Where a battle might require shedding shoes
Henry Passinger enlisted in the U.S Navy in 1942, and volunteered to serve in submarines. He boarded the USS Tambor in California, and spent the war patrolling the Pacific.
When asked what cruising in a sub was like, he said, “Well, you don’t see nothing.”
“I was in combat part of the time,” he said. On the subject of depth charges, he said “You can hear them coming. If you could stay below them, you would be okay, but if they got below you they could blast you right out of the water. You had to be damn quiet, you had to take your shoes off.”
When they had to stay submerged for extended periods of time, the air would turn bad. “They had a matress they would put down, and throw some stuff on it to help you breathe. I don’t know what it was, C-something. It started with a ‘C’.”
He said the sub would regularly dive to 300 feet, but he liked to stay above 60 feet. “You could feel your ears pop” when they dove.
“You didn’t know where you were, only how deep,” he said.
Working in the engine room, he said he seldom got to go up into the conning tower or out on deck. “They’d let you look in periscope from time to time, but you had so damn much to do, you were busy,” he added.
“Some times you didn’t get to eat for a long time,” That was the hardest part, when you’re hungry, you’re hungry.”
As a “Motor Mac second class,” or Motor Machinist Mate E-5, he worked on the electric motors that were used when the boat was submerged.
He thought that the Tambor sunk six and one-half merchant ships, “That’s how they explained it to us.” Pigboat.com, a submarine-oriented website credits the Tambor with 11 sinkings, and 33,479 confirmed tons of shipping.
“The torpedoes were 20 feet long, 20 feet, two inches,” Passinger said. He added that the sub had 10 torpedo tubes for launching, “Six in front and four in back.”
According to Navsource Online, the Tambor was 307 feet, 2 inches in length with a 27-foot, 3-inch beam and carried 24 torpedoes. Her top speed was 20 knots on the surface and 8 knots while submerged.
Being on a sub, Passinger said he didn’t get to go ashore in the Pacific, other than stops in Pearl Harbor and other ports for overhauls, re-supply and repairs.
He said that he was the only crew member from Pennsylvania, and “You didn’t have much time to make friends. I didn’t keep in touch with them after the war.”