On May 27, 1958, at 0907 while operating in the area off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I was involved in an incident
while assigned to the Sea Poacher (SS406) as a seaman. My job was lookout while surfaced and helm,
bow planes and stern planes while submerged.
On the above date I was manning the bow planes and Harry Sherman was on the stern planes.
Lt. jg William Henry was the diving officer. The captain, Lt Cdr Carl Davis had the conn from
the conning tower. He ordered all back 2/3. Backing down while submerged is unusual and requires
the planesmen to reverse their tasks. Now the bow planes control the bubble and the stern planes
control the depth. This maneuver makes the submarine inherently unstable. At about 450 feet we began
to decend backward and kept steeply decending stern first to a depth of 550 ft. The test depth of the
Sea Poacher is 412 feet.
Lt. jg James High entered the control room and took complete control of the situation. He orderd a bubble
in the safety tank, then to blow safety. Then a call came on the XJA phone that there was flooding in
the after engine room. Mr. High sounded the collision alarm and ordered "blow bow buoyancy" then
"blow all tanks". The captain ordered "all ahead standard". We were now at 575 feet.
These maneuvers had no effect. Mr. High ordered "cut in the captains air banks", "blow everything".
When this was done we started up. We attained about a 50 degee up angle. After we began our ascent
the captain ordered to fire a red flare, to no avail. We were too deep and ascending too fast.
Our ascent was so rapid that the needle on the 5 ft. gage looked like a second hand on a watch,
The captain called down to open and then shut the forward goup vents, several times, to check
the angle of our ascent. At about 200 ft. I was orered to put full dive on the bow planes.
I did as ordered with no effect. Seconds later we were on the surace and a damage contol party
was dispatched to the after engine room.
We proceeded back into Guantanamo Bay for repairs and to make recorded statements as to what had
happened. This account mirrors my legal statement made at that time.
In my mind, the lone sailor who remained in the after engine room locating and shutting the valve
that stopped the flooding and Lt. jg High saved all our bacon. Without them we would have been dead
and the rest of you guys wouldn't have had the Sea Poacher to serve on.
William Sharp SN 57-58