Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


Prologue To

Arrived BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA, December 26, 1942 after SECOND War Patrol and moored alongside USS SPERRY. On December 27, 1942, commenced refit by USS SPERRY, relief crew and ships force. Refit consisted mostly of routine items plus a few minor repairs.

On December 31, 1942 Lieut. Comdr., M.G. Kennedy was relieved as Commanding Officer by Lieut. Comdr., D. W. Morton. Ship ready for sea on January 16, 1943.

January 16th: 0900L Departed BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA.

1030L Commenced sound listening tests in MORETON BAY;

1500L Completed sound tests. I 700L Transferred pilot and fell in company with our escort, USS PATTERSON. 1945L Made trim dive. 2030L Commenced night surface runs on our escort. 2306L Completed runs. Set course for area at two engine speed (80-90). Still in company with our escort.

January 17th: 0807L Dived. Commenced DD-SS run for USS PATTERSON; 11OOL Made deep dive; no leaks. 1335L Dived. Commenced torpedo practice approaches on our escort. 1445L Upon surfacing and while starting #2 engine for propulsion, flooded same, and put it out of commission (SEE DERANGEMENT REPORT -Page 17). 1728L Completed runs. Escort departed. Set course for area at two engine speed (80-90).

January 18th: 1315L Exchanged recognition signals with USS GRAMPUS. COMTASK FORCE-TWO had advised us both that we would pass during the night. 1030L #2 engine back in commission. 1400L Set clocks back -10 zone time. Conducted drills submerged and made frequent battle surfaces firing both 20mm guns and 4″ gun while enroute to area.

January 19th: 2200K Speeded up to three engine speed (80-90) in order to make the passage in VITIAZ STRAITS during daylight. This will also give us an additional day to cover WEW AK and still arrive in area as directed. The additional fuel thus used is considered to be wisely expended.

January 21st: 1820K Dived on SD radar contact. Upon reaching 70 feet stern planes jammed on hard rise causing us to broach at 30 degree up angle. Fortunately SD contact was false, the pip being an internal disturbance.


Our Operation Order routed us through the vicinity of WEWAK, a more or less undetermined spot located in whole degrees of latitude and longitude as 4 degrees S and 144 degrees E. Air reconnaissance had reported considerable shipping there, and dispatches received enroute indicated continued use of this area by the enemy. The position of WEWAK HARBOR was determined as behind KAIRIRU and NUSHU ISLANDS on the Northwest Coast of New Guinea through the interest of D.C. KEETER, MMIc U.S. Navy who had purchased an Australian two-bit school atlas of the area.

Study of the harbor on our small scale chart immediately showed deep water and unmistakable landmarks, with tempting possibilities for penetration and escape. By making an accurate tracing slide, and using camera and signal light as a projector, a large scale chart was constructed of the whole harbor. All available information was transferred from sailing directions to this chart.

With everything in readiness adjusted speed to arrive off KAI RI RU ISLAND prior to dawn.

(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. As Dawn was breaking, sighted small tug with barge alongside and a few moments later two CHIDORI class torpedo boats. As this patrol was underway, maneuvered to avoid, then came back for a better look into this mile deep bay. There was no other shipping.

Went around southwestern tip of KAIRIRU ISLAND to observe the strait between this and NUSHU ISLAND, a foul weather anchorage. Kept position out in, noting the set and drift, and light patches of water marking shallows. The water in general was a dirty yellowish green. With these in mind planned appropriate exit.

Saw what appeared to be tripod masts on the eastern end of KARSAU ISLAND, but either a patrol boat or tug in KAIRIRU STRAIT prevented further observation at this time. As the masts could well have been those of a ship behind KARSAU ISLAND, proceeded west hoping to round UNEI ISLAND, connected to KARSAU by a reef, and observe from between these islands and the mainland. However a reef with the seas breaking over it extended far west of UNEI frustrated this plan. Went back between KARSAU and KAIRIRU ISLANDS hoping to see further around the eastern end. The masts were not sighted again, but a photograph taken at their observation may yet disclose their presence.

At 1318 an object was sighted in the heights of NUSHU 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 permitted were insufficient for positive identification and the objects alongside may have been the tug and barge first sighted at dawn in VICTORIA BAY.

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 I 0 port, range 3100. Nothing else was in sight. Maneuvered for a stern 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 degree 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 fish 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 I 0 degrees starboard. Then to insure maximum likelihood of hitting with our last torpedo on 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 I 00 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 WEW AK. Heard her boilers go in between the noise of continuous shelling from somewhere 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 on 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 degrees 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 degrees on two-hour legs. 2345 Sent report of WEW AK engagement to COMT ASK FORCE FORTY-TWO.

January 25th: (All times K). 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. 0830 Fired Tommy gun across bow of small fishing boat and brought him alongside. Neither our Chamoro or Filipino mess boy could converse with the six Malayans in the boat, but by sign language we learned that they were originally nine in number, three having died. One of the remaining six was apparently blind, a second quite sick, and a third obviously suffering from scurvy. Gave them food and water as they had none and then continued our search for the enemy.

1000 In accordance with Operation Order, shifted from Task FORCE FORTY-TWO to SubPacFOR without dispatch. Commenced guarding SubPac radio schedules. 1645 Dived for a half-hour and held various drills. While submerged passed under the equator.

January 26th: (All times K). 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 of 095 degrees 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 degrees right gyro angle on approximately a 105 degree track on the leading ship, and with about 30 degrees left gyro angle and 60 degrees 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 I 041 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 stem. 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 l045 took sweep around to keep the set-up at hand and observed three ships close about us. Our first target was listed badly to starboard and sinking by the stem, our second was heading 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-degree starboard angle on the bow at 1800 yards range fired spread of three torpedoes from forward tubes. The second and third torpedoes hit and stopped him. We then turned our attention to the second target which was last observed heading 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 hit, but he kept coming and forced us to turn hard left, duck and go at full speed to avoid.

There followed so many explosions that it was impossible to tell 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 degrees 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 had moved ahead a little and turned towards presenting a 65 degree angle on the bow. The torpedo wake headed right for his stack. The explosion blew her midships section higher than a kite. Troops commenced jumping over the side like ants, off a hot 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 degrees. Tracked her at six knots, but could not close her as our battery was getting low.

At 1155 sighted tops of fourth ship to the right of the cripple. Her thick masts in line had the appearance of a light cruiser’s tops. Kept heading 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 and destroy the estimated twenty troop boats now in the water. These boats were of many types, scows, motor launches, cabin cruisers and nondescript varieties. At 1135 made a battle surface and manned all guns. Fired 4″ gun at largest scow loaded with troops. Although all troops in this boat apparently jumped in the water our fire was returned by small caliber machine guns. We then opened fire with everything we had. Then set course 085 degrees at flank speed to overtake the cripple and tanker.

At 1530 sighted smoke of the fleeing ships a point on the port bow. Changed course to intercept. Closed until the mast tops of both ships were in sight and tracked them on course 350 degrees. They had changed course about 90 degrees to the left apparently to give us the slip. Maneuvered to get ahead unde-tected, but kept mastheads in sight continuously by utilizing No. I 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 submerged approach. Target zigs necessitated very high submerged speeds to close the range. Someone said the pitometer log indicated as much as I 0 knots. Decided to attack tanker first, if opportunity permitted, 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-degree port track. One good hit was observed and heard one minute, twenty-two seconds after firing. This apparently stopped him. Started swing for stern tube shot on the freighter but he had 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 the moonrise not until 2132, and to have targets that persisted in staying together. Our only handicap was having only four torpedoes left, and these 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. Closed 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 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 90-degree 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 occupied full field in 7×50 binoculars. This fixes 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 up-set 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.

Our gun-club could take a lesson from their powder manufac-turers. It was truly flashless, a glow about the intensity of a dimmed flashlight being the only indication that a projectile was on its way. It is somewhat disconcerting when a splash is the first indication you are being fired upon.

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 protection. Our attack obviously had to be completed in a hurry. Headed for the searchlight 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 stem shot, stopped and steadied. Three minutes later with angle on the bow 135 degrees 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 searchlight 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 searchlight sweeping a clear horizon. It had required four hits from three separate attacks to sink this ship.

At 2130 set course 358 degrees for FAIS ISLAND. At 2345 sent dispatch to Comsubpac concerning new route and engagement.

Two men were injured by 20mm explosion. The cause is covered in the Report of investigation and treatment in the Health and Habitability Report, included herewith.

January 27th (All times K): 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 degrees 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 our first 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 like a Winston, 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, however, 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, 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 Antiq11ated Coal-b11rning 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 identity 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 over-head. Went to 300 feet and received six depth charges fifteen minutes later. They sounded loud, but did no damage.

Lost sound contact at 1120. As 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 ComSubPac.

January 28th (All times K): 0830 Sighted F AIS ISLAND fifteen miles ahead. Dived twenty minutes later on ten mile circle and closed the island at 4 knots. Took soundings with single signal at 10 minute intervals, and tried echo-ranging on the reef. The soundings agreed closely with those on chart 5426. The echo-ranging was unsuccessful due to bottom reverberations. There was no evidence of a sound listening post. The trading station is just as shown on the chart.

Proceeded around the southwestern end of the island one and a half miles from the beach and located the Phosphorite Works, warehouses and refinery on and inshore of the prominent point in the middle of the northwest side of the island.

Immediately made plans to shell these works that evening at moon-rise with our few remaining 4″ rounds as the large refinery, warehouses, etc., offered a splendid target. This plan was frustrated by the arrival at 1400 of an Inter-Island Steamer with efficient looking gun mounts forward and aft. She was similar to the sketch of the Q-boat, appearing in the GUDGEONS Second Patrol Report except that she was half again as long. Swung and moored to the buoy off the Refinery Point, where she would have made a nice target for one torpedo. Her tonnage was estimated at 2000.

The phosphorite is evidently loaded from the crane, visible on the point, into lighters which were observed moored well inshore, and thus transferred to the steamers. At 1600 decided to leave well enough alone, so after taking several more photographs set course to clear northern end of FAIS ISLAND.

At 1800 surfaced and went ahead on three main engines on prescribed route to PEARL HARBOR, T.H.

February 7th: (All times V-W) 0830 Arrived PEARL.


The fire control party of this ship was completely reorganized prior to and during this patrol. The Executive Officer, Lieutenant R.H. O’KANE in 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 Iswas 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., and makes observations and does the firing; The Commanding Officer conns.

This type of fire control party relieves the Commanding Officer of a Jot of strain and it gives excellent training to all hands, especially the Executive Officer. It is recommended that other ships give it consideration and thought.

(b) The conduct and discipline of the officers and men of this ship while under fire were superb. They enjoyed nothing better than a good fight. I commend them all for a job well done, especially Lieutenant R.H. O’KANE the Executive Officer, who is cool and deliberate under fire. O’KANE is the fightingest naval officer I have ever seen and is worthy of the highest of praise. I commend Lieutenant O’KANE for being an inspiration to the ship.

Serial 0198 : Care of Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, California, February 12, 1943




From: The Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet.

To: Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet.

Subject: U.S.S. WAHOO (SS238) – Report of Third War Patrol.

Enclosure: (A) Copy of Subject War Patrol.
(B) Comsubron 10 conf. ltr. Serial 011 of February 8, 1943

1. The Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet, takes great pleasure in commending the Commanding Officer, Officers, and crew of the WAHOO on an outstanding war patrol. This patrol speaks for itself, and the judgement and decisions displayed by the Commanding Officer were sound.

2. All attacks were carried out in a most aggressive manner, and it clearly demonstrates what can be done by a submarine that retains the initiative.

3. The WAHOO is credited with inflicting the following damage on the enemy:


I destroyer (ASASHIO Class) -1500 tons
I freighter (DAKAR MARU Class) -7160 tons
I freighter (ARIZONA MARU Class) -9500 tons
I tanker (MANZYU MARU Class) -6520 tons
I transport (SEIW A MARU Class) -7210 tons
TOTAL: 31,890 tons

J. H. Brown, Jr., Acting.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League