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USS Wahoo (SS-238)

USS Wahoo (SS-238) patch


The USS Wahoo (SS-238) was a Gato-class World War II era submarine.

The namesake of the USS Wahoo is a large fast-moving food and game fish, Acanthocybium solandri, of tropical seas, especially of Florida and the West Indies.

On September 9, 1943, the Wahoo, captained by Commander Dudley Walker Morton ("Mush the Magnificent"), departed Pearl Harbor for her seventh and final war patrol. On September 13, 1943, the Wahoo topped off her fuel at Midway Island, and then got underway for her journey to La Pérouse Strait and the Sea of Japan.

The Wahoo was ordered to enter the Sea of Japan on or about September 20, 1943, to search for and destroy enemy shipping. She was supposed to head for home by no later than sunset on October 21st, and to report by radio after she had passed through the La Pérouse Strait and was enroute to Midway. Nothing further was ever heard from the Wahoo after she left Midway on September 13th.

The Wahoo was announced overdue on December 2, 1943 and stricken from the Navy list on December 6, 1943.

Navy Department Communiqué No. 488, December 2, 1943

1. The U. S. Submarine Wahoo is overdue and must be presumed to be lost.

2. The next of kin of personnel in the Wahoo have been so informed.

Japanese records reviewed after the war indicated that she sank four ships during her final patrol. The Japanese also reported a successful attack against a surfaced submarine in the La Pérouse Strait on October 11, 1943. The report discloses the following information:

0945 Circling, the pilot identified a black conning tower and after calling in more planes, dropped a bomb on what he described as a black hull with a white wake. A second bomb brought up more oil. Aircraft number two arrived and dropped four small bombs which brought up more oil.

1025 Second floatplane dropped more bombs.

1135 A float plane guided Submarine Chaser No. 15 to the area of the attack. It dropped nine depth charges followed by seven more.

1207 In the eruptions a large piece of bright metal identified as a propeller blade was seen.

1221 Another submarine chaser arrived and dropped six depth charges.

1350 Searching aircraft reported that neither the submarine nor her wake was visible. 1

Records for Submarine Chaser No. 15 disclose the following information:

11 October 1943:
At about 0830, the spotter for a 6-inch coast artillery battery on Soya Misaki promontory sights WAHOO and opens fire. Morton submerges and continues on course. The battery commander calls for air support.

About an hour later, an E13A1 "Jake" anti-submarine floatplane No. 19, out of Wakkanai, arrives. At 0920, the Jake detects a widening oil slick, then sees the conning tower of a submarine. The E13A1's pilot drops two bombs on WAHOO. Two more E13A1s of the same unit arrive and drop a total of six depth-charges. At 1145, the first floatplane directs CH-15 to the scene. At 1203, the submarine is located and CH-15 drops two series of nine and seven depth-charges. Among the debris thrown up by explosions is a metal object that resembles the propeller blade of a submarine. At 1218, CH-15 drops a single depth-charge, then is relieved by CH-43. At 1221, CH-43 drops six depth-charges. At 1330, auxiliary minesweeper Wa-18 arrives. 2

The Wahoo underwent a series of concentrated attacks over a period of at least four hours. In all, sixty-three bombs and depth charges and forty smaller bombs were dropped on her. The Japanese believed the Wahoo had probably struck a mine when forced to submerge under gunfire from the shore battery, thus causing the critical damage and oil leaks which resulted in her final destruction. 3

On October 31, 2006, the U. S. Navy confirmed the discovery of the Wahoo's wreck by a Russian dive team. She is resting in about 213 feet (65 meters) of water in the La Pérouse (Soya) Strait between the Japanese island Hokkaido and the Russian island Sakhalin, at the geographic position 45° 41' N, 142° 09' E.

The Wahoo earned six battle stars for her World War II service. Her JANAC score is 60,038 tons sunk in twenty enemy vessels, including the four she downed on her final patrol. The Alden-McDonald score for the Wahoo is twenty-four vessels sunk for 59,613 tons and nine vessels damaged for 35,015 tons. Her SORG score is twenty vessels sunk worth 114,600 tons and three damaged for 30,900 tons. Commander Morton was awarded a fourth Navy Cross posthumously. 4

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

Patrol Data & Tonnage Scores

"Navy Says Wreck Found Off Japan is Legendary Sub USS Wahoo"

Undersea Warrior: The World War II Story of "Mush" Morton and the USS Wahoo

Footnotes:

1. O'Kane, Richard H., Wahoo: The Patrols of America's Most Famous WWII Submarine, p. 329.

2. Hackett, Bob, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall, "IJN Subchaser CH-15: Tabular Record of Movement," published online at Combined Fleet.

3. Miller, Vernon J., "U. S. Submarine Losses," issue 44, p. 59.

4. 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 Wahoo (SS-238), Attack Nos. 328, 456, 462, 571, 577, 578, 581, 582, 677, 679, 690, 691, 699, 701, 702, 703, 707, 710, 711, 713, 786, 799, 802, 803, 819, 1024, 1025, 1026, 1034, 1035, 1037, 1137, 1156, 1168, 1179, 1184, and 1192; Submarine war patrol reports on CD, USS Wahoo (SS-238), 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 Wahoo (SS-238).