The individual submarine articles linked to this Web page discuss the final patrols of the fifty-two American submarines lost during World War II. A primary source for these articles has been United States Submarine Losses World War II (see bibliography for publication data). However, as that source was first published in 1949 many of my submarine articles have been updated with information made known after that date. For example, the fate of the USS Grunion became known in 2006 and Mike Ostlund's great book Find 'Em, Chase 'Em, Sink 'Em: The Mysterious Loss of the WWII Submarine USS Gudgeon brought closure to the mystery surrounding her loss. Other academic research, such as Allyn Nevitt's article on the loss of the USS Triton, has brought the Navy's finding as to the reason for the boat's loss into question. For these reasons, in many cases my analysis differs from the Navy's "official" version.
The namesake descriptions in some of the individual submarine articles linked to this page were found in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships Online (http://www.history.navy.mil/DANFS/). In most cases they have been updated.
The radio call signs in some of the individual submarine articles linked to this page were found at NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive (http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/04idx.htm) or in the U.S. Navy Radio Call Sign Book (http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ref/CallSigns/CallSigns-18.html), and, when necessary, were converted to the phonetic alphabet in use during World War II (http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq101-1.htm).
The Navy Department Communiqués in some of the individual submarine articles linked to this page were found at ibiblio.org, which is a collaboration of the School of Information and Library Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (http://www.ibiblio.org/). They have been formatted to conform with the styles used in the Web pages.
The abbreviation "JANAC" is used in most of the articles linked below. This refers to the appendix of the report Japanese Naval And Merchant Shipping Losses During World War II By All Causes, which contains a listing of Japanese naval and merchant vessels sunk by individual United States submarines during World War II. The United States submarines are arranged in alphabetical sequence. The 1947 report and the appendix was prepared under the auspices of The Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, usually referred to as "JANAC." The report and the appendix is published online in a very searchable format at ibiblio.org (http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/Japan/IJN/JANAC-Losses/JANAC-Losses-6.html). The specific URL for each submarine's JANAC record is listed in a footnote in each article.
When used in an article, the term "Alden-McDonald" refers to data contained in the book United States and Allied Submarine Successes in the Pacific and Far East During World War II, Fourth Edition, by John D. Alden and Craig R. McDonald. Please refer to my bibliography Web page for the publication pedigree for this book.
Finally, I want to leave you with some words from Captain Edward L. Beach, Jr., who, in his prolific writings, left us so many perfect and beautiful visions of submarines and submariners. Wherever Ned is now, I know there is an ice cream machine connected to the refrigeration system.
The date is August 15, 1945. Ned is the captain of the USS Piper (SS-409). They are in the Sea of Japan and have just been informed of Japan's surrender - the war is over.
A wild cheer rang through the boat. We had known it was coming, and had been following the signs, but now it had come. The fighting was over. We had made it. I could well understand and appreciate the joy felt by everybody on the ship.
My own feelings I could not understand so well. Instead of wild exultation, a fit of the deepest despondency descended upon me. I tried to join the happiness of my officers and crew, but after a while I left them. I went to my stateroom and drew the curtain. I didn't bother to turn on the light - just sat there on the bunk, not stirring. During the next several hours I was aware that the curtains fluttered once or twice, as though someone had started to call me and then had thought better of it, or had been stopped by someone else.
Eventually it was time to surface. After we had brought Piper up, I told the officer of the deck that I was going out on the main deck for a while. This, of course, was never permitted without good reason, and never without the captain's express permission. But I was the captain, and I kept my reasons to myself.
The night was clear and cloudless, with just a hint of the moon soon to rise. The air was warm, seemingly devoid of the oppressive mustiness I had so often noticed. The sea was nearly calm. It was a night of peace. I wearily paced the deck, around and around, from bow to stern, and back to the bow again. The same old thoughts were still running through my mind. After this, what? Why Trigger, and not Piper, or Tirante? Why Penrod Schneider, Johnnie Shepherd, Stinky, and Willy Kornahrens? What about Johnnie Moore, the man who had ordered me to submarine school against my will, back in September of 1941? He had gone down as skipper of Grayback, after a series of outstanding patrols.
What about Penrod's wife, Sammy, who had christened Dorado as she was launched? And Al Bontier, who had had the bad luck to run his new Razorback aground off New London, as a result of which he was transferred off the ship and to Pearl, where they gave him the recently overhauled Seawolf? And what about that skipper of the destroyer escort who to his dying day must reproach himself for not having tried harder to identify the submarine which desperately signaled him as he ordered the fatal hedgehogs thrown?
What was the difference between Dave Connole, cut short after bringing Trigger back into the payoff column once more, and Jack Lewis, who caught pneumonia on our first run up in the Aleutians three years ago - what indeed was the difference, except that one of them was dead?
As I turned about the deck, always it came back to the same thing. We had won the war. It was over - finished - and somehow I had the incredible luck to be spared. But what little divided those of us who were alive to see this day from those who were not? Just a few feet over the side, the long, cool, clean, silent water was the answer. It could claim many secrets - had claimed them for thousands and tens of thousands of years - one of them might as well have been me - could still be me...
I shrank from the abyss of lunacy yawning in front of me. The revulsion from four years of tension, and ultimate rejection of the subconscious idea that I might not make it after all, had plumbed its depth. Stinky and Johnnie Shepherd had not taken my place in the Trigger; it had simply been their bad luck, and my good. 1
Last updated Friday, 22-Mar-2013 11:34:50 EDT
The 52 Submarines Lost in World War II
Reasons For Submarine Losses
AB - Aerial Bomb dropped by aircraft
DC - Depth Charge dropped by surface vessel or aircraft
GF - Gun Fire from a vessel's deck guns
CT - Circular Torpedo run
FF - Friendly Fire or hostile action by another American vessel
NCR - Non-Combat Related Loss - training or accident related
RA - Ran Aground
MN - Enemy Mine
SB - Shore Battery gun emplacement
SM - Sunk by enemy submarine
|Unknown - 16||Amberjack, Capelin, Dorado, Escolar, Grampus, Grayling, Growler, Kete, Pickerel, Pompano, Runner, Scorpion, Shark I, Snook, Swordfish, & Triton|
|AB - 5||Barbel, Bullhead, Grenadier, Gudgeon, & Sealion|
|AB & DC - 2||Grayback & Wahoo|
|DC - 9||Bonefish, Cisco, Golet, Harder, Lagarto, Scamp, Shark II, Trigger, & Trout|
|DC & GF - 3||Argonaut, Perch, & Sculpin|
|CT - 2||Tang & Tullibee|
|FF - 1||Seawolf|
|GF - 2||Grunion & S-44|
|NCR - 3||R-12, S-26 & S-28|
|RA - 4||Darter, S-27, S-36, & S-39|
|MN - 3||Albacore, Flier, & Robalo|
|SB - 1||Herring|
|SM - 1||Corvina|
1. Beach, Edward L., Submarine!, p. 351-353.