On April 20, 1943, the submarine spotted two merchantmen and approached for an attack. The next day, while on the surface, the Grenadier spotted and was spotted by a Japanese plane. As the ship submerged itself for safety, it was shaken by bombs, the Navy recounted, forcing the submarine to plummet to 267 feet below the surface.
While the hull and hatches were badly leaking, a fire had also broken out, causing more chaos, Lt. Cmdr. John A. Fitzgerald and five other men later recounted.
In the early morning hours of April 22, two Japanese ships were spotted in the distance. Robert W. Palmer, one of the sailors aboard the Grenadier when it was struck, wrote in “The Silent Service in World War II” that the men then used several types of firearms, including 20-millimeter guns, rifles, pistols and Tommy guns, to fire at another plane, which ultimately dropped a bomb nearby.
Before scuttling the submarine, the men destroyed a coding machine with hammers, Mr. Palmer said, adding that the torpedo data computer and radio gear were all intentionally damaged by the crew. Documents, he said, were thrown overboard with weighted bags.
All 76 crew members survived the attack, but they faced an uncertain future.
After the skipper ordered all men into the water, they were picked up by a Japanese armed merchant ship, Mr. Palmer said. They were taken to a commandeered Catholic school in Penang, Malaysia, where they were tortured.
“Beating, burning, breaking fingers with bamboo or pencils between them were perpetrated on the men by Japanese soldiers who sneered and joked,” Mr. Palmer wrote. The captives were forced to sit or stand in silence in an attention position, he said: “Any divergence resulted in a gun butt, kick, slug in the face or a bayonet prick.” The crew’s Japanese captors also used tactics like pushing the blade of a pen knife under the fingernails to get the men to talk about their submarine, he wrote.
“This was the beginning of 28 and a half months of similar treatment for most all of the crew and officers alike,” he said. Four Grenadier crew members died in Japanese captivity.