8505 Overbrook Road

                                                                                                            Fairfax, VA 22031

                                                                                                            12 January 1999


Bob Rawlins, Editor, USCS Log

PO Box 981

Healdsburg, CA 95448


Dear Bob,


            Since you seem to be so interested in the fate of USS DORADO (SS-248), having published two lengthy articles[1] on it by CAPT Magneson and CDR Rock, I find it only time to reply to these articles.  I have in the past written several times to CDR Rock, hoping he would consider a logical dialogue between us first before getting someone to publish his research, but it appears he would rather publish than explore some basic truths.  Maybe the USCS would like to sponsor a conference to review all the facts on the loss of DORADO instead of simply publishing articles from one person with a somewhat hidden agenda?


            I say "hidden" because I do not believe CDR Rock has told anyone that he was a Navy patrol plane pilot during World War II and was one of the pilots who flew off in search of DORADO the following day.  Considering this bit of information, I believe CDR Rock may be basing his research and conclusions not on trying to find out what happened to DORADO but more on absolving the actions of his fellow Naval pilots.


            I have a number of issues with the article that appeared in the October 1998 issue of the USCS Log.


            In that article, CDR Rock states that "The pilots' opinions and the official squadron history concluded that the attack was unsuccessful because of faulty ordnance and no debris was ever found."


            One should forget the pilot's opinions and "official squadron history" because these are exactly that: opinions and histories written by the squadron involved in the bombing.  One should go to a more formal source--the minutes of the official findings from the Board of Investigation on the loss of DORADO.  One of the concluding statements, after all the information was gathered from interviews with these pilots, was the following set of discrepancies:


"That there was a lack of proper indoctrination and A.C.I. instruction of pilots of Patrol Squadron 210 of Fleet Air Wing ELEVEN stationed at Guantanamo.  This is demonstrated in the fact that the senior pilot was not familiar with the exact meaning and definition of Atotal bombing restriction area@ (Findings of Facts par. 11); that he failed to call the crew to general quarters; that none of the pilots or crew examined were familiar with the characteristics and distinctive differences between U.S. and German submarines at time of attack (Findings of Facts, par. 19); that no navigational log was kept in plane 210-P-9 nor was the chart used in flight of 12 October 1943 preserved."


            CDR Rock failed to bring forth any facts that would muddy the truth.  These are facts that I had already brought to his attention.  His allegiance is with proving that his fellow Navy pilots were innocent, not with the facts on the loss of DORADO.


            CDR Rock stated that the "attack was unsuccessful because of faulty ordnanceY" but no where in the article does he tell you that some of the ordnance dropped on DORADO was not faulty.  The official report from the squadron, which CDR Rock has and should have quoted, states that four bombs were dropped: three Mark-47=s and one 100-lb. Mark-4 Mod-4 demolition bomb.  The intervalometer, which times the release of the bombs from the bomb rack, was set at 160 knots and 60 feet.  LT(jg) Felix, the pilot-in-command of the PBM that bombed DORADO, writes that the Mark-4 Mod-4 demolition bomb could not have exploded since there was not sufficient altitude at the time of release to permit arming the bomb.  The Mark-4 Mod-4 bomb was the second bomb released from the plane.  LT(jg) Felix also writes that the first and fourth bomb should have exploded, but that he doubted that the third bomb, a Mark-47 depth charge, exploded.  He claims that the third bomb was probably never armed, since the arming wire was not in the bomb rack when an inspection was made of the plane after returning to base.  However, the arming wire may have been lost somewhere in the night and in the confusion of an improperly trained aircrew not at General Quarters, because log entries from ships in the GAT-92 convoy show that the surface ships' crew heard three explosions.  Ship's logs are admissable in a court of law, opinions and squadron histories are not.


            CDR Rock goes to great lengths to talk about U-boats, shadow U-boats and U-boat tactics against convoys.  I wrote to CDR Rock and told him to read the Naval Institute Press book entitled "The U-boat War in the Caribbean" by Gaylord T. M. Kelshall.  He didn't even bother to reference it in his article.  Probably because the book makes many statements which contradict his opinions.  For example, Mr. Kelshall writes: "U-boats never operated in packs in the Caribbean and did not need to attack convoys at this stage because of the large number of independently sailing merchant ships.  This made it extremely difficult for escorts--operating either with convoys or independently as hunting escorts--to catch and sink U-boats."  CDR Rock knew this because I sent it to him.


            By the way, If you check my website at www.syneca.com you will see that I have several hundred items on DORADO and that I have been researching Dorado’s loss for many years.  I believe I have the largest collection of DORADO-related material in the world.  I also have the English translation of U-214's logbook.  U-214 was the U-boat that saw the flare that the PBM drop after it had bombed DORADO.  The logbook has a lot of information in it about rendezvousing with other U-boat for refueling, picking up supplies and exchanging personnel.  Nothing in the logbook even suggests that they were looking to team up with any other U-boat in the Caribbean.  While in the Caribbean they were independent.  All rendezvous points were in the Atlantic east of all the Caribbean islands.


            CDR Rock also mentions that 8 U-boats were in the Caribbean and that any of them could have been bombed instead of DORADO.  Allow me to give you the same information on these U-boats that I provided CDR Rock.  Since he failed to provide this information in his article, I think it should be brought out here:


            Here are the 8 U-boats mentioned in CDR Rock's article.  My research shows the dates they were actually in the Caribbean and the dates they were lost:






July 42; Feb-Mar 43

Apr 10, 44


May-Jun 42

Apr 15, 45


Sep-October 43

August 44


May 42; Jul-August 42; Mar-Apr 43

May 45 (Surrendered)


Dec 42-January 43; Sep-October 43

Jul 26, 44


Sep-October 43; Mar-Apr 44

May 45 (Surrendered)


Sep-October 42; Jul 43; Nov-Dec 43; Jun-Jul 44

May 45



Sep-October 43; Feb-Apr 44

Apr 22, 45


            So the only U-boats in the Caribbean during October 1943 (bombing took place 12 October 1943) were U-123, U-214, U-218, and U-518.  We know U-214 saw the PBM's flare after the first bombing and recorded her encounter with an aircraft about 2 hours later.  So there were only three other U-boats in the Caribbean that could have been bombed by the PBM by the first bombing.  But here are their stories:


U-123: "October found Von Schreoter's U-123 patiently awaiting a chance to strike, off Trinidad, but a combined air-sea hunter-killer group was looking specifically for her, making it difficult to survive, much less attacking anything.  He never left the area.  On November 3 he was replaced by U-154.  Von Schreoter left the area having only experienced a succession of air attacks and harassment."  U-123 was some 1,000 miles away and never near the GAT-92 convoy.


U-218: "By the middle of October Becker had U-218 east of Antigua, on his way down the island chain to Trinidad.  None of the Caribbean U-boats in September or October 1943 managed to sink anything, although U-218 claimed to have sunk a schooner off Trinidad."  Again, heading away from GAT-92, never crossing GAT-92's path, and some 1,000 miles away near Trinidad.


U-518: "In October, Offermann in U-518 had worked his way through the Bahamas, up the Nicholas channel and through the straits of Florida.  He was operating U-518 just inside the Gulf of Mexico close to Key West.  He spent the month of October in the Gulf of Mexico and was not credited with any kills."  Spending the month in the Gulf of Mexico does not put him on any path with GAT-92 and not even "inside" the Caribbean Ocean.


            In other words, having eliminated all the U-boats, that which remains is a submarine called DORADO.  We happen to have a submarine who was at first thought to be a few miles away from where the bombing occurred--but whose distance was reduced even further after an error was found in the Intelligence briefing to the pilots back in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


            Now here's a couple of stories about Navy pilots flying in broad daylight.  The first pilot was searching for DORADO a day after the bombing: The pilot reported seeing a submarine periscope sticking up out of the water on his search.  He states: "Rusty color.  Round object 8 to 10 inches in diameter.  Motionless.  Extending vertically 6 to 8 feet out of water.  Bombs dropped short.  Object still visible after attack."  It amazes me that the pilot saw the vertical round object but failed to see the yacht beneath it!  It was a mast of a sailboat, not the periscope of a submarine.  Two days later the word came out from NOB Guantanamo: "Original sighting evaluated as sailing vessel barepoled." [Barepoled: A sailing vessel using her engine rather than sails to move through the water].  I would bet that the crew on that sailboat had a word or two to say to that pilot!


            But the best one of all came from COMGULFSEAFRON: LCDR Elwell was the pilot of a Navy plane en route from Panama to Miami when, a couple days after the disappearance of DORADO, he reported: "sub sighted at OCT151405Z Position approximately 12-21 N 78-50 W on course estimated between 240 and 270 degrees.  Course of plane 018 degrees.  Speed of sub five to ten knots.  Observed through glasses for ten minutes from altitude of 10,000 feet.  Sub in trim with only dark conning tower and two periscopes visible.  Described as leaving considerable Y-shaped feather with heavy part of Y rounded and the wake appearing like a spur on a boot.  No smoke seen.  Scattered clouds between plane and sub but visibility good.  Sea calm.  No men or guns observed on deck.  Pilot states that Admiral Van Rook, co-pilot and chief mechanic definitely saw and believe sub sighted by all passengers.  Remained on surface, believed not to have seen plane.  Plane turned towards (sic) sub but nearest approach between five and ten miles.  Pilot experience not extensive but has had contacts and done anti-submarine work.  Sub on beam of plane at time of sighting.  Fleet Air Wing Three notified."


            As it turned out, the sub was first classified as an enemy sub, the reclassified as friendly sub, and finally, after reports from passengers of cruiseliner PRINCE RUPERT came in, the sub was finally reclassified for what it really was -- a whale.  So much for pilots identifying submarines in daytime without fear of being fired upon.  Now, place yourself back in that darkened cockpit at midnight of a moonlit night, flying just above the waves at around 200 mph, ready to drop bombs on a submarine.  How in the world could anyone give such a clear picture of that submarine, down to the spacing between the wood decking?  C'mon guys...  Even the pilot, who failed to call the crew to general quarters, said so himself: "I saw the decking from 200 feet at 170 knotsY"  CDR Rock's conclusion in his first USCS article that "the credibility of the air crew's observations of these features is considered excellent" most be held up to some scrutiny.


And now for a sanity check.  I do not like the fact that the aircrew that bombed DORADO was not sequestered from one another after they landed.  Everything they did they collaborated on.  You can easily put yourself in their shoes: Reservists called away from profitable careers in the airlines to fly on active duty.  Sent down to the Caribbean instead of the "real war" in Europe or in the Pacific islands, flying patrols instead of fighters.  Then they bomb a sub and are then told via radio that they may have bombed DORADO.  If you see the sub again, they are told, identify yourself first.  Of course they do that and the U-boat fires back!  Well of course they talked about what just happened.  And when they heard it may have been DORADO, anyone with any common sense knows damn well what that crew talked about.  They were not about to go down in history as the aircrew that sank one of their own.  Remember that the Board of Investigations found "that none of the pilots or crew examined were familiar with the characteristics and distinctive differences between U.S. and German submarines at time of attack"?  Yet all the crew who saw the submarine they attacked claimed that it had the characteristics of a German U-boat by the time they were sworn in to testify--all the way down to the spacing between the deck boards.  C'mon guysY  This was a pretty powerful event in their lives--of course they talked about it amongst themselves.  And human nature being what it is, of course they all saw a German U-boat sitting out thereY  When in fact it was simply a case of "friendly fire."


            Now don't think that "friendly fire" was something that happened just in Vietnam or Desert Storm.  It was not uncommon during World War II to be fired upon by your own, and that included firing upon your own submarines.  There are numerous other recorded events of friendly fire on U.S. submarines.  Those friendly fire events that occurred before the DORADO incident included, chronologically:


·        USS GREENLING being bombed by friendly aircraft on 28 February 42.

·        USS MACKERAL being attacked by Army bombers on 10 April 42.

·        USS MACKERAL being attacked by merchantman in Block Island Sound on 4 May 42.

·        S-16 being bombed by friendly aircraft on 13 July 42.

·        S-17 being bombed by friendly aircraft on 4 August 42.

·        S-11 being depth charged by YP's near Cape Mala on 16 August 42.

·        R-2 being fired upon by USCG CARTIGAN on 25 August 42.

·        R-6 being bombed by aircraft on 13 Mar 43.

·        USS HARDER being attacked by Navy aircraft on 2 May 43.

·        USS LAPON being machine-gunned near New London Sanctuary on 5 May 43.

·        R-14 being fired on by Fort Taylor, Key West on 29 June 43.

·        USS RATON being fired upon by merchantman on 11 August 43.

·        USS COD being fired upon by ALCOA PATRIOT on 30 August 43.


     Just a few more observations on the second article before I close:


     CDR Rock states that "DORADO most probably had a 5-inch gun on her foredeck."  I have written to CDR Rock on more than one occasion to explain that USS DORADO was equipped with a wet-type 3"/50 deck gun made in 1918.  It was built by the American Radiator Company.  This is a fact.


            CDR Rock states that "During the night of 13 October, Stock laid more mines close to the GAT lane (German grid position EC5613) and left the area."  Not true.  Only one mine was laid and not in that position.  Actually, according to the U-214's logbook, a total of 18 mines were laid and a 19th one was tossed overboard and it later exploded.  The first 15 mines were laid down in front of the opening to the Panama Canal on October 8.  The other mines were laid as written in the U-214's logbook (Lat/long equivalents to German grid positions are in parentheses; Author's notes are in brackets [ ]):


October 13

 0025   EC 5423 (14.57N-73.21W), Laid one EMS, as I must be on convoy route here. [The 16th mine]

 0147   Bright yellow light showed briefly on horizon in direction 50 degrees true [This was the PBM's flare after bombs were dropped on DORADO]


October 14

 0420   EC 5613 (14.57N-71.51W), Laid EMS, as I must be on traffic lane. [The 17th mine]


October 19

 0520   ED 3588 (16.51N-61.45W), 1 EMS laid.  A second one is out of order and was thrown overboard. [The 18th and 19th mines]

 0702   ED 3591 (16.45N-61.33W), Detonation of first EMS observed far astern, also flash of light.  So it went off on us.


            So I regress to my original paragraph: the USCS is dedicated to the study of Naval and Maritime covers and the history behind those covers.  It has published two articles on the loss of DORADO by former World War II patrol aircraft pilots and one of those pilots flew in search of DORADO.  These articles are interesting pieces of research but fail the litmus test.  Maybe it is time to host a conference on the loss of DORADO and maybe come to some conclusion that the original Board of Investigations and Court of Inquiry could not come to?  Maybe it is time for some organization to step up and write the final chapter in the history of USS DORADO (SS-248)?






                                                                        Douglas E. Campbell, Ph.D.

                                                                        LCDR, USNR-R

[1] Magneson and Rock, The Truth About Dorado’s Loss, USCS Log, Vol. 64, No. 6, June 1997 and Magneson and Rock, The DORADO Mystery, a 1998 Opinion, USCS Log, Vol. 65, No. 10, October 1998.