USS SAURY SS-189
IN AUSTRALIAN WATERS DURING WW2

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visits since 7 September 2007

 


Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

USS Saury at Mare Island Navy Yard 6 April 1943

USS Saury SS-189, a 1450-ton Sargo class submarine, operated out of both the Brisbane Submarine Base in Queensland and the Fremantle Submarine Base in Western Australia during WW2.

USS Saury was based at Pearl Harbor until October 1941. She then travelled to help defend the Philippine Islands. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor USS Saury was sent to conduct anti-invasion patrols north of Lingayen Gulf. She unsuccessfully attacked an enemy destroyer on 22 December 1941 and then managed to survive several depth-charge counter attacks.

USS Saury then operated in Dutch East Indies waters. Her first war patrol finished at Soerabaja in late January 1942.

Her second war patrol was to assist with the defense of the East Indies. After the Japanese claimed the Dutch East Indies USS Saury finished its second war patrol at Fremantle Submarine Base in mid-March 1942.

From April through to December 1942, USS Saury finished 2 more war patrols out of the Fremantle Submarine Base and one out of Brisbane Submarine Base. She left Brisbane on 31 October 1942 for her fifth war patrol off western and northern New Britain. She had only one possible hit on a Japanese ship during this fifth patrol.

While serving in the Philippines, submarine captains had complained bitterly of defective torpedoes. Rear Admiral Lockwood, Fremantle Submarine Base, in Western Australia, endeavoured to get the Bureau of ordnance to carryout some torpedo performance tests. After his request was denied, he ordered his men to carry out their own tests. 

Captain Fife ordered a target net to be anchored in Princess Royal Harbour, near Albany in Western Australia. USS Skipjack (SS188) was used to fire three Mark XIV torpedoes at the net.

The first two torpedoes were set to travel at 10 feet below the surface. They hit the net at 18 feet and 25 feet. The third torpedo was set to run on the surface. It bounced off the 65 feet harbour floor and penetrated the net at eleven feet from the surface.

The Bureau of Ordnance discredited the tests and suggested that Rear Admiral Lockwood should conserve his scarce supply of torpedoes. Undaunted, Lockwood organised another test. In July 1942 USS Saury (SS189) fired five Mark XIV torpedoes at the net. All of the torpedoes ran deep.

By this time The Commander-in-Chief of the United States Fleet, Admiral King, had heard of the issues and became involved. King indicated that he believed Lockwood's tests and finally the Bureau of ordnance begrudgingly acknowledged that the Mark XIV torpedoes ran too deep.

In September 1942, USS Saury sank a Japanese aircraft ferry. Premature detonation of her torpedo warhead prevented her from sinking more Japanes shipping.

USS Saury was then overhauled at the the Mare Island Navy Yard, in California, USA.

USS Saury commenced her sixth war patrol out of Pearl Harbor in May 1943. She sank a Japanese tanker and three freighters in late May 1943. She was again overhauled at Mare Island between March and May 1944 after her ninth patrol. New engines were fitted. By then she had been involved in a bad collision with a Japanese destroyer, suffered some serious flooding in some bad weather and encountered engine problems. Due to these various troubles she had sunk no Japanese shipping in her 7th, 8th and 9th war patrols.

Her 10th war patrol was off the Philippines where she had more mechanical problems in June/August 1944. Her 11th war patrol saw her operating in waters off the Japanese mainland between September and November 1944. During this period she attacked one Japanese ship causing some damage and rescued a US Navy fighter pilot who had been operating from a US Navy aircraft carrier whose aircraft were attacking Okinawa.

William Henry Cosby, Sr., the father of famous Hollywood comedian Bill Cosby, apparently made two war patrols on the USS Saury from 7 September 1944 to 28 February 1945. Cosby senior was then assigned to the USS Sea Dog from 2 August 1945 until 19 September 1945.

After her 11th war patrol USS Saury participated in training and target duties in waters off Hawaii. USS Saury was decommissioned in June 1946.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

Black Submariners in the United States Navy 1940-1975

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Bruce Bird for his assistance with this web page.

 

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 Peter Dunn 2006

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This page first produced 7 September 2007

This page last updated 07 September 2007