Roy Cornford - Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru - Part 2
Department of Veterans' Affairs
The submarine surfaced. The name of the submarine was the [USS] Growler and it attacked the destroyer. Luckily they fired two torpedoes at it head-on and one of the torpedoes hit it. That caused a fire and a lot of damage to start with, then the second torpedo they fired blew it up. Well, I was on deck when the first torpedo hit it and there was only a bright flash from that. And the Japanese guard near us says: "Oh, a fire on the island." And when the next torpedo hit that destroyer and it blew up he never said anything. But the prisoners near us said: "Hello, the island's blew up".
And then the panic started. That destroyer - that submarine pulled out of the chase then. As it surfaced to dodge depth charges they lost track of the convoy and the other three submarines attacked the convoy and they sank a transport ship near us. I was on deck and we saw all this. Then they sank a transport ship on the other side of us. And then there was an oil tanker about 500 metres from us and they sank it. But before it sank you could see the Japanese sailors trying to run along the deck in the burning oil and [then] it exploded. Then they sunk an oil tanker on the other side of us.
And then we copped one. Luckily the first torpedo hit the hull on the forward part of the ship which was full of rubber and that took most of the shock, but the big splash of water that came up over the deck washed us and roughed all up against the deck cabins and things like that. And the people down in the hull, the water poured down on top of them and of course they were screaming and panicking.
And then the second torpedo was only about 10 to 12 seconds later than that and it hit the engine room. And when it hit the engine room the ship sort of just dropped about 10 feet. And it sort of laid over on its side a bit like this a bit. But then all the Japanese were getting into the lifeboats and getting away and we were tossing rafts over. So many men were getting on each raft. And we got down to there was only one raft left and there was eight of us. And we said 'Well, we'll have a drink of water first. So we went and got a belly full of water and we tossed that raft over and we all jumped in the water and got [on] the raft.
We'd only got about 100 metres away from the ship and another Japanese naval boat came back flashing lights everywhere, and then it got torpedoed. And the concussion of those torpedoes hitting the ship affected our stomachs and I got as sick as anything and lost all the water I drank. Well then we got on the raft, eight of us, and we pushed our way away from the ship a bit, and all the rafts kept coming in close together and we were all pretty close together.