The SS-306 Tang, a Balao class fleet submarine, was launched 17 August 1943 at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Commissioned on 15 October 1943, she was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Richard H. O’Kane, who had been “Mush” Morton’s executive officer in USS Wahoo. O’Kane would command Tang for her entire career.
Tang arrived at Pearl Harbor in early January 1944, and after two weeks of training, set off on her first war patrol on 22 January, headed for the Carolines-Marianas area.
On 17 February, Tang encountered a Japanese convoy consisting of two freighters, escorts, and five smaller ships. As she prepared to attack an escort came after her, forcing Tang under. The escort dropped five depth charges but caused no damage. When she returned to periscope depth, Tang fired four torpedoes at the closest freighter. Three hit, sinking Gyoten Maru. O’Kane attempted to get ahead of the convoy during the night, but the Japanese ships got away.
Five nights later, on 22 February, Tang made a night surface attack on a seven-ship convoy (three cargo ships and four escorts). After getting into position, a spread of four torpedoes was fired intoFukoyama Maru, blowing her to pieces. In a follow-up attack early the next morning, Tang fired another four-torpedo spread into Yamashimo Maru, sending her down.
Sighting a tanker and freighter, escorted by a destroyer, on the morning of 24 February 1944, Tangtracked them until after dark, then made a surface attack. Three of her first four torpedoes hit the freighter, sinking her. After submerging and evading, Tang shadowed the remaining targets until morning, then made a submerged attack on the tanker, which blew up and sank in four minutes. Going deep, Tang eluded the counter-attacking destroyer’s depth charges.
The next day, Tang put down Choku Maru, a 1,794-ton freighter.
On the evening of 26 February, Tang found a small convoy, consisting of a freighter, a transport, and four escorts. She fired her last four torpedoes at the transport, which put on speed, causing the torpedoes to pass astern. Having sunk five ships, for a total of 21,400 tons (wartime estimate 42,000 tons), and used up all of her torpedoes, Tang cut short her first patrol and put in to Midway for refit and rearming.
Tang‘s second war patrol resulted in no sinkings. Assigned to lifeguard duty near Truk, she rescued a total of 22 downed airmen, taking them to the Hawaiian Islands at the end of the patrol.
Tang departed Pearl Harbor on 8 June 1944 for her third war patrol. On 24 June, southwest of Kagoshima, she found a large convoy of six ships and sixteen escorts. Closing in for a surface attack, she fired three torpedoes at one ship, then three more at a second. O’Kane reported two ships sunk, but JANAC credited four after examining Japanese records following the war. Presumably, at least one torpedo from each spread missed its target and hit another ship behind the target.
Six days later Tang attacked and sank Nikkin Maru, after a chase and having to go deep to evade depth charges. Nikkin Maru was unescorted, but Japanese merchantmen frequently carried their own anti-submarine weapons.
The following morning, the freighter Taiun Maru No. 2 fell victim to Tang‘s torpedoes. Her companion, the tanker Takatori Maru No. 1, temporarily escaped, but was sent down after dark by a spread of two torpedoes.
On 4 July 1944, Tang sank the 6,886-ton freighter Asukazan Maru, firing three torpedoes and getting two hits. The same afternoon two more torpedoes sank Yamaoka Maru. The following night, Tang used her last two torpedoes to sink Dori Maru.
Departing from Pearl Harbor on 31 July 1944, Tang went to Japanese home waters for her fourth patrol. Once again conducting an aggressive patrol, Tang was credited with sinking 5 enemy ships for 22,500 tons. (Reduced by JANAC to 2 ships for 11,500 tons.)
Following an overhaul at Pearl Harbor, Tang began her fifth war patrol on 24 September 1944. She topped off fuel at Midway, then proceeded to the Formosa Strait. On the night of 10-11 October, she put down the freighters Joshu Go and Gita Maru. Tang continued her patrol, making contact with a large convoy on 23 October.
She closed three ships in a night surface attack, two of her torpedoes hitting the closest, one more hit the second, and two more blasted the stern of the farthest ship. While lining up her stern tubes on a tanker, Tang had to maneuver quickly to avoid a transport, which was attempting to ram. Since the tanker was also trying to ram, the transport’s efforts backfired, and she ended up ramming the tanker instead. Tang fired her four stern tubes at 400 yards, and the tanker sank. As Tang raced away to avoid the escorts the transport exploded.
The next evening, Tang found another convoy. She fired six torpedoes at three targets. Running parallel to the convoy while picking another target, she fired her stern tubes at another transport and tanker. The tanker blew up and a hit was observed on the transport. A destroyer, which had come around the tanker’s stern, also blew up. The transport remained afloat but was dead in the water.
Returning after hauling off to avoid a counter attack, Tang fired her last two torpedoes at the tanker. The last torpedo was defective and began a circular run. Tang put on full emergency power and maneuvered to evade, but the torpedo returned and struck her port side after the torpedo room. O’Kane and eight of the crew went into the water. Five more used their Momsen Lung escape gear to get to the surface from the sunken submarine. By morning, only nine, including O’Kane, were still alive to be picked up and imprisoned by the Japanese. They spent the rest of the war as prisoners. O’Kane received the Medal of Honor, retiring in 1957 as a rear admiral.
A memorial is set up in the Liberty Station Park in San Diego.
|HISTORY FOR U.S.S. Tang|
|8/7/43||Mare Island||Mrs A.S. Pitre||10/15/43||LCDR Richard H. O’Kane||10/24/44|
|5||Richard O’Kane||Pearl||9/24/44||31||13/107,324||7/21,772||Lost 10/24/44|
Recommended ReadingClear the Bridge!: The War Patrols of the U.S.S. Tang The Bravest Man: Richard O’Kane and the Amazing Submarine Adventures of the USS Tang U.S.S. Tang (SS-306): American Submarine War Patrol Reports Paperback – June 25, 2005 Wahoo: The Patrols of America’s Most Famous World War II Submarine