The USS Shark (SS-174) was a Shark-class World War II era submarine. The two Shark-class submarines built by the Electric Boat Company, USS Shark (SS-174) and USS Tarpon (SS-175), were identical to the Porpoise-class boats in armament and propulsion machinery. They were considered to be in the Porpoise-class because of their military characteristics. They carried the identification numbers P-3 (Shark) and P-4 (Tarpon). 1
The namesake of the USS Shark is any of the usually ferocious cartilaginous fishes, typically marine, with a long body, two dorsal fins, rows of sharp teeth, and between five and seven gill slits on each side of the head.
The radio call sign of the USS Shark was NAN-ABLE-ZEBRA-BAKER.
On December 9, 1941, the Shark, captained by Lieutenant Commander Lewis Shane, Jr., departed Manila for her first war patrol and was at sea on patrol during the Japanese bombing raids there the next day. For the next week, the Shark patrolled Tayabas Bay. On December 19, 1941, she was ordered back to Manila to embark and evacuate Admiral Thomas C. Hart, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Asiatic Fleet, and to transport him to Surabaya, Java. 2
On January 6, 1942, during her second and final war patrol, still captained by Lieutenant Commander Lewis Shane, Jr., the Shark was almost hit with a torpedo from an IJN submarine. A few days later, she was ordered to Ambon Island, where an enemy invasion was expected. She reconnoitered Ambon in the Moluccas and then continued northward to Molucca Passage where she had been directed to join other American submarines patrolling that area. 3
On February 2, 1942, the Shark reported to her base at Surabaya that she had been depth-charged ten miles off Tifore Island and had failed to sink a Japanese ship during a torpedo attack. Five days later, she reported chasing an empty cargo ship headed northwest. On February 8, the Shark was ordered to proceed to Makassar Strait via the north coast of Celebes. Thereafter, the Shark was never heard from again. On March 7, 1942, she was reported as presumed lost due to unknown causes. The official announcement of the Shark's loss was made on March 18, 1942. 4
Navy Department Communiqué No. 57, March 18, 1942
The U. S. submarine Shark has been overdue in the Far East for more than a month and must be presumed to be lost. The next of kin of the personnel of the Shark have been notified.
During the month of December, the U. S. submarine Sealion which was under extensive overhaul at Cavite, was so damaged as to necessitate her demolition to prevent her use by the enemy in the event of capture.
Japanese records reviewed after the war documented numerous attacks on unidentified submarines in the Shark's area at plausible times. On February 11, 1942, the Japanese depth-charged a submarine east of Menado, northern Celebes. On February 17, they attacked an unidentified submarine off Kendari. On February 21, an enemy sub chaser rammed a U. S. submarine in Manipa Strait (this report could not be confirmed). Based on the fact that on February 8 the Shark had been sent to the area near Menado, she could have been the submarine the Japanese depth-charged. Another report described an attack 120 miles east of Menado on February 11, 1942, at 0137 hours, by the IJN destroyer Yamakaze, which sank a surfaced submarine with deck gun fire. 5
The Shark was probably lost as a result of the attack by the Yamakaze, as described above, at the geographic position 01° 45' N, 127° 15' E. Japanese records indicate the destroyer sighted a surfaced submarine and opened main battery fire at it, expending a total of forty-two five-inch shells and sixty rounds of machine gun ammunition during the action. The submarine soon sank and voices were heard in the water, but no effort was made to locate and rescue survivors. The other attacks discussed above are not considered to be feasible or related to the Shark's loss. However, the evidence of her loss is not conclusive. Therefore, the cause of the Shark's loss remains unknown. 6
A list of the personnel lost with the Shark is maintained at On Eternal Patrol.
The Shark was struck from the Navy list on June 24, 1942. She received one battle star for her World War II service. The Shark was not credited with sinking or damaging any enemy vessels.
1. Alden, John D., The Fleet Submarine in the U. S. Navy: A Design and Construction History, p. 60.
2. Roscoe, Theodore, United States Submarine Operations in World War II, p. 96.
6. Nevitt, Allyn D., "IJN Yamakaze: Tabular Record of Movement," published online at Combined Fleet; Miller, Vernon J., "U. S. Submarine Losses," issue 44, p. 54 & 57.