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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 Archerfish crew sometimes saw Japanese trawlers or other ships not worthy of torpedoes, but no other potential targets presented themselves. The fact was, with the lifeguard assignment, they were not free to range very far to look for anything to shoot at.

Joe Enright was beginning to wonder if his bad luck still held sway. Maybe he had been right the first time. Maybe he wasn’t cut out to be a sub skipper after all.

Then, on November 27th, a blustery Monday, he received a radio message that additional bombing raids on the Tokyo-Yokosuka industrial area were being delayed. For the next couple of days, he and Archerfish were relieved of their lifeguard duties and could roam at will, looking for anything they could find to sink. The transmission also alerted him to the fact that there were no other submarines anywhere in the area. The ocean was all theirs. The radio message concluded with "Good hunting!"


As he stood on Archerfish’s bridge, the cold sea spray in his face as he guided them closer to the Japanese mainland, Commander Enright fingered the rosary beads in his pocket as he thought of his wife, Virginia, and his young son, seven-year-old Joe Jr. He also thought of Minnie, his mother, and of how proud she would have been that he was back, doing what he so desperately wanted to do.

Just before they were to dive at dawn on the 28th, the skipper’s thoughts were interrupted by his radar officer, Lieutenant Joe Bosza, who had come to the bridge.
"Captain, request permission to take the SJ radar out of service for repairs," he said.
"We got a problem?" Enright asked.

"Just some minor ones, Skipper, and we need to adjust for better performance," Bosza reported. "We’ll have it back up by 1700."

Enright thought long and hard before he gave permission to go ahead. Once night fell, they would be blind without the radar. He wanted to have all his ducks in a row for a good night of hunting once they came to the surface at dark. Bosza assured him they would have everything working by then. Enright reluctantly gave his permission.

Still, he stopped by the radar area several times during the day to check on the progress of the repairs. 1700, 5 PM, came and went. Everything was going fine, he was told. They would be back up and sweeping well before dark.

At 7:30, Enright heard from his radar crew that the system was now working but they needed to do some on-line testing and tuning. The skipper groaned when he heard the report. Japanese vessels carried radar detection systems. Once Bosza and his team turned on the radar, the enemy would know that they were there. That took away the sub’s best weapon, surprise.
There was no choice. They had to have working, calibrated radar if they hoped to be as effective as they so desperately wanted to be this night.

Enright told the lieutenant to go ahead and do what he had to do.

Finally, about 8:30, Bosza reported everything was working properly. The watchstanders on the bridge had already visually sighted the offshore island of Inamba Shima and called the report down the hatch to the radar team.

"We don’t see the island on the radar," came Bosza’s response after a short, telling silence.
Joe Enright groaned again. If the radar they had worked on all day couldn’t see a damned island, how in hell would it find a destroyer or battleship?

"Radar contact 030 degrees," Joe Bosza suddenly sang out.

Enright slapped the bridge railing in anger.

"Joe, no matter what your radar shows, Inamba Shima is at 060 degrees," he growled back. "Fix it!"

"Aye, aye sir," came the meek reply from below.

But only a few seconds later, the young radar officer reported something new. The excitement was obvious in his voice when he called up to those on the bridge.

"Captain, your island is moving!

Captain Toshio Abe allowed himself the slightest of smiles when he heard the report his officer of the deck was giving him.

"Sir, we have detected enemy radar. It is the proper frequency for an American submarine."
It was a little after 8:30 PM and the Americans were already bathing them with their radar. Abe knew he had been correct all along. There was a wolf pack of submarines out there beyond the small islands, waiting for Shinano to steam out to the open waters. He also snorted at the arrogance of the Americans, daring to use their radar so blatantly, knowing they would certainly be detected.

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