USS SEA LION (SS-315)
The second Sealion (SS-315) was laid down on 25
February 1943 by the Electric Boat Co., Groton, Conn.; launched
on 31 October 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Emory Land; and commissioned on 8 March 1944, Lt. Comdr. Eli T. Reich in command.
Following the shakedown, Sealion, assigned to Submarine
Division (SubDiv) 222, sailed for the Pacific and arrived at Pearl
Harbor on 17 May. Further training occupied the next three weeks; and, on 8 June,
she headed west on her first war patrol. Sailing with Tang (SS-306),
she stopped off at Midway on the 12th; glanced off a whale on the
15th; and, on the 22d, transited Tokara Strait to enter the East China Sea. On
the 23d, she and Tang took up stations in the Osumi Gunto, an
island group to the south of Kyushu. That afternoon, Sealion unsuccessfully conducted her first attack; then underwent her first
On the 24th, Tinosa (SS-283) joined the two submarines;
and the group moved northward to patrol the approaches to Sasebo. Patrolling in adjacent lanes,
the submarines contacted a convoy on the
25th, but Sealion lost depth
control on reaching attack position and was unable to fire.
the Sasebo area, the submarines moved toward the Korean peninsula. On the 28th,
Sealion caught and sank a Japanese
naval transport, Snasei Maru, in the Tsushima Island area; then continued on into the Korean archipelago. On the 30th, she used her deck guns to sink a sampan; and, with the new month, July, she moved closer to the China coast to
patrol the approaches to Shanghai.
the morning of 6 July, Sealion intercepted a convoy south of the Four Sisters Islands and, at 0447, commenced firing torpedoes at two cargomen in the
formation. Within minutes, the
1,922-tpn Setsuzan Maru sank, and the convoy scattered. Sealion
retired to the northeast to evade the
convoy's escort, a destroyer, as it
began its search for the submarine. At 0600, the destroyer closed Sealion; and the submarine fired four torpedoes at the warship. All missed. An hour
later, enemy aircraft joined the
search which was continued until mid-afternoon.
Three days later, Sealion moved northward again and commenced hunting
between the Shantung peninsula and Korea.
Dense fog blanketed the area and left her
blind while her radar was out of commission. By midnight on the night of
10 and 11 July, however, her radar was back
in partial operation; and, on the morning
of the 11th, she conducted several attacks, sinking two freighters, Tsukushi Maru No. 2 and Taian
Maru No. 2.
The running surface chase with the second freighter involved
three attacks over a period of almost seven hours. On the third attack, at
0711, Sealion fired her last torpedo; then, after debris from the explosion had flown over the submarine, she moved down the port quarter of the target, pouring 20mm. shells into
the Japanese bridge. At 0714, the
freighter disappeared; and Sealion
headed south of Tokara Strait. On the 13th, she cleared that strait; and, on the 21st, she arrived at Midway.
Refitted by Fulton (AS-11), Sealion departed
for the Bashi Channel and her second war patrol on 17 August.
Hunting with Growler (SS-215) and Pampanito (SS-383),
she transited the channel and moved into the South China Sea on 30 August.
During the pre-dawn
hours of the 31st, she conducted a night surface
attack against a Japanese convoy and heavily damaged a tanker. As Rikko Maru bellowed black smoke, other Japanese ships took Sealion under
fire with deck guns. The submarine
moved out of the area and ahead of
the convoy. At 0720, she again attacked the convoy. Within minutes, Shirataka,
a minelayer, went down; enemy
planes begin circling the area; and
the convoy's surface escorts began their search. Sealion went deep and headed south. Later that day, she closed another target with a merchant ship appearance; but, as she reached firing position, the
target was made out to be an
antisubmarine vessel. Three torpedoes were fired, but were spotted by the
target's bow lookout. The target
swerved, and the hunter became the hunted. Depth charging followed without damage to the submarine; but Sealion, low
on fuel and torpedoes, headed for
There, the submarine rearmed and refueled; and, on 7 September,
got underway to rejoin her attack group. On the 10th, she moved through
Balintang Channel. On the llth, she rendezvoused with two other submarines;
and, on the 12th, the group attacked and decimated a convoy en route to
At about 0200, Growler attacked the formation. Pampanito
and Sealion followed suit. Growler's torpedoes
sent a destroyer to the bottom. Sealion fired two
torpedoes, both misses, and was taken under fire by two of the escorts. The submarine went to
top speed and managed to keep ahead of the
escorts until they broke off to rejoin the convoy shortly before 0330.
An hour and one-half later, Sealion again closed the
convoy and, at 0522, fired three torpedoes at a tanker; then swung to
fire on a large transport, Rakuyo Maru, the last ship in the nearer column. At 0524, the tanker Zuiho Maru, possibly hit by
torpedoes from both Pampanito and
Sealion, burst into flames. Kachidoki Maru, a
transport near the tanker, was disabled. She swung into the burning tanker and was soon ablaze. Sealion's second target was illuminated; and, at 0525, she fired on Rakuyo Maru. Both torpedoes
hit and that ship began to burn.
Sealion was then forced deep and, after
to get a better look at the scene, cleared the area and started after the remainder of the convoy.
On the morning of the 15th, the three submarines reformed
their scouting line. That afternoon, Pampanito radioed Sealion,
and other submarines in the area, to return to the scene of the
action on the 12th. Rakuyo Maru had been
carrying Australian and British prisoners of war. By 2045, Sealion had
taken on 54 POW's and started back to Saipan. All of the POW's were coated
with crude oil and all were in poor health, suffering from malaria,
malnutritional diseases such as pellagra and beriberi, and
exposure. Three died before the submarine reached Balintang Channel on the
17th. On the
18th, Case (DD-370) rendezvoused with Sealion
and transferred a doctor and a
pharmacist's mate to the submarine.
On the 19th, a fourth POW died; and,
on the 20th, Sealion arrived in Tanapag Harbor and transferred the surviving 50 to the Army
Prom Sainan, Sealion returned to Hawaii. Arriving
at Pearl Harbor on 30 September, she departed again on 31
October and, with Kete (SS-369), headed west to
patrol in the East China Sea. The two submarines stopped off at Midway on
4 November; then continued on to their patrol area.
Ten days later, Sealion transited Tokara Strait.
On the 16th,
her number 8 tube was accidentally fired with both doors closed. Heavy seas
prevented a thorough inspection of the
damage. On the 17th, she began patrolling the approaches to Shanghai. On the
18th, there was a hydrogen explosion
in the battery space of the torpedo
in number 5 tube. On the 21st, at 0220, she made radar contact with an enemy formation moving through Formosa
Strait at about 16 knots and not zig-zagging.
By 0048, the pips were made out to be two cruisers and two
battleships. At 0146, three additional ships, escorts-one on either beam of the
formation and one on the starboard quarter-became visible. At 0245, Sea lion, ahead
of the task force, turned in and slowed for the attack. Eleven minutes
later, she fired six torpedoes at the second ship in line. At 0259, she fired
three at the second battleship. At 0300, her crew saw and heard three
hits from the first salvo, but they had hit and sunk the destroyer, Urakaze,
not the first battleship. Shortly thereafter, one torpedo from the second
spread hit the second battleship. Sealion opened
to the westward. The Japanese
searched to the east. By 0310, the submarine
had reloaded and began tracking again with the thought that the torpedoes had only dented the battleship's armor belt.
The enemy formation, however, had begun zigzagging and the sea and wind had
increased; then, at 0450, the enemy
formation split into two groups. Sealion began tracking the slower group, the apparently damaged battleship
escorted by two destroyers. At 0524, a tremendous
explosion lit the area and the battleship, Kongo, disappeared.
During the next few days, Sealion continued to patrol
between China and Formosa; and, on the 28th, she headed for Guam.
On her fourth war patrol, 14 December to 24 January 1945, Sealion
returned to the South China Sea in a coordinated attack group with Blenny
(SS-324) and Caiman (SS-323). Poor weather plagued
her; and, of the 26 days spent on station, all but six were spent on
the surface. On one of those few good days, 20 December, she sighted a supply
ship escorted by a destroyer through her high periscope and, at 1937, fired six
torpedoes at the supply ship for four hits. The submarine then evaded
the escort, reloaded, and waited. Two and one-half hours later,
the target, Mamiya, was still afloat, and the submarine went in for a
second attack. At 0032 on the 21st, she fired three torpedoes for two
hits. The supply ship went under.
That day, Sealion joined the 7th Fleet; and, from 28
December 1944 to 14 January 1945, she performed reconnaissance duties in
support of the reoccupation of the Philippines. On the latter date, she cleared
her patrol area and headed for Western Australia.
Arriving at Fremantle on the 24th, she departed on her
fifth war patrol on 19 February. Again operating in a coordinated attack
group, she returned to the South China Sea; then proceeded into the Gulf of Siam. In the predawn darkness of 17 March, she torpedoed and sank a small unescorted tanker, Samui; and,
on 2 April, she rescued an Army
aviator who had been drifting in a
rubber raft for 23 days. That same day, three more downed aviators were transferred to her from Guavina
(SS-362) ; and, on the 6th, she delivered her
passengers to Subic Bay.
By 30 April, Sealion was again ready for sea.
With Bashaw (SS-241) and Hammerhead (SS-364), she departed
Subic Bay for the northern part of the South China Sea. Through May, she patrolled off
Hong Kong and provided lifeguard services for
strikes against Formosa. At the end
of the month, she received downed aviators
from Bream (SS-243) and transported them back to Subic; then,
with passengers bound for Hawaii, she
sailed east. On 12 June, she arrived at Guam, whence she proceeded to a lifeguard station off Wake
Island; and, on 30 June, she cleared
that area for Pearl Harbor.
From Pearl Harbor, Sealion continued on to San Francisco
where she was undergoing overhaul at the end of the war. With the
cessation of hostilities, in-activation preparations were added to the
overhaul; and, on 2 February 1946, the submarine, which had been
awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for her six war patrols, was
A year and one-half later, however, Sealion, along
with Perch (SS-313), was designated for conversion to a troop
carrier; and, in April 1948, she entered the San Francisco Naval Shipyard for the
eight-months conversion. During that
period, her torpedo tubes and forward
engines were removed; and her forward engine room and forward and after torpedo rooms were converted to berth 123 troops. The forward engine room and after torpedo room were designed for
alternative use as cargo space. The
wardroom was redesigned for use as an operating room; the beam aft of the conning tower was extended; and a large watertight
cylindrical chamber was installed
abaft the conning tower to store amphibious landing equipment-including
On 2 November 1948, Sealion was recommissioned with the
hull designation SSP-315. Training exercises off the southern
California coast, with Marines embarked, took her into the spring of 1949 when she
was ordered to the Atlantic for duty in SubDiv 21. During
April, she operated in the New London area; then, in May, she commenced
operations out of Norfolk as a unit of SubDiv 61, SubRon 6. On 31 January 1950,
she was reclassified ASSP-315; and, by the spring of that
year, had conducted exercises as far north as Labrador and as far south
as the southern Caribbean. Prom April through June of 1950, she underwent her first
post-conversion overhaul at Portsmouth, N.H.; and, in July,
she resumed operations out of Norfolk.
Reassigned to SubDiv 63 in March 1955 and re-classified
APSS-315 on 24 October 1956, Sealion continued a schedule of
exercises with Marines, Underwater Demolition Teams and Beaehjumper
units; and, on occasion, Army units, off the Virginia and Carolina coasts
and in the Caribbean until 1960. During that time, interruptions came
only for overhaul periods, during one of which the LVT hangar abaft the conning tower
was removed, and for one deployment with the 6th Fleet in the
Mediterranean from August to November 1957.
On 30 June 1960, Sealion was decommissioned at
Portsmouth, N.H., where she remained as a reserve training submarine
until reactivated a year later. In August 1961, she was towed to Philadelphia for
overhaul; on 20 October, she was recommissioned; and, on 18 December,
she rejoined SubRon 6 at Norfolk. There she resumed a schedule similar to
that of the 1950's, again with few interruptions-for regular overhauls, and, in the
fall of 1962, to support the blockade put into effect during the Cuban
Missile Crisis. On 22 October 1962 she departed Norfolk on what was
to be a month-long training cruise in the Caribbean, but the formation
of the blockade force altered the cruise plans. On 3 December,
she returned to Norfolk and from then into 1967 she maintained her schedule
of exercises with Marine
Reeconnaissance, UDT, and SEAL personnel. On
15 September 1967, she changed homeports and administrative control and for the next two years, her last two years of
active service, she operated out of Key
West as a unit of SubDiv 121. Reclassified LPSS-315 in January 1969, Sea lion was ordered inactivated the following summer; and, in September, she
proceeded to Philadelphia where she
was decommissioned and placed in the
inactive fleet on 20 February 1970.
Sea lion (SS-315) earned five battle stars
during World War II.
[Note: The above USS SEA LION (SS-315) history may, or may not, contain text provided by crew members of the USS SEA LION (SS-315), or by other non-crew members, and text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]