USS Sealion SS-315

U.S.S. SEALION: HISTORY

 

The History of the
United States Ship Sea Lion (APSS315)

 

Japanese hopes for victory in World War 11 were based on a speedy conquest of the rich islands of the Pacific. They then hoped to use supplies from their seized "empire to fight a long war, ending in a negotiated peace. Aided by control of the sea after Pearl Harbor, she soon had possession of these prizes but found, to her dismay, that she could not fully utilize it. Only a small amount of the oil production got through to the Japanese home islands, because the United States Submarine Force, largely discounted in prewar Japanese thinking, cut Japan's long lines of supply, sinking her merchant shipping faster than she could build new bottoms.

One of the stalwarts among these silent gray warriors was the USS SEA LION (SS315). For the six patrols which she completed the submarine was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, which credited her with sinking or damaging more than 98,297 tons of enemy shipping, avenging the loss of her namesake.

SEA LION is the second vessel to be named for a large eared seal, that is a native of the Pacific Ocean. The first SEA LION (SS195) was built by the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut where the keel was laid on 20 June 1938. At the launching on 25 May 1939, the submarine was christened by Mrs. Claude C. BLOCH, wife of Admiral BLOCH. USN, Commander in Chief of the U. S. Fleet. She was commissioned on 27 November 1939, and upon completion of her shakedown cruise, joined the Asiatic Fleet. SEA LION, along with SEA DRAGON, was in the last stages of overhaul at the Navy Yard, Cavite, Philippine Islands. Both were scheduled for completion on 12 December.

Although there were frequent air raids in the Manila area during the first two days of the war, no enemy planes approached the Navy Yard Cavite until afternoon of the third day, December 10th. That day the air raid alarm sounded about half an hour after noon, and shortly thereafter 54 planes, in two groups of 27 each, were sighted heading for the Navy Yard. SEA LION was nested at Machine Wharf with SEA DRAGON inboard and the minesweeper BITTERN outboard. The Commanding Officer (Lieutenant Commander R. G. VOGE), the Executive Officer (Lieutenant A. L. RABORN), and three other men were on the deck when the first stick of bombs landed from 100 to 200 yards astern of SEA LION. The Commanding Officer, seeing that the planes were going to bomb from high altitudes, where machine guns could not reach them, ordered all hands below. On the next bombing run, a few minutes later, two bombs hit SEA LION almost simultaneously. One struck the after end of the Conning Tower fairwater, completely demolishing the machine gun mount which had just been vacated, the main induction, the battery ventilation, and the after Conning Tower bulkhead. A fragment from this bomb pierced the Conning Tower of SEA DRAGON, killing instantly Ensign Sam HUNTER stationed there ---- the first submarine casualty of the war.

At almost the same instant another bomb, passing through the main ballast tank and pressure hull, exploded in the maneuvering space in the after end of the after engine room, killing four men working in that compartment --- Electrician Mates FOSTER, O'CONNELL, and PAUL, and Machinist Mate OGILVIE.

With this explosion in the maneuvering space, the after engine room flooded immediately and SEA LION settled by the stern in the mud. The forward engineroom and the after torpedo room flooded slowly through bomb fragment holes in the bulkheads.

SEA LION finally settled down by the stern with about 40% of the main deck underwater and a 150 list to starboard.

Several days later, divers cut a hole aft of the Conning Tower, and entered the flooded submarine. All motor controls,, reduction gears and main motors were wrecked, totally immobilizing the shill. The bombing which wrecked the SEA LION also obliterated the Cavite Navy Yard, so with the nearest facilities at Pearl Harbor, the SEA LION's case was hopeless. To prevent her from falling into enemy hands, all radio and sound gear was removed, and depth charges were rigged in her compartments. On Christmas Day, 1941 the charges were exploded and down went the SEA LION; the first U. S. Submarine lost in World War 11.

The keel of the second SEA LION was laid on 25 February 1943 at the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut. Launched on 31 October of the same year, the submarine was sponsored by Mrs. Emory S. LAND, wife of Rear Admiral LAND. She was first commissioned on 8 March 1944; and with Lieutenant Commander Eli T. REICH, USN, in Command, hurried through her shakedown cruise and headed for the Pacific.

On 8 June 1944 the sleek craft steamed out of Pearl Harbor for Midway and her first war patrol. Topping off at Midway on the 12th, she headed for the East China Sea via Tokaxa Strait, in company with USS TANG. While patrolling the channel between Kusakaki Shima and Kuro Shima in the afternoon of 23 June, an approach was made on a river gunboat. Three bow torpedoes were fired. One passed directly under the target but failed to explode. The gunboat retaliated with twenty depth charges but the SEA LION escaped without damage.

Rendezvous was effected with the TANG and TINOSA on the 24th, and a convoy contact massage sent them racing to intercept. The convoy was never picked up, but in the early morning of the 28th, the SEA LION picked up a good contact. Patrolling fourteen miles south of Tsushima Island, a medium freighter and an enemy patrol boat were sighted on the horizon. When within range three torpedoes were fired from the stern tubes. One hit and three minutes later only a whirlpool remained in place of the 2386 ton freighter SANSEI MARU. Thirty depth charges were dropped by the Patrol Boat, but the SEA LION was never picked up. While patrolling northward of Shushi Gunto and Taroto two days later, she sighted a sampan and began an approach. The sampan was demolished by gunfire, and the five Japanese survivors left to shift for themselves.

After a week of inactivity, the submarine again got into action in the early morning of 6 July 1944. Patrolling on the surface ten miles south of Four Sisters Islands, her radar picked up two enemy ships. The SEA LION closed to 14,000 yards, then dove and continued her approach. It was now seen that the ships were part of a convoy, and a large freighter was selected as the first target. Four bow torpedoes were fired at this target, and two more at a medium freighter astern of the first. All torpedoes missed the targets, but another medium freighter behind the second target caught one torpedo. The SETSUZAN MARU sank, stern first. Commander REICH swung his ship for a stern shot and fired four torpedoes at an escorting destroyer. The destroyer zigged and the torpedoes missed. The SEA LION went deep, and crept from the area to the tune of forty-five depth charges.

The submarine moved to the area between Shantung Peninsula and Korea, and while patrolling on the surface in a dense fog late on the night of 10 July, made radar contact on an enemy freighter. Three bow torpedoes were fired, scoring one hit. The target disappeared from the screen amid sounds of breaking up. She then decided to head for home with two torpedoes remaining. Two hours later another freighter was contacted. The stern torpedo was fired, but missed, The SEA LION began a full speed chase. Just as the target loomed out of the fog headed straight for the SEA LION the last torpedo leapt from the bow tube. Debris flew in all directions. Maneuvering radically, the SEA LION slid by the target, pouring 20MM shells into the bridge. As she cleared the area. the target was seen to slip beneath the waves.

The SEA LION came under attack by a Japanese patrol plane on 15 July, but evaded the attack without damage, arriving at Midway on the 21st after a very successful maiden patrol.

The killer was ready for sea again on 17 August 1944. and entered her patrol area. Convoy College in the Bashi Channel. on the 31st. She was now a member of a coordinated attack group designated "Ben's Busters" along with the GROWLER and the PAMPANITO. Her first chance for attack came on the first night in the area. A night surface radar approach was made on a large. well escorted convoy. Six torpedoes were fired. all running erratically. The SEA LION then swung and fired four stern torpedoes to sink a large tanker of the NIPPON MARU class. Still surfaced, she successfully evaded the escorts and persistently tracked the convoy. Shortly before sunrise she was able to work her way ahead of the convoy, and begin a submerged approach. This resulted in the sinking of the 1345 ton minelayer SHIRATA. and a 10,000 ton transport. A thorough three hour depth charging followed, but damage was slight. Later the same day a periscope approach was conducted on a small patrol craft. The last four torpedoes in the forward nest were fired, but the target zigged and all missed. Ten close depth charges rained down, but the SEA LION escaped without notice, and departed the area to replenish torpedoes and fuel.

After loading with torpedoes and fuel, the marauder put to sea again from Saipan, to rejoin her wolf pack and continue her second patrol. On 6 September a convoy of six- Japanese ships with five escorts left Singapore for Japan. Crammed aboard the RAKUYO MARU were 1350 English and Australian captives being transported to slave in the Emperor's factories and mines. Of the four other ships in the convoy, one was a heavily laden transport, another was a large freighter carrying rubber and rice. and the remaining two were loaded oil tankers. On the night of 12 September the convoy was proceeding northward in three columns, three ships to a column. It was on this same night that the SEA LION, rejoined the GROWLER and PAMPANITO.

Between 0100 and 0130 all three submarines contacted the convoy by radar some 300 miles off Hainan. The submarines swung into action. At 0155 the GROWLER began the show by attacking from the convoy's starboard side. putting a torpedo into the HIRADO. the leading escort vessel on the starboard bow. The frigate blew up amidships, burst into flames and sank within a few minutes. At 0534 Commander REICH drove the SEA LION into attack on the convoy's starboard side. In two minutes time, two torpedoes hit the passenger-cargoman NANKAI MARU in the center of the formation, another torpedo hit a large transport leading the right column, and two more hit the RAKUYO MARU. The Japanese aboard the latter immediately abandoned ship. The unfortunate prisoners, left to fend for themselves, somehow got free, of the ship, and into the water. The NANKAI MARU went down in about half an hour. and the RAKUYO MARU sank late in the afternoon.

Unaware the ships carried allies, the submarines cleared the immediate area. During the day, most of the Japanese were picked up by escorts while the prisoners in the water were hold at bay by rifles and pistols. By nightfall the miserable men, abandoned, were swimming desperately, or clinging helplessly to mats of wreckage. After sundown the prospect of survival seemed slim indeed. But these castaways were to have an unexpected deliverance. On the afternoon of the 15th, the PAMPANITO passed through the waters where the attack had been made and discovered a crude raft loaded with men. She began picking up survivors as fast as she could locate them, and sent a message to SEA LION asking for help. The two submarines combed the area, racing with darkness. When no more men could be safely accommodated, the two headed full-speed for Saipan. Two other submarines were ordered to proceed to the area and rescue the remainder. The SEA LION had picked up 54 survivors, but four died enroute. She departed Saipan for Pearl Harbor, arriving there on 30 September for her refit.

The SEA LION's third foray against the enemy began on 31 October 1944 as she left Pearl Harbor for the area between the East China Sea and the northern tip of Formosa. She engaged an armed trawler in a gun battle on 11 November while enroute to her patrol area, but the engagement was broken off as a second trawler entered the battle. There were no casualties to either side.

A few minutes after midnight on 21 November the SEA LION was cruising on the surface nosing into Formosa Straits, through whose protective confines all Japanese shipping funneled. The sea was calm and there was no moon, for the sky was overcast. All hands on the bridge were staring hard into the night. Suddenly the radar screen flicked bright with three pips at extreme range so the targets had to be unusually large to show. Commander REICH promptly headed the submarine toward the targets. As the distance closed, more pips showed up, now indicating four large ships in columns screened by three others. The two middle ships were of battleship proportions, the other two would be cruisers, and the screening ships destroyers.

It was a dark night, and the column was moving fast. The task force felt secure from attack due to its position and high speed, and was not zigging. So Commander REICH made the unusual decision to ambush the warships from the surface. At 0146 the SEA LION was on the enemy's starboard beam, slowly gaining. As she bent on all speed to get ahead, a night wind entered the approach problem and she had to claw her way through rising seas. An hour later the submarine was out in front, and the second ship in column, the nearest battleship, was selected for the target. As she maneuvered into attack position, the leading cruiser went by. Then an escorting destroyer threatened to intervene. This silhouette, dimly seen from the bridge, was the first visible contact with the enemy task force, until that moment the chase had been conducted entirely by radar. Fearing the destroyer might overlap the battleship in line of fire, the torpedoes were set for a lower depth. At 0256, as the destroyer passed the lurking submarine, six torpedoes plunged toward the first battleship, leaving not so much as a single bubble in their wakes. As the last shot left the tube nest, the rudder was thrown hard right and the three stern torpedoes were fired at the second battleship. Sixty seconds later several explosions blossomed brightly crimson -in the night --- three on the first ship, one on the second, but that was all. They might have been fireworks for all the effect on the Japanese formation.

The SEA LION ran westward at flank speed while the Jap destroyers charged eastward in pursuit of ghosts. By 0310 the SEA LION was 8.000 yards west of the Jap task force, and she slowed to parallel the enemy's course and rush a torpedo load. The warships were doing 18 knots, and apparently the hits had only dented the armor belt on the battleships. Another attack was necessary. By this time the sea had begun to build up, and solid water was breaking over the bridge of the submarine. She put on maximum speed to overhaul the fleeing task force, and held on until sparking commutators on the motors compiled her to slow down to full speed. At this pace the SEA LION could do about 17 knots. An hour passed, and a second one. Suddenly the first battleship veered out of formation and began to slow down. Two destroyers dropped back to screen her.

By 0512 the SEA LION was in attack position. : She slowed and turned in for the attack but it was not necessary as there was a tremendous explosion; a flash of light; then again total darkness. So perished the veteran battleship KONGO. She was the first and only battleship sunk by a submarine during the Pacific War, and her loss struck a severe blow to the Japanese Navy.

The SEA LION contacted another task force of one battleship and three destroyers on the night of 26 November 1944, but was unable to attain favorable attack position. She was forced to submerge in the bright moonlight and take a long range shot which proved unsuccessful. One of the destroyers counterattacked with two very close depth charges, forcing the SEA LION to the bottom in 275 feet of water. She departed the area on 29 November, arriving at Guam on 3 December for voyage repairs.

On 4 December 1944, Lieutenant Commander Charles F. PUTNAM, USN, relieved Commander REICH as Commanding Officer. On the 14th the SEA LION departed Guam on her fourth war patrol. December hunting was poor due to the scarcity of Japanese targets: nevertheless, while patrolling in the South China Sea on 20 December the SEA LION flushed a freighter and two escorts. The targets were tracked from ahead until nightfall, when she came in for a night surface torpedo attack. Six bow torpedoes were fired in a heavy sea to score four hits. The 7, 000 ton supply ship MAMIYA stopped dead in the water, but refused to sink. Her escorts kept her well screened and dropped numerous depth charges while the SEA LION, still on the surface, maneuvered for the kill. After four and a half hours she managed to gain a firing position. Three bow torpedoes were fired to score two hits and sink the stubborn ship.

Just after midnight on 2 January 1945 the SEA LION contacted a convoy consisting of a medium transport and two escorting destroyers. It was a blight moonlight night, and the SEA LION was not able to gain a desirable position for a surface attack, due to the proximity of the destroyers. However, four stern torpedoes were fired at long range at a destroyer and the overlapping transport. The torpedoes missed and the destroyer took up the chase, but the SEA LION managed to evade and stay on the surface.

Since 28 December 1944 the SEA LION had been performing reconnaissance duty in support of American re-occupation of the Philippines in addition to her offensive patrols. On 14 January 1945 she received orders to return to Fremantle, West Australia, where she arrived on the 24th.

While submarine activities in March and April were largely devoted to the preliminaries and support of the Okinawa offensive, routine patrolling continued in areas removed from the storm center. Such was the SEA LION's fifth war patrol conducted off the east coast of the Malay Peninsula and in the Gulf of Slam. She departed Fremantle on 19 February, arriving in her assigned area on 5 March 1945, and joining the MINGO and PAMPANITO in a wolf pack. In the early morning of 17 March the SEA LION's radar picked up a lone unescorted tanker, which had somehow escaped the February attrition. In a surface torpedo attack, four bow torpedoes were fired. As the first torpedo hit, the target blew up with a tremendous explosion. In six minutes the Japanese oil fleet was minus one of its few remaining tankers, the SAMUI.

The remainder of her patrol was uneventful with the exception of the rescue of an Army aviator who had been adrift for 23 days, on 2 April. She returned to Subic Bay, Philippine Islands on 6 April 1945 for refit.

On 30 April Commander PUTNAM took her out on her sixth war patrol. Most of this patrol was spent on lifeguard duty off Hong Kong, China, during the air strikes. No opportunities for rescue presented themselves, and no ship contacts were made. She returned to Subic Bay on 3 June 1945, for fuel and passengers, departing the following day for Guam. Pearl Harbor, and San Francisco for overhaul. At Guam orders were received extending her sixth patrol and assigning her to lifeguard station 10 miles south of Wake Island for scheduled carrier air strikes. She arrived on 20 June and for the next ten days patrolled off the approaches to Wake Island. The period was uneventful. and she arrived at Pearl Harbor on 6 July 1945. The SEA LION moored at the Bethlehem Steel Company, San Francisco, on 16 July, and was still undergoing overhaul at the end of the war.

For her heroism during her six war patrols, the USS SEA LION was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation with the text reading as follows:

 


"FOR EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM IN ACTION DURING WAR PATROLS
AGAINST ENEMY JAPANESE SURFACE FORCES IN RESTRICTED WATERS
OF THE PACIFIC. OPERATING DANGEROUSLY IN DEFIANCE OF
EXTREMELY STRONG AIR AND SURFACE OPPOSITION, THE USS SEA LION
PENETRATED DEEP INTO HOSTILE WATERS TO MAINTAIN A STEADY
OFFENSIVE AGAINST SHIPS VITAL TO JAPAN'S PROSECUTION OF THE
WAR. CONSISTENTLY OUT-NUMBERED AND OUTGUNNED, SHE PURSUED
HER AGGRESSIVE COURSE IN SPITE OF FORMIDABLE SCREENS AND
SEVERE ANN-SUBMARINE MEASURES TO STRIKE AT EVERY
OPPORTUNITY AND, BY HER CONCENTRATED TORPEDO FIRE,
DELIVERED AGAINST CONVOYS AND COMBATANT SHIPS, SUNK
THOUSANDS OF TONS OF ENEMY SHIPPING. DARING AND SKILLED IN
CARRYING THE FIGHT TO THE ENEMY, THE SEA LION ALSO BRAVED THE
PERILS OF A TROPICAL TYPHOON TO RESCUE FIFTY-FOUR BRITISH AND
AUSTRALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR, SURVIVORS OF A HOSTILE TRANSPORT
SHIP TORPEDOED AND SUNK WHILE ENROUTE FROM SINGAPORE TO THE
JAPANESE EMPIRE. HER MERITORIOUS RECORD OF ACHIEVEMENT IS
EVIDENCE OF HER OWN READINESS FOR COMBAT AND THE GALLANTRY
AND SUPERB SEAMANSHIP OF THE OFFICERS AND MEN WHO BROUGHT
HER THROUGH UNSCATHED.

 

She earned five battle stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Area Service Medal for participating in the following operations:

 

1 Star/Western Caroline Islands Operation Assaults on the Philippines - 9-24 SEP 44.

1 Star/Leyte Operation - 31 OCT - 3 DEC 44.

1 Star/First War Patrol - 8 JUN - 21 JUL 44.

1 Star/Fourth War Patrol - 14 DEC 44 - 24 Jan 45.

1 Star/Fifth War Patrol - 19 FEB - 6 APR 45

On 10 November 1945, preservation of machinery and equipment was started at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard, incident to her being inactivated. On 16 February 1946, the SEA LION was decommissioned after a short but successful career.

After being in the graveyard for over two years, her conversion to a Submarine Troop Transport was begun on 31 March 1948. She was recommissioned on 2 November 1948 under the command of Commander W. L. KITCH, USN.

Since then, her life has not been as thrilling as in the past, but it certainly has been varied. She operated with Marines embarked in San Diego in January 1949, after which SEA LION was transferred to the U. S. Atlantic Fleet, and remained in New London, training students until May 1949.

During the period 7 May to 26 May 1949, the SEA LION operated with Marines from Quantico, Virginia. More training for submarine school students followed and then operations with Marines at Little Creek, Virginia and in Labrador, where everyone felt the cold very much in October 1949.

From 29 October 1949 to 23 January 1950, the SEA LION embarked Marines and operated off Vieques, Puerto Rico, with liberty stops at St. Thomas, a port in Puerto Rico and New York City. A splendid cruise!

The SEA LION then had her first and much needed rest since her conversion. She entered a regularly scheduled overhaul at Portsmouth, -New Hampshire on 19 March 1950 and left on 12 July 1950. In the meantime, Lieutenant Commander James W. JOHNSON, USN relieved as Commanding Officer on 16 May 1950. Long exercises with Marines followed until the beginning of the Christmas rest period in November 1950.

During January through March 1951, the SEA LION rendered services to aircraft and surface craft off Narragansett. The early part of 1951 was spent in local operations off Norfolk with a trip to New London and Portsmouth and back in Norfolk in late March. The month of April was spent operating with Marines off Camp Pendleton, Virginia, and Onslow Beach, North Carolina. In May, the SEA LION entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard at Portsmouth, Virginia for an interim docking period. This was followed by a very interesting trip. The SEA LION embarked a full detachment of Marines and commenced snorkeling, enroute to Guantanamo Bay from Morehead City. About 50 miles off the northeastern coast of Cuba, still snorkeling, the SEA LION sighted a fishing vessel in distress. She surfaced and towed her into port.

After six weeks of operating off Guantanamo Bay. Cuba the SEA LION returned to Norfolk in late June 1951. A short rest was followed by more operations with Marines.

On 18 August 1951, Lieutenant Commander Harry S. WARREN. USN, relieved as Commanding Officer. Local operations were followed by a Fleet Operation during which the SEA LION again visited St. Thomas, Virgin Islands in late September 1951. and Puerto Rico in early October. The SEA LION returned to Norfolk for a short rest, followed by extensive local operations, and the usual Christmas leave and recreation period.

Local operations off Norfolk were followed by a six week trip to Guantanamo Bay, in February 1952, where all hands had a very pleasant visit, returning to Norfolk via Jacksonville, Florida in April 1952.

From April to August, the SEA LION operated locally off Norfolk and North Carolina. On 17 July 1952, Lieutenant Commander E. J. HANNON, JR. , USN, relieved as Commanding Officer. On 8 August, the SEA LION entered a five month overhaul period at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Here, her whole profile was changed. She left Philadelphia in January, proceeded to New London and thence to Norfolk. In mid February 1953, the SEA LION paid a visit to Havana during her post overhaul shakedown cruise.

In the next few months, the SEA LION participated in the fleet amphibious exercises PHIBEX and LANTFLT TRAEX: in July, she took, part in HARDEX, the first such exercise. Services to other commands were also given during this time.

On 3 August 1953, Lieutenant Commander Joseph SAHAJ, USN, assumed command of the SEA LION. The relieving ceremonies were followed by a short training cruise with about one platoon of Marines embarked. During this cruise the SEA LION visited Miami, Florida as a port of call. A fine weekend was enjoyed by all hands in that very friendly city.

During the next three months the SEA LION rendered services to other commands, conducted Marine operations and made a weekend trip to New York. where the ship was host to a group of children from a local orphanage. Christmas leave and recreation followed until January when local operations resumed off Norfolk.

The end of February saw SEA LION dry-docked at New London, Connecticut and the renewal of many friendships with that historic city. The bottom was painted, and SEA LION returned to Norfolk, to continue the routine of local operations and upkeep, with occasional sojourns to Onslow Beach, North Carolina to operate with Marines.

In November 1954 the SEA LION commenced a five month overhaul in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She returned to Norfolk, Virginia in April 1955 and commenced two weeks of operations with troops of the U.S. Marine Corps. On the intermediate weekend of this operation the SEA LION visited Port Everglades, Florida, where both troops and crew had a pleasant stay. Following this operation the SEA LION operated locally with UDT and Beach Jumper Personnel. During this period she had the distinction of being the first submarine to enter the Naval Amphibious Base Harbor at little Creek, Virginia. On June 20th, the SEA LION departed for the Caribbean with Marines aboard. Ports visited were San Juan, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. The isle of Vieques was the scene of many fishing and swimming parties. The SEA LION returned to Norfolk on 14 July and Lieutenant Commander VAUGHAN, USN, relieved as Commanding Officer. On September 19th, l955 the SEA LION, along with other submarines of Submarine Squadron SIX, was sent out to sea to avoid hurricane IONE. Immediately on her return to port, she left on a short trip to Bermuda, where all hands spent a quiet two days basking in the sun. The SEA LION returned to Norfolk on 2 October to continue the routine of local operations with occasional sojourns to Onslow Beach, North Carolina to operate with Marines.

In the spring of 1956 SEA LION made three trips to the Caribbean with the Marines of the 77th Special Forces. U.S. Army (Paratroopers) from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. SEA LION once again operated with the 77th during October 1956 in the Caribbean area near the island of St., John sustaining guerrilla training operations.

The new year brought SEA LION to the same area with a marine reconnaissance company that conducted intensive training in submarine assault exercises. During the exercise period underwater demolition teams also successfully trained in the art of making escapes from a submerged submarine. After the early spring phase of training was completed, the submarine proceeded to the Panama Canal Zone where it landed the Reconnaissance Company at night in the vicinity of the canal. With the submarine offshore supporting their operations the Marine Company paved the way for a subsequent assault of the canal locks by a large amphibious task force. May 1957 brought the SEA LION back to Norfolk after this very successful spring training period. From the summer of 1957 to 1960 SEA LION furnished services to the U. S. Atlantic Fleet and various Marine Companies. SEA LION was decommissioned on 30 June 1960 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

At Portsmouth. SEA LION was utilized as a Reserve Training Submarine until 28 August 1961. when she was towed to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard by a fleet tug for a precommissioning overhaul period. SEA LION had been ordered reactivated as part of President Kennedy's armed forces buildup program. On 20 October 1961, SEA LION was placed back in commission: and on 15 November completed her sea trials., SEA LION put to sea on I December 1961, enroute Earle, New Jersey and on the way rendered services to the USS ETHAN ALLAN (SSBN608) by snorkeling for 48 hours. Upon arrival, ammunition was loaded and SEA LION departed for New London after a short two hour visit. On Friday 8 December, she arrived at New London, where she conducted more at-sea training. SEA LION departed on 15 December. and on the 18th moored at the Destroyer/Submarine Piers in Norfolk. Virginia. her permanent homeport.

SEA LION's officers and crew then enjoyed a well deserved holiday leave and upkeep period until 16 January 1962, when she left for her first Caribbean cruise since recommissioning. The cruise included visits to St. Thomas and St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, plus cities of Ponce and San Juan in Puerto Rico. After a long but enjoyable cruise operating with UDT personnel. SEA LION returned to Norfolk on 28 February for a month's upkeep period.

Early on the morning of 15 April 1962, SEA LION again departed Norfolk for the Caribbean with Marine Reconnaissance personnel embarked. She participated in exercise "PHIBEX" off Vieques Island, while also visiting again at St. Croix, St. Thomas, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. On the way home with, both Marine Reconnaissance and SEAL personnel embarked, she participated in Exercise "QUICK KICK" off the Carolina Coast. After this very interesting and rewarding cruise, during which she participated in various amphibious landings and developed her rubber boat launchings and recoveries to a high degree, SEA LION returned again to Norfolk on 9 May.

The month of May 1962 was spent in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Portsmouth, Virginia where SEA LION's number four void tank was converted to a useable cargo space. During June she rendered one week of services to ten Marines at Onslow Beach, followed by three weeks of sonar services to the USS WILLIS A. LEE (DL4) in the Bermuda Operation Areas. For the rest of the summer, SEA LION operated locally with the Marines, UDT and SEALS off the Virginia and North Carolina coasts.

On 22 October 1962. SEA LION left Norfolk on what was to be a month's training cruise to the Caribbean. That afternoon. however. was the day that President Kennedy announced the onset of the Cuban Crisis, and SEA LION's cruise was altered, in that she spent time in the ports of St. Thomas, Key West and Miami. She returned to Norfolk on 3 December 1962, after her services in the crises were no longer required. Immediately upon arrival, she was taken to Norfolk Naval Shipyard for her interim docking period of about six weeks duration, lasting through the start of the New Year.

From her homeport at Norfolk, Virginia, SEA LION ventured southward in the winter of 1963 on one of her typical Caribbean deployments. Operations were to be part of the Navy Underwater Demolition Teams training. While in the Caribbean SEA LION operated from the ports of St. Thomas and St. Croix, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, her "home away from home".

The next two months found SEA LION involved in an intensive training program for the crew and underwater demolition teams. Operational requirements restricted SEA LION to a 150 mile radius of St. Thomas. Affording ample range for the scheduling of three weekend visits by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander R. G. BILLS, USN, while on this cruise SEA LION participated in "OPERATION HANDCLASP". Appropriate toys, clothing, and medical supplies were loaded aboard the SEA LION prior to leaving Norfolk and were presented to local civic organizations in the Virgin Islands. SEA LION's arrival at Saba Island, in the Netherlands Antilles, marked the first recorded visit of any United States Ship to Saba; the ship and crew were given a most enthusiastic welcome.

After leaving Saba Island the ship weighed anchor at Phillipsburg on St. Martin Island, an island that is owned jointly by France and the Netherlands and having free ports.

Leaving St. Martin SEA LION returned to Norfolk for a short but extremely busy upkeep. Included in this period were engine overhauls and both administrative and material inspections. Departing Norfolk in March of 1964 the ship again headed for the Caribbean. The first weekend took the ship and crew to the Island of Anguilla, British West Indies. Anguilla differs from most of the Caribbean Islands by a seemingly endless succession of white coral sands forming some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean. The crystal clear waters off shore afforded the crew an excellent opportunity for snorkeling and diving.

Five days after leaving Anguilla, SEA LION came to anchor at Gustavia Harbor in St. Barthelemy, French West Indies. An extremely rocky island, St. Barts is renowned for its excellent fishing and skin diving. SEA LION was the first U. S. Submarine to visit this picturesque Island.

Late in April 1964, SEA LION weighed anchor and set her course for Norfolk. Lieutenant Commander S. HECKER, USN, relieved Lieutenant Commander R. G. BILLS, USN as Commanding Officer on 2 May 1964.

Completing her pre-overhaul upkeep SEA LION departed Norfolk on 6 July 1964 for Charleston, South Carolina to begin a regular overhaul period.

SEA LION underwent a period of revitalization in Charleston Naval Shipyard, completing on 6 November 1964. After a week in Norfolk, the ship cruised to New London, Connecticut for a week of refresher training and technical schools. Departing the Submarine Base, the ship maneuvered into the North Atlantic via the Block Island and submerged. After a twelve day period of snorkeling, SEA LION surfaced and entered Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. During a brief stay, supplies and troops (Marine Reconnaissance and SEAL personnel) were embarked and the ship returned to sea to conduct an early reconnaissance exercise off the western coast of Puerto Rico and the Island of Vieques. Upon completing the exercise, the ship returned to Norfolk via Magaguez, Puerto Rico on 18 December 1964 to begin a holiday upkeep period.

Early in January of 1965 saw the SEA LION at sea off the Virginia Capes acting as a target ship for destroyer units of Commander Destroyer Divisions FOUR and EIGHT. After a brief stay in port, the ship departed for St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and the Underwater Training Facility to conduct swimmer operations with personnel assigned to Naval Operations Support Group, U. S. Atlantic Fleet. Interrupted by an upkeep period in Norfolk during the first three weeks of March, this trip was repeated in the months of April and May. During these two trips, SEA LION trained swimmers the hows and wherefores of coordinating their efforts with a completely Submerged vehicle, SEA LION.

Returning to Norfolk in June of 1965, the SEA LION entered a period of upkeep followed by local operations from July to September with Marines and UDT personnel off the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina. A short period of upkeep was followed by SEA LION rendering her services to Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) training exercises off the Virginia Capes and other commands until early December, when SEA LION began upkeep and Christmas leave and recreation.

January of 1966 found the SEA LION again headed South for Springboard Operations in the Caribbean and training exercises with UDT and SEAL's at the training facility in St. Thomas. Returning to Norfolk in March following port visits to Roosevelt Roads and San Juan, Puerto Rico, SEA LION had a short rest and upkeep and the awarding of the Squadron Battle Efficiency "E" for 1966. This meant that the SEA LION was entitled to wear the "E" with two hash marks for winning the award three years in a row. On 18 April, 1966, Lieutenant Commander D.S. Lawrence assumed Command of the Sea Lion. The remainder of the year saw SEA LION conducting local operations and rendering services to various fleet commands, followed by the usual Christmas leave and recreation in December.

The new year saw SEA LION again headed to the Caribbean and another Springboard Cruise. Daily operations were conducted out of St. Thomas with UDT and SEAL Teams and on the 28th of February SEA LION transited to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a week of needed upkeep and liberty, then back to St. Thomas and daily operations with UDT and SEAL Teams until returning to Norfolk 27 March, 1967.

Following two weeks of upkeep in Norfolk, April and May of 1967, saw SEA LION participating in fleet exercises off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina, then in June and the early part of July she conducted amphibious training with UDT Teams from Little Creek, Virginia in the Chesapeake Bay. On 13 July, SEA LION entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a badly needed $2-million dollar overhaul that saw a major change in her sonar capabilities (installation of BQS-8 sonar), new Gould batteries, and complete engine overhauls. She departed the shipyard on 17 December for her shakedown cruise, and following the successful completion of additional repairs, departed for her new home port of Key West, Florida and SUBRON 12.

Arrival in Key West in January of 1968 was of very short duration, and SEA LION departed for Springboard Operations in the Caribbean on 4 January. Transiting directly to St. Thomas, SEA LION began diver training with UDT and SEAL Teams on a daily operations basis. Then came a weekend break with a port visit to St. Martin, Netherland Antilles. The month of February found SEA LION conducting ASW Operations with air and naval elements of the Dutch Navy off Curacao, Netherland, Antilles, spelled by a brief period of photo reconnaissance operations. A weekend visit to the port of Willemstad, Curacao was a very welcome break and the excellent local cuisine was greatly appreciated by the crew. More local ASW operations followed and on I February, SEA LION transited to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, where UDT 21 embarked for diver training operations in St. Thomas. SEA LION returned to her new home of Key West on the 27th for a badly needed rest and refit.

On 2 March, 1968, Lieutenant Commander John V. Markowskie relieved as the last Commanding Officer of the SEA LION, and she began a six month period of daily operations out of Key West. Diver training operations with Army Special Forces, UDT, Marine Recon and SEAL TEAMs were interspersed by SEA LION supplying her services to the Key West Surface Sonar School. In May the SEA LION had a 40MM deck gun installed on her cigarette deck, thus becoming the only submarine in the Navy capable of shelling a surface target. In December the normal upkeep, leave and holiday period were observed.

On 4 January a catastrophic crankshaft failure on SEA LION's #2 main engine sent the boat limping into Charleston Naval Shipyard on 18 January, 1969. The boat received a dry dock repair of the engine and a bottom cleaning, and she departed on 21 March. In April she resumed daily swimmer operations out of Key West and occasional gunnery target practice with the 40MM gun. On 12 June SEA LION was ordered to conduct sound trials for the USS PUFFER SSN-652, while she completed sea trials out of Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi. Upon completion of these exercises SEA LION made a port visit to St. Petersburg, Florida from 8 July through the 14th, then retumed to Key West on the 18th. Daily operations resumed, and on 27 August, 1969, while conducting gunnery practice with her 40MM, the SEA LION became the last submarine in the U.S. Navy to fire a deck gun.

On Thursday 11 September, 1969, the SEA LION departed Key West, Florida for her final decommissioning at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The official date of final decommissioning for the SEA LION was 20 February, 1970. She was stricken from the Navy Registry on 15 March, 1977, and her final disposition was as a target for Mk. 48 torpedo certification follow-on tests on 8 July, 1978, off of Long Island, New York.

 


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