On 4 May 1945, USS LAGARTO (SS-371) was attacked and sunk by the Japanese minelayer Hatsutaka in the South China Sea. Since the date and cause of her demise were unknown until records were examined after the war’s end, LAGARTO and her crew of 86 were not declared overdue and presumed lost until 10 August. Still, within a short period of time after her loss the boat’s continued radio silence made it clear that she was gone. Knowing that Hatsutaka, a well-known terrorizer of American subs, may have caused the sub’s death, the commander of USS HAWKBILL (SS-366), a close friend of the commander of LAGARTO, requested permission to divert from his patrol area long enough to take his revenge. Twelve days after LAGARTO’s loss, HAWKBILL sent Hatsutaka to the bottom.
In May of 2005, LAGARTO was discovered resting upright in 230 feet of water in the Gulf of Thailand. A large hole was observed in her port bow, suggesting it may have been a direct hit from a depth charge that sent her to the bottom. One of her torpedo-tube doors was open and the tube behind was empty, suggesting her men had fought back against their attackers before sinking beneath the waves.
Like all war graves, LAGARTO remains the property of the United States government and no diving on the wreck is allowed without permission. Absolutely no artifact recovery or penetration of the wreck is permitted, ensuring that the crew of LAGARTO will rest undisturbed within their boat as they remain on eternal patrol.