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  USS Aspro SS-309 (AGSS-309)
USN
Balao-class submarine

1,550 Tons (surfaced)
2,429 Tons (submerged)
311.6' x 27' 3" x 16' 10"
10 x 23" Torpedo Tubes
with 24 torpedoes
1 x 5" deck gun
1 x 40mm gun
1 x 20mm cannon

PacificWrecks.com
USN c1944

PacificWrecks.com
USN August 3, 1945
Sub History
Built by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine. Laid down December 27, 1942 as a Balao-class submarine. Launched April 7, 1943. Commissioned July 31, 1943 in the U. S. Navy (USN) as USS Aspro SS-309 with LtCdr Henry C. Stevenson in command. After a shakedown cruise off Portsmouth, NH, Newport, RI and New London, CT. On September 17, 1943 departed via the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor arriving October 18, 1943.

First War Patrol
On November 24, 1943 departed Pearl Harbor on her first war patrol. On November 28, 1943 made a refueling stop at Midway before proceeding to the Formosa (Tawian) and Sakishima Islands. On December 15, 1943 spotted a Japanese convoy consisting of one tanker, two freighters, and two escorts. Aspro fired torpedoes at the tanker and claimed a hit, but apparently failed to inflict serious damage. In fact, none were sunk but postwar she was credited with damaging tankers Sarawak Maru and Tenei Maru. On January 1, 1944 ended the patrol at Midway after 39 days at sea and began refit and resupply.

During the patrol, LtCdr Henry C. Stevenson noticed his eyesight was becoming weaker and afterwards was disqualified from sea duty but he recommended his brother take command and on January 15, 1944 Lt. Comdr. William A. Stevenson assumed command. On January 15, 1944 departed Midway to Pearl Harbor for a brief period of training, then returned to Midway on February 3, 1944.

Second War Patrol
On February 3, 1944 departed Midway on her second war patrol operating north of Truk. On February 15, 1944 spotted a large submarine later identified as Japanese submarine I-43 and after a long surface pursuit and at 10:23pm fired four torpedoes and heard several explosions and the bow rise as the target sank. This was her first confirmed sinking. On February 17, 1944 survived a depth charge attack but sustained no damage. On March 4, 1944 fired a torpedo at a transport that caused an explosion that shook the submarine but the target was only damaged. On March 28, 1944 ended the patrol at Pearl Harbor after 54 days at sea and began refit and resupply.

Third War Patrol
On April 22, 1944 departed Pearl Harbor on her third ward patrol and four days later made a brief stop at Midway for additional supplies then proceeded to the patrol area off Palau.

On May 14, 1944 while operating with USS Bowfin (SS-287) the pair spot a convoy including two cargo vessels Jokuja Maru and Bisan (Miyama) Maru with three escorts CH-12, CHa-32 and CHa-60. At 5:54am Aspro fired a spread of torpedoes with Aspro claiming one hit that left a ship damaged and sinking by the stern. In fact, one of her torpedoes hit Bisan (Miyama) Maru causing damage and to flood and sink by the stern. The escorts make a depth charge attack that does not cause any damage.

On May 15, 1944 made another attack firing torpedoes at the escorts and heard an explosion as a target sank. In fact, Aspro torpedoed and sank Jokuja Maru. Afterwards continued to patrol for another month. On June 16, 1944 ended the patrol at Fremantle. For her actions, officially credited sinking one cargo ship and shared credit for the other ship totaling 8,650 tons of enemy shipping. Afterwards, undergoes two weeks of refit at Fremantle.

Fourth War Patrol
On July 9, 1944 departs Fremantle on her fourth war patrol. On July 16, 1944 arrives at Darwin Harbor to refuel proceeds to the South China Sea. On July 19, 1944 spotted a convoy of four ships with five escorts off the west coast of Luzon. At 5:45am fired a spread of torpedoes and heard a series of explosions and claimed to sink one ship and damage another. The next day, fired more torpedoes at the convoy but they all missed.

On July 28, 1944 spotted a Peking Maru and fired a spread of torpedoes and heard three explosions and observed the ship listing and on fire but did not sink. A week later, the same ship was spotted run aground and listing to starboard with two holes at the waterline.

On August 6, 1944 spotted two ships and commenced an attack at 10:16am and observed one listing 15° to port but still underway. On August 7, 1944 spotted an convoy of a dozen ships and fired a spread of torpedoes claiming a large freighter as damaged. On August 18, 1944 ended the patrol at Fremantle.

Fifth War Patrol
On September 10, 1944 departed Fremantle on her fifth patrol in the South China Sea. On September 30, 1944 while in transit to the patrol area off northeast Luzon spotted a convoy of seven or eight vessels with four escorts and fired torpedoes that heavily damaged a freighter. On October 2, 1944 she attacked a tanker and heard breaking-up noises for 10–15 minutes. Through her periscope, she saw her victim listing to starboard with the bow high in the air. Soon Aspro lost sight of the ship and claimed to have sunk her. About an hour later, Aspro attacked Azuchisan Maru in the same convoy that was observed sinking stern first with the bow upward.

Afterwards, rendezvoused with USS Hoe (SS-258) and USS Cabrilla (SS-288) to form a wolf pack. On October 6, 1944 spots Japanese convoy MATA-28 that departed San Fernando. At 8:00am, fired three torpedoes by periscope at a tanker and claimed a hit, but in fact caused no damage.

On October 7, 1944, USS Hoe spots a convoy of about a dozen ships. At 04:55, Aspro fired four torpedoes at Macassar Maru and observed it sinking. Shortly thereafter, she terminated the patrol. On October 14, 1944 ended the patrol at Saipan then departed for Pearl Harbor arriving October 25, 1944 for refit.

Sixth War Patrol
On November 21, 1944 departs Pearl Harbor on her sixth war patrol under the command of James H. Ashley, Jr.  bound for Saipan for a refueling stop. On November 28, 1944 her no. 1 generator broke a banding wire off the rotor and required an armature to be replaced and turned back to Pearl Harbor for a week of repairs. On December 13, 1944 again departed Pearl Harbor commencing her sixth war patrol to provide lifeguard duty off Taiwan in support of carrier aircraft strikes during early January 1945. On January 2, 1945 spotted and fired three torpedoes claiming two hits, in fact only one hit and damaging Shintsu Maru that is sunk the next day by carrier aircraft.

On January 6, 1945 spotted and attacked two small ships with torpedoes but missed. During the patrol, rescued four aviators. On February 11, 1945 ended the patrol at Pearl Harbor then departed for San Francisco. On February 20, 1945 entered Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard for a three month overhaul. On May 31, 1945 departed for Pearl Harbor.

Seventh War Patrol
On June 25, 1945 departed Pearl Harbor with a refueling stop at Midway before taking up station off Japan. On July 8, 1945 assigned lifeguard duties to rescue downed aviators and on July 20, 1945 took up a new position to cover U. S. Navy carrier aircraft strikes over southern Honshū. On July 25, 1945 fired torpedoes at a Japanese tug and claimed it sunk, her last torpedo attack of the Pacific War.

On August 3, 1945 entered Sagami Sea and proceeded to the northwest into Sagami Bay coming within five to six miles of the coast of Honshū to rescue Captain Edward "Ed" H. Mikes, Jr. who bailed out of P-51D "Mrs. Beak" 44-72561. Afterwards, B-17H "Bulgin Bessie" 43-39265 was successfully dropped him a Higgins A-1 lifeboat and he began motoring southeast while Aspro proceeded northwest. Above, two PB4Y-2 Privateers from VBP-121 circled to protect the life raft. While attempting to preform the rescue, attacked by two F1M2 Pete biplanes, the submarine was forced to dive to avoid an attack. After manning the 20mm cannon to fire at the attacking biplanes, crew member Henry "Hank" Freeman dove into the water to aid the pilot until Aspro resurfaced and rescued both Mikes and Freeman. Afterwards, Freeman earned the Silver Star for "Conspicuous Gallantry" during the rescue and the Purple Heart for wounds he received.

On August 4, 1945 during the early morning hours, proceed to the south of Inubo Saki to assist B-29s searching for for P-51D 44-63974 pilot 2nd Lt. Ralph N. Heintz who bailed out in the vicinity. At 8:07am sighted the two B-29s near the coast and two Zeros dropping aerial phosphorus bombs. At 8:11am radar contact at 15 miles and dived, then surfaced at 8:52am. At 11:15am again made radar contact and observed the B-29s, the radar contacts were believed to be the bombers then two minutes later two radar contacts closing fast and dived before being strafed. After surfacing at 1:07pm, several bullet holes were observed near the periscope shears and a bullet threw splinters into the no. 2 periscope bearings causing it to become jerky and was not used to prevent further damage.

On August 13, 1945 returned to Midway ending her seventh war patrol. For World War II service, Aspro earned seven battle stars.

Postwar
On September 1, 1945 departed Midway and ten days later reached San Francisco. On January 30, 1946 placed out of commission and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet berthed at Mare Island. On July 6, 1951 recommissioned and based at San Diego for two years off California. On November 9, 1953 again placed into reserve status at Mare Island and decommissioned on April 30, 1954.

On May 5, 1957 again recommissioned and had a shakedown cruise. On June 8, 1954 resumed active service off the west coast. In 1959 used in the filming for the Hollywood movie Battle of the Coral Sea (1959) with scenes filmed aboard Aspro with lead actor Cliff Robertson. Afterwards operated in the western Pacific until the middle of 1959 and returned to San Diego on January 22, 1960.

Afterwards, overhauled and redesignated AGSS-309 and continued to operate off the west coast of the United States. Finally, on September 1, 1962 decommissioned. On October 9, 1962 struck from the Navy registry.

Sinking History
On November 16, 1962 sunk as a target by a single torpedo mark 37 fired by USS Pomodon (SS-486) as part of a service weapons test that impacted on the port side amidships and sank in 17 minutes in 630 fathoms roughly 16 miles off San Diego.

Memorials
Aspro is listed on the Allied Submarine Plaque at Fremantle.

References
Note, for the August 3, 1945 rescue, Wikipedia USS Aspro (SS-309) incorrectly states the rescued pilot was Henry "Hank" Freeman, in fact this rescue was Edward Mikes.
Navy History & Heritage Command - Aspro I (SS-309)

NavSource USS Aspro SS-309
USS Aspro (SS-309) - Report of Seventh War Patrol pages 9-11
(Page 9) "Narrative (Cont'd)
3 August 1945.
0558 Sighted Pete at 10 miles, dived.
0857 Surfaced, proceeding to lifeguard station for days Mustang strike on Tokyo.
0955 2 B-17s, our Dumbos for today arrived
1015 4 Mustangs, our CAP reported.
1104 Heard over VHF that a pilot had parachuted in Sagami Nada [Sagami Sea]. Position give put him just inside the Bay [Sagami Bay]. Sent one of our B-17s to investigate. Second B-17 went to investigate fighter down in vicinity south of Choshi [sis Chofu?]."
(Page 10)
"Narrative: (Con'd)
"3 August 1945. (Con'td)
1115 First B-17 reported that he had dropped a wooden boat
1145 Two Privateers (B-24s) relieved out B-17 and returned to base. Privateers jettisoned their bombs. Our fighter cover said they could not remain with us more than two hours as their fuel was getting low.
1200 Entered Sagami Nada [Sagami Sea] - still had about twenty miles to go. Lat.s 35 - 03 N, Long. 139 - 27 E.
1256 Several Zeros attacked our fighter cover. In the ensuing dog fights, one of our Mustangs was shot down and his plane fell about 2000 yards on our starboard beam. At this time I had all lookouts in the forward part of bridge and was prepared to make a very fast dive if zeros attacked us. Privateers drove Zeros away. At this time we could see survivors boat from the bridge. Our fighter cover departed for base.
1303 Saw Zeros strafing our pilot. Told Privateers and they proceeded to drive Zeros away. Zeros had plenty of respect for Privateers and did not again approach survivor or us.
1313 Observed Pete on starboard beam starting in for a bombing run on us. Told Privateers and they immediately drove him off. Privateers were flying about 100 feet over surface of water and keeping us in the center of a tight circle.
1318 Reached pilot; all back full. Pete started another run with Privateers working him over in a heavy cross fire. Our survivor was just about to get aboard when it appear that Pete was going to come on in. Cleared bridge after firing several bursts of 20mm most of which looked like hits in the left wing. Privateers were gradually crowding Pete off towards our bow.
1318-10 Submerged. As we were practically dead in the water we could only flood down and hope for the best. I could not see how the Jap could get through such punishment but he managed to release two bombs from an altitude of about 800 feet which fell 100 feet short on starboard bow, as we reached a depth of about 25 feet.
1320 Through periscope saw Pete crash in a cloud of smoke and fire about a mile off to port.
1326 Surfaced, CO to bridge survivor coming alongside.
1327 As I reached the bridge, saw another Pete starting another run on us from a high altitude. This time he was in the clear. All ahead full!
1327-01 Dived.
1327-40 Two bombs as we passed 45 foot. Things were beginning to look pretty grim at this point.
(Page 11)
“(B) Narrative: (Con’t)
1333 At periscope depth saw Privateers splash the Pete who had just bombed us. They were certainly doing a magnificent job of culminating the Jap for us ad I haded to let them down after we had gone this far. Decided to make another try.
1335 Reversed course. Survivor kept right with us following our periscope around around - which helped considerable.
1343 After a careful search came to 40 feet and asked Privateers over VHF if it looked safe to surface. Answer “I believe so - we just splashed another Jap”.
1344 Surfaced, rescue part (2 men) on deck.
1345 Rescued Captain E. H. Mikes, USA at 35-11N, 139 - 20E. Told Privateers to depart and they really started reaching for altitude.
1346 Our radar screen showed clear, so we went ahead full speed hoping to get at least a few miles behind me before being driven down. If we submerged now we would still be in the Bay when we surfaced at dark.
1348 SD contact 6 1/2 miles, closing.
1348-02 Crash dived to 100 feet. No bombs or bullets. Our pilot was in good condition. His left arm was grazed by a bullet when his boat was strafed. The Jap had cut holes in his boat fore and after and had cut up both life rings. It is a miracle how they missed him. Administered medical alcohol to survivor.
1752 Sighted PC boat astern, probably searching for survivors as he was not pinging.
Sighted searchlights sweeping the surface to north of us. Surfaced after careful periscope, SJ [surface search radar] and SD [air search radar ] search and went ahead full power on 3 main engines, charging on the fourth. Commenced receiving reports from SJ on contacts all over the place. Ranges 900 to 2500 yards. Must have been birds."
Pacific Air Combats WWII Voices From The Past (1993) by Henry Sakaida The Rescue of Ed Mikes pages 81-89, 93 (map)

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August 5, 2020

 

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