Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Lost, and Found on Eternal Patrol


“Overdue and Presumed Lost”, was the submariner’s epitaph in WWII. In World War II the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Service suffered the highest casualty percentage of all the American armed forces, losing one in five submariners. Some 16,000 submariners served during the war, of whom 375 officers and 3131 enlisted men were killed.

During the Second World War, submarines comprised less than 2 percent of the U.S. Navy, but sank over 30 percent of Japan’s navy, including eight aircraft carriers. More important, American submarines contributed to the virtual strangling of the Japanese economy by sinking almost five million tons of shipping—over 60 percent of the Japanese merchant marine. Victory at sea did not come cheaply. The Submarine Force lost 52 boats and 3,506 men.

My dad beat the odds as a 17-year-old that enlisted in the Navy during WWII as someone who volunteered for the Submarine Service. They were all volunteers. He completed Sub school before he turned 18. He was in combat off the coast of Japan before his 19th birthday and completed 3 or more war patrols before his 20th birthday.

The following video tells the story of one boat that was overdue and presumed lost. Lost, but it has been found.

What that discovery meant to those who lost someone on that boat.

There are two poems that resonate with sailors of the Silent Service.


Lost Harbor
by Leslie Nelson Jennings
There is a port of no return, where ships
May ride at anchor for a little space
And then, some starless night, the cable slips,
Leaving an eddy at the mooring place . . .
Gulls, veer no longer. Sailor, rest your oar.
No tangled wreckage will be washed ashore.

There is a second poem written by a submariner:

Battleships are title B.
That’s Lesson One in strategy.
They are the backbone of the Fleet.
Their fighting power can’t be beat.
They dominate the raging Main
While swinging ’round the anchor chain,
And bravely guard your home and mine
While anchored out there all in line.
They fill the Japs with fear and hate
From well inside the Golden Gate.

Now Lesson Two in strategy–
Our subs and planes are title C.
Just send them out on any mission
And win your battles by attrition.
Where’er you send the subs or planes
They’re bound to chalk up lots of gains–
And losses, too, but what the hell.
Who cares about their personnel?
For planes are chauffeured by young studs;
Lieutenant Commanders run the subs.

Richard G. Voge
Lieutenant Commander, USN


I’ll leave you with some photos of my dad and his ribbons. I’ll also leave you with a reminder that we have our share of Vets that belong to Ricochet. @bossmongo, @alfrench,@django, @spin, @skyler, @cliffordbrown and @Franco, – his father. All deserving of our respect. I know I’ve left someone out please feel free to tell your story in the comments.

Dad at 18 or 19 years-old

Dad on the left, somewhere in the Pacific on look-out duty. The dress was casual after leaving Pearl Harbor on a war patrol.

His ribbons, and Submarine Combat Pin. Three stars on the pin indicate three or more war successful war patrols. The ribbon on the upper left is a Presidential Unit Citation.

USS Sand Lance Presidential Unit Citation:

On the night of 12 and 13 March, Sand Lance was running on the surface toward Honshu when a marauding airplane forced her to submerge. At about 0200 she came up to periscope depth and found herself in the midst of a Japanese convoy, consisting of five merchantmen and three heavily-armed warships. Sand Lance had only six torpedoes remaining, but she made them count. She loosed four from the stern tubes and two from the bow tubes. All six hit the mark. Two of the four stern torpedoes hit a merchantman and the other two ripped into a light cruiser, while the two from the bow tubes smashed into another freighter. At least two of the ships went to the bottom, light cruiser, Tatsuta, and cargo man, Kokuyo Maru. For her success, Sand Lance underwent a 16-hour, 100-depth charge pounding from the accompanying destroyers. Finally, she was able to head home. She arrived in Pearl Harbor on 23 April 1944. The successes of her maiden war patrol brought Sand Lance a Presidential Unit Citation.

My dad asked for a copy of the Cease Fire message sent to USS Sand Lance.

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There are 13 comments.

  1. Dr. Bastiat Member

    I’m not really claustrophobic, but I do not like tight spaces at all. I can handle it, but I’m very uncomfortable when it gets cramped. And I’m 6’2″ and 240. So a lot of spaces are cramped for me.

    I can’t imagine going into combat on a submarine. Gives me the creeps just thinking about it.

    What brave men.

    • #1
    • November 11, 2019, at 7:43 AM PST
  2. Caltory Thatcher

    Thanks for this post. My father served on patrols with the USS Drum in WWII. There is a memorial in Southern California for Submarine Veterans that commemorates the crews of all the lost boats during the war. You can find it at the Seal Beach NWS.

    By the way, Dad always stressed that the correct pronunciation of submariners is with the accent on the “rine” and not on the “mar.” Those in the silent service took great offense at being considered “beneath mariners.”

    • #2
    • November 11, 2019, at 8:13 AM PST
  3. Spin Coolidge

    Great post. I read in a book that by the end of the war, American submarines had put 80% of the surface fleet (civilian, military, and merchant marine) on the bottom of the Atlantic. I’m going to dig that book out and see if I can find that statistic.

    • #3
    • November 11, 2019, at 9:15 AM PST
  4. Juliana Member

    Thank you for the copy of the cease fire – it will make a fitting end to my presentation on the armed forces to students today. The overall history of war is interesting, but the individual stories are much more fascinating. When you think of what 18 and 19 year olds were expected to learn and do at that time, and how they rose quickly to the challenge, then compare to our 20-somethings today – it hardly computes.

    • #4
    • November 11, 2019, at 9:18 AM PST
  5. Spin Coolidge

    Doug Watt:

    Dad on the left, somewhere in the Pacific on look-out duty. The dress was casual after leaving Pearl Harbor on a war patrol.

    I didn’t think they allowed them to keep their phones with them, but I see it there in his pocket. ;-)

    • #5
    • November 11, 2019, at 9:39 AM PST
  6. JoelB Member

    I had no idea that the losses to the submarine service were so high, nor did I know the extent of the toll they took upon enemy vessels. Thank you for this post.

    • #6
    • November 11, 2019, at 10:06 AM PST
  7. EJHill Podcaster

    My father, aboard the DE-216, the USS Scott somewhere in the northern Atlantic circa 1944. He was 20, the ever-present cigarette that would cost him his life wedged between his fingers. (Colorized by me.)



    • #7
    • November 11, 2019, at 10:39 AM PST
  8. Al French, poor excuse for a p… Member

    • #8
    • November 11, 2019, at 11:15 AM PST
  9. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    My uncle was a tincan sailor — destroyer — and sailed aboard her from Perl Harbor to the End. A Japanese officer boarded her to sign a formal surrender. I don’t remember the ships name, but he has a great picture of himself as the officer walked by. He said he was not instructed on whether to salute or not, so he didn’t. He was under arms though, a .45 on his hip.

    Thank you.

    • #9
    • November 11, 2019, at 11:50 AM PST
  10. Percival Thatcher

    JimGoneWild (View Comment):

    My uncle was a tincan sailor — destroyer — and sailed aboard her from Perl Harbor to the End. A Japanese officer boarded her to sign a formal surrender. I don’t remember the ships name, but he has a great picture of himself as the officer walked by. He said he was not instructed on whether to salute or not, so he didn’t. He was under arms though, a .45 on his hip.

    Thank you.

    He did right. Saluting would have been acknowledging authority that the officer no longer had. 

    • #10
    • November 11, 2019, at 3:21 PM PST
  11. Stad Thatcher

    The videos made me cry.

    During my training as a nuclear submarine officer, I learned about the men before me, their bravery, their sacrifice, their heroism. I’ve posted this poem before, but I love this:

    Bless those who serve beneath the deep,

    Through lonely hours their vigil keep.

    May peace their mission ever be,

    Protect each one we ask of thee.

    Bless those at home who wait and pray,

    For their return by night or day.


    Reverend Gale Williamson


    Whether they are submariners, pilots and airmen, tank crews, or grunts huddled in foxholes – families suffer when their warriors don’t come home on their own two feet . . .

    • #11
    • November 11, 2019, at 3:47 PM PST
  12. She Thatcher

    My favorite photo of Dad from the war. It was during training, somewhere on the south coast of England. After he died, my sister got a letter out of the blue one day from the daughter of one of his training buddies. (I wonder if he’s in the photo). She’d been sorting out her own father’s effects after his death, and came across his diary, in which he’d written about Dad, “I’ve never heard anyone so noisy from the time he gets up until the time he goes to sleep . . . and after!” Dad never changed. He must have just about turned 20 in this photo.

    His war (he was in the 1st Battalian, Loyals, North Lancashire) spanned the Middle East, North Africa and Italy, including Anzio and Monte Cassino.

    I call this next photo, “My Dad, the Movie Star.” The stamp says it was taken in Cairo:

    I have an album of tiny contact prints which, God Willing, I’ll scan and enlarge one day. I wish Dad was still here to tell me what they all are. There are some lovely photos from the war, including this one:

    which Dad must have taken, and these two, of pieces of “propaganda” dropped over Italy at the time:

    Mr. She’s family (steelworkers all) also did their bit. His father was exempted from service due to his exceptional abilities as a welder at Pittsburgh’s Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. Uncle Bill and Uncle Joe were Seabees. Here’s Uncle Joe, with his mother, who Mr. She always refers to as “my barrel-shaped Polish grandma” (he loved her so, so much):

    Aunt Sophie worked at a munitions factory, and Uncle Steve ran the local numbers game. Patriots all. God bless them. And Mr. She, the United States Marine who didn’t see combat, being between wars (Korea and Vietnam), but was changed for life by the experience:

    • #12
    • November 11, 2019, at 3:47 PM PST
  13. Doug Watt Member
    Doug Watt Post author

    Lifeguard duty – The Submarine Lifeguard League:

    The submarine lifeguard league was officially formed in early 1943. From then until August 14, 1945, a total of 518 airmen were rescued from a watery grave or certain capture by the enemy. Many rescues were accomplished by the 87 submarines assigned lifeguard missions within sight of enemy forces and while under fire. On September 2, 1944 USS Finback was on her assigned station when she received a message reporting a navy aircraft down. The rescued pilot was Lieutenant George H.W. Bush who later became the forty first President of the United States.

    • #13
    • November 12, 2019, at 9:03 AM PST