Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More Pigboats play!

The USS Pike transited the Lombok Strait underwater during daylight, and prepared to surface in the Java sea after sunset. On the routine periscope scan  of the surface, the XO thought the sea looked "weird". the Skipper took a look. "Snakes? They better not be snakes! They gotta be eels!"

The boat surfaced, and when the conning tower hatch was opened, along with the usual gallon or so of water, in dropped a big ol' sea snake, right on top of the XO. The skipper hastily stepped away as the XO tried to grab the snake, and failed miserably. The snake reared back to strike, and Lt. Carnegie, the Weapons Officer, reached in and grabbed it in a lightning move, right behind the head. Carnegie dispatched it by wringing its neck, but the XO ordered it evicerated. Carnegie handed it off to a seaman to bring to the cook.

On the bridge, the officers looked out on a heaving mass of migrating sea snakes, covering the water in all directions. A lookout called "I see smoke, sir! To the north, over the horizon!" Lt. Vaugirard, the XO, put up his glasses. "I see it! Looks like a convoy, tracking to the east!"

The Pike intercepted on the surface, eventually coming in and paralleling the convoy to their starboard. The convoy consisted of a small corvette in the lead, followed by two small, coastal freighters sailing abreast, then a big freighter of about 9000 tons and a somewhat smaller tanker of about 7000 tons, then another big freighter, about the same size as the one ahead. A fast frigate ranged about the rear of the convoy, going up and down both sides, and cutting between the rows on a random path.

The captain judged by observation that the convoy was following an asymmetric zig zag, and painstakingly established their pattern. Lining up to starboard of the convoy, the Pike dived to periscope depth and simultaneously turned hard to port, aiming to cut the convoy ahead of the freighter and tanker.

At short range, the Pike fired fish 1 and 2 at the tanker, about 20 degrees to the port bow, and 4 and 5 at the big freighter, at about 30 degrees on the port bow. All four fish ran hot, straight, and normal. Due to the timing of the shots, fish 1 and 3 hit almost simultaneously, doing terrific damage. Fish 2 and 4 also hit about the same time, torpedo 4 tearing off the bow of the freighter, but 2 was a dud, hitting with a weak pop. Luckily, the one torpedo was enough and both ships began sinking, the freighter driving itself under in moments, and the tanker burning like a torch and lighting up the night,

The frigate zoomed around the bows of the burning freighter, straight at the Pike. She had been ranging the port side of the convoy, and was right beside the tanker when it was hit, masking it from the Skipper's sight. The skipper ordered the boat deep, "Go to 175 feet. Dig for depth charge! Rig for silent running!"

The frigate came on, pinging like mad, but unable to get a lock on the Pike - she was bows on, and in the debris of the freighter's sinking. Right over the Pike, she loosed a classic diamond pattern of six ashcans and roared on by. The explosions set the Pike to vibrating like a plucked string, coming as they were from every side, but none were close enough to cause permanent damage. the Skiper ordered Vaugirard to collect junk and oil from all over the ship, and to bring it to Lt. Carnegie in the forward torpedo room.

Lt. jg O'Grady, on the hydrophones traced the frigate's sweep off to starboard, apparently catching up with the rest of the scattered convoy, while another source of pinging came down from the head of the convoy. Probably the corvette. It slowed down and turned lazy loops at low speed, pinging constantly. Eventually it looped over the Pike and dropped two cans. The second was very close to the Pike, knocking her sideways. The Skipper ordered all stop, which was the signal for Lt. Carnegie to launch the junk and cans of oil out the number four tube.

The boat sat, slowly settling in the water, while theJapanese in the patrol boat looked over the debris, Evidently satisfied, they left, roaring off to catch up with what was left of the convoy.

"A classic ambush, Skipper! Congratulations!" said the XO. The Cob said "Well, we're no longer virgins!" The boat surfaced and turned back to their original course for the Makassar Strait, between Borneo and Celebes.


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