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My dad survived the war in the Pacific. He enlisted at 17 years of age, and completed Submarine School shortly before his 18th birthday. He was in combat off the coast of Japan as an 18-year-old submariner.
The United States Navy Submarine Service lost 52 submarines, 374 officers and 3,131 enlisted men during World War II. These personnel losses represented 16% of the officer and 13% of the enlisted operational personnel. This loss rate was the highest among men and ships of any U.S. Navy unit.
Less than two percent of American sailors served in submarines, yet that small percentage of men and their boats sank 214 Japanese warships. This included 1 battleship, 4 large aircraft carriers, 4 small aircraft carriers, 3 heavy cruisers, 8 light cruisers, 43 destroyers, 23 large submarines and 1,178 merchant ships of more than 500 tons.
In all, U.S. submarines sank more than 55 percent of all Japanese ships sunk. More than surface ships, Navy air and the U.S. Army Air Corps combined.
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz summarized their efforts after the war by writing:
“We, who survived World War II and were privileged to rejoin our loved ones at home, salute those gallant officers and men of our submarines who lost their lives in that long struggle. We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the lines against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds.“
Rest in peace, dad. He asked the radio operator of the USS Sand Lance for a paper copy of the cease-fire message sent to submarines. We still have his ribbons, one of which is a Presidential Unit Citation. We have his Submarine Combat Pin, as well as the Gold Dolphins he earned as an officer when he went back to the boats as an officer.
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 cargoman, 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.
Here is the copy of that cease-fire message that the family still has to this day.