Operation Rising Sun

The I-52 Recovery Project

Picture of the USS Bogue. The escort carrier USS Bogue (Captain Aurelius B. Vosseller) was part of task force assembled as a submarine hunter-killer group, consisting of the USS Bogue and five destroyers. Their orders are to find and destroy the Japanese submarine the I-52. The five destroyers are the ''Francis M. Robinson'' (Lieutenant J. E. Johansen), ''Haverfield'' (Commander T. S. Lank, TF 51 commander), ''Swenning'' (Lieutenant R. E. Peek), ''Willis'' (Lieutenant Commander G. R. Atterbury), and the ''Jannsen'' (Lieutenant Commander H. E. Cross). This task force departed from Casablanca and headed to the Mid-Atlantic rendevouz of the I-52 and the U-530. The USS Bogue carried 9 FM-2 Wildcats and the 12 TBF Avengers of VC-69 on board. Between February 1943 and July 1945 this was a very effective force, sinking a total of 13 German and Japanese submarines between February 1943 and July 1945.


 

Captain Aurelius B. Vosseller of the USS Bogue. As you see the Bogue was a very effective ship in the anti-submarine task force by the number of "kills" painted on her sides.of

The Grumman TBF Avenger (designated TBM for aircraft manufactured by General Motors) was a torpedo bomber developed initially for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, and eventually used by several air or naval arms around the world. It entered U.S. service in 1942, and first saw action during the Battle of Midway. Grumman's first torpedo bomber was the heaviest single-engine aircraft of World War II, and it was the first design to feature a new wing-folding mechanism created by Grumman, intended to maximize storage space on an aircraft carrier. The engine used was the Wright R-2600-20 (which produced 1,900 hp/1,417 kW). There were three crew members: pilot, turret gunner and radioman/bombardier/ventral gunner. One .30 cal. (7.62 mm) machine gun was mounted in the nose, a .50 cal. (12.7 mm) gun was mounted right next to the turret gunner's head in a rear-facing electrically powered turret, and a single .30 cal. (7.62 mm) hand-fired machine gun mounted ventrally (under the tail), which was used to defend against enemy fighters attacking from below and to the rear. This gun was fired by the radioman/bombardier while standing up and bending over in the belly of the tail section, though he usually sat on a folding bench facing forward to operate the radio and to sight in bombing runs. Later models of the TBF/TBM dispensed with the nose-mounted gun for one .50 in (12.7 mm) gun in each wing per pilots' requests for better forward firepower and increased strafing ability. There was only one set of controls on the aircraft, and no access to the pilot's position from the rest of the aircraft. The radio equipment was massive, especially by today's standards, and filled the whole glass canopy to the rear of the pilot. The radios were accessible for repair through a "tunnel" along the right hand side. Any Avengers that are still flying today usually have an additional rear-mounted seat in place of the radios, which increases crew to four. The Avenger had a large bomb bay, allowing for one Mark 13 torpedo, a single 2,000 lb (900 kg) bomb, a single Mark 14 Acoustic torpedo, or up to four 500 lb (230 kg) bombs. The aircraft had overall ruggedness and stability, and pilots say it flew like a truck, for better or worse (it also earned the nickname "The "Turkey"). Later Avenger models carried radar equipment for the ASW and AEW roles. The available radars in 1943 were very bulky, because they contained vacuum tube technology. Because of this, radar was at first carried only on the roomy TBF Avengers, but not on the smaller fighters.

Mark 24, acoustic anti-submarine torpedo (FIDO) general arrangement (courtesy Bell Laboratories) It was nick-named "Fido", because like a stray dog it would follow you around.
Oil slick from the I-52, the day after the sinking.
Part of the 59.8-tons of caoutchouc (raw rubber) in bales that was part of the cargo of the.. I-52. These pieces were picked up by the USS Bogue the next day.
In his research, Paul Tidwell came across references to 78-rpm records that had been made at the former Naval Sound Laboratory in New London, CT. The records, later made into tapes, were compilations of underwater sounds used to train Navy sonar operators. Excerpts of those training tapes are still requested for use by schools for use during marine studies. On one of the recordings, the narrator notes "Here are two more recordings of actual combat at sea, recorded by an airborne magnetic wire recorder connected to a sonabuoy receiver and intercom system." On the recording Lt. Gordon can be heard talking to his crew, along with the sound of a torpedo exploding and metal twisting.

Tidwell contacted the Naval Historical Center in Washington DC, to see if they could help locate any additional information on the original Gordon wire recordings. The Historical Center in turn called the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division in Newport, the successor to the Sound Laboratory. Coincidentally, that contact was made on June 24, fifty-four years to the day of the I-52's sinking. Like a lot of military facilities, the Division has undergone change in recent years. Some "old stuff" did not survive the closure of the New London Laboratory and the consolidation of its personnel, records, etc. in Newport. Little hope was held for an insignificant 50-year old spool of wire. However, Mary Barravecchia, head of the Division's Technical Library, took the lead to track down the recording. Originally employed in New London, Barravecchia knew who the "keepers" were, and of the nooks and crannies where a small spool of wire might hide. To the amazement of all, two canisters, identified simply as "Gordon wire No. 1" and "Gordon wire No. 2," marked June 24, 1944 were found. Once the wire tapes were found, the search for a functioning recorder began. The only place found to have a wire recorder still capable of playing the recordings was the National Archives in Washington. The original spools of hair-thin wire on which the last moments the Japanese submarine I-52 were recorded have been transferred to the National Archives for permanent retention.