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Hooked!

There is no laxative as effective as a depth charge attack

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Grieves was born in Liberty Center, Ohio. At a young age his parents moved the family to Detroit, Michigan for his father to take a job in the automotive industry.Grieves' life during the depression was tough. He grew up in stark poverty. The automotive industry would manufacture cars for nine months, then would close for three during which the workers were all laid off. When the plants were open life was good, but during the three months they were closed things were tough.Grieves' mother died of a rare form of anemia when he was eleven years old leaving his father to raise him and his three siblings.While he was in high school he learned of a program where he could join the navy reserve. He did so and shortly after he graduated he was accepted into the service.Grieves enlisted in the Navy in 1939 and was sent to a Naval Training Station in Newport, Rhode Island for boot training. While there, the submarine Squalus [Annotator's Note: USS Squalus (SS-192)] went down. Once the downed submarine was located the submarine rescue vessel Falcon [Annotator's Note: USS Falcon (AM-28/ASR-2)] moored above the wreck. The Falcon used a McCann Rescue Chamber and rescued 33 surviving crewmen from the Squalus.When the call went for men to help raise the Squalus, Grieves was selected to be one of the salvage men. During the long days of work Grieves worked shoulder to shoulder with the 33 survivors of the submarine. He noticed the special bond between the Squalus survivors and at that moment he decided that he wanted to serve in submarines.When they brought the Squalus into the navy yard in Portsmouth, Grieves volunteered for submarine duty.

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Grieves rode the Falcon [Annotator's Note: US Navy submarine rescue ship USS Falcon (AM-28 /ASR-2)] down to New London [Annotator's Note: New London, Connecticut].After training he was assigned to the USS R10 which had been built in 1918, three years before Grieves was born. The USS R10 was a training boat. After serving aboard for a time, he decided that serving aboard a school submarine wasn't for him. He wanted to go to sea. After qualifying on submarines, he was assigned to USS Thresher (SS-200). After several months of trials, testing, and training, the Thresher sailed to Pearl Harbor where she joined the fleet in April of 1941.In October 1941 they were sent out to patrol the approaches to Midway Island. Their orders were to remain submerged during the day. They were ordered to keep two live torpedoes loaded in the forward tubes and two in the aft tubes.After 41 days they were relieved by the submarine USS Trout and returned to Pearl Harbor. Submarines were not given a map of the mine fields and relied on a destroyer to guide them into the harbor.After the attack on Pearl Harbor everyone was trigger happy. Every time the Thresher would break the surface someone shot at them.On 8 December they were finally able to link up with their escort destroyer and enter Pearl Harbor. Upon entering the harbor they saw the damage to the Nevada [Annotator's Note: US Navy battleship USS Nevada, (BB-36)] then the Oglala [Annotator's Note: US Navy mine layer USS Oglala (CM-4)] but that did not prepare them for what they saw when they neared Battleship Row.The ships were all damaged. Some of them were still burning.They put in at the submarine base. A day or two later an order came out from COMSUBPAC, [Annotator's Note: Commander Submarine Fleet Pacific, Admiral Nimitz], ordering all submarines to deploy and remain on station for the duration of their ability. They were to perform a holding action until the ships could be rebuilt to go out and fight.A war patrol lasted about 60 days. When they returned to the submarine base, they would pile their dirty laundry on the dock and it would be picked up by a laundry truck. When it was returned to them it was clean. The men then got two weeks rest leave at the Royal Hawaiian. The Royal Hawaiian was reserved for returning submarine crews.The beaches in Waikiki were covered with barbed wire.

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The islands [Annotator’s Note: the Hawaiian Islands] were under martial law. There was a strictly enforced 6:00 o'clock curfew. All females who were not native Hawaiians were put aboard ships and returned to the States. The islands were not able to defend themselves and there was fear of a Japanese invasion.The men who had been out on war patrols got mad. They expected their wives to be waiting for them but they were not there.After shipping out through the mine field they would wave good bye to their escort. After that the skipper came over the PA system and informed the crew of their destination. When the crew was informed that they would be patrolling the channel into Tokyo Bay, they were exuberant.They torpedoed a freighter.They arrived off the channel to Tokyo Bay on 10 April [Annotator's Note: 10 April 1942]. While the skipper was sweeping the area with the periscope he spotted a Japanese freighter with one single destroyer coming out of the channel. They fired one fish [Annotator's Note: a fish is navy slang for a torpedo] which passed directly beneath the ship. The torpedo detonated and blew the ship in two. The Japanese destroyer began dropping depth charges.Grieves describes the construction of a Mark 14 torpedo and how it operates.The Mark 14 torpedo was steam powered and left a trail of steam and smoke bubbles the entire length of its run that the destroyers could follow back to the submarine.The depth charges bent the port side propeller shaft causing a severe vibration. The men tried to stop items from vibrating.Two more Japanese destroyers joined in the hunt for the Thresher. Every time the Thresher rose above 300 feet the destroyers would drop depth charges and drive the submarine back down. The oxygen level in the submarine dropped and the temperature rose. They had no choice but to surface. Grieves prayed that if god was going to take him he wanted to go out with a bang and not a whimper.

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The boat [Annotator's Note: US Navy submarine USS Thresher (SS-200)] had been submerged for 18 hours and under attack for 14 hours.Commander Anderson ordered ahead full, left full rudder. When the boat was heading away from Tokyo, the skipper ordered the boat to surface.When the submarine surfaced the nearest destroyer was 500 yards to starboard [Annotator's Note: starboard is the nautical term for right side]. Submarines have very narrow silhouettes and the destroyers didn't see them leave the area.When the submarine got back to Pearl Harbor it was put into dry-dock where a 100 foot strip of metal had to be replaced from the starboard side, a 60 foot strip had to be replaced on the port [Annotator's Note: port is the nautical term for left] side, and the port side propeller shaft had to be replaced.Grieves made 13 war patrols.The submarine service was all volunteer. The men continued to go on war patrols for their shipmates. Japan is an island nation surrounded by deep water. It produces few natural resources and had to have most things shipped in and out during World War II.The submarine fleet made up only 1.6 percent of the total strength of the US Navy. Of the 258 submarines that took part in the war against Japan, 52 did not come back. One in five American submarines were lost.After the Thresher left the Tokyo area she should have gone straight back to Pearl Harbor but she had another mission, to gather weather reports for the Doolittle raiders.Commander Anderson allowed each crewman to go up on the cigarette deck to look at the city of Tokyo burning after the Doolittle raiders had carried out their mission. That was 16 April 1942. After that they returned to Pearl Harbor.

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The Thresher left port [Annotator’s Note: Pearl Harbor] for Kwajalein. Kwajalein was Japan's eastern most naval base. They encountered a four ship Japanese convoy. They had been ordered to attack the tankers first. The hit the last ship in the convoy with two fish [Annotator's Note: a fish is navy slang for a torpedo] and sunk it. They then were attacked for about three hours. The Japanese escorts dropped 18 depth charges on them.They moved to Gia Pass [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling]. Gia pass is perfect for submarines. It was wide enough to maneuver in and deep.Periodically the skipper would raise the scope and make a sweep. He saw a number of vessels but nothing got close enough to hit. The following morning the skipper made a sweep and was temporarily blinded by the sun reflecting off of a brand new Japanese ship. The ship was heading toward them and had no escorts. The sky was dotted with aircraft.Grieves later found out that the ship heading toward them was the 4836 ton Shinsho Maru, a motor torpedo boat tender [Annotator's Note: IJN Shinsho Maru was a destroyer tender].The skipper took his bearings. He got the range, angle on the bow, and estimated speed of the target. These had to be done quickly so that the Japanese lookouts did not spot the wake from the periscope. The gathered information was entered into the torpedo data computer along with the speed of the submarine, its course, and torpedo speed which transmitted the angle to the torpedoes in the tubes. The Mark 14 torpedo could be fired at angles up to 160 degrees but the desired shot was a dead bow shot, a straight shot.The skipper ordered tubes three and four to make ready. Grieves had the starboard bank of tubes and his buddy Charlie Frey [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling] had the port side.The order was given to fire. The range was under 1000 yards. The first fish blew under the bridge. Five seconds later the second fish blew under the quarter. The Shinsho Maru blew into three sections and sank immediately.The skipper knew that someone would come out to rescue the survivors so they would be waiting for them.Suddenly the loudest explosion they ever heard went off right under their bow. The blast knocked men to the floor. Had the blast gone off under their battery compartment, the submarines seams would have split. The skipper ordered the submarine down to 300 feet and checked for damage. The planes man in the control room found a problem. 

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What they didn't know was that the impulse bottles that held compressed air for the torpedoes had ruptured and they were streaming air bubbles. They took a number of depth charges then everything went silent.They heard a loud clanking noise that ran down the length of the ship. Every compartment reported the noise.The clanking noise was a grapnel that hooked in to the starboard stern plane guard. They were hooked at 300 feet. The captain gave various orders in an attempt to get free of the hook but nothing worked.As they passed 100 feet the skipper ordered the gunner's mates to plant demolition charges between the reload torpedoes in the forward and aft torpedo rooms. There was no panic. The men were resigned.The skipper gave one last order, "full left rudder all ahead emergency." Suddenly the boat was heading directly to the bottom. They don't know how but the Thresher was free of the hook.They escaped out into the ocean.They patrolled Yap, Palau and Truk atoll.They put in at Fremantle, Australia.After four more runs, the skipper Bill Millican was transferred back to the States to put the new submarine Escolar [Annotator's Note: US Navy submarine USS Escolar (SS-294)] into commission. He took a number of the Thresher’s crew with him. The Escolar was lost on her first patrol with all hands. The crew of the Thresher was all broke up about that.After the Tokyo run, Bill Anderson was transferred back to the States to a new construction boat and Bill Millican took command. Millican was aggressive. If the Thresher didn't encounter any shipping on the high seas he would bring the boat into enemy harbors.The Thresher carried 32 mines, 20 forward and 12 aft. The mines would be fired through the torpedo tubes. The mine would lie on the bottom in up to 10 fathoms [Annotator's Note: 1 fathom equals 6 feet] and detonate if it detected the magnetic field of a passing ship.

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Grieves made eleven runs on the submarine Thresher [Annotator's Note: USS Thresher (SS-200)]. He left the Thresher and returned to the States to go to Mark 18 torpedo school to learn to handle the new electric torpedoes. He then commissioned the Lizardfish [Annotator's Note: USS Lizardfish (SS-373)] and made two runs on her.By this time the submarine fleet had sunk everything there was to sink. Targets were rare. The Lizardfish only sank one ship and it was at anchor.At Java they sighted an oil tank farm. They battle surfaced and shot every tank with the submarine's 5 inch deck gun. Grieves was on the gun crew.Grieves had left the Thresher in August 1944. In December 1944 the Lizardfish was commissioned and went out on patrol.When Grieves left the Thresher, he and Ted Russell were the last remaining plank owners [Annotator's Note: plank owner is navy slang for a member of the original commissioning crew].The Thresher made a total of 15 war patrols. She was number 12 in fleet standings. She was credited with 17 sinks but when Grieves was aboard they attacked 31 ships so he is sure that the true number is higher than 17.The information had come from JANAC, Joint Army Navy Committee. There were no submarine officers on the JANAC committee and most of their information came from Japanese records.There were a couple of things wrong with the torpedoes. They ran 16 feet below their set depth. The magnetic detonator sometimes detonated the warhead before it got to the target.Admiral Lockwood [Annotator's Note: US Navy Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Commander Submarine Forces Pacific Fleet] discovered these problems. He tested torpedoes against a cliff in the Hawaiian Islands. Lockwood discovered that when the torpedoes hit, the detonators on them malfunctioned. The firing mechanisms had been made out of steel. When they began making them out of aluminum they functioned wonderfully.With the original detonators the torpedo would not detonate if it hit its target at a 90 degree angle.Grieves boat sank a ship with its deck gun after they made two approaches with torpedoes with no results.Grieves was the sight setter on the deck gun. He was a Torpedoman second at the time.Charlie Rush was the Gunnery Officer and he would yell down the ranges to the gun crew.Grieves doesn't know how the ship didn't see them.About the third round they took out the ship's gun crew. After damaging the ship they fired a single torpedo into it to finish it off. The torpedo didn't explode but buried itself in the ship and it rolled over and sank.This was in 42 [Annotator's Note: 1942]. By 1943 they corrected it.

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The Thresher [Annotator's Note: USS Thresher (SS-200)] had torpedo problems on most of her runs. Grieves kept an illegal diary and recorded the problems with it. A number of ships got away. When the submariners complained about them they were told that it was their error, not the torpedo. Charlie Lockwood [Annotator's Note: US Navy Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood] discovered what the problem really was.In the forward torpedo room they had six torpedo tubes, four above deck and two below deck. In order to open the muzzle door the pressure in the tube had to be equalized with the pressure outside. Everything had to be done manually.Each above deck tubes had two reloads and the two tubes below deck had one reload each. At the start of the war, the crew was made up of 56 men and 5 officers. After the war started and sonar was added, the crew went up to 75 men plus officers.Grieves has a friend in Florida who served on German U-Boats [Annotator’s Note: German submarines]. The man was impressed with the submarine Drum [Annotator's Note: USS Drum (SS-228)] having a crew's mess. German submarine sailors sat on the floor and the cook came to them. Loading torpedoes was tough. They would get some of the big motor machinists to help pull on the block and tackle that was used to load the torpedoes into the tubes. When they laid mines, the mines had to be fired out at specific times. Grieves was awarded the Bronze Star for a mine laying mission.Sound travelled slower than the pressure wave under water. They would feel the pressure wave then hear the click followed by the boom.

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Grieves watches movies like Run Silent, Run Deep religiously. He feels that they are more Hollywood than reality.In combat they knew what to expect. When it was over it was over.Grieves got out of the service and married his wife.He had a job that required him to be on his feet. He wasn't used to being on his feet that long.He went to the doctor and had what his podiatrist thought was an epileptic seizure. He went to the VA [Annotator’s Note: Veterans Affairs] and was diagnosed as PTSD [Annotator’s Note: Post-traumatic stress disorder]. He never told anyone about what he was going through.Grieves is still in touch with some of his buddies. He used to arrange reunions.The crew learned early on how to prevent light bulbs from popping during depth charge attacks. A friend of Grieves made several small extension cords that allowed the bulb to sway.The boats didn't leak like they do in the movies. They did take water through the port propeller shaft after the Tokyo run.The boats that took water were the ones that went down.It took two minutes for a depth charge to get from the surface to 300 feet. A submarine had to be below the depth charge when it went off.When a submarine was put to sea the fresh water tanks were full and they had fresh food. After a week or ten days the fresh food ran out. From then on they relied on canned and dehydrated food. The food was bland and tasteless. The primary need aboard a submarine was fresh water. The heat of the engine evaporated the water. At sea, fresh water was for drinking and cooking only. Each man was allowed a small basin of water to wash and shave with.One reason the men were glad that there was a zigzag path going down to the beach from the Royal Hawaiian hotel was because they all had jock itch. Each compartment had its own cure. A few days in the sun and saltwater made the jock itch go away.In 1943, they came out with a salve called Whitfield’s Ointment. Everybody used it.

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The lavatories aboard the submarines discharged overboard. The head [Annotator's Note: navy slang for lavatory] had to be blown overboard. There were seven valves necessary to blow the head.Grieves describes the process for blowing the head on a submarine.An important step that would occasionally get forgotten was to press the pedal on the floor that sealed the air tank.Blowing the head was noisy so the crew was forbidden from blowing it while under attack.Grieves claims that there is not one laxative on the market today or back then as effective as a good close depth charge attack.At the start of the war the islands were under martial law. All the bars were closed. Submariners improvised. Torpedoes ran on 190 proof grain alcohol. The first class torpedoman had the key to the alcohol tank. The men referred to the dyed alcohol as "pink lady." The engineers died the alcohol pink and added croton oil to keep the sailors from drinking it. The croton oil was a very potent laxative. The sailors had to separate the alcohol from the croton oil. To separate it they would take a soup pot and put it on a hot plate. They would turn the lid upside down and put ice cubes on it and would put a soup bowl in the center of the pot. They would then pour the pink lady around the bowl. They kept the temperature down to about 160 degrees to keep the contaminants from boiling off. The alcohol would turn to vapor and hit the lid turn back into liquid and drip down into the bowl. When it was shaken up it could be discerned from water.One time at the Royal Hawaiian hotel they had no ice cubes. They got some rubber tubing from the pharmacist's mate and distilled the alcohol in the bathroom. They took turns mixing drinks with the alcohol that was produced and grapefruit juice.The submariners didn't have much down time. Some of the men had hobbies. Grieves made belts. Card playing was popular. As the war progressed and targets became fewer, spending two months submerged got to them.The screening process was very thorough.Grieves gives the submariners a lot of credit. His skipper didn't panic when they got hooked. Some skippers did crack.It took extreme concentration and efficiency to handle a submarine.When Grieves left the nNavy his father-in-law asked him if had ever thought of firefighting. It was the closest thing to being on a submarine he could do. He joined the Detroit Fire Department and loved every minute he spent as a firefighter. 

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Being a submariner prepared Grieves for his career as a firefighter. When you've seen the worst everything else is easy.Grieves still exercises doing 100 sit ups and walking two miles a day. If he could do it all over again he would. He feels that he is the luckiest person in the world because of the men and the crews he worked with.Grieves had no trouble talking about his wartime experiences and believes that people who didn't talk didn't have anything to talk about.He has spoken to veterans groups and youth groups.He feels that it is important for the war to be preserved. He is glad that we [Annotator’s Note: the oral historians at the National World War II Museum] pick the enlisted men to talk to.The role that submarines played was a major one.Submariners are a very close knit group. Once they were in the forward torpedo room and needed some coffee. Coffee was a big part of their diet. They tricked Doc Little, the pharmacist's mate, assuring that he lost a game and had t get everyone coffee.Humor was important to them.He thinks having a National World War II Museum is very important. 

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Grieves talks about the eulogies he gives for friends who have passed away. He has officiated a number of funerals.On the patrol at Midway they ran into heavy seas. The swells were breaking over the bows. A crewman named Bill Grover was injured. Grover's leg was broken. No one knew that in addition to the broken leg, Grover had fractured his skull. The boat was due in on the 7th and if they had arrived on time Grover may have survived, but they didn't make it in until the 8th. Bill Grover died on 7 December [Annotator's Note: 7 December 1941]. Grover was the only man they lost. Some boats lost men, mostly in boarding parties.The crew enjoyed listening to Tokyo Rose; she played the most up to date music.Music was never transmitted through the boat; only official news.The interviewer follows Grieves through his house with photographs, paintings and prints. Grieves also has a commissioning plaque from the USS Alabama [Annotator's Note: USS Alabama (SSBN-731)]. The submarine is so big that Grieves jokes that it could never surface if it ever dived.The captain told Grieves about the accuracy of the ballistic missiles the submarine carries.He discusses submarine warfare during the Cold War. He wants to make sure that what the submarines achieved is preserved forever.Grieves made eleven successful patrols out of thirteen. To be considered successful, a submarine had to sink at least one enemy ship.

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