U.S.S Beluga (Narwhal class)
Lt. Commander Randall Skelly
I doubt anybody will forget that day when the news broke about Pearl. Out on routine patrol, we turned back and returned.
The harbor still burned, slick with oil and fire. The Arizona obliterated. So many dead.
We docked and refitted. The U.S.S Beluga– Narwhal class- is armed with two six-inch deck guns and twenty Mark Fourteen torpedoes. Rumors persist that they are faulty. Not that COMSUBPAC would admit it.
Our first assignment is to patrol the waters of the Marshalls. Orders are straight forward. Anything is free game. Completely unrestricted. If it flies the rising the sun, down it goes. We slipped out in the early morning, heading southwest before turning west, deeper into the Pacific.
We encountered nothing during those first days. Then a late order from headquarters, rebasing orders to Brisbane when this patrol ends.
Arriving in hostile waters, we soon spotted a lone ship. The Atlas Maru, a 7300 ton passenger ship. At close range, we surfaced and attacked with our dual deck guns. Over fifty rounds expended, and we barely hit her. The next salvos landed, inflicting major damage. She began to smoke and burn but remained afloat. The next set of rounds let loose missed as well.
Next, the four front torpedo tubes were flooded and fired. All but one missed. The torpedo that connected failed to detonate.
I decided to pursue the target further. She sent out a distress signal but no escorts or aircraft came.
Bringing up more ammunition for the deck guns, the next fusillade sank the Atlas Maru. 125 rounds and four torpedoes for one 7300 ton ship.
Bad luck followed us as we encountered nothing for the next week, despite chatter and vague sightings. On a clear cloudless night, we were relieved when we spotted distant silhouettes against the horizon. A convoy. We dove to periscope depth and charted an intercept course.
We sighted two small passenger ships, the Shirogane Maru (3100 tons) and Taichu Maru (3200 tons) , and the small freighter Koho Maru (900 tons). Accompanying escorts were of unknown quality.
At medium range, we targeted the small freighter. The four forward tubes were flooded. Bearings calculated. All were fired. Seconds passed. The first missed. The second connected. A thundering explosion ripped the freighter apart, cracking the keel in half. The rest of the torpedoes were redundant.
A lone escort peeled away from the line of ships, steaming towards us. We remained at our current depth, but the veteran escort found our position immediately, lining up a depth charge attack.
Using evasive maneuvers, the Beluga lurched to the left as the destroyer above turned to the right. The charges fell and detonated farther away. The hull shook under the emanating shockwave, taking light damage. Our baptism of fire. The destroyer circled back but I ordered us deeper, beyond test depth. The hull creaked and was damaged further but it held. The destroyer passed over us and the detonations grew distant then silent.
A half hour later, we returned to the surface and stalked the convoy for into the night. Sitting at periscope depth, I ordered a long-range attack on the lead passenger ship. Four more torpedoes were fired. The first missed, the second connected but failed to detonate. Another dud. The next two missed as well.
The same destroyer attempted to re-engage but was unable to pinpoint our location. Without the daylight, the wake from our torpedoes must have been impossible to detect. Unsuccessful, the escort and the ships faded into the night.
We surfaced and carried on.
Several days later, we spotted another convoy, but our torpedo stock remained low. The convoy was under escort, so a deck gun attack was not an option. With the unusually high dud rate, I decided to withhold any attack and to retire our patrol.
Heading to our new base in Brisbane we encountered nothing but blue, empty waters. We slid into dock in February 1942. It will be another two months of refitting and repair before we are out on the ocean again. Enough time for the crew to settle in this new country.
We had taken the fight to the enemy. But this was only the beginning.
-Lt. Commander Randall Skelly
- Atlas Maru (7300 tons)
- Koho Maru (900 tons)
- 8200 tons
- 8200 tons