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USS Gudgeon (SS-211)

Gudgeon escutcheon

My thanks to Mike Ostlund, the author of the preeminent book about the USS Gudgeon, Find 'Em Chase 'Em Sink 'Em, for the submarine's escutcheon posted above.

The USS Gudgeon (SS-211) was a Gar-class World War II era submarine. The Gar-class boats were duplicates of the Tambor-class design. 1

The namesake of the USS Gudgeon (species Gobio gobio) is a common small fish of the carp family, Cyprinidae, found in clear, fresh waters of Europe and northern Asia. A grayish or greenish fish, the gudgeon has a barbel at each corner of its mouth and a row of blackish spots along each side. Rarely exceeding a length of twenty centimeters (eight inches), it lives in schools and feeds mainly on small animals. It is edible and is used as fish bait.

The radio call sign of the USS Gudgeon was NAN-EASY-LOVE-VICTOR.

On April 4, 1944, the Gudgeon, captained by Lieutenant Commander Robert A. Bonin, left Pearl Harbor for her twelfth and final war patrol. On April 7, 1944, she topped off her fuel at Johnston Island, then left for patrol in the open sea area off the northern Mariana Islands. She was never seen or heard from again. 2

The Gudgeon's operating order instructed her to patrol within the rectangle formed by coordinates 21° N to 24° N and 143° E to 147° E from April 16-22, 1944. After April 22nd, she would patrol within the square formed by coordinates 17° N to 21° N and 143° E to 147° E. On May 11, 1944, the Gudgeon was ordered to conduct a special assignment in another area. The Gudgeon did not acknowledge receipt of this transmission. On May 14, 1944, her special assignment was given to another submarine. Another transmission was sent to the Gudgeon ordering her to return to Midway Island. She was expected there around May 23, 1944. On June 7, 1944, the Gudgeon was declared overdue and presumed lost. 3

The public announcement of Gudgeon's loss was made on September 12, 1944:

Navy Department Communiqué No. 542, September 12, 1944

1. The submarine USS Gudgeon is overdue from patrol and presumed lost.

2. Next of kin of casualties have been informed.

Loss Possibilities

There are several loss possibilities for the Gudgeon.

1. The Gudgeon was probably lost on April 18, 1944 after being bombed by Japanese naval aircraft of the 901st Air Group about 166 miles southeast of Iwo Jima. The Japanese report stated the planes dropped two bombs on a submarine and "The first bomb hit a bow, the second bomb direct on bridge. The center of the submarine burst open and oil pillars rose." The submarine was reported to have sunk quickly followed by a large undersea explosion. The reported location of the attack (22° 45' N, 143° 40' E) was within the Gudgeon's assigned patrol area. 4

2. The second possibility is a depth charge and bomb attack by unidentified IJN antisubmarine (ASW) surface vessels and possibly aircraft, on May 12, 1944, off Saipan. Three other American submarines patrolling off Saipan heard and reported this heavy ASW activity, which occurred about 140 miles south of the Gudgeon's second patrol area. This could have been an attack against a false contact by alert and aggressive Japanese ASW surface vessels and aircraft. 5

3. Loss as a result of an unreported enemy attack is also a possibility. This general area was a hotbed of activity during this period. There were numerous U.S. submarines and enemy ASW forces operating the area. 6

For her first eight war patrols the Gudgeon received the coveted Presidential Unit Citation. She earned eleven battle stars for her World War II service. She was the first U.S. Navy submarine to sink an enemy warship in World War II - the Japanese submarine I-73. She was scored by JANAC with sinking 71,047 tons in twelve Japanese vessels. Her Alden-McDonald score is seventeen vessels sunk for 81,150 tons and eight vessels damaged for 33,997 tons. Her SORG score is twenty-four vessels sunk worth 166,400 tons and six vessels damaged worth 41,900 tons. 7

The Gudgeon is also remembered for being the first American submarine to make a Spyron mission from Australia to the Philippines in World War II. On December 27, 1942, captained by Lieutenant Commander William S. Stovall, the Gudgeon embarked Major Jesus Villamor, six other Filipinos, and a ton of supplies including weapons, a radio, money, medicines, candy, and cigarettes, and departed Brisbane for the Philippines. On the night of January 14, 1943, the Gudgeon put the men and supplies safely ashore on Negros Island. On her return trip to Fremantle, on February 9, 1943, the Gudgeon rescued twenty-one Australians, one Englishman, one Portuguese, and five Timorese from enemy-occupied Timor. 8

A list of the personnel lost with the Gudgeon is maintained at On Eternal Patrol.

Also see:

Patrol Data & Tonnage Scores

USS Gudgeon (SS-211) Sixth Patrol

Find 'Em Chase 'Em Sink 'Em


1. Alden, John D., The Fleet Submarine in the U. S. Navy: A Design and Construction History, p. 74.

2. United States Submarine Losses World War II, p. 89-90.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.; Miller, Vernon J., "U. S. Submarine Losses," issue 43, p. 208; Ostlund, Mike, Find 'Em, Chase 'Em, Sink 'Em: The Mysterious Loss of the WWII Submarine USS Gudgeon, p. 353-363.

5. Miller, Vernon J., op. cit.

6. Ibid.

7. 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 Gudgeon (SS-211), Attack Nos. 37, 51, 104, 105, 251, 259, 279, 280, 382, 383, 428, 429, 430, 694, 695, 696, 700, 712, 715, 772, 775, 787, 791, 818, 1116, 1163, 1165, 1166, 1309, 1331, 1332, 1333, 1334, 1618, 1651, and 1652; 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 Gudgeon (SS-211); United States Submarine Losses World War II, p. 89-90; Miller, Vernon J., Japanese Submarine Losses to Allied Submarines in World War II, p. 9, "Sources which identify this submarine [I-73] as I-173 are erroneous. Renumbering of units of this class did not occur until May 20, 1942."

8. Jones, David and Peter Noonan, U. S. Subs Down Under: Brisbane, 1942-1945, p. 213-214.