April 5th returning from a night shelling deep in the New Georgia area, the sound gear picks up a contact that turns out to be a large Japanese submarine cruising on the surface and apparently unaware of our presence. The Japanese lookouts must have fallen asleep. We approach rapidly and are preparing to ram the sub. Those on the bridge are trying to identify it by type and decide at the last minute that it is a minelayer. Not wanting to blow ourselves up along with the sub, a quick decision is made not to ram the sub. At the last moment, the rudder was swung hard to avoid a collision and we find ourselves, rather embarrassed, sailing along side the sub.
On board the sub, sailors in dark shorts and dinky blue hats are sleeping on deck and awaken to see an American destroyer along side. Our ship is too close to the sub to allow any of our guns to be depressed enough to fire at the sub and of course no one on deck ever carries a hand gun. Ditto on the Japanese sub, no one there has anything to fire there either. This is the kind of event that, at the time, no one seems to have any idea of what to do and everyone just stares and seems spellbound.
The Japanese sailors do have a gun a 3-inch deck gun and finally decide to use it. Seeing this our deck parties grab potatoes out of the storage bins that are located close by and throw them at the Japanese on the deck of the sub. A potato battle ensues. Apparently the Japanese sailors think the potatoes are hand grenades so they keep busy throwing them back and over the side. This keeps them from manning their deck gun until we can put enough distance between our ship and the sub. As we move away, our guns are now able to be brought to bear. One of our shells manages to hit the subs conning tower but the sub is able to submerge anyway. At this time we are able to pass directly over the sub for a depth charge attack. Later information shows that we did indeed sink the sub. When the Association of Potato Growers of Maine heard of this episode, they sent a plaque to commemorate the event. The plaque was mounted in an appropriate place near the crews mess hall for all to see.