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Barb I

USS Barb (SS-220)

Barb (SS-220) in San Francisco Bay, near the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 3 May 1945. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-83952. 

(SS-220: dp. 1,810 (surf.), 2,415 (subm.); l. 311'9"; b. 27'3"; dr. 15'3"; s. 20.25 k. (surf.), 8.75 k. (subm.); cpl. 80; a. 10 21" tt., 1 3", 2 .50 cal. mg., 2 .30 cal. mg.; cl. Gato)

A red and black striped fish native to waters around Thailand and Malaysia. The barb grows to a length of two inches and is popularly known as the banded barb or the tiger barb because of its coloring. A kingfish of the Atlantic coast is also called a barb.


The first Barb (SS-220) was laid down on 7 June 1941 at Groton, Conn., by the Electric Boat Co.; launched on 2 April 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Charles A. Dunn; and commissioned on 8 July, Lt. Comdr. John R. Waterman in command.

Following shakedown training off New London, the new submarine joined Submarine Squadron (SubRon) 50 and, on 20 October, departed New London for the northwest coast of Africa. As part of Operation "Torch," Barb conducted a reconnaissance patrol off Safi and obtained valuable weather information for the Allied fleet. The landings were scheduled for early morning on 8 November. Barb had patrolled her area for two days and, at 2200 on the 7th, sent ashore an Army scouting party which was to use a radio and flashing light to coach two destroyers into the harbor early the next morning. Acting as a beacon herself, the submarine stood offshore inside the circle of ships bombarding the coast and guiding the landing ships. On the day after the assault, Barb took station to intercept any Vichy French ships that might elect to break out of the area. The submarine ended her first patrol on 25 November when she arrived at Roseneath, Scotland.

Following refit alongside Beaver (AS-5), Barb got underway for the first of four patrols in the Bay of Biscay, the North Atlantic, and waters between Norway and Iceland. She sighted hundreds of contacts, but none were legitimate prey. The submarine held gunnery exercises on many floating mines, but returned to Roseneath on 1 July 1943 at the end of her fifth war patrol without any kills to her credit.

In the spring of 1943, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral King, decided that SubRon 50 served no real purpose in the Atlantic and ordered it stateside to prepare for redeployment to the Pacific Fleet. Barb arrived at New London on 24 July, underwent refit, and headed toward the Panama Canal on her way to the war against Japan. The submarine spent most of September undergoing intensive training at Pearl Harbor but, finally on the last day of the month, got underway for patrol duty. After a refueling stop at Midway from 4 to 6 October, she continued on to the China coast, north of Formosa. On 18 October she sighted a passenger freighter escorted by two destroyers. Barb attempted to close the pair throughout the night, but intermittent rain squalls hindered her approach. At daybreak on the 19th she submerged to periscope depth to continue the hunt. Just as the submarine readied to fire her forward torpedoes, the target zigzagged; Barb tried futilely to regain firing position while the enemy ships steamed over the horizon.

On 22 October, the submarine intercepted another convoy of two freighters, four smaller ships, and a plane escort. Japanese planes forced Barb to dive twice and prevented her from pursuing the convoy. On 25 October, the submarine observed three large transports escorted by a destroyer and several planes; but their high speed and radical zigzag plan enabled them to stay just out of Barb's reach.

On the heels of these unsuccessful attempts, Barb's next opportunity to attack came during a heavy rain squall on 9 November when she picked up a radar contact on collision course with her. Barb changed course and found two cargo ships of a four ship, four escort convoy overlapping in her sights. She fired four torpedoes at the ships, scoring two hits on a large freighter and one on a medium sized vessel. The escorts illuminated Barb with searchlights; in her haste to submerge, the submarine shipped heavy seas and plummeted to 375 feet. Fortunately, she managed to stop her descent at that depth and, once there, easily escaped the depth charges dropped by the escorts. Barb returned to Midway on 24 November and was ordered on to Mare Island for overhaul.

Following a month in the yard, the submarine returned to Pearl Harbor on 15 February 1944 and conducted training exercises until early March. After loaded supplies, she embarked on her seventh war patrol which took her to the Guam Truk Saipan shipping lanes west of the Marianas and east of Formosa. Patrolling the area thoroughly, she made only one contact worthy of torpedoes, Fukusei Maru, which the submarine observed on 28 March, while that Japanese cargo ship conducted an antisubmarine patrol off Rasa Island Okino Daito Shima. Following a four hour approach complicated by the target's erratic speed and course changes, Barb fired three torpedoes which broke the freighter in half and sank her within a minute. Barb believed her victim to be a Q ship, an innocent looking ship used to lure submarines into traps. In this case, Barb suspected the ship of trying to draw her into range of shore batteries. Later in the patrol, Barb joined Steelhead (SS-280) in a successful bombardment of a congested industrial area on Rasa Island. She scored a direct hit on the main installation of a secondary phosphate plant and made other hits which set off munitions and chemical explosions. The submarine moored at Midway on 25 April.

After refit, Barb got underway on 21 May on her eighth war patrol under a new skipper, Comdr. Eugene B. Fluckey. Patrolling the waters along the Kuril Island chain, the north coast of Hokkaido, and in the Sea of Okhotsk, Barb successfully torpedoed five ships and two sampans. On 31 May, aerial bombs and depth charges forced the submarine to submerge just as she was making her final approach on a large ship, but she returned to periscope depth to fire three torpedoes and sink cargo ship Koto Maru. Immediately following this action, Barb sighted another merchant ship but as she surfaced to chase this target, two Japanese army barges fired on her. The submarine evaded the gunfire, came around to the port quarter of the passenger cargo ship Madras Maru, and sank her with three torpedoes.


Commander Eugene B. Fluckey

Commander Eugene B. Fluckey, USN. Photograph dated 20 August 1945. Official U.S. Navy photograph now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-495585. 

Barb fired three torpedoes at a lone, high speed target on 2 June, but that aggressive enemy ship turned and ran down the torpedo track to counterattack with guns and depth charges. The submarine escaped and made her way into some icefields in the northern Kurils. Hampered by the ice, haze, and fog, she failed to find any enemy targets.

On 11 June, the submarine sank two trawlers with gunfire following a chase through the icefields. Then, after pursuing two smoke streaks for four hours, she intercepted a pair of cargo ships in column, fired three bow tubes at the lead ship, swung to port, and fired the other three forward torpedoes at the second ship. A stern hit crippled the first target and the second, Toten Maru, sank. Barb next approached the damaged ship, Chihaya Maru, whose guns were blazing, and fired three stern torpedoes. The freighter exploded and sank.

On 13 June, the submarine encountered another passenger cargo ship and fired her last two torpedoes at her, sinking Takashima Maru. The escort's depth charges rained down on Barb, but she escaped, cleared her patrol area on 28 June, and arrived at Midway on 5 July. Barb received credit for sinking 15,472 tons of enemy shipping during this single patrol.

Submarines patrolling in coordinated attack groups, "wolfpacks" to the German Navy, raised the probability of destroying entire convoys. On her ninth patrol, Barb joined Queenfish (SS-393) and Tunny (SS-282) in just such a group dubbed "Ed's Eradicators" for its commander, Capt. Edward R. Swinburne. The three submarines put to sea on 4 August and, by 10 August, had formed a scouting line for the cruise to their patrol area in the Manila Hong Kong sea lanes. In an area nicknamed "Convoy College," which stretched from Pratas Reef south of Swatow through Luzon Strait, they joined another group, "Ben's Busters." On 31 August, the two units converged on a large, heavily escorted convoy. Queenfish began the attack and destroyed two enemy ships before Barb attacked. Barb fired three torpedoes at overlapping ships, scoring hits on a tanker and a freighter. The convoy maintained course and speed, but Barb stalked it for five hours and succeeded in closing a cargo vessel. Just as she prepared to fire, a bird perched on Barb's periscope and draped its tailfeathers over the glass. She lowered the scope and raised it again, but the bird hovered over it and then resumed its perch. Finally, the bird was tricked when both scopes were raised, one a few seconds before the other. Barb rapidly computed the firing solution and fired three torpedoes that struck Okuni Maru amidships, broke the freighter ln two, and sent her to the bottom.

Barb left the area to escape the frantically pinging escorts, only to face an enemy air attack when she surfaced the next day. A Japanese plane greeted her with two bombs. Barb went deep, but the bombs exploded close enough to rip off her port antenna and to break several gauges and bulbs. While attacking a sampan with gunfire on 4 September, Barb took cover beneath the target when a Japanese plane passed overhead. The submarine then surfaced and finished the job she had begun. Later that day, another plane made a run on her, but she steered a radical zigzag and managed to elude the aircraft.

On the 9th, the submarine received an intelligence report of a convoy headed her way. Most of the enemy ships passed at too great a range for the submarine's torpedoes, but Barb did succeed in attacking a straggling escort. However, each of the three torpedoes that she fired missed the target; and Barb then became the target of a concentrated, but unsuccessful, search by planes and escorts.

On 14 September, Barb joined four other submarines shadowing an armed escort group and fired three torpedoes at a destroyer; but they all missed. She then combined with Queenfish to mount a coordinated attack on another destroyer. This Japanese warship swept the water with a powerful searchlight, illuminated Barb, and followed up with a gun barrage. The skipper noted in his log, "Set new record for clearing the bridge." as Barb dived deep to escape. Later, before leaving the area, she was able to fire a closing salvo of three torpedoes at the destroyer, but none scored.

On 16 September, Barb received an urgent request to join the search for survivors of the 12 September sinking off Hainan of Rakuyo Maru, a Japanese transport which had been carrying Allied prisoners of war. That same day, while on the way to join that search, Barb and Queenfish encountered a heavy convoy. Queenfish attacked first, but Barb's opportunity came at 2200. Closing to fire on a tanker, "Lucky" Fluckey realized that a large contact between his target and another tanker was an escort carrier. He maneuvered until the tanker and carrier overlapped, fired six torpedoes, and rapidly turned to bring the stern tubes to bear. Before she could fire, however, an escort's approach forced Barb to dive; and the submarine barely avoided a collision on the way down. Fortunately, the first six torpedoes proved ample; two scored on the tanker and three hit the carrier. Barb had sunk the 11,700 ton tanker Azusa and the 20,000 ton escort carrier Unyo.

The two submarines reached the search area by the next afternoon, and combed the water for survivors. Despite high seas and winds near typhoon force, Barb rescued 14 British and Australian prisoners from several small wooden rafts. The men were covered with heavy crude oil and suffered from malnutrition and exposure. The search continued until the afternoon of 18 September, when high winds forced the submarines to discontinue their efforts and put in Saipan on 25 September. After a day to refuel, Barb headed for Majuro to refit alongside Howard W. Gilmore (AS-16).

The submarine began her 10th war patrol in the East China Sea as part of an attack group with Queenfish and Picuda (SS-382). Her first opportunity to add to her scorecard came on 10 November when she fired a spread of torpedoes at a lone transport making the northern approach to Sasebo. Hit twice abaft her stack, the transport resisted sinking, despite a 30-degree list, and headed toward the beach in an attempt to run aground. A third torpedo finished Gokoku Maru, and she rolled over and sank stern first. Attracted by the gunfire and explosions, several Japanese patrol boats chased Barb away.

The submarine then took station off Korea for lifeguard duty. On 11 November, she followed up a contact first made by Queenfish and, after an hour's search, found a convoy of 11 merchantmen escorted by four destroyers. At first light on the 12th, Barb fired two torpedoes and sank cargo ship Naruo Maru. Two other torpedoes hit a large freighter but failed to sink her. Barb later fired another trio of torpedoes at overlapping targets. Observers on the submarine felt that they had sunk one freighter and damaged another; but the postwar assessment of Japanese records credited Spadefish (SS-411) with the kill of the cargo ship Gyokuyo Maru and held that she sank on 14 November. Two escorts boxed Barb, pinging off both of her sides; but her luck held because neither escort dropped depth charges.

When the Japanese destroyers abandoned the hunt, the submarine left the scene and resumed her patrol. When two Japanese schooners crossed Barb's track on 14 November, she sank both with gunfire. Three days later, Queenfish relayed a contact report on a convoy that included a carrier. Barb caught the convoy in the evening and was able to get into position to fire five torpedoes at the carrier. Just as Barb's torpedoes left her tubes, the carrier turned sharply, and all five torpedoes missed. Unable to regain position, Barb ended her highly successful patrol at Midway on 25 November.

For her 11th war patrol, Barb teamed up again with Queenfish and Picuda in "Loughlin's Loopers" and departed Midway on 19 December. The trio patrolled the Formosa Strait and the Chinese coast. On the first day of 1945, Barb sank a small Japanese boat with gunfire. A week later, while in the northern part of the Formosa Strait, she picked up a large convoy steaming south. Barb tracked the convoy for five hours while Picuda maneuvered to an intercepting position. At 1724, the unit commander directed Barb to make a submerged attack. Comdr. Fluckey fired three bow tubes at a large freighter in the port echelon and three tubes at an engines aft tanker in the starboard echelon. Four torpedoes hit close together, the third of which caused a tremendous explosion which forced the submarine down and sideways. Fluckey brought her back to periscope depth to check the results of the attack. After starting toward Barb, the escorts all changed course for the other side of the formation, which seemed to have stopped its forward progress and scrambled in panic. The stern of Shinyo Maru angled up at the sky, and her bow settled into the mud 30 fathoms below, while Sanyo Maru blazed amidships.

The submarine again approached the convoy, but a destroyer turned in her direction. With her bow tubes empty, the opportunity for a perfect "down-the-throat" shot eluded her, and Barb submerged while Queenfish and Picuda continued the fight. A bit later, Barb managed to mount her second and third attacks against this convoy, firing six torpedoes at a large passenger cargo ship. Fluckey observed three hits followed by a spectacular explosion, which he noted "far surpassed Hollywood..." as Anyo Maru disintegrated in pyrotechnic display resembling a gigantic phosphorous bomb. The concussion hurled shrapnel as far as 4,000 yards ahead of the submarine as it sucked much of the air from her hull.

The attack group soon cornered the only remaining ship of the convoy, and Queenfish sank her. Barb then resumed her patrol along the China coast. Realizing that he had observed no enemy shipping at night, Fluckey deduced that the convoys were anchoring inshore during hours of darkness and were hugging the coastline during daylight to minimize the danger of submarine attacks. After tracking two ships through the overcast daylight of 22 January, he decided to attack that night. Unfortunately, the two ships turned shoreward and anchored without the submarine's being able to track them. Barb's persistent commanding officer decided to mount a search along the coast.

Operating in areas suspected of being mined, the submarine maneuvered slowly along the shore and, instead of finding one or two anchored ships, discovered an entire convoy in the lower reaches of Namkwan Harbor. In the early hours of 23 January, she commenced an attack. Fluckey reasoned that, because Barb was so close inshore, she had to create instant confusion if she were to succeed in covering the ensuing hour long seaward run she would need to reach deep water. Hence, from a range of 6,000 yards, the submarine fired 10 torpedoes at the group of 30 ships. The skipper observed eight hits that sank three ships and seriously damaged three others. The smoke from the burning ships rapidly obscured the convoy and prevented further assessment of the damage inflicted. It also provided cover for Barb's escape. She ran at 21 knots through uncharted, mined, and rock-obstructed waters until, an hour and 19 minutes after she fired the first torpedo, the submarine crossed the 20 fathom curve into deep water. To make the best time, she remained on the surface and headed for Midway, where she arrived on 10 February.

A postwar search of Japanese records revealed little information on the ships that Barb had attacked that day, but she did receive credit for sinking one cargo ship, the 5,224 ton freighter Taikyo Maru. Barb was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for the action, and Comdr. Fluckey received the Medal of Honor.



Barb. Painting, watercolor on board; 1943, framed dimensions 28H X 32 W. Accession#: 88-176-C. 

Barb got underway eastward on 11 February and arrived at Pearl Harbor four days later. From there, she continued on to the Mare Island Navy Yard, where she began a major overhaul on 27 February. The repair work was completed on 16 May, and the submarine returned to Pearl Harbor. After training and the installation of a 5 inch rocket launcher on her deck, the submarine got underway on 8 June for Midway where she topped off for her 12th war patrol. Except for three days of lifeguard duty, this offensive patrol was conducted north of Hokkaido and east of Karafuto. She reached her assigned area on 21 June and immediately sank two luggers at close range with gunfire. Barb then sailed for the shore of Japan to turn her weapons on shore uttacks. During the early morning hours of 22 June, she took station 5,250 yards from the center of the town of Shari. From that point, she made history as the first submarine to employ rockets successfully against shore installations. She fired 12 rockets that exploded in the town center causing damage but no fires. The Japanese believed that an air raid was in progress and activated air search radar and turned search lights to the sky while Barb retired safely seaward. Early the next morning, she encountered a large wooden trawler and sank it with gunfire, taking on board one prisoner.

Three days later, Barb sighted over 40,000 yards away a convoy consisting of three freighters, one destroyer, two escorts, and two patrol craft. For three hours, the submarine attempted to close the Japanese ships. Then the convoy changed its base course, leaving only one escort near enough for Barb to attack. At this time, a brilliant moon illuminated Barb, and the escorts opened fire and forced her to break off the chase. While shadowing the convoy for two more days, Barb mounted two unsuccessful attacks with electric torpedoes and endured an equally unsuccessful counterattack by the Japanese escorts before abandoning the chase to make another shore bombardment.

During daylight on 2 July, Barb surfaced 1,100 yards off a seal rookery at Kaihyo To and fired salvo after salvo into the town, destroying 20 buildings. Her 40 millimeter guns effectively silenced the opposition, and Barb even gutted three sampans moored at the docks. Intending to land a commando party, Barb moved toward the beach but withdrew upon discovering four pillboxes on the island. The next day, the submarine continued to wage war along the Japanese coast by firing 12 rockets at Shikuka. Hits exploded in a concentration of buildings but started no fires.

On 5 July, while in Aniwa Bay, Barb intercepted and sank the small cargo ship Sapporo Maru No. 11. Two pairs of Japanese escorts aggressively searched for her, but the submarine escaped by running silently for four hours along the shallow edges of a minefield. Shifting to a new sector in her patrol area, Barb destroyed a Japanese lugger with gunfire and a large diesel sampan on 11 July. On the morning of 18 July, the submarine fired her last five torpedoes at a cargo vessel and that ship's escort. One torpedo hit the stern of Coastal Defense Vessel No. 112 and sank her, but the cargo ship maneuvered skillfully and escaped. However, Comdr. Fluckey used his other weapons to continue attacks against the Japanese.

On 19 July, while patrolling in Patience Bay near Otasamu on the east coast of Karafuto, he observed a railroad running close to the coastline. He watched the tracks for the next three days, to establish train schedules and to plan a raid. On the night of 22 and 23 July, eight crewmen went ashore in pitch darkness. Compass problems and navigational errors put the force on the beach about 50 yards from a house and in a thicket of waist high bulrushes which crackled with every move. The leader of the party fell headfirst into a four foot ditch at the side of a road; then, after safely running across the road, he fell into a similar ditch on the other side. Another 1,000 yards brought the inexperienced saboteurs to the tracks.

A train rumbled past before the group could set the charge, and the saboteurs jumped into the bushes to hide as the train passed but a few feet away. Afterwards, they set the 55 pound demolition charge which would explode when the next train passed. The saboteurs returned to their rubber boats to the sound of an approaching train. As they paddled furiously for Barb, the engine detonated the charge, and the group witnessed a fiery crash. Locomotive wreckage flew two hundred feet in the air and crashed in a mass of flame and smoke. Twelve freight cars, two passenger cars, and one mail car derailed and piled up in a mound of twisted metal. The saboteurs safely reembarked, and Fluckey moved on to another location to continue wreaking havoc.

On 24 July, Barb launched three rocket attacks on Shiritori, igniting large fires and setting off heavy explosions. Thick clouds of smoke obscured the targets, so Barb proceeded to Kashiho and fired a salvo of rockets at the factories there. The rockets landed in the target area but started no fires, and damage could not be assessed.

Then, during the daylight hours of 25 July, Barb turned her guns on a group of sampans, sinking all six of them. In between surface attacks, she bombarded the canneries at Chirie; and on 26 July, with only 40 millimeter and 20 millimeter ammunition remaining, the submarine hit Shibetoro with a sweeping gun attack. Hits on an oil tank caused fires which spread and destroyed a lumber mill and a sampan building yard. Barb then attacked a trawler close to shore until blazing fires consumed it. The trawler did not sink until the submarine rammed it and pushed it under. This action ended her last war patrol, and Barb set course for Midway. She arrived there on 2 August and was there when the news of the Japanese surrender arrived on the 15th.

Barb was credited with having sunk the third greatest tonnage of Japanese shipping destroyed during World War II, with 17 ships for 96,628 tons on her record. If we credit her with the sinking of Gyokuyo Maru, which the Joint Army Navy Assessment Committee did not do but which Japanese war diaries suggest the submarine actually accomplished, Barb becomes the highest scoring submarine with a total of 102,024 tons sent to the bottom. In either case, the submarine compiled a remarkable record.

Barb left Midway on 21 August to return to the United States. After touching at Pearl Harbor on 28 and 29 August and then transiting the Panama Canal on 15 September, she arrived at New London on 21 September. She visited Philadelphia for the Navy Day Celebration during the last week of October; and then entered the Marine Railway Drydock at New London on 5 November to begin her inactivation overhaul. Barb remained at New London, in commission in reserve, until decommissioned on 12 February 1947 and assigned to the New London Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet.

Barb was recommissioned on 3 December 1951 and assigned to Submarine Squadron 4. She spent the next three months training in the Narragansett Bay operating area; then steamed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for refresher training. On 12 April 1952, she reported for duty at the Naval Station, Key West. With other units of her squadron, Barb spent the next two years as a part of the refit and training group that operated in the local waters.

Released from these duties on 16 January 1954, Barb steamed to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for a "Guppy" modernization. She was decommissioned there on 5 February; and, after alterations including topside streamlining and the addition of a snorkel, Barb was recommissioned on 3 August 1954, Coammander George E. Everly in command, but only for a brief period. After sea trials and snorkel training off New London in November and early December, the submarine was decommissioned again on 13 December and and turned over to the Italian government on loan under the terms of the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. She was immediately commissioned in the Italian Navy as Enrico Tazzoli. Her name was was struck from the Navy list on 28 April 1959 in order that it be assigned to a new submarine, SSN-596. Her hull number, on the other hand, continued on the list. She remained in service with the Italian Navy until 1972, when her age and condition necessitated decommissioning. SS-220 was struck from the Navy list on 15 October, and she was sold to an Italian scrapping company, Tattanelli and D'Alesio of Livorno in April 1975.

Barb (SS-220) earned four Presidential Unit Citations for her 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th war patrols, a Navy Unit Commendation for her 12th patrol, and eight battle stars for her World War II service.

Mary P. Walker

6 March 2006

USS Barb (SS-220)

Barb (SS-220). Members of the submarine's demolition squad pose with her battle flag at the conclusion of her 12th war patrol. Taken at Pearl Harbor, August 1945. During the night of 22-23 July 1945 these men went ashore at Karafuto, Japan, and planted an explosive charge that subsequently wrecked a train. They are (from left to right): Chief Gunners Mate Paul G. Saunders, USN; Electricians Mate 3rd Class Billy R. Hatfield, USNR; Signalman 2nd Class Francis N. Sevei, USNR; Ships Cook 1st Class Lawrence W. Newland, USN; Torpedomans Mate 3rd Class Edward W. Klingesmith, USNR; Motor Machinists Mate 2nd Class James E. Richard, USN; Motor Machinists Mate 1st Class John Markuson, USN; and Lieutenant William M. Walker, USNR. This raid is represented by the train symbol in the middle bottom of the battle flag. Official U.S. Navy photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog#: NH 103570.

Published: Tue Aug 27 13:42:40 EDT 2019