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Posted on Jul 20, 2004 in Books and Movies

Gallant Lady: A Biography of USS Archerfish – Book Review

By Don Keith

The same message was broadcast on the submarine-to-submarine frequency, just in case some friendly boats might be coming to offer assistance. Enright knew the Japanese would likely hear these transmissions, but he doubted it would have any effect on the carrier or on their plan of action. The enemy knew Archerfish was still out here somewhere and it had not seemed to bother them one whit so far.

Then, at 2:56 AM, as if Joe Enright had willed it to happen, the huge carrier began to change course, almost imperceptibly at first. Something that big did not turn on a dime. But then it was clear. He watched, disbelieving, and heard the excited shouts from the men in the conning tower below as they called out the new course information.

"Ship contact #4" on Archerfish war patrol #5 had just turned. It was headed directly at the submarine and it was coming her way at what looked like full bore.


Toshio Abe knew at once what the nearby coded radio transmissions on the American submarine-to-submarine frequency meant. The leader of the pack of submarines that swarmed around his ship had relayed Shinano’s position, course, and speed to all the others. Now, they would get into position to attack from all sides. Even with the reduced speed, he still had advantages though. Submarines had to be on the surface to match speeds with the carrier. Yet, they would likely have to dive to shoot their torpedoes and still escape the destroyers. He knew at least one of the stalkers was on the surface because they were still seeing his radar on the carrier’s detectors.

He quickly considered his chances against the flock of submarines.

If they were so damned determined to shoot him, then let them go ahead. They would not sink his vessel. They would have trouble enough hitting a target as quick as his ship. Because of the carrier’s "blisters" and heavy armament, it would take many torpedoes making direct hits to damage Shinano. Even then, she would not be likely to go down. Of course, the Americans still had no idea what course she might take, so the run was still on. Daylight was not far away and if he could dodge them until then, the Americans would have to slink off and hide once again. He and his ship would be safe.

Now, another turn was necessary. The wolf pack was likely arrayed west of them, along the routes favored by merchant captains steering their ships from Tokyo Bay to the Inland Sea. The submarines would be lying in wait there, lined up, ready for them to steam right into their hornets’ nest.

"Come to course two-one-zero," Abe abruptly ordered.

The helmsman steered the Goliath of a ship to the new direction. He and the rest of the crew could feel the gargantuan vessel heel only slightly as she responded to the course change. All the while, Abe stared at the chart on the wall with its nest of Xs marking the recent reported observations of American submarines, mostly north and east of where they now ran.On the new course, they were moving farther away from those ominous Xs, leaving them behind.

The admiral-to-be felt better already, but he knew another zig would be necessary soon, before the submarines could determine his course and line up again for an attack.

At 3:05, he was informed that the incessant radar transmissions from the mystery vessel had abruptly ceased.

"He has finally dived," Abe said, as much to himself as to anyone else. He raised his voice when he ordered, "Inform the screeners. We are at greatest peril now."

At 3:10 AM, Toshio Abe gave the command to again change direction to run due south. That should confuse the American vultures!

Daylight was only a few hours away and the Americans would cease their hunt before then. All they had to do was avoid a fight a little longer. Abe was certain they could zigzag and run fast enough to accomplish that. And that his ship, the savior of the Empire, would be delivered whole.

A few minutes after 3 o’clock, Joe Enright gave the command to dive. Archerfish was now less than seven miles from the target and they needed to maneuver to be able to get anything close to a broadside shot. Six torpedoes were ready forward and four more rested in the after tubes. The skipper took his position at the boat’s twin periscopes.

"Bring her level at 60 feet," he ordered. That would leave the ?scopes just above the surface of the ocean.

One minute after the first yodel of the diving alarm, Archerfish was at depth and waiting.

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