Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Memoriam - USS Wahoo (SS-238) - Sunk 11 October 1943

Commissioned in May, 1942, USS Wahoo (SS-238) had little success on her first two war patrols.

However, on 31 December, 1942, LCDR Dudley W. "Mush" Morton took command.
Over the next three war patrols, Wahoo attacked a number of Japanese ships, sinking twelve, despite the defective and unreliable torpedoes that plagued American submarines during the period.

In addition, Wahoo took time to stop and assist the crew of a becalmed fishing vessel, providing them with food and water.

On her seventh war patrol in the Sea of Japan in September 1943, Wahoo sank four more ships. However, she was apparently damaged during one of her attacks and began leaking oil.

While exiting her patrol area through the narrow La Perouse Strait on the northern end of the Japanese home islands, Wahoo was spotted by a shore battery, then by a Japanese anti-submarine aircraft, which reported seeing an oil slick on the surface which allowed them to spot the conning tower. The aircraft dropped two bombs and reported a "gushing of oil and bubbles." Over the next seven hours, Japanese aircraft conducted fourteen attacks, dropping a number of bombs. Japanese patrol ships also dropped depth charges. A translation of the Japanese attack report, along with photographs, is available online.

Wahoo was lost with all hands.

CDR Morton is credited with sinking 19 ships for a total of 55,000 tons, making him the third most successful submarine commander in World War II. He received four Navy Crosses, the last one posthumously.

Despite being lost before a reliable torpedo was in the hands of the submarine fleet, Wahoo ranks seventh among all submarines in World War II in terms of number of ships sunk.

Beginning in 1990, an international group began searching for Wahoo's final resting place. She was located in 2005 and based on the underwater photographs, positively identified in 2006. On 08 July 2007, the U.S. Navy, as part of a joint exercise with the Russian Navy, held a wreath-laying ceremony at the site of Wahoo's loss.


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