Mariners and Armed Guard Together at the Guns
Tanker Yamhill Battles Japanese Submarine
|Odlin - Maritime 62||
WAR SHIPPING ADMINISTRATION
|Advance Release For||
Cleared and Released
|Sunday Morning Papers||
Through Facilities of the
|October 8, 1944||
Office of War Information
An American tanker, the YAMHILL, out-maneuvered and out-fought a Japanese submarine in an all-day battle that ended only when the appearance of a Navy PBY plane persuaded the Nip to dive, the War Shipping Administration disclosed today. Details of the encounter in which the tanker eluded five torpedoes and many shells from the raider' s deck guns arrived in a report by Lieut. John Macauley, USMS, representative of the WSA in the Southwest Pacific Area.
It was 6:05 a.m. when Able Seaman Carman J. Nappa, of Union, N. J., lookout in the after crow's nest, electrified out of the boredom of watching the ship's wake, shouted down "Tin fish on the port side." The clang of general quarters sounded throughout the ship. This was the moment for which the merchant crew and Navy armed guard long had drilled.
Captain Phillip W. Shinn, of Long Beach, Calif., ordered the helm hard right and Quartermaster Richard C. Durant, Washington, Ill., responded with such violence that Nappa was almost tossed out of his perch.
Eighty merchant seamen and Navy gunners were at their stations and ready for action in less than three minutes and as they assembled the white wake of the torpedo showed the missile was missing the tanker's stern by less than five feet. Four more torpedoes came at the ship in quick succession and they all missed.
"I know we had beaten them when they missed with that last torpedo," relates Deck Cadet-Midshipman Robert J. Henderson, of Oakland, Calif. "But those torpedoes were plenty close. They came about four minutes apart."
As the last torpedo went past, the ship's company stood by tense and strained. The gun crew, commanded by Ensign Edward H. Solinsky, of Berkeley, Calif., had their big gun and their 20-millimeters loaded and ready for action. Merchant seamen were manning the ammunition train and loading the machine-guns. Under Captain Shinn's orders Quartermaster Durant had the ship bucking through the choppy sea on a variable zigzag.
Suddenly the big black conning tower was seen rising from the water on the starboard side and before the tanker could get out of range Jap sailors were at the deck guns. Two shells whizzed between the Yamhill's masts to explode 25 yards beyond the port side. An answering shell from the tanker was aimed a trifle low and it hit the water, ricocheting over the submarine. Then the armed guard bracketed the sub with a second shell beyond her and the Japanese submarine submerged, for the next shot would have exploded on the target.
The Yamhill thought it had seen the last of the sub but half an hour later smoke was seen five miles away that was judged to be coming from Diesel engines. Then the sub began to move on a course that would be out of the merchantman's effective range. The big gun on the tanker's bow spoke at its farthest range and the shell fell 25 yards short. But the two shells that answered from the sub fell 200 yards short of the tanker,
"We've got a longer left jab than she has, anyhow," observed Ensign Solinsky.
The sub had greater speed, however, and for almost 12 hours the Jap continuously maneuvered without getting within range of the YamhillL's big gun. Shot after shot was exchanged as the deadly game of tag went on, the tanker firing more than 30 shells from its big gun and the Japs twice that number.
Many shots had landed near the tanker when the perspiring crew and gunners heard the hum of motors. A Navy PBY was coming out of the sun in response to the distress signal earlier flashed by Radio Operator Herbert H. Haley, of Pullman, Wash. The submarine ceased maneuvering and submerged. The day-long battle was over.
The Yamhill, operated for the War Shipping Administration by the Los Angeles Tanker Operators, Inc., was built at the Swan Island shipyard of the Kaiser Company, Inc., Portland, Oreg. It was delivered December 5, l943.
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[William Jopes, a Cadet-Midshipman aboard the Yamhill, trained at a gunnery school in Half Moon Bay, California, firing 20-mm AA guns. While on the Yamhill he was assigned to the #1 gun tub, a 20 mm, on the bridge along with a member of the Armed Guard. Bill is an active member of the Cactus Mariners Chapter, American Merchant Marine Veterans, Tucson, Arizona.]
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