39th Bomb Group (VH)

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Rescue of Crew 50 by USS GATO (SS-212)

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The following is by Frank Kuserk, who served aboard the USS GATO during WWII.

In April of 1945, our sub the USS GATO, SS-212 was assigned to patrol off the southern coast of Japan for the express purpose of picking up any airman who were shot down during the raids on Japan. During this period we had to remain on the surface so as to find and rescue airman. Super Dumbos (B-29) who informed us of airman who were in the water escorted us. They were also there to protect us from attack by Japanese planes. While searching for the downed airmen we frequently saw Japanese planes in the distance but they seemed to ignore us. I'm sure they realized that the war was over for them so why tangle with a sub which had all its guns manned and a Dumbo which also carried a lot of fire power.

Spotting someone in the water is not as easy as it sounds. When the seas are rough with lots of swells they are not too easy to spot. Also we had to send some of our people into the water to assist the airman since some had been in the water for as long as three days. During a two-week period from the end of April into May we were able to pick up 10 Airman. Since we had just arrived on station at the end of April most of them spent a long time on the boat before we got back to shore. During this period a Japanese Zeke decided to be a hero, He came at us and dropped two bombs. After that he turned and began to strafe us. We of course were shooting back at him with everything we had but fortunately he didn't do any damage except scare the hell out of us and the airman on board. I'm sure the pilot of the plane probably reported back that he had spotted sub and sank it. I think that the Japs had reported sinking three times as many subs as we had. And I'm sure they reported shooting down more Dumbos than we had. The last we saw of him before we dove was the Dumbo chasing him back towards to mainland.

Also, during this period we were fired at by probably a midget sub. We picked up the sound of the torpedo and were able to maneuver out of the way. We would also blow up floating mines to insure that we did not run into them the next time we passed by.

The first airman we picked up was Sgt. Jack B. Cannon, 499 group, 877th Bomber Sqd. A dumbo had dropped him a raft the day before. We were only about 12 miles from shore when we spotted him. At first he thought we were Japanese so he covered his raft with a blue blanket and lowered his sail. When we closed however, he realized that we were the "Good Guys" he told us that he was the last of only six airmen who bailed out. He jumped from 500 feet at an airspeed of 240 MPH. He indicated that his plane had been hit while they were bombing Miyazaki.

Our next rescue was Cpl Cloice Gene Tarn, 37528988, 39th Bomb Group, 62nd Squadron. Shortly thereafter we picked up Sgt David L Hirsch, 34887507. Our next survivor was 2nd Lt Frank Lemont Johnson, 0-2068394 of the same unit. At this time we were about 20 miles Southeast of Toi Misaki.

Our next rescue was Lt. E. B. Fisher and S/Sgt. N. H. Woodville. They were in a single man life raft and were flashing their mirror when they saw us. At the time we were about 15 miles from Kyushu. We then spotted another life raft with T/Sgt. N. Lewis. Shortly thereafter we picked up Sgt. T. J. Doherty and Sgt. Ferry. We also picked up Lt. F. H ???tor. (I couldn't make out his last name from the battle report that I have.)

These ten airmen were quickly integrated into the crew. The enlisted men stood watches with us lookouts, which reduced our burden, and the officers were put to work in the decoding room. Fortunately, we had enough food on board to accommodate our guest but we did run out of ice cream mix before we got back to port. I think we dropped our guests off in Guam before we proceeded to Pearl harbor for repairs and R & R.

More about Frank Kuserk

Source: Frank Kuserk, USS GATO crewmember