The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Robert L. Devore, Sr.

“Our job in the submarine force in World War II was to cut supply lines.” (Video interview, 19:22)

   Robert L. Devore, Sr.
Collection image
Robert Devore [2004]
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Navy; Navy
Unit: Submarine Service
Service Location: Pacific Theater; Atlantic Ocean; Mediterranean Theater; also: National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal
Rank: Chief Petty Officer
View Full Description

After his mother was widowed in 1940, Kentucky farm boy Robert Devore stayed in school until his 17th birthday in 1943, when he decided to drop out and enlist in the Navy. He volunteered for submarine school and sailed aboard the USS Pogy as a torpedo man. Most of their late-war missions involved lifeguard duties for downed fliers. In their most serious action, they took friendly fire from an American Liberator who mistook them for an enemy submarine. Devore's talents extended well beyond those demanded on board the sub; he devised an easy method for distilling alcohol during a memorable R and R stay in Pearl Harbor.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (59 min.)
More like this
»Submarines: The Silent Service
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
After basic training, being chosen for torpedo man's school; having trouble understanding the subject until his commanding officer ordered him to teach a class in exploder mechanism, which helped him out; from there, he volunteered for submarine school in CT; trained on an older boat with controls that were hard to operate; shipped out to Hunter's Point, near San Francisco. (04:37) Duty as a seaman; had failed seaman first class test three times, so he was only second ("deuce"); skipper wouldn't go to sea with a seaman deuce; getting a promotion; patrol off Japan, picking up downed aviators; duties aboard included cooking and serving food; being made "laundry queen" and breaking the washing machine. (05:20) On his second mission on the Pogy (the boat's 8th overall), firing unsuccessfully on two ships; mission of submarines was to cut Japanese supply lines; on watch above one night in the darkness, seeing something huge ahead looming out of the ocean, thinking it was a Japanese battleship when it was the mountains of Wake Island; on this mission, he qualified for submarines, meaning he had learned every square inch of the sub, which meant he could wear the dolphin insignia. (03:41)
In March 1945, going out on lifeguard duty for B-29s which were bombing Japan; patrolling off Okinawa in support of that invasion; assigned to conning tower to look for enemy ships; firing on sampans. (05:19) American Liberator accidentally bombing and strafing the Pogy in April 1945; breakdown in communications was cause; crew of the plane was court-martialed; boat was pretty beat up; Devore and another sailor trying to plug holes so they could dive without serious leaks; able to communicate via their radar with another sub; when they surfaced, they pulled up alongside and exchanged supplies of movies; Pearl Harbor designated them overdue and presumed lost because they hadn't been reporting in. (06:28) On April 29, 1945, picking up 10 B-29 crewmen who had been in rafts in the water for a couple of days; on May 5, dropping them off on Saipan; back to Pearl Harbor for a 2-week stint of R&R at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel; bringing alcohol into the hotel; distilling it and then mixing it with grapefruit juice; his method was to filter it through a loaf of unsliced bread. (03:20)

Home » Robert L. Devore, Sr.
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us