Boxing Day 1942
Lots of submarine action today across the theatre.
Japanese submarines have attacked and damaged two ships. The first reported attack came in the form of a May Day sent by the tanker Gulfbreeze enroute back to Los Angeles. She reported being struck by a torpedo off Brisbane two days into her return journey. Damage was moderate and she was making her way back to Brisbane trailing fuel and oil. Two gunboats have been dispatched from Brisbane to escort the wounded fuel carrier into port.
A second report of an attack came from the 6100 ton Dominion L Cargo Class ship Troilus off Koggala n Ceylon. She reported substantial flooding and several fires in her cargo holds after being struck but what appears to be one torpedo. She is making 5 knots and heading due East into Koggala. She is the second ship attacked in these waters in a week despite the patrolling by a number of corvettes. Several Walrus float planes have been redeployed into Koggala itself to help counter this submarine menace.
Further to the NW HMS Jasmine and HMS Thyme (Flower Class Corvettes) did however exact some measure of revenge as they successfully sunk an enemy submarine patrolling off Colombo. A solid sonar contact was followed by a successful depth charge attack. 36 charges were dropped by the Thyme which resulted in the surfacing of a Japanese submarine which was immediately engaged by the 4 inch guns mounted by the Corevettes. The enemy sub, clearly damaged was quickly set on fire but not before hitting the Jasmine with her deck gun, causing light casualties but hitting the ship’s engine room hard. 13 minutes after surfacing the sub rejoined the depths never to return!
Japanese submarines were also active in the Aleutian Islands with ASW patrols twice engaging an enemy submarine just off the harbour entrance at Adak Island. The DD Brooks, escorting an outgoing convoy back to Seattle, reported dropping 12 depth charges over a solid sonar contact near the mouth of Kuluk Bay on her outward journey. She relayed the coordinates to the standing ASW patrol of three YMS who then rengaged an enemy submarine slightly further out than where the Brooks reported its original position.
Yet the most telling submarine contact of the day came from the SS Saury near Kusaie Isanld in the Western Marshall Islands. Rumours have been afoot of a major Japanese operation for weeks now. Massively increased radio traffic had been detected at Truk and there has been a rise in the number of vessels there. High alerts had been issued from Colombo to Pearl Harbour especially after the recent reawakening of the Japanese submarine fleet. SS Saury’s message rasied those alerts to Red Alert all around the recently conquered bases in the Marshalls. At 12:30 hours she reported the sighting of two float planes, not an uncommon sight as Japanese submarines are known to carry them. At 13:04 hours she reported the sighting of an aircraft strongly resembling a B5N2 torpedo bomber, clearly a carrier borne plane. Its identity was conformed when the Saury reported being attacked by a duo of Kates carrying bombs one of which exploded very near to the sub causing substantial damage. Commander Burnside immediately put his boat on a course to the nearest port but also, rather riskily, sent the contact report in the open. The Japanese would hear it but so too would his underwater brothers nearby…