Navy Captain Edward L. Beach Jr. began his April 1957 Proceedings article, “Unlucky in June: Hiyō Meets Trigger,” with these words: “The year was 1943, the day June 10th; the place Tokyo Bay; the antagonists a Japanese Carrier Task Force and a U.S. submarine. To both Japanese and Americans, the battle came suddenly, without warning, and to both it brought near disaster.”
In 1954, Beach had received a letter from retired Japanese Captain Takeo Yasunobu, who had been chief of staff for the Second Carrier Division, which included the Hiyō and Junyō. Beach had been engineering officer on board the USS Trigger (SS-237). They shared their memories. In this edited excerpt from the article, Beach recalled:
Near sunset on 10 June the periscope watch sighted smoke. The next look showed the superstructure of an aircraft carrier, bows on, approaching at an estimated 21 knots. A lean and deadly destroyer patrolled either bow. Our skipper snapped quick looks at them between observations of the target, for they represented our greatest danger. The carrier was zigzagging with wide sweeps, but we were, by chance, exactly athwart his base course.
As the enemy approached, we prepared for a rough time.
“Down ’scope! Watch your depth! Destroyer passing overhead.”
The chopping, roaring, drumming beat rises louder, freezes us in hypnotic rhythm. The destroyer is right overhead. Louder, shriller, the cacophonic rhythm echoes through the metal of the ship. Are we deep enough for him to pass clear? Are we sure of his draft? Or will he strike us, careen us over, open our hull with his slashing bronze propeller blades?
And then, the drop in pitch; he’s going away now. Time to get torpedoes in the water.
“There’s the target! Bearing, mark!”
The Trigger had steeled herself for this moment. The tension, and the perspiration, are at their maximum. Our torpedoes arrow straight on the target.
“Stand by forward! Up ’scope! Mark! Down ’scope.”
Six torpedoes arrow into the frothy gray ocean, broadside onto the carrier.
Captain Yasunobu captured the moment on board the Hiyō:
At that time, just two minutes before sunset, the duty officer on the bridge saw the big white bubbles of torpedoes in the middle of the calm cobaltic seas, and on the right at about 4,500 feet from the ship. He cried “Torpedoes! This direction.” We looked at it, six white tracers were coming at us. The commanding officer ordered to destroyers by signal flag, “Attack the enemy submarine.”
Beach then picked up the story on the Trigger:
“Take her deep. Three hundred feet! Rig for depth charge! Run silent.”
I could see Captain Benson’s feet going around the periscope in the conning tower above my head. The skipper is looking at the target when a loud, rather high-pitched, tinny explosion shakes the ship. A hit! Cheers—we raise clenched fists in yells of victory. Seconds later, another explosion. The Trigger is already on the way down, and her hull resounds with the beat of the destroyer propellers speeding toward us. Two more hits are heard.
Captain Yasunobu continues:
The first and second torpedoes passed before the bow. The fourth hit under the right hawse hole. The fifth one hit, but its head dropped from the body and flew along the side. The last hit damaged us vitally. It broke the first boiler room and the bulkhead of the second and killed all the crew in the first room and half in the second. These rooms took in water. All fire was put out and all steam went out. The ship stopped.
Then came the depth charges. The Trigger, heavy with water and going deeper, was submerged for 16 hours, running at creeping speed, fighting to maintain stability. When she finally surfaced, the enemy gone, she made her way back to Pearl Harbor. Unlucky Hiyō limped slowly to Yokosuka.