USS Trepang (SS-412)
The first USS "Trepang" (SS/AGSS-412) was a "Balao"-class submarine in the
United States Navy. She was named for the trepang, a marine animal sometimes called a 'sea slug' or a 'sea cucumber', having a long, tough, muscular body and found in the coral reefs of the East Indies.
When the contract to build her was awarded to
Mare Island Navy Yardin Vallejo, California, SS-412 was to be named "Senorita", which would have made her the only USN ship to be named for the senorita, a brilliantly colored kelpfish found along the Californiacoast. She was renamed "Trepang" on 24 September 1942, and her keel was laid down on 25 June 1943. She was launched on 23 March 1944sponsored by Mrs. R. M. Davenport, the wife of the submarine's prospective commanding officer, and commissioned on 22 May 1944with Commander Roy Milton Davenport—already a three-time Navy Crosswinner—in command.
Following shakedown out of
San Diego, California, "Trepang" departed the West Coast on 15 August 1944and proceeded to Hawaiiwhere her crew trained and prepared the ship for combat.
First patrol: September – October 1944
Setting out from
Pearl Harboron 13 Septemberfor her first war patrol, the submarine prowled the waters south of Honshū, the largest and most important of Japan's home islands. She remained below during daylight hours and came up after dark to get a better view as she recharged her batteries and filled up with fresh air. On the night of 30 September, "Trepang" spotted a fast convoydeparting Tokyo Bay. The submarine gave chase and closed in on a group of ships which included two large tankers, a small freighter, and an escort. The submarine fired an overlapping spread of torpedoes which struck the freighter, 750-ton "Takunan Maru", and sent her to the bottom.
10 October, "Trepang" attacked her second convoy, which consisted of a pair of tankers and a single escort. Although the submarine claimed a "kill", a postwar assessment of the action did not credit her with a sinking. The following day, the error was reversed. The submarine fired four torpedoes at another Japanese ship, and her commanding officer recorded that all of the "fish" had missed. This time, however, postwar accounting credited "Trepang" with the destruction of the 1,000-ton "Transport Number 105".
12 October, the submarine cruised some 12 miles southwest of the entrance to Tokyo Bay. Soon after she came to the surface, and her radarswept the surrounding seas, four pips showed themselves on the phosphorescent screen—two large and two small—which were identified as two battleships and two destroyers.
Despite the fact that the phosphorescent waters would make his submarine stand out starkly in the night, Davenport closed at flank speed and fired a full spread of six torpedoes. The "fish" sped through the water toward their targets. He claimed success when explosions rumbled across the water, and flames lit up the night. Davenport turned the submarine to present her stern tubes to the enemy and loosed four more torpedoes. These all missed.
Davenport's gallant and skillfully pressed attacks earned him his fourth
Navy Cross. He felt that he had damaged a sclass|Fuso|battleship and had sunk a destroyer, but a study of Japanese records after the war did not verify either claim.
Her supply of torpedoes exhausted, "Trepang" cleared the area and headed for the
Marshall Islands. She reached Majuroon 23 Octoberfor voyage repairs alongside submarine tender USS|Bushnell|AS-15|3 and brief training.
Second patrol: November – December 1944
16 November, "Trepang" got underway for the Philippine Islandsleading a wolf packwhich also included sister ships USS|Segundo|SS-398|3 and USS|Razorback|SS-394|3.
The weather was dark, windy, and rough on
6 Decemberas "Trepang"'s conning tower broke the surface after a day's submerged inshore patrol off Luzon. While shifting course toward deeper water, she detected a group of ships approaching from the northward. Upon closing to investigate, "Trepang" counted seven large ships and three escorts in the convoy which slowly approached the Philippines.
"Trepang" radioed news of her "find" to her packmaster and then submerged. The submarine shot straight and true, sending freighter "Banshu Maru Number 31" and cargo ship "Jinyo Maru" to the bottom in quick succession and damaging a third vessel, "Fukuyo Maru". However, as "Trepang" came about to administer the coup de grace to "Fukuyo Maru", the third cargo ship obligingly blew up and sank. Meanwhile, as "Segundo" and "Razorback" arrived on the scene, "Trepang" fired all of her remaining torpedoes at a fourth ship which, she reported, blew up and sank soon thereafter. However, this fourth sinking was not confirmed by Japanese records. In the meantime, the other two American submarines were trying to finish off the fleeing remnants of the shattered convoy and managed to sink two ships, one with the aid of American naval aircraft. "Trepang", now out of torpedoes, sped back to Pearl Harbor, arriving before
Following this war patrol, Davenport, one of the most highly decorated submariners of the war, left "Trepang" for shore duty as an instructor at the
United States Naval Academy.
Third patrol: January – March 1945
Again sailing for Honshū, "Trepang"—now under Cmdr. Allen R. Faust—teamed up with submarinesUSS|Piper|SS-409|3, USS|Pomfret|SS-391|3, USS|Bowfin|SS-287|3, and USS|Sterlet|SS-392|3 on an anti-picket boat sweep past
Nanpō Islands, the eastern island chain south of Tokyo, to clear the sea lanes for the aircraft carriers of Task Force 58which in turn was about to strike the Japanese home islands to neutralize them during the assault on the strategic island of Iwo Jima. "Trepang" encountered no worthwhile targets during the patrol and had to settle for performing lifeguard duty for aircraft carrierassaults on Tokyo. On 24 February 1945, the submarine sank the 875-ton freighter "Usuki Maru" and blew the bow off another small coastal vessel. While maneuvering to finish off the crippled ship, several antisubmarine vessels appeared on the scene from behind a nearby headland and converged on the fleet boat. "Trepang" dove deep as the Japanese subjected her to a seven-hour depth chargebarrage.
Fourth patrol: April – May 1945
Following her return to
Guamin March, "Trepang" headed for the Yellow Sea, a "hazardous duty" area due to its vast stretches of shallow water. Despite the danger, the submarine performed well, bagging the 1000-ton landing craft "Transport Number 146" on 28 April; the 4667-ton, heavily-laden freighter, "Miho Maru" two days later; and "Minesweeper Number 20" which blew sky-high with a hit on her magazine on 4 May. In addition, the submarine surfaced to shell a junk with a load of lumber. The sole member of this victim's crew, a Korean, understood little sign language, and looked to be of little value for intelligence purposes, so he was put back on board his barely seaworthy craft, with tools and food, and sent on his way. Leaving the Yellow Sea, "Trepang" did a short tour of lifeguarding for B-25 Mitchellstrikes on Shanghai, China, and for the continuing series of B-29 Superfortressraids on Tokyo, before she returned to Guam.
Fifth patrol: June – July 1945
"Trepang" 's fifth war patrol was divided into two parts—the first saw the ship operating in a lifeguard capacity while the second gave her a more offensive role off northeastern Honshū and eastern
Hokkaidō. In the former role, she arrived on station to the southeast of Tokyo Bay. Having experienced two previous tours of lifeguarding, "Trepang" 's men expected a series of long dull days, spent moving in circles, squares, or triangles to break the monotony.
However, shortly before noon on her first day, lookouts spotted a blossoming parachute overhead and soon saw the splash of a crashed
P-51 Mustangfighter damaged while escorting Superfortresses to Tokyo. "Trepang" bent on full power and soon picked up the downed aviator, Second Lieutenant Lamar Christian, USAAF, safe and sound. During the maneuver, another Mustang, piloted by First Lieutenant Frank Ayres, USAAF, radioed that it, too, was in trouble; and the pilot requested permission to bail out. "Trepang" replied telling Ayres to "be patient" until the first rescue was complete. Ayres circled the submarine until Christian was safely on board the submarine. Ayres then executed a perfect jump and landed some convert|400|yd|-2 away from "Trepang" and was soon hauled on board.
Three days after rescuing the two airmen, "Trepang" turned them over to submarine USS|Tigrone|SS-419|3 which was on her way home with 30 other aviators already on board. In the middle of the transfer, the submarines picked up a radio message from a "Boxkite" (rescue search plane) that a Superfortress crew, downed the previous day, was floating a mere seven miles (10 km) from the Japanese seaport of
Nagoya. Accompanied by sister ship USS|Springer|SS-414|3 which had also been discharging passengers to "Tigrone", "Trepang" surged ahead.
The two submarines raced to save the Superfort's crew. "Trepang" put on full speed and arrived on the scene first. She found eight survivors in four groups of rafts, spread over about four miles of ocean. By the time "Springer" arrived on the scene, "Trepang" had picked up seven of the fliers. "Springer" picked up the last man.
En route to a rendezvous with submarine USS|Devilfish|SS-292|3, "Trepang" sighted a small, troop-laden freighter and sank the ship with her deck guns. A dozen or so Japanese soldiers from the flaming vessel refused to be picked up and taken prisoner and so were left to drown.
Subsequently patrolling off the eastern coast of
Honshū, "Trepang" went scoreless until July, when she spotted a coastal convoy of three ships. She torpedoed and sank the lead ship—"Koun Maru Number Two"—but the other vessels conducted evasive action and sped away from the scene at full speed.
Satisfied that she had done her best, "Trepang", heading to seaward, suddenly shuddered under the impact of two depth bomb explosions. A solitary Japanese plane had spotted "Trepang"'s shadow in the shallow waters and had attacked with depth bombs. Fortunately, all missed their mark.
Given another lifeguarding assignment, "Trepang" stood on the alert to pick up possible downed airmen from British and American carrier strikes on the Japanese home islands. During this tour in July 1945, she rescued one pilot, Lieutenant, junior grade, Bill Kingston, USNR. In addition, on
14 July, she witnessed a shore bombardment conducted by three battleships and a heavy cruiseragainst Kamaishi.
By now, the war was moving fast, and "Trepang" returned to Pearl Harbor for a refit. There, she watched the tumbling succession of staggering headlines—first the
atomic bombs on Hiroshimaand Nagasaki, the Soviet Union's entry into the Far Eastern War, Japan's tentative acceptance of surrender terms, and finally, on 15 August, peace at last.
After completion of her refit, "Trepang" departed Pearl Harbor and arrived at San Diego on
3 September 1945. Decommissioned on 27 June 1946and placed in reserve at Vallejo, California, at the Mare Island Navy Yard, "Trepang" remained in reserve into the 1960s. She was redesignated as an auxiliary submarine and given hull classification symbolAGSS-412 on 11 June 1962. Struck from the Naval Vessel Registeron 30 June 1967, the submarine was authorized for disposal on 22 December 1967. She was subsequently sunk as a target during Exercise "Strike Ex 4-69" on 16 September 1969by the combined gunfire of destroyers USS|Henderson|DD-785|3 and USS|Fechteler|DD-870|3.
"Trepang" received five
battle stars for World War IIservice and a Navy Unit Commendation.
See USS|Trepang for other ships of the same name.
* [http://www.fleetsubmarine.com/ss-412.html fleetsubmarine.com: USS "Trepang"]
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