days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy lost its
first submarine of World War II to the Japanese.
The Sealion, moored at the Navy Yard Cavite in the Philippines, was
hit by two bombs during a Japanese air raid on Dec. 10, 1941. Four men
On Christmas Day, eight days before Japanese soldiers marched into
Manila, the Navy destroyed the ship rather than allow it to fall into
The Navy would lose many more submarines over the next 31/2 years.
Fifty-two submarines and 3,620 of their crew were lost in World War
II. The last was the Bullhead on Aug. 6, 1945 – the day the United
States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.( (EXCERPT) UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER)
There were 29 Submarines operating out of Cavite Navy Yard. These boats attached to the US Navy Asiatic Fleet. The USS Sealion was undergoing had been undergoing overhaul. Tied to the Navy Yard was the submarine tender USS Canopus. Over 1000 Filipinos working on the Navy yard were killed as Japanese bomber attacked. One of the submarines that escape the bombing was S-39. Some of the sailors who survived the Sealion latched on to S-39. Here are excerpts from the book (Pigboat 39) written by Bobbette Gugliotta.
“Sure will miss that place, best place I ever know” Matthews muttered as the ship was pulling out of Manila few days later. Onboard were two Filipino Mess Stewards, Tayco and Fabricante. The were leaving not only friends but also family and children behind. The served meals to the officer and took care of their quarter, and also stood watches. Amador Tayco had a wife and six children in Manila and despite being senior to Cecilio Fabricante, was the younger of the two. In the way of every new generation, he smart-alecky the shorter, slower Fabricante, who barely cleared five feet and got his words so scrambled that at time he seemed to be talking a new language. Fabricante, though, had the advantage of being a barber and, by cutting the crew’s hair, picked up almost enough in tips to bring his income up to Tayco’s. (The book goes on and describes the mild rivalry between the two)
When the S-39 needed provision in the Visayan Islands, Mr Bernard was sent ashore to have supplies with Tayco or Fabricante as interpreter. “..Don’t forget how small the wherry is and it will already have two people on it. If we should be lucky enough to find a lot of food, what items would take priority?”
“Yes, Sir I think I’ll take Fabricante. He’s smaller than Tayco-there’ be more space for food n the wherry.”
..the two found the town’s general store, Larry saw Fabricante face to face with a compatriot who had his hand on the vicious and efficient bolo knife thrust in his waistband. Non-English words were exchanged, and the strangers’ tone did not sound entirely friendly. As the discussion went on and on, Larry grew impatient, time was being wasted, “Tell him we’re Americans,” he said to Fabricante, “tell him the truth about our needing food and having to get away and all that.”
Larry heard Fabricante invoking the name of San Juan, El Labrador, the patron saint of the Philippine Farmer, to whom all give thanks to ensure bountiful crops. What ever was said, it seemed to work; the townsman ushered them into the stored. Completed the mission by leaving an IOU with the storekeeper, which he promised to pay when the US fleet returned to the Philippines. (I hope u saw the movie, Operations Petticoat)
Against the Japanese tanker,
“fire 1, fire 2, fire 3, fire 4” almost immediately followed by “down periscope”
after hearing the explosion Coe went back to the periscope,..he reported, “the tanker is heeling way over and settling down by the stern.” Loud cheer went up in the control room, and invited all hands to look at the periscope. Somebody spotted Tayco and Fabricante way in the back of the line called out, “Hey, you guys, let these guys go next, The Japs took over their country, not ours.” The 2 Filipinos passed along to the front and took their turns, Fabricante muttered his reactions in Tagalog, but the clenched fist he shook conveyed his feelings. Tayco, more at ease in English, commented, “Our captain do good work, Will not give fuel to enemy, that tanker again.”
The S-39 arrived in Brisbane, Australia. The mail from the United States was waiting them. There was no mail for Tayco and Fabricante. The Philippines were firmly in Japanese hands; even Bataan had fallen.
The first chapter of this book is “Mabuhay” and you will find pictures of Amador Tayco and Cecilio Fabricante. It is more than a tale of war at sea. There are no heroes in Pigboat 39 unless everyone is. Little people add up to big events and face them like heroes. This is submarine life then and now. Fabricante was little guy and fitted right there and would you believe it he did not even know how to swim. It was easy for the big guys to carry him over their shoulder when the water level reached Fabricante’s chin.
Another Filipino related submarine article is:
by JOCS(SW/AW) Darrell D. Ames
Pearl Harbor, HI -- In early 1942,
The Philippine government also had a problem. Because the gold was indestructible, it was important to remove it from the Philippines. This opportunity seemed unlikely and it appeared inevitable that the gold would have to be sunk in the Bay, risking detection by the Japanese. President Quezon and the High Commissioner had few answers to their problem if the gold could not be destroyed or safely sunk in the bay.
Trout was to provide the perfect solution for everyone.
Lt. Cmdr. T. C. Parker, naval aide for the High commissioner, phoned Philippine Vice President Sergio Osmena and members of the High Commissioner's Staff. Parker’s suggestion? “Maybe gold bullion would serve as sufficient ballast!” Trout would receive her ballast and Commissioner Sayre would have a safe place for his gold. General MacArthur gave the “okay” by phone and the transfer was arranged. Trout would receive the gold bullion, securities, and some silver for ballast and ultimate delivery to Pearl Harbor prior to eventual transfer to the United States for the duration of the war.
Little time was available for receipts or itemized checks, but Commonwealth officials were pleased with the security as they observed every part of the transfer of the valuables from the vault to the flatbed Army trucks used to make the delivery to the pier. Dawn was rapidly approaching and an all hands effort of available military personnel, Commissioner Sayre's staff, officers of the Philippine Commonwealth, and even Philippine stevedores was required to load the forty-pound gold bars from the truck and hand then singly down the hatches of what might be termed a modern Spanish Galleon.
As the bars were passed one by one down into the illuminated interior of the boat, the working party realized the metal bars bore a soft reddish-yellow color. Three hundred and nineteen gold bars were taken board, weighing approximately six and one-half tons. The remaining ballast was received in the form of six hundred and thirty bags of coins, each containing a thousand silver pesos.
By 2:50 a.m. on February 4th, the treasure had been loaded. Fifteen minutes later Trout got underway. Three miles off Corregidor, she dove in a predetermined spot and lay in 140 feet of water, seeking protection from the enemy. Submerged, she waited until nightfall for one final load of securities.
To the men of Trout each bar represented forty pounds of badly needed ballast. To a financial expert or bank manager, each bar would have represented almost $23,000 worth of gold.
Trout’s crew received a well-deserved day's rest after working two days and two nights straight. A rendezvous was scheduled for later that evening, with a small patrol boat, which would deliver the remaining securities and some additional diplomatic mail. Following the final transfer, and fifty minutes after surfacing, Trout was on her way to the East China Sea with probably the richest ballast ever carried in a warship. The gold and silver was worth nearly $10,000,000.
Prior to departing, Cmdr. Fenno asked if there were to be any passengers, but received a negative reply. No one could be spared from Corregidor. Just as the submarine pulled away from the small boat at the time of the final transfer, an officer tossed Fenno a small bag of gold nuggets with the comment, "These are for you!"
Cmdr. Fenno, not sure what to do with them, put them in his desk safe and considered keeping them for a souvenir. Later, checking an itemized list of the cargo, he found that these, too, were included in the inventory, and so put them in the cargo to be delivered.
Cmdr. Fenno, as commander of Trout, had assumed responsibility for the treasure of gold and silver. His instructions were clear. “Transfer [the gold, silver and papers of the Philippine Commonwealth] to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States as to their disposal.”
Cmdr. Fenno now had as valuable a cargo to carry to Pearl as he had brought to Corregidor. Even in time of global war, negotiable securities and precious metals had high value, but the monetary value meant nothing to Trout’s officers and crew. The presence of the treasure did not change his orders to carry out his war patrol, and accordingly, he set course for the East China Sea.
While on patrol Trout made several contacts with the enemy and even sank a Japanese cargo ship. No more enemy contacts were made en route to Pearl Harbor and, two days out of Pearl, she rendezvoused with USS Litchfield. On the afternoon of March 3rd, Trout moored port side to USS Detroit at Fleet Air Base in Pearl Harbor. The cargo of gold, silver, and securities was turned over to the Detroit, and subsequently to Treasury officials.
Trout eventually took part in the Midway operations in June, 1942 and, after receiving eleven battle stars (one for each war patrol), Trout was "reported missing" on February 8th, 1944 under the command of Lt. Cmdr. A. H. Clark.
Cmdr. Fenno was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism" by direction of the Secretary of War for her war patrol to Corregidor and the East China Sea from January 12th to March 3rd, 1942.
Cmdr. Fenno’s division commander, Capt. F. M. O'Leary, said, "the cruise of the USS Trout on patrol is considered as outstanding performance for a submarine in this war." His squadron commander, Capt. A. R. McCann, Commander Submarine Squadron Six (COMSubRon 6) reported that the cruise of Trout was highly successful. “I can not too highly praise the officers and crew of this vessel for the successful accomplishment of their mission," said McCann.
The impending collapse of Corregidor forced General Wainwright to destroy the remaining $140,000,000 in Philippine currency and $15,000,000 in highly negotiable silver. Most of the paper currency was burned, but the problem of the silver pesos was solved by dumping 350 tons of them in the Bay, and the location of the dump radioed to Washington. The bulk of the silver, dumped at Corregidor, was eventually salvaged by the Seventh Fleet Ship Salvage Group while the Japanese recovered over 2,000,000 pesos by November 1942 before ceasing operations.
In addition to denying the enemy of the treasure, an important function of the Treasury Department was carried out. Without the efforts of Commissioner Sayre, Cmdr. Fenno, and his men, the safe delivery of the valuable cargo would not have been possible. The Treasury Department would have failed in it’s mission to preserve the treasure as guaranteed by the First War Powers Act.
Trout’s golden run represented the usefulness and resourcefulness of U.S. submarines on patrol in World War II. The special missions performed by U.S. submarines in World War II played a dramatic and important role in the American war effort. The missions were countless, with many remaining unknown. However, for the men who undertook them, like those who served in Trout, the lasting appreciation for a job well done serves as their legacy.