USS Tang (SS-563) -Balao-class; sank 33 ships. Was sunk in Oct.’44, 9 survived using momsen lung, 78 lost

During the war, submarines of the United States Navy were responsible for 55% of Japan’s merchant marine losses; other Allied navies added to the toll.  The war against shipping was the single most decisive factor in the collapse of the Japanese economy. Allied submarines also sank a large number of IJA troop transports, killing many thousands of Japanese soldiers and hampering the deployment of IJA reinforcements during the battles on the Pacific islands.

USS Barb – Gato-class, sank 17 enemy vessels.

They also conducted reconnaissance patrols, landed special forces and guerrilla troops and performed search and rescue tasks, especially in the Philippines.  The majority of the submarines involved were from the U.S. Navy, with the British Royal Navy committing the second largest amount of boats and the Royal Netherlands Navy contributing smaller numbers of boats.

The Allied submarine campaign is one of the least-publicized feats in military history, due in large part to the efforts of Allied governments to ensure their own submarines’ actions were not reported in the media.

USS Nautilus – Narwhal-class; Asia-Pacific Medal w/ 14 battle stars.

However, the U.S. Navy was poorly prepared for a submarine war against commerce. Although a few officers had anticipated such a role, in spite of the the prize rules, the submarine service had not trained for it. U.S. submarines were plagued by defective torpedoes during the first two years of war, whose faults were due in part to the design emphasis on their use against heavily armored warships. However, once the faults were remedied, the submarines sank over half the ships of the Japanese merchant marine.

USS Bowfin (SS-287) – Balao-class; sank 18 vessels; now a museum in Hawaii.

American submarines also enjoyed significant successes against warships, accounting for six fleet carriers. three escort carriers, a battleship, twelve cruisers, over 40 destroyers, and numerous lesser warships and auxiliaries. An estimated 182,000 Japanese soldiers were lost at sea from sunken transports. This was accomplished at a relatively low cost. Of the naval powers that constructed significant submarine forces, the Americans suffered the lowest casualties in the Second World War: 52 American submarines were lost, versus 74 British submarines lost, 90 Italian submarines lost, 128 Japanese submarines lost, and nearly 800 German U-boats sunk.  The 374 officers and 3131 men killed in American submarine operations constituted 13% of the submarine sailor corps, or over 1 in 7.

USS Sailfish – Sargo-class; originally the sunken USS Squalus.

 During the air strikes preceding the Gilberts invasion, the Pacific Fleet experimented with deploying submarines near target atolls to rescue downed aviators. This proved so successful  that the deployment of lifeguard submarines became a standard feature of carrier strike planning for the remainder of the war.

USS Wahoo (SS-238) – Gato-class; sunk by Japanese aerial bomb Oct.’43, awarded 6 battle stars

The Japanese Navy did not even establish an antisubmarine warfare school until March 1944. Convoying was adopted rather late in the war and too few ships and planes were assigned to escort duty.  Japanese depth charges were too small and were usually set too shallow, at least until one of the stupidest men* to ever darken the doors of Congress blurted out in a press conference why American submarines were able to evade counterattack.  The Japanese did make effective use of minefields and developed a working airborne magnetic anomaly detector (Jikitanchiki).

* Andrew Jackson May (June 24, 1875 – September 6, 1959) was a Kentucky attorney, an influential New Deal-era politician, and chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee during WWII, infamous for his rash disclosure of classified naval information that may have resulted in the losses of up to ten American submarines and up to 800 sailors, and his subsequent conviction for bribery. May was a Democratic member of the US House of representatives. 

The boats shown are merely examples of the submarines we had in the Pacific.  The article subject was requested by 56Packardman.  Thank you for suggesting it.  The information here was retrieved from the US, “Submarines of the World” by Robert Jackson and Wikipedia.

For those even more interested in submarines, our fellow blogger, The Lean Submariner, has many a sea going tale to tell you – ENJOY!