He served as torpedo man on the USS Finback, USS Fulton, USS Chub and USS George Washington in the Aleutian Islands, South Pacific, Philippines and China Sea. On watch at the helm Harry watched as a Japanese plane hurtled towards the sub intent on blowing them out of the water. After 20 years at sea Harry retired from the Navy and went to work for the Electric Boat Division of and rode boats out of the Cape Canaveral for 23 years.
In an interview with George Herold, Harry recalls the missions he was engaged in during the war, fear of depth charges, taking prisoners on board the sub, life on a submarine for months at a time and more. To learn more, listen to his interview, below. Download a full transcript of Harry and George's interview.
Interview - Harry Suomi
A torpedo man on the USS Finback, USS Fulton, USS Chub and USS George Washington, Harry served in the Aleutians, South Pacific, Philippines and China Sea.
George Herold and Harry Soumi Transcript Summary (full transcript available above)
[0:01:14] Service aboard the USS Finback, Harry’s service following the Aleutians
[0:03:55] George’s agreement to be taped
[0:04:14] Joining the Navy, service before Alaska, choosing to be on a submarine
[0:10:01] Signalman school in Pearl Harbor, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese miss hitting the submarine base, cleaning up after the bombing
[0:17:05] Service in California, then to Alaska via Washington state, arrival in Dutch Harbor the day after it was bombed, afterwards sent to Amchitka, sinking of the sub (S27) George was on off Amchitka
[0:20:30] Harry joins the conversation, continue discussion of the sinking of S27 off Amchitka --two men at a time rafted ashore, sub sinking, ferrying supplies off the sub, lodging in houses on the island until rescue
[0:27:28] rescue of personal affects, discovery of crew by a Navy pilot who was lost, death of the pilot who found the crew, life on Amchitka for five days before being taken to Dutch Harbor
[0:34:33] court marshal of Captain of S27 and later dropping all charges, on board the Finback after sinking of S27, patrol in the eastern Aleutians, attempt to attack a Japanese destroyer
[0:40:09] George returns to Pearl Harbor, Harry joins the Finback, second patrol to the East China Sea, third patrol to the Caroline Islands, Guam, Saipan area while under Japanese control, fourth patrol to the China Sea
[0:43:03] 90 men on the Finback, patrols lasted up to 89 days, trouble getting the hatch closed before a dive, Harry as the torpedo man on the sub, George as the Quartermaster, nearly getting blown up on Finback
[0:49:49] kills by Finback, Finback rescue of George Bush, getting used to being on a sub
[0:53:16] Amount of time each spent on subs, accident that ended George’s Naval career, after the Finback George transferred to the Picuda and was back in Pearl Harbor, Harry transferred to the Fulton and then the USS Chub, saw a lot of changes to subs in 20 years
[1:00:51] morale on the subs, Harry’s career after the war, George’s favorite time in the Navy, places visited while stationed together and the evidence of war at each stop
[1:07:47] Accommodations and food on the subs, patrols of 60 to 70 days, sleeping arraignments, painting the torpedoes
[1:13:06] How free time was spent on a sub, need to know every job on the sub, the Picuda picks up a Japanese soldier in the water after bombing his ship, other Japanese POWs they picked up
[1:19:00] Membership in the U.S. Submarine Veterans Ass, the sub cook, keeping in touch with sub mates
[1:26:00] hygiene while on patrol, nuclear subs, mail
[1:29:34] Loss of friends due to sinking of subs, outdoor activities enjoyed
[1:34:19] nuclear subs at Saint Mary’s Sub base, not letting on about being afraid of U-boats, good books on subs
[1:38:32] Sub magazine published by U.S. Submarines Veterans
Interview ends at [1:42:16]
Did You Know?
Anticipating a ground assault by the Japanese, the US military placed anti-personnel stakes in the ground on Amaknak Island during World War II. These stakes are made of iron, are very sharp and measure between 4 inches to 4 feet high.