|REFLECTIONS OF THE
Based in Freemantle, West Austrailia, part of Task Force 72 of the 7th Fleet under Admiral Ralhp Christie, served by the tender, PELIAS
Captain, James W. Davis, USN; new Executive Officer, Frank W. Bewley, USNR; James "Old Jin" Grant, USNR, Engineering Officer; Donald Wayne "Pete" Sencenbaugh, USN, First Lt. (in charge of the hull things not in engineering); Robert "Bobo" Strassenburg, USNR, newly promoted to Communications; Mike Moore, USN, newly appointed Torpedo and Gunnery; Bayard W. "By" Lyon, USNR, newly appointed Commissary and Asst. Engineering.
(The following is part of my letter to Ellen English in response to her family's request to learn more about Dick's submarine experience which started after I had made 4 patrols and our Mare Island overhaul.)
As one of the junior officers coming aboard, Dick got a job like commissary or communications officer, or asst. engineering or first lieutenant. (Pete should be able to remember the latter) and my recollection is that he may have been my asst. engineering. That was in charge of Diesel engines (5), generators, propulsion motors (2), batteries and charging fresh water generation and trimming the boat to compensate for weight changes, fore and aft, each day before diving for the day. These were administrative duties which took much less of our time and attention than our cruising and watch duties.
As a junior officer, while we were surfaced I was Junior Officer of the Deck. As such I was stationed on the bridge deck behind the conning tower. My purview was all things (planes, smoke, floating objects, periscopes, mines, etc.) aft of the conning tower including a couple of lookouts who were in the superstructure above me. Forward of me and the conning tower were the Officer of the Deck (who was in charge of the whole boat during this watch) and another set of lookouts watching where we were headed. This group was a watch team and generally was on duty together for 4 and 2 hour shifts. For a total of 8 hours/day. I was JOOD with Pete Sencenbaugh as my OOD for my first patrol so we worked together but were not in much communication while on watch.
During submerged periods, 1, as the JOOD was below in the control room serving as diving officer keeping the boat level and at the proper depth regardless of what speed, depth, or turns the Officer of the Deck in the conning tower above ordered. The diving officer was in charge of the men on the bow and stern planes and a man who operated the pumps and air pressure to move water and air around to balance the boat at the desired level. This may sound simple and there were times when it was pretty routine but it was very demanding and busy when making the transition from surface to submerged in a dive especially when done during danger. Surfacinglater was generally less involved.
The Officer of the Deck was stationed above the control room in the conning tower where he was in charge of the entire watch spending most of his time taking sightings through the periscope. As I became more experienced and during a quiet watch we would trade places for training and variety...he was still in charge.
At night while we were on the surface, we received encoded radio messages from our base and could intercept messages from fellow boats in our vicinity. We did not send messages unless we had something urgent to report. Off-watch officers decoded radio messages from our bases interrupting most of our good sleeping. I hot-bunked it with Mike and Bobo in two make- shift bunks in the wardroom. One of us was always on watch. Getting off watch at mid-night I would get into the bunk with sheets damp from sweat over the plastic mattress and catch some sleep until somebody from the "radui shack" came in with "Message, Mr. Lyon". Then Pete and I would go to it with the decoding board and strips which we moved with a pencil eraser...sometimes struggling with garbled transmissions and unintelligible translated messages. On a tough night we would get bunches of messages and we spent most of our 4 hours between midnight and 0400 hours when we returned to watch struggling with messages and sleepliness. These told of other boats sightings, firings, sinkings, depth charging, etc., sightings by shore watchers such as La Beaq was recruited to do in South Pacific and instructions from our headquarters. Only infrequently there were important enough to raise the exec. or the captain. Mostly messages waited for the next day for the captain to read in his quarters, ....one of our rooms with 4 officers in three bunks over the batteries and near a battery vent duct was affectionately named "The Armpit".
Part of the RATON's record was good enough to warrant the Navy Unit Citation which was just below a Presidential Unit Citation which many subs earned. Two Navy Crosses came to our skippers and lesser medals to others.
I think Dick came aboard the RATON, SS270 at Mare Island after our overhaul there. Date would be about Jan.-Feb. 1945 and after the RATON's 6th patrol. He came with several other officers including Tom French, and experienced officer from the fleet and 3 green horns, Lew Avery, Stan King and McGuire (who was never know to me as anything but Goober McGuire). Lew was a fellow reservist with Dick and the other 2 were brand new Annapolis grads who seemed to have been rushed through during the war. Lew I think became a San Francicso attorney and I lost track of the other two.