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USS PAMPANITO (SS-383)


THE FIFTH WAR PATROL

JANUARY 28 - FEBRUARY 12, 1945
During refit and repairs Commander Paul Summers returned to command Pampanito on January 2, 1945. Lt. Commander Landon L. Davis, executive officer (XO) on the first four patrols, was relieved as XO by Lt. Commander Lynn Orser. Lt. Commander William Bush reported aboard as prospective commanding officer (PCO).

Pampanito was refueled, repaired and reloaded. The after 20mm anti-aircraft gun was replaced by a single-barrel 40mm gun. Refit was complete by January 14, and the next week was spent in training and gunnery exercises. She departed Fremantle on January 23, in the company of USS Guavina (SS-362), under the command of Commander Ralph H. Lockwood. The two submarines practiced night approaches with the Australian minesweeper HMAS Warnambool. Pampanito and Guavina then headed north through the Lombok and Karimata Straits to the assigned patrol area off the east coast of the Malaysian Peninsula at the mouth of the Gulf of Siam (Thailand).

On February 1, they crossed the equator and a long-time naval institution was observed. "Pollywogs," new members of the crew that had not as yet sailed across the equator, were initiated. Summers played the role of King Neptune in a ceremony held in the crew's mess.

The two subs continued training and practice approaches. A mine was sighted as they entered the patrol area, but it could not be sunk despite several direct hits with the deck guns. Later, several dozen bales of raw rubber were sighted and Summers noted in the patrol report that he was tempted to pick up this precious material.

On the night of February 6, a column of smoke was sighted which led to a Japanese convoy. One of the ship's stacks was smoking heavily, which proved to be very helpful in tracking the convoy of three ships and four escorts. It was too dark for a periscope attack, so Summers risked moving in as close as possible on the surface. Once in position, he fired at the leading ship, the 7000-ton cargo ship Engen Maru, and scored two hits in her stern. She sank in minutes. The escorts exchanged signal lights and the convoy changed course and headed out of radar range. As Summers set up another attack, two of the escorts moved in fast on the port beam. Pampanito's bow tubes were fired at the two leading ships and she was pulled clear of the escorts, which apparently were not equipped with radar. No hits were heard. The last four torpedoes forward were fired at the convoy, but again, no hits were heard.

Summers pulled away and Guavina moved in to attack. From Pampanito's bridge two hits were seen on the larger of the two remaining ships and it disappeared from the radar screen. Guavina had sunk the 6900-ton freighter Taigyo Maru. As dawn approached on February 7, Pampanito dove and continued the patrol routine. When she surfaced at dusk a message from Guavina was received that the smoke of a possible convoy had been sighted. Summers set a new course to intercept. A little later a high periscope observation revealed the northbound convoy on the horizon: one medium cargo ship and two escorts. When Pampanito arrived, distant flashes were seen as one of the escorts fired at Guavina following her first unsuccessful attack.

Summers moved in and fired the stern tubes, but no hits were heard. Just before midnight Summers sent a message to Guavina and requested that she fire a signal from the Very pistol to draw off the starboard escort. When the signal was fired the escort headed off and the target zigged to port and Pampanito attacked. She was in position just after midnight. From the patrol report:

"0025 Fired three torpedoes aft from 4000 yards on 75 starboard track.
0029 Had just about checked off three misses when the first torpedo hit and simultaneously the ship disintegrated with the bow going one way, the stern in the opposite direction and most of the ship going straight up. Judging from the intense flames and explosions, this ship was evidently loaded with aviation gasoline. One escort was close enough, I'm sure, to share in the effects of the explosions. The second torpedo probably hit whatever was left to hit. The whole area looked like a fourth of July celebration and we felt slightly naked in all this gaslight. Escort on starboard quarter commenced firing at us and placed several rounds just over the bridge before we could pull clear on all four main engines. For the next twenty minutes one violent explosion followed another as ship was torn to pieces. The stern sank and the bow put on the finishing touch by exploding beautifully and in technicolor."

Pampanito, with only one torpedo left, was ordered to proceed to the southeast corner of the patrol area and await further instructions. On February 11, orders were received to proceed to Subic Bay, Philippines for refit. Subic Bay had recently been recaptured and plans were being developed to establish a submarine base there. An advance contingent arrived there on February 11th and Pampanito arrived on the afternoon of the 12th, tying up alongside the submarine tender USS Griffin (AS-13) becoming the first submarine to refit in Subic Bay. Again officers and crew were congratulated for a successful patrol. Pampanito was credited with two ships sunk. The fifth patrol had been short, only 20 days, but Pampanito had traveled almost 6,500 miles since leaving Australia.

The Sixth Patrol

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