Submarine Losses


83 Men Lost

June 1, 1944

USS Herring (SS 233)
Herring (SS 233), off Hunters Point Dry Dock, San Francisco, CA., October 14, 1943.
In a little less than 8 months from the date of this photo, the boat and her entire crew would be M.I.A.

  • Gato Class Submarine
  • Keel laid: July 14, 1941, at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, ME
  • Launched: January 15, 1942
  • Commissioned: May 4, 1942
  • Displacement: 1,526 tons surfaced; 2,410 tons submerged
  • Length: 311′ 10″
  • Beam: 27′ 3″
  • Operating depth: 300′
  • Complement: 6 officers, 54 enlisted
  • Armament: ten 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes, one 3″/50 deck gun, two .50 cal. machine guns, two .30 cal. machine guns

Herring’s eighth war patrol was to be both her most successful and her last. Topping off at Midway Island on May 21, 1944, Herring headed for the Kurile Islands patrol area. Ten days later she rendezvoused with Barb (SS 220), and was never heard from or seen again. However, Japanese records prove that she sank two ships, Ishigaki and Hokuyo Maru, on the night of May 30 & 31. Herring’s exact manner of loss can be determined from these records also. Two more merchant ships, Hiburi Maru and Iwaki Maru, were sunk while at anchor in Matsuwa Island on the morning of 1 June 1944. In a counter-attack, enemy shore batteries scored two direct hits on the submarine’s conning tower and “bubbles covered an area about 5 meters wide, and heavy oil covered an area of approximately 15 miles.” On her last patrol, Herring had sunk four Japanese ships for a total of 13,202 tons. In all she had sunk six marus totalling 19,959 tons, a Vichy cargo ship, and a German U-boat.

Herring received five battle stars for her service in World War II.

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

USS Herring (SS 233)
Patch(es) were obtained from:
NavSource Online (Submarine Photo Archive).
Originally contributed by Don McGrogan, BMCS, USN (ret.)
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No Men Lost

May 29, 1958

USS XXXXX (SS XXX)
Stern view of the Stickleback (SS 415) on the building ways at Mare Island on July 4, 1944.

  • Balao Class Submarine
  • Keel laid: March 1, 1944, at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA
  • Launched: January 1, 1945
  • Commissioned: March 29, 1945
  • Displacement: 1,526 tons surfaced; 2,391 tons submerged
  • Length: 311′ 9″
  • Beam: 27′ 3″
  • Operating depth: 400′
  • Complement: 6 officers, 60 enlisted
  • Armament: ten 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes, one 5″/25 deck gun, one single 40mm gun mount, one single 20mm gun mount, two .50 cal. machine guns

On May 28, 1958, Stickleback was participating in an antisubmarine warfare exercise with Silverstein (DE 534) and a torpedo retriever boat in the Hawaiian area. The exercises continued into the afternoon of the next day when the submarine completed a simulated torpedo run on Silverstein. As Stickleback was going to a safe depth, she lost power and broached approximately 200 yards ahead of the destroyer escort. Silverstein backed full and put her rudder hard left in an effort to avoid a collision but holed the submarine on her port side.

Stickleback’s crew was removed by the retriever boat and combined efforts were made by Silverstein, Sabalo (SS 302), Sturtevant (DE 239), and Greenlet (ASR 10), to save the stricken submarine. The rescue ships put lines around her, but compartment after compartment flooded and, at 18:57 on May 29, 1958, Stickleback sank in 1800 fathoms (3300 m) of water.

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

USS Stickleback (SS 415)USS Stickleback (SS 415)
Patch(es) were obtained from:
NavSource Online (Submarine Photo Archive).
Originally contributed by Mike Smolinski.
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26 Men Lost

May 23, 1939

USS Squalus (SS 192)
USS Squalus (renamed USS Sailfish May 15, 1940)
Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, April 13, 1943

  • Sargo Class Submarine
  • Keel laid: October 18, 1937, at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, ME
  • Launched: September 14, 1938
  • Commissioned: as USS Squalus (SS 192) on March 1, 1939
  • Re-commissioned: as USS Sailfish (SS 192) on May 15, 1940
  • Displacement: 1,400 tons surfaced; 2,350 tons submerged
  • Length: 310′ 6″
  • Beam: 27′ 1″
  • Maximum depth: 250′
  • Complement: 5 officers, 50 enlisted
  • Armament: eight 21″ torpedo tubes, 24 torpedoes, one 3″/50 deck gun, two .50 cal machine guns, two .30 cal machine guns

On May 12, Squalus began a series of test dives off Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After successfully completing 18 dives she went down again off the Isle of Shoals on the morning of May 23. Failure of the main induction valve caused the flooding of the after torpedo room, both engine rooms, and the crew’s quarters, drowning 26 men immediately. Quick action by the crew prevented the other compartments from flooding. Squalus bottomed in 40 fathoms (73 m) of water.

Squalus was initially located by her sister ship, Sculpin (SS 191). The two submarines were able to communicate using a telephone marker buoy until the cable parted. Divers from the rescue ship Falcon, under the direction of the salvage and rescue expert Lieutenant Commander Charles B. “Swede” Momsen, employing the new McCann rescue chamber, a revised version of the Momsen diving bell that Swede had originally designed, along with the Momsen escape lung, were able to rescue all 33 surviving crew members from the disabled submarine. Four enlisted divers earned the Medal of Honor for their work during the rescue and subsequent salvage.

The submarine was refloated using cables passed underneath her hull and attached to pontoons on each side. After overcoming tremendous technical difficulties in one of the most grueling salvage operations in Naval history, Squalus was raised, towed into Portsmouth Navy Yard on September 13, and formally decommissioned on 15 November.

The submarine was renamed Sailfish on February 9, 1940.

Sailfish was awarded nine battle stars for service in the Pacific and received the Presidential Unit Citation.

Naval Historical Center

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

USS Squalus (SS 192)USS Sailfish (SS 192)
Patch(es) were obtained from:
NavSource Online (Submarine Photo Archive).
Originally contributed by Don McGrogan, BMCS, USN (ret.)
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99 Men Lost

May 22, 1968

USS Scorpion (SSN 589)
USS Scorpion on June 27, 1960, off New London, Connecticut, during builder’s trials.
Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover is standing on her sailplanes with another officer.

  • Skipjack Class Submarine
  • Keel laid: August 20, 1958, at the Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corp., Groton, CT
  • Launched: December 19, 1959
  • Commissioned: July 29, 1960
  • Displacement: 2,880 tons surfaced; 3,500 tons submerged
  • Length: 251′ 9″
  • Beam: 32′
  • Depth limit: 700′
  • Complement: 8 officers, 75 enlisted
  • Armament: six 21″ torpedo tubes, forward

Disappearance
In late October 1967, Scorpion started refresher training and weapons system acceptance tests, and was given a new Commanding Officer, Francis Slattery. Following type training out of Norfolk, Virginia, she got underway on February 15, 1968 for a Mediterranean Sea deployment. She operated with the Sixth Fleet into May and then headed west for home. Scorpion suffered several mechanical malfunctions including a chronic problem with Freon leakage from refrigeration systems. An electrical fire occurred in an escape trunk when a water leak shorted out a shore power connection. One man was overcome with gas when he investigated the problem.

Upon departing the Mediterranean on May 16, two men departed Scorpion at Rota, Spain. One man left due to emergency leave and the other enlisted man departed for health reasons. Scorpion was then detailed to observe Soviet naval activities in the Atlantic in the vicinity of the Azores. With this completed, Scorpion prepared to head back to Naval Base Norfolk.

For an unusually long period of time, beginning shortly before midnight on May 20 and ending after midnight May 21, Scorpion was attempting to send radio traffic to Naval Station Rota in Spain but was only able to reach a Navy communications station in Nia Makri in Greece, which forwarded Scorpion’s messages to SUBLANT. Six days later, she was reported overdue at Norfolk. Navy personnel suspected possible failure and launched a search.

The search
A search was initiated, but without immediate success. On June 5, Scorpion and her crew were declared “presumed lost.”

The search continued, however. A team of mathematical consultants led by Dr. John Craven, the Chief Scientist of the U.S. Navy’s Special Projects Division, employed the novel methods of Bayesian search theory, initially developed during the search for a hydrogen bomb lost off the coast of Palomares, Spain in January, 1968. At the end of October, the Navy’s oceanographic research ship, USNS Mizar (T-AGOR-11), located sections of the hull of Scorpion in more than 3000 meters (10,000 feet) of water about 740 kilometers (400 nautical miles) southwest of the Azores. Subsequently, the Court of Inquiry was reconvened, and other vessels, including the bathyscaphe Trieste, were dispatched to the scene, collecting a myriad of pictures and other data.

Although Dr. Craven has received much credit for locating Scorpion’s wreckage, Gordon Hamilton of Columbia University was also instrumental, not only in acquiring the acoustic signals that were used in locating her, but also in analyzing those signals to provide a concise “search box”, wherein the ruined Scorpion was finally located. Hamilton had established a quasi-legal listening station in the Canary Islands, which obtained a clear signal of what some scientists believe was the noise of her implosion as she passed crush depth. A little-known Naval Research Laboratory scientist named Chester “Buck” Buchanan, using a towed camera sled of his own design aboard the USNS Mizar finally located Scorpion after nearly six months of searching. (Buchanan had located the wrecked hull of the USS Thresher in 1964 using this same technique.)

USS Scorpion (SS 589)
US Navy photo 1968 of the bow section of Scorpion, by the crew of Trieste

Cause of the loss
Although the cause of her loss cannot be determined with certainty, the US Navy’s Court of Inquiry listed one possibility as the inadvertent activation of a battery-powered Mark 37 torpedo.

Several other hypotheses about the cause of the loss have been advanced; some debate whether an explosion ever actually occurred. Some have suggested that hostile action by a Soviet submarine caused Scorpion’s loss; there was even speculation that the loss was somehow connected to the Bermuda Triangle.

Naval Historical Center

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

USS Scorpion (SS 589)
Patch(es) were obtained from:
NavSource Online (Submarine Photo Archive).
Originally contributed by Mike Smolinski.
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86 Men Lost

May 3, 1945

USS Lagarto (SS 371)
Plank owners pose for this commissioning photo on the stern of the Lagarto (SS 371) in Manitowoc on October 14, 1944.

  • Balao Class Submarine
  • Keel laid: January 12, 1944, at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., Manitowoc, WI
  • Launched: May 28, 1944
  • Commissioned: October 14, 1944
  • Displacement: 1,526 tons surfaced; 2,424 tons submerged
  • Length: 311′ 9″
  • Beam: 27′ 3″
  • Operating depth: 400′
  • Complement: 6 officers, 54 enlisted
  • Armament: ten 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes, one 5″/25 deck gun, one 40mm, one 20mm, two .50 cal. machine guns

Lagarto departed Subic Bay on April 12, 1945, bound for the South China Sea, and received orders on April 27 to patrol the outer waters of the Gulf of Siam.

On May 2, USS Baya (SS 318) picked up four contacts and sent a contact report to Lagarto. Baya soon had her hands full; as her commanding officer later reported: “Jap gunnery poor but plenty of it. Tracers passing down both sides of the periscope shears and overhead…” Baya informed Lagarto “that we had been driven off by gunfire.” Baya’s skipper later ruminated: “It is nothing short of a miracle that we came through so much gun fire without a single hit.” “We were in a continuous hail of lead, fire, and steel and sustained not a scratch.”

During the mid watch on May 3, 1945, Baya rendezvoused with Lagarto and their captains discussed plans. The latter’s proposed to dive on the convoy’s track to make contact. At 15:00 on May 3, 1945, Baya sent the first “of numerous contact reports to Lagarto.” By 3:47, “having sent Lagarto contact reports almost half hourly with no receipt,” Baya decided to go it alone. Again, however, the Japanese escorts drove off Baya when she attacked during the mid watch on May 4, again saving their charges from destruction.

Post-war examination of Japanese records revealed the most likely reason for Lagarto’s silence. One of the two escorts, the minelayer Hatsutaka, made an attack on May 3 against a submerged submarine in 30 fathoms of water.

Discovery, 2005-2006
In May 2005, a group of private deep-sea divers, led by British wreck diver Jamie MacLeod, discovered the wreck in 70 m (225 ft) of water in the Gulf of Thailand. The wreck is mostly intact and sitting upright on the ocean floor. During the dive, a large rupture was discovered on the port bow area, suggesting a depth charge as the catalyst to her sinking. Also observed during the dive was an open torpedo tube door, with an empty torpedo door behind it, suggesting the possibility that Lagarto fired off a torpedo shortly before her sinking.

In June of 2006, Navy divers from the USS Salvor ARS-52 surveyed and photographed the wreck for 6 days. More evidence was seen that this is the USS Lagarto. Twin 5″ gun mounts were seen on the forward and rear parts of the ship. “Manitowoc” was seen on the propellers providing a connection to the Manitowoc, Wisconsin shipyard. The pictures were sent back to naval archeologists for further review. After viewing the evidence provided by the USS Salvor divers, it was confirmed that this was indeed the USS Lagarto.

Lagarto received one battle star for World War II service.

Naval Historical Center

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

USS Lagarto (SS 371)
Patch(es) were obtained from:
NavSource Online (Submarine Photo Archive).
Originally contributed by Mike Smolinski.
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4 Men Died as Japanese POW’s

April 22, 1943

USS Grenadier (SS 210)
Off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, December 27, 1941

  • Gar Class Submarine
  • Keel laid: April 2, 1940, at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH
  • Launched: November 20, 1940
  • Commissioned: May 1, 1941
  • Displacement: 1,475 tons surfaced; 2,370 tons submerged
  • Length: 307′ 2″
  • Beam: 27′ 3″
  • Test depth: 250′
  • Complement: 5 officers, 54 enlisted
  • Armament: ten 21″ torpedo tubes, 24 torpedoes, one 3″/50 dual purpose deck gun, two .50 cal. machine guns, two .30 cal. machine guns

The battle-tired submarine departed Australia on March 20 on her last war patrol and headed for the Strait of Malacca, gateway between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Patrolling along the Malay and Thai coasts, Grenadier claimed a small freighter off the island of Phuket on April 6. She remained in the area and late in the night of April 20 sighted two merchantmen and closed in for the attack. Running on the surface at dawn April 21, Grenadier spotted, and was simultaneously spotted by, a Japanese plane. As the sub crash dived, her skipper, Commander John A. Fitzgerald commented “we ought to be safe now, as we are between 120 and 130 feet.” Just then, bombs rocked Grenadier and heeled her over 15 to 20 degrees. Power and lights failed completely and the fatally wounded ship settled to the bottom at 267 feet. She tried to make repairs while a fierce fire blazed in the maneuvering room.

After 13 hours of sweating it out on the bottom Grenadier managed to surface after dark to clear the boat of smoke and inspect damage. The damage to her propulsion system was irreparable. Attempting to bring his ship close to shore so that the crew could scuttle her and escape into the jungle, Commander Fitzgerald even tried to jury-rig a sail. But the long night’s work proved futile. As dawn broke, April 22, Grenadier’s weary crew sighted two Japanese ships heading for them. As the skipper “didn’t think it advisable to make a stationary dive in 280 feet of water without power,” the crew began burning confidential documents prior to abandoning ship. A Japanese plane attacked the stricken submarine; but Grenadier, though dead in the water and to all appearances helpless, blazed away with machine guns. She hit the plane on its second pass. As the damaged plane veered off, its torpedo landed about 200 yards from the boat and exploded.

Opening all vents, Grenadier’s crew abandoned ship and watched her sink to her final resting place. A Japanese merchantman picked up eight officers and 68 enlisted men and took them to Penang, Malay States, where they were questioned, beaten, and starved before being sent to other prison camps. They were then separated and transferred from camp to camp along the Malay Peninsula and finally to Japan. Throughout the war they suffered brutal, inhuman treatment, and their refusal to reveal military information both frustrated and angered their captors. First word that any had survived Grenadier reached Australia on November 27, 1943. Despite the brutal and sadistic treatment, all but four of Grenadier’s crew survived their two years in Japanese hands.

Grenadier received four battle stars for World War II service.

Naval Historical Center

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

USS Grenadier (SS 210)USS Grenadier (SS 210)
Patch(es) were obtained from:
NavSource Online (Submarine Photo Archive).
Originally contributed by Mike Smolinski.
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79 Men Lost

April 18, 1944

USS Gudgeon (SS 211)
Silversides (SS 236) is on the left & Gudgeon (SS 211) on the right on the building ways # 2 at Mare Island, CA January 2, 1941.
YO-45 is under construction aft of the two submarines.

  • Gar Class Submarine
  • Keel laid: November 22, 1939 at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA
  • Launched: January 25, 1941
  • Commissioned: April 21, 1941
  • Displacement: 1,475 tons surfaced; 2,370 tons submerged
  • Length: 307′ 2″
  • Beam: 27′ 3″
  • Test depth: 250′
  • Complement: 5 officers, 54 enlisted
  • Armament: ten 21″ torpedo tubes, 24 torpedoes, one 3″/50 dual purpose deck gun, two .50 cal. machine guns, two .30 cal. machine guns

Gudgeon sailed for her 12th war patrol on April 4, 1944. The submarine stopped off for fuel at Johnston Island on April 7, and was never seen or heard from again. On June 7, 1944, Gudgeon was officially declared overdue and presumed lost. There is conflicting information on the loss of the boat.

Reliable accounts are that USS Gudgeon was sunk April 18, 1944 by an aircraft on patrol, 166 nautical miles south-east of Iwo Jima. The pilot claimed to have sighted a surfacing sub and in the attack scored direct hits on the bow and the conning tower with 2-250 kg (550 lb) bombs, leaving a gaping hole in the center section. A column of oil was thrown into the air and the sub sank quickly, followed by a heavy under water detonation.

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

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

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129 Men Lost

April 10, 1963

USS Thresher (SSN 593)
USS Thresher (SSN-593)
Starboard bow view, taken at sea on July 24, 1961

  • Thresher Class Submarine
  • Keel laid: May 28, 1958, at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kettery, ME
  • Launched: July 9, 1960
  • Commissioned: August 3, 1961
  • Displacement: 3,540 tons surfaced; 4,200 tons submerged
  • Length: 278′ 6″
  • Beam: 31′ 8″
  • Test depth: 1,300′
  • Complement: 12 officers, 94 enlisted
  • Armament: four 21″ torpedo tubes, UUM-44A SUBROC, UGM-84A/C Harpoon, MK57 deep water mines, MK60 CAPTOR mines

On April 9, 1963, Thresher, commanded by LCDR John Wesley Harvey, began post-overhaul trials. Accompanied by the submarine rescue ship USS Skylark (ASR-20), she sailed to an area some 350 km (220 miles) east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and on the morning of April 10 started deep-diving tests. As these proceeded, garbled communications were received over the underwater telephone by Skylark, indicating that after initial problems Thresher had tilted and the crew were attempting to regain control. A few words were understandable, including the famous final phrase “… minor difficulties, have positive up-angle, attempting to blow.” When the garbled communications — which were followed by the ominous sound of pressurized air escaping — eventually ceased, surface observers gradually realized that Thresher had sunk. All 129 officers, crewmen and military and civilian technicians aboard her were lost.

Thresher wreckage
This brass pipe, with the inscription: ‘JO 10 … 3-O-5091-05; DM 263-109-61; PL-1862791 PC.75; 1.050 Brass Pipe; 593 Boat’, was recovered by the bathyscaph Trieste during the second series of dives in the search for USS Thresher. The nuclear powered submarine which sank April 10 some 220 miles east of Cape Cod had the hull number ‘593’.”

Details of Loss
7:47 AM: Thresher begins its descent to the test depth of 1300 feet.
7:52 AM: Thresher levels off at 400 feet, contacts the surface, and the crew inspects the ship for leaks. None are found.
8:09 AM: Commander Harvey reports reaching half the test depth.
8:25 AM: Thresher reaches 1000 feet depth.
9:02 AM: Thresher is cruising at just a few knots (subs normally moved slowly and cautiously at great depths, lest a sudden jam of the diving planes send the ship below test depth in a matter of seconds.) Commander Harvey orders a course change: “Twenty degrees right rudder and five degrees down angle.”
9:09 AM: It is believed that a brazed pipe-joint ruptures in the engine room. The crew attempts to stop the leak while the room is filled with a cloud of mist. Harvey orders full speed, upward tilt of 15 degrees, and emptying the main ballast tank in order to surface. Due to Joule-Thomson effect, the pressurized air rapidly expanding in the pipes cools down, condensing moisture and depositing it on strainers installed in the system to protect the moving parts of the valves; in only a few seconds the moisture freezes, clogging the strainers and blocking the air flow, halting the effort to blow water out of the ballast tanks. The water leaking from the broken pipe most likely causes short circuits leading to an automatic shutdown of the ship’s reactor. The vessel loses propulsion. Harvey orders propulsion shifted to a battery-powered backup system. Assuming that the flooding was contained quickly, the engine room crew begins to restart the reactor, an operation that is expected to take at least 7 minutes.
9:13 AM: Harvey reports status via underwater telephone. The transmission is garbled, though some words are recognizable: “We are experiencing minor difficulties, have positive up-angle, and are attempting to blow.” The submarine, growing heavier from water flooding the engine room, continues its descent. Another attempt to empty the ballast tanks is performed, again failing due to the formation of ice.
9:15 AM: Skylark attempts to contact Thresher, gets no immediate answer.
9:16 AM: Garbled transmission received from Thresher.
9:17 AM: A second transmission is received, with somewhat recognizable phrase “exceeding test depth … nine hundred north”. The leak from the broken pipe grows with increased pressure.
9:18 AM: Skylark detects a high-energy low-frequency noise with characteristics of an implosion.

On April 11, at a news conference at 10:30 AM, the Navy officially concluded the ship lost.

Naval Historical Center

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

USS Thresher (SSN 593)USS Thresher (SSN 593)
Patch(es) were obtained from:
NavSource Online (Submarine Photo Archive).
Patch on right contributed by John J. Cook, patch on left contributed by Mike Smolinski.
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