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Thursday, January 25, 2007


More About WWII Submarines (Revised)

The revision includes more details about "my sub." USS Bream (SSK-243)

U.S. Subs Down Under: Brisbane, 1942-1945
by David Jones and Peter Nunan

U.S. Subs Down Under is an excellent reference work about an important part of the war in the Southwestern Pacific during WWII. It is thoroughly researched and the writing is clear and accessible. Although the book does not provide a reader with the excitement of undersea warfare in more dramatic books, such as William Touhy’s The Bravest Man, which covers the exploits of submarine commander Richard O’Kane, nevertheless it is a valuable reference work.

Jones and Nunan sort out the complexities of the two major operating commands in the Pacific theater; in the Southwest Pacific, under the overall command of General Douglas MacArthur in Australia, and those commanded in the rest of the Pacific by Admiral Nimitz from his headquarters in Pearl Harbor. Because submarines and other forces were constantly moving from one command to the other, it is sometimes difficult to determine who reported to whom from one month to the next, and Jones and Nunan are a great help in keeping track of who was directing their missions.

U.S. Subs Down Under also provides a great deal of detail about shore-based support of the submarines operating out of Australian ports; the rest facilities, repair facilities, and of course the degree to which the citizens and government of Australia both encouraged, fed, and entertained submarine sailors. The book also includes many details about the tasks submarines performed besides sinking enemy ships: in landing coast watchers, rescuing downed aviators, evacuating civilians, reconnaissance, and supporting invasions forces.

Jones and Nunan also provide statistics on the patrols and sinkings of individual submarines (including the dates of their patrols and the names of the Japanese ships they sunk) and the dates, names and circumstances of each submarine that was lost during the war in the Southwest Pacific theater of operations.

Because I served on the USS Bream (SS-243) from 1960 to 1963, reading about Bream’s operations during the war was of particular interest to me. Although the book included information about Bream’s two patrols and the fact that "my" sub sunk the freighter Yuki Maru on June 16, 1944 and torpedoed and damaged the Japanese cruiser Aoba on October 23, 1944, a mystery remains for me. I learned when I served in Bream that the boat had been depth-charged sometime during the war and the hull was permanently deformed by the attack, which limited the submarine’s test depth. Unfortunately U.S. Subs Down Under did not mention the depth-charging, although it does state that Bream and was fired on (although not hit) by an American Liberty ship in April of 1944. Perhaps the depth-charging occurred after Bream attacked the cruiser Aoba, but U.S. Subs Down Under does not mention it. To the left above is a picture of Bream during the time I served in her in 1962. After the war she was modified as an SSK, or hunter-killer sub for anti-submarine warfare. She had a large, bulbous sonar dome on her bow, which reduced her surface speed to about 11 knots.

Since posting this review, I had an email from Myron Howard another BREAM crew member. He know a bit more about BREAM, including some discussion about BREAM's misshapen hull. He writes:

I just saw your page with your personal information. I too was on BREAM.
However I left her in April, '60. The thing that struck me was the comment
on your page about a misshaped hull as a result of Japanese depth charge
attacks. That is news to me.

I was in contact with a WWII vet who was on BREAM when she got stuck in
the mud while avoiding a depth charge attack. That event resulted in a
warpped shaft that had to be changed out and a fire in the motor room but
no hull damage.

And I recall several dives to test depth (312 ft) while I was aboard BREAM
from July, '57 until April, '60.

He adds:

The rumor may have been a result not of Japanese depth charges but an event that occurred in 1959.

I don't recall the exact depths but we had an excursion. If you recall, the
depth guage valves were behind the gauge board in the Control Room.
When going below 150 it was SOP for the A ganger on watch to close the
shallow guage valves on the way down and open them on the way up.
Well, we were going down and the fellow on the stern planes, who had
reported aboard in late 1957, told the A ganger he'd do it. A ganger figured
the guy had a couple years on the boat what could go wrong? Well a lot
went wrong.

First he closed the deep guage valves. When he realized that, instead of
opening the deep guage valves he opened the vent valves on the guage
system. By the time the A ganger got everything lined up properly, we had
about a 25+ up angle and were sinking by the stern. Al Packard had the
After Torpedo Room and he told me he thought the ATR was around 350 or
deeper based on the pressure guages on the tubes.

Guess I was lucky. I had the forward port upper skid rack in the ATR and
slept right through it.

And though my sig doesn't say so, I have several pages of BREAM photos
and history on my web site. There is brief mention of the fire in Maneuvering.
Also the warped shaft, both scopes being replaced and the forward tubes
having to be repaired as a result of depth charges.

Note: Myron's web site address is here:


There's more good sites available too, both about BREAM and other WWII boats:
and lots of others from a Google search here:

Click on the link below to buy U.S. Subs Down Under directly from Amazon.com

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