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Bonefish Beats the Odds


The first war patrol of the USS Bonefish (SS-223) covered a period of 44 days of which 29 were spent in the patrol area north of the Malay Barrier, in the central part of the South China Sea. During this time period, the submarines under the command of Ralph Christie, Commander Task Force Seventy-One, still used magnetic exploders and experienced numerous premature torpedo detonations. Christie complained to the Bureau of Ordnance that since the installation of the latest modification to the torpedo exploder, the percentage of prematures had increased from 1.71 percent to 13.5 percent. The odds were stacked against the Australia-based skippers. Lackluster torpedo performance caused unproductive patrols. The submarines USS Silversides (SS-236) and USS Grouper (SS-214) returned from unsuccessful patrols caused by premature detonations. Their skippers were bitter about the exploder problems. It was apparent that the exploder had not been improved. However, Bonefish, USS Bluefish (SS-222), and USS Finback (SS-230) managed to sink ships. Christie was particularly partial to Bonefish because he had chosen her for his new “flagship.” Under the captaincy of Tom Hogan, Bonefish had one of the most outstanding submarine patrols of World War II during her first patrol. She expended twenty-four Mark 14-3A torpedoes; the exploders were activated magnetically. She had thirteen high order hits (54.2%), four spread misses (16.7%), five misses due to control errors (20.8%), one torpedo prematured after thirteen seconds, and one torpedo ran erratically. Christie was elated with her results. His endorsement of her patrol credited Hogan with sinking 40,206 tons in six vessels and damaging one for 5,864 tons. Postwar examination of Japanese records would reduce these figures substantially. Nevertheless, all contacts made by Bonefish were exploited to the utmost. Christie commended Hogan’s intelligent and aggressive leadership and the fine teamwork of his capable officers and crew, which resulted in great damage to the enemy. On his arrival at Fremantle after Bonefish’s first patrol, Christie surprised Hogan by visiting the boat at seven thirty in the morning to give him a Navy Cross.

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