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|63k||M/V Submarex at Sault Ste. Marie, MI. c. 1961.
Great Lakes Institute Photo
On the 27 February 1942, CIW (Commercial Iron Works) of Portland, Oregon was awarded a contract, under the Navy's Small Vessel Program, to build 39 PC subchasers from PC-776 thru PC-814 at their Williamette River shipyard. During this contract, the PC-805 and PC-806 were converted into the PGM 10 & 11.
The PC-804 was launched on 16 October 1943 with Mrs. Richard E. McNulty as her sponsor. She was placed in commission at 1000 hours on Tuesday, 6 February 1945 at the Commercial Iron Works Yard, Portland, Oregon with AIyn Richard Jones, Lt., USNR of Griffin, Georgia in command. By 1100 hours all guests had departed the new subchaser and ships stores and provisions were being delivered. The following week was a busy time for the crew taking on and storing supplies, spare parts and commissary stores.
At 0900 hours on Tuesday, 13 February 1945, Special sea detail was set and with a civilian river pilot aboard they were underway down the Williamette River to the Interstate Terminal Docks, Portland to pick up their first consignment of ammunition. Then on to the Deperming Barge to have the ship degaussed. During the next few days they had the final hull and systems inspections and took on a full load of fuel oil at the Richmond Oil Docks, Portland.
On Friday, 16 February 1945, with a USCG pilot at the conn, they got underway down river for Swan Island. Anchored just north of the island, the civilian tug "Sampson" came along side to swing the ship to compensate the magnetic compass. Returning to the Interstate Docks, there were more stores and spares waiting to be loaded.
The following morning, Saturday 17 February 1945. With a pilot aboard, they proceeded down the Columbia River to the Tongue Point Coast Guard Repair Depot Base near Astoria, Oregon where sixty-three Mark 9 Mod 2 depth charges with boosters, pistols and detonators were loaded aboard.
On Sunday 18 February 1945. This was the day that started a journey that would take them across the Pacific to Asia and back. With a USCG pilot aboard they were under way at 0855 hours. Near the Columbia River Lightship, the pilot left the ship. Crossing the Columbia River bar, the subchaser was given her baptism of salt water. Many received their first clue to the agile propensities of a PC subchaser. It took several days for the effects of the "mal de mer" to run its course and by the time they reached San Pedro, most had found their sea legs.
Thursday, 22 February 1945. On arrival in San Pedro, they moored to the starboard side of the Cerritos Channel Pier, Terminal Island, California and reported to the SCTC Shakedown Officer at Roosevelt Base. After a materials inspection and a day and a half at sea conducting speed runs, fire, collision, man overboard and General Quarters drills, the orders came through that they were to be converted, along with the PC-807, into a Communications control ships (PC(C). They reported to the Target Repair Base to unload ammunition and then under verbal orders proceeded to the Fellows & Stewart Shipyards in San Pedro.
Monday, 5 March 1945. After eight days at the shipyard in San Pedro, they moved to the Spencer Kellogg & Sons Docks at Terminal Island. During the shipyard conversion period, various drills were exercised daily, and the crew took advantage of all the good liberty and sightseeing in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area. Captain's Mast and Deck Courts were held on a regular basis. A good time was had by most. By early April, the conversion had been completed and the crew was busy making preparations to head for the western Pacific. The skipper, Alyn R. Jones, Lt., USNR was transferred to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Long Beach and Victor A. Hampshire, Lt., USNR reported aboard as his replacement.
Friday, 13 April 1945 at 0730 hours. Underway from the Spencer Kellogg & Sons dock for the Ammunition and Net Depot at Seal Beach, California to pick up a full load of ammunition. At 1600 hours, they were underway again stopping at the Deperming Dock before mooring to the starboard side of Pier 90 at 1800 hours in San Pedro. After a false start for Pearl Harbor on Sunday, 15 April 1945, the subchaser was ordered to return to the Spencer Kellogg & Sons yard for engine repairs. (port engine shutdown).
Tuesday, 17 April 1945 at 1730 hours. They were finally underway for Pearl Harbor T.H. in company with the USCG manned troopship General R. L. Howze (APA-134). The forward speed was set at 15.5 knots. The subchaser was out in front with the troop ship maintaining a position astern of it. The radar was in operation and the sonar unit was maintaining a beam to beam search. At 1300 every day the drills started, General Quarters, man overboard, collision, fire and gun drills with live ammunition.
Monday, 23 April 1945, 0850 hours - Radar reported a land bearing at 48,000 yards and by noon Diamond Head Point was in sight. Aloha. At 1500 hours they were moored alongside the PC-1156 at the DE Dock, Pearl Harbor, T.H. Thirteen other PC's were in this cluster. (PC-465, 495, 581 and PC(C) 802, 803, 804, 807, 1135, 1180, 1178, 1198, 1230 and the PCE 269). The following day after taking on fresh water, fuel oil, dry and commissary stores, a Field Day was scheduled for a planned Captain's Inspection. Liberty began at 1630 hours.
Sunday, 29 April 1945, 1630 hours - John N. Bohannon, Ensign, USNR of Asheville, NC, OIC of Control Communications Team 82 reported aboard with his six man team.
Wednesday, 2 May 1945, 1430 hours - R.P. Hunter, CMDR, USN reported aboard to assume duties as OTC and SOPA of the PC(C) 802, 803, 804 and 807 during training exercises. The group was underway at 1600 hours for Areas 30, 33, and 35 off the island of Kauai. For the next twelve days they were subjected to intensive SCTC type training drills. General Quarters, high speed runs, man overboard, fire, collision and damage control, VPR runs, gun drills firing 20 and 40 mm guns at floating targets. At night, firing AA and illuminating star shells from the 3in .50 gun, maneuvering by manual steering, navigation, dropped depth charges, towing exercises with the 802 and firing 3in .50, 20 mm and 40 mm at beach targets on Kahoolawe Island. From an anchorage in Maalaea Bay, Maui, the crew were able to enjoy a short liberty on the island.
On Thursday, 10 May 1945, the PC(c) group joined with the USS Mendocino (APA 100) and the USS Westmoreland (APA 104) to rehearse invasion maneuvers.
Monday, 14 May 1945, Underway enroute from Maalaea Bay, Maui to Pearl Harbor in company with the PC(C) 802, 803, 807, 1127, 1136, 1137, 1178, 1180, 1230, and 1251. OTC was on the 804. By 1800 hours they were moored alongside the 802 to Easy No. 3 buoy, Middle Lock at Pearl Harbor. Liberty began at 1630 hours.
Aloha, Mahalo and Shaka - (Greeting/Farewell, Thank you and Hang loose).
Sunday, 20 May 1945, Underway at 1130 hours pursuant to COMPHIBPAC order 7045 for escort duty with LST Flotilla 35 consisting of 19 LST's enroute west toward Eniwetok, in the Marshall Islands and Guam in the Marianas Islands with escorts PC(C) 804, 807, 1136, 1137, 1178 and the landing craft gunboat LCI (F) 788. OTC was the LST 566 and Escort Commander was the PC-804. The convoy made a brief stop at the Eniwetok atoll for fuel and water.
Saturday 9 June 1945, 0800 hours. They arrived off Apra Harbor, Guam. On radio orders from the Port Director, the convoy proceeded to Saipan arriving there at noon the following day. Here, some specialized radio equipment was brought aboard and smoke generators were installed on the stern for use during "Kamikaze" attacks.
Tuesday, 26 June 1945. Underway from Tanapag Harbor, Saipan for Okinawa as escort for convoy SOK No. 20 consisting of five LCI's and a landing craft fire support ship. On the way north, many waves of B-29s from the air bases on Saipan and Tinian were observed heading toward the Japanese home islands.
On arrival at Okinawa, after taking on fuel, water and galley stores they were assigned to "ping line" duty off the northwest coast of the island. Working from the Hugushi Beach area during their stay in the Ryukyus Islands group they also pulled duty in Buckner Bay, Kerama Retto, Ie Shima, Tori Shima and Aguni Shima.
In mid July 1945, Navy Weather Central on Guam reported another strong weather system brewing north of the Palaus Islands and heading in the general direction of Okinawa. There's an old Japanese saying that when you have one typhoon, another will follow in 10 days.
Thursday, 19 July 1945, 0700 hours. Underway pursuant to typhoon plan X-ray East as one of the escorts for LST Group No. 93, and the USS Wakefield (APA-21). The escort commander was on PCE-856. The convoy rode out the typhoon at sea making a slow speed circle around Okinawa returning to Hugushi Beach on Saturday 21 July 1945. The damage report showed torn canvas and life rafts having been carried away.
With Okinawa secured, the duty priorities of the PC(C)-804 were needed in the staging area on the island of Samar in the Gulf of Leyte. This was a major staging area for the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands.
Sunday, 22 July 1945 1300 hours. Underway from Buckner Bay, pursuant to order of the Port Director/ Okinawa to act as escort for Convoy OKL No. 6 bound for the Philippines with Escort Task Unit 99.1.18 comprised of the PCE 872, PC(C) 803, 804, 807 and 1251 and the SC(C)-1306, 1309 and 1315, with the USS Underhill (DE-682) under the command of Lt. Cmdr. Robert M. Newcomb as Escort Commander. Officer in Tactical Command was the LST-739. The convoy headed south escorting seven LST's, carrying battle weary soldiers from the 96th Division bound for R & R in the Leyte Gulf area. The convoy consisted of the LST's 739, 768, 647, 981, 990, 991 and 1013 and the stores ship USS Adria (AF-30). The forward speed was set at 10 knots.
Tuesday 24 July 1945. At 0900 hours aJapanese aircraft was observed at a range of 10 miles for about half an hour before disappearing from the radar screen. Later events suggested that this aircraft apparently was a spotter for the Kaitens carrying IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) submarines. In the early afternoon, while still some 150 miles northeast of Luzon, the convoy was sighted by the long range IJN submarine I-53 under the command of Saichi Oba, CMDR, IJN. It has been reported that the I-53 launched four Kaitens into the convoy area. At 1359 hours, the Underhill began picking up questionable sonar contacts. At 1420 hours the OTC ordered the 804 to investigate another suspicious contact while they prepared to sink a floating horn type mine with gunfire. Fifteen minutes later, the subchaser picked up a strong contact bearing 330° at 1200 yards. The contact was lost and the 804 slowed in an attempt to regain the contact.
The 804 was almost dead in the water when one of the crew shouted "Periscope on the port quarter!!!" It was coming right at them. The periscope retracted and in the crystal clear waters of the Philippine Sea, they watched the submarine pass directly under the hull. They regained sonar contact and coming about, dropped a full pattern of depth charges on the sub with no apparent effect. Within minutes a Kaiten midget submarine was observed heading straight for the bow closing at about 15 knots. Going full ahead and making a quick turn they managed to avoid it. Almost immediately another report came from the talker on the stem. "Midget submarine fast approaching directly astern!!!" Making another high speed turn they missed being hit by inches. They were in the middle of a wolf pack of Kaitens midget submarines that apparently had been launched by the IJN submarine that had gone under their hull only minutes before.
At 1455 hours, The USS Underhill (DE-682) picked up another strong sonar contact and attacked with depth charges. Lt. Cmdr. Newcomb believed that he had sunk a midget submarine and also reported that torpedoes had been sighted in the area. In rapid succession he reported that he was chasing another midget submarine and was about to ram.
Whether the DE actually rammed or was hit by a Kaiten, will never be known, for at 1515 hours, the Underhill blew up. Everything forward of the stack of the Buckley class Destroyer-Escort disappeared in a cloud of smoke and debris. It has been reported that there were three separate violent explosions on the starboard side, possibly from being rammed by two Kaitens or a single Kaitens 3000+lb warhead and the detonation of the DE's 3in .50 and 20 mm magazines and forward boiler room. The bow and the bridge section sank instandy with all hands including the captain, nine officers and 102 men working in the forward section of the ship. Closing the sinking stern section of the DE, the 804 picked up 17 men in the water. Several crew members jumped into the water to assist the survivors. Seaman 1/c Domingo Adams of Port Arthur, Texas was credited with saving seven men.
Their first attempt to go alongside the remains of the Underhill was thwarted by the report of another periscope in the area which forced them to go on the defensive. After picking up a solid contact, they fired a spread of mouse trap rockets off the bow. Returning to the sinking hulk, they were able to rescue 30 of the more seriously injured men.
After the subchasers had rescued 116 men, the 804 made a futile attempt to tow the stern section of the Underhill. Ordered to sink the hulk as a navigational hazard, a small section of the bow was sunk first and then the rest of the hulk. Eighty-five rounds of 3in .50 AP and numerous rounds of 40 and 20 mm ammunition were expended to sink the hulk. At 1918 hours, the hulk of the USS Underhill (DE-682) sank beneath the surface of the Philippine Sea. The subchasers mess hall had been converted into a hospital ward and operating room by Lesley E. Mann, Pharmacist Mate 1/C from Glasgow, Montana, who administered medical aid to the critically injured sailors. A doctor was requested and the 803 was dispatched to the LST 739 to pick up a surgeon and his team with medical supplies. At 2000 hours, Navy doctor R. E. Lumberson, Lt., MC, USN and F. L. Jackson, PhM 1/c came aboard to help treat the survivors.
At 2030 hours, all engines ahead full to overtake the convoy. The PCE-872 had been dispatched to screen the 807 who had the SC(C)-1315 in tow. At 0200 hours, in company with the PC(C)-803, they rejoined the convoy and assumed escort patrol on the starboard flank of the convoy. Their destination was the island of Samar in the Letye Gulf where medical facilities were available to treat the survivors. The PC(C)-1251 was now escort commander.
Wednesday 25 July 1945 at 0630 hours, They went alongside the LST-739 to transfer all the remaining survivors including 13 stretcher cases and the bodies of two deceased sailors from the USS Underhill. The final count for the tragedy was 109 dead or missing and 126 survivors.
Friday, 27 July 1945, 1130 hours, The starboard anchor was let go in 10 fathoms of water in San Pedro Bay, Leyte, P.I.
On 10 August 1945, while the PC(C) 804 was still in Leyte Gulf, the Japanese surrendered. THE WAR WAS OVER. On 15 August 1945, the surrender became official. A few days later they set sail for the Naval Base at Subic Bay on the island of Luzon. From there they went over to Manila and then back to Okinawa where fuel, water and galley supplies were brought aboard before heading for Inchon, Korea as part of the official task force of ships headed for Inchon to accept the surrender of the Japanese contingent there. Because of a 29 foot tidal surge they spent most of the time anchored in the Salee River off Inchon. They were assigned to harbor control duty and had liberty time sightseeing in Inchon and Seoul.
In early October of 1945, their base of operation was shifted to Shanghai, China. Underway again, the 804 set a course across the Yellow Sea toward the mouth of the Yangtze River. Traveling up the muddy Yangtze, they picked up a Danish river pilot to guide them up the treacherous Huang Pu (river). On the morning of 19 October 1945 the 804 docked near the International Settlement just north of the Soochow Creek. The duty at Shanghai was hazardous at best but the liberty was magnificent. The hazardous part were the mines and river traffic.
The discharge point system started to take its toll on the crew. Replacements started to replace replacements. The Communications Control team left for Pearl Harbor. They reached a point where only a third of the original crew was left aboard. Then in early January 1946, orders were received to make all preparations to get underway for the west coast. The 804 was to be OTC traveling in company with the PC's 589, 594 and the PC-1171. The small flotilla island hopped across the Pacific stopping at Guam, Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor. They made landfall off San Diego, on 22 February 1946 exactly one year from the day they first arrived. Decommissioning followed shortly after and the ex-PC(C)-804 was transferred to the Maritime Commission on 14 July 1948 and sold to the Global Marine Exploration Company of Los Angeles, California. But that's another story.
- R. W. Daly/PC-1181
M/V Submarex, ex-PC-804. When the PC(C) 804 was laid up in 1946, she was carefully preserved for future use. By 1948, however, the forecast of future wartime needs had changed so drastically that the majority of the subchasers were being sold for scrap, and the 804 was among these. The buyers weren't restricted in their use of these vessels, and if they could make a better deal selling the whole ship than selling its components, that's what they did. The ex-subchaser hulls didn't make especially good vessels for the transportation or fishing industry. The auction/disposal price was low and that appealed to buyers who wanted to experiment with various innovative and unproven ideas such as the oil companies that had been investigating the practicality of drilling for oil in
The coast of southern California was looking like a potential oil development area, and four oil companies joined forces to explore this possibility. The companies were Conoco, Union, Shell and Superior and this consortium was called The Cuss Group. The group acquired the ex-PC(C)-804 in 1948 and named her the "Submarex" implying that she was a sub-marine exploration vessel. The joint venture group also owned the ex-PC-1599, LSM-251, two APC's and three LCM's.
She was outfitted to take samples of the sea bed by dropping a bucket and catching whatever came up. This was later refined to dropping a hollow pipe, which recovered a short section of the sea floor intact and eventually by adding additional joints of pipe so that the amount of penetration could be controlled.
The method developed into what is now known as piston coring and the pipe system, of course, is what is now known as "drill pipe." Soon after a derrick was built that hung over the side of the ship and folded down on the deck for stowage. Once the coring method was perfected, the group went on to use the Submarex to develop equipment to actually drill oil wells from a floating vessel.
Although land-based oil drilling had been going on for many years, including on fixed drilling structures in shallow water, to the best of my knowledge, the Submarex was the first floating drill ship.
As offshore drilling became more of a reality, the need for a joint venture between the Cuss members disappeared and the personnel involved in the drilling part of it were given the option of taking over the assets and becoming a private company. In 1958, they became the Global Marine Exploration Company, a company that is still a strong player in contract oil drilling today. They converted additional drilling rigs out of hulls better suited to the task and later built the first built-for-purpose drilling ship. The Submarex drifted into spending most of her part time retirement pier side at Long Beach, CA. It was during this dry spell, however, that her most interesting assignment came up.
In November of 1958, the 639 foot Great Lakes ore carrier, the Carl D. Bradley sank in Lake Michigan during a winter storm, taking 33 of the 35 crew members with her. Resulting compensatory claims on behalf of the lost crew members led to a contract with Global Marine to drill and recover metal samples from her hull. In the fall of 1959, Submarex was reactivated and made the 7,000 mile voyage to the Great Lakes.
The SS Carl D. Bradley, Registration No. 226776, a 639 foot self unloading bulk ore carrier, was built by the American Shipbuilding Company in Lorain, Ohio in 1927 for the Bradley Transportation Line, a division of the U.S. Steel Corporation. When she was launched, the Bradley became the largest ship working in the Great Lakes.
Monday, November 17 1958. At 6:30 p.m., after unloading her cargo of limestone at Buffington, Indiana, the 31 year old vessel headed north for her home port at Rogers City, Michigan on the last leg of her final voyage of the 1958 season. Under the command of Captain Roland Bryan and with a crew of 35, she was underway, carrying 9,000 tons of water ballast, for winter lay-up and much needed hull repairs.
Two weeks previous, she had bottomed at Cedarville, Michigan and ruptured some hull plates. Her hull had been badly damaged but repairs were made and the ship was considered seaworthy.
Captain Bryan was under orders to "take it easy and nurse her along." During the winter layup she was to receive a planned $800,000 hull renovation.
All the next day, gale force winds and 25 to 30 foot seas pounded the Bradley as she approached the northern limits of Lake Michigan. At 5:15 p.m., off Beaver Island, the ore carrier was hit simultaneously, fore and aft, by two gigantic waves. Looking aft, Captain Bryan could see the giant ore carrier was breaking up. Acting quickly, he and the first mate, Elmer Fleming, sounded the general alarm, sent out distress signals and gave orders to abandon ship. It was reported that the stern section sank first and then the fore part of the ship rolled over and sank. The once proud and gallant ore carrier Carl D. Bradley succumbed to a violent winter storm and had gone down in 365 feet of water, 12 miles south of Gull Island and 47 miles north west of Charlevoix, Michigan.
First mate Elmer Fleming and Watchman Frank Mayers miraculously found one of the ships life rafts and climbed aboard. Shortly after daybreak they were spotted by a Coast Guard helicopter and a few hours later they were picked up by the USCG cutter Sundew (WAGL-404). The two men had spent 14 hours on the life raft battling the frigid temperatures and numbing cold waters. There were no
Charges of negligence were brought against the Company.
The Bradley Transportation Line's offer of a blanket settlement of $600,000 dollars to the families of the thirty- three seaman lost was met with lawsuits of over sixteen million dollars. At this point, Global Marine Explorations was contacted.
The Corps of Engineers, using sonar equipment aboard the survey boat M.S. Williams confirmed that the Bradley was lying in 325 feet of water, 53.25 miles northwest of Boulder Reef in the northern reaches of Lake Michigan.
In the spring of 1960, after positioning the Submarex over the wreck with multiple anchors and using a television camera, they found the ore carrier laying on an even keel right side up on the bottom.
Adjustments were made to the anchors to drill alongside a break in the ore carrier hull. The bit used was called a "mill" normally used to get through broken-off drilling equipment in a hole and was so designed to cut through steel. A scrap railroad wheel was put around where the bit was going to penetrate, to keep the bit from walking off during the start of the rotary drilling motion. The core samples were retrieved from inside the drill bit. They successfully brought up the required steel samples which proved that the ore carrier had been structurally weakened by damage, age, and metal fatigue.
The litagation surrounding the Bradley disaster was finally resolved with a settlement of $1,250,000 to be divided between the 35 claimants who had originally sued for a total of $16,490,000 dollars.
The television camera was one of the first ever to be used for undersea work, and had its own lights, so at that depth, where the water is quite clear, it helped considerably. The wreck was positively identified by taking pictures of the ships name on the stern.
After recovering the hull samples from the Bradley, the drill ship did some scientific core drilling for the University of Michigan. On 28 September 1960, she arrived in Charlevoix, Michigan to rig for a drilling job for El Paso Gas of Canada.
On 7 October, the Submarex visited Detroit to clear customs and on the following day arrived in Windsor, Ontario for entry into Canada. The next morning the crew began setting up mooring anchors over the drill site. Drilling in 60 feet of water, they drilled to the depth of 1174 feet, set casings to 1160 feet, perforated and broke down the formation with acid to get returns.
By the 31st of October, the weather was getting so bad, they had to plug and abandon the hole they had drilled. They sailed for Buffalo and tied up at the Rich Marina for the winter.
In the spring of 1961, the Submarex returned to Long Beach, California and again was tied up. Fatigue eventually got to her and after a couple of close calls with sinking alongside her pier, her hulk was sold in 1966 to National Metals and Steel Company of Terminal Island.
We are grateful to George R. Schneider for the technical back ground about the Submarex and her crew.
THIEVES, PROBITY AMONG
The crew of the M. V. Submarex were a mixed bag of gentlemen who worked well together for their common welfare. The M. V. Submarex (ex-PC-804) had a critical need of a spare governor for its
RB-99-DA Hamilton diesel engines. After our Chief engineer had explained his dilemma to the crew, they purposely tied the Submarex to a pier near where a company was scrapping out some Hamilton powered PC's. One evening, assuming that everyone had gone home, our intrepid Chief Engineer was apprehended by the scrap yard watchman sitting atop a Hamilton engine meticulously removing the governor. He made the lame excuse that he thought the engine belonged to Global Marine.
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