SINKING A JAPANESE SUBMARINE

Potter, with a little help, downs I-174


Toward the end of April, 1944, as the Navy's forces secured their positions in the Marshall Islands, Task Force 58 made a hit‑and‑run visit to Truk, the Japanese naval stronghold in the central Pacific. The Truk strike came after Admiral Mitscher's fast‑moving task force had helped in the mop up of Hollandia. Looking for prospects in the central Pacific area, Mitscher decided to have his force make a run against Truk to further neutralize the stronghold after one previous visit to the Japanese base.

The force steamed toward Truk at 31 knots, the speed for which Mitscher's new Chief of Staff, Capt. Arleigh Burke, had made his name in destroyer fame. This was supposed to be primarily an air show, but despite the previous assault against Truk, Mitscher's carrier planes encountered hot anti‑aircraft fire over the Japanese stronghold.

Meanwhile, the task force picket destroyers, which included the Stephen Potter along with the Monterey and the Macdonough, came upon a Japanese I‑boat hovering south of Truk. When the Macdonough made the initial contact on April 30, its radar indicated the enemy vessel on the surface at a range of 12,600 yards. By the time he closed on the target it had gone into a fast dive, and now it was up to sonar to root out the submerged I‑boat. The Macdonough dropped a depth‑charge pattern, raising an oil slick from the depths, indicating the I‑boat was damaged.

At this point, under Capt. Crichton's expert ship handling, the Stephen Potter steamed up to make its run, depositing a pattern of depth‑charges which brought an array of debris obviously from the innards of the Japanese I‑boat. From below, deep‑bellied rumblings could be heard, and soon sonar operators could detect no contact, indicating the vessel had dropped into the depths of the Pacific. It was later when Japanese records were scoured that the victim of the Potter and Macdonough was the I‑174.

Memories of that day in April, 1944 naturally vary, and our copies of the ship's log unfortunately don't help a great deal to give us precise details of what happened in the aftermath of the I‑174 sinking. But Doc. Bill Delaney recalls that Capt. Crichton sent him in one of the ship's whale boats to try and salvage body parts or equipment from the Japanese sub. But Art McDearmid, then First Lieutenant, doesn't remember the whale boat being put over the side. In any case, Capt. Crichton, for fear that some other enemy vessels could be lurking around, cut short the exploratory effort and had us get under way and move out pronto.

Taken from "USS Stephen Potter - The Story of DD538" compiled and edited by Lt. Wilson F. (Bill) Minor USNR (Ret).