Sometime In 1944
by Max Horton
Tempest Class Sub
The submarine "Tactician", a Super "T", was on patrol in the region of Sabang. The Captain, "Farmer" Collett, had orders to proceed to Sabang, but to remain on the surface after dawn, to act as "air sea rescue boat". Reason being that the combined Fleet Air Arm, namely H.M.S. Victorious and U.S.S. Saratoga were to raid the oil installations at Sabang.
Dead on time they came, the combined Fleet Air Arm; British and Yanks. What a grandstand view we had of a most successful operation; it must have blazed for weeks.
Our job was to pick up any pilots shot down; the Japanese treatment of shot down pilots was indescribable. All the pilots had been given our position and told that, should they have to ditch, to try to do it near us, to be picked up.
One American, Lt. Klahn, found his stern piece was alight, so he had no alternative but to ditch in the drink, regardless. Tactician's lookouts were all about, a bearing was taken, 380 revs passed to the engine room post haste to do as was our orders.
The fact that the boat came under fire from shore batteries did not deter our Captain, Lt. Cdr. Collett, from carrying out his orders.
Ably assisted by Lt. Klahn's fellow pilots, we “hoved to” under fire from shore batteries. We came alongside, almost, our stern swung away, Jimmy and Second Coxswain P.O. McNally were in a fix, target (the pilot) drifting away by this time. P.O. McNally tied one end of a heaving line to his body, passed the gash end to Jimmy and me, then dived into the "ogin" to drag said pilot, who, hampered by his Mae West, was making little headway toward us. On reaching the pilot, he had the combined efforts of Jimmy and me. Still under fire from shore batteries, McNally achieved a "Johnny Weissmuller" and soon we had them both aboard - "Rev up Stokes, let's get the hell out of here!"
We got everyone below and then dived. The operation was complete, the planes had returned to their carriers, some 300 miles distant. Tactician on the surface that night (charging) had a super view of the burning oil - well, the officers and the lookouts did, no doubt.
In passing, it's time to say who we picked up; none other than Lt. Klahn, son of the Commander of the Saratoga.
The rest of the patrol was uneventful, some three weeks later we returned to Trinco.
A certain Commander U.S. Navy was first over the plank, followed by cartons of "Lucky Strikes" and ice cream. He shook hands with the entire crew. There followed an invitation to all (bar duty watch) aboard U.S.S. Saratoga. The hospitality abounded (no drinks of course; U.S. ships are dry).
The grand finale of an unusualy patrol was when watching a film on the vast deck, after big eats, the Captain of Saratoga spoke: "Men of the Saratoga, sitting among you tonight are some of the bravest men of the British Submarine Service, who snatched our Lt. Klahn from certain death by torture from the Japs at Sabang."
19 April, Wed.
Allied naval force (Admiral Sir James F. Somerville, RN, Commander in Chief, British Eastern Fleet), including U.S. carrier Saratoga (CV-3) and three U.S. destroyers, strikes Japanese positions and shipping at Sabang, N.E.I., in Operation COCKPIT. In this, the first operation in which Pacific Fleet units operate alongside British units in offensive action in the Indian Ocean, carrier aircraft from Saratoga and HMS Illustrious sink minelayer Hatsutaka, transport Kunitsu Maru and army transport Haruno Maru. Pilot (VF 12) of only plane (from Saratoga) shot down by antiaircraft fire is picked up by British submarine HMS Tactician, which braves shore battery fire to do so.
By the middle of April the force was moving across the Indian Ocean to attack the Jap held base of Sabang, on the northern tip of Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies. On the 19th of April, 1944, the combined aircraft of both carriers blasted oil refineries, huge storage tanks and transportation facilities. Highlighting the raid was the cool rescue work of H.M.S. Tactician-a British submarine-which went close along the shore to pick up pilots who were shot down and forced to make crash landings.