PATROL 4 - THE HUNTER AND THE HUNTED
28 February 1944 to 1 April 1944
USS Bowfin left Fremantle for Darwin on 28 February 1944 as she started her fourth war patrol. This time she would be patrolling in the Celebes Sea, in between the Philippines and Indonesia, rather than the South China Sea. The first week of the patrol was filled with tests and drills before leaving Darwin on 6 March. It was only a few days later that Bowfin encountered her first enemy of the patrol. On 10 March, Bowfin came upon a convoy of four ships and two escorts. Thus started a ten-hour attack with many ineffective torpedoes, depth charges, and uncertainty. Bowfin put herself into position to fire at the convoy from the starboard side which put the convoy between Bowfin and land. CDR Griffith plotted that this would make it harder for the escorts to escape out of the nearby reefs. Bowfin fired three torpedoes at the closest vessel and three more at one of the far tankers. The Captain confirmed that four exploded prematurely before having to go deeper, and he could only speculate why the other two failed to hit their targets. As Bowfin went out of periscope depth, depth charges were used against them but nothing but a chain made contact. The crew could only guess what the noise was but the consensus was that the enemy had dropped a grapnel hook down in the attempts of dragging Bowfin up to the surface. The crew never forgot the sound of it scraping along the outside of the boat, like nails on a chalkboard that determined their lives.
Depth charges continued over a period of several hours but luckily Bowfin remained structurally unharmed. After many nervous hours, it stopped and Bowfin went to periscope depth to check out the situation. They spied several vessels and their prior target did not look damaged, but other vessels were attempting to tow it to safety. Bowfin set up to attack again, planning to fire three at the escort and three at the towing vessel. All six were fired, however one turned and went down the starboard side of Bowfin. None of the torpedoes hit their mark, and a few minutes later the Captain investigated; the torpedoes had been off by only a few degrees causing that volley to be totally ineffective. Bowfin was forced down again to sustain more depth charges and was lucky no damage was done. The crew of Bowfin waited through the tense night hoping to avoid the deadly depth charges; their observations the next morning showed that the attack had temporarily stopped the towing operation. Bowfin was able to fire several more torpedoes before she was forced down by the many escort ships. They came up to periscope depth later and saw that the ship they had been targeting for hours was once again alone. Setting up for another attack, Bowfin fired four torpedoes before being forced down again. When she finally came up again there was nothing left of the vessel! Finally, the torpedoes had hit their target. Later that night Bowfin caught up with the rest of the enemy convoy and was given the opportunity to fire their remaining four torpedoes. Unfortunately one missed and the others fired prematurely. Having depleted their store of torpedoes Bowfin returned to Darwin to reload.
By 18 March reloading was complete and she returned to sea to track a Japanese cargo ship escorted by two submarine hunters. Once found, Bowfin fired six torpedoes all of which missed. This action resulted in sixteen depth charges being dropped shaking Bowfin and her crew. That afternoon Bowfin fired four torpedoes at the same target from her stern tubes, all missed again. On 24 March after tracking a different five-ship convoy for six hours, Bowfin made a night surface attack and sank two cargo vessels and damaged another before expending all of her torpedoes.
PATROL 4 SUMMARY
USS Bowfin was underway for 9,272 miles during her fourth patrol. CDR Griffith and higher authorities believed Bowfin sank 20,982 tons (three large vessels) and damaged 11,464 tons (two large vessels). JANAC credited USS Bowfin with 15,008 tons sunk (three large vessels). CDR Griffith was awarded a Silver Star.
CHANGE OF COMMAND
15 April 1944
CDR Griffith was relieved by CDR John Corbus, USNA class of '30. Corbus had previously served as C.O. of USS Herring (SS-233) with Submarine Squadron 50 in the Atlantic, then had one war patrol in the Pacific and finally one patrol as C.O. of USS Haddo (SS-255). CDR Griffith returned to Portsmouth to commission a new fleet submarine, USS Bullhead (SS-332), which he commanded until the end of her second war patrol. CDR Griffith finished the war as an Assistant Operations Officer to COMSUBPAC, VADM Charles A. Lockwood, Jr.