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Flying Fish II (SS-229)

(SS-229: dp. 1,526; l. 311'8"; b. 27'4"; dr. 15'3"; s. 20 k.; cpl. 60; a. 1 3", 10 21" tt.; cl. Gato)

A number of fishes of tropic and warm temperate seas whose long winglike fins make it possible for them to move some distance through the air.


The second Flying Fish (SS-229) was launched 9 July 1941 by Portsmouth Navy Yard; sponsored by Mrs. Husband E. Kimmel, wife of the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet; and commissioned 10 December 1941, Lieutenant Commander Glynn R. Donaho in command. She was reclassified AGSS-229 on 29 November 1950.

Flying Fish arrived at Pearl Harbor for final training 2 May 1942, and 15 days later was ordered out to patrol west of Midway, threatened by an expected Japanese attack. During the Battle of Midway 4 to 6 June, she and her sisters fanned out to scout and screen the island, at which she refitted from 9 to 11 June. Continuing her first full war patrol, she searched major shipping lanes in empire waters and scored a hit on a Japanese destroyer off Taiwan during the night of 3 July. She returned to Midway to refit on 25 July and on 15 August she sailed on her second war patrol, bound for a station north of Truk.

On 28 August 1942, 3 days after arriving on station, Flying Fish sighted the masts of a Japanese battleship, guarded by two destroyers and air cover. Pour torpedoes were launched at this prime target, and two hits were picked up by sound. Immediately the counterattack began, and as Flying Fish prepared to launch torpedoes at one of the destroyers, rapidly closing to starboard, her commanding officer was blinded by a geyser of water thrown up by a bomb. Flying Fish went deep for cover. A barrage of 36 depth charges followed. When Flying Fish daringly came up to periscope depth 2 hours later, she found the two destroyers still searching aided by two harbor submarine chasers and five aircraft. A great cloud of black smoke hung over the scene, persisting through the remaining hours of daylight. As Flying Fish upped periscope again a little later, a float plane dropped bombs directly astern, and the alert destroyers closed in. A salvo of torpedoes at one of the destroyers missed, and Flying Fish went deep again to endure another depth charging. Surfacing after dark, she once more attracted the enemy through excessive smoke from one of her engines, and again she was forced down by depth charges. Early in the morning of 29 August, she at last cleared the area to surface and charge her batteries.

Unshaken by this long day of attack, she closed Truk once more 2 September 1942, and attacked a 400-ton patrol vessel, only to see her torpedoes fail to explode upon hitting the target. The patrol ship ran down the torpedo tracks and began a depth charge attack, the second salvo of which damaged Flying Fish considerably. A second patrol ship came out to join the search as Flying Fish successfully evaded both and cleared the area. Determinedly, she returned to the scene late the next night, and finding a single patrol vessel, sank her with two torpedoes just after midnight early on 4 September. Two hours later a second patrol craft came out, and as Flying Fish launched a stern shot, opened fire, then swerved to avoid the torpedo. Flying Fish dived for safety, enduring seven depth charge runs by the patrol vessel before it was joined by two destroyers who kept the submarine under attack for 5 hours. At last able to haul off, Flying Fish sailed for Pearl Harbor to repair damage between 15 September and 27 October.

During her third war patrol, south of the Marshall Islands, Flying Fish three times launched bold attacks on Japanese task forces, only to suffer the frustration of poor torpedo performance, or to score hits causing damage which postwar evaluation could not confirm. She arrived at Brisbane for refit on 16 December 1942 and on 6 January 1943, started her fourth war patrol, a reconnaissance of the Marianas. Along with gaining much valuable intelligence, she damaged a freighter in Apra Harbor 26 January, hit a passenger-cargo ship in Tinian's Sunharon Roadstead 6 February, and sank another freighter in the presence of patrolling aircraft and surface escorts 16 February.

Again returning to Pearl Harbor to replenish between 28 February 1943 and 24 March, Flying Fish made her fifth war patrol on the coast of Honshu, battered by foul weather. On 12 April, she closed the northern coast to make a daring attack on a freighter, which she sank, again in the presence of scout planes and armed trawlers. Moving south to Hokkaido, Flying Fish damaged a large freighter on the 13th, and on the 15th torpedoed an interisland cargo ship who beached in a mass of flames. Two days later, continuing her bold inshore attacks, Flying Fish sank another freighter, and in the Tsugara Strait on 24 April, sent yet another cargo ship to the bottom. On 1 May a small interisland freighter was sunk, but an alert enemy antisubmarine group shook Flying Fish considerably before she could clear the area. She returned to Midway from this highly successful patrol 11 May.

After five grueling patrols Lieutenant Commander Donaho turned the command over to Captain Frank T. Watkins for the 6th patrol from 2 June 1943 to 27 July. Flying Fish patrolled in the Volcano Islands and off Taiwan. Her first attacks, two against the same convoy, resulted in unconfirmed damage, but off Taiwan on 2 July, she blasted the stern off a cargo ship, watching it sink. While Pearl Harbor-bound from her patrol area, she made a 2-day chase for a fast convoy, but was forced by her dwindling fuel supply to break off the hunt. On 11 July she destroyed a 125-foot sailing vessel with gunfire, leaving it aflame from stem to stern.

After a major overhaul at Pearl Harbor from 27 July 1943 to 4 October Flying Fish sailed on her seventh war patrol, again with her original skipper, bound for the Palaus. Her first attack, on 18 October, scored at least one hit on an auxiliary aircraft carrier. A 2-day tracking of a well-escorted convoy from 26 to 28 October resulted in the sinking of one, and the damaging of two merchantmen before Flying Fish ran out of torpedoes. She arrived at Midway 6 November.

Flying Fish's eighth war patrol, the first to be commanded by Lieutenant Commander R. D. Risser, between Taiwan and the China coast from 30 November 1943 to 28 January 1944, found her sinking a cargo ship on 16 December, and a tanker on 27 December. Her refit and retraining between patrols were held once more at Pearl Harbor, and she sailed for her ninth war patrol 22 February. Off Iwo Jima on 12 March, she sent a merchantman to the bottom, then sailed to close Okinawa and attack a convoy in the early morning darkness of 16 March. A passenger-cargo ship was sunk and a tanker damaged in this attack. Pressing on with her chase for 6 hours in the hope of finishing off the tanker, Flying Fish was detected and held down by aircraft and destroyers while the tanker escaped. On the afternoon of 31 March, Flying Fish was attacked by a Japanese submarine, whose torpedoes she skillfully evaded. Bound for Majuro at the close of her patrol, the submarine torpedoed and sank a freighter moored at Kita Daito Jima.

Refitting at Majuro between 11 April 1944 and 4 May, Flying Fish then sailed for her tenth war patrol, coordinated with the assault on the Marianas scheduled to open the next month. First she covered shipping lanes between Ulithi, Yap, and Palau, coming under severe attack on the night of 24-25 May when she was detected while attacking a four-ship convoy. At dawn, however, she had got back into position to sink two of the ships, both passenger-cargo types. Now with other submarines she headed to take up a patrol station between the Palaus and San Bernardino Straits, from which she could scout any movement by the enemy fleet out of its base at Tawi in the Sulus while the Marines were landed on Saipan. On 15 June, day of the invasion, Flying Fish spotted the Japanese carrier force emerging from San Bernardino Strait bound westward. Her prompt report of this movement enabled a sister submarine to sink the carrier Shokaku 4 days later as American carrier aircraft broke the back of Japanese naval aviation in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Flying Fish remained on her scouting station until 23 June, then sailed for Manus and Brisbane. Here she refitted between 5 July and 1 August.

During her 11th war patrol, off Davao Gulf, the coast of Celebes, and along the shipping lanes from the Philippines to Halmahera, Flying Fish was held down much of the time by enemy aircraft. After refueling at Mios Woendi 29 August 1944 to 1 September, she closed Celebes, where on 7 September she detected a concealed enemy airstrip. Her report led to the airfield's bombardment by aircraft 11 days later. Through the remainder of her patrol she served on lifeguard duty for air strikes on Celebes, returning to Midway 18 October. She sailed on for an extensive overhaul at San Francisco, where she was equipped with mine detection and clearance equipment to enable her to penetrate the Sea of Japan.

Tests with her new gear preceded her return to Guam 18 May 1945, where she joined a submarine task group for her 12th war patrol. She sailed 29 May for the heavily mined Tsushima Strait, entering the Sea of Japan 7 June. Now each submarine headed for her own assigned area, Flying Fish setting course north for the coast of Korea. On 10 June, in separate attacks, she sank two cargo ships, taking aboard one survivor. Five days later she sank 10 small craft with gunfire and sent two onto the beach. Completing her patrol at Pearl Harbor 4 July, Flying Fish returned to New London 21 September to become flagship of Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet.

During the next 8 years, from her base at New London, the veteran Flying Fish conducted reserve training cruises in Long Island and Block Island Sound, exercised off the Virginia Capes, trained men of foreign navies, joined in major operations in the Caribbean, and cruised to Canadian ports. On 11 January 1951, she completed her duty as flagship, and began to serve the Underwater Sound Laboratory in sonar experiments. On 29 February 1952, at 1053, Flying Fish made submarine history as she dived for the 5,000th time, first American submarine to reach such a record. On board for the event was a distinguished party headed by Secretary of the Navy D. A. Kimball. Placed in commission in reserve 31 December 1953, Flying Fish was decommissioned at New London 28 May 1954 and was sold for scrapping 1 May 1959.

Of Flying Fish's 12 war patrols, all save the 11th were designated "Successful." She is credited with having sunk a total of 58,306 tons of enemy shipping. She received 12 battle stars for World War II service.

Published: Wed Jul 08 13:14:29 EDT 2015