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USS Amberjack

Two submarines of the United States Navy have borne the name USS Amberjack, named for a pair of species of vigorous sport fish found in the western Atlantic from New England to Brazil.

The first USS Amberjack (SS-219) was a Gato-class submarine. Her keel was laid by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut, on 15 May 1941. She was launched on 6 March 1942 sponsored by Mrs. Randall Jacobs, and commissioned on 19 June 1942, with Lieutenant Commander John A. Bole, Jr., in command.

After shakedown training in waters off New London, Connecticut, and Newport, Rhode Island, Amberjack got underway on 20 July, bound for the Pacific. She transited the Panama Canal in mid-August and reached Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 20 August. Following training exercises, Amberjack got underway for her first war patrol on 3 September. Two days later, she touched at Johnston Island[?] to refuel and, later that day, resumed her voyage to her patrol area between the northeast coast of New Ireland[?] and Bougainville, Solomon Islands[?].

On 15 September, Amberjack was patrolling off Kavieng, New Ireland[?]. Three days later, she made contact with a large Japanese transport escorted by a destroyer and fired a spread of four torpedoes at the vessels, but none hit. While patrolling in Bougainville Strait[?] on 19 September, the submarine fired two torpedoes at an enemy freighter. The first hit under the target's bridge, and the second broke her keel in two. Amberjack was credited with having sunk the passenger-cargo vessel Shirogane Maru.

The submarine made her next contact with Japanese shipping on 25 September, spotting a large cruiser escorted by a destroyer. However, before the submarine could get into position for an attack, the destroyer headed toward her and forced her to go deep. Several depth charges were dropped on the submarine, but they inflicted no damage. During the next few days, Amberjack reconnoitered Tau, Kilinailau[?], Greenwich Island[?], and Ocean Island.

Amberjack spotted a Japanese cruiser on the morning of 30 September and launched four torpedoes from her bow tubes. None hit, so she fired another two forward tubes shortly thereafter. These also went wide of the mark, and the cruiser escaped damage. One week later, the submarine was patrolling off Kavieng[?] when she spotted smoke on the horizon. After a Japanese cargo ship sailed into view, Amberjack fired two torpedoes. One missed forward and the other hit the target's hull forward. The enemy ship was still able to continue under her own power and Amberjack took up pursuit. About one hour later, both sides opened fire with their deck guns but neither was within range of the other and they broke off fire. After two more hours of the chase, the submarine fired a slow speed torpedo which hit its target five minutes later. The cargo vessel, later identified as Senkai Maru, swung left and seemed to stop. Its bow swung up in the air, the ship took a vertical position, and sank from sight shortly thereafter. Lifeboats carrying the cargo ship's survivors were later spotted as the submarine headed for Kavieng[?].

While patrolling off Kavieng Harbor[?] on 10 October, Amberjack spotted Japanese ships in the harbor and launched four torpedoes into the anchorage. One damaged a freighter and another damaged a large 13,500-ton whale factory, Tonan Maru II, which was being used to ferry airplanes. The vessel sank in shallow water, but was later salvaged, towed to Japan for repairs, and was returned to service. On 16 October, the submarine headed for Espiritu Santo[?] for repairs to her ballast tanks and arrived there on 19 October. While undergoing repairs, she was assigned the task of hauling aviation gas, bombs, and personnel to Guadalcanal. While en route to the Solomons, her destination was changed to Tulagi[?]. She arrived there on 25 October and unloaded her embarked troops and cargo under the cover of darkness. The next day, she set course for Brisbane,Australia, and reached that port on 30 October.

After a refit alongside USS Griffin (AS-13)[?] and a series of training exercises, Amberjack began her second war patrol on 21 November. On the morning of 27 November, the submarine encountered two enemy destroyers which were probably carrying supplies for Japanese forces on Guadalcanal. While launching four torpedoes from her stern tubes, the submarine heard the screws of a third ship crossing ahead of her bow. None of the torpedoes hit their target, and the submarine began to take action to avoid depth charges. Approximately two hours later, all sounds had faded away; and the submarine rose to the surface to look for signs of damage. She spotted nothing so she assumed a new station at the southern end of the eastern entrance to Shortland Harbor[?].

On 29 November, while on patrol ten miles east of the Treasury Islands[?], Amberjack spotted a surfaced Japanese submarine. Before she could set up an attack, however, the enemy vessel rapidly drew away. She again saw a Japanese submarine on 3 December proceeding toward the entrance to Shortland harbor and sent four torpedoes toward the fleeing enemy, but all failed to hit. During the next one and one-half weeks, she made numerous ship contacts, but carried out no attacks. On 15 December, the submarine sighted a convoy consisting of four or five ships on a course for Rabaul[?] and fired two torpedoes at a large freighter, one at a small tanker, and one more at a small freighter. However, she apparently inflicted no damage on any of the targets.

Her next contact occurred on 20 December. While patrolling submerged, Amberjack began hearing a series of explosions which drew closer and closer. She surfaced and saw two Japanese destroyer escorts[?], which soon thereafter began raining depth charges on the submarine. Within the space of one minute, six exploded close aboard, shook the vessel considerably, and caused numerous broken light bulbs forward. Some fittings mounted on the overhead were broken off, and several valves were sprung open. However, the submarine suffered no crippling damage and moved on to continue her patrol off the northeast coast of New Ireland[?].

She spotted another Japanese ship on 3 January 1943, a destroyer which apparently was waiting to rendezvous with a convoy from the Palau Islands. The submarine was unable to attack the ship and, two days later, set a course for Brisbane. She reached that port on 11 January and safely concluded her patrol.

Following this patrol the submarine's period of refit was cut to 12 days due to the urgent need for submarines to patrol enemy infested waters. She got underway on 24 January but was forced to return to Brisbane for repair of minor leaks which developed during a deep dive. Again departing Brisbane on 26 January 1943, Amberjack, now under the command of Lieutenant Commander J.A. Bole, Jr., started her third war patrol in the Solomons area. On 29 January she was directed to pass close to Tetipari Island[?] and then proceed to the northwest and patrol the approaches to Shortland Basin[?]. Orders were radioed on 1 February for her to move north and patrol the western approaches to Buka Passage[?]. Having complied with these orders, Amberjack made her first miles southeast of Treasury Island[?] on 1 February, and of sinking a two-masted schooner by gunfire twenty miles from Buka[?] the afternoon of 3 February 1943. At this time she was ordered to move south along the Buka-Shortland traffic lane and patrol east of Vella Lavella Island[?].

In a second radio transmission on 4 February, Amberjack reported having sunk a 5,000-ton freighter laden with explosives in a two-hour night surface attack that date in which five torpedoes were fired. During this engagement Chief Pharmacist’s Mate Arthur C. Beeman was killed by machine gun fire, and an officer was slightly wounded in the hand. On 8 February, Amberjack was ordered to move to the west side of Ganongga Island[?] and on 10 February, she was directed to keep south of latitude 7°30'S and to cover the traffic routes from Rabaul[?] and Buka[?] to Shortland Basin[?]. On 13 February Amberjack was assigned the entire Rabaul-Buka-Shortland Sea area and told to hunt for traffic.

The last radio transmission received from Amberjack was made on 14 February 1943. She related having been forced down the night before by two destroyers, and that she had recovered from the water and taken prisoner an enemy aviator on 13 February. She was ordered north of latitude 6°30'S, and told to keep hunting for Rabaul[?] traffic.

All further messages to Amberjack remained unanswered, and when, by 10 March, she had failed to make her routine report estimating the time of her arrival at base, she was ordered to do so. No reply was received, and she was reported as presumed lost on 22 March 1943.

Reports received from the enemy after the war record an attack which probably sank Amberjack. On 16 February 1943, the torpedo boat Hiyodori and sub chaser[?] Number 18 attacked a U.S. submarine with nine depth charges at about 5°05'S, 152°37'E. An escorting patrol plane had previously attacked the submarine. A large amount of heavy oil and "parts of the hull" came to the surface. This attack is believed to have sunk Amberjack. However, no final conclusions can be drawn, since USS Grampus (SS-207) was lost in the same area at about the same time. From the evidence available, it is considered most likely that the attack of 16 February sank Amberjack, but if she did survive this attack, any one of the attacks and sightings thought to have been made on Grampus might have been made on Amberjack.

Amberjack won three battle stars for her World War II service, and was credited with sinking three ships, for a total of 28,600 tons while damaging two more ships for 14,000 tons damaged. The enlisted men's recreation center at Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, is named for Chief Pharmacist's Mate Arthur C. Beeman, who was killed in the gun battle of 4 February.

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 1870 tons surfaced, 2424 tons submerged
  • Length: 312 feet
  • Beam: 27 feet
  • Draft: 19 feet 3 inches
  • Speed: 20.25 knots surfaced, 8.75 knots submerged
  • Test Depth: 300 feet
  • Armament: one three-inch/50 gun, six 21-inch torpedo tubes forward, four 21-inch torpedo tubes aft
  • Complement: four officers, 54 men

The second USS Amberjack (SS-522) was a Balao-class submarine[?]. Her keel was laid down by the Boston Naval Shipyard[?] of Boston, Massecheusetts[?], on 8 February 1944. She was launched 15 December 1944 sponsored by Mrs. Walter E. Lang, Jr., and commissioned on 4 March 1946, with Commander William B. Parham in command.

Following shakedown training in the West Indies and in the Gulf of Mexico, Amberjack reported on 17 June for duty with SubRon8. Operating out of the Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut, she conducted training missions in the North Atlantic, and, in November 1946, made a cruise above the Arctic Circle. In January 1947, the submarine entered the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for extensive modifications and thereafter spent about a year undergoing a Guppy II[?] conversion during which her hull and sail were streamlined and additional batteries and a snorkel were installed to increase her submerged speed endurance, and maneuverability. In January 1948, she reported for duty with SubRon4 based at Key West, Florida. She operated along the east coast and in the West Indies for a little more than 11 years. Her schedule included the development of tactics and independent ship exercises, type training, periodic overhauls, and fleet exercises. During this period, she also visited numerous Caribbean ports. In July of 1952, Amberjack was transferred to the newly established SubRon12, though she remained based at Key West and her employment continued as before.

Early in August 1959, after more than 11 years of operations out of Key West, the submarine's home port was changed to Charleston, South Carolina. She arrived there on 8 August and reported for duty with her former squadron, SubRon4. While working out of her new home port, Amberjacks operations remained much as they had been before with one significant difference: she began making deployments to European waters. In August, September and October of 1960, the submarine participated in a NATO exercise before making a week-long port visit to Portsmouth, England. She returned to Charleston late in October and resumed her normal duties. Between May and September of 1961, the warship deployed to the Mediterranean Sea for duty in the Sixth Fleet. After a three-year interlude operating along the east coast and in the West Indies, Amberjack made another Mediterranean cruise between 7 July and 1 November 1964. She spent the ensuing 29 months working out of Charleston. In 1967, the submarine made a three-month deployment to the Mediterranean between 23 April and 24 July. On 2 September 1969, following another 25 months of operations along the east coast and in the West Indies, she embarked upon her last Charleston-based tour of duty in European waters during which she participated in another NATO exercise with units of the British, Canadian, and Dutch navies. At the conclusion of the exercise, Amberjack visited a number of ports in northern Europe before returning to Charleston on 12 December 1969.

On 9 July 1970, Amberjack arrived in her new home port, Key West, Florida, her base for the remainder of her service in the United States Navy. She made her last deployment to the Mediterranean between 27 November 1972, and 30 March 1973. On 17 October 1973, Amberjack was decommissioned at Key West, her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register, was transferred to the Brazilian Navy, and was commissioned as Cerea (S-12)[?].

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 1570 tons surfaced, 2415 tons submerged
  • Length: 311 feet 8 inches
  • Beam: 27 feet 3 inches
  • Draft: 15 feet 5 inches
  • Speed: 20.25 knots surfaced, 8.75 knots submerged
  • Complement: 81
  • Armament: ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, one five-inch gun, one 40mm cannon

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