There are many storied ships and commanders in the United States Navy but it would be harder to name two whose destinies intersected in such a dramatic way. The USS Sailfish had been built as the Squalus – lost at sea in a time when that meant certain death for the crew through bravery and ingenuity they were saved – she was salvaged and sailed again to glory against the Empire of Japan. John Phillip Cromwell was a lowly lieutenant in those days but his bravery would surpass even the heroism of the Squalus. John F. Kennedy said, “I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy,'” the crews of both these submarines could certainly answer that in the affirmative.
A tale of two subs : an untold story of World War II, two sister ships, and extraordinary heroism New York : Grand Central Pub., 2008 Jonathan J. McCullough World War, 1939-1945 Naval operations Submarine Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. viii, 294 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
On November 19, 1943, the submarine USS Sculpin, under attack by the Japanese, slid below the waves for the last time in what would become one of the most remarkable stories in U.S. Naval history. Not only did several crew members survive the sinking – an extremely rare event in World War II submarine warfare – but several were aboard a Japanese aircraft carrier en route to a POW camp when it was in turn torpedoed and sunk by the Sculpin’s sister ship, the USS Sailfish.
At the end of World War II, several unlikely survivors would tell a tale of endurance against these amazing reversals of fortune. For one officer in particular, who knew that being captured could have meant losing the war for the allies, his struggle was not in surviving, but in sealing his own fate in a heartbreaking act of heroism which culminated in the nation’s highest tribute, the Medal of Honor.
Sculpin Lt. Commander John Phillip Cromwell was one of the few who knew that American Naval Intelligence had succeeded in cracking Japan’s top-secret codes. Cromwell also knew that if the Japanese confirmed this by torturing him, it would force Naval Intelligence to change their encryption, which would potentially change the course of the war. This is Cromwell’s story as well.
The incredible interconnection of the Sculpin and the Sailfish has been thoroughly researched by Jonathan McCullough. Through access to the few living survivors, scores of oral histories, never-before translated Japanese war documents, and interviews with Navy veterans, McCullough delivers a gripping and, intimate account for the reader.