Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Convent Light Street Penang

The Penang Convent Light Street school was used to a POW internment camp during the war. On April 22,1943 U.S.S. GRENADIER SS210 was sunk by an airplane off the coast of Sumatra. Survivors were taken POW and taken to Penang and the convent Light Street held in cognito for about 3 or so months while being interragated by the Japs. During the captivity, the prisoners scratched their names on the walls of the buildings.

USS Grenadier (SS-210), a Tambor-class submarine, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the grenadier fish, relatives of cod that are very common in bathyal and abyssal habitats.

Her keel was laid down by Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine, in April 1940. She was launched on 29 November 1940 sponsored by Mrs. Walter S. Anderson, wife of the Director of Naval Intelligence and commissioned on 1 May 1941 with Lieutenant Commander Allen R. Joyce in command.

The submarine departed Australia on 20 March on her last war patrol and headed for the Strait of Malacca, gateway between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Patrolling along the Malay and Thai coasts, Grenadier claimed a small freighter off the island of Phuket on 6 April. She remained in the area and late in the night of 20 April sighted two merchantmen and closed in for the attack. Running on the surface at dawn 21 April, Grenadier spotted, and was simultaneously spotted by, a Japanese plane. As the sub crash dived, her skipper, Commander John A. Fitzgerald commented "we ought to be safe now, as we are between 120 and 130 feet (40 m)." Just then, bombs rocked Grenadier and heeled her over 15 to 20 degrees. Power and lights failed completely and the fatally wounded ship settled to the bottom at 267 feet (81 m). She tried to make repairs while a fierce fire blazed in the maneuvering room.

After 13 hours of sweating it out on the bottom Grenadier managed to surface after dark to clear the boat of smoke and inspect damage. The damage to her propulsion system was irreparable. Attempting to bring his ship close to shore so that the crew could scuttle her and escape into the jungle, Commander Fitzgerald even tried to jury-rig a sail. But the long night's work proved futile. As dawn broke, 22 April, Grenadier’s weary crew sighted two Japanese ships heading for them. As the skipper "didn't think it advisable to make a stationary dive in 280 feet of water without power," the crew began burning confidential documents prior to abandoning ship. A Japanese plane attacked the stricken submarine; but Grenadier, though dead in the water and to all appearances helpless, blazed away with machine guns. She hit the plane on its second pass. As the damaged plane veered off, its torpedo landed about 200 yards (200 m) from the boat and exploded.

Opening all vents, Grenadier’s crew abandoned ship and watched her sink to her final resting place. A Japanese merchantman picked up eight officers and 68 enlisted men and took them to Penang, Malay States, where they were questioned, beaten, and starved before being sent to other prison camps. They were then separated and transferred from camp to camp along the Malay Peninsula and finally to Japan. Throughout the war they suffered brutal, inhuman treatment, and their refusal to reveal military information both frustrated and angered their captors. First word that any had survived Grenadier reached Australia on 27 November 1943. Despite the brutal and sadistic treatment, all but four of Grenadier’s crew survived their two years in Japanese hands.

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