Lisbon Maru

diehard57

War Hero
Yesterday, Sunday 3rd October 2021, I attended the unveiling service at the National Memorial Arboretum of a memorial to the sinking of the Lisbon Maru.

The Lisbon Maru was a Japanese armed freighter built at Yokohama in 1920 for a Japanese shipping line. During the Second World War the ship became an armed troopship.

On her final voyage she was carrying 700 Japanese Army personnel and 1,816 British and Canadian prisoners of war captured after the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941. The POWs were held in "appalling conditions ... [those] at the bottom of the hold ... showered by the diarrhea of sick soldiers above".

On 1 October 1942, the ship was torpedoed by the submarine USS Grouper. The Japanese troops were evacuated from the ship but the POWs were not; instead the hatches were battened down above them and they were left on the listing ship. After 24 hours it became apparent that the ship was sinking and the POWs were able to break through the hatch covers. Some were able to escape from the ship before it sank. The ladder from one of the holds to the deck failed, and the Royal Artillery POWs in the hold could not escape; they were last heard singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”, survivors reported that Japanese guards first fired on the POWs who reached the deck; and that other Japanese ships used machine guns to fire at POWs who were in the water. Later, however, local Chinese fishermen courageously rescued 384 survivors of whom all but three were later recaptured by the Japanese.

The British government insisted that over 800 of these men died either directly as a result of the sinking, or were shot or otherwise killed by the Japanese while swimming away from the wreck. The ship was not marked to alert Allied forces to the nature of its passengers. The Japanese Government insisted that British prisoners were in fact not deliberately killed by Japanese soldiers and criticised the British statement.
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Yesterday, Sunday 3rd October 2021, I attended the unveiling service at the National Memorial Arboretum of a memorial to the sinking of the Lisbon Maru.

The Lisbon Maru was a Japanese armed freighter built at Yokohama in 1920 for a Japanese shipping line. During the Second World War the ship became an armed troopship.

On her final voyage she was carrying 700 Japanese Army personnel and 1,816 British and Canadian prisoners of war captured after the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941. The POWs were held in "appalling conditions ... [those] at the bottom of the hold ... showered by the diarrhea of sick soldiers above".

On 1 October 1942, the ship was torpedoed by the submarine USS Grouper. The Japanese troops were evacuated from the ship but the POWs were not; instead the hatches were battened down above them and they were left on the listing ship. After 24 hours it became apparent that the ship was sinking and the POWs were able to break through the hatch covers. Some were able to escape from the ship before it sank. The ladder from one of the holds to the deck failed, and the Royal Artillery POWs in the hold could not escape; they were last heard singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”, survivors reported that Japanese guards first fired on the POWs who reached the deck; and that other Japanese ships used machine guns to fire at POWs who were in the water. Later, however, local Chinese fishermen courageously rescued 384 survivors of whom all but three were later recaptured by the Japanese.

The British government insisted that over 800 of these men died either directly as a result of the sinking, or were shot or otherwise killed by the Japanese while swimming away from the wreck. The ship was not marked to alert Allied forces to the nature of its passengers. The Japanese Government insisted that British prisoners were in fact not deliberately killed by Japanese soldiers and criticised the British statement.View attachment 608065View attachment 608066View attachment 608067
Impressive memorial
 
If I may, I'll share a thought of someone who is no longer with us, whose Uncle enjoyed the hospitality of such

........ "Jap BASTARDS" .... (always spoken with gusto)
 
There were occasionally survivors from the sinking of Japanese ships carrying POW's, notably by the USS Pampanito and USS Sealion in September 1944:


 
In 1943 the US submarine Wahoo opened fire with its 4 inch gun on lifeboats of a Jap freighter which it had just torpedoed, and machine-gunned survivors in the water. Regrettably the Jap ship was carrying Allied (Indian) POWs.
 
In 1943 the US submarine Wahoo opened fire with its 4 inch gun on lifeboats of a Jap freighter which it had just torpedoed, and machine-gunned survivors in the water. Regrettably the Jap ship was carrying Allied (Indian) POWs.
I expect there are further instances of Allied survivors being shot in the water in mistake for Japanese that we will never know about - especially if the submarine pot-shotters remained unaware of their mistakes. Who would know?
These survivors (below) had a very close call. Apologies for the length but I think it's fair also to note the story of the heroic efforts made by Pampanito's crew once it was realised that their potential targets were, in fact, allied POWs
<<
Pampanito and Sealion surface-patrolled eastward on the scouting line, twenty miles apart. The Pampanito watch was tense. It was an absolutely clear day. The sea was almost flat calm. The visibility was thirty miles. The Japanese knew that submarines were in the vicinity. They would almost certainly have patrol planes in the air. Pampanito was a sitting duck.

Fleet submarines were equipped with a second radar set to detect aircraft, the SD. It was nondirectional and not very reliable. Many skippers, believing that the Japanese had developed gear to "home' on the SD, used it only sparingly. That day—September 15-Pampanito began by using the SD. It produced two nerve-jarring contacts, one at 0952, range thirteen miles; one at 1130, range twenty miles. Pampanito did not dive.

However, at 1330 a bridge lookout spotted a plane close in—about four to six miles. It had not been reported on the SD. The officer of the deck dived at once. Fortunately, Pampanito had not been detected. Fifty minutes later, at 1420, she surfaced and resumed her eastward patrolling. At 1454, Pete Summers, "believing planes are using a radar detector to pick us up," ordered the SD secured.

About an hour later,. at 1550, the four-to-eight watch began to relieve the twelve-to-four watch. Herman J. Bider, twenty-one, a signalman third class, took his station on the bridge. Biller came from a small rural community in Indiana—Geneva. He had earned his rating in quartermaster-signalman school at the University of Illinois. After further schooling, he had joined Pampanito at Midway, following her second patrol. This was his first war patrol. He had been on the bridge the night Pampanito attacked the convoy and had been "scared to death."

By now, Herm Bixler did not have to be told what to do. Pampanito was on the surface in very dangerous waters. There had already been three aircraft contacts. The SD had been secured. He focused his binoculars on his sector of the horizon. He started, looked again. He saw (as Summers officially logged it) "a lifeboat and a large quantity of debris floating on the surface of a calm sea." The officer of the deck, McMillan H. Johnson, notified the captain and began to close the lifeboat.

Summers came to the bridge. He noted the position as latitude 18° 42' north, longitude 114° 00' east. He logged that this spot was "a little to the north" of the place Growler and Sealion had first attacked the convoy. It was about forty miles northwest of the position where Sealion had sunk Rakuyo Maru.

Summers approached the lifeboat warily. There was a belief in the U.S. submarine force that the Japanese often used lifeboats and debris as lures for American submarines. When the submarine stopped to inspect the lure, a Japanese submarine would torpedo it. There was no proof of this, no officially reported lure attack. However, all submariners viewed lifeboats and debris with skepticism and respect.

The inspection was carried out without stopping Pampanito passed close at fast speed. The lifeboat was "abandoned," Summers logged. He noted no markings. It might have been one of the four lifeboats abandoned by the Vic Duncan group. Or it could have been one from the Nankai Marts, sunk by Sealion along with Rakuya Maru. Or from the unidentified tanker sunk at the same time.

A few minutes later, at 1610, Quartermaster John Greene reported an even more startling discovery on the horizon: "Two rafts with men on them" All hands on the bridge swung binoculars to the bearing. The men were waving "frantically." Pete Summers logically assumed the men on the rafts to be Japanese, survivors of Growler's and Sealion's torpedoed ships. If he took one of them prisoner, he might gain some valuable intelligence on the ships that had been sunk. The rest could be disposed of by the boarding party, a special commando type of team trained to board smaller vessels for intelligence purposes or to sink them by lighting fires. Disposing of Japanese ship survivors was not officially condoned. Nor was it officially disapproved. There was simply no official policy. It was left up to the skipper.

Summers headed for the rafts and called away the boarding party. The torpedo and gunnery officer, Ted Swain, was its leader. The artist-gunner, Tony Hauptman, was the chief enlisted man. The big torpedoman Jim Barney was his main assistant. Swain, Hauptman, Behney and a half-dozen other members of the group rushed topside.

Among them was another amateur artist, motor machinist Clarence G. "Mike" Carmody, twenty. They went out on the forward deck. Hauptman carried a 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun. He gave Behney a .45-caliber Thompson submachine gun.

There was no doubt that the boarding party was preparing to kill the men on the rafts. A reserve officer, John W. Red, Jr.: "We all thought they were Japs. Pete Summers passed the word to break out the small arms—we'll have some target practice." Dick Sherlock: "Pete passed the word below to break open the gun locker. Anyone who wanted to shoot a Jap, get a tommy gun. A whole lot of guys came up with guns, all set to have a ball." Tony Hauptman: "We thought they were Japs. We were not going to pick them up. The captain told me to do away with them I was going to shoot them."

Again Pampanito closed the debris warily. It could be a Japanese trick, a human lure Hauptman and Behney held the guns ready. As Pampanito swept by the debris for an inspection, they noted that the scantily clad men on the rafts were black. Some wore Japanese hats and caps. The fire controlman, Bill Yagemann, had been on the bridge adjusting the aft TBT when the rafts were sighted. Now his attention was focused on the drama unfolding. As Pampanito turned and reapproached the debris he saw that there were about fifteen men on or clinging to the rafts, makeshift structures of hatch boards and timbers. He did not doubt they were Japs. Now he could hear a jumble of unintelligible shouts. Then suddenly—and startlingly—one clear, obviously Western, voice: "First you bloody Yanks sink us. Now you're bloody well going to shoot us."

Down on the forward deck, Tony Hauptman was stunned. "Who are you?" he called.
"Prisoners of war," came the reply. "Australians. British. Prisoners of war. Pick us up, please."
Summers, Swain, Hauptman, Yagemann and others topside stared in disbelief and amazement, and with suspicion. Hauptman tossed a rope to one of the rafts, held up one finger and said, "One man. One man only." One man grabbed the rope, and they pulled him toward the boat. Other survivors jumped from the raft and started swimming toward the submarine. Hauptman shouted menacingly: "Stay on the raft!" Behney raised the submachine gun.

Frank Farmer, the Australian schoolteacher, had joined a large raft supporting many men. One was Harold D. "Curly" Martin, who had been in his outfit but with whom Farmer had had little contact on the railway or on Rakuyo Maru. Farmer: "The submarine was first sighted by a raftmate who earlier had been delirious. His claim to seeing two masts on the horizon at first went unheeded by his companions. However, he proved to be right. The submarine had twin periscopes which at a distance did appear to be the masts of a small fishing vessel. I stood on the raft and waved my hat. The size of our group and height above the water caught the attention of the watch. As the submarine swept past, those on the deck appeared pin-Aed somewhat both by our appearance and actions. But the factor which undoubtedly brought her back was a report to the captain that Curly Martin had fair and curly hair, suggesting we were in fact European.

"It is difficult to describe our feelings as we saw that the sub was returning. But as it approached, they signalled for one man only to take the curling rope thrown from the foredeck. I grasped the rope and was hauled across the intervening water to the sub's side, up which I was assisted by two crewmen. When I thanked them in English, they were incredulous. I heard one call out to the bridge, `They're English, sir.' I was escorted to the foot of the conning tower, where I met the submarine's second in command, Lieutenant Commander Davis. He was both distressed and dismayed that over two thousand Allied POWs were in the sunken convoy." Frank Farmer thus became the first survivor of Rakuyo Mum—and of the Railway of Death—to return to Allied control. Pete Summers' next order was decisive: "Take them aboard!" The officers and men on Pampanito had never drilled for a contingency like this, or even dreamed of it. They responded to the challenge magnificently. When the incredible word spread through the boat, dozens rushed on deck and volunteered to help. Under Ted Swain's direction, they formed teams. Some swam out to the rafts with lines Others crawled down on the bulging saddle tanks to pull the survivors aboard. Another team stripped the survivors of clothing and gave them a quick rubdown with diesel oil in an attempt to wash off the encrusted oil. Still others lowered the men down through the after battery compartment hatch into the small crew's mess, where Motor Machinist C. Boyd Markham and others gave the men another washing-down. Markham: "We started out using alcohol, but they screamed in pain So we put that away." The swimmers, of course, had the most dangerous job. They left the ship to enter what were known to be shark-infested waters. And if an aircraft forced the boat to crash-dive, they would have been left.
The chief swimmers were Torpedoman Second Class Robert Bennett, twenty-four; Fireman Andrew L. Currier; Seaman Gordon L. Hopper; Jim Behney; Bill Yagemann and Tony Hauptman. They were assisted on the saddle tanks by Mike Carmody, Edmund Stockslader, Electrician's Mate Third Class Donald I. Ferguson, Seaman Jack J. Evans, Motor Machinist Mate First Class John G. Madaras, Fireman Richard E. Elliott and others.

At first, some of those below failed to get the correct word. One of these was the ship's ebullient yeoman, Charles A. "Red" McGuire, Jr., twenty-four. The word he got was "stand by to take on prisoners."
He thought this meant Japanese prisoners. When the first survivor was lowered into the crew's mess, McGuire was there waiting McGuire: "I grabbed his head and smashed it into the ladder with all my strength. This guy says, 'Blimey!' I said, 'Who the hell are you?' He said, `British prisoner of war of the Japanese.' I nearly died"
>>
Source Return from the River Kwai by Joan & Clay Blair
 
Frankly its amazing more incidents werent widespread
 
I expect there are further instances of Allied survivors being shot in the water in mistake for Japanese that we will never know about - especially if the submarine pot-shotters remained unaware of their mistakes. Who would know?
These survivors (below) had a very close call. Apologies for the length but I think it's fair also to note the story of the heroic efforts made by Pampanito's crew once it was realised that their potential targets were, in fact, allied POWs
<<
Pampanito and Sealion surface-patrolled eastward on the scouting line, twenty miles apart. The Pampanito watch was tense. It was an absolutely clear day. The sea was almost flat calm. The visibility was thirty miles. The Japanese knew that submarines were in the vicinity. They would almost certainly have patrol planes in the air. Pampanito was a sitting duck.

Fleet submarines were equipped with a second radar set to detect aircraft, the SD. It was nondirectional and not very reliable. Many skippers, believing that the Japanese had developed gear to "home' on the SD, used it only sparingly. That day—September 15-Pampanito began by using the SD. It produced two nerve-jarring contacts, one at 0952, range thirteen miles; one at 1130, range twenty miles. Pampanito did not dive.

However, at 1330 a bridge lookout spotted a plane close in—about four to six miles. It had not been reported on the SD. The officer of the deck dived at once. Fortunately, Pampanito had not been detected. Fifty minutes later, at 1420, she surfaced and resumed her eastward patrolling. At 1454, Pete Summers, "believing planes are using a radar detector to pick us up," ordered the SD secured.

About an hour later,. at 1550, the four-to-eight watch began to relieve the twelve-to-four watch. Herman J. Bider, twenty-one, a signalman third class, took his station on the bridge. Biller came from a small rural community in Indiana—Geneva. He had earned his rating in quartermaster-signalman school at the University of Illinois. After further schooling, he had joined Pampanito at Midway, following her second patrol. This was his first war patrol. He had been on the bridge the night Pampanito attacked the convoy and had been "scared to death."

By now, Herm Bixler did not have to be told what to do. Pampanito was on the surface in very dangerous waters. There had already been three aircraft contacts. The SD had been secured. He focused his binoculars on his sector of the horizon. He started, looked again. He saw (as Summers officially logged it) "a lifeboat and a large quantity of debris floating on the surface of a calm sea." The officer of the deck, McMillan H. Johnson, notified the captain and began to close the lifeboat.

Summers came to the bridge. He noted the position as latitude 18° 42' north, longitude 114° 00' east. He logged that this spot was "a little to the north" of the place Growler and Sealion had first attacked the convoy. It was about forty miles northwest of the position where Sealion had sunk Rakuyo Maru.

Summers approached the lifeboat warily. There was a belief in the U.S. submarine force that the Japanese often used lifeboats and debris as lures for American submarines. When the submarine stopped to inspect the lure, a Japanese submarine would torpedo it. There was no proof of this, no officially reported lure attack. However, all submariners viewed lifeboats and debris with skepticism and respect.

The inspection was carried out without stopping Pampanito passed close at fast speed. The lifeboat was "abandoned," Summers logged. He noted no markings. It might have been one of the four lifeboats abandoned by the Vic Duncan group. Or it could have been one from the Nankai Marts, sunk by Sealion along with Rakuya Maru. Or from the unidentified tanker sunk at the same time.

A few minutes later, at 1610, Quartermaster John Greene reported an even more startling discovery on the horizon: "Two rafts with men on them" All hands on the bridge swung binoculars to the bearing. The men were waving "frantically." Pete Summers logically assumed the men on the rafts to be Japanese, survivors of Growler's and Sealion's torpedoed ships. If he took one of them prisoner, he might gain some valuable intelligence on the ships that had been sunk. The rest could be disposed of by the boarding party, a special commando type of team trained to board smaller vessels for intelligence purposes or to sink them by lighting fires. Disposing of Japanese ship survivors was not officially condoned. Nor was it officially disapproved. There was simply no official policy. It was left up to the skipper.

Summers headed for the rafts and called away the boarding party. The torpedo and gunnery officer, Ted Swain, was its leader. The artist-gunner, Tony Hauptman, was the chief enlisted man. The big torpedoman Jim Barney was his main assistant. Swain, Hauptman, Behney and a half-dozen other members of the group rushed topside.

Among them was another amateur artist, motor machinist Clarence G. "Mike" Carmody, twenty. They went out on the forward deck. Hauptman carried a 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun. He gave Behney a .45-caliber Thompson submachine gun.

There was no doubt that the boarding party was preparing to kill the men on the rafts. A reserve officer, John W. Red, Jr.: "We all thought they were Japs. Pete Summers passed the word to break out the small arms—we'll have some target practice." Dick Sherlock: "Pete passed the word below to break open the gun locker. Anyone who wanted to shoot a Jap, get a tommy gun. A whole lot of guys came up with guns, all set to have a ball." Tony Hauptman: "We thought they were Japs. We were not going to pick them up. The captain told me to do away with them I was going to shoot them."

Again Pampanito closed the debris warily. It could be a Japanese trick, a human lure Hauptman and Behney held the guns ready. As Pampanito swept by the debris for an inspection, they noted that the scantily clad men on the rafts were black. Some wore Japanese hats and caps. The fire controlman, Bill Yagemann, had been on the bridge adjusting the aft TBT when the rafts were sighted. Now his attention was focused on the drama unfolding. As Pampanito turned and reapproached the debris he saw that there were about fifteen men on or clinging to the rafts, makeshift structures of hatch boards and timbers. He did not doubt they were Japs. Now he could hear a jumble of unintelligible shouts. Then suddenly—and startlingly—one clear, obviously Western, voice: "First you bloody Yanks sink us. Now you're bloody well going to shoot us."

Down on the forward deck, Tony Hauptman was stunned. "Who are you?" he called.
"Prisoners of war," came the reply. "Australians. British. Prisoners of war. Pick us up, please."
Summers, Swain, Hauptman, Yagemann and others topside stared in disbelief and amazement, and with suspicion. Hauptman tossed a rope to one of the rafts, held up one finger and said, "One man. One man only." One man grabbed the rope, and they pulled him toward the boat. Other survivors jumped from the raft and started swimming toward the submarine. Hauptman shouted menacingly: "Stay on the raft!" Behney raised the submachine gun.

Frank Farmer, the Australian schoolteacher, had joined a large raft supporting many men. One was Harold D. "Curly" Martin, who had been in his outfit but with whom Farmer had had little contact on the railway or on Rakuyo Maru. Farmer: "The submarine was first sighted by a raftmate who earlier had been delirious. His claim to seeing two masts on the horizon at first went unheeded by his companions. However, he proved to be right. The submarine had twin periscopes which at a distance did appear to be the masts of a small fishing vessel. I stood on the raft and waved my hat. The size of our group and height above the water caught the attention of the watch. As the submarine swept past, those on the deck appeared pin-Aed somewhat both by our appearance and actions. But the factor which undoubtedly brought her back was a report to the captain that Curly Martin had fair and curly hair, suggesting we were in fact European.

"It is difficult to describe our feelings as we saw that the sub was returning. But as it approached, they signalled for one man only to take the curling rope thrown from the foredeck. I grasped the rope and was hauled across the intervening water to the sub's side, up which I was assisted by two crewmen. When I thanked them in English, they were incredulous. I heard one call out to the bridge, `They're English, sir.' I was escorted to the foot of the conning tower, where I met the submarine's second in command, Lieutenant Commander Davis. He was both distressed and dismayed that over two thousand Allied POWs were in the sunken convoy." Frank Farmer thus became the first survivor of Rakuyo Mum—and of the Railway of Death—to return to Allied control. Pete Summers' next order was decisive: "Take them aboard!" The officers and men on Pampanito had never drilled for a contingency like this, or even dreamed of it. They responded to the challenge magnificently. When the incredible word spread through the boat, dozens rushed on deck and volunteered to help. Under Ted Swain's direction, they formed teams. Some swam out to the rafts with lines Others crawled down on the bulging saddle tanks to pull the survivors aboard. Another team stripped the survivors of clothing and gave them a quick rubdown with diesel oil in an attempt to wash off the encrusted oil. Still others lowered the men down through the after battery compartment hatch into the small crew's mess, where Motor Machinist C. Boyd Markham and others gave the men another washing-down. Markham: "We started out using alcohol, but they screamed in pain So we put that away." The swimmers, of course, had the most dangerous job. They left the ship to enter what were known to be shark-infested waters. And if an aircraft forced the boat to crash-dive, they would have been left.
The chief swimmers were Torpedoman Second Class Robert Bennett, twenty-four; Fireman Andrew L. Currier; Seaman Gordon L. Hopper; Jim Behney; Bill Yagemann and Tony Hauptman. They were assisted on the saddle tanks by Mike Carmody, Edmund Stockslader, Electrician's Mate Third Class Donald I. Ferguson, Seaman Jack J. Evans, Motor Machinist Mate First Class John G. Madaras, Fireman Richard E. Elliott and others.

At first, some of those below failed to get the correct word. One of these was the ship's ebullient yeoman, Charles A. "Red" McGuire, Jr., twenty-four. The word he got was "stand by to take on prisoners."
He thought this meant Japanese prisoners. When the first survivor was lowered into the crew's mess, McGuire was there waiting McGuire: "I grabbed his head and smashed it into the ladder with all my strength. This guy says, 'Blimey!' I said, 'Who the hell are you?' He said, `British prisoner of war of the Japanese.' I nearly died"
>>
Source Return from the River Kwai by Joan & Clay Blair
I read that book many years ago. The Australians were from 8th Division AIF and the British from the 18th East Anglian Division both captured in the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942. The 18th Div was a pre war TA Division recruited from East Anglia. The Division was trained for, and was on its way to the Middle East and had been at sea for 3 months before being diverted to Singapore, arriving two weeks before the surrender. The last elements arriving after the Japs had already landed in the NW of the island near Kranji.

Incredibly the British 18th Div men were apparently retrained to fight in Europe when they returned home, although none of them actually did.
 
Documentary about the Lisbon Maru with interviews with British survivors. Appears to be clips put together from Chinese TV.




Another good short documentary which appears to be a trailer for a documentary called 828 Unforgotten by a Chinese American film producer.

 
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I read that book** many years ago. The Australians were from 8th Division AIF and the British from the 18th East Anglian Division both captured in the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942.


This thread prompted me to re-read the book. I'd forgotten what an excellent history of the sinkings it is.

Clay Blair was a former US WW2 Submariner but it doesn't stop him being critical of the submarine captains at times at this excerpt below shows.

Apologies for the length, I wanted to trim it but decided it was better to remain true to the original narrative.

<<
Joyce, Hunter and Devitt turned their weapons over to the others and got on the bowplanes with long lengths of line. At 1840 they began hauling the first of the "oil-coated, water-soaked, half-unconscious" survivors aboard. The men on Sealion reacted much as the men on Pampanito had. They were shocked at the condition of the survivors and at this first contact with the harsh realities of war. And something more. The realization soon spread among them that the survivors came from one of the ships Sealion herself had sunk. Unwittingly, they themselves had caused the immense pain and suffering.

There was no guilt or self-flagellation—Sealion had only been doing her job. But there was an awkwardness in facing the survivors, and rage at the Japanese for, in the words of the exec, Hank Lauerman, "the heart rending and useless slaughter."

The survivors were stunned and awed. Charles Armstrong was one of them. "That evening—the light was failing—one of the boys who could see (I could not open my eyes for the pain) said he could see something picking up men. What it was, he could not say. Then, after a while, we could hear the engines in the water. We could all hear it. We gave a cheer—or sort of a croak it was. It came close by and then turned away. Well, that made us mad. We raised ourselves up and shouted and screamed and prayed. Then all of a sudden, it turned again and came towards us.

I could hear voices shouting orders, and splashes. And the next minute, I felt hands clutch me and lift me up as though I were straw. I was carried along a deck of some sort. Then we stopped. I dared to open my eyes and saw a long knife pointed at my stomach. I felt a shiver and all sorts of things. Whoever he was pulled my Jap-happy string, cut it with one slice. It fell to the deck. And I did, too." His dream in Singapore, three nights in a row, that he would be sunk and rescued, had come true.

The sun set at 1931. Half an hour later, it was dark In one hour and twenty-five minutes of efficient operations, Sealion bad recovered fifty-four men, nineteen fewer than Pampanito. There were twenty-three Australians (including two Perth men and Noel Day of the Air Force) and thirty-one British.

Even though there were still "many" survivors close aboard and calling out for help, Reich ordered the rescue terminated. He logged: "Even if daylight had lingered, only a very few more could have been taken aboard. The fortunate ones whom we had saved required nursing care, medicine and hospitalization. With a heavy heart, Sealion turned eastward and headed for Saipan at full speed. It was heart-breaking to leave so many men behind”. Shorty Bates understood but was rueful. "I imagine it was one of the toughest decisions of Eli's life. The water was still full of people. He said, 'That's all.' When we got underway, I was still on deck

The guys in the water were shouting, 'Over here! Over here!' We just went on and left them. It was a bad scene. For years afterwards, at night, I could hear them calling out, 'Over here! Over here!"

The rescue operations, now terminated, were wholly impromptu and without precedent or prior experience. They were carried out quickly in very dangerous waters six hundred miles behind "enemy lines." Had there been time to think the matter through, both Reich and Summers might well have picked up far more than 127 men. Be-tween them, they might have rescued all that could be found over the next day or so. True, the submarines would have been intolerably—and dangerously—crowded for a time But after a day or so, a rendezvous could have been effected with other submarines patrolling the eastern sector of Convoy College—the five boats in Ed's Eradicators and Donc's Devils—and the most fit of the survivors transferred to those boats, thus relieving the dangerous crowding in Sealion and Pampanito.

However, no criticism could be levelled at the two skippers. Confronted with an unparalleled challenge, their best judgment was to quickly pick up as many men as they believed they could reasonably accommodate and care for medically, without impairing the ability of the boats to fight, if need be, and thus endangering the lives of their own men,

Sealion, however, could be faulted on one point. In the rushed and emotional departure, it apparently did not occur to anyone on the boat that some provisions could be made for the survivors left behind. Sealion could have provided them water, food, quinine, clothing and hats, rope, Very pistol and flares—any number .of desperately needed survival items. Especially water.

Although Sealion had only a limited fresh water supply and distilling facilities, and these would be sorely taxed with the addition of fifty-four survivors, she could have left the others ten or twenty gallons of fresh water without imperilling those on the submarine. That water might have saved many more lives. As Sealion sped eastward, Reich broke radio silence to inform Pearl Harbor of the rescue and to report that many that many more survivors were still in the water. The crew devoted its energies to caring for the survivors…..

>>
** Return from the River Kwai"
Joan & Clay Blair jr
 

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