The Loss of USS POMPANO (SS-181)

By the summer of 1943, USS POMPANO (SS-181) was already an accomplished submarine, a veteran of six war patrols. On 20 August, she left Midway with high hopes for further success. She had been ordered to patrol off the east coast of Honshu, Japan, until sunset on 27 September. Then she was to return to Midway and continue to Pearl Harbor to undergo maintenance.

On 3 September, Japanese records indicate that POMPANO sank Akama Maru, a cargo vessel of nearly 6,000 tons. Twenty-two days later she sent another cargo vessel, the 3,000-ton Taiko Maru, to the bottom.

When Pearl Harbor failed to make radio contact with the sub, word was sent to Midway to keep an eye out for her. Navy personnel scanned the waters for ten days, from 5-15 October, but POMPANO never arrived. On the fifteenth, she was declared overdue and presumed lost.

Japanese records reviewed by the U.S. after the war include no anti-submarine attacks in POMPANO’s area during the time she was on patrol, but that does not mean her demise was an accident. On 6 September, she was sent a dispatch indicating that the area north of the one in which she was currently patrolling was open. Since that stretch of ocean was known to have heavier ship traffic, it is possible that she shifted into it in the hope of sinking more enemy vessels. But unknown to the Navy at the time, that area had recently been mined, and heavily. Given that information, it is very possible POMPANO was sent to the bottom after coming into contact with one of those hidden explosives. The date of her loss is usually recorded as 27 September, the day on which she was scheduled to head home, although it could have occurred any time after she sank the second cargo vessel on the 25th.

POMPANO, the seventeenth American submarine loss of World War II, took 77 men down with her. She was awarded seven battle stars for her service, which included the sinking of 21,443 tons of Japanese shipping.

One Response to “The Loss of USS POMPANO (SS-181)”

  1. KRUPPIE says:

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