Archive for December, 2014

CDR Richard H. O’Kane, Medal of Honor Recipient


CDR Richard H. O’Kane

Richard Hetherington O’Kane was born in Dover, NH, on February 2, 1911, the son of Dr. and Mrs. Walter O’Kane. After attending Phillips Academy and the University of New Hampshire, O’Kane entered the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1934. Following his graduation, O’Kane served aboard the USS Chester and USS Pruit, before reporting to sub school at Sub base NLON.

Upon completion of his training in 1938, he served aboard the USS Argonaut until reporting for duty in fitting out USS Wahoo at Mare Island, California. He served as Executive Officer of Wahoo from her commissioning in May 1942, after which he saw her through five war patrols, until July 1943 when he was detached, (just before she was announced overdue and presumed lost in November 1943.) O’Kane was awarded the Silver Star Medal with 2 gold stars, a Letter of Commendation with accompanying medal, and Presidential Unit Citation ribbon for his outstanding service on Wahoo.
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On 11 November 1944 B-29 air strikes against Tokyo were cancelled and Archerfish, originally assigned to lifesaving duties, was free to patrol the waters near Tokyo Bay. On the night of 28 November she spots what is believed to be a tanker leaving the bay. Lookouts later determine that it’s a large aircraft carrier with three destroyer escorts.

Archerfish CO, CDR Joseph F. Enright, begins a six-hour surface track on the carrier in anticipation of a submerged attack. When the carrier turned into the sub’s path six torpedos were fired. They were set for shallow running in order to increase the chances of a hit in case they ran deeper than set. Two torpedo hits were seen and four more were heard. The carrier sank in 5 hours.

Enright believed the target to be, and was credited for, a Hayataka-class carrier weighing 28,000 tons. Post war accounting identified the target as the Shinano, a 72,000 ton supercarrier, originally laid down as a Yamato-class battleship, the first of its kind. It was so secret it was being transferred from Yokusuka to Kure for final fitting out. One of the items on the list for installation were her watertight doors. Once the torpedos hit, the inexperienced crew could do nothing to save her. As of 2014, Shinano remains the the largest warship ever sunk buy a submarine. Archerfish earned the Presidential Unit Citation for this patrol.

Dec 1, 1943: Loss of the USS Capelin (SS 289)


Capelin put out on her second war patrol on 17 November 1943, in the Molucca and Celebes Seas, and was to pay particular attention to the trade routes in the vicinity of Siaoe, Sangi, Talaud, and Sarangani Islands. She was to end her patrol on 6 December.

USS Bonefish (SS 223) communicated with Capelin on 1 December 1943 in the area assigned to Capelin at that time. Bonefish warned Capelin about a convoy they had just attacked. Capelin acknowledged the message was never heard from again.

Japanese records studied after the war listed an attack by minelayer Wakataka on a supposed United States submarine on 23 November, off Kaoe Bay, Halmahera. The Japanese ship noted the attack produced oily black water columns that contained wood and cork splinters and later a raft was found. This is the only reported attack in the appropriate area at that time. Also, Japanese minefields are now known to have been placed in various positions along the north coast of Sulawesi (Celebes) in Capelin’s area, and she may have been lost because of a mine explosion. Gone without a trace with 76 crew members, Capelin remains in the list of ships lost without a known cause.