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Tarpon Scores

A Commerce Raider


The USS Tarpon's ninth war patrol was conducted off the coast of Honshu with Tom Wogan at the helm. On the night of October 17, 1943, while patrolling the approaches to Yokohama, Tarpon encountered a mysterious unescorted vessel, making sixteen knots through her patrol area. Wogan tentatively identified the ship as a large auxiliary. From periscope depth, Wogan closed to a firing position 1,500 yards off the target's port beam. He fired a spread of four Mark 14-3A torpedoes. Two of them hit and severely damaged the ship. Nevertheless, it turned and charged directly for Tarpon. Wogan took the boat deep, passed under the charging ship, and came back to periscope depth astern of the target. He fired two tricky single torpedo shots "up the kilt," but both fish missed. The enemy ship then opened furious fire at Tarpon with machine guns and six-inchers. The heavier projectiles exploded over Tarpon and bounced off her hull at periscope depth. Wogan fired another Mark 14. It hit the ship's narrow stern. The shooting stopped, but the ship was still afloat. Wogan maneuvered to a firing position on the port side of the immobile target and delivered the coup de grâce with a fourth torpedo hit. He watched his antagonist slip below the waves at 33° 42′ 0″ N, 140° 8′ 0″ E.

Back at Pearl Harbor, Tarpon was credited for sinking a 10,000-ton naval auxiliary of an unknown class. The postwar JANAC assessment could not verify the claim in Japanese lists of ships sunk. Years later the claim was matched with the sinking of the 4,740-ton German Navy auxiliary cruiser Michel (HSK-9). Michel had operated as a commerce raider during World War II. Her first raiding voyage spanned 346 days and was conducted in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. During that period she sank fifteen Allied ships, totalling 99,000 tons (GRT). She underwent refit at Yokohama before departing for her second raiding voyage on May 21, 1943. Michel sank three Allied ships worth 27,632 tons off South America and western Australia before heading back to Japan. She was nearing Yokohama when she crossed paths with Tarpon. She sank with 290 crewmen, including her captain. One hundred and sixteen survivors were able to reach Japan after a three-day journey in life boats.

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