30 May 2012

Turn 22: Barriers and milestones

16—24 May 1942

A straightforward, and reasonably successful week.

Higher command {i.e., the War Event table} directed the force to execute a barrier mission in and around the Straits of Makassar and Malacca—choke points on trade routes extremely vital to the Empire. Four boats were in position to take up this duty: USS Tambor (SS-198) and Shark (SS-174) came in from the east, while USS Sargo (SS-188) and Pickerel (SS-177) moved from their previously assigned patrol areas to the west. The combination of operations in restricted waters and the region’s high importance made the subs’ mission unusually dangerous. Three of the four boats were spotted at some point in the process, but all avoided significant mishap. Only Sargo conducted a successful hunt. On the night of the 21st, she brought down a 5,000 ton oiler, and weathered a vicious depth charging in return. She escaped unharmed, and is en route back to base to re-arm.

Elsewhere in the fleet, two other boats each sank 5,000 ton cargo ships. USS Flying Fish (SS-229) continued her excellent maiden patrol; after only three weeks, she is tied for seventh place on the tonnage leader board. The third boat to score this week, USS Seadragon (SS-194), is one of the subs with whom the Fish is tied.

Only one boat was damaged this week, and that did not come in combat. Early in her patrol in the Solomons, USS Seal (SS-183) suffered a major engineering casualty—her third bout of significant engine distress thus far in the war. (Somewhat paradoxically, she holds the record for longest war patrol.) Ops staff is urging that Seal replace one of the boats scheduled for major refit later this year.

Three kills for 15,000 brought the wartime total to 224,000 tons. That is enough to meet the end-of-May career longevity milestone—with a whole week to spare! [/sarcasm] The next is 360,000, due three months hence.

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