22 February 2012

Turn 10: What exactly is a sargo?

15–21 February 1942

I am not making any of these up.
It’s a . . .

Wait for it . . .

A sargo is a . . .

[Dramatic pause . . .]

. . . .

A fish.  A sargo is a fish.

If Wikipedia is to be believed—and since it’s on the internet, it has to be true—the sargo, or Diplodus sargus, is a small “seabream” native to waters nowhere near America. If certain other sources are to believed, they wear dixie cups and ride fierce, psychedelically colored torpedoes (?) like mighty chariots on the surface of a twilit sea. Huh.

Anyway, the reason we care—beyond our general love and thirst for knowledge on all topics, of course—is that D. sargus was also the namesake of a United States submarine (an entire class of subs, actually) that fought in World War II. And our sargo, or USS Sargo (SS-188) to be precise, has been on an absolute two-week rampage in the Coral Sea.

After having wasted an entire month dealing with and recovering from the debacle of base-to-base transit upon the fall of Manila, she put to sea out of Surabaya on her second war patrol on the 4th of this month. As mentioned in passing last week, she started searching for the enemy upon arrival in the Coral Sea and, aided by ULTRA intelligence, encountered a large convoy on the 11th. She did her part to contribute to the amazingly successful week by sinking a 5,000 ton merchant. She evaded the ensuing counterattack and remained on station.

Which brings us to this week. Again guided by ULTRA, on the 21st she encountered a smaller mixed group of warships and auxiliaries. She patiently maneuvered past the screening destroyers, and managed to set up a favorable attack on the 5,000 ton oiler at the center of the formation. Her first spread hit, the fish exploded, and all hell broke loose.

Rather than slipping away in the confusion, Sargo devoted herself to causing more damage. In the swirling chaos that immediately erupted around the conflagration, she managed to fire her remaining forward tubes and all of those aft. One of the last fish fired found the stern of 5,000 freighter, sending a second (less spectacular, but equally fatal) column of fire into the night sky. With her reloads practically expended, she finally broke contact. She will (barring bad transit luck) return to port next week to rearm—and receive a hero’s welcome. She is the first boat to sink multiple ships in a single engagement. She is also now tied for the lead in both number of ships sunk and total tonnage. It was a good patrol.

Elsewhere, the rest of the fleet found itself with very little to brag about, especially compared to the amazing totals from last week. Only two other boats managed to sink small targets, giving the fleet a total weekly haul of four ships for 15,000 tons. (This is still entirely acceptable for this point in the war.) Counterattacks damaged three boats, so it looks like our streak of good fortune in that department may be over. Still, with a wartime total of 114,000 tons, and a full week left in February, I can’t complain about anything.

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