SUBCHASER SC 648
7TH FLEET, U.S. NAVY
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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Artwork - Matt Hirsheimer

Subchaser SC-648
f
rom the jacket of the book "Splinter Fleet"

Subchaser SC 648 travelled across the Pacific Ocean to Australia in convoy with SC 518, SC 641, SC 698, SC 701, SC 730, SC 739, SC 751, SC 760, SC 761 and SC 982. They were attached to a larger convoy of others ships possibly including infantry-landing craft, tank-landing craft, minesweepers, etc. They all arrived in the Noumea area by the end of March 1943. SC 641, SC 730, SC 761 and SC 982 were sent to Guadalcanal/ Tulagi area, and the others were sent to Brisbane and the west coast of Australia.

Subchaser SC 648 was attached to the 7th Fleet, US Navy and operated in Australian waters from 8 May 1943 to 18 August 1943. It operated out of Brisbane for 100 days where it most common berth was at the CSR Wharf on the Brisbane River. SC 648 would often shift to the Commercial Oil Refinery Wharf (COR Wharf) to get fuel, and then return to the CSR Wharf. 

Occasionally they would tie up alongside the U.S.S. Fulton, the submarine tender at the US Navy Submarine Base at Capricorn Wharf at New Farm. SC 648 used to meet and  escort submarines outside Moreton Bay when they returned from their long missions. SC 648 also did a lot of escort work to Gladstone, Rockhampton, Townsville, Cairns, etc. 

From Australia SC 648 went with General MacArthur to New Guinea, the Admiralties, Cape Gloucester, thence to Leyte.


Photo: Ted Treadwell

Subchaser SC 648 in 1944

Ted Treadwell started as an Ensign on SC 648.  He served on SC 648 for 23 months, eventually becoming its Commanding Officer. Ted was made Lt (jg) in March 1944 and became Executive Officer of SC 648. In July 1944 he was made Lieutenant Senior Grade and took over command of SC 648, an assignment that lasted until the end of February 1945.

Theodore R. Treadwell

The Supply Officer on the U.S.S. Fulton was a college classmate and good friend of Ted Treadwell, and he saw to it that SC 648 got a lot of "goodies". SC 648 occasionally anchored in the NE and NW channels of Moreton Bay. A couple of times they moored at the Thomas Brown & Sons Wharf, and also at Musgrave Wharf. On one occasion they moved to Perry (or is it "Peters?") Slip where there was a marine railway that pulled the vessel out to clean and paint the bottom.

SC 648 operated with several Royal Australian Navy ships, among them HMAS Vendetta, HMAS Goulbourn, HMAS Geelong and HMAS Gladstone, which were similar to U.S. Destroyer Escorts. 


Photo: Ted Treadwell

Subchaser SC 648

On 23 May 1943, in company with HMAS Vendetta, SC 648 made a submarine attack outside Moreton Bay, but with no results. The depth charge attack was at Lat. 23 degrees, 32', 30" S x Long.151 degrees 26' E.  They thought they had something. They fired a round of mousetraps and three of them exploded underwater (mousetrap projectiles exploded only on contact). They then made a full depth charge attack. The only result was a good-sized air bubble and a thin trickle of oil. They were later told that no enemy submarines were within 500 miles at the time. Ted Treadwell 's assessment was that they must have attacked a sunken vessel and in their excitement merely thought it was moving.

On the 7 July 1943 when they were in a convoy enroute from Gladstone to Brisbane, one of the escorts, HMAS ML 429, made a depth charge attack on a suspected enemy submarine and SC 648 and HMAS Lithgow left station to assist. The convoy did some radical turning and avoidance manoeuvres but nothing resulted. They were not far from Lady Elliott Island lighthouse when this action occurred.

Both of the above actions was based on underwater detection of a possible enemy submarine. They picked up a distinct echo and began tracking it, ultimately ending in depth charge attack. SC 648 had underwater electronic echo-ranging sonar gear. During their escorting trips the gear was in use around the clock, manned by a sonarman on all watches. The sonar equipment send out "pings" under water which would bounce off a ship's hull or a submarine hull, or a whale, a school of fish, a coral formation, or even a buoy. A good sonarman was able to distinguish by the sound of the echo. The time lapse between a ping and an echo from that ping would give the range to the target. They were also able to get a bearing also. If the bearing changed from one echo to another they would know the object was moving. The echo from a submarine's hull was clear and sharp. Echoes from fish etc. tended to be more muffled.


Photo: Ted Treadwell

Subchaser SC 648

On 23 July 1943, when they were in Gladstone, they were sent to rescue any survivors they could find from an Avro Anson medium bomber that had crashed on Heron Island. They found the crashed plane and brought back five flyers, three of them dead and the other two still alive but with critical injuries. They brought them back to Gladstone. One of the survivors died the next day but the other survivor eventually recovered. For many years the survivor's family sent a Christmas card to the Pharmacists Mate on SC 648 in appreciation. SC 648 was too small to have a medical doctor so it had Pharmacists Mates.

At the time of the Heron Island rescue, Ensign Ted Treadwell was the Third Officer on SC 648. He was not one of the five members of ship's crew that went over to the island to do the recovery. During the time we were standing off from the island awaiting the return of the rescue party, Ted admired the beauty of the island and daydreamed about what a perfect spot it would make to visit some day. It looked completely uninhabited to Ted.

Captain John Jamison an amphibious training officer on Admiral Barbey's staff spent ten days on SC 648 during the Aitape (New Guinea) operation. SC 648 was used as the Flagship for that landing!!

  
Photo: Ted Treadwell

Subchaser SC 648

 

In September 2003, 87 year old Ted Treadwell told me that only five men, that he knew of, were still living from SC 648. Ted is working on another book which will be called "Taste of Salt" in which he will tell the story of his ship SC 648 and his own experiences during the war. The early part of the story will tells about his days in Australia on SC 648 during WW2.

sc-648-04.jpg (23837 bytes)
Photo: Ted Treadwell

Subchaser SC 648

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Splinter Fleet - The Wooden Subchasers of World War II"
by Theodore R. Treadwell

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Ted Treadwell for his kind assistance with this home page.

 

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 Peter Dunn 2003

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This page first produced 3 October 2003

This page last updated 16 November 2003