When one enters into military service, one does so knowing that there is a possibility that they may be killed while engaged with an enemy. Unfortunately, there is also the risk that one may be killed accidently by their own comrade-in-arms. Charles Robert Maus was the victim of just such an incident.
The Maus family immigrated to Tuscarawas County in the middle of the 1800s. Charles Robert Maus’s (1924-1944) great-great-grandparents were born in Germany in the early 1800s, but his great-grandfather John (1854-1925) and his siblings were all born in Ohio. Charles father, Herbert Maus (1901-1970), served as a shipfitter in the United States Navy during World War One and decided to work in a steel mill in Steubenville after the war. Herbert married Helena Sisco (1896-1984) in 1923, and the couple began to raise a family.
When the Maus family appears in Tuscarawas County in the 1940 census, it consisted of Herbert and Helena, and four children living in a home on Front Street in New Philadelphia. Charles was the oldest of the four and was attending school when World War Two broke out. Charles (sometimes referred to as “Buddy” or Robert) enlisted in early 1942 and, not surprisingly, chose to serve in the Navy.
Charles underwent his basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training School in Great Lakes, Illinois. Upon completion of his basic training, Charles volunteered to serve as a submariner and was sent for further training at New London, Connecticut. He completed that training in November 1942 and was subsequently assigned to the USS Seawolf (SS-197) then undergoing an overhaul at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California.
USS Seawolf (SS-197) was laid down in September 1938 at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. The submarine was launched in August 1939 and commissioned on 1 December 1939. After its shakedown cruise, the submarine sailed to Manila Bay, Philippines and operated from the Cavite Navy Yard. When World War Two began, the submarine began its first war patrol during the month of December 1941. The USS Seawolf was in active service from the beginning of the war, right up until it was sent to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in December 1942 for an overhaul, having already sunk a number of Japanese vessels.
The USS Seawolf wasted no time getting back into action once its overhaul was completed. Charles Maus was assigned the role of Signalman, a role that had him sending and receiving messages between ships using signal lights or semaphores. During its tours of 1943 and 1944, Seawolf sank and damaged numerous enemy ships as well as assisted in intelligence gathering for future missions. Its patrol in October 1944, designed to land a small intelligence gathering force of Americans on a Japanese-held island, would prove to be its last.
Seawolf began its 15th patrol in September 1944 carrying, in addition to its own crew, 17 United States Army personnel to the east coast of the island of Samar. The morning of October 3, 1944 Seawolf and another submarine, Narwhal, exchanged early morning signals. Later the same day a Japanese submarine attacked and sunk the USS Shelton, a destroyer escort, nearby. In order not to accidentally fire on friendly submarines while hunting the Japanese sub, allied submarines in the area were ordered to give their positions. While others did, Seawolf was not heard from. The next day Seawolf was again ordered to report its position but never did. In the meantime, the American destroyer Richard M. Rowell, and an aircraft, attacked and sunk a submarine in the area of the sinking of the Shelton, not aware of any allied submarines in the vicinity. Records, both American and Japanese, support the theory that it was the Seawolf that was sunk by the Richard M. Rowell.
Like his father, Charles Robert Maus chose to serve his country as a sailor. The dangers of the sea are well known to sailors, and were certainly well known to Charles. He had the honor to serve on one of the most prolific submarines in the United States Navy, and shared in its successes. Submariners are a different breed of sailor, a breed that knows their ship may very well serve as their tomb. For Charles Robert Maus, and 99 other men aboard the Seawolf on October 3, 1944, that was exactly their fate.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.