USS Sealion Crew


Shipmate's Stories Page

The U.S.S. Sea Lion Crew




Patches Watson: First SEALs on-board 

Henry Joyce, Jr.: Missing the Pulitzer...




Patches Watson: First SEALs on the SeaLion


We were the first ones to go on the Sea Lion as SEALs. If I remember right, it was all 27 guys from the First Team. There was also a Platoon from Forced Recon aboard, as well as Capt. Ski and his gunny Sgt. Webb (what a trip he was!). The operation was off of Viegas. We and the Marines were to create havoc prior to the landing, and then go against the landing Force.


So, there we were -- decks awash with our IBSs to go in. Louie (SKI) was our leader???? Tip and I were #1 (that's 'up front') as we paddled in. The book says the first two guys are scout swimmers and should swim in the last few hundred yards to check out the beach. Well, Tip and I were not looking forward to getting wet and having to sleep in wet clothes, but we had the job.....and all good frogs do what they have to do.

As we approached the beach, Tip and I were waiting for the word, which is 'scout swimmers out'. We did not get the command from Ski until the boat touched the shore.....boy, you talk about two happy campers -- that was us! After hiding our boat we proceeded to a safe?? place to sleep; we would then look over the situation in daylight.

When we woke up, we were in the middle of a cow pasture under a tree with a cow licking Ski's face. What a surprize to Ski!!! I have - to this day - never seen Ski come apart like he did that morning.


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Henry Joyce, Jr.: Missing the Pulitzer...



When Sealion left PH for her third war patrol, she carried a well known correspondent, who was supposed to ride for the full patrol and write it up for the folks back home. Well, submariners being what they are, they started playing with this guy's mind about the time they got under way. All the usual crap, plus a twist.
Every now and then, one of the crew would take this guy aside and, in a serious and scared voice, talk about what a nutcase Capt. Reich was. They told stories about his complete disregard for the crew's safety in pursuit of a CMH, and how they all feared for their lives every second they were underway.
The point, of course, was just to rattle the guy's cage a little, for the entertainment value (We [all] know how that works). Anyway, they forgot one small detail, a refueling stop at Guam (?). Per my dad, before the brow was even over, this guy "remembered" a previous commitment back in the States and off he went.
To quote my dad, "he missed a Pulitzer for the story he could have written on the Kongo, and we missed our chance to be famous, not to mention a tour of the States as heroes peddling war bonds".


                                                   Spare Gear Log

                                              Joyce’s Concise Account

The new Sealion was launched on Oct. , 1943 at the Electric Boat Company’s main yard in Groton, Conn.

The Capt., Eli Riech, and five of the crew were aboard the old Sealion when she was bombed and sunk at Cavite during the first few days of the war.

About the first of November the work of assembling and schooling the crew was started.

I reported aboard as BM 2/c Nov. 11, 1943 at the ship’s office in EB Co., Groton, Conn. School of the boat was held from Dec. 27th to Jan 25th, 1944.

March 8th, 1944 the U.S.S. Sealion went in commission at the Submarine Base, New London, Conn.

Underway training, etc., started almost immediately and continued with various periods spent in the EB yard for repairs, alterations, etc., until April 15th.

The boat was then stripped for action and loaded with stores and war shots.

We left the states April 19th, 1944. Half of us drunk and the rest of us with hangovers enough to last us to Panama, our first stop on the way to war.

Panama, April 28th. The best liberty port any of us had ever seen. Canadian Club whisky, forty two dollars a case. More young ladies of easy morals and clean habits than in any place in the world. Sailors paradise.

We left Panama after four days of heaven.

May 17th we passed through the nets and moored at the Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Territorial Hawaii, on the island of Oahu.

We made a few liberties here. It would take a long time to curse the place and the people appropriately.

We had three weeks of intensive training operations here and then, the morning of June 8th fell in for quarters. The cap’t said a few well chosen words and then we stationed the maneuvering watch and got underway for our area, via Midway, on War Patrol #1.

June 12th stopped at Midway to top off fuel tanks and drink a little beer.

Underway the same afternoon for the East China Sea and the yellow sea.

On our way to station we held more drills, etc., and had a pretty smooth working outfit by the time we made the lower tip of the Japanese mainland. There we rendezvoused with the “Tang” and “Tinosa”, sending our exec over to the “Tang” in a rubber boat to hold a conference and exchange movie films. All this was done literally alongside a Japanese lighthouse which illuminated us every time it flashed.

Getting the word on a convoy of crippled ships, etc., supposedly heading for Nagasaki we passed through “Colnett Strait” and steamed up to take station on the Northwestern approach to Nagasaki Harbor, we being the junior boat, and left “Tang” and “Tunosa” to the better approaches.

June 23rd, our first day of patrolling, brought what appeared to be a small freighter in front of our virgin periscope. We went to “Battle Stations, Submerged” and fired three fish at him, feeling a little ashamed of ourselves because he was so small. We didn’t feel ashamed long because we missed him or rather the fish went under him and turning down the wake of the fish he started dropping depth charges all over us. The Japs have quite a few of these vessels, Q boats they are called and they steam along praying for a sub to fire at them.

He gave us a couple of bad hours dropping 21 depth charges before we finally evaded him. We continued our patrolling off Nagasaki for a couple more days with no success, therefore we eased up into the “Yellow Sea” for a look around.

June 28th, 1944, running submerged and spotted a five thousand ton freighter with a P.C. as escort. 1000, went to “Battle Stations, Submerged”. We made our approach and fired three fish, hitting and sinking him in 57 seconds with one fish.

The P.C. dropped depth charges, none of which came very close and then got busy picking up survivors. Sealion no longer a virgin.

June 30. Battle surfaced on a sampan, fired 67 rounds 4”x50. 900 rounds of 20 MM. Heavy seas made accurate shooting hard, sank her finally.

Heading down towards Shanghai.

On July 6th I picked up a convoy of 14 ships and six or seven escorts at twelve miles on the radar. 0430 went to “Battle Stations, Night Attack”. We ran in as close as possible on the surface and then were forced to submerge almost out of range by daylight. We fired our six bow tubes, all steam fish, at an excessive range and sank an 8000 ton tanker with one hit. Two of the destroyers escorting them turned on us and made several, most of them close. We were off the mouth of the Yangtze river and Shanghai at the time with only 80 to 90 feet of water to operate in. We could easily have been in a bad way.

We fired four fish at one of the tin cans, missing with all of them and then proceeded to work our way out to sea and deeper water. Bombers and P.C. came out from Shanghai and from 0600 to 1600 we were bomber and depth charged steadily. None of them after the first couple of hours came very close.

We cleared this area that night and headed up into the “Yellow Sea” with eight fish left, seven for’d and one aft.

Things were pretty slow up here.

The whole area was heavily mined and we had several close shaves with free floating mines, passing one thirty feet abeam and exploding another with my 20 MM. It was a common thing to pass two or three mines in a day and God knows how many we shaved by at night. We put boarding parties aboard several sampans up here. I was the searcher on these forays but I never found anything fit to drink or any Oriental girls of easy morals.

July 11th, 1944, while cruising in the “Yellow Sea” near “Darien” we made radar contact with a freighter of 5000 tons. It was a thick of fog and raining. Visibility was zero, alto at times it would lift to two or three hundred yards. We made a radar approach, going to “Battle Stations, Night Attack” at about 2230. We fired a three fish spread, hitting and sinking her with one fish. We continued our search and went to “Battle Stations, Night Attack” again at about 0230. Another radar contact. The Japs figured they were safe in the fog. This ship seemed to be anchored and we stalked it for an hour or so, being afraid of a trap. We finally fired three fish, missing with all of them.

Having only two fish left and being deep in enemy waters, amidst mine fields and free floating mines and with a Jap “Killer Pack” composed of three destroyers and eight or ten P.C. boats hunting us, the old man decided to clear the area for home. We had 18,000 tons of shipping at this time, as well as a fishing boat which we had rammed and sunk in “Colnett Straits” (Tokaro Kaikyo) and the Jap sampan, which is a pretty good batting average for one run.

However, at 0400 we went to “Battle Stations, Night Attack” again. The visibility was about three to five hundred yards at times. We had radar contact with two vessels, both of them apparently good-sized, and the old man decided to get them both, one fish a piece. We made our approach on the larger of the two and fired our stern fish at him, missing.

We pulled out and tracked him again and made a high speed approach on him at right angles.

The Cap’t determined not to miss, held the fish until he could make out her bow wave and fired at about five hundred yards. We were making standard speed on all four main engines and coming head on into the freighter’s beam. The Cap’t roared out “Right full rudder, all ahead flank. Rig for collision, we’re going to ram him”.

At that time the fish hit him amidships with a terrific explosion. Deckplates, hatches and debris of all kinds showered around us We cleared his stern by a matter of feet, doing 20 knots, and fired 60 rounds of high explosive 20 MM into his bridge, our after lookout Devitt manning the after 20. The freighter sank in a matter of minutes and we finally started for the southern end of Japan and the narrow pass through to the Pacific and safety.

We had a fairly uneventful run down Japan’s western coast, dodging P.Cs, the “Killer Pack” and bombers. In “Colnett Straits” we had another close one about 2230 while running on the surface. A Jap sub was lying in wait for us and fired three fish at us. One crossing under the bow and the other two passing close by astern.

North of the Bonin Islands, about July 15th, we were forced down by a Jap four motored bomber who dropped one large one fairly close and hung around for four or five hours, keeping us down. We had a movie in the for’d room while he patrolled above us and surfaced that afternoon.

July 21st we moored at Midway Island and the next day we went up to the rest camp for two weeks of rest and relaxation. The less said about this two weeks the better.

For this Patrol Run the Cap’t was awarded the Navy Cross.

14 other awards were passed out to officers and men.

Men recommended for awards first run

Cap’t Eli T. Reich, Lt Com. Navy Cross
DO Harry Hagan, LtJG Silver Star
Ens. D.P. Brooks Silver Star
Utz, J.L. CBM Silver Star
Gorsky CmoM Bronze Star
Bell, J.S. TM 1/c Bronze Star
Goetz, A. RT 1/c Admiral’s Commendation
Maslowski TM 1/c Admiral’s Commendation
Ext. O. Henry C. Laureman, Lt. Com. Silver Star

Navy Cross Comm., Eli T. Reich, Washington, D.C.

“While commanding a submarine he penetrated strong enemy escort screens and succeeded in sinking enemy ships totaling over 19,000tons. In addition, a well conducted gun attack destroyed a 100 ton enemy sampan.

He skillfully evaded serious damage by depth charging and brought his ship safely to port.”

War Patrol #2, Aug 17th to Sept 30

Left Midway Aug 17th, on War Patrol no. 2.

Most of the crew went to sea in regulation fashion, broke and with hangovers.

Aug.18, running on the surface 1230 spotted Jap periscope taking a bearing on us. Successfully evaded same.

We had a few new men aboard and our first few days enroute to the station we drilled, etc., as usual. My new battle station, the helm, gave me a much better chance to observe things and get the inside dope.

Aug. 29th, arrived on station, rendezvousing and forming a “Wolf Pack” with the “Growler” and the “Pampanito”. The “Growler” had a good name for itself but the “Pampanito”, with a lee skipper, was known as the “Peaceful Pamp”.

Our area this time was between the Philippines and Formosa. Most of the action the first half of our run took place in the “Bashi Channel”.

The first day on station we patrolled submerged, surfacing that evening after an uneventful hunt.

Aug 31st, 1944, 2430. The U.S.S. Sealion went to “Battle Stations, Night Attack”
We had a convoy of about ten large ships and seven escorts, destroyers, corvettes and P.C.s. At about 0200 we made our run but about twenty seconds before we reached our firing point a big ten thousand ton tanker blew up in our faces and we escaped on the surface amidst a wild barrage of gunfire and depth charges. The Growler* had slid in from the other side and, in addition to the tanker, pickled a destroyer.

At about 0400 we made another run, this time firing all six for’d and missing. Swinging our stern we fired the after tubes, getting two hits on a ten thousand ton tanker and sinking it. The convoy scattered and we escaped again on the surface through heavy gunfire. We ran up ahead of them and submerged at daylight on what the captain figured to be their track. He figured right.

At 0700 they came in sight of our periscope, back in formation, with one of the Japs biggest and newest destroyers leading the convoy and flying the Commodore’s flag. We made a submerged approach, firing three fish at the tin can and three at an eight thousand ton transport behind her. The destroyer picked us up on her sound gear as we fired but failed to turn in time. **Two fish hit her amidships, one striking her magazine and she went up in a terrific explosion. Two more fish hit the transport which ploughed into the wreckage of the destroyer and the whole works sank in the midst of heavy explosions and a great cloud of black smoke. One other fish exploded somewhere in the convoy, the capt thought it hit a tanker but was not sure because we started to get ours at that time.

We had both scopes up, watching the damage our fish were doing and trying to line up our stern tubes. A large bomber, which we had previously sighted through the scope, spotted us and dropped a bomb directly on top of us, almost between the scopes. This was the biggest bomb in the world and it drove us down out of control, shattering light bulbs, jarring cork and paint off the bulkheads, putting two holes in expansion tank, etc. Destroyers and P.C.s were on top of us immediately and really holding field day with king sized depth charges, driving us deeper and deeper. We went deeper than any of us had ever been before we finally got control and got back up to a safe depth. The depth charging and bombing never slacked off during this time. They had us cold and really meant to get us. We took a terrific beating for about seven hours and finally worked clear of them and up to periscope depth at about 1600. The scope went up and the command came down “Battle Stations Submerged”. This was another Q boat similar to the one we had encountered off Nagasaki. These things are a definite menace to navigation.

We fired three fish at this one, set depth two feet, knowing full well what would happen if we missed. We missed, went deep, rigged for depth charge, and got what we rigged for.

We took another three hour beating before we finally worked clear.

We surfaced about 2000 that night and radioed in for permission to reload in Saipan. We received orders to try and intercept a Jap sub in Bashi Channel that night and to proceed into Saipan the next day. We failed to spot the Jap so proceeded to Saipan in the morning.

Arrived in Saipan Sept 5th. Had a beer party on the beach, reloaded, etc., and left Sept 6th for our area.

This part of our run took us into the South China Sea up off Hong Kong and the province of Hainan.

At about 0330 Sept 12th, two hundred miles from the nor east part of Hainan, we went to “Battle Stations, Night Attack”. A convoy of nine ships and seven escorts.

We made our first run on the surface, lining up on a large transport which later turned out to be the ex American ship, President Harrison, 12,500 tons, which the Japs had taken in Singapore.

At the firing point our gyro angle setters went haywire, causing us to fire two fish wild. We were seen just as we fired and three P.C.s turned on us. Every ship in the convoy opened fire on us and we escaped on the surface again amidst a terrific barrage of everything the Japs had. One P.C. boat chased us for an hour firing continuous broadsides.

After eluding him we ran up ahead of the convoy and submerged.

We saw several Jap two man submarines during our escape. Evidently they are using them as anti submarine weapons. They nearly got us.

At about 0630 the convoy came into view, steaming along at about 9 knots and we went to “Battle Stations Submerged”.

We fired our bow tubes into the convoy and tried to swing our stern around to fire, but were driven down by escort vessels. Five fish hit out of the six we fired, sinking two troop transports, 9400 tons each and one tanker, 15,000 tons.

Again we took a severe depth charging but at 1000 we managed to surface between a destroyer and a P.C. and set out in pursuit of the convoy again. It was a clear sunny day and why they didn’t see us I’ll never know. We could see them plainly.

At about 1400 we were driven down by eight large bombers. They looked like our own.

Failing to contact the convoy again we resumed normal patrolling.

The morning of Sept 15, 1944, we received a message from the “Pampanito” She gave her position as about 200 miles nor east of Hainan province, the same place we had sunk our last three ships, and said she was engaged in picking up survivors, English and Australians, and needed assistance.

We bent on all four mains and made full speed for a little over six hours, arriving at the scene about 1630.

Not knowing what to expect the rescue party went on deck heavily armed.

The surface of the water was covered with Limey and Aussy prisoners of war who had been aboard one of the transports we had sunk. They were in terrible condition, having been for the most part without food or water since the attack, floating in life jackets or on half submerged wooden rafts. They were all badly sunburned, covered with fuel oil and suffering from salt water sores and other skin diseases. All of them had malaria, some of them had beriberi, pellagra, and many other diseases resulting from two or three years in Jap prison camps.

Many dead bodies were floating in the water around us, suspended in life belts or on rafts.

Rescue operations commenced immediately. We took aboard 54 men and then were driven off, about 2230, by three Japanese corvettes whom, we were told later, came out every night and circled the prisoners, taking away their food and water and guarding against the possibility of rescue by American subs.

Out of 1300 of these men 154 were rescued by American submarines. The rest were left by the Japs to drown or die of thirst.

After evading the three corvettes, with some trouble, we made full speed for Saipan.

A party of male nurses, volunteers from the crew, gave first aid and treated the survivors under the able direction of Doc Williams PhM 1/c, who made CPhM as a result of his work.

Three men died the first night from a variety of causes. One man died about 0200, Sept 20th. They were buried at sea with a four inch shell lashed to their feet.

1100, Sep 20, we moored alongside the submarine tender Fulton in Saipan Harbor and transferred the survivors to the military hospital on the island.

Sept 21. Underway for Pearl Harbor.
Sept 30. Had a close shave with Jap submarine
Sept 30. Moored at Sub Base Pearl h.
Oct. 1st. All hands go to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for two weeks leave.

Cap’t received Navy Cross again for this run.

Total tonnage officially confirmed for both runs 71,000 tons.

Data on other awards for officers and men not yet available.

Received letter of thanks and congratulations from British Admiralty, Oct 15th.

Men recommended for awards, 2nd Run

Capt. Eli T. Reich, Comm Navy Cross
Ens. D.P. Brooks
Joyce, H.A. BM1/c
Hunter, N.C. TM3/c
Devitt, W. S1/c

Williams, R. J. PhM1/c
Kinzer, CMoM
Pagel, MoM1/c
Smith, J. MoM3/c
Schnoering, E. EM1/c
Thornton, G. QM3/c
Ryan, J. F. TM2/c
Hill EM3/c
Joyce, H.A. BM1/c

*Noted in margin of diary: “Growler was sunk by P.C.s and shore batteries in Lombock Straights Dec. 44. All hands lost.”

**Noted in margin of diary: “All ships and escorts in this convoy except one small freighter were sunk the same day by American submarines. The small freighter was also sunk that night.”


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