Letters

LCDR Robert T. Stagner Jr. USN was assigned Brisbane. during the war I believe on S-46

Dear Commander Gregory:

I am working on a novel about WWII with one chapter about Savo Island.  Upon completion of the novel I am considering a non-fiction work on the naval battles in the Solomons and Southwest Pacific. I am relying extensively upon web resources. I am seeking your permission to quote your website and to refer to you specifically by name and your rank at the time if I may.

I would also like any information you may have or leads to records concerning the submarine base at Brisbane. My father, LCDR Robert T. Stagner Jr. USN was assigned there during the war I believe onI and I believe he said once when he was alive that he was project officer for the replacement of the bow on the USS Growler.

(Pictures of officers inspecting the bow of the Growler show an officer standing with his hands in his rear pockets, a stance that my father would occasionally assume. Although facing away the officer is approximately the right size too.)

Dad ended the war on the USS Croaker, a fleet boat.

At a guess I would say Dad was probably a Lieutenant JG at the time of the Growler repair, but this seems rather low ranking for a project officer. He was however a mustang and had eight years of enlisted service prior to the US entry into the war.

My compliments on your site, it is extremely well done and informative. If I can help you in any way or if you need any further information, please advise.

Very truly yours,
Bob Stagner


Hello Bob,

Firstly nice to hear from you and my thanks for your kind words about AHOY, a joint production with my friend and web master Terry Kearns in Atlanta, Georgia, taking my research and scribblings to turn them into AHOY out there on the web for any one to find, log on, and hopefully to find some item of interest.

Please quote our site and make use of anything you wish.

I do not know if you are familar with Silent Victory. The US Submarine War Against Japan, by Clay Blair Jr, published by Bantam in 1976.

He covers all US Submarine patrols in WW2, of course including their operations from both Fremantle and Brisbane in Australia.

Here are some revelant extracts for your Dad's boats.

In May of 1942 Ralph C Lynch Jr ( class of 1929 ) took S-46 on a 35 day patrol from Brisbane to the Solomons area, but achieved no results.

In July of 1942 S-46 again left Brisbane for the Solomons area on a 26 day patrol, no results.

In September of 1942 S-46 with a new Skipper, Earl C. Crawford ( class of 1936 )  went on a 31 day patrol to the Solomons ex Brisbane, but still no results.


S-46.

In October of 1942, Growler with Howard W. Gilmore ( class of 1926 ) in command on a 49 day patrol proceeded from Pearl Harbor via Truk to Brisbane.

In January of 1943 Growler patrolled from Brisbane to the Solomons over 48 days, with a war time credit of 2 ships of 7, 900 tons, changed by JANAC to 1 ship sunk/ 5,900 tons.

In May 1943, Growler with Arnold F Schade ( class of 1933 ) as Captain went off from Brisbane on a 48 day patrol to the Solomons, for a War Time Credit of 1 ship sunk of 4,500 tons, changed by JANAC to 1 ship sunk of 5,200 tons.

In July 1943, Growler went on a 53 day patrol from Brisbane to the Bismark area, but without results.

In October 1943, Growler left Brisbane for the Bismark area again, this time for 35 days.

War Time Credit, 1 ship sunk of 6,500 tons, JANAC changed to 1 ship sunk of 6,400 tons.

See this URL: http://www.ozatwar.com/ozatwar/capricorn.htm for a report about the US Sub base at Brisbane in WW2.

USS Growler was earlier based out of the Brisbane Submarine Base. USS Growler was on patrol in the Solomons in early 1943. On 7 February 1943, USS Growler made a surface attack on a Japanese Naval vessel. The Japanese vessel opened fire and killed two of those on the bridge and wounded three others. The Japanese vessel then rammed the USS Growler. The Captain, Commander Howard Gilmore, who was one of the wounded, ordered the bridge to be cleared. The two other wounded men were dragged below. Commander Gilmore issued his final order "Take her down". He remained on the bridge and lost his life in order to save his boat. He was posthumously awarded the first submariner Medal of Honor.

USS Growler returned to Brisbane Submarine Base with the Executive Office assuming command of the submarine. USS Growler had 18 feet of its bow bent at right angles. Evans Deakins & Co. at Rocklea manufactured a new bow for USS Growler which was fitted at the South Brisbane Dry Dock.. USS Growler left the dry dock on 1 May 1943 with a nickel kangaroos painted on the new bow of the submarine. After this incident, USS Growler was known as the "Kangaroo Express".


At the Brisbane Submarine Base at New Farm, The USS Growler's main hull is pointed towards the CSR Sugar Refinery across the Brisbane River but her battered  bow is pointing towards Hawthorne.

In July of 1944 Croaker out of Pearl Harbor undertook a 43 day patrol to the East China Sea, and on August 7th. sank the Japanese light cruiser Nagara of 5,700 tons. IN all, 4 ships of 17,400 tons were accounted for.

In September 1944, Croaker again from  PH to the East China Sea, made a 48 day patrol, War Time Credit of 4 ships of 16,600 tons changed by JANAC to 3 ships of 5,800 tons.


USS Croaker.

Bob, I think that is it for your Dad's three boats.

But as a Lieutenant JG, he would have had a lot of experience, in war time we were given a great deal of responsibility at a young age.

In 1939 as a 17 year old Cadet Midshipman serving in HMAS Australia, an 8 inch gunned heavy cruiser, I was put in charge of the Ship's High Angle Transmitting Station, responsible to calculate all the data to control the ship's 8 by 4inch AA weapons.

When 20, I was awarded my Bridge Watch Keeping certificate meaning I was competent to be in charge of the safety and navigation of an 8 inch heavy cruiser witha crew of some 800 plus.

We tended to grow up fast in those perilous times.

Again my thanks for your comments, and also for your offer of assistance.

Kindest regards,
Mackenzie Gregory.


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