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Thomas Burton Klakring -- born in Annapolis, Md., on 19 December 1904 – attended grammar school, high school, and St. John’s College in Annapolis, and graduated with the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1927. While a midshipman he played soccer and lacrosse, and served as the director of Musical Clubs. Klakring served in battleship Texas (BB-35) until June 1929, and in December 1929, graduated from submarine training at Submarine School, New London, Conn. He gained experience at sea on board submarines S-12 (SS-117) in the Panama Canal Zone and Caribbean until February 1932, R-2 (SS-79) at the Submarine School, and Cuttlefish (SS-171) until March 1935. He attained a Master of Science in Marine Engineering (Design) at the Postgraduate School, Annapolis, and University of California, Berkeley, Calif., in 1938.
Klakring sailed for the Asiatic Fleet in June 1939, and served as a squadron and division engineer officer on the staff of Commander, Submarine Squadron (SubRon) 5 until February 1941. He then assumed command of his first boat, S-17 (SS-122), at New London. Lt. Comdr. Klakring took charge of submarine Guardfish (SS-217) while she fitted out at Electric Boat Co., Groton, Conn., in January 1942.
Klakring assumed command of Guardfish when she was commissioned on 8 May 1942. During Guardfish’s war patrols under Klakring’s command, the Navy credited her with sinking eight Japanese ships, including two major vessels. Guardfish sank Japanese merchant passenger-cargo ship Seikai Maru with three torpedoes off the entrance to Sendai harbor, on the northeast coast of Honshū, during her first war patrol at 1657 on 24 August 1942. Klakring reported that the first two torpedoes hit under the forecastle and amidships, respectively, and the third exploded against the bluff of the island, blowing the bow “almost completely off and she went down vertically by the bow with her screws still turning.” The victim sailed as part of a convoy, which came about to escape Guardfish. The submarine descended to 120 feet and evaded a patrol vessel that searched for her, and Klakring then surfaced and aggressively “stood northward at 16 knots in chase of the freighters which had headed up the coast.”
The submarine also sank Japanese destroyer Hakaze south of Steffen Strait, between New Ireland and New Hanover, at 1745 on 23 January 1943. Guardfish fired three torpedoes, and Hakaze turned and while the first two torpedoes passed up her starboard side, the third struck her under the after stack. “Daringly pressing home attacks on Japanese shipping,” Klakring subsequently received the Navy Cross with two gold stars for his command of the boat during these patrols. “Despite enemy counter efforts of depth charges from aircraft and gun attacks from surface vessels, he handled [Guardfish] with such outstanding seamanship and excellent judgment that he was able to bring her through without damage and his crew home without loss or injury.” In addition, Guardfish was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
Lt. Comdr. Norvell G. Ward relieved Klakring as the commanding officer of Guardfish on 18 May 1943. Klakring became the prospective commanding officer of submarine Flounder (SS-251) while she fitted out. He instructed the Officers Class at the Submarine School (October 1943–March 1944). He led Submarine Division 102 (May 1944–May 1945), and then served on the staff of Commander Fifth Fleet (May 1945–January 1946). Klakring’s decorations include the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, China Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Area Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal, and WWII Victory Medal.
Klakring served as Chief of the Surface Objectives Section on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations until August 1947, and then assumed command of SubRon 8. Rear Adm. Klakring retired on 1 June 1949. He subsequently became Vice President of the Electric Boat Co., Groton, Conn., and then manager of International Activities for the Electric Boat Division. In 1964, he retired from this position and returned to Annapolis, where he established a consulting service in the marine industrial and engineering fields. He was a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, and the American Society of Naval Engineers. Klakring moved to California in 1973, and died at Balboa Naval Hospital, San Diego, Calif., on 24 July 1975.
Courtney Frey and Mark L. Evans