Last updated: May 4, 2022
USS Pampanito (SS-383) is a World War II Balao class fleet submarine built in 1943 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. A member of the elite force of U.S. submarines that helped turn the tide of World War II in the Pacific, Pampanito made six patrols during World War II. The vessel sank six Japanese ships and damaged four others, with a total of more than 27,000 tons of enemy shipping sunken. During its first two patrols, Pampanito narrowly escaped destruction. While attacking an enemy convoy on the first patrol, Pampanito was spotted, severely depth charged and damaged. On Pampanito's second patrol, while patrolling off the coast of Japan, alert lookouts spotted two torpedo wakes approaching allowing enough time to avoid them.
During Pampanito's third, and most well known, patrol the sub operated as part of a wolf-pack consisting of USS Growler (SS-215) and USS Sealion (SS-315). On the morning of September 12, 1944, the pack attacked a convoy carrying war production materials of oil and raw rubber. Unknown to the skippers, the convoy also carried more than 2,000 British and Australian prisoners of war. On September 15th, Pampanito moved back to the area of the original attack and found men clinging to makeshift rafts. As the sub moved closer, the men were heard to be shouting in English. Pampanito was able to pick up 73 men and called in three other subs in the area to assist with the rescue. For World War II service, Pampanito earned six battle stars. She was decommissioned in 1945.
In the conflict against Japan in World War II, the role and importance of the submarine forces of the United States cannot be overestimated. American submarines sank more than 600,000 tons of enemy warships and more than 5,000,000 tons of merchant shipping, thus destroying much of Japan's ocean commerce. This was accomplished by a force that never numbered more than two percent of naval personnel engaged in the war. The American submarine war against Japan created a blockade that denied the country oil, iron ore, food and other raw materials needed to continue to fight. The USS Pampanito is now one of the most popular historic vessels in the country, welcoming nearly 200,000 visitors each year.
The USS Pampanito, a National Historic Landmark, is located at Pier 45 in the center of Fisherman's Wharf, in San Francisco. The submarine is now a floating museum.
Discover more history and culture by visiting the World War II in San Francisco Bay Area travel itinerary.