WAHOO’s third war patrol was LCDR ‘Mush’ Morton’s Wfirst in command of the boat. He was commissioned in 1930 and entered submarines in 1933. He commanded the R-5 in New London until April of 1942. On December 31, 1942 LCDR Dudley W. Morton relieved LCDR M. G. Kennedy onboard WAHOO in Brisbane, Australia. For this patrol the ship was credited with 31,890 tons of enemy shipping. LCDR Morton was awarded the first of four Navy Crosses and the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross. The ship received the Presidential Unit Citation.
USS WAHOO- Report of Third War Patrol
Period from January 16, 1943 to February 7, 1943
NARRATIVE: January 16th
0900 L Departed Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
1820 K Dived on SO radar contact. Upon reaching 70 feet stem planes jammcii on hard rise causing us to broach at 30° up angle. Fortunately SO contact was false, the pip being an internal disturbance.
(All times K) January 24th
0330 Dived two and a half miles north of Kairiru Island and proceeded around western end to investigate Victoria Bay. Went around southwestern tip of Kairiru Island to observe the strait between this and Mushu Island, a foul weather anchorage.
At 1318 an object was sighted in the bight of Mushu Island, about five miles farther into the harbor, much resembling the bridge-structure of a ship. Commenced approach at three knots. As the range closed the aspect of the target changed from that of a tender with several small ships alongside to that of a destroyer with RO class submarines nested, the latter identified by the canvas hatch hoods and awnings shown in ONI 14. The meager observations permissi-ble were insufficient for positive identification.
It was our intention to fire high speed shots from about 3000 yards, which would permit us to remain in deep water and facilitate an exit. However, on the next observation, when the generated range was 3750, our target, a PUBUKI class destroyer was underway. Angle on the bow 10 port, range 3100. Nothing else was in sight. Maneuvered for a stem tube shot, but on next observation target had zigged left giving us a bow tube set up.
At 1441 fired spread of three torpedoes on 110° starboard track, range 1800 yards, using target speed fifteen since there had been insufficient time to determine speed by tracking. Observed torpedoes going aft as sound indicated 18 knots, so fired another fash with enemy speed 20.
Destroyer avoided by turning away, then circled to the right and headed for us. Watched him come and kept bow pointed at him. Delayed firing our fifth torpedo until the destroyer had closed to about 1200 yards, angle on the bow 10° starboard. Then to insure maximum likelihood of hitting with our last torpedo in the forward tubes, withheld fire until range was about 800 yards. This last one, fired at 1449, clipped him amidships in twenty-five seconds and broke his back. The explosion was terrific!
The topside was covered with Japs on turret tops and in the rigging. Over 100 members of the crew
must have been acting as look-outs. We took several pictures, and as her bow was settling fast we went to 150 feet and commenced the nine mile trip out of Wewak. Heard her boilers go in between the noise of continuous shelling from some-where plus a couple of aerial bombs. They were evidently trying to make us lie on the bottom until their patrol boats could return.
No difficulty was experienced in piloting without observation out of Wewak using sound bearings of beach noises of reefs and beach-heads. With the aid of a one-knot set we surfaced at 1930 well clear of Kairiru and Valif Islands. Cleared area on four engines for 30 minutes on course 000°T. Huge fires were visible in Wewak Harbor. We wondered if they had purposely created these fires to silhouette us in case we tried to escape out of the harbor.
Slowed to one engine speed (80-90) at 2000. 2230 As the enemy convoy route from Palau to Wewak was known to pass between Wuvulu and Aua Islands commenced search by criss..crossing base course at 30° on two hour legs. 2345 Sent report of Wewak engage-ment to COMTASK FORCE FORTY-TWO.
(All times K) January 25th
0530 Passed between Aua and Wuvulu Islands. Changed base course for Palau and went to two engine speed (80-90) continuing the criss-cross search for enemy shipping. 1000 In accordance with Operation Order, shifted from TASK FORCE FORTY-TWO to SUB-PACFOR without dispatch. Commenced guarding SUBPAC radio schedules. 1645 Dived for a half-hour and held various drills. While submerged passed under the equator.
(All times K) January 26th
0757 Sighted smoke on the horizon, swung ship towards and commenced surface tracking. Adjusted course and speed to get ahead of the enemy. After three quarters of an hour and when we had obtained a favorable position with masts of two ships just coming over the horizon, dived and commenced submerged approach.
The two freighters were tracked at 10 knots on a steady course of095°T., which was somewhat puzzling as it led neither to nor from a known port. During the approach determined that the best firing position would be 1300 yards on beam of leading ship. This would permit firing with about 15° right gyro angle on approximately a 105° track on the leading ship, and with about 30° left gyro angle and 60° track on the second ship 1000 yards astern in column. However at 1030 found we were too close to the track for this two ship shot so reversed course to the right and obtained an identical set-up for a stern tube shot. At 1041 fired two torpedoes at the leading ship and seventeen seconds later two at the second freighter. The first two torpedoes hit their points of aim in bow and stern. There was insufficient time allowed for the gyro setting angle indicator and regulator to catch up with the new set-up cranked into the TDC for the third shot. This torpedo passed ahead of the second target. The fourth torpedo hit him.
Swung left to bring bow tubes to bear in case these ships did not sink. At 1045 took sweep around to keep the set-up at band and observed three ships close about us. Our first target was listed badly to starboard and sinking by the stem, our second was beading directly for us, but at slow speed, and the third was a huge transport which had evidently been beyond and behind our second target.
At 1047 when the transport presented a 90° starboard angle on the bow at 1800 yards range fired spread of three torpedoes from forward tubes. The second and third torpedoes bit and stopped him. We then turned our attention to the second target which was last observed beading for us. He was still coming, yawing somewhat, and quite close. Fired two bow torpedoes down his throat to stop him, and as a defensive move. The second torpedo bit, but he kept coming and forced us to tum hard left, duck and go ahead at full speed to avoid.
There followed so many explosions that it was impossible to teU just what was taking place. Eight minutes later came back to periscope depth, after reaching 80 feet, to observe that our first target had sunk, our second target still going, but slowly and with evident steering trouble, and the transport stopped but still afloat. Headed for transport and maneuvered for a killer shot. At 1133 fired a bow torpedo at 1000 yards range, 85° port track, target stopped. The torpedo wake passed directly under the middle of the ship, but the torpedo failed to explode. The transport was firing continuously at the periscope and torpedo wake with deck guns and rifles. At 1135 fired a second torpedo with the same set-up except that the transport bad moved ahead a little and turned towards presenting a 65° angle on the bow. The torpedo wake headed right for his stack. The explosion blew her midships section higher than a kite. Troops com-menced jumping over the side like ants off a bot plate. Her stem went up and she headed for the bottom. Took several pictures.
At 1136 swung ship and headed for the cripple, our second target, which was now going away on course 085°. Tracked her at six knots, but could not close her as our battery was getting low.
At 1155 sighted tops of a fourth ship to the right of the cripple. Her thick masts in line had the appear-ance of a light cruiser’s tops. Kept beading for these ships hoping that the last one sighted would attempt to pick up survivors of the transport. When the range was about 10,000 yards, however, she turned right and joined the cripple, her masts, bridge structure and engines aft identifying her as a tanker. Decided to let these two ships get over the horizon while we surfaced to charge batteries. Then set course 085° at flank speed to overtake the cripple and the tanker.
At 1530 sighted smoke of the fleeing ships a point on the port bow. Changed course to intercept. Oosed until the mast tops of both ships were in sight and tracked them on course 350°. They had changed course about 90° to the left apparently to give us the slip. Maneuvered to get ahead undetected, but kept mast heads in sight continuously by utilizing No. 1 periscope and locating look-out on top of periscope shears. At 1721, one half hour before sunset, with the two ship’s masts in line, dived and commenced sub-merged approach. Target zigs necessitated very high submerged speeds to close the range. Someone said the pitometer log indicated as much as 10 knots. Decided to attack tanker first, if opportunity permit-ted, as she was yet undamaged. At 1829, when it was too dark to take a periscope range, fired a spread of three bow torpedoes with generated range 2300 yards, on a 110° port track. One good hit was observed and heard one minute, twenty-two seconds after firing. This apparently stopped him. Started swing for stem tube shot on the freighter but he bad turned away.
Surfaced twelve minutes after firing and went after the freighter. Was surprised to see the tanker we had just hit still going and on the freighter’s quarter. We were most fortunate to have a dark night with moon-rise not until 2132, and to have targets that persisted in staying together. Our only handicap was having only four torpedoes left, and those in the stem tubes. Made numerous approaches on the tanker first, as he was not firing at us. Even attempted backing in at full speed, but the ship would not answer her rudder quickly enough. After an hour and a half was able to diagnose their tactics. aosed in on tanker from directly astern, when they zigged to the right we held our course and speed. When they zigged back to the left we were on parallel course at about 2000 yards range. Converged a little on the tankers port beam, then twisted left with full rudder and power. He thus gave us a stem tube shot, range 1850 yards on a 90a port track. At 2025 fired two torpedoes at tanker; the second hitting him just abaft of his midships breaking his back. He went down in the middle almost instantly.
Immediately after firing changed course to head for the freighter and went ahead full. Passed the tanker at 1250 yards by SJ radar, at which time he occupies full field in 7×50 binoculars. This fixed his length at about 500 feet. Only the bow section was afloat and its mast canted over when we left him astern.
At 2036, eleven minutes after firing on the tanker, commenced approach on our last target. It was quite evident that this freighter had a good crew aboard. They did not miss an opportunity to upset our approach by zigs, and kept up incessant gunfire to keep us away. Much of this firing was at random, but at 2043 they got our range, placed a shell directly in front of us which ricocheted over our heads and forced us to dive.
We tracked the freighter by sound until the noise of shell splashes let up then surfaced at 2058, fifteen minutes after diving, and went after him. Two minutes later a large search-light commenced sweeping sharp on our port bow, its rays seemingly just clearing our periscope shears. Assumed this was from a man-of-war and that the freighter would close it for protec-tion. Our attack obviously had to be completed in a hurry. Headed for the search-light beam and was most fortunate to have the freighter follow suit. At 2110 when the range was 2900 yards by radar, twisted to the left for a straight stern shot, stopped and steadied. Three minutes later with angle on the bow 135° port by radar tracking, fired our last two torpedoes without spread. They both hit, the explosions even jarring us on the bridge.
As the belated escort was now coming over the horizon, silhouetting the freighter in her search-light, we headed away to the east and then five minutes later to the north. Fifteen minutes after firing the freighter sank leaving only the destroyer’s search-light sweeping a clear horizon. It had required four hits from three separate attacks to sink this ship.
At 2130 set course 358° for Fais Island. At 2345 sent dispatch to COMSUBPAC concerning new route and engagement.
(All times K) January 27th
0720 Sighted smoke over the horizon, commenced tracking and changed course to intercept. At 0801 when masts of three ships were in sight, dived and continued approach. The mean course was plotted as 146° with the whole convoy zigging simultaneously thirty degrees either side of base course. At 0830 the tops and stacks of two more freighters, and those of a tanker with engines aft were in sight.
It was first our intention to intercept one of the lagging freighters which did not appear to be armed, but a zig placed the tanker closest to us. Surfaced with range about 12,000 yards and headed at full speed to cut him off. Trained gun sharp on starboard bow, then sent pointer and trainer below to standby with rest of gun crew. The convoy sighted us in about 10 minutes, commenced smoking and headed for a lone rain-squall. Only two of the larger freighters opened fire and their splashes were several thousand yards short. Their maneuver left the tanker trailing, just where we wanted him.
At 1000 when we had closed to 7500 yards, how-ever, a single mast poked out from behind one of the smaller freighters. Almost immediately the upper works of a corvette or destroyer were in sight. Turned tail at full power to draw the escort as far as possible away from the convoy in case we were forced to dive, as this would greatly shorten the time he could remain behind to work us over.
Ordered contact report to be sent out, but could not raise anyone.
Found that our engineers could add close to another knot to our speed when they knew we were being pursued. We actually made about 20 knots, opening the range to thirteen or fourteen thousand yards in the first twenty minutes of the chase. In fact he was smoking so profusely that we called him an “Antiquated Coal-burning Corvette.” He was just lighting off more boilers evidently, for seventeen minutes later he changed our tune by boiling over the horizon, swinging left, and letting fly a broadside at estimated range of 7000 yards. There was no doubt about his jdentity then, especially when the salvo whistled over our heads; the splashes landing about 500 yards directly ahead. Dived and as we passed periscope depth felt gun splashes directly overhead. Went to 300 feet and received six depth charges fifteen minutes later. They sounded loud, but did no damage.
Lost sound contact at 1120. A<; the DD had some forty miles to catch up with his leading ships he evidently didn’t stay around. We decided to catch our breath none-the-less, so stayed deep until 1400 when we surfaced and commenced running again for Fais. At 2058 sent contact report of convoy to
(All times V-W) February 7th
0830 Arrived at Pearl.
The following paragraph from the remarks section ofthe Patrol Report is included as being of interest for organizational innova-tion and the practice of the command function:
The fire control party of this ship was completely reor-ganized prior to and during this patrol. The Executive Officer, Lieutenant H. O’Kane is the co-approach officer. He made all observations through the periscope and fired all torpedoes. The Commanding Officer studies the various setups by the use of the lswas and analyzing the T.D.C. and does the conning. A third officer assists the Commanding Officer in analyzing the problem by studying the plot and the data sheets. On the surface the Executive Officer mans the T.B.T., makes observa-tions and does the firing; the Commanding Officer coons.