Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Related Content
Topic
  • Theater of Operations--Pacific
  • Operations
  • Boats-Ships--Submarine
Document Type
  • Photograph
  • Historical Summary
Wars & Conflicts
  • World War II 1939-1945
File Formats
  • Image (gif, jpg, tiff)
Location of Archival Materials
  • NHHC

H-039-1: U.S. Submarine Successes, November/December 1944 


Battle flag:  USS SPADEFISH (SS-411)

World War II battle flag of USS Spadefish (SS-411) (NH 66212-KN). 

H-Gram 039 , Attachment 1

Samuel J. Cox, Director NHHC

December 2019

Attack on carrier Junyo by USS Pintado (SS-387), 3 November 1944

On 3 November 1944, Commander Submarines Pacific sent an Ultra intelligence message to Lieutenant Commander Bernard A. Clarey, skipper of USS Pintado (SS-387), informing him that a Japanese carrier, three destroyers, and a battleship or cruiser were transiting southbound through the Formosa Strait. Clarey directed the other submarines in the wolfpack, Jallao (SS-368), which had sunk light cruiser Tama off Cape Engano during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and Atule (SS-403) along with a second wolfpack comprising Haddock (SS-23), Halibut (SS-232), and Tuna (SS-203), under Lieutenant Commander John P. Roach, to form a picket line to intercept the Japanese ships.

The target of the six submarines was the aircraft carrier Junyo, accompanied by the light cruiser Kiso and three destroyers. Junyo, a battle-scarred veteran of the Aleutian, Santa Cruz, and Solomon Islands and the Philippine Sea was devoid of her air group, most of which had been shot down during the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” in June 1944. The half-trained replacement pilots were mostly shot down during Admiral Halsey’s raids on the Ryukyus and Formosa in mid-October 1944, just prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Instead, Junyo was transporting 18-inch shells for the super-battleship Yamato and large-caliber shells for the other Japanese battleships in Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita’s force, which had retired to Brunei following the Battle off Samar. Junyo also carried Shinyo suicide boats, other kinds of ammunition, and 800 army paratroopers, destined for Manila to oppose anticipated U.S. landings on Luzon.

At 2020 on 3 November, Pintado detected Junyo, with one destroyer ahead, one destroyer on each flank and Kiso in the rear. Lieutenant Commander Clarey maneuvered to set up for a shot at Junyo’s port side, and fired all six bow tubes. The escorting destroyer Akikaze, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Nitaro Yamazaki, sighted the torpedoes and deliberately put herself in the path to save Junyo. At 2250, Akikaze was hit, blew up, and sank eight minutes later with the loss of all 205 hands. Junyo escaped in the smoke of the sinking Akikaze while the other two destroyers counter-attacked and depth-charged Pintado, unsuccessfully. The Japanese force then escaped to the west without being hit and slipped past all six U.S. submarines.

Lieutenant Commander Clarey would be awarded his third Navy Cross for this patrol, as would two others, and a Presidential Unit Citation. (In addition to the first Navy Cross, Clarey had also received a Silver Star as executive officer of submarine Amberjack [SS-219]).  Clarey would later receive a Bronze Star with Combat V as the executive officer of the heavy cruiser Helena (CA-5) during the Korean War and would retire in 1973 as the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Akikaze had previously participated in sinking the U.S. submarine Triton (SS-201) on 14 March 1943. Although the Japanese held Akikaze’s sacrifice in saving the Junyo in the highest regard and built shrines in Akikaze’s honor, she had also been responsible for one of the most notorious atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Navy during the war, under a previous commander.

On 18 March 1943, the Akikaze, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Tsurukichi Sabe, removed about sixty civilians from the islands of Kairuri and Manus in the Bismarck Sea. The civilians included 44 Roman Catholic missionaries (mostly German and several U.S. nationals), including 21 nuns, several Chinese, and a few children. The Japanese supposedly suspected some of the group of spying for the Allies. After being interrogated, all of the civilians were taken one-at-a-time to the stern, suspended by the hands by a hook, executed by machine gun and rifle fire, and disposed of overboard. Three infant children were thrown overboard alive. On 2 August 1943, Lieutenant Commander Sabe was killed in an air attack that caused major damage to the bridge of Akikaze and resulted 22 other casualties. With Lieutenant Commander Sabe’s death and the later loss of the entire crew, no one was ever held to account for the atrocity. 

After arriving in Manila on 9 November 1944 and discharging her cargo, Junyo departed on 11 November en route to Kure, Japan, in company with the heavy cruiser Tone, which had been moderately damaged by air attacks at the end of the Battle off Samar. On 12 June, the Junyo group was sighted by submarine Gunnel (SS-253) at a range of 31,000 yards, which was too far away to make an intercept and attack. Gunnel correctly identified the Tone but misidentified Junyo as a Yamato-class battleship. On 13 November 1944, the submarine Jallao (SS-376), commanded by Lieutenant Commander Joseph B. Icenhower, intercepted the Junyo group. Jallao had been part of the wolfpack that missed Junyo on 3 November 1944 during JUNYO’s southbound transit to Manila. Icenhower’s attempt to set up an attack was disrupted when Junyo made a sudden turn toward Jallao, passing within 200 yards and forcing Jallao to maneuver to avoid being rammed. Jallao fired her stern tubes at Junyo at a range of 1,400 yards but missed. Lieutenant Commander Icenhower had been awarded a Navy Cross for his previous war patrol on Jallao, when she sank the Japanese light cruiser Tama during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but not for this patrol.

After a brief stop at Formosa, Junyo was detected by submarine Barb (SS-220), commanded by Lieutenant Commander Eugene Fluckey, at 2249 on 15 November. Fluckey was one of the most successful submarine skippers of the war. In this case, however, he misidentified Junyo as a Shokaku-class carrier (both of which were already sunk) Katsuragi (which was a new Unryu-class carrier, which never deployed.)  Barb fired five bow torpedoes and claimed one hit on the stern; however Junyo received no damage and escaped yet again despite pursuit by Barb, Queenfish (SS-392), Peto (SS-265) and Sunfish (SS-281).  (There will be more on the legendary Eugene Fluckey and the incredible exploits of BARB in a future H-gram.)  

Escort Carrier Shinyo Sunk by USS Spadefish (SS-411), 17 November 1944

On 1 November 1943, the Japanese completed conversion of the German passenger liner Scharnhorst to a 17,000-ton escort carrier, Shinyo. Scharnhorst had been trapped in Japan upon the outbreak of the war. Like the other four Japanese escort carriers, Shinyo was generally used for aircraft ferry missions, but was capable of operating about 27 aircraft. On 9 November 1944, Shinyo, commanded by Captain Shizue Ishii, was assigned to provide air cover for convoy HI-81, consisting of nine transports and several destroyers bound from Japan to the Philippines and Singapore with several thousand troops as well as aircraft. Shinyo had 14 Kate torpedo-bombers embarked to provide air cover, primarily against submarine attack. The convoy departed Imari, Japan, on 14 November 1944, under the command of Rear Admiral Tsutomu Sato.

With locating information provided by Ultra intelligence, attacks on the convoy by U.S. submarines commenced on 15 November. At 1156, submarine Queenfish (SS-393) hit the transport Akitsu Maru (actually one of two Japanese army escort carriers, being used as an aircraft ferry and troop transport) with two torpedoes, causing the ship to explode and sink with the loss of over 2,000 personnel on board. Shinyo’s aircraft unsuccessfully attempted to locate the attacking submarine. On 16 November convoy HI-81 and convoy MI-27 transited in close proximity, resulting in a confused intelligence picture.

Around 1800 on 17 November, just after Shinyo had recovered her last aircraft of the day, submarine Picuda (SS-382) torpedoed the troop transport Mayasan Maru directly ahead of Shinyo. Mayasan Maru capsized and sank in less than two minutes, taking over 3,500 men to the bottom (1,300 were rescued).  At 2303, Shinyo was struck by as many as four torpedoes from a spread of six fired by submarine Spadefish (SS-411), which conducted a night surface attack on the convoy. The first torpedo hit Shinyo on the stern, resulting in a massive explosion of aviation gasoline tanks and a fire. A second torpedo hit amidships, knocking out the turbo-generators and all electrical power. Yet another torpedo hit forward, which also started a major aviation gasoline fire. Shinyo quickly went dead in the water, with uncontrolled conflagrations forward and aft and the surviving crew trapped in the middle.

Destroyer Kashi counter-attacked and disrupted Spadefish as she fired a salvo of torpedoes from her four stern tubes at transport Shinsu Maru, which missed. Spadefish lost track of the convoy after being forced to evade. Ten minutes after the torpedo hit, Captain Ishii gave the order to abandon ship as the list increased and planes began to slide over the side. At 2340, Shinyo went down by the stern, which stuck in the muddy bottom, leaving the flaming bow above water. Having relocated the convoy, Spadefish conducted a second unsuccessful attack and was pursued again by Kashi, which dropped 17 depth charges. As this was going on, other submarines were attacking and sinking transport ships in convoy MI-27. Due to the continuing threat of submarine attack, Shinyo was left behind by the HI-81 convoy and it was several hours before any attempt at rescue was made. In the end, only 61 crewmen were rescued. Captain Ishii and about 1,165 crewmen were lost.

Spadefish’s skipper, Commander Gordon W. Underwood, was awarded his second of three Navy Crosses for this patrol and became one of the most successful submarine skippers of the war, sinking 72,000 tons of shipping in only three war patrols in command. Spadefish was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.

Battleship Kongo Sunk by USS Sealion (SS-315), 21 November 1944

Following the Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944, Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita’s surviving force of battleships and cruisers arrived at Brunei, Borneo, on 28 October 1944. On 6 November 1944, the carrier Junyo arrived at Brunei with a resupply of ammunition for Kurita’s Force. During the Battle off Samar, the battleship Kongo expended 310 14-inch rounds, 347 6-inch rounds and many thousands of anti-aircraft rounds. Kongo had hit both the escort carrier Gambier Bay (CVE-73) and the destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) with multiple main-battery shells and was significantly responsible for the loss of both ships. Kongo was largely unscathed, although she had been strafed multiple times by Wildcat fighters and late in the day on 25 October suffered several damaging near-misses from an attack by 20 SB2C Helldiver dive-bombers on a long-range strike from Rear Admiral John McCain’s Task Group 38.1, reacting to Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid’s calls for help.

On 16 November 1944, following a bombing attack by 40 U.S. Army Air Force B-24 bombers and 14 P-38 long-range fighters, which inflicted no damage, most of the Japanese force at Brunei departed for Japanese home waters. The force included the battleships Yamoto, Nagato and Kongo, light cruiser Yahagi, and four destroyers and two destroyer escorts, still under the command of Vice Admiral Kurita. By the evening of 20 November, the force (minus the two destroyer escorts, which detached due to a casualty) commenced a northbound transit of the Formosa Strait. The other surviving battleship, Haruna, did not need any repairs and proceeded to Singapore, where she was badly damaged in a grounding. She would have to return to Japan on her own.

At 0020 on 21 November 1944, the submarine Sealion (SS-315), commanded by Lieutenant Commander Eli Reich, made radar contact on the Japanese force at 44,000 yards, with the signal picked up by Japanese radar-detection equipment. After sending a contact report, Reich commenced a bold night surface approach to overtake the Japanese force, and as the range closed to 35,000 yards identified the targets as two battleships and two heavy cruisers. Although Yamato at one point gained radar contact on the submarine, worsening sea state conditions apparently prevented accurate tracking. The Japanese were not zigzagging, attempting to speed through the danger area, assuming that the sea state would also preclude a submarine attack. At 0146, Sealion detected three escorts and by 0245 was in position ahead of the Japanese to attack on the surface from the port bow.

At 0256, Lieutenant Commander Reich fired all six bow tubes (Mark 18-1 electric torpedoes set at 8 feet depth) at the second ship in column, the Kongo, and then turned and at 0300 fired three of his four stern tubes at Nagato. Nagato and Yamoto took immediate evasive action and the torpedoes of Sealion’s second salvo passed ahead of Nagato and hit the destroyer Urakaze, which was screening to starboard of the formation. Sealion reported three hits (actually two) on Kongo at 0301 and then a large explosion on the second target, which was actually the destroyer Urakaze on the opposite side of the formation, which was hit by Sealion’s last torpedo.  Urakaze exploded and sank in two minutes with the loss of all 293 hands (her depth charges detonated, killing anyone in the water who might have survived the first explosion.)  This hit on the destroyer division flagship caused the other Japanese escorts to think the attack had come from starboard and they charged off in the wrong direction.

Despite two torpedo hits, Kongo continued to make 16 knots, and initially it seemed the damage was manageable. Lieutenant Commander Reich thought his attack had been unsuccessful, and in the face of a mounting force five or six gale, reloaded his bow tunes and commenced a pursuit at maximum overload speed (17 knots), but took in water down her main induction valve and couldn’t gain on Kongo. The Japanese knew Sealion was in pursuit.

The Japanese force commenced zigzagging and at 0450 spit into two groups, with Yamato, Nagato, and Yahagi sprinting ahead, while Kongo and two destroyers fell behind at 11 knots, as the battering seas increased the damage to Kongo and increased her list to twelve degrees. Kongo, aware that Sealion was pursuing the damaged battleship rather than the main body, then changed course in an attempt to reach Keelung, Formosa. Despite valiant damage control efforts, including moving the majority of the crew to the high side, the list continued until it reached 45 degrees, with cascading failures (including the suicide of the Damage Control Officer) until Kongo went dead in the water at 0520. At 0522, the commanding officer gave the order to abandon ship.

As Sealion continued to close for another attack, Kongo began to roll on her beam and at 0524, without warning, her forward 14-inch magazine detonated with four large explosions, followed by a massive explosion that blew the ship apart. Kongo went down in less than a minute, taking Vice Admiral Yoshio Suzuki (Battleship Division 3), Rear Admiral Toshio Shimazaki (Kongo’s recently promoted commanding officer) and 1,250 crewmen to the bottom. The two destroyers rescued 237 survivors. Kongo was the only Japanese battleship sunk by a submarine and the last battleship ever sunk by a submarine.

Lieutenant Commander Reich would be awarded his third Navy Cross for the attack on Kongo, and Sealion would be awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. Reich would ultimately retire in 1973 as a Vice Admiral. He had started the war as executive officer on Sealion I (SS-195) when she was hit by a bomb during the Japanese attack on Cavite, Philippines, on 10 December 1941, which resulted in the submarine being scuttled; she was the first U.S. submarine damaged in the war. Reich was evacuated aboard submarine Stingray (SS-186) just before Corregidor fell. The torpedoes fired at Kongo had the names of the four crewmen killed at Cavite written on the warheads.

Regrettably, Reich and Sealion also unknowingly sank the Japanese “Hell Ship” Rakuyu Maru on 12 September 1944, which had 1,318 Allied POWs embarked (600 British, 717 Australian, and 1 American) Sealion ultimately rescued 54 of the POWs (although 4 subsequently died on board), and three other submarines rescued another 105 POWs. Japanese trawlers rescued a further 136 POWs after all of them had been left behind in the sea by the Japanese escorts. More than 300 POWs who had managed to make it into lifeboats were subsequently killed by Japanese machine-gun fire. In all, 1,023 POWs were lost from Rakuyu Maru.

Carrier Shinano Sunk by USS Archerfish (SS-311), 29 November 1944

Until the commissioning of the USS Forrestal (CVA-59) in 1955, Shinano was the largest carrier ever built, at 72,000 tons. Laid down at Yokosuka as the third sister of the super-battleships Yamato and Musashi, construction was halted in December 1941, and then after the loss of four Japanese carriers at the Battle of Midway she was re-designed to be completed as an aircraft carrier. Shinano had an armored flight deck and was designed to be capable of embarking an unusual air group of new-type aircraft: 18 Mitsubishi A7M Reppu “Sam” fighters, 18 Aichi B7A Ryusei “Grace” torpedo bombers, six Nakajima C6N Saiun “Myrt” reconnaissance aircraft, plus enough space to store 120 additional aircraft to be used to replace losses on other carriers.

The construction of Shinano was unknown to U.S. Intelligence until she was photographed in the final stages of fitting out on 1 November 1944 by a B-29 bomber flying a reconnaissance mission. Concerned she would become a bomber target, the Japanese rushed the initial sea trials and commissioned her on 19 November 1944, with Captain Toshio Abe in command.

On 28 November 1944, Shinano departed Yokosuka en route to Kure with much necessary work still to be completed. She was escorted by three destroyers (which happened to be the same escorts for the sunken Kongo) and was carrying a cargo of 50 Okha rocket-propelled suicide aircraft and their kamikaze personnel (the “Thunder Gods”) and six Shinyo suicide boats. In the meantime, the submarine Archerfish (SS-311), commanded by Commander Joseph F. Enright, had arrived off the coast of Japan with a primary mission of providing lifeguard services for B-29 bombers that might ditch. As there were no raids scheduled for 28 November, Archerfish was free to come off station and hunt.

At dusk on 28 November, Archerfish lookouts spotted what was initially thought to be a large tanker with escorts departing Yokosuka. For over six hours, Archerfish tracked the contact and maneuvered to get into position for a submerged attack on what Commander Enright eventually concluded was an aircraft carrier. Commander Enright ruled out a night surface attack as being suicidal given the alertness of the destroyers. In a stroke of luck, Shinano turned to give Archerfish an almost ideal shot. At a range of 1,400 yards, Commander Enright fired all six bow tubes, with the torpedoes set to run shallow, in order to hole the target just below the waterline to facilitate capsizing. After remaining at periscope depth long enough to see the first two torpedoes hit, Commander Enright then took Archerfish to 400 feet to avoid a depth-charge counterattack.

At 0309 on 29 November 1944, Shinano was hit by four torpedoes from Archerfish on the starboard side, in a vulnerable spot below the waterline but above the anti-torpedo bulges. Despite severe damage, Captain Abe ordered three outboard port boiler rooms flooded to counter the list, and the huge carrier initially maintained course and speed. Nevertheless, progressive flooding continued through numerous incomplete fittings and hatches. By dawn, Shinano had steamed 36 miles from the torpedo strike when her boiler feed water failed and the ship went dead in the water. Two destroyers then attempted to tow Shinano, but were unsuccessful as the ship continued to list. At 1018, Captain Abe ordered abandon ship, and the destroyer Yukikaze came alongside to remove crewmen. However, at 1057, Shinano rolled completely over and sank by the stern. Captain Abe chose to go down with his ship, but 1,435 men were also lost; 1,080 were rescued, including 32 civilian workers, and 3 Okha pilots. The destroyer Hamakaze fished the emperor’s portrait, which, amazingly, had not gone to the bottom.

Initially, Archerfish was given credit for sinking a cruiser, as U.S. naval intelligence was not aware of any carriers in that area, but Commander Enright produced a detailed sketch and was the given credit for sinking a 28,000-ton carrier. Only after the war were the true details of the Shinano known. Commander Enright had previously been relieved (at his request) of command of submarine Dace (SS-247) for what was deemed a “timid” attempt to attack the carrier Shokaku in November 1943, but later requested another command. Commander Enright would subsequently receive the Navy Cross and Archerfish a Presidential Unit Citation for sinking Shinano, the largest warship ever sunk by a submarine.   

Carrier Junyo Escapes a Wolfpack Yet Again, 8–9 December 1944

Following a second logistics run to Manila, the carrier Junyo departed Manila on 1 December 1944 in company with three destroyers, en route return to Kure, Japan, via Mako, Formosa. At Mako, Junyo joined up with battleship Haruna (damaged in a grounding at Singapore and en route Japan for repair), embarked 200 survivors of the battleship Musashi (sunk in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea in October 1944) and resumed her transit to Japan. Once again, alerted by Ultra intelligence, a U.S. submarine wolfpack was waiting for her.

Between midnight and 0330 on 9 December 1944, Sea Devil (SS-400), Plaice (SS-390) and Redfish (SS-395) all attacked Junyo. In the confusion, it is not clear which sub scored hits. Sometime during the melee, Junyo was hit by two, possibly three, torpedoes and the destroyer Maki intercepted one torpedo and was hit in the bow. Junyo took one torpedo in her starboard engine room, which completely flooded, and another torpedo hit right at the bow; 19 crewmen were killed. There was no fire as the aviation gasoline tanks were empty, and although the list reached 18-degrees, Junyo’s damage control teams were able to stabilize the ship. Junyo was able to make half-speed and maintain a nearly straight course, proceeding into shoal water where the submarines could not follow. On 10 December, both Junyo and Haruna arrived at Kure, Japan. Maki limped into Nagasaki. Although Junyo survived, the significant damage was never fully repaired and she conducted no further operations during the war.

Carrier Unryu Sunk by USS Redfish, 19 December 1944

During World War II, despite the severe lack of resources, the Japanese were able to complete three aircraft carriers that were basically an updated modification of the pre-war Hiryu-class (and Hiryu’s near-sister Soryu, both sunk at Midway). The three 22,000-ton carriers were the Unryu, Amagi and Katsuragi. However, none of the three ever fought as aircraft carriers due to the severe losses of Japanese Navy pilots in 1944. Unryu was the first to be commissioned, on 6 August 1944, and for a very brief period after the Battle of Leyte Gulf (in which she did not participate) served as Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa’s flagship of the First Mobile Fleet (or what was left of it). Due to a lack of planes, pilots and fuel, the three carriers were mostly idle in protected waters of Japan’s Seto Inland Sea.

However, with sighting reports on 13 December 1944 of General Douglas MacArthur’s invasion fleet preparing for what the Japanese thought would be an assault on the main Philippine island of Luzon (the target was actually Mindoro), Unryu was given a special mission to transport 30 Ohka rocket-propelled suicide aircraft to Manila, along with suicide boats, torpedoes, ammunition, other equipment and troops.  Under the command of Captain Konishi Kaname, Unryu departed on 17 December 1944, accompanied by the two new destroyers Hinoki and Momi and the legendary “miracle” destroyer Shigure (survivor of numerous battles, twice as the sole survivor: Vella Gulf in August 1943 and Surigao Strait in October 1944).

As Unryu transited south in increasingly foul whether, Japanese radar-detectors picked up signs of U.S. radar, probably from submarines. At the time, Admiral Halsey’s Third Fleet was caught in the middle of a typhoon, which sank three U.S. destroyers, and had other things to worry about than Unryu. At noon on 19 December, Unryu shifted course, right into waiting arms of submarine Redfish (SS-395), commanded by Commander Louis D. McGregor, which on 8 December 1944 had possibly hit the carrier Junyo in the bow with a torpedo and, on 19 December, alerted to the Japanese force by Ultra intelligence, was itching for more.

At 1627 on 19 December, Redfish sighted Unryu. McGregor commenced an attack at maximum submerged speed, aided by the fact that at 1629, Unryu zigged right into an ideal firing position for Redfish. At a range of just under 1,500 yards, McGregor fired a spread of all six bow torpedoes. Unryu’s sonar watch had actually detected the presence of Redfish several minutes earlier and also soon detected the torpedo launches. Unryu immediately commenced evasive action to comb the torpedo tracks, and her guns opened fire on Redfish’s periscope.

Unryu evaded three torpedoes, but was hit by the fourth torpedo just under the island. (What happened to the other two torpedoes is unknown.) The hit was devastating, rupturing the main steam line, destroying the control room, flooding two boiler rooms, knocking out electrical power, starting a fire on the hangar deck, and causing the ship quickly to go dead in the water. From McGregor’s perspective, it appeared that Unryu was not sinking. As he was deciding to commence a second attack, the destroyer Hinoki was crossing astern of Redfish in an ideal position for a shot by the stern tubes, and McGregor took the opportunity. However, Hinoki skillfully avoided the four torpedoes.

As Redfish frantically reloaded torpedoes, McGregor courageously remained at periscope depth, which the Japanese escorts failed to realize as they scrambled to detect a deeper submarine. With only one torpedo reloaded in the stern tube and time running out before the Japanese destroyers caught their mistake, at 1650 McGregor fired the one torpedo at Unryu at a range of 1,100 yards.

Meanwhile, Unryu’s damage control effort was making good progress and the carrier was once again underway. Unryu’s lookouts sighted the torpedo, and her gunners fired on it, but the torpedo struck on the starboard side, just forward of the bridge. The hit caused the cargo of ammunition and the Ohka rocket planes to begin to explode, blowing the forward section of the ship apart, flooding all the boiler rooms, killing the men who moments before thought they had saved their ship. Within minutes, Unryu was listing 30 degrees, and Captain Kaname gave the order to abandon ship. The gunners refused to leave their posts, continuing to fire on the periscope until the ship went under. At 1656, the list increased to 90 degrees, and with guns still firing, Unryu quickly sank. Captain Kaname, the executive officer, the navigation officer, 1,238 crewmen, and an unknown number of passengers went down with the ship. Only 146 men, including 57 passengers were rescued by Momi and Shigure, while Hinoki conducted an aggressive counterattack on Redfish, nearly catching her while McGregor was taking photos of the sinking Unryu.

As Redfish went deep, seven depth charges hit dangerously close, inflicting damage throughout the submarine, knocking out the sonar, jamming the rudder and the dive plane, and even activating a loaded torpedo, with one crewman badly wounded. Luckily, the submarine hit bottom at 200 feet, where she rode out another two hours of depth charges. Although Shigure stayed behind in hopes of trapping the submarine, Redfish was able to make a getaway at maximum speed on the surface after sunset on the 19 November, although her damage put her out of action for the rest of the war. Shigure then suffered an engineering casualty and had to return to Japan. Momi and Hinoki continued via Cam Ranh Bay to the Philippines, where Momi was sunk by a U.S. aerial torpedo with all 210 hands on 5 December 1945, and Hinoki, badly damaged in the same attack, was then sunk by torpedoes from U.S. destroyers on 7 December, also with all hands, in what was the last surface battle between U.S. and Japanese ships. In effect, Shigure was once again a sole survivor.

Commander Louis McGregor would be awarded his second of two Navy Crosses in command of Redfish for the sinking of Unryu, along with a previous Silver Star in command of Pike (SS-173). McGregor would retire as a rear admiral. Redfish was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for her two war patrols. Redfish would later have a distinguished movie career as Nautilus in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1954, and as Nerka in Run Silent, Run Deep in 1958, and several appearances in the TV series The Silent Service.

Sources include: “The Loss of Battleship Kongo,” as told in the chapter titled “November Woes,” in Total Eclipse: The Last Battles of the IJN—Leyte to Kure 1944 to 1945, by Anthony Tully, 1998; Star-Crossed Sortie: The Last Voyage of Unryu and DesDiv 52, by Anthony Tully, 1998; combinedfleet.com for Japanese ships; Dictionary of American Fighting Ships (DANFS) for U.S. vessels; and various volumes of Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.     

Published: Thu Dec 26 09:35:26 EST 2019