USS Sargo (SS-188)

USS "Sargo" (SS-188), the lead ship of her class of submarine, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the sargo.

Her keel was laid on 12 May 1937 by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut. She was launched on 6 June 1938 sponsored by Mrs. Chester W. Nimitz (wife of the later admiral), and commissioned on 7 February 1939, Lieutenant E. E. Yeomans in command.

After shakedown along the eastern seaboard of South America, "Sargo" departed Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in July 1939 for duty with the Pacific Fleet. Transiting the Panama Canal, she arrived at San Diego, California, in mid-August. She operated in the eastern and mid-Pacific for the next two years, including a practice 40-day war patrol between Midway Island and the Marshall Islands in the fall of 1941. She departed Pearl Harbor on 23 October 1941, arrived in Manila on 10 November, and was there during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December.

War patrols under Tyrell D. Jacobs

The next day (under the command of torpedo specialist Tyrell D. Jacobs, Class of 1927), [He was one of a handful of "Gun Club" members to try and fix the numerous problems of the notorious Mark 14 torpedo, following bitter personal experience. Blair, Clay, Jr. "Silent Victory" (Lippincott, 1975), p.140 & 902.] the submarine got underway for her first war patrol, which took her along the coast of French Indochina and to the Netherlands East Indies. Off the major Japanese base at Cam Ranh Bay, ULTRA directed her to three cruisers on 14 December, which "Sargo" was unable to gain position to attack when they appeared as scheduled. [Blair, p.139-40.] Expecting a convoy, she went in closer, and that night detected a frieghter, firing one torpedo; it prematured eighteen seconds later. Confidence in the Mark VI shaken, she switched to contact pistol afterward. [Blair, p.140.]

On 24 December, she found two frieghters, firing two torpedoes at one, one at the other, from about convert|1000|yd|-2, scoring no hits. [Blair, p.140.] Temporarily losing depth control, she broached, and the target turned away; "Sargo" fired two stern tubes at convert|1800|yd, with no more success. [Blair, p.140.] The next day, she sighted a pair of merchantmen, but was unable to gain firing position. Some time afterward, she came on two more merchantmen and fired two stern torpedoes at the rearmost of them, from closer yet, convert|900|yd|-2; both again missed. [Blair, p.140.] By now frustrated, after eight torpedoes with zero results, when two additional merchantmen came in view an hour later, "Sargo" took extra pains to get it right, pursuing for fifty-seven minutes [Blair, p.141.] and making certain TDC bearings matched perfectly before firing two torpedoes at each ship, at an average of 1000 yards; all missed. [Blair, p.140.]

After her skipper discovered the torpedoes were running too deep, and correcting the problem, [Blair, p.141. Bureau of Ordnance would wait months to do the same.] "Sargo" detected a target at dusk on 26 December [Blair, p.141.] losing, then regaining, contact, and running ahead, so be able to get good position. Then weather intervened, and the ships escaped. [Blair, p.141.]

A few days afterward, a big, slow tanker gave "Sargo" another opportunity, and again, the approach was meticulous, firing one torpedo at a close convert|1200|yd. It missed. In exasperation, "Sargo" signaled headquarters, questioning the Mark 14's reliability [Blair, p.140.] on an open radio circuit. [Jacobs' courage here is exemplary, recalling Ned Beach's a generation later in relation to USS|Tang|SS-563|2-class' terrible "pancake" diesels. It could have gotten him court martialled for insubordination, and he knew it, not to mention being detected by the Japanese. On his return, he was upbraided by his commanding officer, Admiral John Wilkes. Blair, p.169.]

On 20 January 1942, she assisted in the rescue of the crew of "S-36" (SS-141) after she ran aground on Taku Reef in the Makassar Strait. "Sargo" remained surfaced, relaying distress messages to friendly aircraft and surface ships. After the rescue by the Dutch merchant ship "Siberote", "Sargo" headed for Java, and arrived at Soerabaja on 25 January.

Here, she offloaded all her reload torpedoes (keeping only those in her tubes) [Blair, p.174.] and three-inch ammunition, and took on one million rounds of .30-caliber ammunition desperately needed by Allied forces in the Philippines. She sortied 5 February, avoiding the usual traffic lanes, and arrived in Polloc Harbor nine days later. After delivering her vital cargo to Mindanao, she returned to Soerabaja with 24 Boeing B-17 specialists [Blair, p.174.] from Clark Field on board.

Sailing from Soerabaja on 25 February, she headed for Australia and was one day out of Fremantle when she was attacked by an Allied plane which mistook her for a Japanese submarine. [This sort of mistake would become depressingly common during the war. For instance, Blair, pp.210 and 285, just in the first half of 1942.] Although a near miss by a bomb caused minor damage, "Sargo" arrived safely at Fremantle on 5 March with 31 passengers from Java.

War patrols under Richard V. Gregory

During March, amid the panic over potential Japanese invasion of Australia, "Sargo" (now commanded by Richard V. Gregory, Class of 1932) [This made him the youngest officer so far to command a fleet boat. Blair, pp.185, 192, 285, & 906.] was detailed to guard Darwin's approaches. [Blair, p.192.] Nothing materialized.

On 8 June, "Sargo" put to sea for her fourth patrol, conducted in the Gulf of Siam off Malaya. She attacked only one target, a small tanker, with only three torpedoes, but failed to score, then returned to Australia on 2 August.

The fifth war patrol, from 27 August to 25 October, was in the Celebes Sea and South China Sea. In a submerged attack off Vietnam, French Indochina, on 25 September, she fired two torpedoes at the 4,472-ton cargo ship "Teibo Maru". When these did not sink the target, three more were fired; all missed, including one circular, which exploded off her stern, [Blair, p.192.] presaging another deadly failing of the Mark 14. "Sargo" then surfaced and finished off the crippled freighter with gunfire. [When "Sargo" returned, Gregory was removed. Blair, p.286.]

War patrols under Edward S. Carmick

On 29 November, she departed Brisbane and conducted her sixth patrol (now commanded by Edward S. Carmick, Class of 1930) [Blair, p.921.] "en route" to Hawaii. On the last day of 1942, she made a submerged attack on an enemy tanker off Tingmon Island, firing a spread of four torpedoes. Heavy explosions were heard, accompanied by grinding noises usually associated with a ship breaking up. JANAC did not confirm the sinking. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 21 January 1943 and proceeded to San Francisco Bay for a three-month overhaul in the Mare Island Navy Yard.

Returning to Hawaii on 10 May, she departed on 27 May for her seventh patrol which took her to the Truk-Guam-Saipan shipping lanes. On 13 June, she intercepted a three-ship convoy, escorted by a subchaser. That night, she made a submerged attack, sinking the passenger-cargo ship "Konan Maru" southeast of Palau. The next day, she fired torpedoes at another of the cargo ships but could not learn the results of her attack, since she was forced to dive to escape the subchaser's depth charges. "Sargo" arrived at Midway Island on 9 July, where she was credited with one ship sunk for 6,600 tons (reduced postwar to 5,200). [Blair, p.931.]

She departed Midway on 1 August for her eighth war patrol, again at Truk and in the Mariana Islands. She made no contacts and returned to Pearl Harbor on 15 September for refit. [Not unexpectedly, Carmick was relieved. Blair, p.939.]

War patrols under Philip W. Garnett and post-war fate

On her ninth war patrol (now commanded by Philip W. Garnett, Class of 1933), [Blair, p.939.] 15 October to 9 December, "Sargo" operated off Formosa and in the Philippine Sea. On 9 November, she torpedoed the cargo ship, "Tago Maru", southeast of Formosa, and finished off the stricken ship with gunfire. Steaming north, she torpedoed and sank the passenger ship, "Kosei Maru" two days later east of Okinawa. Afterwards, she picked up a Japanese soldier, clinging to floating debris, survivor of another sinking. "Sargo" returned to Pearl Harbor on 9 December 1943, credited with two ships for 15,900 tons; postwar, it was 6,400. [Blair, p.939.]

"Sargo"’s tenth patrol, 26 January to 12 March 1944, was conducted north of the Palau Islands. Despite ULTRA alerting her, she failed to be in position to intercept Admiral Koga when he appeared. [Blair, p.570-1.] Still, she made four attacks and fired all her topedoes. [Blair, p.571.] She sank the transports "Nichiro Maru" (6,500 tons) [Blair, p.571.] on 17 February and "Uchide Maru" (5,300 tons) [Blair, p.571.] on 29 February; this time, the wartime credit, one ship of 7,000 tons, remarkably, increased. [Blair, p.942.]

After refit in Pearl Harbor, the veteran submarine departed on her eleventh war patrol on 7 April, along the southern coasts of Kyūshū, Shikoku, and Honshū. On 26 April, she torpedoed and sank the cargo ship "Wazan Maru" in Kii Suido, approaching Osaka Bay. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 26 May and steamed east to the west coast of the United States for a major overhaul at Mare Island Navy Yard.

Returning to Hawaii in September, "Sargo" got underway for her 12th patrol on 13 October and operated off the Bonin Islands and Ryukyu Islands. Two trawlers were damaged by "Sargo"’s three-inch (76 mm) deck gun and machine guns.

On arrival at Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 7 December 1944, she was assigned to training submarine crews until 13 January 1945, when she proceeded to Eniwetok Atoll. There she acted as a target for ASW training. As the war ended, she returned "via" Hawaii to the United States, arriving at Mare Island on 27 August. Decommissioned on 22 June 1946, she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 19 July 1946. Her hulk was sold for scrap on 19 May 1947 to the Learner Company of California.

"Sargo" was awarded eight battle stars for her service in World War II and received the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.



*Blair, Clay, Jr. "Silent Victory". Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975.
*Lenton, H.T. "American Submarines". New York: Doubleday & Co., 1973.

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