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#313 :: U.S. Navy Drafting Kit

December 17, 2004

Ca. 1926, drafting kit of Lt. John R. Craig, U.S.S. Grampus. My grandfather. This was sent home with his effects when his submarine went missing, presumed sunk by the Japanese Navy. Here’s a guest entry by his daughter, my mother, who informs me that since Naval Academy mechanical engineering class was called “steam” this was known as a “steam kit:”

The steam kit would not have gone with him on the U.S.S. Grampus, his last command. It was a piece of college gear that an officer would leave behind. It would have been something his mother, Clara Belle Rich Craig had kept when he finished the Academy and handed on to me. Now, TMI, including this from the John R. Craig webpage, put up by men from the ship named after him, with history of the vessel at:
http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/4386/jrcraig/craighist.html
LCDR John R. Craig, USN
Lieutenant Commander John Rich Craig was born in Jacksonville, Florida on September 3, 1906. He attended grade schools in Jacksonville and the Duval High School, then entered the U. S. Naval Academy from Florida in 1926. After graduation and commissioning in 1930, he was assigned to USS SARATOGA and served in her until March 1931, when he was ordered to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. He was detached from duty there in September 1931 and during the next four and one half years served successively in the carrier LEXINGTON, and destroyers NOA, SIMPSON, and LONG and the fleet oiler NECHES. In January 1936 he reported to the Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut for instruction in submarines. After completing that course in May 1936, he joined USS S-34 in Honolulu. In September 1937, he was transferred to USS S-24, serving in her until May 1938, when he returned to the United States …

Lieutenant Commander Craig had duty in the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, Washington, D. C. from June 1938 until December 1940, when he assumed command of USS R-17. In June 1942, he was ordered to duty on the staff of Commander, Submarines, Southwest Pacific, and on September 15, 1942, he assumed command of USS GRAMPUS. He was declared missing in action on March 22, 1943 when USS GRAMPUS was lost in the Southwest Pacific area. LCDR Craig was declared dead on March 23, 1944.

Lieutenant Commander Craig was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. He had received the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp, and the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal. For service in USS GRAMPUS, he received the Navy Cross with the following Citation:

“For extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of the USS GRAMPUS engaged in war patrols. Despite the great mental and physical strain of prolonged patrols in enemy-controlled waters, Lieutenant Commander Craig launched repeated, daring attacks on Japanese shipping, sinking two enemy transports and one cargo ship, totalling 24,000 tons, and damaging three enemy destroyers. His efficient and inspiring leadership and the loyal devotion to duty of the men under his command throughout the period made possible the successful accomplishment of a vital and hazardous mission.”

From the Class of 1930 The Lucky Bag, U.S. Naval Academy yearbook:
JOHN RICH CRAIG
“Jack”
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA
Jack hails from the sunny south– Jacksonville, Florida– and, as yet, will neither confirm nor deny the report that the city was named after him. At any rate, the call of the sea was too great for him to resist, and, accordingly, he entered the Naval Academy.
The first part of Plebe year slipped by uneventfully– and then! Well, anyhow– ’twas the night before the Army game at Chicago.
With this additional inspiration, Jack has always had an easy time with his studies. How we have envied his carefree writing of the letter during the evening study period!
His afternoons are taken up with his year around sport– gym– and it can truly be said that Jack has never been a member of the Radiator Club. Day after day one can find him working faithfully in the gymnasium as a member of the gym team should.
All in all, this light-haired blue-eyed son of the South had made a host of friends with his quiet manner and splendid character. A man among men– Jack– we wish you the best ‘o’luck in your chosen career– and great happiness with the wearer of that miniature.

and United States Submarine Operations in World War II by Theodore Roscoe (Naval Institute Press) places the Grampus in Brisbane in 1942: “Altogether some 24 fleet-type submarines, about half of them ‘temporary loans’ from Pearl Harbor, comprised the new Brisbane Force” which replaced the antiquated S-boats in the Guadalcanal campaign.
In 1943 she was in the Coral Sea: “To conduct her sixth war patrol, GRAMPUS departed for the Solomons area on February 9th. On the 10th she was ordered to return to Brisbane. She started out again on February 11th. After leaving her exercise target the following day, she was never heard from again.
Under the captaincy of Lieutenant Commander J.R. Craig, GRAMPUS had accomplished several important special missions during the Guadalcanal campaign. She landed coast watchers on Vella Lavella and Choiseul Islands, struck at the enemy’s convoys and probably damaged a good-sized transport and a destroyer. On February 14 she was directed to patrol in the Buka-Shortland-Rabaul area, the southern part of which was simultaneously patrolled by TRITON. A week later GRAMPUS was ordered to hunt in the waters east of Buka and Bouganville. On March 2 she was told to proceed toward Vella Lavella and enter Vella Gulf on the afternoon of March 5th. Her mission was to sink enemy shipping which might try to run westward through Blackett Strait in an attempt to escape United States surface forces scheduled to bombard Vella Lavella on March 6. GRAYBACK was to team up with GRAMPUS in this operation, and each was informed of the other’s assignment.
Both submarines were warned on the evening of March 5 that two enemy destroyers had been spotted heading from Faisi, off southeastern Bouganville, toward Wilson Strait, the passage between Vella Levella and Canongga. As it eventuated, these DD’s steamed through Blacket Strait into Kula Guldf where they were trapped and sunk by allied surface forces.
Grayback was apparently unable to contact this pair of destroyers. But on the night the warning was radioed, she sighted a silhouette in that part of Vella Gulf assigned to GRAMPUS. Assuming it was her sister submarine, GRAYBACK gave the silhouette a wide berth. She was unable to exchange recognition signals. Whether the vessel she sighted that night was Craig’s submarine remains a mystery.
On March 7, Brisbaine Headquarters, disturbed by the fact that no word had as yet come in from GRAMPUS, ordered the submarine to report her position. No answer. Again on the 8th Brisbane requestedword from GRAMPUS. The submarine made no reply. She was officially reported lost on March 22nd.
The Japanese reported one of their convoys attacked by a submarine in the Rabaul area on the afternoon of February 18th. In this action a freighter was damaged by Torpedo fire, and the escorts delivered a fierce counter-attack. The assaulted submarine may have been GRAMPUS.
According to Japanese records two of their sea planes sighted and attacked a U.S. submarine in the same area the following afternoon. Afterward a large spread of oil was sighted on the surface. The sea planes were confident of a kill. It seems possible, however, that GRAMPUS was caught and sunk by two destroyers which passed through Blackett Strait on the night of March 5th. An ominous oil slick was sighted in Blackett Strait the following day. Submariners believe that GRAMPUS went down fighting in a night-surface action with these men-of-war enroute to their own destruction in Kula Gulf.

from The Last Patrol by Harry Holmes (Airlife: U.K.)
On 2 October Grampus sailed from Fremantle for her fourth patrol, this time under a new skipper, Lt-Cmdr John R. Craig. She carried four Cast-watchers that were successfully landed on Vella Lavella and Choiseul Islands even though these areas were havily patrolled by the Japanese. On the 18th she claimed one torpedo hit on a light cruiser and also on this patrol she fired at a destroyer on 6 November. During this patrol was on the receiving end of some heavy anti-submarine activity having to withstand no fewer than 104 depth-charges in a number of attacks. She returned safely to Fremantle on 23 November 1942.
Her fifth war patrol began on 14 December and attacks were made on a freighter estimated at 6,000 tons and a destroyer on the 19th. On 10 January 1943 Grampus fired at two transports, one of 10,000 tons and the other of 8,000 tons and, although hits were claimed, these were never confirmed.
Grampus departed for her sixth war patrol on 9th February, but was ordered to return to Brisbane. One the 11th she sailed accompanied by the USS Grayback(SS-208), one of her sister ships, for the patrol on which Grampus was to disappear. Her orders were to sink any enemy vessels which were in transit through the Blackett Strait.
Japanese sources reported that a submarine, thought to be Grampus, torpedoed and damaged the 6,442-ton freighter Keiyo Maru on 19 February. A Japanese Navy Aichi E13A (Jake) seaplane of the 955th Air Group reported sinking a submarine on 19 February, but Grayback
reported a sighting of Grampus in her designated patrol area on 4 March.
The most likely cause of the loss of Grampus could have been the action of two Japanese destroyers, the Minegumo and the Murasame. The two were sunk by US surface ships on 6 March after conducting a supply mission to Japanese forces on Kolombagara and, after a alarge oil slick was sighted in the Blackett Strait where Grampus should have been, it can be assumed that the destroyers were responsible for the loss as they passed that way.
Grayback reported that she heard no depth-charging although she was only fifteen miles away, so another assumption is that Grampus was involved in gun action after being caught on the surface in the night of 5 March 1943.
The only definite fact is that John Craig and his seventy brave crewmembers were lost forever when Grampus went down with all hands. She was awarded three battle stars for her service and her name was struck from the Navy list on 21 June 1943.

He was awarded the Navy Cross for gallantry, the Purple Heart which is what you got for being dead and the Bronze Star, also for gallantry. The Navy launched and commissioned the U.S.S. John R. Craig, DD885, a destroyer escort, in his honor in 1944.

Filed under: symbol | Comments (3)

3 Comments

  1. Dale R. Ridder September 14, 2005 @ 9:32 pm

    Greetings Mack,

    My name is Dale Ridder, and I was in the Solomon Islands in May of 2002 with Dr. Robert Ballard, the man who found the Titanic, looking for John F. Kennedy’s PT-109. We also looked for the Grampus, but did not have enough time or sonar cable to do a thorough search. I am in the process of putting together an expedition to look for the Grampus in the Kolombangara area of the New Georgia group. I have been going through the patrol reports filed by your grandfather from his earlier war patrols, and believe that I now have a good idea on how he would have operated and where is the most likely search box. I would love to contact both your mother and you regarding this. My contact information is as follows: Dale R. Ridder, 40124 Lone Oak Road, Zion, Illinois, 60099, telephone 847-872-2308, email daledrr@earthlink.net. If you wish further information regarding me, do a Yahoo search for “dale ridder” and I appear under the PT-109 and HMS Britannic sites. If need be, I can supply more references, but I am already working with some people in both the Solomons and here to get the ball rolling.

    Sincerely Yours,
    Dale R. Ridder

  2. Henry "Hank" Lehtola April 5, 2006 @ 8:25 am

    I’ve printed and included this information on John R. Craig in our ships history. I was wondering how the family feels about a possible expedition to locate and disturb the grave site of JRC?
    Hank Lehtola
    U.S.S. JOHN R. CRAIG DD-885 REUNION ASSOCIATION
    Historian

  3. Kit Reed April 5, 2006 @ 11:19 am

    As you would imagine, I have mixed emotions.

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