A Collection of Tunny War Stories Continues
When a Young Man Joins the Navy
When a young man joins the Navy
It’s for duty he is told.
But really it’s for bragging rights
To stories when he’s old.
To defend the Navy’s honor,
Is what he’ll always choose
On either land or deepest sea,
In civvies or in blues.
Long hours of standing night watches
‘Neath million stars for light,
Gives time for contemplation if
He’s got the stories right.
And when he’s done and has some time,
He’ll find a pal or two.
They’ll share their memories of the sea...
(Though be they false or true).
We thank you for time served for us,
Have great respect for you.
And could it be the time has come
You tell a tale or two?
Happy 100th Birthday Sailor!
Posted: 31 August 2019
Joan and John Hooper Cutler 30/June/2019
The following story was found posted on an Ancestry.com Family Tree for former USS Tunny (SS-282) crewmember Joseph Lacy Seagle, MoMM1c (Engineman). Seagle was born in Lynchburg, Virginia on 16 August 1914 to James D. and Maude Vernon (Craddock) Seagle. James worked in the "Telephone Industry" while the couple raised their six children (2 sons and 4 daughters). Seagle was on Tunny as part of its commissioning crew 1 September 1942 making him a Plankowner and was aboard when Tunny conducted it's first patrol under the command of John Addison Scott. Seagle was transferred off the Tunny on 11 March 1943 and according to his profile found on the USSVI.org Deck Log, served on the USS Halibut (SS 232) (1943), USS Drum (SS 228) (1943-1944), USS Thornback (SS 418) (1944-1945), and the USS EURYALE (AS-22) (1945-1946). He was promoted to MoMMC. On 28 August 1965 while residing in San Diego, California, Joseph Lacy Seagle departed on Eternal Patrol. His remains are interred at Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
Ex-Lynchburger Saw Sub on Pacific Duty Sink Several Ships
July 30, 1942
The nerve-testing struggle of tin can versus tin fish (destroyer versus submarine in Navy slang) becomes just routine to submarine crews after the first tension has worn off.
So says First Class Petty Officer Joseph Lacy Seagle, 28, former Lynchburg boy who has been in the United States Navy since he enlisted at the age of 17.
And he ought to know.
For forty-five days after the outbreak of the war on the fateful December 7, Seagle and his fellow crew members raided Japanese shipping in a submarine which the Japs claimed they sunk when the Cavite Naval Base was bombed.
At first the crew was “as nervous as cats” and jumped at every noise” but in a little while they settled down and sent to the bottom more Japanese ships than the petty officer could recall definitely.
In daring raids which took them into Jap-held harbors and in the midst of heavily guarded enemy convoys, the American submarine accounted for several types of Nipponese vessels. Seagle knew for certain that they “got” destroyers, a cruiser, aircraft and submarine tenders, troop transports and cargo freighters.
The principal concern of the crew was food. The sub left Cavite without reloading the larders which had been partially emptied because the boar was due to go into dry-dock for repairs a day after the Japs made the first raid on the Manila Bay area.
Consequently, rations were short during the 45 days of marauding through thousands of miles of dangerous waters without putting into port.
Most of the time, the crew subsisted on allotted servings of chipped beef and corn meal. Seagle tells of the only time the men had fresh food, which came in a manner remindful of the Biblical story of manna to the Israelites.
About 35 days out, the submarine surfaced and the skipper opened the conning tower. In slid a fish which wiggled all the way into the lower compartment bilges before being captured by a hungry sailor.
When the commander climbed through the conning tower hatch, he yelled for men to bring buckets. The tower had risen among a school of mackerel-like fish, scooping 74 of them out of the water as it passed through. The fish weighed about two pounds apiece.
“We really needed them about that time,” Seagle said.
Apparently the submarine was in constant communication with fleet headquarters, for it was ordered back and forth across enemy infested waters to intercept spotted ships.
“We didn’t have to worry about identifying anything on the surface before preparing to attack. Everything above water then was Japanese,” said the officer.
THE FIRST KILL
The submarine after escaping from Cavite first patrolled the Formosa Straits off the China coast in hopes of getting Jap supply ships. Rough weather led it to return to the Lingayen Gulf, where fleets of Japanese troop transports heavily guarded by destroyers and cruisers were attempting to establish beachheads in the face of heavy fighting.
The first kill came here. The submarine crew sent two torpedoes crashing into a troop transport and got away quickly to avoid destroyer-dropped “ash cans” or depth charges.
In attack, the crew is at stations and takes orders from the skipper, who is the only one who can see above the surface. “And he can’t see much,” Seagle said grimly.
It is apparent that this sort of fighting depends on complete trust and understanding between the officers and crew members. According to Seagle, the cooperative spirit is wonderful. He was eager to praise heroic commanders who have been cited in navy communiques.
Seagle, a machinist’s mate, stays in the engine room during battle. His job is to watch the motors which are electrical while the boat is submerged and Diesel on the surface. He can hear the hiss of the torpedoes and feel the quiver of the sub when it fires them but he must depend on whatever is relayed back from the skipper for an eye-witness account.
The crew always knows immediately when a torpedo has found its mark. Although they fire from a distance averaging a mile, the explosion is heard and the concussion felt in the sub
Depending on touch-an-go tactics, the submarine hurried to Cebu, where it sunk a destroyer and a cargo ship. Seagle said, “Ships were everywhere. The Japs seemed to know just where to strike at the Philippines and they had a better knowledge of the islands and waters than we did,” the petty officer declared.
Petty Officer Seagle went through several counter-attacks from destroyers the dread foe of undersea craft, but said that only once was he “really scared.”
During a night raid, the periscope revealed two ships so close together that their silhouettes were merged. Maneuvering for an attack, the commander announced that they had caught an oil tanker transferring fuel to an aircraft tender. In the two hours of stalking for a position to get both ships, the operation was finished and the boars drifted apart.
“We got in between them and let loose a torpedo at each,” Seagle related. Then we submerged to periscope depth and heard an explosion from one. We couldn’t tell which one we’d hit.”
Immediately depth charges began churning the water into a liquid hell. “We heard an explosion when we reached the depth of 100 feet. Then a charge went off directly overhead. It shook the sub like a leaf in a whirlpool,” Seagle said.
I grabbed a ladder in the control room and held on while the boat bounced. I thought our luck had played out on us that time,” he added.
He explained that the aircraft tender might have had look-out planes aloft. They counter-attacked promptly when the silver wake of the torpedoes revealed the submarine.
“The planes followed the wake back to the sub and let us have all the depth charges they were carrying,” he said.
Another time in the Sulu Sea, the submarine narrowly missed its doom when four Jap destroyers had it encircled and closed in for the kill.
“We dived and ran, while the destroyers criss-crossed above us, dropping ash cans all the time. The crew counted the explosions from 47 charges,” Seagle said.
Later they made port successfully in Australia with the motors missing and the fuel almost gone. In the ensuing months, Seagle was wounded during a surface attack. Upon reaching San Francisco in July he touched United States soil for the first time since 1940.
On leave until August 18, Seagle is visiting Lynchburg for the first time in eight years. He is staying at the home of his sister, Mrs. Harold Carter, 504 Amherst Street.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of two articles on Mr. Seagle’s experiences while on uninterrupted duty from December 7 until mid-July with the Pacific Fleet. The names of the two undersea boats on which the petty officer served were not revealed for military reasons.