug of someone else's coffee next to him, brought it to his mouth and took a hard swallow. Ugh.
Tastes like diesel fuel. He put it down again, and settled in for his tedious radar watch. The scope was
empty, blacker than the blackest night. Nothing but the solid green radius making its slow circuit around
the circumference, and the faint trails it left as the phosphors residually glowed on the proximity circles.
In his mind he knew exactly how the thing worked, but it is far too complicated to explain in this
narrative. Don't ask...go find a book on it.
He leaned back slightly in the seat and put his hands behind his head, trying to hold it up as he forced
his eyelids open. It was shaping up to be another long night...

CHAPTER 6: THE CHASE
Still nothing. He looked at his wristwatch. It was about quarter after one in the morning. He had
been on his vigilant radar watch for what seemed like hours, but only about an hour and a quarter
had passed. Still no sign of the Jap fleet everyone was searching for, that he knew must be out there.
He stifled a yawn and rubbed his eyes. It was easy to burn out one's eyeballs on the bright green radar
display, with those deep red running lights of the control room all around it. The Darter was running
silent underneath the surface on battery power, the electric turbines were still churning away. He could
not feel the vibration of the diesel engines anymore, only a low humming and the gentle creaking of the
hull, the steady drone of the sonar. Sometimes he heard odd clicking sounds through the hull, he was
told these were schools of fish. The sailor stretched his arms again and leaned back a bit in his chair.
Must....stay....awake....he blinked for a split second as his eye began to twitch involuntarily.
He opened his eyes... and nearly jumped out of his seat at something unexpected. His dozing mind
snapped awake and instantly became alert. A large green cloud was creeping in at the upper edge of his
empty radar screen. Scattered and patchy at first, but each sweep of the line made it brighter and
more solid. It became unbelievably dense as it emerged. His pulse started to quicken. It could be one of
only a handful of things, he knew. A rainstorm, a large flock of birds, a squadron of enemy planes...or a
large clustered mass of surface ships. They had hit the jackpot, he knew it. This had to be the fleet.
Not wishing to alarm anyone with a false target, he played it safe and announced an incoming squall as
per his training. “Radar contact, true bearing one-three-one, range thirty thousand yards, probably a
rain squall...” in as calm an urgent voice as he could manage. He thought he heard a muffled pounding
on the outside of the hull, but it was only the pounding of his heart.

McClintock dashed over to the radar console and put a hand on the sailor's shoulder, as he peered at the
screen. “Rain squall, Hell.... those are enemy ships!” he exclaimed. The captain grabbed a radio
telephone receiver off its hanger on the ceiling that connected him to the Dace control room. “Kate
from Mable...Dave here. We have radar contact, it looks like the main force we've been looking for.
Course: 39-Option-5.” Target course: bearing, 39 degrees, North, 5 miles. Everything was in codespeak.
Some static crackled over the ship intercom, and Claggett's reply came. “What are we waiting for Dave,
let's go get 'em!”
The Skipper confirmed his thoughts without another word. He was right and he knew it. The enemy
had been sighted. Here was the fleet at last. The ship sprang into action.
22

Red lights flashed and alarms blared. The megaphone speaker yelled its unmistakable battle stations
signal. BONG, BONG, BONG, BONG, BONG. Men tumbled out of their bunks as an excited crewman
shouted through the hatch into the bunk area.
“Get up! Get up! Battle stations submerged! We found 'em, we found 'em! Get to your consoles! Battle
stations! Battle stations!”
The men didn't bother pulling clothes on as they scrambled through the sub, holding the convenient
handles and swinging through the bulkhead hatch one at a time like monkeys. One guy was in his
boxers, another guy was shirtless and pulling his pants on. They hurriedly took their battle stations in the
fore compartment, as ahead of them and aft, the torpedo launch tubes were opened and the deadly fish
prepared to fire.
In the red glow of the conning tower, Dave raised up the periscope. It was pitch black out there, but he
swung around to 131 degrees and squinted into the eyepiece. He just barely saw some lights on the
horizon, glittering like stars in a sky of black. Then as more came into view, it looked like a glistening
city of tiny red and white dots emerging from the mist. It was impossible to count the number of ships,
it was so black out there. He couldn't see the numbered markings on the 'scope against the black sky,
but he estimated the bearing and range.
“Bearing... one-three-one. Range 25,000 yards and closing. Oh man, look at all those ships! Looks
like we stumbled into the entire damned Jap fleet!! Going away from us. We gotta to catch up to 'em. All
ahead full on diesel! Surface, surface!”
Everyone held on as the boat flipped herself topside. The prow of the sub breached the water first,
like a black whale in the darkness. White foam streamed from the fore intake ports, stirring up faintly
glowing phosphorescent algae as she settled on to the choppy surface. The deck guns breached next,
their barrels sealed and plugged tightly against the corrosive seawater. Then, the periscope and radio
masts rose up out of the water, stabbing the black sky like Excalibur emerging from a lake. The Darter
was topside. Down below in the engine room, the mechanics started up the massive 12-cylinder diesels.
The 1,270 horsepower General Motors engines pounded like jackhammers, filling the sub with noise.
They were smeared with oil, their mechanics smeared with it also, black and greasy as the machinery
they tended. All of the eighty men on board now functioned as one machine. A team of sweating
workhorses, straining and propelling the 311-foot long steel deathtrap to its uncertain fate in the tossing
sea.
The mighty diesel engines roared and vibrated at max throttle as both subs sped up, in hot pursuit at the
ragged edge of 19 knots. They were mostly flying blind, as there were no good charts of the
Dangerous Ground; all the navigators had were outdated and long-declassified British nautical charts.
Much of the course calculations were computed by slide rules and dead reckoning.
The pursuit took two hours to close distance to torpedo range. Darter and Dace where unaware at the
time, but the nearest ship to them and first to be targeted was the heavy cruiser Atago that was bringing
up the rear, which happened to carry Admiral Kurita aboard. He would have normally been aboard the
battleship Yamato as it was a flagship, but during night operations he had decided to sail aboard the heavy
cruiser, perhaps for safety and a less obvious target. The Atago, Yamato and thirty other ships were sailing
in a tightly grouped convoy, ahead of them in the darkness. The sub crews also weren't aware of this,
but the gargantuan super-battleship Musashi was among them. The Musashi had nine 18-inch guns in three
turrets, capable one throwing one-ton shells over twenty-six miles. It was the biggest ship set afloat by
23

any Navy in the history of the world, and nothing like it had ever been built before. Through the
periscope in the predawn hours, they simply looked like a gray mass on the horizon. The enemy ships
weren't zigging or zagging in their evading pattern, because they didn't know they were being chased.
Japanese ships typically traveled straight in the dark. The ships were fast outrunning the subs in hot
pursuit.
The two submarines were straining at almost 20 knots, with every available ounce of pressure in the
tanks vented to make them just that much lighter and faster. The engine room mechanics were working
feverishly, urging the engines to gain every last bit of horsepower. Dave buzzed the back over the
intercom, “Faster! Blow negative, 30 interval!” Every thirty minutes the negative and safety ballast
tanks were blown to make the submarine lighter, this gave off a loud hiss and a knocking sound like a
steam dryer from aft, as the engines whined and their RPM increased. Nineteen knots, the gauges were
pegged. They were giving it all she had. The boat strained, creaked and groaned from the pressure
attacking the ship's hull. Men held on to whatever they could as the boat rocked gently from side to
side, tossed by the currents and the dark and ominous sea.
It was a race. They couldn't let these Japs get away, or the boys on the beaches would be goners. The
entire Leyte invasion could fail without proper warning. Two tiny subs in a vast ocean, just a dozen
torpedoes each, were all that stood against the mightiest naval power the world had ever known.
As the Dace and the Darter silently stalked their prey, both captains' eyes were peering intently into the
periscopes. It appeared the ships were slowing down. Estimated speed dropping...twenty
knots...nineteen knots...seventeen knots ...fifteen knots. The cat and mouse game had begun, and the
armed mice were gaining on the fleet. They did not want to attack in darkness; it was necessary to
identify ships so they could stake a claim on their prize later, as well as let the landing forces of the
invasion know what was heading for them. It was not only a race against these much bigger and
heavier-armed vessels, but a race against time. They had to be stopped before they reached the invasion
forces on Leyte!
An unseen dawn approached as, sleepless, the men in both subs intently stared at their control consoles
and blinking lights. Hands clenched tightly on wheels, dials and knobs, sweating from the hot dieseldrenched air in their claustrophobic steel cans. Silently urging their boats to go faster, milking every
ounce of horsepower from the twin diesels roaring away behind them. No windows or portholes were
in the sub to look out of at all. Only their imaginations told them what lay ahead, or what dangers
lurked in this hostile and invisible environment all around them. Dave and Clagg's eyes in the
periscopes were their only link to the outside world. Nobody spoke unless absolutely necessary.
At last, the tired captains saw the first dim glow on the horizon as the sun began to show itself. The
floating city of the Japanese fleet began to take shape. Battleships, cruisers, carriers, with destroyers and
smaller support ships in an evenly spaced grid configuration. The destroyers were screening the battleships.
Their plumes of black smoke and the orange glow from their boilers were now becoming visible against
the lightening sky. The entire enemy fleet, and they were all sitting ducks. It was the chance of a
lifetime. They knew all it took was a few carefully aimed torpedoes, and they would hit right where it
would hurt the Japs the most. Ahab's harpoon, right into the heart of the gigantic white beast. It was the
dream of every captain to deal such a decisive blow and remain completely undetected.
All the men had to stay at battle stations for upwards of two hours before they approached close
enough to attack, and every nail-biting, teeth-grinding minute of it felt like an hour in itself.
24

At 0400 hours, McClintock called a meeting in the aft battery and briefed the crew on the gravity of
the situation.
“Men...we're about to tangle with what looks like the whole Jap fleet. There's more than 20,000 Japs
on those thirty two ships, and if everyone does their job the best they can, and the good Lord's willing,
we'll come out of this alright.” Just in case, he encouraged everyone to pray together for a few minutes
before sending everyone back to their stations. The men wouldn't be able to eat a good breakfast, so
Dave asked the cook to make piles of sandwiches and brought them out to the men one at a time. Chef
Emmons apologetically said to each of them, “Today we're having cruisers for breakfast…”
Time: 0425 hours, Pacific Standard. Half an hour before dawn. The fleet was slowing, they were now
plugging along at a steady pace of fifteen knots. The Darter & Dace were 20,000 yards away and
closing. Both McClintock and Claggett ordered the fish ready for firing. On the exteriors of both subs
beneath the surface, the covers for the forward torpedo tubes quietly slid open, exposing the deadly fish
inside to the ocean. The attack would be a two-pronged flank attack if all went well. The ships were
in a convoy of two columns, one slightly ahead of the other. The Darter would dive and go after the left
column, and Dace would go five miles up ahead and wait submerged for the right column. A left and
right hook, a one-two knockout punch. The Jap fleet would never even knew what hit them.
Ship's time: 0510 hours. It was very close to daylight now. Darter battened down the hatches, went
below the surface again, and rigged for silent running. The chase had begun.
Darter would strike first. Her shots would spread out into a fan pattern that would decimate the
unsuspecting left side, and then as the right side altered course to evade, they would swing right into
the crosshairs of Dace. It was a perfect trap, and there was no escape for their prey. They called these
submarine teams wolf packs for a reason.
The excitement in the control room was approaching a fever pitch. Captain McClintock was visibly
excited. “We've got them now!” His emphatic statement only echoed the thoughts of the vigilant and
superbly trained crew around him, his brothers and shipmates. We've got them now.
The hunted had just become the hunters. Darter and Dace were going to war by themselves...to save
the Allied Philippines invasion effort. It was a harebrained idea, but that was the genius of it. Who
would suspect such a suicidal attack by two tiny subs? Alone, unsupported and hopelessly outgunned
by the most heavily armed Navy ships in the history of the world? It was David McClintock against
Goliath.

25

CHAPTER 7: DAVID AND GOLIATH
According to the navigator, the weather was clear. The wind was blowing at 55 degrees bearing at three
miles an hour, the ocean was very calm, 40 kilometers visibility.3 Sunrise was set for 0559, and it was
getting brighter already. The Skipper described the view of the fleet spread out in front of them through
the 'scope as “like a grey city on the horizon.” They were spread so far apart, he had to swivel the
periscope to look at them all. They were getting close enough he could make out battleships, cruisers
and destroyers, they appeared to be zigzagging a bit judging by their wakes. The Japs must know they
are being followed. Still no depth charges yet. Everyone aboard could only imagine the fear and anxiety
of the sailors on those ships. Every piece of floating debris probably looked like a periscope to the deck
watchmen. As it was, the hairs on the backs of the men aboard the Darter were sticking up, everyone had
a prickly sensation down their spine. The air was electrified by tension.
McClintock kept the intercom from the conning tower open, so everyone below could hear how it was
going. “Angle on the bow increasing...55....60....65. Range, under one thousand yards. Shooting
bearing....Mark! FIRE ONE!”
The torpedo gunner pushed the first fire button, which lit up red to indicate it was away, but everyone
on board knew it. The ship lurched back and forth, and a loud buzzing was heard that decreased in pitch
and faded away as the deadly 'fish' sped away toward its target. They waited a few seconds and then
launched another five torpedoes, in quick succession. Six sleek and deadly missiles were whirring away
into the murky sea.

He shouted that the first cruiser appeared to be turning away, so they targeted the second one.
McClintock gave the command to stand by for a setup, as if everyone could see what he was looking at.
Lieutenant Wilkinson, the guy on the TDC (Torpedo Data Computer) shouted “Give me a range, give
me a range! You can't shoot without a range!” Fifteen hundred yards, the command came echoing back.
The dials on the mechanical computer spun and the numbers matched up, they had their fix. They fired
another two fish. Now they had caught up, they were traveling perfectly parallel to the fleet's direction of
travel, and were right in the middle of the cluster of ships.
He ordered “Rudder hard to Starboard! Fire stern tube number one!” The ship lurched again, tossing
everyone about as loud explosions reverberated through the tiny sub. “Depth charges!!” shouted a
panicked voice from somewhere. Dave shouted over the roar. “Depth charges, hell! Torpedoes!”
They were so loud and close to the ship, it indeed sounded like depth charges were raining down on
them. Gunnery torpedo officer Walt Price must've been punching one torpedo button after another and
jumping up and down excitedly as he heard each hit.1 Hugh heard the sound of his boots stamping on
the conning tower floor above his head. The sounds over the radio from Dace were excited as well, he
thought he heard cheers and applause. He marked the time: 0532 hours.
Darter had fired the first shots. The Battle of Leyte Gulf had begun.
The men anxiously pleaded for a look in the periscope, but McClintock chose to describe what he saw
instead. He said the whole first cruiser was on fire and trailing dense billows of black smoke from the
forward turret to the stern. It looked like a fireworks show coming out of the boiler smokestack. The
cruiser was driving fast as if they were escaping, but it was plowing beneath the water and the bow was
26

already submerged, the first turret was going under. He wondered if its engines would keep propelling it
straight to the bottom. “The view of a lifetime! What a show! What a show!” he half-shouted like an
excited little kid at the circus.
A call came from the forward torpedo room. “Five hits out of six!” The sub echoed with loud
shouts and war whoops. Men were slapping each other on the back in congratulation. Several of the men
left their stations, came over and patted Hugh on the shoulder, thanking him personally for making the first
contact by finding the entire fleet. McClintock's voice on the intercom also thanked him for the chance of
a lifetime.
The Darter had done her job, and a spectacular job at that. Now it was Dace's turn.
What followed was the sound of more explosions as the Dace scored her hits on the fleet ships, which
were now turned and high-tailing it out of there. The crew heard a crinkling sound through the hull,
like beer cans being crumpled in a trash compactor. Over the next few minutes it grew to a staggering
volume, so loud the men had to cover their ears. These were the sounds of the doomed ships breaking
up and being crushed as they went down. He would describe it as a horrible shrieking, groaning, tearing
sound, like fingernails on a chalkboard magnified a hundred times. Then there were even louder
explosions that rocked the sub. These must have been the fires lighting the ammo magazines.
Hugh peered into his radar scope, the only link to the outside world available to him, as he watched a big
blip on the screen disappear when the ship went under. The Skipper at the 'scope wouldn't describe the
huge orange fireballs that he saw, but he mentioned that the Japs must be firing in all directions in a
panic. The tracers from shells were flying out like sparks, and the destroyer turrets were firing at the
open sea, trying to scare away the unseen attackers as the cruisers drew in closer to the main force.
They knew it was only a matter of seconds until the depth charges would be rolled out.
...Surely enough, it began. They heard the unmistakeable muffled splashes of heavy metal drums
hitting the water, and then silence. The sonar picked them up, and started to ping. The sound wave
returns became closer and closer together, and men all over the sub visibly began to sweat. They were
close.
Depth charges were another terrifying manner altogether, because nothing is more scary than being
trapped in a closed steel tube with metal drums of explosives raining down on your fragile boat. Direct
hits were unnecessary; the force from the shock waves alone could shake a sub apart or turn the men
inside into chunky ground tuna.
After a few long seconds of eternity...the first rupture. This one was muffled. The next one burst just a
bit closer, and louder. A few more bursts in quick succession, these sounded almost like knocks. The
angel of death was knocking on the outer hull. A young sailor, in a panicked voice, said “For the love of
God, somebody let that man in!!” Everybody jumped as each one grew louder than the next.
Within an instant, the tiny vessel felt as if it was inside a giant paint mixer. The vibration from the shock
of the bursts was almost continuous. The men lost count, but it had to be somewhere around thirty charges
strung together. About one explosion every two or three seconds.

27

You can't imagine the utter Hell that occurred inside the sub. Men were being tossed about, rebounding
off walls like rubber squash balls...light bulbs shattered...small leaks sprang up. The lights and gauges
on the instrument panel couldn't be made out, the boat shook so violently. A few glass dials shattered.
Hugh shut his eyes, gritted his teeth and rode it out. Somebody near him was trying to pray out loud, but
it just came out in a stuttering Oh-god-oh-god-oh-god-oh-god! Showers of sparks sprayed out of the
control panels. He thought to turn the radar console off, so it wouldn't short circuit. He hit the
emergency breaker switch and the scope went black. They couldn't lose their radar and sonar, or the ship
would be blind and deaf. All he could do was hold on to the handles on either side of the radar scope for
dear life. The hull of the sub seemed to bend and twist. His heart was pounding like the depth charges
relentlessly pounding on the hull.
Another minute or two of the devil's grip trying to break the helpless ship in half, and then it abruptly
stopped. It was over. The sub was tilted slightly from the shock of a last close one, then it righted itself.
Dave ordered ahead full on batteries, and they outran the last of the depth charges and sped away silently.
He told everyone to sound off, to make sure no one was seriously hurt. He heard 79 voices say their
last names. Nobody was unconscious. Amazing. So they were all still alive. Well, what a small price
to pay for having sunk one ship and crippled another.
Nobody on the sub knew it yet, but they had sunk the cruiser Atago, and most of its crew was on their
way to the bottom. Admiral Kurita was picked up by one of his own ships a few hours after dawn. He was
alive, but very cold and wet and was none too happy. The cruiser Takao, heavily damaged and
smoking, was limping on with the rest of the fleet as sailors tried to get her boilers going and her deck
fires under control, and Darter was afraid she would have to go back and finish off her prey.
But the Dace and Darter had fulfilled their mission, and started the most epic sea battle in history
with a shot heard around the Pacific. That should get their name in the books.

CHAPTER 8: AGROUND
The rest of October 23rd was no less suspenseful. They were unable to surface because the fleet was so
close, and no doubt had doubled their search for the stealthy attackers that had dealt them a crippling
blow that morning. The radar scope confirmed the Takao was not a goner yet. She was still burning,
but hadn't gone under and the engines still seemed to be driving. They had started to leave the area as
the day drew to a close, at around 2200 hours, but McClintock was determined not to let the target
escape. He figured they were there, it was the chance of a lifetime; so might as well go back and finish
the job. Everyone's nerves were frazzled from the danger they had already been in. He ordered them to
make an 'end around' and start to pursue the fleet again, maybe hoping to use up the last of their
torpedoes in a stealthy night attack, and give the Japs another pounding for good measure.
An 'end around' was the term Navy commanders liked to use for turning to make a head-on attack,
making the hunted into the hunter. It was used only in desperate situations. Turning around when
pursued by an enemy vessel to make a last ditch, all-out attack was no longer considered a suicide tactic
by 1941. It was thought of as honorable and courageous, darned near heroic. This was a military that
honored bravery and defiance in the face of danger, and nobody was about to leave the ring before the
knockout punch and the final bell.
Nobody had forgotten they were still traveling in the Dangerous Ground. This was a very aptly named
area, as the photocopied British nautical charts were so antiquated the navigator suspected they might be
28

from the last century. (They probably were; likely the ones used by the British naval forces, when they
blockaded the South China Sea during the Boxer Rebellion some fifty years earlier.) All these islands in
the Philippines had offshore reefs, sandbars, rocks and breakers up to twelve miles from the shore. The
rocks were easily misidentified as ships from a distance, because of the „wakes‟ they left when waves
broke over them. Many of the area's obstacles to surface boats could not be seen from the air, as they
were submerged beneath choppy waves. Accurate depth soundings had never been taken in many areas.
The reefs and rocks caused unpredictable currents. Tropical storms and rain squalls had been known to
blow up without warning, making sea travel through this area very perilous.
No sooner had the crew obediently begun to turn the ship around, steeling themselves for the final
blow...and something happened nobody ever could have expected. They heard a sickening crunch.
The ship jolted with a sudden impact, tilted up about twenty degrees, and the men lurched backward.
The sound of shrieking, scraping metal being crumpled was heard beneath their feet. It sounded almost
like the ship was being dragged across asphalt. The entire sub shook and vibrated from the impact.
Dishes fell from the cabinets in the galley as their doors banged open; their shattering jolted everyone
alert. Cups of coffee hit the floor, or spilled into men's laps. After sliding along something hard and
bumpy, the ship settled back at a three-degree angle, but it still listed to starboard. Everyone's voice
exclaimed almost in unison.
“WHAT WAS THAT?”
We must have hit something! A rock outcropping? Or a reef? McClintock gave the command, echoed
up from the control room. “We've run aground. All engines stop! Shut all watertight doors, check for
leaks!” The orders echoed back to the engine room, and the grease monkeys tending the turbines yanked
the stop lever. The sub immediately fell silent.
A shout came from up from the control room. “We can't be Cap'n! The nearest land is nineteen miles
away!” One thought entered Hugh's head. Then we must be off course. Way off course. When was the
last time anybody took a sun or a star bearing for latitude? The navigator knew that knowledge of the
currents was essential. If these estimates were off by a quarter of a knot, for example, the disparity would
send the boat over nine miles off its course in just 36 hours.1
There was a shocked silence. Hugh cleared his throat and spoke up. “I'll send a message to the
Dace, sir.” He was still at his seat in front of the radar console, where he hadn't moved an inch
since the entire ordeal started. McClintock's face looked ashen. “Very well. Be careful how you
word that message, sailor. The entire Jap fleet is still in the area. If a plane picks that up when we're
sitting ducks like this, we're finished.” He was right. Any radio transmission or even Morse Code
message would get picked up by the enemy.
“I can ping them with the SJ radar, sir.” Probably the best idea. “You do that.” came the Captain's
reply. “Aye-aye, sir.”

29

His hand moved for the code key, and tapped the following message:

.-- . / .- .-. . / .- --. .-. --- ..- -. -.. .-.-.W-E A-R-E A-G-R-O-U-N-D
The code was not transmitted via radio, or any other wavelength the Japanese strike force could
pick up. It was sent with a focused beam of radar waves to the Dace. On board the Dace, the radar
operator saw Darter's radar return blink on and off. Just for good measure, Hugh rotated the radar
dish a few extra degrees in either direction to make sure the narrow beam didn't miss their sister sub.
Now, all they could do was wait.
To confirm everyone's suspicion, McClintock dared to open the conning tower hatch and go topside to
have a look around. The periscope showed only sky. The boat was still tilted at an angle upward and to
starboard, and they were definitely resting on something solid.
Men scrambled to grab the ladder up to the main hatch, to go up and look at the damage. The Skipper
had to almost beat them away with both hands. McClintock was going up by himself.
A couple minutes later, the Captain came back down the ladder, and ordered the hatch closed. He still
had a look of disbelief on his face, as he blurted out the immortal words. An ironically poetic statement
that summed up Darter's situation better than anyone else could.
“Good grief...we're on a reef.”
The damage aboard the ship was surveyed. The men in the aft torpedo room had said it felt like a
horrible jolt, like someone hit the brakes really hard in a car. They were thrown back against the
torpedoes, and it was lucky nobody got injured, or worse. The report from the engine room said the
engines were still going until they shut them down, the surge in rpm's must have meant the propellers
were spinning in the air, completely out of the water. A man taking a nap in the aft battery said his feet
were suddenly drenched by gallons of cold water...apparently a main induction valve had sprung a
leak. The flow was contained, but not before there was an inch or two of water on the floor.
A few men went sort of crazy when the ship was tossed about and tried to scramble toward the ladder
to escape through the hatch, but the sub's electrician and another sailor grabbed the mutineers and
held them down until they were calm. They told them to open the hatch at night would send a beam
of light straight up into the sky, like a beacon for enemy aircraft. Down in the galley, a man poured
himself a bowl of soup, and found to his dismay that it was cold. The instant the sub hit and tilted
sharply, the soup pot flipped over and drenched him in it. Had the soup been hot, he could have been
boiled alive or at least severely burned.1
Time: 0015. Fifteen minutes after midnight on October 24. The radar scope showed even more bad
news. “Tin can coming right for us, sir. One of the fleet must have heard that horrible scrape on the
sound gear. 6100 yards and closing.” The torpedoes were useless, with the ship aground they couldn't
aim. There were only the deck guns. McClintock sounded the command for Battle Stations, Surface.
He flipped the switch for the electric bell.
The men scrambled for the ladder, grabbing all the weapons they could find. Storage lockers were
broken open, the .45 caliber pistols were distributed among the deck crew; a few men grabbed the
30

heavy and powerful Browning Automatic Rifles. The thirty-caliber rail mount machine guns were
unlocked and ported topside. Once the deck crew was out of the hatch the men set to work arming the
sub to fight. The big 4-inch deck gun was unplugged, loaded and manned, and the anti-aircraft guns were
sweeping the skies. Everyone on deck waited a few tense minutes, with the officer on deck scanning
through the high-powered binoculars. It was still pitch black out. No lights on the horizon.
Down below, the radar shack saw the blip moving away until it disappeared off the scope. By 0100 it
was gone. There was a collective sigh of relief on board the stranded ship. They all knew nothing they
had could stand up against the Japanese Navy's finest. It would be like shooting little popguns at an
incoming freight train.
The Captain quickly weighed the options in his head. If they stayed there helpless on the reef like this,
they'd be goners for sure. If a plane came along and dropped a bomb or strafed the boat, they'd be
history. If they continued to signal for help, the Japs might intercept the message and bring the entire
fleet down on their heads. If the Dace was still in the area, there might be a possibility of rescue. But
could a submarine designed to accommodate eighty men hold double that? For weeks at a time? If
they wanted to affect a rescue, they'd better do it before daylight. It seemed better than his best
alternative, which was to abandon ship and jump into the water with life vests.
High tide was in just an hour or so. Should everyone stay with the stricken vessel and try to free her?
Just how bad was the damage? Could damage to the outer hull and ballast tanks cause her to sink beyond
any chance of rescue? Should they scuttle the ship and abandon it; take their chances on the high sea
without any lifeboats? They only had one rubber boat, it held about two men and no more. So many
questions.
Dave made up his mind. They had to try to free Darter from the shoal with the coming high tide;
failing that, they would have no choice but to scuttle her. But before doing so, they would have to
render the sub so incapable of operation that nothing on board the ship would be of any use to the
enemy if she were captured. They could rig up the explosive charges; they could light a fire below decks
and burn the whole thing up from the inside out. They could disassemble the secret equipment and toss
the parts overboard. Or maybe Dace could finish her off with her four-inch deck gun, or a few wellaimed torpedoes. Whatever they chose, time was running out. He was determined not to abandon ship
and place the crew in danger until all other possible options had been exhausted.
The Dace had been contacted and confirmed on radar. She was 11,000 yards and closing on them. So if
they had to abandon Darter and scuttle her, the crew would be recovered.
A good four or five hours remained until dawn; the darkness was still concealing their vulnerable sub
from unwelcome eyes. At 0146 hours, high tide commenced. The crew began a desperate attempt to
free the mired submarine. The diesel engines would not start; the intakes were clogged with rock and
bits of coral. The captain ordered reverse full on batteries. He ordered all the men to run to the back of
the ship, to try and tip her off the reef. Then, he had everyone run towards the fore torpedo room and back
again, while the electric motors were tried in forward and reverse at full power. After three minutes of
trying to „see-saw‟ the sub off the rocks, it had still not budged an inch.

With his careful supervision, the crew then set to work trying to lighten the ship any way they could.
The men's orders were to toss everything they couldn't carry with them overboard. Classified
electronic gear, toolboxes, soup cans, meat, dry goods... anything not bolted down and on fire. They
31

raided the galley first. Then the crew sleeping areas and officer's quarters. The men hastily gathered
whatever they could carry, and in their rush they left many things behind they would grow to regret
later. Some sailors left loads of money from gambling winnings and their paychecks aboard the ship,
and did not realize it until later. One man had two wallets; he grabbed the empty one by mistake and left
six hundred dollars in cash behind. Some of the sailors, when they ran out of life preservers, began
tying knots in their extra pairs of pants for use as flotation. It was a hopeless formality, with the
shark-infested and freezing waters they wouldn't stand much of a chance.

The garbage that was piling up in the trash compactor was emptied. The ballast tanks were blown,
vented and drained away. Everything that could fit in the torpedo tubes was flushed out. Commissary
Officer Skorupsky had on board a wardrobe of fine tailored dress suits, which he pulled off the hangers
and tossed into a duffel bag to be passed up the ladder out the hatch. The men on deck said “Sure, we
can take those,” took the bag and immediately heaved it overboard, then asked if he had any more. He
gave up a few more cases of belongings and these too went over the side. Then the man came up and
said “Hey, where are all my clothes?” The men pointed at the water, and he looked down and saw the
fins of sharks swimming around. Then they pointed to the ship's one tiny rubber boat. He understood and
kept his mouth shut from then on.1
Down below decks, the order reached the control room personnel to destroy everything that could be
destroyed by burning. Hugh ordered everyone out of the control room, as he set to work dismantling as
much of the instrumentation as he could and destroying the secret papers, logs, codebooks and manuals.
He tore the pages out of the codebooks, making a large pile on the floor of the cramped cabin, and dug
out his lighter. Another sailor handed him a can of lubricating oil and he splashed it all about the place,
and lit a cigarette, dropped it to the floor and the entire control room went up in flames.
There was a perverse sort of satisfaction in destroying all the equipment the Navy had spent almost
two years teaching him how you use, build and repair. He picked up the nearest heavy object, be it a
wrench or a length of pipe, he really didn't care what, and went to town on the electronic instrumentation
within the ship. He smashed the radar and oscilloscope screen, the dials and knobs, yanked the front
panels off control consoles and pulled out their wiring and metal guts. He smashed vacuum tubes,
destroyed solenoids and magnetrons and everything else, yanked out cables and mangled plugs. He
bundled some components up in his extra laundry so he could take them topside and toss them into
the water. The tiny chambers inside the sub had become a furnace. It was getting very hot in there, and
the smoke from the flames was being blown backward through the ship. Another fire was lit in the
officer's shower and one was also lit in the forward engine room. The number 10 ballast tank was kept
open and blowing constantly to help vent the smoke and fumes, but the air quickly became so thick
and black with smoke that any more fires would have made the work unbearable. 3
As it was, Hugh had to rip off part of a shirt and tie it around his face, he now wished he had kept a
few of those gas masks they found on that island. The burning lead-based paint also created
suffocating fumes that were no doubt harmful to breathe, coupled with the motor oil... he had to go
topside every few minutes to get fresh air. It was at night, so the dense black columns of smoke
billowing from the ruined sub were invisible, and they were good about keeping the orange glow of the
flames from giving away their position. Still, it was risky business. He coughed and choked from the
thick smoke as torrents of sweat poured down over his eyes.

32

The breathable oxygen within the burning sub was depleting; they had to work fast before the hull of
the ship started to lose integrity. Elsewhere, men were braving the flames to bring up ammunition from
the storage lockers and heave overboard; they kept less than 25 rounds on deck for emergency attacks.
The food and meat being thrown overboard attracted sharks to the floating wreckage. The officers on
deck warned the men to stay out of the water, as those above prayed silently for signs of their sister sub,
supposedly come to rescue them. To some of these men it appeared they were finally free as water was
seen rushing past the sides of the ship, but these were only currents spinning the propellers. The
tidewater gradually dropped away, and the screws were spinning in the air again, so the turbines were shut
down.
At 0230 hours, the last attempt to free her was ceased. The engines were shut down for the last time, the
fuel and lube oil tanks were emptied.3
Some of the manuals and Navy publications were thicker than phone books. He had to rip off and burn
these a few pages at the time and it was a tedious process. Satisfied that the radio shack was in a
perfect shambles, he then went to join the electricians aft as they „flashed over‟ the turbines, batteries
and the diesels, to make sure they never moved again. This was done by stringing wire between the
battery terminals and the spark plugs, reverse polarizing the current and shorting them out. A wisp of
smoke with the telltale odor of ozone and burning insulation meant they had done their job. The
batteries were drained of their corrosive chemicals, but not before splashing some of the acid around
to further destroy the machinery in the engine room.
He saw a dark blur run past him, as he grinned at the big, muscular black steward's mate named
Lewis. He was a steel mill worker from Detroit, and seemed to be having an awesome time smashing
everything he could find with a steel sledgehammer. He went to town on the top-secret TDC
machinery, and parts flew in all directions as he howled with delight. Chief Radioman Merle Schooley
was seen heading in the direction of the radio room with some hand grenades, the Skipper stopped him
and asked him to hand them over. It occurred to him then that the brand new SJ radar mast was
outside the ship; that might lead the Japs to capture their secret radar advantage. So he asked someone to
go topside with a wrench and help him loosen the bolts connecting the mast to the conning tower. They
had only gotten six of the 24 bolts off, and the Skipper shouted, “If you can't do it in five minutes,
forget it!” The wrenches were tossed over the side, and they went back down into the radio room to smash
the radar guts instead.1
The movie projector was laid on its side and a sledge balanced on it for use as an anvil, and Lewis'
sledgehammer smashed each magnetron tube of the radar in this way. The SD was destroyed, the sound
gear, what parts were still left of the TDC, the gyros, radios and receivers were all disposed of in this
way. The gyro was hard to do because the wheels inside were still spinning at over 1000rpm, it would
have exploded like a shrapnel bomb. The radiomen said to reverse polarity and short out the gyro
motor by switching the wires. It was slowed down, then Lewis was allowed to bash it to his heart's
content.1
The Navy's admirals had been very shrewd in removing the code-breaking machine prior to the Darter's
fourth war patrol. The secret piece of equipment was like an oversized typewriter; quite heavy and had
lots of tiny moving parts. He was sure it saved them the meticulous effort of destroying it. The
Torpedo Data Computer in the control room was also technically a secret device. It was about the size
of a washing machine, and so big and heavy that a hole had to be cut in the side of the ship to install it.
33

Thanks to Lewis and his hammer, this and virtually all of the other machinery on the ship would now be
useless to the Japanese for anything but scrap metal.1
At 0245 hours, the men cheered as their sister sub the Dace was closing to within 50 yards. McClintock
warned the Dace to keep her distance; there were many submerged rocks and parts of the reef were
hidden. Undaunted, the Dace kept moving and closed enough to throw a line over. He had known the
Darter was unaware she was on a reef until she grounded, so the safest way to approach her was from
the stern. When they were close enough, the Dace crew tossed over a mooring rope. Claggett ordered
reverse full engines to fight the current that was drawing them closer to the reef. 1 2 3
It should be noted here that US submarines had orders from the Admiral to leave their mooring ropes
in port. Both Skippers had directly disobeyed those orders and kept them aboard, for emergencies. This
was a classic example of ship captains using their better judgment in spite of higher authority for the
sake of their crew. So these thick, sturdy and illegal ropes were brought topside and it made the rescue
operation much easier. The entire operation might have failed if these ropes were not in their
possession.
Once this line was secure, about fifteen minutes later the Dace's rubber raft was inflated and put over
the side, and the crew transfer began. It was very slow work, as a rubber dinghy could only hold two
men. But it helped that they could use Darter's as well, so men were able to get off the sub in half the
amount of time. The crew gathered at the very back of the ship, called the „turtleback‟ where the
stern tapered off between the propellers. By now the high tide was long gone; it was about a twentyfoot drop from the stern to the water and the life rafts were bobbing up and down with the swells, as the
sea was rough. A rope was knotted and lowered down to five or six feet from the highest swell. The
men took turns clambering down this rope and waiting for the rubber raft to rise up to a level they could
let go. It was a harrowing experience.1
When Hugh's turn came, he tried not to look down. He had overcome his claustrophobia, thanks to his
long months confined in the subs, but he was still mortally afraid of sharks as any sailor was. He
remembered looking down below his dangling feet at the life raft beneath him, growing bigger and
smaller and bigger again as it was lifted towards him. He had no life vest; the water was very cold and
foamy, it was freezing for October. Timing it so the crest was at its peak, shutting his eyes, he let go. He
heard a thump as he landed in the rubber boat; he was safe. He then paddled over to the waiting Dace,
holding on for dear life and praying the boat wouldn't flip over and dump him in the drink, until a
friendly pair of strong arms grabbed him and lifted him up.
He was safe on the deck of the Dace. Men patted him on the shoulder and wrapped his shivering body
in warm blankets brought up from the crew chambers. He sat on the deck for awhile and watched more
men clamber up, and when he was warm and dry enough he helped the others out; he was not one to sit
still. He had thrown everything he could grab in under a minute into his dark blue duffel bag with the
zipper, and left the rest of his belongings. He had two pairs of dress whites and two dress blues, a
shaving kit, a slide rule he took from the plotting room as a souvenir, and his blue glass Japanese fishing
ball, wrapped up safely in his uniforms with a few other small personal items. He made a mental note of
everything he had to leave behind, as the Navy would likely make him pay to replace his issued items.

The crew transfer was agonizingly slow; it took over two hours. At approximately 0439, the last of the
crew was safely aboard. And then, only then, did David McClintock reluctantly abandon his crippled
ship with a heavy heart. Everyone was silent; nobody smiled. Now the overcast sky was gray and lightening
34

gradually, dawn was set for 0500 and approaching fast. Flashlight and lantern batteries were switched
off, to save precious power they might need later. Everyone was facing the dawn horizon with a grim
certainty that an attack would come, as Darter was sitting high and dry and they were no longer hidden
in the protective safety of darkness. At 0442, Dace cut loose her moorings and started to reverse away
from the doomed ship. Some men had tears in their eyes as they stood on deck and saluted their
stricken vessel. The same sort of thoughts were on everyone‟s mind. She was a good ship...stubborn
to the last...I never thought I'd admit it, but I'll miss that bucket of bolts... It's going to be a long ride
home, and none too comfortable.
Some of the electricians had wired up the fifty-pound explosive charges at key places throughout the
ship. The work was completed at 0420 and the timers were set for 35 minutes. The wiring was strung over
pipes with all the charges hooked up in series. It led backward to the engine compartment and forward to
the torpedo room, where the warhead of one of their last live torpedoes was wired as the booster charge
that would ensure total demolition of the vessel. The fires aboard the ship were still burning, as they saw
black columns of smoke were still billowing into the air from the open hatch and every vent opening. The
men quietly hoped the intense heat inside the sub wouldn't melt through the wires.
The crewmen and the Captain nervously stared at their wristwatches. It was 0449, less than a minute to
go. Every second felt like forever and there was a dead, expectant silence. At 0450, the men shut their
eyes and braced for the shock of the explosion, and none came. There was only a few unsatisfying “pop”
noises, like a kid's toy gun. The sub was still there. A collective groan came up from the men. “Jeez,
what a farce!” someone said. “I want my money back! What a crappy show!” Faces drooped and
spirits sank as men palmed their heads. The stubborn ship just wouldn't die. What went wrong? Were
the charges defective?2
It wasn't determined until some time later that the publication fire in the fore torpedo room, which had
become hot enough to eat away the paint as far back as the officer's shower, had likely melted the wire
insulation and fused it to the pipes it was wrapped around, thus grounding the current, shorting out the
series circuit and making them useless. Many of the men aboard Darter felt a sick and empty feeling,
knowing that their exposed sub was a target for bombers and gave away their position. A search would
be started in the surrounding area, and they would be goners now for sure. Unless they could find
another way to destroy her, the crew of both ships was doomed.1
Tough submarine sailors that they were, these men were doggedly determined not to go down without a
fight. Down below, Claggett sounded battle stations and ordered Dace's four remaining Mark-23 torpedoes
loaded and readied to fire. In a sad twist of fate, these deadly fish intended for the Jap heavy cruiser which
got away would now be trained on their own sister ship. No range finding or angle solution was necessary;
they were firing almost point-blank. The torpedomen shoved the slender underwater missiles into their
tubes, they slammed the hatches and spun the wheels. Skipper gave the command: “Fire tubes one
through four!” They flipped the launch switches, and an odd sound like a large toilet flushing was
heard as one by one, the torpedoes were fired at their friendly target. They were just barely out of
range to escape the shock of the impacts. The crew watched in horror as they hit the reef below the
submarine, taking huge chunks out of it...but not harming the invincible Darter. The ship still wouldn't die.
He sped up past the reef and tried firing the stern tubes. These also missed the sub, now high up as if
she was in drydock. The men's faces fell so low their frowns were nearly in their shoes.

35

Claggett ordered the Dace deck crew to uncork and load the big four-inch deck gun. When it was ready
and the sights trained on the hapless twin, the order was given. “OPEN FIRE!” they let 'er rip. Shell after
shell pounded the craft, punching big holes in the outer hull. Still no orange fireballs. Maybe if they
hadn't drained the fuel and oil tanks...
Figuring „what the heck,' the guys on the machine guns opened up and raked the side of the boat,
peppering it with tiny holes. A bucket brigade was formed within the Dace from the gun locker all the
way to the hatch, as the men handed shell after shell up to the deck gunners. The deck became littered
with so many hot shell casings that they had to be kicked over the side to avoid trip and fall hazards on
the slippery topside of the craft. As the deck gun pounded away about a shell every few seconds, the
surface crewmen cheered as they saw a fuel cell rupture, heard a phoom! and a large cloud of smoke
rose up. There was some orange flame, then it fizzled out.
The men on watch urged them to hurry it up, as Porta Princessa airfield was less than fifty miles out.
Aircraft would soon spot the pillars of black smoke and hear the gun blasts. Clagg shouted for the men
idly standing around to man the Triple-A guns and sweep the gray sky. Sure enough, one of the
watchmen poked the captain in the shoulder and said “aircraft sighted!” The call echoed around the
deck and down below. “Dive! Dive!” Ahooga! Ahooga! said the sub. The sound of rushing air from
the ballast tanks coming up through the deck boards made the men frantically scramble to the hatch.
The men fought each other and squeezed down the hatch two or three at a time. One man said he
remembered standing there with a shell in his hands, and then the next he was down in the control
room. He couldn‟t remember doing anything, and figured he was “just sucked down.”1
A Japanese 'Betty' bomber zoomed in low and started his bombing run just as Dace slipped below
the waters. He was targeting the beached whale of Darter instead! Two bombs fell on the abandoned
ship, but they missed. The crew decided that the tough old boat had made up its mind: no explosive
shell, tracer round, torpedo or Japanese bomb was going to destroy her that day. They had done the best
they could. Dace had no choice but to leave the immediate vicinity.
At 0710 the bomber was still seen circling the Darter. Apparently puzzled at its inability to dive, they
seemed to be scanning it for signs of life. The enemy pilots must know the ship was stranded and were
no doubt going to radio their base about it. The Dace would have no choice but to leave and return to
finish off her sister ship after dark. The idea was brought up of transferring the Dace demolition charges
and TNT to the Darter.3
Three hours passed, and the bomber flew off. The Dace stayed hidden, and it was a smart choice. A tin
can was approaching on the radar. The Japanese submarine Naganami was sent to investigate.
Claggett and McClintock watched through the periscope from a good distance away. The sub fired the
guns at the Darter for about three minutes, and then pulled up alongside the reef and moored to her.
Tiny figures were seen climbing up on to her deck, and some went below. Darter had been boarded by
the enemy, and her twin didn't want to stick around. As they sped away on full power, Clagg rotated
the periscope and watched the tiny men climb back out on the deck, get down into their sub and it pulled
away. They weren't aboard long. They had apparently found nothing of serious value and left. At least
the gallant crew of Darter had done their job. They would have to go back aboard after nightfall and
try to blow her up again.
But first, it was time for the tired crew to get some much-needed and well deserved shut-eye.

36

Men were sleeping everywhere they could fit; the tiny sub was so packed. An already cozy sub seemed
twice as cozy with double the complement of seamen aboard. Men were sleeping on the floor between
the bunks, curled up in blankets anywhere there was an empty compartment or a few cubic feet of space;
some even slept on the torpedo racks. The shower was going almost constantly, and the men were told to
stay put unless they absolutely had to use the head. The chef was instructed to make up the meals and
bring them out to the men, rather than have them pack into the galley for chow time. The air grew stale
and carbon dioxide heavy with all 165 men breathing it. People tried to move and do as little as possible.
It was a cramped and uncomfortable situation, but they made the best of it.2
Everyone thanked the Lord that Dace had been kind enough to come back and rescue Darter. If they
had gone to finish off the Takao instead, none of Darter's crew would be alive. That evening the Dace,
with its two weary crews and supplies running low, received orders from on high to depart for
Fremantle. At last, they were going home.
That grey, dreary morning of October 24, 1944 a miracle had happened. One ship had run aground and
her entire crew had been rescued, without a single injury or fatality. And as Dace limped homeward,
they knew the largest sea battle the world had ever known was about to begin, but their role in it was
over.
Hugh was awarded the Bronze Star with a Valor pin for his actions that day, and the rest of the USS
Darter's crew were blessed with their fourth battle star to pin on their submarine badges. As well as the
Philippine Liberation Medal for the invasion effort they helped to thwart, which in their own small
way, helped to turn the tide of battle in the Pacific.
The journey back to Fremantle, Australia lasted until November 6. Supplies were running low and
many of the crew were unshaven and unwashed, but no sickness or injuries were reported. Once Hugh
arrived in Fremantle, another Western Union telegram was waiting for him with sad news. His brother
George was informing him that his mother was dead. Now here he was a week or two away from
getting sent home; and Hughie had no parents to come home to. He wasn‟t sure what to do.
After the formal Japanese surrender in 1945 brought the end of the war, Hugh decided to remain in the
Navy Reserves. Hand-selected members of the Darter crew were chosen to take command of a new
submarine, the USS Menhaden, then under construction. After being sent home on leave for a few
months, in February 1945 the Menhaden began its tour of duty in peacetime.
At this time, Jeanette had moved to a rural area with her family due to wartime job shortages and ended
up picking peaches on a farm. The regular letters Hughie had promised only came few and far between.
News had reached the families of the Darter crew that the ship was lost, but initial reports said the crew
may be dead. Then, news started to trickle in to the contrary and to everyones great relief. Every single
member of the Dace and Darter returned home safely. It was nothing short of a miracle.

Hughie married his childhood sweetheart Jeanette in 1947. They lived with his brother George in
Philadelphia for a short time before renting a small apartment in New Jersey, then a few years later buying
a house in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Hugh Siegel was honorably discharged in 1952, but remained in service to the Air Force and
Department of Defense until 1975. His research and development in the field of radar continued, and he
was involved with the design and construction of the DEW Line, the array of radar domes in Alaska
which were meant to warn the United States of a ballistic missile launch from the USSR. He also built
37

and tested targeting computers, satellite dishes, and other advanced telecommunications devices for
military defense and aerospace.
In the early 1980s at the height of the Cold War, he personally corresponded with surviving WWII sub
vets and his former captain David McClintock, as they sent urgent letters to President Ronald Reagan
about the need for installing special extra-low frequency (ELF) signal equipment in their nuclear
submarine fleet, which enabled communication with satellites orbiting the Earth from over a mile under
the sea. His and his former crewmates' efforts to improve America's early-warning systems could very
well have helped to prevent a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The ELF technology is still in use on
nuclear submarines today.
In the decades following the war, Hugh personally tracked down and contacted all the members of his
former crews, no easy feat in the days of snail mail and telephone, and helped organize the first WWII
Submarine Veteran reunions for the state of New York. Collaborating with his fellow crewmembers,
Hugh also designed the logo and official patch of the USS Darter and USS Dace, with a special
commemorative patch to show them as two fish swimming together. The design was finalized and
embroidered, and now appears in books and official US Navy publications concerning the two ships.
The finalized patch designs are shown on the next page.

38

Insignia Designs By Hugh N. Siegel

For preliminary drawings:
http://grandpasnavy.blogspot.com/2014/03/uss-dace-service-patch-design.html

http://grandpasnavy.blogspot.com/2012/04/evolution-of-darter-patch-design.html

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After the birth of his son Frederick, whom he named after his father, Hugh and Jan Siegel moved to
upstate New York, where they purchased roughly 100 acres of undeveloped forest and settled in a small
farmhouse built in the 1830‟s. Here Hugh enjoyed camping, skiing and backpacking into his retirement.
Over the years he began building on to his home and renovated it into the spacious five-bedroom house as
it stands today. Amazingly, he secured all the permits and supervised the construction himself, drawing
his own detailed blueprints.
Throughout his life, Hugh was known for his meticulous attention to detail and his skill in technical
drawing, mathematics and engineering. It was here in his early retirement that he constructed a radio
tower in his backyard over 50 feet tall, so he could communicate via Ham radio with countries on the
other side of the world. He remained continuously licensed for decades, and was awarded a
commemorative plaque from the ARRL in 1987 for 50 years of continuous operation. It was only one of
the minor distinctions he had earned in his incredible life.
He raised five children into adulthood, and passed away at the seasoned age of 76, surrounded by his
family and grandchildren.

40

Hugh silently embarked on his Eternal Patrol on June 16, 1995. Several surviving crewmembers of the
Darter attended his memorial service. He was buried with full military honors, flag folding and a 21gun salute. He had designed a special medallion cast in bronze to be placed on the gravestones of men
who served aboard submarines in World War II, which also adorns his own. The author of this story
was a boy of eleven years old at the time.
Some of Hugh's personal belongings, books and war memorabilia have been donated to the Pearl
Harbor museum.

Hugh Siegel reunion photos, 1990's. The hat he is wearing is known as a digger hat, it is adorned with his
'Dolphins' pin and a feather plume. These hats were worn only by World War II submarine veterans as a
symbol of the cavalier mentality of these men. It was called the „digger‟ because it imitates the look of the hats
worn by Australian cowboys.

41

HUGH'S WAR MEDALS AND CITATIONS

42

THE DARTER WRECK, 1944-1945

USS Darter earned four Battle Stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Area Service Medal for participating in the following
operations:
1 Star: Truk Attack -- 16-17 February 1944
1 Star: Battle of Surigao Strait -- 24 October 1944
1 Star: Submarine War Patrol -- 22 March - 23 May 1944
1 Star: Submarine War Patrol -- 21 June - 8 August 1944
The ship also received the following Navy Unit Commendation, Pacific, for her Fourth War Patrol:
"For outstanding heroism in action during a War Patrol against enemy Japanese Fleet units. Aggressive and relentless in
tracking her targets, the USS DARTER daringly penetrated hostile waters and succeeded in contacting a Japanese
task force. In an excellently planned and brilliantly coordinated attack, she opened fire. As a result of these salvos,
launched boldly by the DARTER despite the superior fire power of the hostile concentration, the enemy was
forced to retire, thus reducing appreciably the enemy's naval strength subsequently brought to bear against our
forces. The splendid combat readiness of the DARTER and the gallant fighting spirit of her officers and men
throughout this hazardous action reflect the highest credit upon the United States Naval Service.”

43

Though her crew was gone, the good ship Darter lived on; surviving far longer than anyone imagined. The
seemingly invincible vessel was broken into several pieces by torpedoes and deck guns from two other
submarines in the months that followed her grounding, and later practice bombing runs from aircraft. But the
rusting wreckage that remained of it sat on the reef, still above the waterline, for almost 60 years. It was a
fitting monument to her self-sacrifice, as well as the courage and ingenuity of these brave men and their
incredible story of survival against all odds.
A Visit to Darter in 1965 (Below)
A nuclear submarine called USS Perch was routinely patrolling the Balabac Strait in the Dangerous Ground in 1965. The hull
of the Darter was found, a rusted shell but intact enough to climb around inside. A small commemorative plaque was
placed on its main induction valve by her sailors.

Darter in 1965

Last known photos of the Darter wreck, taken in 1998

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Location of the Wreck of USS Darter, map drawn by Hugh Siegel
09°27′21.7″North, 116°55′57.3″ East,
Latitude 9.4560255, Longitude 116.9325918

http://wikimapia.org/15065147/Wreck-of-USS-Darter-SS-227

45

A Song About Darter
(sung to the tune of "Thanks for the Memories" with apologies to Bob Hope)
No thanks for the memories
Of sixty days at sea,
Fake sunshine given free,
And little pills to cure ills,
Why did this have to be?
No thank you so much.
No thanks for the memories
Of fifteen hour dives,
Of ringworm and the hives,
Of leaky heads, flooded beds,
And Japs to plague our lives.
No thank you so much.
No thanks for the memories
Of each monotonous run,
The lack of air and sun,
Of sinking ships and radar pips,
And never having fun.
No thank you so much.
No thanks for the memories
Of hearing corny jokes,
And listening to the blokes,
Tell what they did,
While down in Syd,
Their tales are all a hoax.
No thank you so much.
No thanks for the memories
Of combat pins and stars,
And all the glory bars,
Navy crosses,
Navy bosses,
I'd rather be on Mars.
No thank you so much.
No thanks for the memories
Of blood and sweat and tears,
All the valves and gears,
Of vents and floods,
Torpedo duds,
And all the other fears.
No thank you so much.
No thanks for the memories
Of firing one to ten,
Of going down and then,
You hear a blast,
Think it's your last,
But then they come again.
No thank you so much...
--By the radio gang of the USS Darter off the coast of Mindanao, 1944.

46

Sources:
1. Mansfield, John G. Cruisers for Breakfast: War Patrols of the U.S.S. Darter and U.S.S.
Dace. Tacoma, Washington: Media Center Publishing, 1997.
2. Lieut. Commander R. C. Benitez. Battle Stations Submerged. Typewritten transcription
of eyewitness accounts of USS Dace crew from Naval Institute proceedings, investigating the
scuttling of USS Darter. From Hugh Siegel's personal files. Dated January 1948.
Electronic archive available at: <http://www.scribd.com/doc/111145906/SHORT-STORY-BattleStations-Submerged>

3. Fourth War Patrol of SS-227. Transcribed and typewritten from Navy archives by Hugh N.
Siegel. Electronic archive available at: <http://grandpasnavy.blogspot.com/2012/10/transcriptof-official-war-patrol-log.html>
4. Service in Submarines United States Navy Training Film, The Commercial
Department, 1939. Monochrome, 10 Minutes. Stock digitized footage from
<http://www.periscopefilm.com>

5. The Submarine, Part II: Construction. United States Navy Training Film, Audio
Productions Inc. 1955. Monochrome, 13 Minutes. Stock digitized footage from
<http://www.periscopefilm.com>

6. The Silent Service: Dace & Darter Attacks in Palawan Passage, California National
Presentation, 1952(?) Monochrome, 27 Minutes. Archived on Youtube:
<https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=24VvBQ2FpbU#t=1560>

For further research:
All digitized documents, scanned photographs, video archives and Navy service records will be
made electronically accessible on the author's website: http://grandpasnavy.blogspot.com/

47