The Loss of USS HERRING (SS-233)

On 21 May 1944, USS HERRING (SS-233) began her eighth war patrol, setting out from Midway en route to the Kurile Islands, an archipelago that stretches over 800 miles from Hokkaido, Japan, to Kamchatka, Russia. On the morning of the final day of the month she met up with USS BARB (SS-220). “Held megaphone conference,” the commanding officer of BARB wrote in his patrol report. “Decided Barb would cover area south and west of lane, Herring to north and east to Matsuwa.” At 1120: “Secured conference and headed south for roving patrol along lane.” HERRING would never be seen or heard from again.

Spirits aboard the boat must have been high as she turned away from BARB: Japanese records reveal that HERRING had sunk two enemy vessels the night before, one of which, Ishigaki, had been responsible for the loss of USS S-44 (SS-155) back in October of 1943. Unfortunately, the records also reveal how HERRING died. The day after she rendezvoused with BARB, the boat arrived at Matsuwa Island to find two more ships at anchor. She promptly sank them, but was spotted in the process. Japanese shore batteries began lobbing shells at the sub; she was hit twice on her conning tower. “Bubbles covered an area about 5 meters wide, and heavy oil covered an area of approximately 15 miles,” the record states.

Eighty-three men perished aboard HERRING on what was simultaneously her most and least successful war patrol. The boat was awarded five battle stars for her wartime service.

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