|On Eternal Patrol - The Loss of USS S-28 (SS-133)|
Compiled by Paul W. Wittmer and Charles R. Hinman, originally from:
U.S. Submarine Losses World War II, NAVPERS 15,784, 1949 ISSUE
USS S-28 (SS-133)
On 20 June 1944 Lieutenant Commander J.G. Campbell assumed command of USS S-28, his first command. The ship had finished a normal upkeep period on 12 June, and continued on her assigned duty of training enlisted personnel and engaging in sonar exercises with ships under control of Commander Destroyers, Pacific.
On 3 July S-28, in accordance with orders from ComDesPac, got underway from the Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, to conduct a week's normal operations. During the day on 3 July, S-28 acted as a target for antisubmarine warfare vessels until about 1700 local time. At that time she made two practice torpedo approaches on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter RELIANCE. On 4 July S-28 again carried out sonar exercises as on the previous day, and at 1730 again undertook a practice approach on RELIANCE.
At 1730 S-28 dived about 4 miles distant from RELIANCE. At about 1805 RELIANCE made sound contact with S-28 at a range of 1,700 yards. The range decreased to about 1,500 yards and then steadily increased, as the bearing drifted aft. Although sound contact was temporarily lost by RELIANCE at 3,000 yards, she picked up the submarine again at 3,300 yards. At 1820, with range 4,700 yards, RELIANCE permanently lost sound on S-28. At no time during the approach or the ensuing sound search were distress signals from S-28 seen or heard, nor was any sound heard which indicated an explosion in S-28.
When, by 1830, S-28 had not surfaced or sent any signals, RELIANCE retraced her course and tried to establish communication with her. Although previous tests had shown that no difficulty would be experienced in exchanging messages by sound gear at ranges up to 2,000 yards, RELIANCE was unable to contact S-28. The Coast Guard vessel called in other vessels from Pearl Harbor at 2000, and a thorough search of the area was instituted, lasting until the afternoon of 6 July 1944. A slick, which was unmistakably made by diesel oil, was the only sign of S-28.
The Court of Inquiry which investigated the sinking determined that S-28 sank shortly after 1820 on 4 July 1944 in 21° 20'N, 158° 23'W, in 1400 fathoms of water. Because of the depth of the water, salvage operations were impossible.
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The Court recorded its opinion that S-28 lost depth control "from either a material casualty or an operating error of personnel, or both, and that depth control was never regained. The exact cause of the loss of S-28 cannot be determined." The Court found, further, that, "the material condition of S-28 was as good or better than that of other ships of her class performing similar duty," and that, "the officers and crew on board S-28 at the time of her loss were competent to operate the ship submerged in the performance of her assigned duties." It was stated that the loss of S-28 was not caused by negligence or inefficiency of any person or persons.
Submarine USS S-28 (SS-133)
Article written by Robert Loys Sminkey,Commander, United States Navy, Retired
The keel of USS S-28 (SS-133) was laid down on 16 April 1919 by the Fore River Plant of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, a subcontractor of the Electric Boat Company of New York City, New York, at Quincy, Massachusetts. The submarine was christened by Mrs. William R. Monroe and launched on 20 September 1922. The S-boat was commissioned on 13 December 1923 with Lieutenant Kemp C. Christian in command.
When commissioned, the S-1 Class coastal and harbor defense submarine was 219' 3" in length overall; had an extreme beam of 20'8"; had a normal surface displacement of 854 tons, and, when in that condition, had a mean draft of 15'11". Submerged displacement was 1,062 tons. The submarine was of riveted construction. The designed complement was four officers and thirty-four enlisted men. The boat could operate safely to depths of 200 feet. The submarine was armed with four 21-inch torpedo tubes installed in the bow. Twelve torpedoes were carried. One 4-inch/50 caliber deck gun was installed. The full load of diesel oil carried was 41,921 gallons, which fueled two 600 designed brake horsepower Model 8-EB-15NR diesel engines manufactured by the New London Ship and Engine Company at Groton, Connecticut, which could drive the boat via a diesel direct drive propulsion system at 14.5 knots on the surface. Power for submerged propulsion was provided by a main storage battery, divided into two sixty-cell batteries, manufactured by the Electric Storage Battery Company (EXIDE) at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which powered two 750 designed brake horsepower main propulsion motors manufactured by the Ridgway Dynamo and Electric Company at Ridgway, Pennsylvania, which turned propeller shafts, which turned propellers, which could drive the submarine at 11 knots for a short period of time when operating beneath the surface of the sea. Slower submerged speeds resulted in greater endurances before the batteries needed to be recharged by the engines and generators.
Following shakedown exercises off the southern New England coast, USS S-28 (SS-133) moved south during March of 1924 to join Submarine Division (SubDiv) 11, in the final exercises of that year's winter maneuvers in the Caribbean. During April of 1924, the submarine transited to the United States Naval Submarine Base at New London/Groton, Connecticut, with her division, and commenced local exercises that occupied the remainder of the year. With the winter of 1925, the S-boat moved south again; transited the Panama Canal; and, after the conclusion of Fleet Problem V--conducted in the vicinity of Guadalupe Island--she arrived in the Territory of Hawaii for a month's stay. During June, she moved east, to San Diego in California, where her division replaced another SubDiv that had been transferred to the Asiatic Fleet.
Into 1931, the submarine operated primarily off southern California, deploying for fleet problems in the Panama Canal area in 1926 and 1929; for summer maneuvers in Hawaiian waters in 1927 and 1930; and for regularly scheduled overhaul periods at the Mare Island Navy Yard at Vallejo, California, throughout the period.
USS S-28 departed the west coast of the United States for the Territory of Hawaii in mid-February 1931, and, on the 23rd, arrived at Pearl Harbor, whence she operated for the next eight and one-half years. In mid-1939, the submarine transferred to San Diego, California, where she was based until the United States became an active participant in the Second World War following the Japanese attack on the Territory of Hawaii on 7 December 1941.
On 7 December 1941, USS S-28, then a unit of SubDiv 41, was undergoing overhaul at the Mare Island Navy Yard. On 22 January 1942, the work was completed, and she returned to San Diego, where she resumed her prewar training activities for the Underwater Sound Training School. The S-boat continued that duty into the spring; then was ordered north, to the Aleutians, to augment the defenses of that Alaskan island chain which rimmed the North Pacific Ocean. Her Commanding Officer, at that time, was Lieutenant Commander John D. Crowley.
On 20 May 1942, USS S-28, with other submarines of her division, departed San Diego. Five days later, they topped off provisions and fuel at Port Angeles in Washington State, then continued on toward the newly established submarine base at Dutch Harbor, Unalaska. On the 29th, however, as preparations were made to minimize a two-pronged Japanese thrust against Midway and the Aleutians, the S-boats were directed to proceed to their stations, bypassing Dutch Harbor.
During a quickly extinguished fire in her port main motor on the morning of 1 June, USS S-28 suffered minor damage. That evening, she parted company with her sister submarines and their escort; and, the next day, she entered her assigned area and commenced patrolling in the approaches to Cold Bay on the tip of the Alaskan Peninsula. On the 3rd of June 1942, the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor to open the war in the Aleutians; and, within the week, they had occupied Kiska and Attu. On the 12th of June, USS S-28 arrived at Dutch Harbor; refueled; took on provisions; and headed west to resume her war patrol.
On 15 June 1942, USS S-28 crossed the 180th Meridian; and, on the 17th, after a two-day storm, she sighted Kiska and set a course to intercept enemy shipping between there and Attu. On the 18th, she fired on her first enemy target, a Japanese destroyer, and, was, in turn, attacked. Eight hours later, sounds of the destroyer's search efforts faded out to the south. USS S-28 had survived her first encounter with Japanese antisubmarine warfare (ASW) tactics.
Poor weather soon returned, and storms raged during eighty percent of her remaining time on station. On the 28th, the submarine moored in Dutch Harbor and commenced refit. On 15 July 1942, USS S-28 got underway, and, again, headed for the Kiska area. On the 18th, she reconnoitered Semisopochnoi, then moved on to Segula. Finding no signs of Japanese activity, the submarine continued westward. On the 20th, the S-boat was ordered to take station on an 85-mile circle from Sirius Point prior to sunrise on the 22nd, at which time the enemy's facilities on Kiska were to be bombarded. The bombardment was delayed, and USS S-28 remained on that more distant station until the 30th, when she was ordered back to the Kiska area. On 18 August, having been unable to close any of the targets sighted during the latter part of her patrol, she returned to Dutch Harbor.
On her third war patrol, 16 September to 10 October 1942, USS S-28 returned to the Kiska area. She operated to the north of the island until the 25th; then, with the discovery of the enemy's development of Gertrude Cove on Vega Bay, she shifted to the island's southern shore. On the night of 6-7 October 1942, the submarine turned toward Unalaska; and, on the morning of the 10th, as she prepared to fire on an unidentified vessel, a ground in her fire control circuits caused an accidental firing of a torpedo from her Number One Torpedo Tube.
That afternoon, USS S-28 arrived back in Dutch Harbor, whence she headed for the west coast of the continental United States. The S-boat reached San Diego on 23 October 1942; and provided training services for the West Coast Sound School, and for the Amphibious Forces Training Group, from 26 October to 13 November of 1942. Then, during an overhaul, the S-boat received a fathometer, a Kleinschmidt distilling unit, and a SJ radar set. On 9 December 1942, the submarine, again, headed north to Alaska and the Aleutians. On the 16th of December, she reported for duty by radio to Task Group (TG) 8.5; and, on the 21st, she arrived at Dutch Harbor, Unalaska.
Six days later, USS S-28 departed on her fourth war patrol. On 3 January 1943, the submarine crossed the International Date Line, and, on the 5th, she entered her assigned area in the northern Kurils. Moving down the Paramushiro coast, she patrolled in Onekotan Strait; then headed north, again, and, on the 20th, passed Shumushu, whence she set a course for the Aleutians.
During her fifth war patrol, from 6 to 28 February, the World War I design submarine remained in the western Aleutians, patrolling across the Attu-Buldir-Sirius Point route, and along the coast of Attu, particularly off Holtz Bay, Chichagof Harbor, and Sarana Bay. Poor weather and lack of speed, however, impeded her hunting.
On her return to Dutch Harbor, USS S-28 was ordered south; and, on 4 March, she got underway for Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada; where, from 15 March to 15 April, she conducted sound tests and ASW exercises with Canadian Navy and Air Force units. She then continued on to the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Washington State, for overhaul and superstructure modification work. On 27 June, the S-boat headed back to Alaska; and, on 13 July, she departed Dutch Harbor to return to the northern Kurils for her sixth war patrol. Her new Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Commander Vincent A. Sisler, Junior.
Again, USS S-28 patrolled off Paramushiro and in the straits to the north and to the south of that island. Again, she was hindered by the weather, obsolete design, and by mechanical failures. On 14 August, she headed east; and, on the 16th, she moored in Massacre Bay, Attu, and commenced refit.
The late arrival of needed spares from Dutch Harbor delayed her readiness for sea; but, on 8 September, USS S-28 departed the western Aleutians to return to the northern Kurils. On the 13th, the submarine entered her patrol area. On the 15th, severe smoking and sparking from her port main motor necessitated fourteen hours of repair work. On the 16th, she transited Mushiru Kaikyo; and, on the afternoon of the 19th, she closed an unescorted freighter off the island of Araito. Her torpedoes missed their mark. The "freighter" turned, and, within minutes, had delivered the first two depth charges of a ten-minute attack. The Japanese ship searched the area for an hour, then departed.
USS S-28 reloaded her torpedo tubes and continued her patrol. At 1916, she contacted a second unescorted enemy vessel. At 1943, she fired a spread of four torpedoes. At 1944, two of the four torpedoes exploded. The target took on a 30-degree list and began to go down by the bow. At 1946, the 1,368-ton converted gunboat IJN Katsura Maru Number Two sank, bow first, her stern vertical in the air. Five loud underwater explosions followed her disappearance. USS S-28 went deep and rigged for a depth charging which did not materialize.
Into October, USS S-28 hunted just north of Araito and off the coast of Kamchatka. On 5 October, she moved through Onekotan Strait and continued her patrol on the Pacific side of the Kurils. On the 10th, however, a serious personnel injury occurred, and an appendicitis case developed. The submarine turned toward Attu one day ahead of schedule.
On 13 October, USS S-28 moored at Attu. The next day, she departed for Dutch Harbor, whence, in November, she headed south to the Territory of Hawaii. The submarine arrived at Pearl Harbor at mid-month, and, after overhaul, commenced training duty. For the next seven months, she remained in Hawaiian waters, providing training services.
Then, on 3 July 1944, USS S-28, now under the command of Lieutenant Commander Jack G. Campbell, United States Naval Reserve, began training operations off Oahu with United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Reliance (WPC-150). The antisubmarine warfare (ASW) exercises continued into the evening of the 4th. At 1730, the day's concluding exercise began. Contact between the two vessels became sporadic, and, at 1820, the last brief contact with USS S-28 was made and lost. All attempts to establish communications failed. Assistance arrived from Pearl Harbor, but a thorough search of the area failed to locate the submarine. Two days later, a diesel oil slick appeared in the area where the S-boat had been operating, but the 8,400-foot depth of the water at the site of the sinking exceeded the range of available rescue and salvage equipment, so no attempts were made to rescue the crew or raise the hull of the submarine.
A Court of Inquiry failed to establish the cause of the loss of USS S-28 and the 49 men who perished in that submarine, but there was much regret that the S-boat disappeared during a training exercise and not in a war zone, which would have been a little easier to accept.
USS S-28 (SS-133) was awarded one battle star for her actions during her seventh war patrol during the Second World War, when the old warrior got herself onto the score sheet by sinking a converted Japanese gunboat on 19 September 1943.
See also Ed Howard's Final Patrols page on USS S-28 (external link)