PATROL 6 - SIGHTED BUS, SANK CRANE
16 July 1944 to 13 September 1944
Once Bowfin had received a refit at Pearl Harbor she and her crew were headed out for their sixth war patrol on 16 July 1944. First stop, Midway, where Bowfin rendezvoused with USS Fulton (AS-11), the leader of her class of seven submarine tenders, and received more fuel and repairs. On 20 July Bowfin started out into the Pacific to their assigned patrol area, near the Ryukyu Islands, Okinawa. On 9 August Bowfin was patrolling off of Minami Daito Jima, 200 miles east of Okinawa, when the crew sighted a convoy and set a course to track them. They tracked the convoy to a small harbor with a single pier, a crane, and many supplies. On 10 August Bowfin conducted reconnaissance on the pier to take inventory of how many vessels and patrol planes there were. One escort and two merchant vessels were sighted entering the landing and after an hour another two were sighted as well. Once in a good position, the Captain ordered three torpedoes shot at the moored vessels in the landing. The first torpedo overshot and exploded on the beach. The second torpedo hit a vessel on the port side and completely tore it apart. The third torpedo was not observed due to a loss of depth control. Bowfin quickly moved into the second planned position to fire three more torpedoes. Each one ran true to its calculated course and hit their targets. Debris was thrown all over and high into the air from the explosions. The target was moored at the pier, and the pier itself, the crane and a bus were destroyed from the attack. CDR Corbus had planned on hitting the pier and everything on it, and to his excitement, that was exactly what happened! An examination of Bowfin’s battleflag shows a crane, a bus and a pier, and this the story behind it.
After the excitement of the explosions, Bowfin continued on her course and headed for Yoron Jima, one island north of Okinawa. When they were patrolling around Tori Shima, Bowfin came across a convoy consisting of three cargo ships and two destroyers. After analyzing and setting up for the attack Bowfin commenced firing at the nearest target with bow tubes. Then quickly moving around came to attack another vessel with the stern tubes. All nine torpedoes fired hit their targets and the two destroyers were blown sky high, and it is believed that one was transporting ammunition magazines which aided in the large explosion. The freighter that was hit was badly damaged and Bowfin observed that there were several secondary explosions after the torpedo hit which may have been the boilers exploding as the freighter sunk. Bowfin continued on her course through the area and did not spot the rest of the original convoy.
On 28 August Bowfin was patrolling off the east coast of Okinawa Jima and sighted a large trawler about 150 feet long and heavily armed. He was seen flying a flag with red and white rising sun stripes, so Bowfin proceeded to fire three torpedoes at the vessel but all missed. After several hours of observation, it was decided to battle surface and attack the vessel with the deck guns; this proved much more effective and the vessel was sunk.
On 1 September Bowfin steamed towards Midway after quite a successful patrol. On 9 September they reached Midway and received more fuel, then left out for Pearl Harbor, reaching Pearl on 13 September.
PATROL 6 SUMMARY
USS Bowfin was underway for 13,437 miles during her sixth patrol. CDR Corbus and higher authorities believed Bowfin sank 26,700 tons (eight large ships, one small craft, one dock, one crane and one bus). JANAC credited USS Bowfin with sinking only 6,754 tons (one large vessel of that tonnage - Tsushima Maru - plus seven small craft). For this patrol, CDR Corbus was awarded the Navy Cross and USS Bowfin received the Navy Unit Commendation (NUC). Bowfin was one of only five U.S. Navy vessels to earn both the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) and the Navy Unit Commendation (NUC) during WWII. Higher authorities considered the possible need for Bowfin to assist in the pending invasion of Leyte, but previous battle damage to Bowfin, including seriously leaking fuel oil tanks, made a major overhaul necessary. Therefore, USS Bowfin departed Pearl Harbor for California on 15 September.
MAJOR OVERHAUL / CHANGE OF COMMAND - 21 SEPTEMBER 1944
USS Bowfin arrived at Mare Island Navy Yard, San Francisco, California on 21 September. Two days later, CDR Corbus was relieved as commanding officer by CDR Alexander Kelly Tyree, USNA class of '36. CDR Corbus was transferred back to Pearl Harbor where he served out the remainder of the war as Operations Officer on COMSUBPAC’s staff. USS Bowfin’s overhaul period resulted in a great deal of much-needed repair, plus the installation of new equipment, most notably the new and secret FM sonar mine detection gear. Bowfin was among the first boats to receive this device and it would play a major role in the remainder of her WWII career. At this time, much of Bowfin’s crew from previous patrols were transferred and replaced by other men. This substantial change in personnel, combined with the mechanical modifications to the boat, practically transformed her into a whole new Bowfin. The crew tested the new equipment off of San Francisco, and afterward, Bowfin went back to Pearl Harbor for more training.