American World War II Pacific Submarine Campaign: Bases


Figure 1.-- As the Allies moved up the northern New Guinea coast, many new forward bases were opened by the U.S. Navy. Mios Woendi is an atol in the Schouten Islands southeast of Biak. It was used as a forward base by the U.S. Navy during the Pacific War. The U.S. Navy code word for the base was Stinker. Here we see some native men and boys at Mios Woendi. The photograph was taken by a sailor on the subtender 'USS Orion'. Naval Seaplane Base 2, was located on Mios Woendi. It was established as NAF Biak (July 20, 1944). It was established to serve as a base for FAW-17 operations in the southwest Pacific. Catalina squadrons VPs 11, 34 and 52 flew patrols out of Woendi from July 1944 through May 1945. PT Boat Forward Base 21 was alo located there. We are unsure to what extent submarines called there, but subtendeers obviously did.

The Pacific fleet's submarine force operated from two different bases. Before the War, they were Pearl Harbor and Cavite in the Philippines. The Japanese carrier attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), and subsequent Pacific offensive, left the U.S. Navy with few operational bases in the western Pacific (December 1941). The loss of Subic Bay, Cavite, and other Philippines bases was especially harmful. Operating from bases in the Philippines, The Navy could have interdicted the sea lanes between the Home Islands and the Southern Resource Zone (SRZ). This left Pearl harbor as the Navy's forward operating zone. The loss of Singapore and the Dutch East Indies (DEI) left Australian bases, especially Freemantle and Brisbane) as the other potential operating bases. Both were, however, at some distance to the Japanese sea lanes. Cavite had been an especially important sub base. A devastating Japanese air raid on the Cavite Naval Station south of Manila damaged USS Sealion (SS-195) beyond repair and destroyed the Cavite repair facility and most of the torpedoes stored there (December 10). Allied naval forces after a major defeat in the Java Sea, retreated to Australia (March 1942). American naval commanders decided to the U.S. high command decided to leave the remaining submarines of the Asiatic Fleet to operate out of Australian ports rather than joining the Pacific Fleet submarines at Pearl. They would they be in a good position there to attack Japanese sea lanes, especially oil tankers. The oil resources of the DEI and British Borneo were one of the principal reasons that the Japanese militarists launched the Pacific War. The Cavite subs were reassigned to Freemantle in Australia which was their operational base for the rest of the war. The Freemantle subs were ordered to operate in the South China Sea. MacArthur also controlled some subs operating out of Freemantle. They were at first given the added task of delivering supplies to the American and Filiipino guerrillas and taking off American civilian who had managed to evade the Japanese. After Midway the Japanese naval superiority was substantially reduced (June 1942). This permitted an American offensive beginning at Guadalcanal in the Solomons (August 1942). Soon offensives in South Pacific, especially New Guinea won sites for forward naval bases that could be used by both submarines and PT-boats. And offensives in the Central Pacific won additional forward operating bases. We note quite a number of forward bases for COMSUBSOWESPAC in the Solomons, the islands surrounding Rabaul, and along the New Guinea coast. These bases included support facilities for PT-boats and submarines. We are not sure yet to what extent the COMSUBSOWESPAC subs used these forward bases. We do see subtenders at these bases. The Pacific Fleet's sub base at Pearl was not damaged in the Japanese carrier attack launching the War. The Japanese planes in the first two waves focused on the the air fields and capital ships, mostly battleships as the carriers were not at Pearl when they attacked. Fortunately, Admiral Nagumo decided against a third strike which left the Pacific Fleet's subs and principal base in tact. The Pearl COMSUBPAC subs operated in the East China Sea. As the war progressed, the Pearl subs were moved forward to the Marianas which meant that their combat missions were significantly shortened. Advances in the Central Pacific meant new sub bases for COMSUBPAC at Midway, Guam, and Saipan. These were important because sub operating from bases near the Japanese sea lanes effectively increased the striking power of American submarines.

Before the War

American Pacific fleet's submarine force operated from two different bases before the War. The two bases were Pearl Harbor and Cavite in the Philippines. These were both well established bases capable of fully supplying and supporting submarine operations. Operating from Cavite, American submarines would have been astride Japanese sealanes connecting conquests in Southeas asia to the Home Islands.

War Operations

The Japanese carrier attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), and subsequent Pacific offensive, left the U.S. Navy with few operational bases in the western Pacific (December 1941). The loss of Subic Bay, Cavite, and other Philippines bases was especially harmful. Operating from bases in the Philippines, The Navy could have interdicted the sea lanes between the Home Islands and the Southern Resource Zone (SRZ). This left Pearl harbor as the Navy's forward operating zone. The loss of Singapore and the Dutch East Indies (DEI) left Australian bases, especially Freemantle and Brisbane) as the other potential operating bases besides Pear Harbor. . Both were, however, at some distance to the Japanese sea lanes.

COMSUBSOWESPAC

Cavite had been an especially important sub base. A devastating Japanese air raid on the Cavite Naval Station south of Manila damaged USS Sealion (SS-195) beyond repair and destroyed the Cavite repair facility and most of the torpedoes stored there (December 10). Allied naval forces after a major defeat in the Java Sea, retreated to Australia (March 1942). American naval commanders decided to the U.S. high command decided to leave the remaining submarines of the Asiatic Fleet to operate out of Australian ports rather than joining the Pacific Fleet submarines at Pearl. They would they be in a good position there to attack Japanese sea lanes, especially oil tankers. The oil resources of the DEI and British Borneo were one of the principal reasons that the Japanese militarists launched the Pacific War. The Cavite subs were reassigned to Freemantle in Australia which was their operational base for the rest of the war. The Freemantle subs were ordered to operate in the South China Sea. MacArthur also controlled some subs operating out of Freemantle. They were at first given the added task of delivering supplies to the American and Filiipino guerrillas and taking off American civilian who had managed to evade the Japanese. After Midway the Japanese naval superiority was substantially reduced (June 1942). This permitted an American offensive beginning at Guadalcanal in the Solomons (August 1942). Soon offensives in South Pacific, especially New Guinea won sites for forward naval bases that could be used by both submarines and PT-boats. And offensives in the Central Pacific won additional forward operating bases. We note quite a number of forward bases for COMSUBSOWESPAC in the Solomons, the islands surrounding Rabaul, and along the New Guinea coast. These bases included support facilities for PT-boats and submarines. We are not sure yet to what extent the COMSUBSOWESPAC subs used these forward bases. We do see subtenders at these bases. A reader writes, "I really do not know if any of these bases were dual purpose bases. Just about any place the USN could somewhat safely have a sub tender there could be a forward base."

COMSUBPAC

The Pacific Fleet's sub base at Pearl was not damaged in the Japanese carrier attack launching the War. The Japanese planes in the first two waves focused on the the air fields and capital ships, mostly battleships as the carriers were not at Pearl when they attacked. Fortunately, Admiral Nagumo decided against a third strike which left the Pacific Fleet's subs and principal base in tact. The Pearl COMSUBPAC subs operated in the East China Sea. As the war progressed, the Pearl subs were moved forward to the Marianas which meant that their combat missions were significantly shortened. Advances in the Central Pacific meant new sub bases for COMSUBPAC at Midway, Guam, and Saipan. A reader writes, "I am sure that Midway was also used starting a few months after the battle." These were important because sub operating from bases near the Japanese sea lanes effectively increased the striking power of American submarines.






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Created: 3:35 AM 11/2/2013
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Last updated: 8:39 PM 11/2/2013