Sea Stories - Hawkbill SS-366

Captain Worth Scanland on the return to San Francisco at war's end

When HAWKBILL and seven other boats arrived in San Francisco at war's end, the senior submariner present in the Bay was Captain Mike Fenno, the guy who brought the gold bullion out of Corregidor soon after the war began. I didn't know him. He was embarked in a sub tender moored way up by Marin County, far from any transportation into town, where, naturally, we all wanted to go our first night back home. Of course we did manage to finally get ashore, and ended up in the "Snake Pit", the basement cocktail lounge of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.

I am sitting at a table with several of my officers, probably nursing my third or fourth Scotch and water, and loudly proclaiming what I thought of being parked way out of reason on our first days back home, when a face bent over my shoulder and said, "Scanland, I'm the Squadron Commodore [Captain Mike Fenno], and I'll be expecting you in my cabin first thing in the morning!". I jumped to my feet and began to apologize, but all I could see was his departing back. So much for my first evening back in the States in twelve months !!

Next morning I was given a first class lecture on the kind of manners expected of an officer, and left the Cabin with my tail between my legs. To punish me, he ordered us to move Hawkbill over to a space on a dark and dangerous deserted section of the San Francisco waterfront, where we sat in "solitary disgrace" until we left for Portland five weeks later.

During this dreary period, I often spent my evenings sitting alone at a table near the bandstand in the ballroom of the Palace Hotel, listening to the sweet music of Henry Bussey's Big Band, especially to "Chubby" Jackson, the wonderful base fiddle player who set the rhythm for the rest of them. After some time I had met and chatted with all the members of the band, and we became friends. Between numbers they'd come down to my table and cadge a drink or smoke a cigarette. It was fun, and I was lonely.

One night when I knew of our impending departure for Portland and the Rose Festival, I invited Henry and his band to come down to Hawkbill's dingy berth and have a late night supper of scrambled eggs and coffee, and they accepted. Bringing their instruments with them, we all hopped into their cars and I led them dockside. I sent the gangway watch below to roust out the cooks, and we all had a fine time. The party broke up about 0130, and I never saw them again, but they saved my sanity, and I still love them.

We made our trip to Portland, became stuck in the mud at the bottom of the Willamet River, came back to Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, and I turned over command to the Exec., Lieut. Lou Fockele, USNR, for the de-commissioning and departed for my new duty station at the Submarine Base, Key West. No one ever mentioned Henry Bussey's midnight breakfast, I often wonder why.

Captain Worth Scanland speaks of his father's war record

Concerning my father and the ASTORIA.

Following the sinking of NEVADA on December 7th of '41 at Pearl, my Dad, the C.O., was transferred to ASTORIA to relieve her skipper, who had suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the Jap attack. Subsequently, RADM Frank Jack Fletcher hoisted his flag in ASTORIA, and the task force under his command sailed for the Coral Sea.

After that victory, RADM Fletcher transferred his flag to YORKTOWN and all hands raced to get in position to defend Midway, including ASTORIA. As you know, YORKTOWN suffered a direct attack by a flight of enemy bombers during the battle of Midway, and was fately damaged. When her sinking was obvious and she was listing further and further, my father layed ASTORIA along side and took off many hundred of her crew before she went down, including Frank Jack. My father was awarded the Navy Cross for that event. Upon the return of the fleet to Pearl, Dad was relieved of command (having not once left his bridge for 105 days), and was assigned to command the Pearl Harbor Shipyard. He was promoted to flag rank in 1944.

To the best of my knowledge he and I are the only father/son pair awarded the Navy Cross during the same war!!

Scanland goes for a swim on the Mariana Trench

Navy Yarns

By Captain Roy C. Smith 111, U. S. Navy (Retired)

Early in the 1950's, Commander Worth Scanland (USNA '34) was taking a submarine division west across the Mariana Trench and thought it would be a great idea if all hands had a swim call in the deepest spot of the ocean. After hoisting the appropriate signals, he led the way by stripping off shirt and shorts and doing a graceful swan dive off the bridge of his flagship the Flarikan (ASR-9). Noting the Catfish (SS-339) only a few hundred yards away, he swam leisurely toward her. Suddenly there was a scurrying on her deck and swimming ceased in his immediate vicinity. As he reached the sub's side, a line was thrown to him to scramble aboard. He was greeted by four side boys at the salute, the Chief of the Boat piping the side, and the skipper extending a hearty "welcome aboard, Commodore" - every one of them was as naked as he.

From the USS Peto Newsletter, June 1998 also Naval History magazine of the Naval Institute Press
Lt. Cdr. Scanland was on the Commissioning Crew of the Peto and made the first two war patrols.

WWII Submariners Poem


Call down the wrath and the horrors of hell,
On the plundering Nip, and his family as well,
His all the fury and the blasting complete,
That comes when a ship and a torpedo meet.

He knows but one law, "Japan Rules Supreme,"
Until he meets up with a Yank submarine,
For ours is the vengeance that rides in the night,
He knows he's a dead man, if his ship we should sight.

His is a life with fear in each breath,
For he knows that we're lurking to tender him death.
While ours is a war of silent attrition,
As we fight for the loved ones, killed, captures or missing.

His is a future I envy him not,
As he roars into hell on a crashing war shot.
And although he talks big or blusters with vim,
He knows that out here, we're waiting for him.

So he curses us roundly, he vents all his spleen,
While his heart quakes in terror and his skin turns to green,
For revenge is an ointment that soothes a sore hurt,
And will not rest until he's ground in the dirt.

So come all you Japanese, you peones of Hades,
Sail in your ships to your watery graves.
For waiting out here unsuspected, unseen,
Are the men you can't conquer in a Yank submarine.

Signalman Charles J. Moore, USS Flasher SS-249
From "War Patrols of the USS Flasher" by William R. McCants

True Love

Letters from home

While Gene Fluckey, USS Barb, was in Panama, 1942, he had to censor both outgoing and incoming letters. In his book, "Thunder Below" he related the following exchange between a crewman and the crewman's wife.

"An outstanding first class machinist mate writing to his wife unknowingly had me as the censor. He hadn't left the Coco Solo Submarine Base on liberty since the war began because he didn't trust himself to be good. If only she were here, he wouldn't have this desperate desire for another woman. He just had to have one. Yet he wouldn't do such a dastardly deed without her permission. He hoped that she would think this through and let him know quickly. He was going crazy. Two weeks later, I had the duty when her reply arrived."

Dear Heart,

   I love you. Tears came to my eyes as I read
your letter.  You know how much I long to sleep
snuggled up to you, but it cannot be.  I know what
a delightful "lech" you are and I never want you
to change. You do have my heartfelt permission
to go out and have a woman--provided you will
accept these three conditions.

   First, please don't fall in love with her.
Second, don't bring home something that you didn't
go away with.  Third, for God's sake don't pay
too much for something you can't give away free
up here!
---------- According to Fluckey, the crewman never left the base.

More Love from the Barb

Eugene B. Fluckey, Commander

In order that his wife, Marjorie, not be concerned about her husband's risks during combat submarine patrols, Gene Fluckey constructed an elaborate ruse by writing a number of letters home dated across the dates he was to on patrol. He had a friend stationed at Pearl Harbor send each letter at the appropriate time describing his frustrations with the service and the inability to get his boat seaworthy.

Unfortunately for Commander Fluckey, his successes during these early patrols did not go unnoticed. His wife, Marjorie, while attending the monthly meeting of the Naval Academy Garden Club, learned that her husband had just been approved for the Navy Cross and was in line for a second Navy Cross. Upon questioning this information, she was informed, "Honey, you've been had!"


Gene Fluckey speaks to the issue

Fear is a natural characteristic of all living creatures, necessary for self-preservation. To win, however, fear must be controlled, enabling expertise to determine when to fight and when to run away--to be able to fight another day. As experience teaches, the subconscious almost automatically weighs the odds.

Dancing with Widows

From Thunder Below by Gene Fluckey

At home on leave, Gene Fluckey and Marjorie attended a dance with the "Submarine Wives Club." Of the wives at the dance, 13 had husbands were at sea or "overdue and presumed lost." As Fluckey danced with each of them, he relates his thoughts, "Five of the women knew they were widows. As each snuggled close, dancing with me, my heart did flip-flops. I knew four others were widows, but they had not yet been notified. Damn the war! Already over half my submarine school classmates were buried in steel coffins at the bottom of the ocean. The horrors those women had yet to face brought tears to my eyes as they danced with their eyes closed, dreaming of dancing with their husbands."

Gains and Losses

During WWII, the US Navy lost 52 submarines and 3,505 submariners. This rate of 22 percent was the highest of all the services, and was six times greater than in the surface navy.

Although just representing less than two percent of the personnel in the Navy, the US submarine fleet sent 55 percent of all Japanese vessels to the bottom. The other 45 percent were lost to army and navy aircraft, mines and other causes.

After the summer of '44, few ships entered or left Japanese waters without being attacked by submarines; most that attempted it were sunk. Japan ran out of oil for her navy; gasoline for her aircraft, trucks and automobiles; steel, aluminum and other metal for her industry; and food for her teeming population. After the war, when the full impact of the submarine blockade became known, many experts concluded that the submarine blockade alone would have ultimately defeated the enemy.

Notable Quotes

With a sparkle in his eyes, George Grider radioed back to Pearl from the Wahoo while exiting their patrol area with no torpedos left: "Another gun battle today. Destroyer gunning, Wahoo running!"

After the first successful attack by USS Sturgeon SS-197, XO Reuben Whitaker sent the message, "Sturgeon no longer virgin."

The Japanese sprayed Growler's bridge with machine gun fire, wounding Captain Howard Gilmore and killing two others. Four crewmen made it down the hatch. Unable to move, Gilmore gave his last order: "Take her down." For sacrificing his life to save Growler, Gilmore was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

After the announcement of cessation of hostilities with Japan, Admiral Halsey sent this message to his fleet units, ". . . if you see an enemy plane approaching you directly, shoot it down--but do it in a gentlemanly fashion."

"The citation I am most proud of is the medal no member of my crew was ever awarded--The Purple Heart." . . . Gene Fluckey

"The most rewarding experience of my life was to lead a gang of wonderful young men into battle against the enemy, and bring them safely home to their families after victory." . . . Worth Scanland