USS Sawfish (SS 276) Fourth War Patrol

Two days prior to the Wahoo’s fatal attempt to exit the Sea of Japan, the USS Sawfish (SS 276) successfully exited through the same route Wahoo attempted.  The Sawfish encountered some of the same antisubmarine activities that the Wahoo did; hence, this is the closest account from the American perspective of how enemy forces doomed the Wahoo. Prior to exiting, the Sawfish had a very frustrating time with the new Mark 18 Torpedoes. Following are excerpts from the 4th War Report  – B. MacKinnon

10 September 1943 to 16 October 1943. Japan Sea. Operational Order 194-43


10 September 1943 to 7 October 1943
 Omitted from this electronic transcription. – B. MacKinnon
8 October 1943
0415(I) Lat 45-22N Long 139-12E sighted white and red lights bearing 092oT unidentified.
0428(I) Submerged in Lat 45-25N Long 139-12E. Went to 100 feet.
1152(I) Came to periscope depth for look around. No contacts.
1735(I) Came to periscope depth – no contacts.
1844(I) Surfaced in Lat 45-44N Long 140-10E. Set course for LA PEROUSE STRAIT.
2105(I) Lat 45-50N Long 140-37E sighted whites of vessel bearing 086oT. Maneuvered to avoid, Vessel identified as Russian.
2215(I) Sighted KAIBA TO bearing 016 oT distance 20 miles.
2216(I) Sighted RUBUN SHIMA bearing 186 oT distance 32 miles.
9 October 1943
0012(I) Lat 45-48N Long 141-43E SJ radar contact bearing 112oT range 6000 yards. O.O.D sighted what appeared to be a small patrol vessel. Went to flank speed and altered course to avoid. (Lat 45-48N Long 141-43E) Ship turned and trailed without success.
0025(I) Went to battle stations for passing through strait.
0100(I) While making passage through LA PEROUSE STRAIT signal station on NISHI NOTORO MISAKI challenged us with signal light sending AF, AF, AF and AL, AL, AL, for some 15 minutes. Finally, when we did not answer, signal station started sending NO, NO, NO. We were at an average of 12 miles at the time.
0232(I) Completed passage through LA PEROUSE STRAIT and secured from battle stations. While passing through, made radar contact on at least four ships of freighter size and two contacts on ships of destroyer or torpedo boat size.
0415(I) Submerged in Lat 45-27N Long 143-36E.
0620(I) Surfaced and started to run east.
0635(I) Lookout sighted single wing plane bearing 295 oT distance 10 miles; plane unidentified. Dove to 200 feet.
0730(K) Came to 150 feet.
0905(K) Lat 45-25N Long 143-45E sound contact on screws, bearing 205 oT
0919(K) Came to periscope depth.
0920(K) Sighted patrol boat stopped on starboard beam distance 3000 yards. Patrol started pinging search. Went to 300 feet and rigged for dept charge, and commenced evasion courses to south.
0944(K) Pinging on long scale close aboard. Patrol boat’s screws stopped.
0950(K) Pinging ceased - apparently listening. Patrol vessel remained in vicinity for next hour and half until at . . .
. . . 1140(K) heard explosions which sounded like one aerial bomb, followed by four depth charges at 10 second intervals. Not close. Could no longer hear screws. The temperature here at 300-370 feet is 39 o and the boat is clammy-cold.
1430(K) Came to periscope depth. Nothing in sight. Went back to 100 feet.
1924(K) Surfaced in Lat 45-10N Long 144-02E and set course for ETOROFU STRAIT
2100(K) Radar sweep on SJ radar. This sweeping has been weak and intermittent for last hour.

10 October 1943
0435(K) Submerged in Lat 48-18N Long 147-39E
1849(K) Surfaced and continued run to ETORUFU STRAIT
2012(K) SJ radar contact on land (ENTORFU SHIMA) bearing 135 oT range 42,000 yards.
2151(K) Completed passage through ETOROFU STRAIT having made passage on radar bearings and soundings due to rain and low visibility. Set course for Midway.

11-16 October 1943
 Enroute to Midway on surface. Made routine morning dives.
11 October 1943
2035(K) Cleared message to Comsubpac reporting torpedo performance and clearing of area. Radio Attu took message.
15 October 1943
1432(L)  Lat 33-05N 175-36E sighted and sank 20mm gunfire a floating mooring buoy 4 feet in diameter.
16 October 1943
1513(M) Lat 29-57N 179-57E SD radar contact 14 miles. Faded out after about 3 minutes.
0530(Y) Sighted USS TINOSA and exchanged signals at rendezvous point for Midway.
0550(Y) Sighted escort plans from Midway.
Arrived Midway.

D. TIDAL INFORMATION: - Japan Sea North of Lat. 40N

The currents in this area were variable with the greatest tendency being toward the northeast at from 0.1 to 1.0 knot. Unusual conditions are noted below.
The current through LaPerouse Strait was easterly during both passages, and appeared to be about 1.5 to 2.0 knots, although no accurate data was obtained. At no time was a current as high as 4.5 knots (as indicated on the charts) encountered.
North of LaPerouse in Lat 46-30N, Long 141-30E, a SE current of 0.8 knot was encountered while submerged.
Around Rebun Shima (Lat 45-25N, Long 141E), and Teure Shima (Lat 44-25N, Long 141E) the current was NE 1 knot.
In Lat 45 to 46 and Long 139 to 140E a SW set of 1.3 Knots was encountered when submerged at 100 feet.

E. NAVIGATIONAL AIDS: Japan Sea (West Coast of Karafuto and Hokkaido) and LaPerouse Straits.

The following lights were positively identified as operating:

Light List # Name Lat Long Characteristics- Remarks Date Observed
2 Nijogan 45-48N 142-13E Could not be checked Operating dimmed 9-23-43
4 Nishi Notoro 45-54N 142-05E “ 9-23-43
45.5 Misiki Chirai 48-47N 141-51E As listed in HO 31 9-24-43
46 Yuesoturu 49-04N 142-02E Fixed red. Visible about 6 miles 9-24-43
1Q Kaibo To 46-15N 141-16E As listed 10-8-43
250 Soya Misaki 45-31N 141-56E Questionable. Operating dimmed 10-8-43
180 Kamoi Misaki 43-20N 140-21E Flashing white; 4s on 4s off 9-27-43
172 Benkai Misaki 42-50N 140-11E Operating dimmed 9-27-43
170 Motsuta Misaki 42-37N 139-49E Operating dimmed 9-27/29-43
166 Inaho Misaki 42-15N 139-34E As listed. Probably dimmed 9-27-43
150 NYDO MISAKI 40-00N 139-42E Operating dimmed 10-5/6-43
142 Kisakata Ko 39-13N 139-54E Flashing white. Visible 5 mi. 10-6-43


Contacts prior to 8 Oct 1943 omitted in this electronic transcription – B. MacKinnon
26 8 Oct  0415(I) 45-22 139-12 -- 6000 No. -- SN Small Craft
27 8 Oct 2105(I) 45-50 140-37 Frt. 14,000 270 9 SN Identified as Russian
28 9 Oct 0012(I) 45-48 141-43 Patrol 6000 270 5 R Target turned and trailed us.
29 9 Oct 0100(I) to 0232(I) While Passing through LA PEROUSE STRAIT made radar contact on six ships – four of freighter size – 2 of patrol boat or destroyer.
30 9 Oct 0905(I) 45-25 143-45 Patrol 3000 090 10 S PC Type – looking for us


Contacts prior to 9 Oct 1943 omitted in this electronic transcription – B. MacKinnon
9 9 Oct 0635 (K) 45-27N 133-38E -- 10 115 2000 SD Single wing land plane. Headed for us.


5. On entering LA PEROUSE STRAIT we were fortunate in having terrible weather and passed through undetected. On leaving the Japan Sea, we contacted a small boat, believed to have been a patrol boat, about 15 miles west of the Strait. He trailed us but his speed was insufficient to keep up. The signal station on NISHI NOTORO MISAKI challenged us and kept repeating his challenge for about a half hour. After he challenged us for five minutes, we slowed to five knots and he lost us. When we speeded up to 20 knots, he swung his beam back on us, indicating he was detecting us by sound. The distance to NISHI NOTORU MISAKI at this time was 12 miles.
 Two Radar contacts were made in the Strait on what may have been patrols, but nothing was sighted.
 Immediately after surfacing on 9 October, with NIJO GAN bearing 290oT, 27 miles, we sighted a plane in what direction at range of 10 miles and dove. Sea was flat. Plane did not drop bombs. Three hours later, about 0930, a patrol boat of PC type arrived on the scene and stopped 3000 yards on our starboard beam and began echo range. We went to 300-372 feet and evaded; the patrol boat did not contact us. He stopped pinging, and commenced listening, after about a half hour. He would stop while listening. At 1140 four explosions were heard and felt, which may have been depth charges or bombs.  Having heard nothing since 1200, came to periscope depth at 1430 – nothing in sight. Retired to southeast on first sighting patrol boat until surfacing. Since the patrol boat had our dead reckoning position figured so accurately, it is probable that the plane dropped a float to mark our diving point.