USS S-32 (SS-137) Decommissioned December 7, 1937
USS S-32 (SS-137) Decommissioned December 7, 1937
In 1932, Division 16 was ordered back to the eastern Pacific Ocean. S-32 departed Manila Bay on 2 May and, at the end of the month, arrived at Pearl Harbor, her homeport for the next five years. In June 1937, she sailed for the East Coast. In August, she reported for inactivation at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and, on 7 December, she was decommissioned and berthed at League Island.
Within two years, however, World War II had begun in Europe. Hostilities soon extended across the Atlantic; and, in the summer of 1940, S-32 began activation.
Recommissioned on 18 September 1940 and assigned to Division 52, S-32 conducted trials out of New London through November and, in December, proceeded to the Panama Canal Zone, whence she operated until April 1941. She then returned to New London but, toward the end of April, moved south again, to Bermuda. Through May, she patrolled and conducted training exercises out of the base at St. George, Bermuda, that had been acquired in the Destroyers for Bases Agreement of 2 September 1940.
In late June, she resumed exercises out of New London. In September, she moved down to Philadelphia for an overhaul and, by December, she was back in Connecticut. With 1942, however, she received orders back to Panama.
First, Second, and Third War Patrols
She arrived at Coco Solo in February. During the spring, she conducted two defensive patrols in the Pacific approaches to the Panama Canal and, in June, she proceeded to San Diego, California, en route to the Aleutians. In early July, she arrived at Dutch Harbor; and, on 7 July, she departed that Unalaska base on her first offensive war patrol. She patrolled the fog-covered waters of the Rat Islands and Amchitka into August, then shifted to an area north of Attu, returning to Dutch Harbor on 10 July.
Fourth War Patrol
Twelve days later, she departed on her fourth war patrol. Moving westward, she hunted in the Japanese traffic lanes between Kiska and Attu during the first week of the patrol. On 28 July, leaks developed in the after trim tank, but were compensated for by placing nine tons of water in the forward trim tanks. Although this meant that space was left to accommodate water for only one torpedo reload, depth control was regained, and with fuel suction shifted forward, reload capability slowly improved. On 29 August, she was off Amchitka to check for enemy shipping in sheltered areas on that island's north coast; then, on 31 August, she headed east to cover the Allied occupation of Adak. On 14 September, she returned to the junction of Rat Island and Amchitka where she continued her patrol for another six days. On 20 September, she headed for Dutch Harbor.
Fifth War Patrol
Arriving on 23 September, S-32 departed again on 8 October. During a trim dive, a fuel discrepancy, caused by the presence of water in the line during fueling at Dutch Harbor, was discovered. On 12 October, the S-boat ran out of reserve fuel in the number-three main ballast tank. The discrepancy was approximately 9000 gallons, but S-32 continued west, into the Kuril Islands.
On 17 October, she arrived off Paramushiro and, that evening, she took up station off the southeast coast of the island to patrol the entrances to Musashi Wan and Onekotan Strait. On the morning of 18 October, she sighted two ships at anchor in Musashi Wan, and, after a periscope check disclosed no other ships in the area, she began working her way to an attack position west or southwest of the targets. Moving slowly, with short and infrequent periscope exposures, through the calm and poorly charted bay, she went up for a final check at 10:23. While looking, she struck an uncharted sand bar. The S-boat, her tubes ready for firing, angled up 10 degrees. Her depth gauge showed 32 feet (9.8 m). During the next few seconds she slid over the bar, apparently showing periscope shears, bow, and, possibly, the whole bridge structure; then, over the bar, she took a down angle at high speed. At 10:25, she fired. Two torpedoes set at six feet, were sent against each of the targets. On firing the fourth and final "fish", she changed course and maneuvered at high speed toward the open sea. Two explosions were heard as she cleared the immediate area. At 10:45, she came to periscope depth to observe the damage.
One of the targets was afire amidships and had settled somewhat; she was anchored in shallow water and might have been resting on the bottom. The second target was obscured by the first. S-32 went to 80 feet (24 m) and proceeded out of the bay. At 12:05, she resumed her patrol east out of Onekotan Strait. That evening, she turned toward the Aleutians; and, on 27 October, she arrived at Dutch Harbor.
From Dutch Harbor, S-32 returned to San Diego. Overhaul followed her 11 November arrival; and, from 21–25 December, she tested newly installed equipment: a fathometer, radar, and keel-mounted sound gear. From 28 December 1942 to 26 January 1943, she provided services to the West Coast Sound School, and on 6 February, she headed north toward Dutch Harbor.
Sixth War Patrol
S-32 departed Unalaska on her sixth war patrol on 25 February. En route to her assigned station off Attu, she encountered very rough seas, strong winds, rain, mist, and fog. On 26 February, rolling was measured as much as 65 degrees to starboard.
Progress west was slow, but, on 1 March, she set a course toward Holtz Bay to check for enemy shipping. The next day, heavy mist and fog hindered her reconnaissance of Stellar Cove; and she turned to the coastal shipping lanes to intercept enemy traffic between Cape Wrangell and Holtz Bay. The entrances to the latter, to Chichagof Harbor, and to Sarana Bay, however were her primary hunting grounds. On the night of 9 March, off Holtz Bay, she attacked and damaged an enemy destroyer, then underwent a brief depth charging. Leaks caused by the depth charging were minimized, and S-32 continued her patrol.
Four nights later, on 13 March, seventeen miles (27 km) north of Holtz Bay, she attacked an enemy submarine which was lying to on the surface with her engines smoking. At 20:59, the S-boat launched two torpedoes at ten-second intervals at the enemy. At 21:00, she went deep, and as she passed 50 feet (15 m), one torpedo exploded. At 21:20, S-32 came to periscope depth, but the fog had closed in. The target was no longer visible.
On the afternoon of 15 March, a second submarine was sighted. The weather, for the first time, was "perfect for a periscope approach." At 17:27, S-32 fired a three-torpedo spread, estimated range 2,500 yards (2,300 m); track angle favorable. About two and a half minutes later, a muffled explosion was heard in the torpedo room. No explosion was heard by the control party. The S-boat went to periscope depth. Smoke was pouring skyward from the enemy's conning tower. A photograph was taken of the scene as the damaged target headed for the nearest beach. At 17:36, however, the enemy disappeared from view. Sound reported that the enemy's screws had stopped.
S-32 departed the Attu area early on the morning of 17 March. On 20 March, she moored at Dutch Harbor and, nine days later, she again sailed west. En route to Attu, cold weather caused icing on the superstructure, but the seas remained fairly calm and the sun was occasionally visible. On 3 April, however, as she approached Attu, more normal Aleutian weather closed in. From then to 16 April, snow and rain storms were almost continuous, seas were rough, winds were strong, and periods of sunlight were limited. At 01:57 on 10 April, while patrolling on a north-south line out of Holtz Bay, S-32 picked up a target on radar, some 7,000 yards (6,400 m) away. Ten minutes later, a second smaller ship was detected ahead of the first target. Five minutes after the appearance of the second ship on the screen, the first ship was sighted, range about 2,000 yards (1,800 m). S-32 launched four torpedoes. Two very loud explosions were heard and were followed by distant rumblings. At 0219, at a range of just over 3,500 yards (3,200 m), all traces of the ships disappeared from the screen.
Seventh War Patrol
On 16 April, S-32 set a course for Dutch Harbor. On 20 April, she arrived and commenced refit. On 4 May, she again sailed west. En route to the Kurils, she patrolled across possible Japanese reinforcement routes to Kiska and Attu, but almost zero visibility during the passage hindered hunting. On 12 May, she entered her assigned area off Paramushiro. The next day, she obtained her first fix, off Onekotan, and commenced patrolling across the approaches to Onekotan Strait and Musashi Wan. Visibility remained poor; seas were rough. Her radar, which had gone out of commission on 11 May, functioned improperly throughout her short time on station. On 15 May, the port main motor armature developed a zero resistance to ground. Repeated repair attempts failed, and the motor was secured. S-32 turned back toward Unalaska and moored at Dutch Harbor on 23 May.
On 27 May, the submarine departed the Aleutians for the last time; and, on 6 June 1943 she arrived at San Diego, where she provided training services for the remainder of World War II.