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  USS Seawolf SS-197
USN
Sargo-class submarine

1,450 Tons (Standard)
2,350 Tons (Submerged)
310' 6" x 26' 10" x 16' 7.5"
8 x 21" Torpedo Tubes
(4 forward, 4 aft)
1 x 3"/50 cal deck gun
4 x MG

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
USN November 3, 1942
Sub History
Built at Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. Laid down September 26, 1938 as a Sargo-class submarine. Launched August 15, 1939 as USS Seawolf (SS-197). Commissioned December 1, 1939 in the U.S. Navy (USN) with Lieutenant Frederick B. Warder in command. On April 12 1940 departs Portsmouth, New Hampshire for a shakedown cruise as far as the Panama Canal until June 21, 1940. Afterwards, assigned to the Pacific Fleet at San Diego. In the autumn of 1940, proceeds across the Pacific to Manila Bay based at Cavite Navy Base.

First War Patrol
On December 8, 1941 at the start of the Pacific War, departs on the first war patrol on her first patrol and searched for Japanese shipping in San Bernardino Strait. On December 14, 1941 fired a spread of torpedoes at Sanyo Maru in Port San Vicente. One torpedo hit, but did not explode and afterwards was subjected to a depth charge attack but sustained no damage. Afterwards, returns to Manila Bay ending the patrol on December 26, 1941.

On December 31, 1941 departs Manila southward and arrives Darwin on January 9, 1942 where she is loaded with 30-40 tons of .50-caliber anti-aircraft ammunition for American forces on Corregidor. On January 16, 1942 departs for Manila Bay and during the voyage the submarine spots seven Japanese freighters accompanied by four destroyers and a cruiser on January 21, 1942, but had no opportunity to fire any torpedoes. During the night of January 28-29, 1942 arrives at Corregidor where the ammunition was unloaded. Afterwards, Seawolf loaded torpedoes and passengers and departs for Surabaya on Java.

Seawolf departed Surabaya on 15 February and began patrolling in the Java Sea and Lombok Strait area. On 19 February, she fired four torpedoes at two Japanese freighter-transports in the Badung Strait. Damage to one was not ascertained, but the other was reported last seen down by the stern and listing to starboard. In fact, Sagami Maru had been damaged by U.S. Army Air Force aircrat, not by Seawolf.

A week later, she fired her stern tubes at a freighter and watched one hit forward of the bridge before going deep to evade depth charges from an escorting destroyer at which she had also fired. In March, Seawolf was hunting between Java and Christmas Island.

On 1 April, she approached the anchorage at Christmas Island where the Japanese invasion force was at anchor. Seawolf fired a spread at Naka. One torpedo hit, causing significant damage to the ship, although not harming any of the crew. Naka was forced to return to Japan for repairs and was out of the war for almost a year. Unaware she had hit her target, Seawolf underwent seven and a half hours of depth charge attacks. On 1 April, she attacked two cruisers. A violent explosion was heard, but no flames were seen. Seawolf ended her patrol on 7 April at Fremantle and received the Navy Unit Commendation.

From 12 May - 2 July, Seawolf patrolled the Philippine Islands area. She attacked freighters on 20 May and 23 May, and on 12 June, 13 June, 15 June, and 28 June. On 13 June, she fired at two ships and her crew heard four explosions. The submarine was credited with sinking Nampo Maru on 15 June. Returned to Fremantle for three weeks before beginning her sixth war patrol. {The vessel sunk on 12 June was Burma Maru).

Sixth War Patrol
On July 25, 1942 departed on her sixth war patrol of the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea. On August 3, 1942 sank a tanker. On August 3, 1942 sank Hachigen Maru. On August 14, 1942 sank Showa Maru then returned to Fremantle on September 15, 1942 ending the war patrol. Afterwards, underwent refit.

Seventh War Patrol
On October 7, 1942 departs Fremantle on her seventh war patrol operating in the Davao Gulf area.

On November 2, 1943 Seawolf sinks Gifu Maru. On November 3, 1943 inside Davao Gulf Seawolf again spots Sagami Maru, anchor just off the beach in Talomo Bay. The submarine made its first attack, firing a torpedo that exploded midship at 10:50am causing the ship to list 30 degrees to starboard then settled in shallow water. Aboard, the ship's bow deck guns began firing at the submarine.

The damaged ship righted itself and the Seawolf made a second attack shoring another hit at 11:31am in the aft “when the smoke cleared away the after gun platform and the entire topside was clear of people. The forward gun (was) manned but not firing.” and was down 10' in the stern, but not sinking. At the nearby dock area, observers were watching the attack.

Seawolf made a third attack before noon, and observed the flags were lowered and five life boats transporting crew from the ship to the dock. After this attack, the Seawolf was targeted by three Japanese aircraft and two ships and forced to dive to 200' and maneuver for over two hours.

According to History of the USS Seawolf page 3, the operations inside Davao Gulf "was believed to be the first instance in which an American submarine operated for any appreciable period in waters as confining as those of Davao Gulf." On November 8, 1942 attacks Keiko Maru. On December 1, 1942 returns to Pearl Harbor ending the war patrol. Afterwards, returns to the United States. On December 10, 1942 arrives at Mare Island for an overhaul completed by February 24, 1943 then departs for Pearl Harbor arriving March 13, 1943.

Eight War Patrol
On April 3, 1943 departs Pearl Harbor on her eighth war patrol near the Bonin Islands. On April 15, 1943 she torpedoed Kaihei Maru. O April 23, 1943 sank an old destroyer now known as Patrol Boat Number 39 and sank two sampans using her 3" gun deck gun. Seawolf ends the the patrol early having expends all torpedoes at enemy shipping. On May 3, 1943 arrives Midway Island for refit.

Ninth War Patrol
On May 17, 1943 departs on her ninth war patrol bound for the East China Sea. She encountered several large convoys as she prowled from Formosa to Nagasaki. The submarine tracked a convoy of 11 ships and fired a spread of torpedoes at a large freighter on 6 June. One torpedo hit the target but proved to be a dud, and another passed under the freighter and hit an escort. Two weeks later, she fired a spread at four ships. One was hit in the stern and sank in approximately nine minutes. This was Shojin Maru loaded with troops. Seawolf returned to Midway Island on 8 July and, four days later, steamed into Pearl Harbor.

Tenth War Patrol
Her next patrol was from 14 August-15 September. This patrol, in the East China Sea, was also ended prematurely due to firing all torpedoes. She sank 12,996 tons of enemy shipping, excluding two 75-ton sampans sunk by shellfire. Seawolf made contact with a six-ship convoy on her third day in the patrol area. She attacked day and night for three days before finally surfacing to sink Fusei Maru with her deck gun.

Eleventh War Patrol
On Seawolf's 11th patrol, in the South China Sea from October 5 until November 27. During the patrol, sank Wuhu Maru, Kaifuku Maru, and damaged a 10,000 ton cargo ship. The submarine refitted at Pearl Harbor, and on 22 December 1943, headed for the East China Sea on what was to be her most lucrative patrol. She attacked a seven-ship convoy on the night of 10-11 January 1944 and sank three ships totaling 19,710 tons.

On 14 January, Seawolf fired her last four torpedoes at two merchant ships in a convoy, damaging one and sinking Yamatsuru Maru. She continued tracking the convoy while radioing its position to Whale. Whale arrived on 16 January and promptly attacked, damaging one ship and sinking Denmark Maru. The next morning, Whale damaged another before action was broken off.

Seawolf (Commander Albert Marion Bontier) returned to Pearl Harbor on 27 January and sailed for San Francisco, California two days later. After undergoing a major overhaul at Hunters Point, the submarine headed west on 16 May. When she reached Pearl Harbor, she was assigned the task of photographing Peleliu Island in preparation for the forthcoming attack on that stronghold. She carried out this mission despite constant enemy air patrols from 4 June-7 July.

The submarine headed to Majuro for voyage repairs and was rerouted to Darwin. There, she received orders sending her on a special mission to Tawitawi, in the Sulu Archipelago. The submarine approached to within 700 yards of the beach, picked up a Captain Young and took him to Brisbane.

Fifteenth War Patrol
Seawolf stood out of Brisbane on 21 September to begin her 15th war patrol under the command of Lieutenant Commander A.M. Bontier. She reached Manus Island on 29 September, refueled, and sailed the same day carrying stores and Army personnel to the east coast of Samar.

Sinking History
On October 3, 1944 at 7:56am Seawolf and Narwhal exchanged radar recognition signals off Morotai. Shortly thereafter, a 7th Fleet task group was attacked by RO-41. Shelton was torpedoed and sunk, and USS Richard M. Rowell (DE-403) began to search for the enemy submarine. Since there were four friendly submarines in the vicinity of this attack, they were directed to give their positions and the other three did, but Seawolf did not respond.

On October 4, 1944, Seawolf again was directed to report her position, and again she failed to do so. One of two planes from Midway sighted a submarine submerging and dropped two bombs on it even though it was in a safety zone for American submarines. The site was marked by dye and Rowell steamed to the area and established sound contact on the submarine, which then sent a series of dashes and dots which Rowell stated bore no resemblance to the existing recognition signals. Rowell attacked with hedgehogs. The second attack was followed by underwater explosions, and debris rose to the surface. Likely, Seawolf was accidentally sunk by friendly fire.

On December 28 1944, Seawolf was announced overdue from patrol and presumed lost with all hands including 62 crew with 17 Army passengers. She was officially stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on January 20, 1945.

Postwar examination of Japanese records shows no attack listed that could account for the loss of Seawolf. While it is possible that Seawolf was lost to an operational casualty or as a result of an unrecorded enemy attack, it is more likely she was sunk by friendly fire.

Memorials
Seawolf received 13 battle stars for World War II service. She ranked fourteenth in confirmed tonnage sunk (71,609 tons) and tied for seventh in confirmed ships sunk (with USS Rasher and USS Trigger). Seawolf Park that honors the submarine and her crew is located on Pelican Island in Galveston, Texas.

References
History of the USS Seawolf (SS 197)
NARA U.S.S. Seawolf Report of 4th War Patrol
NARA U.S.S. Seawolf Report of 5th War Patrol
NARA U.S.S. Seawolf Report of 6th War Patrol
NARA U.S.S. Seawolf Report of 12th War Patrol
NARA U.S.S. Seawolf Report of 13th War Patrol
NavSource - Seawolf (SS-197) (photos)

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Last Updated
November 3, 2021

 

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