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Hellcats, Hellpots,

& Hell’s Bells

Operation Barney had been executed as planned. The fact that the USS Bonefish had been lost to enemy depth charges was not yet known. During the Hellcats’ exit from the Sea of Japan via the La Perouse Strait, the crew aboard the USS Crevalle prepared to celebrate the second anniversary of her commissioning with a large birthday cake bearing an inscription which read, “Was This Trip Necessary?”

Most of the submariners aboard Crevalle were veterans who were looking forward to getting home alive after completing so many dangerous patrols previously. When they learned at sea that this mission would require them to plow through enemy straits seeded with hellpots (mines), using a new technology called FM sonar to find safe passage through the hellpot fields, most were very angry. After all they had been through, they were so close to being united with their families, and now this nightmarish assignment. The FM sonar sounded a bell-like tone that warned of impending contact with mines. It grew louder and shriller the closer the hellpot. The men dubbed this ominous warning “hell’s bells.”

Crevalle had a good patrol, sinking five vessels for 7,535 tons and damaging a lugger for 75 tons. Still the crew’s morale was poor as evidenced by the cake’s inscription. Did the operation’s tonnage scores justify the risks endured by the submariners and the loss of the Bonefish? Did the operation expedite Japan’s unconditional surrender? Was Operation Barney necessary?

Operation Barney Hellcats

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