USS Tambor (SS-198)

USS Tambor (SS-198)

USS "Tambor" (SS-198), the lead ship of her class of submarine, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for the tambor.

Her keel was laid down on 16 January 1939 by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut. She was launched on 20 December 1939 sponsored by Miss Lucia Ellis, and commissioned on 3 June 1940 with Lieutenant Commander John M. Murphy, Jr. (Class of 1925), [Blair, "Silent Victory" (Lippincott, 1975), p.901.] in command.

After fitting out at New London, "Tambor" got underway on 6 August 1940 for her shakedown cruise which took her to New York City, Washington, DC, Morehead City, North Carolina, and Houston, Texas. Following further training off Colon, Panama, the submarine returned to New London, Connecticut, before holding her acceptance trials and undergoing a post-shakedown overhaul at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. After conducting live-fire trials on the effectiveness of depth charges, the first of their kind in the U.S. Navy, "Tambor" reported in May 1941 to the Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet, and the command of Rear Admiral Thomas W. Withers, Jr. (COMSUBPAC). [Blair, p.83.]

"Tambor" began a routine peacetime patrol of Wake Island in late November 1941 and, when World War II broke out, she began her first war patrol. However, she was forced to return to Pearl Harbor with one engine out of commission. Routed back to Mare Island, where the damage was repaired, the submarine returned to Pearl Harbor in March 1942.

First war patrol

"Tambor" began her first war patrol [With Raymond A. Spruance, Jr., aboard. Blair, p.215.] on 15 March when she stood out of Pearl Harbor to reconnoiter the areas around Wake Island, Truk, New Ireland, New Britain, and Rabaul. In all, she made nine attacks; [Blair, p.215.] on 16 April, she fired two torpedoes at a tanker. One hit, and she was credited with a sinking; [Blair, p.216.] this was not verified by postwar examination of Japanese records. [This, known as the Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee (JANAC), was, however, filled with mistakes.] "Tambor" returned to Pearl Harbor on 12 May, where her skipper criticized the torpedoes. [Blair, p.216.]

econd patrol

After refitting, she was then assigned to Task Group 7.1. The group of six submarines sailed for Midway Island on 21 May to begin patrolling a 150 mile (275 km) circle in anticipation of the invasion fleet intelligence had reported was "en route" there. At 07:15 on 4 June, 90 minutes after first reported contact, COMSUBPAC, Admiral Robert H. English, informed his submarines, waiting until after 11:00 to order them to close. [Blair, p.241.] Running surfaced, "Tambor" was strafed by aircraft [Blair, p.245.]

At 02:15 on 5 June, "Tambor" sighted four large ships 90 mi (165 km) north of Midway, [Blair, p.246.] at a range of three miles, sending a vague contact report. [Blair, p.216.] This led Admiral Spruance to mistakenly believe Yamamoto still intended to invade, and he moved to block, [Blair, p.216.] thereby denying the Japanese the chance to engage that night (when Spruance's carriers would have been virtually defenseless). Three other ships soon appeared; about forty minutes after "Tambor" signalled, she was sighted. [Blair, p.246.] Maneuvering to avoid, . [Blair, p.246.] Not until 04:12 did "Tambor" identify them as Japanese, having thus far fired no torpedoes; [Blair, p.246.] fearing daylight, "Tambor" dived and made no attacks, even on the visibly damaged "Mogami", [Blair, p.246. "DANFS" tells it somewhat more kindly to Murphy.] one of the best targets a submarine could ask for. Two days later, "Tambor" sighted a scout plane seven miles (11 km) away; she went to convert|140|ft. Two depth bombs, which exploded close aboard, damaged both her periscopes and cracked all four battery blower motors, so "Tambor" returned to Pearl Harbor on 16 June for repairs; her commanding officer was relieved. [Blair, p.250.]

Third patrol

Her next patrol (now in the hands of Stephen H. Ambruster) began on 24 July at Pearl Harbor, ending on 19 September at Fremantle, Australia. "Tambor" searched for enemy shipping in the Marshall Islands. On 7 August near Wotje Atoll, she sank the converted net tender "Shofaka" with one torpedo which broke her in half. "Tambor" remained in the Marshalls until 19 August when she was ordered to patrol the southern passages to Truk. As there was time to spare before she was to take station there, she prowled through the Caroline Islands. On 21 August near Ponape, the submarine fired a spread of three torpedoes at a freighter and her escort. The first hit the target amidships and the other two aft, blowing off the stern. "Shinsei Maru No. Six" quickly sank. On 1 September, she fired four torpedoes at a tanker off Truk and damaged it with one hit. She was credited with two ships for 12,000 tons; this was reduced to 5,800 tons postwar. [Blair, p.917.]

Fourth patrol

"Tambor" sailed for Hainan Strait on 12 October and (in part due to torpedo shortages) laid mines. On 3 November, she fired three torpedoes at a freighter, but all missed. The submarine eluded detection and, 30 minutes later, fired two more. One hit amidships, and "Chikugo Maru" went under by the stern. On 6 November, she fired two torpedoes at a cargo-passenger ship flying the French flag, but both missed. On 10 November, she closed on an unarmed sampan, took its crew on board and sank it by gunfire. Credited with one ship for 10,000 tons (reduced to 2,500 tons postwar), [Blair, p.922.] "Tambor" returned to Fremantle on 21 November for refit, during which her deck gun was replaced by a five-inch (127 mm)/25cal gun.

Fifth patrol

From 18 December 1942 to 28 January 1943, "Tambor" patrolled Sunda Strait between Krakatau and Thartway Island. The only target sighted was an enemy destroyer which she attacked (a rare act of aggressiveness for submarines) on 1 January 1943. The submarine's spread of four torpedoes missed, and she went deep to avoid the 18 depth charges that followed.

ixth patrol

"Tambor" sailed from Fremantle on 18 February to carry out a special mission in the Philippine Islands, in support of "MacArthur's Guerrillas". On 5 March, she landed a small party headed by Lt.Cdr. Charles Parsons with 50,000 rounds of .30 (7.62 mm) ammunition, 20,000 rounds of .45 (11.4 mm) pistol ammunition, and $10,000 in currency on southern Mindanao. On 22 March, she fired three torpedoes at a tanker [Blair, p.697.] southwest of Apo Island. Seven days later, she scored one hit on a freighter out of three torpedoes fired and believed it sank; [Blair, p.697.] it was not confirmed. [Blair, p.925.] The submarine returned to Fremantle on 14 April for refit in which a 20-millimeter gun was installed forward of the bridge.

eventh patrol

"Tambor"'s seventh patrol (now under Russell Kefauver) [Blair, p.925.] took her north of the Malay Barrier from 7 May to 27 June 1943. On 26 May, she fired a spread of three torpedoes at a tanker that all missed. Three days later, three more missed a cargo ship. She tried again several hours later, saw two of the three torpedoes fired score hits, and heard three explosions. As the target was sinking, she fired another spread of three at an accompanying freighter. Some of the crew of "Eiski Maru" escaped in two lifeboats. On 2 June and on 6 June, she fired spreads of three torpedoes at cargo ships. The first appeared to break in half, and the second seemed to sink; but there is no record of the sinkings in Japanese official records. On 16 June, "Tambor" fired her last three torpedoes at a tanker off Cam Ranh Bay but all missed. Her score for the patrol postwar was one ship of 2,500 tons. [Blair, p.925.]

Eighth patrol

"Tambor" stood out of Fremantle for the last time on 20 July "en route" to Lombok Strait. On 3 August, she sighted five cargomen and a destroyer in Palawan Passage. Three shots at a freighter produced two hits, and one fired at another target missed; Japanese records do not indicate any sinking. On 21 August, she sighted an unescorted convoy of three tankers and five freighters. She fired five torpedoes at a pair of freighters, but scored no hits. Two more sped toward a tanker and produced one explosion but no apparent damage. The next day, she sighted another convoy heading in the opposite direction. Making a submerged attack, "Tambor" fired five torpedoes at a large freighter. Three made perfect hits amidships but all failed to explode, and she sank no ships. [Blair, p.925.] The submarine set sail for Midway, arriving 7 September. She transited through Pearl Harbor on her way to San Francisco, California, on 20 November for major overhaul.

Ninth patrol

"Tambor" returned to Pearl Harbor on 15 December 1943 and held refresher training during the remainder of the month. She began her ninth war patrol on 5 January 1944. Her assigned area was in the East China Sea. She sighted a "Natori"-class cruiser on 22 January, but lost contact in a rain squall. Six days later, she contacted a convoy of nine ships heading north and tracked it until 01:56 the next day. She then fired two torpedoes at a cargo ship in a surface attack. Both hit and sent "Shuntai Maru" down by the bow. An escort headed straight for the submarine and ramming seemed inevitable. "Tambor" opened fire with her aft 20-millimeter gun and turned hard to port causing the escort to pass convert|20|yd|m|-1 astern. After evading the escort, the submarine tried to regain contact with the convoy but failed.

On 2 February, she began tracking two ships. The following morning, she fired two torpedoes at a cargo ship, and both hit amidships. She directed two more at a tanker, and one hit forward of the target's stack. Both "Ariake Maru" and "Goyo Maru" sank. "Tambor" went deep and remained on the bottom under depth charge attack from 04:18 to 13:15. Ten days later, she encountered another three-ship convoy. In a night surface attack, the submarine fired a spread of three torpedoes at a cargo ship. As "Tambor" submerged, her crew heard one hit and sank the passenger-cargo ship "Ronsan Maru". Her patrol was a rousing success, with four ships confirmed sunk, a total of 18,400 tons. [Blair, p.942.]

Tenth patrol

After refit at Pearl Harbor, "Tambor" put to sea on 9 April "en route" to the Mariana Islands. On 18 April, she attacked a 250-ton trawler loaded with food and fresh vegetables. A boarding party from the submarine killed seven members of the Japanese vessel's crew and captured the second officer. The Americans removed the ship's papers and left her afire and sinking. On 10 May, she contacted an eight-ship convoy, escorted by five destroyers and two destroyer escorts. In a submerged attack, "Tambor" fired four torpedoes at a cargo ship and heard two explosions, then went deep, taking 50 depth charges from the escorts. "Tambor" surfaced later and attempted to close the convoy once more. However, a destroyer picked her up and subjected her to another depth charge attack. On 26 May she scored two hits which sank "Chigo Maru" (650 tons). [Blair, p.945.] "Tambor"'s tenth patrol ended at Midway on 2 June.

Eleventh patrol

The submarine (now in the hands of William J. Germershausen) [Blair, pp.697 & 953.] conducted her next patrol in the waters off southern Hokkaidō and the Kuril Islands from 16 July to 23 August. She fired three torpedoes at a freighter on 28 July and heard three explosions. However, a dense fog prohibited her seeing the results. On 13 August, "Tambor" made a surface attack against a cargo ship and then photographed "Toei Maru" (2,300 tons) [Blair, p.953.] ) as she lowered two lifeboats and sank in 20 minutes. After returning to Midway, "Tambor" continued to Pearl Harbor for refit.

Twelfth patrol

"Tambor" returned to Midway on 6 October and sailed the next day for the Tokyo Bay area. On 15 October, she fired four torpedoes at three radar pips and heard one explosion. She was forced to go deep to evade 26 depth charges. She emerged with no damage. Four days later, she attacked an escort with four torpedoes and heard four explosions, but no sinking was verified. The submarine returned to Saipan from 8 November to 10 November, then resumed her patrol, now one of six members of the wolfpack "Burt's Brooms" (named for Thomas B. Klakring, commanding SubDiv 101). [The others were USS|Ronquil|SS-396|2, USS|Burrfish|SS-312|2, USS|Sterlet|SS-392|2, USS|Silversides|SS-236|2 (flag, commanded by John Coye), USS|Trigger|SS-237|2 (aboard which the famous "Ned" Beach served), and USS|Saury|SS-189|2. Blair, pp.790-1.]

Shortly before midnight on 15 November, "Tambor" fired three torpedoes at a patrol boat, but scored no hits. Forty-five minutes later, three more missed. At 06:10, the submarine's commander decided to battle on the surface with his deck guns; the escort fired back, and a "Tambor" crewmen was severely wounded. [Blair, p.791.] Thirty minutes later, as the target began to sink, "Tambor"'s crew took two prisoners from the water. She transferred them and the wounded crewman to USS|Gravson|DD-435|3 on 18 November. "Tambor" ended her last war patrol at Pearl Harbor on 30 November, to be retired from combat. [Blair, p.791.]

Routed onward to the United States, "Tambor" arrived at San Francisco on 10 December 1944. After an extended overhaul, the submarine sailed for Puget Sound on 9 March 1945. Upon her arrival, "Tambor" began training operations with Navy patrol aircraft under Fleet Air Wing 6. On 17 September, she departed the West Coast for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. "Tambor" was decommissioned there on 10 December 1945 and placed in reserve. In April 1947, the submarine was assigned to the Ninth Naval District to train naval reservists, and reported to the Naval Reserve Training Center, Detroit, Michigan, on 8 December. "Tambor" remained on this station until 1959 when a Board of Inspection and Survey found her unfit for further naval service. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 September and subsequently sold for scrap.

"Tambor" received 11 battle stars for World War II service.



*Blair, Clay, Jr. "Silent Victory". Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975.
*Lenton, H.T. "American Submarines". New York: Doubleday & Co., 1973.

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