THE SUBMARINE THAT SUNK THE 'LISBON MARU'
The following account was supplied to COFEPOW by Dennis Courant from information compiled by SUBNET from: Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, Navy Department, and U.S. Naval Submarine Force Information Book 1995 by J. Christley
Ship of the U.S. Navy, 1940-1945
SS-214 USS Grouper
Gato Class Submarine:
Displacement: 1526 tons surfaced, 2424 tons submerged
Speed: 20 knots surfaced, 9 knots submerged
Armament: 1 3"/50 or 1 4"/50 or 1 5"/50, 6 bow and 4 stern torpedo tubes, 24 21" torpedoes (loaded tubes plus reloads: 10 forward, 4 aft)
Diesel engines, surfaced/electric motors, submerged
Built at Groton and commissioned 1942
Keel laid by the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT 28 December 1940;
Launched 27th October1941; Sponsored by Mrs. Albert T. Church;
Commissioned 12th February1942; Lcdr. Claren E. Duke in command;
Decommissioned and striken 2 December 1968;
After shakedown in Long Island Sound, 'USS GROUPER' (SS-214) sailed for Pearl Harbour 30th March 1942 to join the Pacific Submarine Force which was to play havoc on Japanese shipping. Before departing for her first war patrol, 'GROUPER' was assigned to the submarine screen which ringed the area as the American and Japanese fleets clashed in the decisive Battle of Midway. Patrolling the fringe of the fighting 4th June, 'GROUPER' sighted two burning enemy carriers, but could not close for attack because of heavy air cover. On that day she was strafed by fighter planes and driven deep in a series of aircraft and destroyer attacks which saw over 170 depth charges and bombs dropped on the novice submarine.
On 5th June as the battle still raged. 'GROUPER' crash-dived to avoid heavy bombers, then after 3 days at Midway to fuel and provision, 'GROUPER' sailed on her first war patrol 12th June. She torpedoed and damaged two Japanese marus in the China Sea before returning to Pearl Harbour 30 July. On her second patrol (28th August-9th October) 'GROUPER' had the satisfaction of sending to the bottom two freighters, 'Tone Maru' on 21st September and 'Lisbon Maru' on 1st October. Her third patrol, made 12th November to 31st December as she patrolled to Brisbane, Australia, was enlivened by the sinking 17th December of 'Bandoeng Maru', a passenger-freighter headed for the Solomons with troop reinforcements. During her fourth war patrol (21st January-18th March 1943) 'GROUPER' rescued an aviator stranded on Rengi Island for several days and located several key Japanese radar installations in the Solomons. Her next four patrols netted her no further kills, despite several determined attacks, but illustrated the varied tasks submarines took on during the war. In addition to her regular patrol duties, which harassed Japanese shipping and tied up valuable warships desperately needed by the enemy, 'GROUPER' landed 50 men and 3,000 pounds of gear on New Britain Island to carry on guerrilla warfare and at the same time rescued an American aviator stranded there almost 3 months. At the conclusion of her eighth patrol, 'GROUPER'headed for the States and overhaul, reaching San Francisco 19th October 1943.
After returning to Pearl Harbour 7th January 1944 for additional repairs, the veteran submarine sailed for her ninth war patrol 22 May. This patrol netted 'GROUPER' what was to be her last kill of the war, 'Kumanoyama Maru', which she sank in a night surface attack 24th June.'GROUPER's final three war patrols found a lack of targets - American submarines had done their job on Japanese shipping too well for 'GROUPER's purposes. She stood lifeguard duty during several air strikes and rescued seven downed aviators during raids on the Palaus in September 1944.
Returning to Pearl Harbor from her 12th war patrol 2nd April 1945, 'GROUPER' sailed for San Francisco and overhaul the following day. She returned to Pearl Harbor 6th August, but VJ Day cancelled plans for another patrol, and on 9 September 'GROUPER' in company with 'TORO'(SS422) and 'BLACKFISH' (SS221), sailed for New London. Four years of local operations and training exercises along the coast to Florida and in the Caribbean followed for 'GROUPER'.
During this period she chalked up two 'firsts'. In 1946 she became the first submarine to have a Combat Information Center installed, and the following year she effected the first discharge and recovery of men from a submerged and underway submarine.
These operations ended 5th March 1950 as 'GROUPER' entered the Mare Island Ship Yard for conversion to the Navy's first 'killer' submarine. Her classification was changed to SSK-214 on 2nd January 1951. With the addition of a snorkel and extensive sonar and radar facilities 'GROUPER' emerged from the yard 27th June 1951 to pioneer in research on the deadly submarine-versus-submarine warfare. For the next 8 years, as a unit of Submarine Development Group 2, 'GROUPER' worked to develop and test concepts of hunter-killer antisubmarine warfare. In this duty she ranged along the East Coast from Nova Scotia to Florida as well as participating in Caribbean exercises. In 1953 and 1955 exercises took 'GROUPER'across the Atlantic to Rothesay, Scotland, via Iceland. In the fall of 1957 she then participated in NATO manoeuvres.
'GROUPER' was reclassified AG(SS)-214, 17th May 1958, and on 28th November 1959 she entered the Portsmouth, N.H., Navy Yard for extensive modification. Her forward torpedo room was converted into a floating laboratory, work benches and additional berths for scientists were installed, and various types of sonar gear were added topside. Thus equipped, 'GROUPER'departed Portsmouth 23rd June 1960 to embark on the fourth phase of her long career, research vessel for the Naval Research and Underwater Sound Laboratories. Her duties as a floating laboratory took her frequently to the Caribbean and Bermuda, although she retained New London as her home port and engaged in operations there and as far north as Nova Scotia. Her efforts were focused on the study of sound propagation in water. In December 1962'GROUPER' entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for overhaul and modification to prepare for further work in this field. 'GROUPER' left the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in May 1963 to resume her investigation of waterborne sound.
In June of 1964 'GROUPER' was awarded the coveted Battle Efficiency 'E'. In November 1965 the submarine again entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for overhaul and equipment modifications to increase her usefulness as a floating underwater sound laboratory. She departed Philadelphia 1st May 1966, reached New London 1st June, and headed for the Caribbean for intensive research. Her studies during 1966 also took her to Narragansett Bay and twice to Bermuda. At the beginning of 1967 'GROUPER' was at New London preparing to resume gathering knowledge of underwater sound propagation. 'GROUPER's long and varied service career came to an end on 2nd December 1968 when she was decommissioned and striken. She was subsequently sold for scrapping 11th August 1970. 'GROUPER' received 10 battle stars for World War II service.