Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, March 31, 2006

Dad's Sub

My brother-in-law surprised me tonight with a bunch of info on SS-421, the Trutta. That's her above, in a photo taken in the 1950's.

A decade earlier in August 1944, a freshly minted Annapolis Ensign who would later become my father was assigned to the Trutta at the New London CN shipyard, where she'd just been built. In no time, they were on their way through the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor, and then to the East Asian Sea.

She might have been one of the most famous ships in history. On April 7, 1945, she was running at full speed to intercept a Japanese task force headed by the Yamato, the world's largest battleship. Yamato was heading for Okinawa, and Trutta was chasing her down. Unfortunately, Yamato changed course away, and steamed away. Fortunately, very fortunately, she was sunk a few days later by Vice Admiral Mitscher's Task Force 58.

The thought of my dad being in this situation was pretty chilling; there was a very good chance I might not be here:
Off the China coast on 22 April, Trutta narrowly escaped damage when an enemy float plane dropped two bombs which exploded over the diving submarine. Shortly after midnight three days later, as Trutta patrolled west of Quelpart Island, lookouts on the submarine's bridge were startled to see a torpedo pass astern. As Trutta put on speed and turned parallel to the torpedo's wake, another torpedo passed by her port side moving from stern to bow, a sinister reminder that she was not alone in the Yellow Sea. (source)
In May, she steamed toward lifeguard duty to support air strikes on Kobe, passing through a typhoon on the way. On May 7, she made a very big difference in one Army airman's life, plucking him out of the ocean. The airman had weathered the typhoon too -- in a rubber raft! What a story he must have told the Trutta's crewmen!

After the war, she sailed back to Pearl Harbor, and Dad was restationed. In the early 50s, when I was in Kindergarten, we were stationed in Key West, as was the Trutta. Dad was on another sub then, cruising regularly to pre-Castro Cuba.

His previous posting was Turkey; that was Trutta's last. She left service to the Navy in 1972, and became the TCG Cerbe in the Turkish navy. The Turks used her until the late 1990s.

Her fate is unknown.

Dad probably remembers some of this, but Alzheimer's is torpedoing his brain and he's slowly (thank God very slowly) sinking. Thank you for your service, Dad.