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Sealion I SS-195 - History

Sealion I SS-195 - History



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Sealion I

(SS-195: dp. 1,450 (surf.), 2,340 (subm.), 1. 310'6"b. 27'1"; dr. 13'8" (mean), s. 20 k. (surf.), 8.75 k. (subm.); cpl. 55; a. 1 3", 8 21" tt.; cl. Sargo)

The first Sealion (SS-195) was laid down on 20 June 1938 by the Electric Boat Co., Groton, Conn., launched on 25 May 1939, sponsored by Mrs. Claude C. Bloch and commissioned on 27 November 1939, Lt. J.K. Morrison Jr., in command.

Following shakedown, Sealion, assigned to Submarine Division ( SubDiv) 17, prepared for overseas deployment. In the spring of 1940, she sailed, with her division for the Philippines, arriving at Cavite in the fall to commence operations as a unit of the Asiatic Fleet. Into October of 1941, she ranged from Luzon into the Sulu Archipelago, then, with another submarine of her division, now SubDiv 202, she prepared for a regular overhaul at the Cavite Navy Yard. By 8 December (7 December east of the International Date Line), her yard period had begun; and, two days later, she took two direct hits in the Japanese air raid which demolished the navy yard.

The first bomb struck the after end of her conning tower and exploded outside the hull, over the control room. The second smashed through a main ballast tank and the Pressure hull to explode in the after engine room, killing the four men then working there.

Sealion flooded immediately and settled down by the stern with 40% of her main deck underwater and a 15' list to starboard. The destruction of the navy yard made repairs impossible, and she was ordered destroyed. All salvagable equipment was taken off, depth charges were placed inside, and, on 25 December, the explosives were set off to prevent her from being made useful to the enemy.


Sealion I SS-195 - History

Compiled by Paul W. Wittmer and Charles R. Hinman, originally from:

U.S. Submarine Losses World War II, NAVPERS 15,784, 1949 ISSUE

The first submarine victim of enemy action was SEALION (LCDR Richard G. Voge). The start of the war on December 8 (east longitude date) found her, along with SEADRAGON, in the last stages of overhaul at the Navy Yard, Cavite, P. I. Both were scheduled for completion on December 12th.

Although there were frequent air raids in the Manila area during the first two days of the war, no enemy planes visited the Navy Yard Cavite until the afternoon of the 3rd day, December 10th. On that day the air raid alarm sounded about a half hour after noon, and shortly thereafter 54 planes, in two groups of 27 each, were sighted heading for the Navy Yard. SEALION was nested at Machina Wharf with SEADRAGON inboard and the minesweeper BITTERN outboard. With the exception of the Commanding Officer, the Executive Offlcer (Lieut. A. Raborn) and three men, all personnel were below decks. The first stick of bombs landed from 100 to 200 yards astern of SEALION, and at that time, Voge, seeing that the planes were going to bomb from high altitude where machine gun fire could not reach them, ordered all hands below. It was a most fortunate decision. On the next bombing run, but a few minutes later, two bombs hit SEALION almost simultaneously. One struck the after end of the conning tower fairwater, completely demolishing the machine gun mount which had just been vacated, the main induction, the battery ventilation and the after conning tower bulkhead. It exploded outside the hull a few feet above the control room. Had it entered the hull before exploding, the majority of SEALION's crew would have been lost, as most of the personnel were in that room. A fragment from this bomb pierced the conning tower of SEADRAGON, killing instantly Ensign Sam Hunter who was stationed therein, the first submarine casualty of the war. Other fragments from this bomb pierced the pressure hull, inflicting minor wounds on three SEALION men in the control room.

At almost the same instant another bomb, passing through the main ballast tank and the pressure hull, exploded in the maneuvering space in the after end of the after engine room, killing four men who were working in that compartment - Electrician Mates Foster, O'Connell and Paul, and Machinist Mate Ogilvie.

With this explosion in the maneuvering space, the after engine room flooded immediately and SEALION settled in the mud aft. The forward engine room and the after torpedo room flooded slowly through bomb fragment holes in the bulkheads. Personnel in these compartments, as well as in the other parts of the ship, made their escape through the hatches, which were all still above water. SEALION finally settled down by the stern with about 40% of the main deck underwater and with about a 15 degree list to starboard.

The bomb which exploded above the control room, while doing great superficial damage, did little harm to the pressure hull other than piercing it with numerous bomb fragments. The bomb which exploded aft, did the major damage. A more vital spot than the maneuvering space could not possibly have been found. All motor controls, reduction gears, and main motors were wrecked, totally immobilizing the ship. However, the damage would have been considered non-fatal had there been overhaul facilities available for repairs. But such was not the case the bombing which wrecked SEALION also demolished the Navy Yard Cavite, and the closest repair facilities were at Pearl Harbor, 5000 miles away. The war situation being what it was, it was impossible to tow SEALION that distance, and after removing all gear of value, such as gyro, radio and sound equipment, she was destroyed to prevent her from falling into enemy hands. Three depth charges were exploded inside SEALION on Christmas day, 1941.

Wreck of USS Sealion, November 1945

See also Ed Howard's Final Patrol page on USS Sealion (external link).


Sealion I SS-195 - History

1,450 Tons (Surfaced)
2,350 Tons (Submerged)
310' 6" x 26' 10" x 16' 8"
8 x 21" torpedo tubes with 24 torpedoes
1 x 3" gun
4 x .machine guns

After a shakedown, Sealion, assigned to Submarine Division 17 (SubDiv 17) and was readied for deployment with the Asiatic Fleet. In the Spring of 1940 departed for the Philippines and was based at Cavite. During October 1941 departed on a patrol of Luzon to the Sulu Islands then returned to Cavite for an overhaul at Cavite Navy Yard.

Wartime History
On December 8, 1941 at the start of the Pacific War, Japanese aircraft bombed Cavite and during the air raid Sealion sustained two bomb hits. The first hit aft of the conning tower and exploded outside the hull over the control room. The second hit the main ballast tank and exploded the pressure hull exposing the aft engine room.

Inside the aft engine room went missing: Chief Electrician's Mate Sterling C. Foster, Melvin Donald O'Connell, Ernest Ephrom Ogilvie and Vallentyne Lester Paul. The damage caused the submarine to settle by the stern with 40% of the deck underwater and a 15° list to starboard. Sealion became the first U.S. Navy (USN) submarine lost in World War II.

On December 17, 1941 a photograph was taken of the damage at Cavite including the submarine. Due to the damage sustained to Cavite Navy Yard and the rapid advance of Japanese forces, repairs were considered impossible and the submarine was instead to be scuttled to prevent capture by the enemy. All usable equipment was removed and depth charges placed inside to destroy the submarine.

Fate
On December 25, 1941 the depth charges were detonated and was scuttled at Cavite.

Shipwreck
The wreckage of Sealion remained at Cavite. The Japanese made no effort to salvage the submarine during the Japanese occupation. During late March 1945, U.S. forces occupied the Cavite area. In November 1945 the wreckage was raised and photographed. During 1961, the submarine was raised by the U.S. Navy (USN) and inside the wreckage the remains of the four crew killed in the aft engine room were recovered.

Fates of the Crew
Afterwards, the rest of the crew of Sealion were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW) until the end of the Pacific War. Firth died in captivity at Cabanatuan POW Camp on August 9, 1942 and was buried at the camp.

Recovery of Remains
After the 1961, recovery of remains, the four crew killed in the aft engine room were recovered and next of kin contacted. The families of Foster and O'Connell requested they be buried at sea. The families of the other two requested the remains be transported back to the United States for permanent burial.

Memorials
The four crew members Killed In Action (KIA) on December 8, 1941 remained listed as Missing In Action (MIA) and were officially declared dead two days later on December 10, 1941 for unknown reasons. All four are commemorated at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. Foster is listed as recovered with a rosette placed next to his name.

On November 20, 1961 aboard USS Princeton (LPH-5) in accordance with the wishes of their next of kin, the remains of Foster and O'Connell received a funeral with full military honors then were buried at sea in Manila Bay off Cavite.

Foster earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. In 1961, his remains were buried at sea, in accordance with the wishes of his next of kin. He also has a memorial marker at Round Mound Cemtery in Ceder Vale, KS.

Paul earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. In 1961, his remains were buried at sea, in accordance with the wishes of his next of kin.

Ogilvie has a memorial marker at IOOF Cemetery in Du Quoin, IL. After the 1961 recovery of remains, Ogilvie was buried in 1961 at Mound City National Cemetery Mound City, IL at section F site 5017W.

O'Connell is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at section X site 550.

Paul is buried at ak Ridge Cemetery in Buchanan, MI.

Firth is buried at Manila American Cemetery at plot N, row 2, site 60.

References
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - Sealion (SS-195)
NavSource - USS Sealion SS-195
News "LPH-5 Buries WW2 Sub Crew " November 20, 1961
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Sterling Cecil Foster date of death December 10, 1941 [sic] "status recovered, buried at sea at the request of his next of kin."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Melvin Donald O'Connell date of death December 10, 1941 [sic] "status recovered, buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ernest Ephrom Ogilvie date of death December 10, 1941 [sic] "status recovered, Mound City National Cemetery."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Vallentyne Lester Paul date of death December 10, 1941 [sic] "status recovered, buried at sea at the request of his next of kin"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Sterling C. Foster
""status recovered, buried at sea at the request of his next of kin."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Howard Firth
FindAGrave - Sterling Cecil Foster (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Melvin Donald O'Connell (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Ernest Ephrom Ogilvie (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Ernest Ephrom Ogilvie (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Vallentyne Lester Paul (grave photo) date of death December 10, 1941 [sic]
FindAGrave - Sterling Cecil Foster (photo, memorial marker photo) date of death December 10, 1941 [sic]
FindAGrave - MMC Howard Risdale Firth (photos)
FindAGrave - Howard Risdale Firth (photos, memorial marker photo)

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Sealion I SS-195 - History

These individuals were “plankholders” (members of the original crew) of Sealion. Officers are listed in order of seniority enlisted personnel are listed alphabetically.

Morrison, J.K., Jr., LT, USN, Commanding Officer
Moore, J.R., LT, USN, Executive Officer
Raborn, A., LT(JG), USN
Reich, E.T., LT(JG), USN
Thompson, W.C., LT(JG), USN

Albren, Clifford O., F1C
Armenia, Peter S., EM3C
Bordonaro, Philip, RM2C
Brigman, Travis B., SC3C
Brown, James D., S1C
Caldwell, William T., Jr., S1C
Childers, Russell H., EM1C
Cowan, Alva R., PhM1C
Day, Loyal E., Y1C
Dean, Leslie N, F1C
Dicks, Tribble J., TM1C
Draper, Feign D., F1C
Ellis, Alfred, FC1C
Firth, Howard, MM2C
Foster, Sterling C., EM1C
Gerdes, Richard W., CTM(PA)
Gullickson, Oscar T., EM1C
Hantsche, Edgar M, MM1C
Hemingway, Erastus B., TM1C
Howell, Thomas L., MM2C
Hurst, Joseph, CEM(AA)
Jenes, Euin M., EM2C
Jenkins, Myron L., MM1C
Jester, Halbert M., S1C
Johnson, Clarence H., SM2C
Jones, Henry B., F2C
Joyce, John W., TM3C
Klidzia, Joseph J., MM2C
Lewellin, Clyde R., QM1C
Littell, Edward O., MM1C
Loxley, Raymond W., SC2C
Mallory, Robert V., TM3C
Mallough, Kenneth G., F1C
Montierde, Filemon, MAtt1C
Murphy, Edward W., MM1C
O’Connell, Melvin D., EM1C
Ogilve, Ernest E., MM2C
Platt, John F., MM2C
Pollard, Claude L., MM2C
Richardson, Louis M., TM1C
Riley, Jim H., RM1C
Rogers, William J., CMM(PA)
Schrader, Edgar L., TM2C
Shaw, Alvin, F1C
Shelton, Henry W., MM1C
Smith, Carl D., EM2C
Swain, Hannis C., MM1C
Tutt, Wilson F., GM1C
Utz, James Lewis, S1C
Way, Raymond G., SM2C
Wroble, Fred, MM1C


The mystery of the French Foreign Legion totally exposed

Posted On March 16, 2021 09:00:00

In 1831, King Louis Philippe of France expanded his country’s military by establishing a service branch made up of mostly foreigners: the French Foreign Legion. Immediately after its creation, the Foreign Legion recruited fighters from Switzerland, Germany, and other countries to protect and expand the French colonial empire. Despite the Foreign Legion’s involvement in most of France’s wars since being established, the French don’t get too bummed about their losses. Let’s just say it’s complicated.

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Sealion I SS-195 - History

At least eight of the USS Sealion crew are shown in this photo, circa 1939. At this time it is only a high probability that all the men in this photo are Sealion crewmen. The men identified are all members of the Commissioning crew roster. Based on other factors identified by Dave Johnston DCC(SS/SW), a submarine historian, this could only be the deck of the Seadragon (SS-194) or Sealion (SS-195). Here is his analysis:

"The light colored plates I had seen before, but never gave them much thought. Did some poking around and found out that they are indeed sonar. They are transducers for modified versions of the QC system, called QCG or QCH. They allowed passive listening when bottoming prevented the use of the keel mounted transducers. They didn't come along until 1938. I only found them on a handful of the boats, I couldn't tell if the use of these systems were limited or if they later starting coloring the plates to match the black hull.

The other thing I saw were the tubular metal brackets sticking out above the portholes for the covered nav bridge. These seemed unusual to me so I started looking around. They are support brackets for the fore to aft radio aerials. I found that they are unique to the EB built boats of the Sargo class. I also looked at the positioning of the horns for the ship's whistle. The position in the picture matches that of the EB Sargos.

The combination of the aerial brackets and the light colored QCG plates makes this boat to be Seadragon (SS-194) or Sealion (SS-195). Sargo, Saury, and Spearfish had the brackets but not the QCG. Searaven, Tambor, Tautog, and Thresher had the QCG but no brackets. None of the Gars nor any of the other Salmons or Sargos seemed to have either feature, but again maybe they had colored the plates black. There certainly weren't any of those distinct brackets."

Dave Johnston DCC(SS/SW)

Lt. Julian K. Morrison, jr, Commanding Officer of the USS Sealion took command on November 27, 1939. The Submarine Sealion was turned over to the navy in New London Conn, by the Electric boat Co, ( builders ) Capt Richard S Edwards, Commander of the submarine base accepted the craft for the Navy, While Lt Julian Knox Morrison Jr, U S N, read orders assigning him to command of the ship.

Prior to taking Command of Sealion Morrison was involved in the rescue of the crew trapped in the Squalus. Morrison made the dives to the after Torpedo Room to ascertain if there were any crew alive there. For these dives he was awarded the Navy Cross.

"The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Julian K. Morrison, United States Navy, for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Senior Assistant to the diving supervisor during the entire period of the rescue and salvage operations following the sinking of the U.S.S. SQUALUS on 23 May 1939. Lieutenant Morrison's technical diving knowledge and his ability in handling difficult situations in emergencies were outstanding. His calmness, courage and good judgment inspired confidence in his men as well as in the senior officers of the Unit. He made numerous deep dives himself and was the only diver to attempt to enter the SQUALUS while she was on the bottom, failing only due to circumstances beyond his control. His superior and outstanding performance of duty contributed much to the success of the operations and characterizes conduct above and beyond the call of duty."

General Orders: Bureau of Navigation Bulletin 278 (February 10, 1940)
Action Date: 1939
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant
Company: Assistant Diving Officer
Regiment: Squalus Salvage Unit
Division: U.S.S. Falcon (ASR-2)

Sealion Baseball team, date unknown, probably circa 1940. Photo most likely taken on the Sealion's deck. In the second row back on the far right side the two men there have been identified as Pharmacists mate Wheeler Lipps (R) and F/2c Henry B. Jones (L). In the background is a small boat with the number 197. If the boat belonged to the outboard submarine, that would make it the USS Seawolf SS 197. The center boat is not identifiable.

In the photo of softball team. Believe ship in middle of picture is the Canopus. White cube shaped building in background in most likely the Manila Hotel, which was MacArthur's headquarters before his move to the Rock

I knew Day, ( YN1/C Loyal Day ), but only in a very limited way. He was the yeoman and had a lot of responsibilities. Guess he made his liberties with his buddies as I went ashore with Woods another fireman. Woods and I, with Capt Voge's help both came to Manitowoc in June 1943 for new construction we were both MoMM2 I went to Redfin and he to Robalo, he got off before she was lost

Shaw was a EM1 from Brooklyn, jewish man. His father owned a record store in Brooklyn. Al had a record player and his dad would send him all the recordings and when Al wasn't pissed off at the rest of us he would play them on his phonograph. Last time I saw Shaw he was an ensign at Pearl Harbor. Another arrangement by Voge I am sure.

I have had in the past an inquiry about CEM Hurst, who commissioned Sealion but was not on board in 1941 Someone else wrote me about either Oconnel or Foster one of the two EMC killed at Cavite

I will try and keep some info coming to you as I recall things, been a long time.

Shortly after the Japanese planes had bombed the yard at Cavite in Manila Harbor. The shipyard was left in shambles and aflame. To the lower right hand edge of the photo you can see the bow of the Sealion SS195 in the air. She had been hit by two bombs. One hit the after end of the cigarette deck and exploded sending shrapnel flying everywhere and a piece penetrated the conning tower of the USS Seadragon moored next to Sealion and hitting and killing Ensign Samuel H. Hunter, Jr. The second bomb hit at the juncture of the Engine Room/Maneuvering Room killing four men instantly working on rebuilding electric motors. Their bodies were not recovered until the Sealion hulk was salvaged in 1959.

Chief Electrician
Melvin Donald O'Connell

Chief Electrician
Ernest Ephrom Ogilvie

Machinist's Mate, First Class
Vallentyne Lester Paul

Electrician's Mate, Third Class

After the Japanese occupied the Philippines they raised the Sealion to see of they could salvage it and also to learn what they could about American submarine technology. The Sealion was beyond salvage just as the Americans had wanted her to be. They did take this photo of the damage to the conning tower fairwater. After the war it was found in among the captured documents. The quality of this many times copied image is bad and I worked very hard to try and salvage the photo so the details of the damage can be seen.

I was on the Sealion from Oct 41 to Dec 41. Was a F2C in the FWD Engine Room. Before the yard period at Cavite I, along with another fireman and chief Rogers, were working on modifying the pistons for the main engines for the up coming yard overhaul.

The yard overhaul was to be completed by Dec 13 but the air raid on Dec 10 ended all of that.

It was a Wednesday and work schedule had been increased a few hours each day. We had just had lunch in the mess hall in the dock area in the navy yard and returned to the ship waiting to return to work at 1 when the air raid sirens went off. We received two direct bomb hits one on the cigarette deck after end of bridge area. The other, either in the after engine room or manuevering room. This one really done us in lost main motor reduction gears and of course the entire switching equipment for electric power. The switches were all apart having been rebuilt by the EMs.

We lost 3 EMs and one MM1 Since we were outboard of Seadragon along side the wharf we settled in the water and only the stern and the deck from just aft of the conning tower was under water.

Most of the Sealion crew went on to the dock and manned fire hoses to fight fires in the wooden buildings. The fire got to the torpedo warheads and they began to explode, then many of us jumped into the water beside the dock.

When the fires were out and the yard was in waste, Capt Voge sent Utz to find us a boat so we could get across Manila Bay to the Canopus alongside one of the city piers. Utz came back with the Admirals Barge, we all got on board and headed for the Canopus.

The next several days were spent getting classified material off the boat On the 17 of Dec the Sailfish came in, their skipper had asked to be relieved, and Voge took command. Four Sealion sailors went on board, Riley RM1 Johnson SM1 Elsasser SN and Butler FN. Later, I think in Java, we also picked up Rahl, Utz and McCurdy FN, making a total of 8 Sealion sailors on board Sailfish. PHM ( Wheeler ) Lipes went to Seadragon, he died just last year, was a LCDR retired. He did the appendectomy operation. ( The first submerged appendectomy operation in history )

I am treasurer of Wisconsin Base SubVets inc.

John Harold Iden, Jr seen here on an unidentified date and location. He is qualified in submarines at this point. His Qualified in Submarines dolphin patch can be seen sewn on his right sleeve.

According to his family John Iden's service once he left the bombed Sealion was ". on the USS Permit on 09-Feb-1942 in Surabaya, Java (Dutch Netherlands submarine base). There are no records for the period 10-Dec-1941 through 09-Feb-1942 (60-days). His medical record cites that he was on Bataan and Corregidor and survived on berries. But how did he get to be on the Permit? He also later served aboard the USS Pickrell, USS Saury and the shakedown cruise of the USS Spot. He was honorably discharged 08-Dec-1944. He passed on 22-Mar-1971."


SEALION SS 195

This section lists the names and designations that the ship had during its lifetime. The list is in chronological order.

    Sargo Class Submarine
    Keel Laid 20 June 1938 - Launched 25 May 1939

Naval Covers

This section lists active links to the pages displaying covers associated with the ship. There should be a separate set of pages for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Covers should be presented in chronological order (or as best as can be determined).

Since a ship may have many covers, they may be split among many pages so it doesn't take forever for the pages to load. Each page link should be accompanied by a date range for covers on that page.

Postmarks

This section lists examples of the postmarks used by the ship. There should be a separate set of postmarks for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Within each set, the postmarks should be listed in order of their classification type. If more than one postmark has the same classification, then they should be further sorted by date of earliest known usage.

A postmark should not be included unless accompanied by a close-up image and/or an image of a cover showing that postmark. Date ranges MUST be based ONLY ON COVERS IN THE MUSEUM and are expected to change as more covers are added.
 
>>> If you have a better example for any of the postmarks, please feel free to replace the existing example.


Submarine Force Museum Home of Historic Ship Nautilus

December of 1941 found USS SEALION (SS-195), commissioned in 1939 and the veteran of one war patrol, in the midst of a routine overhaul at Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines. But she would never make it back to sea. On 10 December the Japanese struck, pounding the facility with bombs dropped by waves of aircraft. SEALION was hit twice. The first bomb landed on the aft section of the conning tower, exploding just over the control room but outside the hull. The second hit was far worse. The bomb sliced through a ballast tank and the pressure hull and blew up in the aft engine room. The four men who were working there—Chief Electrician’s Mate Sterling Foster, Chief Electrician’s Mate Melvin O’Connell, Machinist’s Mate First Class Ernest Ogilvie, and Electrician’s Mate Third Class Vallentyne Paul—were killed. (Another crewmember, Chief Machinist’s Mate Howard Firth, would end up being captured by the Japanese after they occupied the facility the following month he would die in a POW camp.) Water poured in through the gash in the sub’s side, submerging nearly half her main deck and causing her to list to starboard. The yard, devastated as it was by the attack, could do nothing to fix her, so workers stripped the sub of all useable equipment and set up explosive charges. On Christmas Day, SEALION was destroyed.

On 31 October 1944, exactly a year to the day after her launching, the new USS SEALION (SS-315) stood out from Pearl Harbor to begin her third war patrol. The boat’s commanding officer was Lieutenant Commander Eli Reich, who had been an officer aboard SS-195 and was in the yards with the boat when she was bombed. SS-315 was his first command and he had already earned a reputation as an aggressive and successful leader: his boat had sent 19,700 tons of Japanese shipping to the bottom on her first patrol and 51,700 on her second, during which she had to put in at Saipan to load more torpedoes, having exhausted her initial supply.

Just after midnight on the morning of 21 November, SEALION made radar contact with several ships in the Taiwan Strait within half an hour it became clear that she had stumbled upon a formidable Japanese fleet comprising two battleships, one battlecruiser, one light cruiser, and three destroyer escorts. The ships were making a steady sixteen knots and were not zig-zagging—Reich must have felt like Christmas had come early. He pulled ahead of the convoy and, at 0256, loosed six torpedoes. Three minutes later, three more followed. “Saw and heard three hits on first battleship—several small mushrooms of explosions noted in the darkness,” Reich wrote in his patrol report. He had hit Kongō, the battlecruiser, sending water gushing into her boiler rooms. The battleship Nagato, now painfully aware of the sub’s presence, turned away and so SEALION’s second set of torpedoes hit Urakaze, a destroyer, sending her to the bottom with all hands. As the remaining Japanese ships began dropping depth charges, SEALION peeled off to the west. The convoy split in two and the sub resumed tracking, following the slower group. At 0524: “Tremendous explosion dead ahead—sky brilliantly illuminated, it looked like a sunset at midnight. Radar reports battleship pip getting smaller—that it has disappeared—leaving only the two smaller pips of the destroyers. Destroyers seem to be milling around vicinity of target. Battleship sunk—the sun set .”

During World War II, American torpedoes were typically launched from submarines carrying a name of some kind, often belonging to a Sailor’s wife or girlfriend. But on 21 November, four of SEALION’s torpedoes carried the names of the crewmen who died aboard SS-195, giving these lost Sailors a measure of revenge.

The attack was also notable for another reason. For a time the SEALION had carried as a passenger a war correspondent from CBS. When the man departed, he left behind an audio recorder and the crew decided to take advantage of this unexpected gift. When the men were ordered to man battle stations for the attack on the convoy, one of them hung the microphone next to the intercom in the conning tower. The crew made another, similar recording during the boat’s fifth patrol. They are believed to be the only extant audio recordings of a World War II submarine’s attacks. They were preserved by the Navy’s Underwater Sound Laboratory and can be heard at the following website:


Sealion I SS-195 - History

USS Sealion , a 1450-ton Sargo class submarine, was built at Groton, Connecticut. She was commissioned in late November 1939 and, in the spring of 1940, deployed to the Far East to strengthen the defenses of the Philippines as relations with Japan deteriorated. When that nation began the Pacific War on 7 December 1941 (8 December local time), Sealion was at the Cavite Navy Yard, near Manila, undergoing an overhaul. Japanese aircraft raided that facility on 10 December, hitting the submarine with two bombs and killing four of her crewmembers. Sealion was very badly damaged and partially sunk. Since repairs could not be made under the desperate conditions then prevailing in the Philippines, she was stripped of useful equipment and, on 25 December 1941, deliberately wrecked with explosives. The first U.S. Navy submarine lost in World War II, her remains were broken up following the conflict's end.

This page features the views we have concerning USS Sealion (SS-195).

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the digital images presented here, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Off Provincetown, Massachusetts, during trials, 6 October 1939.

Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

Online Image: 62KB 740 x 520 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Islands

Fires at Cavite resulting from the 10 December 1941 Japanese air raid.
Barge # 181 ( YF-181 ?) -- perhaps visible in the right center -- is loaded with burning torpedos. At the time this photograph was taken, small arms ammunition was exploding in the center of the heavy blaze on the left.
The submarine whose bow is visible at the far right is probably USS Sealion (SS-195), which had been hit by bombs and had settled by the stern.

Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

Online Image: 76KB 740 x 610 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Islands

Damage to yard facilities from Japanese air attacks. Photographed on 17 December 1941, looking across the Receiving Ship toward the power plant. The remains of the Post Office are in the left foreground, and the bomb-damaged submarine USS Sealion (SS-195) lies across the center of the image.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 133KB 740 x 620 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Wreckage of the submarine, photographed at the Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Islands, after its capture by the Japanese.
Sealion had been fatally damaged by Japanese bombs on 10 December 1941 and was scuttled on 25 December, before U.S. forces abandoned Cavite.
Copied from a wartime Japanese publication.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Online Image: 141KB 740 x 605 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system as Photo # 428-N-1050058.

Ship's wrecked hulk at the old Cavite Navy Yard, Philippines, in November 1945. Her conning tower, with periscopes, is at left, with her stern at right.
Sealion had been scuttled at Cavite on 25 December 1941, after suffering fatal damage during a Japanese air attack there on 10 December.
Photographed by B. Eneberg, who was then navigator of a Royal Australian Air Force PBY-5 aircraft.


SEALION’s Sounds

December of 1941 found USS SEALION (SS-195), commissioned in 1939 and the veteran of one war patrol, in the midst of a routine overhaul at Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines. But she would never make it back to sea. On 10 December the Japanese struck, pounding the facility with bombs dropped by waves of aircraft. SEALION was hit twice. The first bomb landed on the aft section of the conning tower, exploding just over the control room but outside the hull. The second hit was far worse. The bomb sliced through a ballast tank and the pressure hull and blew up in the aft engine room. The four men who were working there—Chief Electrician’s Mate Sterling Foster, Chief Electrician’s Mate Melvin O’Connell, Machinist’s Mate First Class Ernest Ogilvie, and Electrician’s Mate Third Class Vallentyne Paul—were killed. (Another crewmember, Chief Machinist’s Mate Howard Firth, would end up being captured by the Japanese after they occupied the facility the following month he would die in a POW camp.) Water poured in through the gash in the sub’s side, submerging nearly half her main deck and causing her to list to starboard. The yard, devastated as it was by the attack, could do nothing to fix her, so workers stripped the sub of all useable equipment and set up explosive charges. On Christmas Day, SEALION was destroyed.

On 31 October 1944, exactly a year to the day after her launching, the new USS SEALION (SS-315) stood out from Pearl Harbor to begin her third war patrol. The boat’s commanding officer was Lieutenant Commander Eli Reich, who had been an officer aboard SS-195 and was in the yards with the boat when she was bombed. SS-315 was his first command and he had already earned a reputation as an aggressive and successful leader: his boat had sent 19,700 tons of Japanese shipping to the bottom on her first patrol and 51,700 on her second, during which she had to put in at Saipan to load more torpedoes, having exhausted her initial supply.

Just after midnight on the morning of 21 November, SEALION made radar contact with several ships in the Taiwan Strait within half an hour it became clear that she had stumbled upon a formidable Japanese fleet comprising two battleships, one battlecruiser, one light cruiser, and three destroyer escorts. The ships were making a steady sixteen knots and were not zig-zagging—Reich must have felt like Christmas had come early. He pulled ahead of the convoy and, at 0256, loosed six torpedoes. Three minutes later, three more followed. “Saw and heard three hits on first battleship—several small mushrooms of explosions noted in the darkness,” Reich wrote in his patrol report. He had hit Kongō, the battlecruiser, sending water gushing into her boiler rooms. The battleship Nagato, now painfully aware of the sub’s presence, turned away and so SEALION’s second set of torpedoes hit Urakaze, a destroyer, sending her to the bottom with all hands. As the remaining Japanese ships began dropping depth charges, SEALION peeled off to the west. The convoy split in two and the sub resumed tracking, following the slower group. At 0524: “Tremendous explosion dead ahead—sky brilliantly illuminated, it looked like a sunset at midnight. Radar reports battleship pip getting smaller—that it has disappeared—leaving only the two smaller pips of the destroyers. Destroyers seem to be milling around vicinity of target. Battleship sunk—the sun set .”

During World War II, American torpedoes were typically launched from submarines carrying a name of some kind, often belonging to a Sailor’s wife or girlfriend. But on 21 November, four of SEALION’s torpedoes carried the names of the crewmen who died aboard SS-195, giving these lost Sailors a measure of revenge.

The attack was also notable for another reason. For a time the SEALION had carried as a passenger a war correspondent from CBS. When the man departed, he left behind an audio recorder and the crew decided to take advantage of this unexpected gift. When the men were ordered to man battle stations for the attack on the convoy, one of them hung the microphone next to the intercom in the conning tower. The crew made another, similar recording during the boat’s fifth patrol. They are believed to be the only extant audio recordings of a World War II submarine’s attacks. They were preserved by the Navy’s Underwater Sound Laboratory and can be heard at the following website:


Watch the video: Alternate history- Operation Sealion 1940 (August 2022).