The USS Darter (SS-227) was a Gato-class World War II era submarine.
The namesake of the USS Darter is any of several small, darting, freshwater fishes of the perch family, inhabiting streams of eastern North America.
The radio call of the USS Darter was NAN-ITEM-HOW-XRAY.
On September 1, 1944, the Darter, captained by Commander David H. McClintock, left Brisbane for her fourth and final war patrol. On October 1, 1944, she made a rendezvous with the USS Dace (SS-247), captained by Commander Balden D. Claggett, and the pair then sailed from the Mios Woendi area to conduct a coordinated patrol in the South China Sea. Commander McClintock was in charge of the two-submarine wolf pack. They would assume positions in the South China Sea near the Balabac Strait and Palawan Passage to watch for enemy ship movements headed to reinforce troops in the Philippines or to attack American landing forces at Leyte Gulf. Their job would be to alert the Seventh Fleet of any such movements. 1
On October 23, 1944, they sighted a Japanese warship task force approaching Palawan Passage. This would prove to be the Japanese Center Force whose location had been unknown for several days. The Darter sent the contact report to Seventh Fleet. Then the two submarines closed the formation and made ready to attack it. 2
In a performance of duty which was to bring both submarines the Navy Unit Commendation, Darter sank Admiral Takeo Kurita's flagship Atago, then critically damaged Takao, another heavy cruiser. Dace attacked and destroyed the heavy cruiser Maya. Darter proceeded to track the damaged cruiser Takao in the Palawan Passage. Near midnight on October 24, 1944, Darter ran aground on Bombay Shoal, at the geographic position 09° 26′ N, 116° 55′ E. 3
All efforts to right the submarine failed. With a rapidly receding tide, the water was just too shallow. The boat was scuttled and her entire crew was transferred to Dace. Demolition charges and torpedoes fired by Dace failed to sink Darter. Dace made it back safely to Fremantle with Darter's crew on November 7, 1944. 4
On October 31, 1944, USS Nautilus (SS-168) used its six-inch guns to finish Darter. Nautilus scored fifty-five hits on Darter's hulk, and her report stated, "It is doubtful that any equipment in Darter at 11:30 this date would be of any value to Japan - except as scrap." 5
The Navy Department issued the following press release regarding Darter's loss:
November 13, 1944
U. S. SUBMARINE DESTROYED TO PREVENT CAPTURE
The submarine, USS Darter, was destroyed by her own crew in order to prevent capture by the enemy after the vessel had run aground in an area under enemy control. All officers and men were rescued unharmed and are now at an advance Naval base.
Darter received four battle stars for her four war patrols and the Navy Unit Commendation for her last one. Her JANAC score is 19,429 tons of Japanese shipping sunk in three vessels. Her Alden-McDonald score is four vessels sunk for 33,389 tons. Their analysis rates the damage done by the Darter to the IJN heavy cruiser Takao as rendering it a total loss. She was hit by two of the Darter's torpedoes under the bridge and on the starboard quarter. The Takao was taken to Singapore and never repaired. The British midget submarines XE-1 and XE-3 infiltrated Singapore harbor on 31 July 1945 and blew her up with magnetic limpets (mines) so her heavy guns could not be used against an Allied invasion force. The Alden-McDonald score shares credit for the destruction of the Takao with these two British submarines. The Alden-McDonald analysis also shares credit for the destruction of the minelayer Tsugaru with the Dutch submarine HMS K-XIV, which damaged the vessel on June 21, 1944. The SORG score for the Darter is three vessels sunk for 23,700 tons and three vessels damaged for 30,000 tons. 6
One Darter crewman died in an accident not related to the grounding incident or action against the enemy. His name is listed at On Eternal Patrol.
1. Jones, David and Peter Noonan, U. S. Subs Down Under: Brisbane, 1942-1945, p. 228-229.
6. Alden, John D., and Craig R. McDonald, United States and Allied Submarine Successes in the Pacific and Far East During World War II, Fourth Edition, see USS Darter (SS-227), Attack Nos. 1622, 1795, 2164, 2811, 2899, and 2900; Submarine war patrol reports on CD, data collected by the Submarine Operations Research Group (SORG) in the report "Results of U. S. Submarine War Patrols Listed Alphabetically by Name of Submarine"; Japanese Naval And Merchant Shipping Losses During World War II By All Causes, Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, USS Darter (SS-227).