It was unseasonably warm with bright sun in Bath, Maine, on 28 March 1998. On that day Bath Iron Works launched its 16th Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer for the U.S. Navy-O’KANE (DOG 77). O’KANE is named for Rear Admiral Richard H. O’Kane, USN. Admiral O’Kane passed away in February 1994.
The naming of O’KANE recognizes the conspicuous gallantry of Commander O’Kane, the crew of USS TANG (SS 306) and those gallant submariners who took the war in the Pacific to the enemy, early, often and with devastating effect. As Commanding Officer of TANG Commander O’Kane went on five war patrols, sinking a total of 31 enemy ships, totaling more than 227 ,000 tons and damaging two other ships, a record unsurpassed by any submarine. On her last patrol, USS TANG sank 13 enemy ships, 11 in a single 15 minute period. On October 25, 1944, while engaged in a fierce surface battle, TANG was sunk by the circular run of her last torpedo. Commander O’Kane was one of nine who survived the tragic loss of TANG to her own weapon. After eight hours in the water, Commander O’Kane and the others were picked up by a Japanese destroyer and imprisoned on Formosa.
Transferred later to a secret prison camp near Tokyo, he was not registered as a POW and therefore was listed as missing in action. The fact that Commander O’Kane survived was not known until the camp’s liberation two weeks after V-J Day. During his imprisonment, he and the others prisoners survived on a diet of less than 300 calories a day, eating mostly rice or barley, without fruit, vegetables or protein. O’Kane was released from captivity weighing only 88 pounds and suffering from scurvy and beriberi. He was evacuated by air to Pearl Harbor and, after a short hospitalization there, was transferred to the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
After his recover, O’Kane commands included USS PELIAS and USS SPERRY, as well as the Submarine School in New London, Connecticut, Submarine Division THIRTY-TWO and Submarine Squadron SEVEN. On March 27, 1947, President Harry S. Truman awarded Commander O’Kane the Congressional Medal of Honor for his exemplary service on TANG. Rear Admiral O’Kane’s other military decorations include the Navy Cross with two Gold Stars, the Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, the Purple Heart, the Commendation Ribbon, and the Prisoner of War Medal. The launch of O’KANE should remind us all of at least three lessons from our submarine heritage. The Submarine Force substantially contributed to the defeat of Japan; in combat a small number of highly trained dedicated individuals can have unbelievable impact in conflict on either side; and neglecting our undersea weapons inventory can have devastating consequences.
The citation for Commander O’Kane’s Medal of Honor, this nation’s highest award, reads,
The President or the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Medal or Honor to Commander Richard H. O’Kane, United States Navy for service as set forth in the following
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the USS TANG operating against two Japanese convoys on October 25 and 24, 1994, during her Fifth and last War Patrol. Boldly maneuvering on the surface into the midst of a heavily escorted convoy, Commander O’Kane stood in a fusillade of bullets and shells from all directions to launch smashing hits on three tankers, coolly swung his ship to fire at a freighter and, in a split second decision, shot out of the path of an onrushing transport, missing it by inches. Boxed in by blasting tankers, a.freighter, transport and several destroyers, he blasted two of the targets with his remaining torpedoes and, with pyrotechnics bursting on all sides, cleared the area. Twenty four hours later, he again made contact with a heavily escorted convoy steaming to support the Leyte campaign with reinforcements and supplies and with called planes piled high on each unit. In defiance of the enemy’s relentless fire, he closed the concentration of ships and in quick succession sent two torpedoes each into the first and second transports and an adjacent tanker, finding his mark with each torpedo in a series of violent explosions at less than a thousand-yard range. With ships bearing down from all sides, he charged the enemy at high speed, exploding the tanker in a burst of flame, smashing the transport dead in the water and blasting the destroyer with a mighty roar which rocked the TANG from stem to stern. Expending his last nro torpedoes into the remnants of a once powerful convoy before his own ship went down, Commander O’Kane, aided by his gallant command, achieved an illustrious record of heroism in combat, enhancing the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
FORMER CREWMEMBERS OF USS TUNNY (SSG 282)
This notice is for those former crewmembers who were serving in USS TUNNY in July 1958, and who made the emergency deployment from Pearl Harbor on 17 July 1958, in support of the worldwide alert caused by the Lebanon Crisis. Be advised that TUNNY has been awarded the SSBN Deterrent Patrol Insignia by COMSUBLANT for that first-ever deterrent missile patrol.
This award is separate and distinct from the awards made by COMSUBLANT last spring to the five Regulus Missile submarines for the 41 scheduled patrols they made, commencing in September 1959.
For a copy of the Letter of Authorization, please write to Captain Marvin S. Blair, 24 Rubi Circle, Hot Springs, N.P., AR 71909-3515. Please include details of your service in TUNNY, including dates, rank or rating, and position. He would also appreciate getting names and, addresses of other shipmates.