Built at Portsmouth Naval Yard in Kittery, Maine, and commissioned on 30 July 1942, USS RUNNER (SS-275) remained on the eastern coast of the United States only long enough to conduct shakedown exercises before setting out for Pearl Harbor.
RUNNER’s first war patrol was frustrating. She managed to torpedo five cargo ships, but none of them sank. Plus, in the midst of the final attack she was very nearly hit by a patrol plane’s bomb. It went off close enough to the boat that the force of the explosion knocked out all the sound gear, as well as the power that raised and lowered the periscopes. The boat dove deep to escape, then returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
The second patrol was less exciting since RUNNER’s mission was to lay mines. Then she moved to the Hainan Straits, which separate mainland China from Hainan Island and connect the Gulf of Tonkin to the South China Sea. There she torpedoed a single freighter before setting a course for Midway.
On 27 May 1943, RUNNER departed Midway for the Kurile Islands, which arc between Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula and the northernmost tip of Japan. She was never seen again. Japanese records note the sinking of two vessels, one on 11 June and one on 26 June, in the area RUNNER had been assigned to patrol, but they hold no clue as to what might have happened to the lost boat. Therefore 26 June, the last date on which she is known to have been patrolling, is typically cited as the date of her loss.
RUNNER received one battle star for her wartime service. Seventy-eight men were lost with her.