As the war progressed, the Japanese merchant fleet became more depleted due
to the relentless sinkings by US submarines. What had once been a mighty
merchant marine capable of delivering goods to their far-flung outposts was no
longer in existence. Smaller ships, junks, sampans, barges, etc. became the
only way to move supplies. As these small vessels were not good torpedo
targets, US subs revamped their deck armament to increase the efficiency of surfaces
attacks. This tactic proved very successful in cutting off the supply lines.
When built, our subs carried only one large deck gun, plus 20mm and possibly
a 40mm. Note that in the above picture, this boat now sports 2-5"" deck guns,
plus 2-40mm guns. Also used in surface attacks were 30 and 50 calibre machine
guns. This configuration was quite common in the latter stages of the war.
Each 5 inch gun had a crew of six; gun captain, first loader, second loader, third loader, pointer and trainer. In the above the trainer is shown seated. Seated opposite, but not visible, is the pointer. Ammuniton was available from the ready locker built into the structure around the conning tower. It was also passed from the magazine (below the crews mess) to the deck by way of the ammunition scuttle. After firing empty casings were deep-sixed.
Click to hear . . . 5 Inch Gun Firing . . .
One thing that sticks in my mind was that Captain Hazzard would pass the message below to "Send up a five inch bullet.". That's a big bullet!
As for the BLENNY, during the period 11 July to 11 August 1945, she sank over 60 small vessels using the 5" deck guns, 40 mm, 30 & 50 cal. machine guns, 12 ga shotgun, demolition charges, and even diesel oil. She also bombarded a pier and a general store. In a prior patrol, BLENNY bombarded a Jap-held island that had an active radio station.
Following are some excerpts (verbatim) from the last war patrol report of the USS BLENNY during the time period of July-August 1945. At this stage of the war, about the only targets left were the various small craft used to ferry supplies to the Japanese garrisons.
A majority of these native crews were brought aboard and later transferred to another boat. Some abandoned their vessels by boat after warning shots were fired, and some had already left their boat when we arrived. Latter was probably due to hearing gunfire and seeing smoke from burning vessels.
1. Four men abandoned the junk as the warning shots were fired, but when we waved to them to return, they did so. The boarding party found out that it was headed from Singapore to some other port loaded with 15 bags of flour.
Using the 40mm at 200 yards we sank the target.
2. Took aboard the crew of four men and inspected cargo to find it was 40 bags of flour and coffee on this northbound vessel.
Sank target by cutting holes in hull with 12 ga. shotgun.
3. Bound from Singapore to Bangkok for a load of rice, this junk was carrying 5000 lb. of sugar and 1000 lb. of soap. The crew of 11 men were taken aboard to be later transferred to another vessel. The routes from Singapore to Bangkok and from Singapore to Singora are well travelled.
Sank target with two 5 inch hits at 300 yards.
4. One ton of sugar was all that was carried on this large junk, the crew of which had abandoned the ship when warning shots were put across their bow. The boarding party found very little to identify either the ship or its destination.
A new method was tried on this junk. A 1 1/2 lb. block of TNT was placed next to the bilge under a sack of sugar with an electric detonating cap in it and wires extending to the deck of our own ship. There a set of 5 dry cells in series did the rest. It only took the boat about ten minutes to sink --- a very effective method.
5. Boarded and discovered junk to be loaded full with about 20 tons of bagged rice, about half brown and half white, and bound from Singora to Trengganu. Enlisted services of Malay junk crew to jettison this cargo as we had no other junks in sight and disliked the thought of keeping these native crew members aboard any length of time. Furthermore, we were well out from land and are not likely to have enemy plane competition.
Rice all jettisoned.
6. Carrying a cargo of 5700 lb. of sugar, this junk was headed for Bangkok from Singapore for a return cargo of rice. They carried a Jap flag aboard, but had no Japanese in the crew. The vessel was named Thong Ah numbered S-2084 and was operated by Japanese firm of Syonan.
None of the passports of the 8 Chinese crew members were kept as it was learned that they would be punished if they lost them. All passengers and crew were taken care of.
One five inch hit is usually enough to sink one of these junks, but in this case the sights on the gun had slipped and the deflection was badly out.
At a range of 500 yards one hit was made with the five inch for 2 shells fired.
7. Target anchored too near the beach in water too shallow so no attempt was made to put a boarding party on this sampan. However, the outline of it was very typical of the motor sampan of this area; hence, after warning shots cut across the bow and allowing time for the crew to abandon ship, it was fired on with 30 and 50 caliber machine guns. When the incendiary did set it on fire there was no doubt that it carried quite a few drums of oil or fuel, for it burned with a black, billowing smoke very characteristic of fuel. There was a definite smell of gas in the air.
As was true in several cases, this sampan had several small explosions after it began to burn to indidcate the presence of gasoline or kerosene, There was no return fire from the sampan.
8. The boarding party to this vessel found it loaded with several tons of salt, rock type. From the crew, which were taken aboard to transfer to a small fishing vessel, it was learned that they were headed for Singora where the cargo was to be traded for food and clothing. They carried a very good chart of this coastal area.
Sank target with 5 inch, one hit at 200 yards.
9. When the warning shots were put across the bow of this junk, the crew without much ado took to their small boat which was promptly swamped with their over-enthusiastic departure. Then they gladly took to the life ring thrown them by members of the boarding party and came aboard to be later transferred to a small fishing vessel.
Set on fire with 50 caliber at a range of 200 yards with 20 hits out of 50 rounds.
10. The Japs were using this one to good advantage until it was intercepted, as the boarding party found a cargo of 75 bales of Jap army and marine uniforms. The crew abandoned it in their own boat.
Sank target with two 5 inch hits at 300 yards.
11. The cargo was 35 bags of sugar under a Chinese flag. A crew of five Chinese took the small boat and left two Malayans to swim. The latter were picked up.
The first 5 inch was too high, but the second was on the water line. Range was 400 yards.
12. And then some humor -- Keystone Kops style!
Had taken aboard 4 Chinese before sinking junk.
Went alongside small sailing fishing canoe to discharge our 4 Chinese. Three of them shinnied down mast safely while the fourth took a giant swing on the mast, capsizing the boat. Efforts to right boat of no avail. Took aboard original Chinese plus four more Indians. Later enlisted services of fishing fleet to get rid of our natives. Discharged four natives to small fishing canoe giving them $1000 Jap invasion currency we got somewhere - and a sack of canned goods.
Above are just a few of the 60+ such actions that took place in about one month. Note that every effort was made to eliminate possible loss of life.
Taking crew members aboard from these vessels was a burden and involved a certain amount of risk of being caught on the surface by Jap planes. The boarding parties also involved some risk and this is noted in the incident of the USS COD being forced down by an enemy plane and having to leave their boarding party on a junk until they could come back to pick them up. Those men spent three days on that junk until they were found by the USS BLENNY and transferred back to the COD.
Floating mines were a constant and very dangerous hazard. Whenever sighted, they were exploded or sunk by machine gun fire.
Click to hear . . . Machine Gun Firing . . .
Pictures captured from VCR tapes of USS Blenny and USS Cod 16mm movies taken during WWII. "Credit for the COD film: Norman R. Jensen, combat photographer."