Ellis Augsburger is pictured on his knees. Behind him are Art Raudenbush and Vilas Elzey standing with Chief Wheeler. (Photo submitted)
Ellis Augsburger is pictured on his knees. Behind him are Art Raudenbush and Vilas Elzey standing with Chief Wheeler. (Photo submitted)

AKRON – Ellis Augsburger will never forget a “close call” in World War II that took place nearly 75 years ago. Augsburger was aboard the USS Hawkbill, a Sturgeon-class attack submarine, a large sea turtle. Ironically the name perpetuated the inadvertent misspelling of “hawksbill” in the naming of the first ship of that name.

“A Japanese convoy came after us with their depth charges,” said Augsburger. “They blew our bow out of the water. We tried to get out of there but we ended up settling on the bottom, which was about 100 feet down. They flew back and forth over us until it was dark and then we came up.”

At that time Augsburger’s submarine was located at Subic Bay, a major ship repair, supply and rest and recreation facility of the Spanish Navy and subsequently the United States’ Navy located in Zambales, Philippines.

The Navy Exchange had the largest volume of sales of any exchange in the world, and the Naval Supply Depot handled the largest volume of fuel oil of any navy facility in the world.

“When we were involved in the Philippines, the water was much deeper,” said Augsburger. “The water was deep there.”

Augsburger said that he was actually drafted after he graduated from Hartford High School in Indiana. His recruit officer in Fort Wayne gave him papers to take home to sign.

In August of 1942, Augsburger was sent to Chicago but he received a surprise when it was discovered that he had a problem with his left eye.

“I am legally blind in that eye today,” said Augsburger. “I was working to be a flight cadet at that time but they want you have a good enough eye to land on a postage stamp in the ocean."

“At that I got in the Navy,” continued Augsburger. “I went to boot camp at Great Lakes. There they asked for volunteers for submarine duty. They said that it had 50 percent better pay and the best food in the Navy. That’s all I needed.”

Augsburger said that when they went down in the subs, they would only stay for a few hours because there was such a lack of oxygen under a certain amount of time.

Augsburger eventually picked up his submarine at New Orleans, passed through the Panama Canal and eventually ended up at Fremantle in Australia.

In the second World War, Fremantle was the home of the largest base for Allied submarines in the Southern Hemisphere, until the Americans moved on to the Philippines. It was during the time that Augsburger was located there that the war ended.

Augsburger, who moved back into the Adams County, Indiana, was married to Myrna and they had two children. From there on he was employed at Eastern Oil Supply in Geneva, Smith Brothers in Berne and Essex Wire in Fort Wayne.

He then obtained a job at Spector Freight Lines in Akron, Ohio, an area where he continues to live.