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This convoy, enroute from Moji, Japan to Takao, Formosa, was attacked by Gene Rockey’s BARB, Eliot Loughlin’s QUEENFISH and Ty Shepard’s PICUDA, on the night of 8 January, 1945. The results have been the subject of confusion and debate ever since. The side-by-side account of the action from both the U.S. and Japanese sides, illustrate the great difficulty of reconciling such reports.

The U.S. account is taken from the patrol reports of the three submarines. the evaluation of the results come from:
• JANAC, the 1947 official U.S. attribution of credit for the sinkings in a report of the Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee;
• SORG, the initial evaluation of results made by the Submarine Operations Research Group; and
• DN, a narrative extracted from Japanese records by Roger Allen of the compilation of losses in “The Imperial Japanese Nayy in World War D”, prepared in 1952.

The U.S. submarines identified the convoy as composed of eight cargo ships, one destroyer, and eight or more smaller escorts. The Japanese gave the convoy composition as nine ships escorted by the frigates (kaiboken) CD 26, 39, and 112. Here is the running account of the encounter (Since all merchant ships and naval auxiliaries were called Marus, for the ships involved the “M.” stands for Maru):

View full article for table data

The ninth ship in the convoy was Oga Maru. There is no indication in any of the material referenced that this ship was damaged during the above action.

John D. Alden

[The data cued here was collected for John D. Alden’s book, U.S. Submarine Attacks During World War II. The book was reviewed in the Apri/1989 Submarine Review]

Editor’s note: It should be observed that there was only one submariner with JANAC making the assessments of sinkings after the war. JANAC’s crediting of aircraft sinking of the Manju M. and Meiho M.–both beached derelicts after sustaining torpedo hits — makes one wonder how many such other destroyed-by-torpedoes ships were improperly credited to aircraft which bombed the grounded hulks at a later time. JJN people also indicated the same prejudice against submarines. Note that they credited BARB’s Sanyo M and BARB’s Shinyo M. to aircraft; and Hikoshima M., torpedoed by BARB and PICUDA, and Manju M. torpedoed by QUEENFISH to a “marine casualty.”


The Soviets are unquestionably “true believers” in submarine sea power. This is evidenced in their writings, submarine building programs, the character of Soviet submarines and their weapons, and the position of submarines in their political and military plans. They view their submarine service as the heart and sinew of their navy:

“Missile armed submarines are the main component of the combat might of the leading navies in the world, including the Soviet Navy.” … S. G. Gorshko”

The evidence is there for all to see and hear about. The Soviet submarine force is not a “Silent Service!”

The Soviet’s great numbers of submarines — the majority of which are nuclear powered — have permitted a strategy for their use which is not only responsive to modern technologies but is also felt to be so decisive in its effects and so assured in its surprise and tempo of execution as to comprise– in the estimation of Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, the former Head of the Soviet Navy, — “a new principle of war.” This strategy might be termed one of “Simultaneous Destruction” or “Simultaneity.”

“The principle of simultaneous action upon the enemy to the entire depth of his deployment — has acquired an increasingly realistic basis.” … V. A. Savkin.

This principle dictates that designated targets in a multiple target complex be destroyed at the same time in a single massive strike.

The reasoning which led to the Soviet Union’s new strategy and the possession of the world’s mightiest submarine fleet, results from a number of major factors. Among these are: how military policy is made; the adherence to Marxist-Leninist dogma; the amazing technology developments of the past forty years; and, of course, the special ability of submarines to operate covertly.

The genesis of this present submarine strategy of simultaneity in attack on groupings of targets can be found in the dictums of NjkoJai Lenin who, according to A S. Milodor, “considered the element of surprise to be the key factor in ensuring victory, while stressing the importance of seizing and maintaining the initiative.” One of Lenin’s dictums also called for a “first salvo” – a gaining of the initiative by getting in the first blow.

Submarines certainly lend themselves to such doctrines for the use of sea power. Additionally, the character and numbers of Soviet submarines which have been produced lend credence to the intent of Soviet leaders to produce a form of sea power which can eventually dominate the sea areas of the world.

Lenin may not have recognized the value of the submarine to Soviet military and political interests, but Joseph Stalin, who became General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922 and then Premier in 1928, began a series of programs which Jed to the Soviet Union’s possession of the world’s largest submarine fleet Starting with the Soviet’s first 5-year plan (1928-32), Stalin was mainly concerned with raising the economic level of his country and protecting the “homeland” from attacks from land and sea. This latter concern stemmed from the land-locked character of the Soviet Union, the threats posed by the sea powers of the West, the unfortunate results of conflicts over the past two centuries some of which were aided by the application of sea power to land offensives, and the growing imminence of invasion of the “motherland,” from either the west or the east, during the ’30s. Initially, Stalin called for a submarine construction program of 69 large, 200 medium and 100 small submarines in the second 5-year plan. But then in the late ’30s, with a deteriorating international situation, an even greater ship building program was inaugurated. By 1942 the submarine fleet was to have had 341 new high seas submarines. But by the time the Germans attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, only 206 submarines had entered service. It was still, at the start of World War II, the largest fleet in the world.

Soviet submarines however, had little influence on the war’s outcome because their role was defensive — to protect the homeland — while access to the open ocean was extremely limited. But Stalin had observed the tremendous success of German submarines in impeding the very essential overseas logistic support required by land forces of the Allies. Similarly, U.S. submarines strangled Japanese supply by sea. As the War drew to a close, Stalin was sorely frustrated by the Jack of long range weapons to strike deep into the heart of Germany while German invading forces were striking deep into Stalin’s homeland. With the U.S. A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the solution to this problem presented itself. Stalin visualized the use of long range aircraft, missiles and nuclear weapons to attack enemies on their home grounds, and hold enemies of the Soviet Union at bay. Thus, he quickly began to change from a policy of strategic defense of the homeland to an offensive strategy -consistent with Lenin’s dictums -which, with very long range atomic weapons, would hang the threat of a holocaust over the heads of potential enemies, like a veritable Sword of Damocles. It was a “threat of doom” new strategy.

Stalin’s post-war actions revealed his plans to carry out this new offensive strategy. By acquiring buffer states around the Soviet Union, by gaining territory with access to the seas, and by building advanced weapons systems, he believed that the Soviets could present a direct threat to any enemy anywhere on the face of the globe — and therefore at the same time insure the safety of the homeland from attack. The military force which was in the process of being created before his death in 1953 consisted of tactical and strategic nuclear payloads for delivery by long and short range missiles using ground launchers, submarines and long range aircraft. Rather than attempt to match U.S. bomber forces of the ’50s, it was decided to concentrate instead on the development of nucleararmed ballistic missiles. A program to build about 600 dieselelectric submarines, some with a missile capability, following the lead of the United States with its Regulus program, was also adopted. Admiral Gorshkov, who became the spokesman for the naval programs initiated by the Politburo, noted that research had shown the high degree of effectiveness of submarines when correctly employed:

“Giiving priority to the development of submarine forces made it possible in the shortest possible time to sharply increase the attack capabilities of our Navy, to pose a serious threat to the main forces of the enemy na”Y in the ocean theaters, and at a cost of fewer resources and less time, to intensify the growth in the maritime might of our country.”

With the advent of the nuclear submarine, the Admiral would add that submarines with nuclear propulsion should even more insure that submarines were considered to be the combat bulwark of the (Soviet) Navy.”

From the time of Stalin’s death until 1958, there was a Kremlin power struggle. In March 1958, however, Nikita Krushchev, having gained control of the Communist Party and hence control of the Soviet Government, became the Premier. He adopted the same objectives for the grand offensive strategy as his predecessor, Stalin. He continued to build up the Soviet Navy’s submarine arm and improve its capabilities. He oversaw the integration of cruise and ballistic missiles into both submarines and modem surface ships. He also initiated space programs to support his submarines and oriented the Soviet surface fleet towards ASW and support of submarine functions.

Admiral Gorshkov interpreted this:

“The First and Second World Wan showed the mistake of the opinion that the submarine, in view of its ability to remain concealed after departing its base, could assure its own invulnerability”.Moreover, “Divene surface ships and aircraft are included in the inventory of our Navy in order to give combat stability to the submarines and comprehensively support them, to battle the enemy’s surface and ASW forces.”

Admiral Gorshkov, who in 1956 Krushchev had appointed to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet and the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy, was designated to carry out the Politburo’s plan for naval dominance. Unlike the United States, where military programs are promoted by the White House, the Congress, a specific military service strongly affected by military service rivalries, and even the contractors for such programs, the government organization of the USSR offered Admiral Gorshkov the vehicle to get major submarine program decisions approved by a very small group of leaders – the Politburo — with the go-ahead rubber-stamped by the Premier. This stream-lined method of initiating new submarine programs and getting the necessary funding to carry them out, allowed the Admiral and his Navy to rapidly integrate new technology into their submarine programs as it became available — even Western technology which was rapidly borrowed or even stolen. This was evidenced by the expose of the Walker’s spy efforts and Toshiba Company’s sending of equipment and methods for better silencing the propeller noises of Soviet submarines.

There is little need to recount the technical developments since World War II which have permitted the design and production of the Soviet’s advanced weaponry and the sophisticated submarines which use these weapons. Suffice to say, they include but are not limited to: nuclear weapons; nuclear propulsion; long range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles; lasers; miniaturized computers; high strength, high temperature and non-magnetic structural materials; and a variety of satellites for reconnaissance, surveillance, search, tracking, communications and even orbital bombing.

Over the time span of twenty-five years – under the direction and approval of the Politburo, and the stewardship of Admiral Gorshkov – the “Threat of Doom” strategy was superceded by a “Simultaneity of Destruction” strategy for both conventional and nuclear war, with submarines playing the major naval role in this overall military strategy. Its objective is to completely wipe out, in one blow, an enemy’s ability to effectively respond to an attack. This principle is embodied in the character of a “first salvo” which the Soviets believe will produce decisive results “in a matter of seconds rather than hours and days,” according to V. G. Reznichenko – by destroying major designated targets almost simultaneously:

“The old well known fonnula — the battle for the fust salvo is taking a special meaning in naval battles under present day conditions”.

Simultaneous destruction, as applied to strategic nuclear war, means that a target list of governmental, industrial, transportation and communication centers, military bases, enemy strategic weapons facilities and airports would be destroyed in one massive blow, depriving an enemy of his warmaking capability as well as satisfactory response.

Submarine based ballistic missiles can achieve a simultaneity of detonations on all strategic targets — better ensuring attack success. This capability is the product of being able to program a ballistic missile’s time-of-flight by controlling the missile’s trajectory-velocity, using a preset time for thrust cutoff. A composite computerized guidance system, organic to the missile and made possible by the miniaturizing of guidance components, relates the accurate navigational position of the missile at launch to its target’s geographic coordinates and the desired time of payload detonation.

The same sort of single-strike, massive weapon attack in conventional war is contemplated. Carrier battle and surface action groups, air defense ships, their command and control ships, their major units etc., – the whole enchilada – would be hit almost simultaneously in only a matter of seconds. Swiftness in platforms which combine a submarine’s high speed with very high-speed weaponry, produce quickly developing operations which, combined with surprise make it possible to beat the enemy to the punch and “to deliver a strike against the entire depth of the enemy forces’ combat alignment.” Admiral Gorshkov further notes that hostile groups of naval forces must be destroyed in a strictly defined and very short time-frame — before the enemy is able to employ its own weaponry in full measure.” In short, the Admiral says that speed, a high tempo of offensive operations, a massing of weapons on a grouping of targets and the shock effect from a simultaneity of submarine missile hits {and possibly hits by land-based aircraft-delivered missiles as well), on several targets comprising the enemy’s defensive alignment, should create overwhelming effects. These effects should also allow mop-up operations with a submarine’s torpedoes and produce a decisive victory at sea against a major segment of the enemy’s fleet.

The Soviet’s submarine-oriented Navy which fights fleetagainst-fleet engagements with missile-armed submarines and missile-armed long range land-based aircraft is expected by the Soviets to produce an advantage in battle against the West’s battle groups. This is thought, by the Soviets, to cause the defeat of an enemy’s fleet and with that, in accord with the teachings of Alfred Thayer Mahan, and as interpreted by Soviet writers, “the establishment of favorable conditions for a rather prolonged period of time for the accomplishment of follow-up missions, the victor being free to choose the time, direction, and character of his offensive operations, frequently using even weak groupings of own forces for this purpose.” In effect, the Soviets see their submarines playing a major role in gaining sea control over selected areas of the oceans for a limited period of time. This includes control of those sea areas where their strategic ballistic missile submarines lie in wait to launch their weapons at an enemy’s homeland.

The Soviet Navy is not a “sea denial” Navy, but rather an offensive one designed for “sea control,” because they see sea control as a necessary requisite for “ensuring the success of the operations of forces prosecuting the primary missions.” Some Soviet thoughts about the nature of sea control must be appreciated — because the submarine has been placed in an important sea control role:

“Soviet naval science has always viewed the gaining of sea control not as a goal in itself (not as a “mission” by Western de[mition), but only as a path to establishing certain conditions which would permit naval forces and resources to successfully accomplish one mission or another in certain regions of a theater.” And, “the sphere of sea control will be extended to the depths of the ocean.” And, “Combat operations whose goal is to strengthen control of the sea in selected areas can either precede the accomplishment by a fleet of its main missions or can be conducted simultaneously with it”

The diverse character of the many types of Soviet submarines for controlling the seas and carrying out important missions – including strategic strikes against enemy homeland objectives — are detailed elsewhere. But suffice to say, Soviet submarines are for the most part designed to operate worldwide. Even their minisubs (of which there are great numbers including bottom crawlers, as evidenced by the many penetrations of Swedish waters by “foreign” midget submarines) are carried on mother submarines to long-range destinations. Additionally, the Soviets continue to build longrange, high-performance diesel submarines – for protecting their SSBNs, for defense close to their homeland, and probably for shallow water operations, including submarine mining of port areas. To the Soviets:

“Diesel submarines are improved, powerful warships, and they undoubtedly will also be widely employed under present-day conditions”.

The Soviets are true believers in all kinds of submarines -from the 25,000-ton lYPHOON to the minisub of a few tons, with emphasis on nuclear-powered submarines, while still maintaining a large conventional force of diesel-electric submarines which comprise more than one third of the Soviet’s overall fleet of submarines.

Also, SSBNs should have a high degree of survivability if properly protected in their “bastions” — unlike land-based missiles which are subject to destruction by an unanticipated enemy attack. In particular, Soviet submarines operating beneath the polar ice cap are most difficult to counter. And, at the same time they are pursuing vigorous submarine R&D Programs: to decrease delectability of Soviet submarines; to increase speed, operating depth and survivability; and to improve the capabilities of submarine weapons.

In summary, the numbers, variety and advanced capabilities of Soviet submarines speak for the fact that the Soviets are strong believers in the contribution which submarines make to their sea power. They make no claim that submarines can do the total job, but rather, when coordinated with other naval forces and adequately supported in their operations by other naval units, they are expected to play the leading role in a victory — produced by projection of power from the sea against the shore while sea control over sea areas necessary for the successful accomplishment of major missions is assured. Interdicting sea lines of communications would be one of the Soviet’s important missions. The Soviets are particularly true believers in the massive first salvo. As V. A Savkin observed, “victory in war will be fonned as a result of effective application of a state’s maximum power at the very beginning of an anned conflicL” Although the Soviets do not reveal the detailed secrets which give them the capability of simultaneity,” nonetheless the Soviets evidently possess the technical knowhow. The observed upgrading of Soviet ballistic missiles shows that they rely on mainly ballistic missiles for the simultaneous massive strategic strike and cruise missiles for the simultaneous overwhelming of an enemy fleet’s defenses as well as the destruction of a convoy’s combat-protection alignment — with torpedoes for the follow-on mop up of fleet units and destruction of the ships of a convoy.

Wiliam P. Gruner

Naval Submarine League

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