This MOMENT IN SUBMARINE HISTORY is brought to you by the USS Bremerton SSN698 group sponsorship of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum.
Lieutenant Commander Frederick Warder of the crew of the USS Seawolf SS-197 are new heroes of mine and perhaps will also be yours.
On December 8th, 1941, the Seawolf narrowly escaped being destroyed by Japanese air raids on Cavite, the U.S naval and submarine support facility in Luzon Philippines.
Loaded and ready for a war, Captain Warder proceeded to patrol off the north east coast of Luzon where Japanese forces on December 10thhad landed.
Intent on delivering the greatest amount of destruction to the enemy, Captain Warder set Seawolf and his crew on a daring and aggressive plan.
On December 14th, off the coast of Aparri, Luzon, Seawolf evaded a patrolling destroyer in effort to seek high value targets among the ships of the invading forces. The matter was complicated due to that the ships were nestled out of direct view in a cove where is was not possible for the periscope view from the Seawolf to observe from the safety of deep water.
The situation was tense, as the submarine navigated her way in the daylight during a submerged approach and attack, raising the scope only high and long enough to minimize detection. They passed behind the echo ranging destroyer and proceeded into the shallow waters surrounding the cove.
Venturing deeper in, Warder spotted what was obviously a target that fit his criteria for a kill, a sea plane tender. It was a high tonnage support ship full of vital supplies and armaments that would certainly hinder the enemy’s advance.
They arrived to the optimum point to fire their torpedoes and with the torpedomen having made all fish ready in their tubes and doors open, Warder ordered “Fire”… some seconds later ordered “Fire…” again and two MK14 steam torpedoes sped on their way. They tracked the torpedo run times with anticipation, expecting the terrific sound and shock of the warheads exploding into the motionless target.
There’s a problem though… no explosions.
Not to be daunted, Seawolf fired two more torpedoes at the target, emptying her forward tubes.
Hot, straight, and seemingly normal … but nothing.
Now every second that passed raised the anxiety of the Seawolf’s crew as they came closer to a depth charge attack from the alerted destroyer.
Determined to get their first kill, Captain Warder brought Seawolf about, rechecked the bearing to the target and commenced launching his two after torpedoes…. and…..then a resounding nothing.
Seawolf then cleared the area to evade the attacking destroyer with its deadly depth charges.
This engagement and subsequent actions earned Frederick Warder the nickname “Fearless Freddie” although it was a tag that he did not like at all. Warder was known for his aggressive tactics, but also his humble leadership and thoughtful humanity in the midst of battle which are legendary stories unto themselves. Seawolf under the command of Captain Warder would eventually find their share of good torpedoes and enemy ships destroyed.
Captain Warder and the crew of the Seawolf displayed from the beginning, the tenacity, grit and intelligence of the of the officers and crews of the Silent Service.
With their main armament’s reliability in question, Warder, in subsequent war patrols, set out to aggressively and courageously gather more evidence with methodical experiments using enemy ships for the odd dual mission. His records helped to prove that the torpedoes were at fault and not the submariners, as accused by the bureau department heads sitting comfortably in their leather bound chairs.
As the war progressed and the torpedo problem persisted, as a matter of survival and for the fulfillment of their mission of unrestricted warfare against the enemy, the Pacific Fleet submariners took personal responsibility to perform the comprehensive testing, upkeep, and safeguards needed. As a result, despite such inauspicious beginnings, the submarines in the Pacific became the most lethal naval weapons platform of World War II.
End of a “Moment in Submarine History”
Support the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
This Moment in History comes to you with only 15 days left in 2019 to donate towards a special INSIDE plaque at the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum in recognition of the USS BREMERTON SSN698. We’re standing at about $3200 and we can use $6800 more.
Large and small donations both count in the effort.
Donations of $50 or less will be matched before January 1st, 2020,
If you mention DiverDaveDunn and the Bremerton before Christmas, it will be matched AGAIN.
Dave Dunn (if you supply his name and before Dec 25th) and myself, C.K Yee, we will help triple your donation if $50 or under.
If you happen to have your hand on the firing button and ready to launch a $6800 donation, that would be awesome, no doubt, very awesome indeed…. and yet we’d like to see a broad participation on what we believe is a worthy cause that we all have taken part in and will help with our legacy in the future.
You may also see if your company may match donations and if they can get it in this month, make sure they mention their support for the USS BREMERTON SSN698 group.
Donations can be made DIRECTLY to the museum, but don’t forget to add SSN698 and DiverDaveDunn (up until Christmas) and Challen C.K. Yee (By January 1st 2020) to your message to the Museum to get the maximum bang out of your donation for our USS BREMERTON SSN698 Group donation efforts.
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