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"When the [depth charges] are close is when it's exciting." (Video Interview, 1:10 12)

   John Perry Richardson
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John Richardson [2003]
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Navy; Navy
Unit: USS Guitarro (SS 363); USS Trumpetfish (SS 425)
Service Location: Great Lakes, Illinois; New London, Connecticut; New York; Manitowoc, Wisconsin; Boston, Massachusetts; Pacific; Australia; New Guinea; Hunters Point, California; South China Sea; also: Key West, Florida
Rank: Fire Controlman; Fire Controlman
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Drafted into the Navy as a teenager, John Richardson volunteered for submarine school, because it was located in Connecticut not far from his Massachusetts home and submariners eared an extra ten percent hazardous duty pay. Richardson earned that pay on five war patrols in the Pacific Theater. Richardson explains the inner workings of a submarine, using a model to illustrate his points. After the war ended, he joined the inactive Naval Reserve and was called back to duty in 1950 during the Korean War. This time, however, his duty station was a bit safer--Key West, Florida.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (10 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (108 min.)
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»Submarines: The Silent Service
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (10 items)
Volunteering for submarine school; it was in CT, near his home, and sub service paid better; training by learning various parts of the boat (not "ship"), going into a pressure chamber; learning on an old sub that was rickety; practicing evacuation maneuver. (05:17) Learning to run the radar and sonar, how to navigate the boat; he was "right arm rate," senior to the left arm rate men who ran the engines; learning was done in the classroom, so "you were still pretty green when you got aboard." (05:59) Explaining the workings of the submarine using a model; torpedo means of propulsion switching from steam to electric power during the war. (04:03)
His boat, the Guitarro, was 300 feet long and had a crew of 75; during shakedown cruise, someone pushing the dive signal while men were still on deck, water rushing in and rising to their knees before hatch could be secured; luckily there were still in the Great Lakes and it was fresh water; salt water on some of the ship's batteries could have set off a dangerous chemical reaction. (03:13) First patrol: sank three ships, took some light depth charging; how a ship is sighted and stalked; coordinating the torpedo run; compensating for the targets' zigzagging; knowing you'd scored a hit by the sound; covering large area of shipping lanes south of Formosa. (06:06) Depth charges; the movies about submarines always get the sound wrong; you can hear the charge's detonator before the explosion; suffered some superstructure damage once; going into silent running to avoid detection; a persistent attack could last for hours. (03:07)
Total toll from all his patrols: 13 ships sunk, one damaged; went back to San Francisco to get their batteries changed and while there, the war ended; saw big fights in Oakland involving sailors celebrating; recounting a patrol that put them on Windy Island off New Guinea; buying Japanese souvenirs from the natives. (02:02) After firing a torpedo at one ship and missing, they surfaced and started firing on the ship with guns and broke it up; when ship fired back, the sub crew ran behind the conning tower; area was soon thick with more ships to attack. (02:15) After war ended, not having enough points to be discharged; lying about his points and being found out; assigned to Shore Patrol duty in Boston, a "son-of-gun" job; breaking up fights in bars and clubs; their office above a bar where Merchant Mariners hung out and they hated sailors; did that for two months and accumulated enough points. (03:39)
Meeting his future wife and while waiting for her to get off work, signing up for inactive Naval Reserves to hold his 1st Class rate; Korean War started and he was called back; served in Key West, wife was allowed to go with him; President Truman had his summer White House there; served as fire control man on a submarine; would see Truman taking his morning walk; working on a damaged sub with a snorkel that made the crew's ears pop every time it took on water; finally got out in 1952. (05:06)  

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  October 26, 2011
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