Coye, John S. Jr., Rear Adm., USN (Ret.)
After graduation from the Naval Academy in 1933, Admiral Coye served in the cruiser USS Northampton (CA-26) and destroyer Monaghan (DD-354). Submarine school in 1937 was followed by service in the submarine Shark (SS-174) as engineer until 1941. He then helped put the mothballed submarine R-18 (SS-95) into commission and succeeded to command during patrols off Panama. The highlight of his career came during command of the USS Silversides (SS-236) on six successful war patrols, accounting to 14 confirmed sinkings of Japanese ships. After that Coye was submarine PCO instructor for two years and served on the staff of Commander Operational Development Force. Subsequent commands were the tender USS Fulton(AS-11) and Submarine Squadron Eight. After attending the Naval War College and serving on the staff of Commander Second Fleet, Admiral Coye commanded the heavy cruiser Rochester (CA-124), the Seventh Fleet flagship. While serving in the Strike Warfare Division in OpNav, Coye was selected for rear admiral, then served as Commander Naval Forces Marianas from 1961 to 1963. Later flag tours included duty as Commander Amphibious Group Three, staff of CinCSouth, and Commander Training Command Atlantic Fleet. He retired in 1968.
Transcripts of this oral history are available in many formats including bound volumes, and digital copies.Order Oral History
In this audio excerpt from his oral history, Rear Admiral Coye describes the tenth war patrol of the Silversides, the sinking of three Japanese ships off the Marianas in May 1943, and the lingering fearful memories of depth charges.
(Note: Due to edits, corrections, and/or amendments to the original transcription draft, there are some inconsistencies between the recording and the text.)
Commander Kitchen: So, we're coming up on your fifth patrol now.
Rear Admiral Coye: Right. My fifth, which was the Silversides’ tenth. We left Brisbane on the 26th of April. In this patrol I had a new executive officer. My previous one, Bob Worthington, who had done so well and was so good with torpedo data computer had been relieved to go back and get his own boat. Then the fellow who relieved him was Chuck Leigh, out of the class of ‘39, who had had command of an S-boat. Instead of staying on the S-boat a little longer and normally waiting to get his own boat, he wanted to get experience in a fleet submarine more in a war zone. He volunteered for the Silversides, and I was extremely happy to get him. He turned out to be a very fine executive officer. He was most aggressive; he had in Academy times been a wrestling champion, and he was very popular with the crew and yet he ruled them with an iron hand. He was an all-around fine officer. He was a good navigator. He could go up and shoot a few stars and get us a position within minutes, whereas Bob Worthington was a good navigator but he was more meticulous. He would shoot at least five stars and take a little longer to work them out. But you could know that you were within a half mile of where he said you were. Anyhow, I was glad to get Chuck Leigh. He was an excellent officer.
So, we left Brisbane and headed up along the coast through the Vitiaz Strait and the Admiralty Islands and headed up for an area in the Marianas. Our first part of the patrol was off Guam. Later I was to become more familiar with Guam. We were patrolling off Port Apra in Guam, a submerged patrol, and we sighted a convoy. It was heavily escorted. It had at least five escorts and we made a periscope attack, and we heard one hit. By this time in the stern tubes we were carrying the electric torpedoes, the Mark 18, which supposedly are wakeless, but they don't go as fast as the steam torpedoes. Anyhow, we heard one hit and then were forced deep by the escorts. We got credit for damaging one ship.
The next day we sighted a seven-ship convoy standing out of Port Apra, and it had quite a few escorts. We decided that we would give this convoy a night attack. So, we headed down the convoy's track and watched for the convoy smoke and then surfaced as soon as we were out of sight of the convoy, about 5:00 o'clock. We made contact with the convoy that night and tracked it and then we dove for attack just before dawn. We made attacks and fired six torpedoes and we were able to sink three ships out of the convoy with that.
Commander Kitchen: Is that the famous day of May 10?
Rear Admiral Coye: Yes, that's May 10th. We were very heavily depth charged after that attack, because this was a submerged attack and we had two barrages of about 25 depth charges each. I think what had happened was one of the ships we had sunk had been an escort, a gunboat, converted escort, and when it sank, all its depth charges went off at once.
Commander Kitchen: How far were you down?
Rear Admiral Coye: Oh, by this time we were down to our usual evasion depth of around 300 feet.
Commander Kitchen: It still gives you an awful shaking up, doesn't it?
Rear Admiral Coye: Oh yes.
Commander Kitchen: Terrible. Do you want to put in the names of those three ships, Admiral?
Rear Admiral Coye: Yes, if you want. The names of those ships were the Okinawa Maru, Mikage Maru #18, and the Choan Maru #2. The Choan Maru #2 was the gunboat. The Mikage Maru #18 I have a picture of because it didn't sink right away. So one ship, the Mikage Maru, hadn't sunk. We were getting ready in the afternoon to surface and try to sink it by gunfire, but about the time we were getting ready to surface, an airplane started circling it. Of course, we were not very far from Guam. While we were getting ready to fire another torpedo into her, why, it sank of its own accord, going down bow first. So, we took pictures of that. Next, we headed up toward Saipan.
 Lieutenant Charles F. Leigh, USN.
About this Volume
Based on two interviews conducted by Etta-Belle Kitchen in September 1982, the volume contains 203 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The transcript is copyright 1983 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on its use.