80 Men Lost

October 11, 1943

USS Wahoo (SS 238)

  • Gato Class Submarine
  • Keel laid: June 28, 1941, at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA
  • Launched: February 14, 1942
  • Commissioned: May 15, 1942
  • Displacement: 1,526 tons surfaced; 2,424 tons submerged
  • Length: 311′ 10″
  • Beam: 27′ 4″
  • Maximum operating depth: 300′
  • Complement: 6 officers, 54 enlisted
  • Armament: ten 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes, one 3″/50 dual purpose deck gun, two .50 cal machine guns, two .30 cal machine guns

Control room during Wahoo's action with a Japanese destroyer
Scene in the control room during Wahoo’s (SS-238) 27 January 1943 action with a Japanese destroyer. When the photo was taken the submarine was at 300 feet, rigged for depth charges. Six charges had just gone off and the crew was awaiting more. Lieutenant Commander Dudley W. Morton, Wahoo’s Commanding Officer, reported this action as: “Another running gun fight … destroyer gunning … Wahoo running”. Shaved head on crewman at right is a product of an Equator crossing ceremony three days previously.

WAHOO was one of the Submarine Force’s most valuable units during her six patrols, and her feats have become submarine legend. She sank 27 ships, totaling 119,100 tons, and damaged two more, making 24,900 tons, in the six patrols completed before her loss.

On 9 September, WAHOO again departed Pearl. She topped off with fuel at Midway and left there on 13 September heading for the dangerous but important Japan Sea. Shortly afterwards, SAWFISH left Midway and also headed for this area. WAHOO was to enter the Japan Sea about 20 September. She was to head south and remain below 43 degrees north after 23 September, and below 40 degrees north after 26 September. SAWFISH was to follow WAHOO, entering the Japan Sea about 23 September and patrolling the area north of WAHOO. No transmission was ever received from WAHOO.

Information gleaned from Japanese sources since the cessation of hostilities. Indicates that an antisubmarine attack was made in La Perouse Strait on 11 October 1943. This was two days after SAWFISH went through the Straits. Supplementary data on the attack of 11 October state, “Our plane found a floating sub and attacked it, with 3 depth charges.” SAWFISH was attacked here while making her passage, and that attack is not mentioned in Japanese records; the primary attacking agency in that case was a patrol boat, and about five depth charges were dropped. Thus it is safe to assume that the attack cited here was made on WAHOO, and is not the attack on SAWFISH with an incorrect date. Both Tsushima Straits, where the attack on the steamer was made, and La Perouse Straits, through which WAHOO was to make good her exit from the Japan Sea, are known to have been mined. This despite the fact that SAWFISH transited La Perouse on 9 October and reported no indications of mining. It is felt, however, that WAHOO succumbed to the attack referred to above, and not a mine.

USS Wahoo (SS 238) on eternal patrol
View of the stern diving planes, propellers, and rudder today.

Wahoo earned six battle stars for World War II service in addition to being awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for her third patrol.

Visit The USS Wahoo home page, see transcipts of the Japanese battle report of her sinking.

See photos of the Wahoo as taken in July 2006

Naval Historical Center

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

USS Wahoo (SS 238)
Patch(es) were obtained from:
NavSource Online (Submarine Photo Archive).
Originally contributed by Don McGrogan, BMCS, USN (ret.)
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One Response to “USS Wahoo (SS 238)”

  1. Phil Elsner Says:

    A great submarine.

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