Tuesday, July 5, 2011
USS Seadragon (SS-194)
Figure 1: USS Seadragon (SS-194) moving along at 19.5 knots off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts, 28 August 1939. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Broadside view of USS Seadragon (SS-194) moving along at 19.5 knots off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts, 28 August 1939. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Seadragon (SS-194) moving along at 19.5 knots off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts, 28 August 1939. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Seadragon (SS-194) photographed from directly ahead while underway off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 17 April 1943. Note the escort ship (DE) fitting out in the background. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Seadragon (SS-194) photographed from directly astern while off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 17 April 1943. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Seadragon (SS-194) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 5 August 1944. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Seadragon (SS-194) off the Hunters Point Navy Yard, San Francisco, California, 24 May 1945. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a small fish, USS Seadragon (SS-194) was a 1,450-ton Sargo class submarine that was built by the Electric Boat Company at Groton, Connecticut, and was commissioned on 23 October 1939. The ship was approximately 310 feet long and 27 feet wide, had a top speed of 20 knots surfaced and 8.75 knots submerged, and had a crew of 55 officers and men. Seadragon was armed with eight 21-inch torpedo tubes and carried a total of 24 torpedoes. The submarine was also armed with one 3-inch deck gun and two .50-caliber and two .30-caliber machine guns.
After her shakedown cruise along America’s east coast, Seadragon left New England and was sent to the Philippines in May 1940. After arriving at Cavite Naval Shipyard in the Philippines on 30 November, Seadragon became part of the US Asiatic Fleet and spent the next year participating in numerous training exercises. On 8 December 1941 (7 December east of the International Date Line), Seadragon was at Cavite undergoing an overhaul when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
On 10 December 1941, Seadragon was moored next to another submarine, USS Sealion (SS-195), when Japanese aircraft attacked Cavite. Sealion took a direct hit which destroyed that submarine but also damaged Seadragon. The force of the explosion that ripped through Sealion tore off part of Seadragon’s bridge and sent shrapnel and splinters flying all over the ship, puncturing her fuel tanks and slicing through her conning tower, killing one officer and wounding five others. The heat from Sealion’s massive explosion scorched Seadragon’s hull and blistered her paint black. Although fires now raged all along the wharf next to Seadragon and flames were moving closer and closer to a nearby barge filled with torpedoes, the submarine rescue vessel USS Pigeon (AM-47) disregarded the imminent danger and moved in close to Seadragon. Pigeon managed to tow Seadragon away from the burning wharf and brought her safely into the nearby channel. Seadragon was then able to steam into Manila Bay under her own power.
After being temporarily repaired by the submarine tender USS Canopus (AS-9), Seadragon transported several Asiatic Fleet staff members to the East Indies. In late December, Seadragon began a combat cruise off the coasts of Indochina and Luzon in the Philippines. She made several attacks on enemy shipping but, due to several torpedo malfunctions, was only able to sink one Japanese merchant ship and severely damage another. Seadragon’s first war patrol ended in February 1942 with another mission to evacuate some vital personnel from the Philippines and bring them to Java in the Netherlands East Indies.
In March and April 1942, Seadragon was based at Fremantle, Australia, and carried urgent supplies to the beleaguered American garrison on Corregidor in the Philippines. She then picked up some passengers at Corregidor for the return trip to Australia. On one of those missions, more malfunctioning torpedoes spoiled an attack on a Japanese destroyer. But during the rest of 1942, Seadragon managed to sink four more Japanese cargo ships. On one of these patrols, Seadragon’s Pharmacist’s Mate also performed a successful emergency appendectomy on a fellow crew member. On 21 November 1942, Seadragon sank the Japanese submarine I-4 but was also damaged when one of her own torpedoes exploded soon after being fired. After that incident, Seadragon was sent back to the United States for an overhaul from January to April 1943. The ship was then based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from which she completed four anti-shipping cruises in the central Pacific from May 1943 to February 1944. Seadragon damaged several ships, but was not able to sink any.
After completing another overhaul, Seadragon was sent back into action in April and May 1944. She patrolled off the coast of Japan and managed to sink one freighter and one patrol boat. Upon completion of that cruise, Seadragon was overhauled yet again and given new engines. In September 1944, the ship became part of a three-submarine “wolf pack” which attacked Japanese ships off the coast of the Philippines. Seadragon managed to sink three cargo ships during that deployment.
Seadragon ended her combat career with a final patrol that lasted from December 1944 to January 1945. No ships were sunk during that deployment. After that, Seadragon was sent back to the United States and served as a training ship, first off the coast of California and then in the waters off Florida and Cuba. After the war ended in the Pacific in September 1945, Seadragon was scheduled for retirement. Although placed in reserve for a brief period of time, USS Seadragon was officially decommissioned on 29 October 1946 and was struck from the Navy list of ships on 30 April 1948. The ship was sold for scrapping in early July of that same year.