COMMENTS BY FRANK RUMA, TM1(SS), LEADING
TORPEDOMAN IN THE FORWARD TORPEDO ROOM OF THE USS DARTER (SS-227), OCTOBER
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.