Monday, April 18, 2011

In Memoriam - USS Gudgeon (SS-211) - Declared Lost - 07 June 1944

USS Gudgeon (SS-211) was a Tambor-class submarine commissioned on April 21, 1941. Her initial assignment after shakedown was at Pearl Harbor. She was away on a training mission when the base was attacked on December 7, 1941. She immediately returned to base and on December 11 she was sent on her first war patrol. This photograph shows Gudgeon as she appeared in the Summer of 1941, just before the war started:

Gudgeon was a submarine of “firsts.” She was the first American submarine to be sent on an offensive war patrol. She was the first American submarine to patrol along the Japanese coast itself. On January 27, 1942 Gudgeon became the first American submarine to sink an enemy warship in World War II, the Japanese submarine I-73.

Gudgeon would eventually complete 11 successful war patrols. She tallied a total of 14 confirmed kills equaling 71,372 tons sunk. She won the Presidential Unit Citation and earned 11 battle stars.

Gudgeon got underway for her 12th war patrol on April 4, 1944. After stopping at Johnston Island on April 7, 1944 for fuel, she was not seen or heard from again. On 7 June 1944, Gudgeon was officially declared overdue and presumed lost.

A postwar examination of Japanese records did not uncover an attack that could be tied to Gudgeon's loss with certainty.

However, a recent book, Find 'Em, Chase 'Em, Sink 'Em by Mike Ostland, ties Gudgeon's loss to an experimental Japanese ASW aircraft squadron, the 901st Kokutai, deployed to the Iwo Jima area with a MAD, or Magnetic Anomaly Detector. This would have allowed the Japanese aircraft to detect a submerged submarine, and according to Japanese records for this squadron, a MAD-equipped aircraft detected a submarine during the night of April 17-18, 1944 and tracked the submarine all night. As dawn approached, a bomber, with a pair of 250-KG (600 lb) bombs was sent to attack the sub. According to the Japanese records, both bombs struck...

"...the first hit the bow and the second hit the bridge. [A] big yellow-green explosion was seen in the center of the boat."

Fuel was observed spouting from the submarine in a "big pillar", then spreading in a large pool as the submarine foundered.

While is is not definative proof, this report does provide the best clues to Gudgeon's loss.

USS Gudgeon escutcheon courtesy of Mike Ostlund, author of Find 'Em, Chase 'Em, Sink 'Em. Photograph courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Center, Washington Navy Yard, DC


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