After Action Report: Silent Victory – Patrol #3 (September 1942)

September 1942

U.S.S. Beluga (Narwhal class)

Lt. Commander Randall Skelley

The offensive against the Japanese has begun. We are set to support the landings at Guadalcanal by patrolling the waters around the Solomon Islands.

A new XO, Edmund Gilmore, was assigned to us several weeks before we left. He is competent and respected; the crew has taken to him quite well but Wolton’s absence is still keenly felt. Gilmore has some mighty large shoes to fill.

In addition, our SD radar has been upgraded to an SJ system. More reliable and accurate, we should be able to find surface vessels and aircraft better with this equipment. Rumor also has it that the dud rate for our torpedoes is better. But time will tell.

We set out from Brisbane toward the Solomon Islands. Heading northwest, we moved between New Britain and Pap New Guinea before turning east to the Solomons. After a few nights of calm, we spotted our first ships under escort. Under darkness, we shadowed at medium range and the Beluga drew her periscope sights on the Hakutetsu Maru #13, a small freighter of 1300 tons. Aligning the stern on the ship’s trajectory, I fired two aft torpedoes. I gambled two would be enough for such a small ship.

While both made contact, only one exploded. But instead of sinking, the target emerged from the plume of water listing heavily.

The destroyers reacted in a timely fashion and swept the area. The Beluga cruised above test depth but as deep as I could take her. The escorts never detected us and moved on. But instead of rejoining the limping freighter, they left her behind. I assumed the ongoing battle at Guadalcanal drew them off.

We followed our prey through the night and at dawn’s light, we surfaced. Using the six inch gun, we shelled the Hakutetsu Maru mercilessly. The rounds slammed into her hull, engulfing her in flames. The water grew thick with oil and fire as she disappeared under the waves. That freighter was low hanging fruit and for a few days after we encountered nothing. There was increased radio chatter but nothing actionable to us.

The next day, we spotted two more ships under escort. The night was dark but we were able to identify the Tatsumomo Maru (900 tons) and Hino Maru (2700 tons). Utilizing all four tubes, we fired one torpedo at the smaller freighter and the remaining three at the larger one.

The first torpedo missed the target. The next two hit the Hino Maru while the fourth missed. Both detonated, birthing plumes of smoke and detritus. A secondary explosion followed and the Hino slid under the waves.

The escorting destroyers reacted swiftly. These were not amateurs. But after an hour of sweeping and searching, we remained undetected. The patrolling ships returned to the Tatsumomo Maru and continued to their destination. She was such a small ship and not worth pursuing further. We surfaced, rested and carried on into the night. Even thought the Guadalcanal campaign was ratcheting up, the seas we sailed were empty. We finished our loop around the Solomons and steamed home.

Brisbane was a welcomed sight. While technically a successful patrol, I felt as if we could have done more. But no amount of wishing will conjure targets on the sea. Better next time, I suppose. A bit of good news however. It would appear that our onboard pharmacist’s technician proved invaluable during our last patrol in treating some minor non-combat injuries. He’s a bit of a savant and nothing short of an expert. He’ll be good in a pinch if we sustain any major injuries going forward. We are lucky to have him on board.

Another noteworthy item- we received no direct fire or damage this patrol. I’ll take that. I only wish that we remain that lucky in the future.

Ships sunk: 2

Patrol Tonnage: 4000

Career Tonnage: 23900

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