TANG was commissioned October 15, 1943 at Mare Island. LCDR O’Kane was the first and only Commanding Officer. After training in the San Diego area, TANG arrived in Pearl Harbor on January 8, 1944. TANG’s loss on October 25, 1944, on her fifth patrol, was due to her last torpedo circling and exploding in the stem.
While in command CDR O’Kane was awarded the Navy Cross with two Gold Stars and the Legion of Merit. After the war he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his last patrol.
USS TANG – Report or First War Patrol
Period 22 January 1944 to 3 March 1944
NARRATIVE: 22-28 January 1944
Left Pearl at noon on the 22nd and proceeded to Wake Island at one engine speed.
6-7 February 1944
Upon release from lifeguard duty shortly after midnight, proceeded at 15 knots to newly assigned station north of Truk.
8 February 1944
Sighted USS GUARDFISH at 1315 and avoided on the surface. Entered assigned area at 1500 and proceeded toward the western boundary to patrol the Truk-Empire routes.
16-17 February 1944
Conducting submerged patrol east of Mogami and Gray Feather banks with continuous periscope observation, and 17 foot search- Proceeded toward assigned position 12 miles south of Ulul after sunset.
Attack #1 – At 0025 on the morning of the 17th, sighted a convoy on the SJ bearing 205T distance 31,000 yards. It was tracked at eight and one-half knots on base course 100″, directly into the rising half moon, and zigging forty degrees every 10 to 14 minutes. As viewed on the radar, excluding side lobes, the convoy was composed of two large ships, a somewhat smaller one, later believed to be a destroyer, a small escort close ahead, two more escorts on either beam, and two more wide flanking patrols.
At 0219, when nearly ahead, with range to convoy 15000 yards, the starboard flanking escort suddenly appeared at 7000 yards closing at four knots. We were forced down, deep, and given five depth charges, but his attack was half hearted and we were able to return to radar depth 15 minutes after he passed by. The convoy was still 9000 yards away and coming on nicely. Our approach from here in was quite routine, except for additional depth charges and patrolling escorts. Went back to periscope depth at 4000 yards, watched the leading escort cross conveniently to the opposite bow, the port escort crossing our bow, and at 0335 fired a spread of four straight stem shots at the near AK, range 1500, 80 port track, speed 8-1/2. The first three hit their points of aim. Watched the freighter sinking by the stem amidst milling escorts.
When she had sunk we went to our favorite depth below the 375 foot gradient and cleared the area. Some additional depth charging followed, but none close, and we were able to search with radar and surface at 0500.
There were still ships in sight on the radar with one large escorted one at 14,000 yards, which we tracked on course 300, speed seven knots. He evidently had been on a northerly leg of a wander zig, for during the submerged approach in the next six hours he presented angles of 50 starboard to 150 port. Our best sustained speed closed the range to 6000 yards at one time, but he then drew slowly away and disappeared. The Asashio destroyer, a Chidori, a PC type escort, and a plane which were escorting him precluded an end-round, so proceeded submerged to our assigned position for the attack on Truk.
22 February 1944
Patrolled submerged ten miles southwest of Aguijan Island, where we would be able to intercept traffic from Saipan to Guam passing north or south of Tinian. Sighted one surface patrol on the SJ on approaching this spot and avoided submerged after daylight. Bombers continuously passed close over us during the day. At dusk we surfaced to observe considerable searchlight signalling in vicinity of Tanapag harbor, so headed north at two engine speed to intercept any escaping ships. At 2200 the SJ sighted our first ship at 14000 yards. Closed and tracked and soon had five ships in sight on the radar, with another group sometimes visible to the north. The persistent rain squalls were both for and against us at this time, for they changed the relative size of the pips and made visual investigation of the enemy inside 3500 yards essential in selecting suitable targets.
Attack 112 – We found a Kenyo Maru type AK with escorts on starboard bow and quarter. After tracking this freighter zigging on course 2SST for another half hour, moved into position on his port bow, 4000 yards from his nearest escort. An unpre-dicted zig required a dipsy doodle to maintain an ideal firing position, but he came on nicely, and at 2349, with range 1500, 90 port track, and TANG dead in the water and holding her breath, let him have four torpedoes spread his length from aft forward by constant TBT bearings. The enemy literally disintegrated under four hits and sank before we had completed 90 degrees of our tum to evade. One escort guessed right and closed to 3000 yards, but these boats always seem to find a couple of extra knots for such occasions, and we made a sandblower out of him.
23 February 1944
Attack #3 – We still had difficulty in identifying the enemy on the radar, and our next approach, in spite of sound, developed into a destroyer at 3500 yards, with TANG backing down 1200 yards off her track. Both sea and visibility precluded anything but a defensive attack on such a ship, so pulled clear with a minimum range 2900 yards.There followed one more approach, a bit more cautious, on what appeared to be a submarine, before we located what was apparently a naval auxiliary, definitely of the Arimasan Maru Class. As her leading escort conveniently moved out to 8000 yards ahead, we moved into position on her port bow, stopped, and kept pointed at her with another nice rain squall for a background. As she came on her guns were plainly visible forward and then aft. At 0120, with range 1400, 90 port track and gyros around zero, let her have four torpedoes spread her length from aft forward.The first two were beautiful bits in her stem and just after of the stack, but the detonation as the third torpedo bit forward of his bridge was terrific. The enemy ship was twisted, lifted from the water as you would flip a spoon on end, and then commenced belching flame as she sank. The TANG was shaken far worse than by any depth charge we could remember, but a quick check, as soon as our jaws came off our chests, showed no damage except that the outer door gasket of number five tube, which was just being secured, blew out of its groove. We considered this lightly at the time.
As is usually the case when you hit first, the escorts were befuddled and evasion was simplified. It is considered that this ship was either a submarine or destroyer tender, or an ammunition ship.
Further searches and one more approach disclosed only three patrol type vessels, so commenced a retiring search, covering possible positions of the northern enemy group. An all day search on the surface to north and then retiring to the west disclosed nothing.
24 February 1944
Patrolled on the surface, 150 miles west of Saipan, searching with high periscope and radar when horizon was fuzzy. At 1109 sighted smoke bearing 015T and immediately picked up two targets on the SJ at 23000 and 24000 yards. With a clearing horizon the enemy was shortly identified as a freighter, large tanker, and destroyer. Tracking showed them on course 270, so we moved out to maximum radar range to avoid detection and gained position ahead for a submerged approach. Contact was suddenly lost, but a half hour run at full power toward their last true bearing located them again, this time on base course l65T. Gathering rain squalls made it more apparent that we would do well to maintain contact with the enemy during the remainder of the day. and that the only possibility of destroying both ships lay in night, or night and dawn attacks. The remainder of the day became more trying with the enemy employing wide zigs and all contact being lost in extremely heavy passing squalls. Sometimes he would emerge on a new course, sometimes on the same, but in most cases it was necessary for us to go in after him at full power, and then retire to avoid detection.
Attack /14 – At sunset the destroyer came into a clear spot, sent several signals on a large searchlight to his convoy, lined them up with tanker astern, and started off on course west. As soon as they had faded in the dusk we closed from north at full power to find them on our port bow headed east toward Saipan. The enemy zigs were of the wildest sort, sometimes actually backtracking, but their very wildness was his undoing, for after two hours of tracking, and two more of approaches on their quarters, with our outer doors open for firing on four different occasions, the freighter, a Tatutaki Maru Class ship, made one of his super right zigs across our bow. At 2230, when the range was 1400, 95 starboard track, gyros around zero, we cold-cocked him with the first three of our usual four torpedoes, spread along his length by constant TBT bearings. The ship went to pieces, and amidst beautiful fireworks sank before we had completed our turn to evade. The tanker opened fire fore and aft immediately, while the destroyer, then nearly 3000 yards away, closed the scene rapidly, spraying shells in every direction. After helping out any possible survivors with 12 depth charges, she rejoined the tanker. During the first flurry some tracer shells came within a thousand yards or so of us, but obviously just by chance.
The destroyer now stayed so close to the tanker that for several hours we could distinguish only one ship on the radar most of the time, from our position 10000 yards on his port beam. The sporadic gun firing and occasional depth charges convinced us on these occasions that both were still there.
25 February 1944
They continued on the same base course, but settled down to moderate zigs. Before dawn we were in position, 10000 yards ahead and still 80 miles west of Saipan. Only a daylight change of base course could prevent our attack. Attack 115 – At 0548, with skies gray in the east, submerged to radar depth, took a last check at range 7000 yards, then started a submerged approach to close an apparent 30″ left zig. Eighteen minutes later the tanker was in sight with an Asashio type destroyer patrolling very close ahead. As we were then 1200 yards from the track, turned and paralled his base course. At range 2000 yards the destroyer gave us some bad moments by crossing to our bow for the second time, pointed directly at our position. But in his attempt to prevent a repetition of his mistake of the night before, he turned right, passed down the tanker’s starboard side to that quarter. He was absolutely dwarfed by the length of the loaded tanker, whose details were now plainly visible. She was painted slate gray, comparable only to our CIMARRON Class, but with a bridge and foremast well forward, just behind a bulging bow, which mounted an estimated six inch gun. Her mainmast was close against her after superstructure which was topped by an extremely large short stack. Her after gun, above her bulging cruiser stem, was similar to the one forward. There is no similar vessel in any of the identification books aboard. All vantage points including guns, bridge, bridge overhead, and rails, were manned with an estimated 150 uni-formed lookouts on our side.
A twenty degree zig toward put us a little close to the track, but as we had already commenced our tum away for a stem shot, we were far from inconvenienced. At 0639, with the escort just crossing the tanker’s stern to the far side, fired four torpedoes by constant bearings, range 500 yards, 90 starboard track, gyros around 1800. The first three bit as aimed, directly under the stack, at the forward end of his after superstructure, and under his bridge. The explosions were wonderful, throwing Japs and other debris above the belching smoke. He sank by the stem in four minutes, and then we went deep and avoided. The depth charges started a minute later, but were never close.
Our blown torpedo tube gasket, which we considered lightly on the 23rd, now caused trouble, for the inner door gasket rolled out of its groove under the pressure, and pumps would not keep up with the water. With safety tank nearly dry, regained good control at 80 feet and avoided for the rest of the day at this depth, with occasional looks at 60 feet when our destroyer came close. He was persistent, probably hearing our pumps, one of which had to be run continuously, and spurred on, too, by thoughts of a slit belly if he failed . Dark finally came after our longest day, and a new inner door gasket was installed without much trouble after surfacing. T -shaped gaskets, similar to those just installed in hatches, should obviously be installed in inaccessible torpedo tube outer doors at the first practicable date.With four forward torpedoes left, proceeded northward toward the lower Bonins, our new patrol area.
26 February 1944
Attack #6 – Patrolled on the surface, proceeding to new area. At 1545, when about 180 miles northwest of Saipan, sighted smoke which quickly developed into a four ship convoy. Tracked them on course 160 until dark, identifying one as a two stacker. Remained outside of 10000 yards until moonset, when radar tracking showed them to be worm turning, on base course east. The rear ship of the convoy was small with a patrolling escort astern that we could not see at 3000 yards, so passed him up in searching for our two stacker. We found her shortly, astern of the leading freighter, and just ahead of a small unidentified vessel.
Escorts on either bow of the leading freighter offered no difficulty in closing the two stacker from the flank. She was now tracked on straight course 090 and we watched her closely from 3000 yards before closing in to a firing position. A column zig brought the leading freighter across our port bow, so twisted left, steadied, and fired our usual spread of four torpedoes covering the entire length of the two stacker as he came by, radar range 1600, gyros near zero, 100 starboard track. All torpedoes, even the one fired at his bow, apparently missed astern, as we failed to detect his increasing speed as he resumed worm turning. Had a little difficulty in evading the escorts as one closed after we thought we were clear. He challenged us with S8 on a signal searchlight several times, which furthers our suspicion that the lagging escort, which we could not see at 3000 yards, was an enemy submarine.
Though it was disappointing not to destroy this passenger ship, the HORAI MARU, there is no use in crying over spilt milk. The TANG is far from cocky, and just as determined as ever.Sent contact report on 450, and message to COMSUBPAC concerning expenditure of torpedoes, then headed for Midway. On route prescribed for another of our submarines.
27 February-3 March 1944
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