George Brauch was a 19-year old errand boy for Bausch & Lomb when he joined the Navy on a whim in 1942. He became a Fire Control Petty Officer, but it was not exactly fighting fires on his submarine, USS Sterlet (SS-392).
“It had to do with the firing of the torpedoes,” says Brauch.
And advanced torpedoes for that time. They had an early electro-mechanical computer onboard that he ran. Brauch and his shipmates spent most of their time in the Pacific sinking Japanese merchant ships.
“You’d track the target, and when the time was right when the computer said so, you’d fire.”
And then would come the depth charges, underwater bombs, from the angry enemy ships. “That was the bad part about submarine duty,” he adds.
52 US submarines were lost during World War II, and roughly one of every five submariners died in the war. Brauch says his job field was the deadliest, losing friends in the remote deep of the Pacific.
“Anytime (a sub) goes down, they don’t know if it’s ever going to come back up.”
Brauch pulled into San Francisco on V-J Day, and the crew was granted long-awaited liberty for the day. “And there was nothing open, everything was closed down tighter than a drum!” he laughs.
After the war, Brauch worked his way up to being a supervisory engineer at Kodak, retiring in 1983. For his military service, he’s not looking for any special recognition, saying it was a job he had to do.
There’s just one request he has for his fellow Americans: “Have patriotism. Be willing to step up for the county.”