USS Sargo (SS-188)
Sargo making 18.8 knots (35 km/h) during sea trials off Provincetown, Massachusetts, 1 November 1938
|Builder:||Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut|
|Laid down:||12 May 1937|
|Launched:||6 June 1938|
|Commissioned:||7 February 1939|
|Decommissioned:||22 June 1946|
|Struck:||19 July 1946|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap, 19 May 1947|
|Class and type:||Sargo-class composite diesel-hydraulic and diesel-electric submarine|
|Displacement:||1,450 long tons (1,470 t) standard, surfaced
2,350 long tons (2,390 t) submerged
|Length:||310 ft 6 in (94.64 m)|
|Beam:||26 ft 10 in (8.18 m)|
|Draft:||16 ft 7 1⁄2 in (5.067 m)|
|Propulsion:||4 × Hooven-Owens-Rentschler (H.O.R.) 9-cylinder diesel engines (two hydraulic-drive, two driving electrical generators)
|Speed:||21 knots (39 km/h) surfaced
8.75 knots (16 km/h) submerged
|Range:||11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)|
|Endurance:||48 hours at 2 knots (3.7 km/h) submerged|
|Test depth:||250 ft (76 m)|
|Complement:||5 officers, 54 enlisted|
|Armament:||8 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
(four forward, four aft)
24 torpedoes 
1 × 3-inch (76 mm) / 50 caliber deck gun 
four machine guns
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.
Sargo was the first vessel equipped with a new lead-acid battery designed by the Bureau of Steam Engineering (BuEng) to resist battle damage, based on a suggestion by her commissioning commanding officer, Lieutenant E. E. Yeomans. It quickly became known as the "Sargo battery". Instead of a single hard rubber case, it had two concentric hard rubber cases with a layer of soft rubber between them. This was to prevent sulfuric acid leakage in the event one case cracked during depth-charging. This remained the standard battery design until replaced with Sargo II and GUPPY batteries in submarines upgraded under the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program after World War II. Each battery's capacity was slightly increased by installing 126 cells instead of 120; this also raised the nominal voltage from 250 volts to 270 volts, which has been standard in US usage ever since, including the backup batteries of nuclear submarines.
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 when the Japanese attacked 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), 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. Expecting a convoy, she went in closer, and that night detected a freighter, firing one torpedo; it prematured eighteen seconds later. Confidence in the Mark VI shaken, she switched to contact pistol afterward.
On 24 December, she found two freighters, firing two torpedoes at one, one at the other, from about 1,000 yards (900 m), scoring no hits. Temporarily losing depth control, she broached, and the target turned away; Sargo fired two stern tubes at 1,800 yards (1,600 m), with no more success. 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, 900 yards (800 m); both again missed. 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 and making certain TDC bearings matched perfectly before firing two torpedoes at each ship, at an average of 1000 yards; all missed.
After her skipper discovered the torpedoes were running too deep, and correcting the problem, Sargo detected a target at dusk on 26 December losing, then regaining, contact, and running ahead, so be able to get good position. Then weather intervened, and the ships escaped.
A few days afterward, a big, slow tanker gave Sargo another opportunity, and again, the approach was meticulous, firing one torpedo at a close 1,200 yards (1,100 m). It missed. In exasperation, Sargo signaled headquarters, questioning the Mark 14's reliability on an open radio circuit.
On 20 January 1942, she assisted in the rescue of the crew of S-36 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) 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 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 Australian plane which mistook her for a Japanese submarine. 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) was detailed to guard Darwin's approaches. 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, presaging another deadly failing of the Mark 14. Sargo then surfaced and finished off the crippled freighter with gunfire.
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) 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).
War patrols under Philip W. Garnett and post-war fate
On her ninth war patrol (now commanded by Philip W. Garnett, Class of 1933), 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.
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. Still, she made four attacks and fired all her topedoes. She sank the transports Nichiro Maru (6,500 tons) on 17 February and Uchide Maru (5,300 tons) on 29 February; this time, the wartime credit, one ship of 7,000 tons, remarkably, increased.
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.
- Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 285–304. ISBN 1-55750-263-3.
- Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 269–270. ISBN 0-313-26202-0.
- U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
- U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 202–204
- Friedman, p. 265
- The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia, Sargo-class article
- 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.
- Blair, p.139-40.
- Blair, p.140.
- Blair, p.141.
- Blair, p.141. Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) would wait months to do the same.
- Jacobs' courage here is exemplary, recalling Ned Beach's a generation later in relation to Tang-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.
- Blair, p.174.
- Dunn, Peter. "US SUBMARINE ATTACKED BY A HUDSON BOMBER OF 14 SQUADRON RAAF OFF THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN COAST". www.ozatwar.com. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
- Blair, p.185. 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.
- The Australian bombing would be the last straw for Jacobs, who went to shore duty at BuOrd. Blair, p.185.
- This made him the youngest officer so far to command a fleet boat. Blair, pp.185, 192, 285, & 906.
- Blair, p.192.
- When Sargo returned, Gregory was removed. Blair, p.286.
- Blair, p.921.
- Blair, p.931.
- Not unexpectedly, Carmick was relieved. Blair, p.939.
- Blair, p.939.
- Blair, p.570-1.
- Blair, p.571.
- Blair, p.942.
- Blair, Clay, Jr. Silent Victory. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975.
- Lenton, H.T. American Submarines. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1973.
- Sargo stories by Bart Bartholomew at SubmarineSailor.com
This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here. The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia, Sargo-class article
- Historic photos of diesel-powered USS Sargo (SS-188) on Navsource.org, includes photo of SSN-583 during construction viewed by SS-188 crewman
- Photos & video of dedication of memorial to the crew of USS Sargo (SS-188) from the crewmen of nuclear-powered USS Sargo (SSN-583) at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas
- The National Museum of the Pacific War - Wikipedia page (includes link to official museum website)