role in WWII focus of new book
started as a “filler” for the Queensland Maritime Museum’s newsletter
is now the first book to be written about Brisbane’s role as
a key base for the
USS Growler at the submarine base in New Farm, Brisbane.
Courtesy Peter Dunn Australia@War
United States’ submarines during the Pacific Campaign of World
US Subs Down Under: Brisbane 1942 - 1945 was co-written by museum
members, Peter Nunan and David Jones, and published by the US
The book was launched in Australia on March 21 by Her Excellency
the Governor of Queensland, Quentin Bryce AC, and coincided
with the 60th anniversary of the closure of the Brisbane submarine
base (on March 11, 1945).
About 70 US submarines docked in Brisbane during World War 11
for maintenance and repairs.
For the last three months of 1942, there were as many submarines
sailing on patrol from Brisbane as there were from the main
US base at Pearl Harbor.
“I was editing the museum newsletter and looking for a filler
when I found a passing reference to the first group of US submarines
to arrive in Brisbane during the Pacific Campaign,” Peter explained.
“I was a boy in Brisbane at that time and quite familiar with
the Yanks, yet I had no idea that any US submarines were based
Peter’s interest in the subject coincided with that of fellow
Museum member and published author, David Jones. The two pooled
their knowledge and resources, and took six years to research
and write the book.
Released in the United States late last year and widely praised
by the reviewers there, the book chronicles a vital chapter
in the United States’ wartime strategy in the Pacific. Brisbane
was associated with one of the most dramatic US submarine actions
of the day – that of USS Growler.
Early in 1943, Growler was rammed by a Japanese warship off
Rabaul, and its bow was bent at right angles. To spare his crew,
CMDR Howard Gilmore (wounded while on deck) gave the command
to dive, effectively sacrificing his own life.
He became the first American submariner to receive the Congressional
Medal of Honor, the USA’s highest military award for bravery.
Growler came straight to Brisbane for urgent repairs – and the
dockers at Evans Deakins’ shipyards at South Brisbane added
their own artistic touch before sending her on her way.
Using large nickel plates, they created a kangaroo icon (which
they attached to the submarine’s bow) and dubbed her “The Kangaroo
The kangaroo became Growler’s mascot.
Another memorable submarine was USS S46 which left Brisbane
ready for action only to be immobilised for six days off Townsville.
The ship’s cook came down with the mumps and an onboard epidemic
Historic images throughout the book also reveal much about the
men who manned the US submarines during the war.
As well as hosting children’s Christmas parties in Brisbane,
they made the most of rest breaks at camps and guest houses
at Redcliffe, Toowoomba and the Gold Coast.