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Pigboat 39

Pigboat 39: An American Sub Goes to War

Bobette Gugliotta
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Pigboat 39
    Book Description:

    " Constructed in 1923, the American submarine S39 was practically an antique when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. With defective torpedoes, a semi-trained crew, and a primitive ventilation system (hence the nickname), she nevertheless sank two enemy vessels and eluded pursuit to fight again in the Solomons. This is the little-known story of how an unprepared navy fought with what it had until the tide could be turned. Bobette Gugliotta was one of the S-39 wives. With the technical assistance of her husband, Guy, an officer who served on three of the S-class boats during the war, she presents an accurate and absorbing account of submarine operations and warfare. No less valuable is her candid and sympathetic portrayal of the men and women whose lives were caught up in the voyage of the S-39.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4631-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  6. 1. Mabuhay!
    (pp. 1-15)

    The Model A taxi chugged to a halt, and the tall, slender young man who erupted from it hesitated for a second on the runningboard, then leaped across the pondlike puddle of water that confronted him. He was Ensign Lawrence G. Bernard, unaware as yet that pockmarked country roads were standard for the Philippines in 1940. Larry was as green as the forests of Baguio about his new assignment, and his eagerness to start his first submarine duty was matched only by his fear that all the spit and polish he’d put into appearing in proper uniform, complete with coat...

  7. 2. The Very Far East
    (pp. 16-31)

    For a young woman who had spent most of her childhood in mining camps high in the mountains of Idaho, Colorado, and California, the Philippines were a breathtaking experience even at sea level. The Boulevard Hotel, where Caroline and Larry Bernard took a room upon arrival, was both comfortable and convenient. But the heat defied the high ceilings; the flies and mosquitoes defied the netting over the bed; and the lizards defied control of any kind, scuttling in and out of sandals left on the floor. It was a combination that didn’t go well with a first pregnancy. Caroline, having...

  8. 3. Last Times
    (pp. 32-53)

    Caroline Bernard and Dottie Lautrup, along with many other Navy wives, arrived in Shanghai before their husbands did. They had been fortunate enough to catch a small but luxurious Italian liner, theConte Verde. The first glimpses and fresh breezes of Shanghai were exhilarating, and Caroline knew she was about to live the good life she’d been hearing about. Dottie suggested that she and Caroline share a room at the Metropole Hotel until the men arrived, and Caroline, glad of experienced company and always eager to save a few pennies, happily agreed.

    That first night, Caroline reveled in the luxury...

  9. 4. War Games
    (pp. 54-80)

    The crew of the 39 were little affected by the departure of the Navy women; their female companionship was still around in the form of Filipina girlfriends. The most notable sign of things to come for enlisted men was the bolstering of the Asiatic Fleet by eight of the modern submarines whose number during the fateful year 1941 would reach 23, pushing the six original S-boats into the background. Fleet-boat skippers outranked S-boat skippers, being Lieutenant Commanders. You could hardly expect a two-and-a-half striper to live as Captain Coe had to live at sea, sharing a portside stateroom with his...

  10. 5. First Blood
    (pp. 81-109)

    Several attempts to better living conditions in port had been made by August of 1941, although there would not be much time left to enjoy the changes. At long last, enlisted men were given a club of their own, where they could have a drink without paying more than it was worth and without having a hostess sent over to double the costs. The club was in a new building on the Manila waterfront, constructed by the Philippine Commonwealth and rented by the U.S. If a man took on a load, or grew belligerent, he was less likely to end...

  11. 6. The Vagabonds
    (pp. 110-126)

    When theS-39limped into Manila from her first patrol on 20 December 1941, the men found the city damaged, but were appalled at what they could see of Cavite from the bay. Obviously, the navy yard wouldn’t be able to solve the boat’s problems. Coe’s first concern was getting the old pigboat patched up, especially if the next patrol meant going any distance. Leaks in the main engine circulating water system permitted full sea pressure in a system designed for much less. The boat also needed to replace six leaky torpedoes and to have periscope and binoculars dried out....

  12. 7. Dutch Treat
    (pp. 127-146)

    On 8 January 1942, seven miles south of Cagayen Island,39sighted an unknown periscope broad on port bow, estimated range 6,000 yards. It had to be Japanese because no friendly subs, Dutch or British, were in the area. Coe and company hustled around until they got what they thought was a fair solution of the target course and speed. Coe called for Battle Stations Submerged and commenced the approach from about 6,000 yards. The enemy submarine’s course was estimated to be about 135 degrees, speed 4 knots. After 28 minutes of tracking, they fired one torpedo set at 40...

  13. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  14. 8. Retreat With Honor
    (pp. 147-168)

    Two days passed. The entries in the patrol report read, “Nothing sighted this date.” Then, on 4 March, another bright, moonlit night, several dark shapes appeared on the horizon, 2 points on the port bow. They apeared to be crossing the submarine’s bow to starboard. Nobody said, “This is it,” but there was a noticeable heightening of tension as39submerged and commenced approach. Coe could not see the target through the periscope, so he changed course to 300 degrees to close with the enemy.

    Then they picked up enemy vessels on the port quarter. The boat changed course to...

  15. 9. A Hard Act to Follow
    (pp. 169-186)

    By the timeS-39had gotten her paperwork squared away and her weary men assigned to sleeping quarters, what was left of the night was used for showering, scrounging a late meal from the cooperative Aussies, and grabbing a few hours’ sleep in cool, clean, comfortable beds. It was enough for starters.

    At dawn’s early light, Gugliotta donned his grimy rags, which he hated to feel next to his clean body, and was ready to hotfoot it over toPhoenixto get new skivvies, shorts, shirts—the works. But, like Swede Bloom and his chief’s cap, Guy, who had made...

  16. 10. Sailor, Rest Your Oar
    (pp. 187-211)

    By midsummer of 1942, approximately half the crew ofS-39that had left Manila the previous December had gone elsewhere. Old hands—among them Schab, Bixler, and Stowaway Johnson—were being drained off, many disseminated among fleet boats with new personnel to train. Some of the replacements were experienced sailors but new to submarines, like Gunner’s Mate Hurtt, who finally persuadedGriffinto let loose of him and39to take hold. He found her as crummy, beat-up, and uncomfortable as an S-boat could be, but he didn’t care. Hurtt was right where he wanted to be at last.


  17. Afterword
    (pp. 212-213)

    HMASKatoomba, after setting course at 1130, 16 August 1942, with allS-39officers and crew on board, arrived off Townsville on 19 August, then berthed and commenced fueling. The exhausted submariners had slept most of the way, but upon arrival, according to theKatoomba’sWar Diary, “S-39’s crew victualled on board all day. At 1935S-39’s crew left ship for railway station . . . . In conclusion may I add my admiration for the exemplary conduct and behaviour ofS-39’s personnel and particularly for the captain, Lieutenant F.E. Brown, USN, and the 26 other officers and men who...

  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 214-217)
  19. Index
    (pp. 218-225)