Sixty-five years ago today, the last U.S. submarine sunk during World War II , the USS Bullhead (SS -332), met its watery end while on patrol between the tropical Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombok.
Overshadowed by another historic event that occurred that day — the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima in the world’s first nuclear attack — the USS Bullhead could have been just another Wikipedia entry.
Instead, the boat and all 84 crewman who died at the hands of a Japanese bomber will be remembered in a ceremony at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in an unlikely place — USS Bullhead Memorial Park in landlocked Albuquerque.
World War II submariner Jim Simmons of Albuquerque said the Bullhead, and every other sub lost in the war, was assigned to a state (New York and California each got two) by the United States Submarine Veterans organization during the mid-1980s in an effort to commemorate the subs and the men who served aboard them.
Simmons, who was state commander of the sub vets organization at the time, said New Mexico was assigned the Bullhead.
Through the efforts of his group and the city of Albuquerque, a memorial — featuring three inert World War II -era torpedoes and two plaques bearing the names of the men who died aboard the sub — was built in the sub’s namesake park, located at the southern end of San Pedro and adjacent to the Veterans Affairs hospital campus.
Saturday’s commemoration, organized by the local chapter of the United States Submarine Veterans, will feature a “tolling of the bell” ceremony and a reading of the names of the sailors who perished, said Simmons, who served as a torpedoman aboard the USS Ray during World War II.
Albuquerque sub veteran Dick Brown has compiled a brief history of the USS Bullhead which, from its commissioning to its sinking, survived for eight months and two days.
The Bullhead, commissioned on Dec. 4, 1944, began her third wartime patrol on July 31, 1945, from Fremantle, Australia. It was to patrol the Java Sea with two other U.S. subs — the USS Capitaine (SS-336) and USS Puffer (SS-268) — as a wolf pack until Sept. 5, 1945, when it was to dock at Subic Bay in the Philippines.
On the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, the sub radioed that it had passed through Lombok Strait, between Bali and Lombok islands. It was never heard from again.
A Japanese Army aircraft reported sinking a sub with two direct bomb hits in that exact area at 8:03 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, and is presumed to be the plane that sunk the Bullhead.
All 84 sailors on board, including the ship’s commander, Lt. Cmdr. Edward Holt, are presumed to have perished in the attack.