The second Sturgeon (SS-187) was laid down on 27 October 1936 by the Navy Yard, Mare Island, Calif.; launched on 15 March 1938; sponsored by Mrs. Charles S. Freeman; and commissioned on 25 June 1938, Lt. Comdr. A. D. Barnes in command.
Sturgeon completed builder's trials in Monterey Bay and began her shakedown cruise on 15 October, visiting ports in Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica before returning to San Diego on 12 December 1938. She was assigned to Submarine Squadron (SubRon) 6 and operated along the west coast as far north as Washington. She made two squadron cruises to Hawaii with the Pacific Fleet: from 1 July to 16 August 1939 and from 1 April to 12 July 1940. The submarine departed San Diego on 5 November 1940 for Pearl Harbor and operated from there until November 1941.
Sturgeon stood out of Pearl Harbor on 10 November, headed for the Philippine Islands, and arrived at Manila Bay on the 22d. She was then attached to SubRon 2, Submarine Division (SubDiv) 22, United States Asiatic Fleet.
Sturgeon was moored in Mariveles Bay on 7 December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor She put to sea the next afternoon to patrol an area between the Pescadores Islands and Formosa. A small tanker was sighted the afternoon of 9 December, but it remained out of torpedo range. The submarine found a convoy of five merchantmen accompanied by a cruiser and several destroyers on the 18th. As she came to periscope depth within attack range of the cruiser, she was sighted by one of the escorts approximately 250 yards away. She started going deep but had only reached a depth of 65 feet when the first depth charge exploded, breaking numerous light bulbs but causing no serious damage. Sturgeon began silent running and evaded the escorts. On the evening of the 21st, she sighted a darkened ship believed to be a large cargo carrier. A torpedo spread was fired from the stern tubes, but they all passed ahead of the ship due to an error in her estimated speed. The ship ended her first war patrol when she returned to Mariveles Bay on 25 December.
Sturgeon was at sea again on 28 December 1941 en route to the Tarakan area, off the coast of Borneo. A tanker was sighted southwest of Subutu Island on 17 January 1942, but all three torpedoes missed and the ship escaped. On the night of 22 January, Sturgeon was alerted by Pickerel (SS-177) that a large convoy was headed her way in Makassar Strait. A few minutes later, her sonar picked up the pings of ships dead astern. She submerged and fired four torpedoes at a large ship, with two explosions following. The submarine was then subjected to a two and one-half hour depth charge attack by two destroyers which caused no damage.
She next sighted an enemy transport and four destroyers off Balikpapan on the 26th. Sturgeon fired a spread from her forward tubes which resulted in a large explosion on the transport, and her screws stopped turning. No post-war record of a sinking could be found, but the transport was believed damaged. The submarine came to periscope level within a destroyer screen, on the 25th, but found no large target. Three days later, she made two hits on a tanker.
On the morning of 8 February, Sturgeon found herself on the track of an enemy invasion fleet headed toward Makassar City. She submerged to avoid detection by several destroyers and a cruiser, as they passed overhead, but was able to report the movement of the convoy to Commander, Submarines Asiatic Fleet. The submarine retired from her patrol area two days later, when she was ordered to Java, Netherlands East Indies. She arrived at Soerabaja on 13 February; but, as the Japanese were advancing upon that base, the ship proceeded to TjilatJap. After embarking part of the Asiatic Fleet Submarine Force Staff, Sturgeon and Stingray (SS-186) sailed for Fremantle, Australia, on 20 February, as escorts for the tenders Holland (AS-3) and Black Hawk (AD-9).
Sturgeon remained there, from 3 to 15 March, when she departed to again patrol off Makassar City. On 30 March, she sank the cargo ship Choko Maru. On 3 April, one of her torpedoes caught a 750-ton frigate directly under the bridge, and she was officially listed as probably sunk. She then fired three torpedoes at a merchantman but missed. With one torpedo remaining in the bow tubes, she fired and hit the target abreast the foremast. When last seen, it was listing heavily to port and making for the Celebes shore.
On 6 April, she fired a spread at a tanker; but the range was so close that they failed to arm. The submarine was then depth charged by escorts but eluded them and patrolled off Cape Mandar in the Makassar Strait. On 22 April, a destroyer's searchlight blinked to Sturgeon, and she went deep to avoid the subsequent two-hour depth charge attack. On 28 April, the submarine sailed for Australia. However, she interrupted her voyage on the night of the 30th in an attempt to rescue some Royal Air Force personnel reported on an island at the entrance of Tjilatjap Harbor. A landing party under Lt. Chester W. Nimitz, Jr., entered the cove and examined it by searchlight but found only a deserted lean-to. She continued to Fremantle and arrived there on 7 May.
Sturgeon refitted and returned to sea, on 5 June, to patrol an area west of Manila. On the 25th, she caught up with a nine-ship convoy before daylight, and fired three torpedoes at the largest ship and heard explosions. After some 21 depth charges were dropped by the escorts, she managed to escape with only a few gauges broken. On 1 July, Sturgeon sank the 7,267-ton transport Montevideo Maru, resulting in the tragic loss of over 1,100 Australian prisoners of war and civilian detainees. On the 5th, she scored hits on a tanker in a convoy northbound from Manila. Her patrol ended on 22 July when she arrived at Fremantle for refit.
Sturgeon stood out of port, on 4 September, to begin her fifth war patrol in an area between Mono Island and the Shortland Islands in the Solomons group. On the 11th, she began patrolling west of Bougainville to intercept enemy shipping between Rabaul, Buka, and Faisi. The submarine fired four torpedoes at a large cargo ship, on the 14th, but missed with all. Three days later, she fired a spread at a tanker with two apparent hits. At 0536 hours on 1 October, Sturgeon sighted the 8,033-ton aircraft ferry Katsuragi Maru. A spread of four torpedoes was fired and resulted in three hits which sent the ship to the bottom. An escort depth charged the submarine for a while and then broke off to rescue survivors. Sturgeon moved south of Tetipari Island and patrolled there until she returned to Brisbane on the 25th for repairs and refit.
Sturgeon returned to sea and began patrolling in the Truk area on 30 November. She fired four torpedoes at a maw on 6 December and observed one hit. She missed hitting targets on the 9th and 18th. The ship withdrew from the area on 25 December 1942 and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 4 January 1943. She was in the yard from 14 January to 11 May for an overhaul.
Sturgeon's seventh war patrol began on 12 June and ended at Midway Island on 2 August. She sighted seven worthwhile targets but was able to attack only one. That occurred on 1 July when she fired a spread at a freighter and heard two hits, causing possible damage. The next patrol, from 29 August to 23 October, was equally unrewarding, and she returned to Pearl Harbor.
On 13 December 1943, Sturgeon sailed for Japanese home waters. She sighted a seven-ship convoy with four escorts on 11 January 1944. Finding an overlapping target, she fired four torpedoes, and the cargo ship Erie Maru went to the bottom. The submarine was forced to go deep to avoid a depth charge attack and was unable to regain contact with the convoy. Five days later, she attacked a freighter and a destroyer and heard four timed hits on the targets, but the Japanese did not record the attack. Sturgeon was pinned down all afternoon by counterattacks and cleared the area at 1855. Two attacks were made on a four-ship convoy on the 24th. One hit was registered on a maw from the first attack while the spread fired at the other merchantman sent the Chosen Maru to the bottom. Two days later, she made a fruitless attack on two freighters, and the submarine returned to Pearl Harbor, via Midway, for refit.
Sturgeon's next assignment was in the Bonin Islands area from 8 April until 26 May and included plane guard duty near Marcus Island during carrier strikes there. On 10 May, she attacked a convoy of five merchant ships and two escorts. She made two hits on a small freighter before the escorts and an enemy plane forced the submarine to go deep. Sturgeon finally came to periscope depth and trailed the convoy until the next morning when she made an end-around run and fired four torpedoes at a freighter. Three hits put Seiru Maru under in two minutes. The submarine swung around and fired her bow tubes at another ship. Two hits were recorded; and, when last seen, the target was dead in the water, smoking heavily. The submarine began plane guard duty on 20 May and rescued three airmen before heading for Midway two days later.
Sturgeon sailed for the Nansei Shoto on 10 June to begin her last war patrol. Only two worthy contacts were made, and they were heavily escorted. The first was an eight-ship convoy which she attacked on 29 June. Four torpedoes were fired at a large ship. Four hits on the 7,089-ton passenger-cargo ship Toyama Maru sent her up in flames and to the bottom. On 3 July, Sturgeon sighted a nine-ship convoy accompanied by air cover and numerous small escorts. She registered three hits on the cargo ship Tairin Maru that blew her bow off and holed her side. She rolled to starboard and sank. The submarine went deep and avoided the 196 depth charges and aerial bombs that were rained down upon her. She evaded the escorts and returned to Pearl Harbor on 5 August.
Sturgeon was routed to California for an overhaul and arrived at San Francisco on 15 August. On 31 December 1944, the sub shifted to San Diego and sailed on 5 January 1945 for the east coast. She arrived at New London on the 26th, and was assigned to SubRon 1. Sturgeon operated in Block Island Sound as a training ship until 25 October. She entered the Boston Navy Yard on 30 October and was decommissioned on 15 November 1945. Sturgeon was struck from the Navy list on 30 April 1948 and sold to Interstate Metals Corp., New York, N.Y., on 12 June for scrap.
Sturgeon received 10 battle stars for World War II service.
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