When the final word was passed to abandon ship by the Exec, Ernie Schwab, the crew was told that we could carry or take nothing except the clothes that we wore. Two rubber life boats were used for ferrying our crew to Dace -- one stored in the hatch of the After Torpedo Room on Darter, and the one stored on Dace. Immediately after the boats were inflated, our Darter crew began leaving for Dace. I think each rubber boat carried about five, six or seven men. I believe I was on the second to last boatload of crew to leave the ship as I was assisting Chief Gunners Mate Turner, the Chief of the Boat, with rigging the explosive into the warhead of the torpedo in my Forward Torpedo Room.
You have to picture this scene showing about 85 men, hot, sweaty and very humid, scurrying around in almost total darkness with only some emergency lights on aboard Darter. Try to picture them dismantling and destroying everything that could possibly be used by the Japanese, knowing they would board her immediately as daylight came. It was extremely hot, since we were close to the equator. The air-conditioning, of course, was not working, and the entire crew wore nothing except our skivvies and sandals, without tee shirts.
The Forward Battery was a blaze of fire and smoke. Powers our RM and/or Chief Radioman Schooley, were burning classified materials in the Forward Battery Wardroom and passageway. The heat and smoke, almost unbearable, poured into the Forward Torpedo Room as it vented it's way through the room and up the hatch.
When we completed the job of installing the timer on the exploder of the torpedo, "Red" Turner turned to me and said, "OK, Ruma, let's get the hell out of here." Still in my skivvies, I jumped up to my locker next to where my bunk was. I pulled out a pair of clean dungaree pants and a clean tee shirt. I did manage to put my wallet in my pants pocket. I also was wearing the leather sandals issued by the Navy to all submarine sailors. As I stepped down, I noted my watch on my left wrist. I impulsively pulled it off and slung it into my locker. Without thinking, I locked my locker and threw away the key so it couldn't be found by the Japanese. To this day, I still do not know why I did that.
As I descended from my bunk, I stepped on the sledge hammer that I'd used to smash the Buddha. I thought about the ship's movie camera, picked up the sledge hammer, opened the torpedo pit where we stored the camera and took about five swipes at it, destroying it completely, so that the Japanese could not use it. Then, up the Torpedo Room hatch I climbed to the main deck to await my turn to get on one of the rubber boats to take me to Dace.
By the way, the watch was an expensive one. It was a gold Longine/Whitnauer, not even a year old. I paid over $100.00 for it in Pearl Harbor at the Submarine Base Ship's Store in 1943. Shortly after I purchased the watch, I was transferred to the USS Orion, Submarine Tender, which was carrying a large group of Submarine Relief Crew sailors to Brisbane, Australia, where I eventually boarded Darter.