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Gudgeon I (SS-211)

(SS-211: dp. 1,475; l. 307'; b. 27'3"; dr. 13'3"; s. 20 k.; cpl. 85; a. 13", 10 21" tt.; cl. Tambor)


A species of small fresh-water minnow.


Gudgeon was launched by the Mare Island Navy Yard 25 January 1941; sponsored by Mrs. William S. Pye; and commissioned 21 April 1941 at Mare Island, Lt. Comdr. Elton W. Grenfell in command.

After shakedown along the California coast, Gudgeon sailed north 28 August, heading for Alaska via Seattle. On her northern jaunt the new submarine inspected Sitka, Kodiak, and Dutch Harbor for suitability as naval bases. Continuing to Hawaii, she moored at the Pearl Harbor submarine base 10 October. Training exercises and local operations filled Gudgeon's time for the next 2 months. When the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor 7 December, she was at Lahaina Roads on special exercises, but returned to base immediately.

America's Pacific Fleet had been seriously damaged by the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor but powerful strength remained as Gudgeon and her fellow submarine soon offered convincing proof. On 11 December Gudgeon, in company with Plunger, sailed from Pearl Harbor on her, and America's, first submarine offensive patrol of World War II. When she returned some 51 days later, Gudgeon had contributed two more impressive "firsts" to the Pacific submarine fleet. She was the first American submarine to patrol along the Japanese coast itself, as her area took her off Kyushu in the home islands. And on 27 January 1942 Gudgeon became the first U.S. Navy submarine to sink an enemy warship in World War II, submarine I-173. The Japanese submarine had just returned from a patrol which took her well into American waters off the coast of California and Washington.

On her second war patrol, 22 February to 15 April 1942, Gudgeon scored kills on two unknown marus, both freighters, 26 and 27 March. She then checked into dry-dock for overhaul, but undocked 3 weeks early and readied for sea in a remarkable 40 hours to participate in the momentous Battle of Midway. Departing Pearl Harbor 18 May, Gudgeon took station off Midway as part of the submarine screen which encircled the two giant fleets clashing there. Although she had a ringside seat for the action, which saw Japan handed its first naval defeat in 350 years, Gudgeon was prevented from offensive action by the confusion of battle and the possibility of mistaken identity. She returned to Pearl Harbor 14 June.

Departing for her fourth patrol 11 July, Gudgeon sank 4,858-ton Naniwa Alaru in a night submerged attack 3 August, her only kill of the patrol. An aggressive attack on a four-ship convoy 17 August seriously damaged two marus before the patrol ended at Fremantle, Australia, 2 September. Now a part of the Southwestern Pacific submarine forces, Gudgeon sank 8,783-ton Choko Haru 21 October during her fifth war patrol, 8 October to 1 December, and carried out a daring attack on a seven-ship convoy 11 November, torpedoing several ships but sinking none. The submarine's sixth war patrol (27 December 1942-18 February 1943) was unsuccessful in terms of ships sunk, but she carried out two special missions. On 14 January 1943 Gudgeon successfully landed six men on Mindanao, Philippines, to carry out the vital guerrilla resistance movement there. Returning from her patrol area, Gudgeon was diverted to Timor Island 9 February, and the following day rescued 28 men, Australian, English, Portugese, and Filipino, for passage to Fremantle.

Gudgeon's seventh war patrol (13 March-6 April) netted her two more Japanese ships before she ran out of torpedoes and had to return to Australia. On 22 March she sank 5,434-ton Meigen Maru as well as seriously damaging two other ships in the convoy. Five days later Gudgeon took on 9,997-ton tanker Toko Maru in a night surface attack punctuated by bursts of gunfire as the Japanese ships spotted and fired on the submarine. It took .five torpedoes to sink Toko Maru, and most of Gudgeon's crew enjoyed the rare treat of watching her slide into the depths.

On her eighth war patrol, conducted as she sailed from Australia to Pearl Harbor 15 April to 25 May 1943, Gudgeon chalked up three more kills. Her first came 28 April as she sank Kamakura Maru, a former ocean liner. The 17,526-ton transport was the largest Japanese transport, and one of the largest enemy ships sunk by an American submarine. Special operations interrupted Gudgeon's patrol as she landed six trained guerrilla fighters and 3 tons of equipment for the guerrilla movement on Panay 30 April. After sinking a small trawler, Noko Maru, with her deck guns 4 May, Gudgeon battle-surfaced again that same day and left a coastal steamer burning and settling. Eight days later, 12 May, she torpedoed and sank freighter Sumatra Maru. Returning to Pearl Harbor, the veteran submarine was sent to San Francisco for badly needed overhaul, her first since commissioning 2 years earlier.

A refreshed sub and crew departed Pearl Harbor for their ninth war patrol 1 September 1943. Before returning to Midway 6 October with all torpedoes expended, Gudgeon had sunk Taiau Maru and seriously damaged several others. Heading along the China coast for her 10th war patrol (31 October-11 December), Gudgeon chalked up two more marus. Early in the morning of 23 November she spotted a convoy of four ships and closed for attack. Gudgeon fired a spread of six torpedoes with gratifying results. Frigate, Wakamiya, hit by one of the deadly "tin fish" broke in two, sinking almost immediately. A tanker and a freighter were also hit but managed to escape. Gudgeon closed in to administer the kill to transport Nekka Maru.

Several attacks but no kills highlighted Gudgeon's llth war patrol. On 2 February 1944, she sighted a damaged carrier with two escorts. Gudgeon closed for attack, but the escorts spotted her in the glassy smooth sea and attacked. A down-the-throat shot with four torpedoes temporarily discouraged the destroyers and allowed Gudgeon to seek deep water and safety, but when she surfaced the Japanese men-of-war were gone. Later in the same patrol Gudgeon was forced to try another down-the-throat shot at an enemy escort, but no hits. She returned to Pearl Harbor 5 March 1944.

Gudgeon sailed for her 12th war patrol 4 April 1944. The battle-tested submarine stopped off at Johnston Island 7 April, and was never seen or heard from again. On 7 June 1944, Gudgeon was officially declared overdue and presumed lost. Captured Japanese records shed no light on the manner of her loss, and it must remain one of the mysteries of the silent sea.

During her 3-year career, Gudgeon earned herself a proud place in the Pacific submarine fleet. Her total tonnage sunk, 71,047, placed her 15th on the honor roll of American submarines, and she had accounted for a total of 12 confirmed kills.

For her first seven war patrols Gudgeon received the coveted Presidential Unit Citation. She earned 11 battle stars for World War II service.

Published: Mon Jul 13 18:11:01 EDT 2015