Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Submarine vs Train - No, Really...

Members of the submarine’s demolition squad pose with her battle flag at the conclusion of her 12th war patrol at Pearl Harbor, August 1945. During the night of July 22-23, 1945 these men went ashore at Karafuto, Japan, and planted an explosive charge that subsequently wrecked a train. They are (from left to right): Chief Gunner’s Mate Paul G. Saunders; Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Billy R. Hatfield; Signalman 2nd Class Francis N. Sevei; Ship’s Cook 1st Class Lawrence W. Newland; Torpedoman’s Mate 3rd Class Edward W. Klingesmith; Motor Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class James E. Richard; Motor Machinist’s Mate 1st Class John Markuson; and Lt. William M. Walker. This raid is represented by the train symbol in the middle bottom of the battle flag. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION to the UNITED STATES SHIP Barb (SS-220) for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
"For extraordinary heroism in action during the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh War Patrols against enemy Japanese surface forces in restricted waters of the Pacific. Persistent in her search for vital targets, the USS BARB relentlessly tracked down the enemy and struck with indomitable fury despite unfavorable attack opportunity and severe countermeasures. Handled superbly, she held undeviatingly to her aggressive course and, on contacting a concentration of hostile ships in the lower reaches of a harbor, boldly penetrated the formidable screen. Riding dangerously, surfaced, in shallow water, the BARB launched her torpedoes into the enemy group to score devastating hits on the major targets, thereafter retiring at high speed on the surface in a full hour's run through uncharted, heavily mined and rock obstructed waters. Inexorable in combat, the BARB also braved the perils of a topical typhoon to rescue fourteen British and Australian prisoners of war who had survived the torpedoing and sinking of a hostile transport ship en route from Singapore to the Japanese Empire. Determined in carrying the fight to the enemy, the BARB has achieved an illustrious record of gallantry in action, reflecting the highest credit upon her valiant officers and men and upon the United States Naval Service." (Source)
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the NAVY UNIT COMMENDATION to the UNITED STATES SHIP Barb (SS-220) for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
"For outstanding heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces during her Twelfth War Patrol in the area north of Hokkaido and east of Karafuto from June 8 to August 2, 1945. Despite severe enemy countermeasures, including six aerial bombing attacks, gunfire from hostile ships and shore batteries, and relentless depth charging, the USS BARB fearlessly attacked the enemy at every opportunity. Striking with devastating force in a series of brilliantly executed torpedo and gun assaults, she sank three Japanese ships including a frigate, and sent to the bottom or destroyed in shipyards fifty small craft totalling 11,225 tons. By skillful planning and ingenuity, she risked extremely shallow water to approach numerous enemy coastal towns and effected four highly successful rocket assaults, the first of their kind in submarine warfare, and three gun bombardments, inflicting extensive damage upon important installations. Climaxing her daring Twelfth Patrol by an audacious commando raid, she sent a party of saboteurs ashore in rubber boats to blow up an enemy rail train with one of her self-scuttling charges. This splendid record of achievement attests the BARB's readiness for combat and reflects the highest credit upon her gallant officers and men and upon the United States Naval Service." (Source)
Awards and decorations earned by the officers and men of the USS Barb (SS-220): One Medal of Honor, six awards of the Navy Cross, twenty-three Silver Stars, and 23 Bronze Stars. The final version of USS Barb's battle flag reflects those awards and the ships and shore installations attacked by USS Barb. The oddest thing though is at the bottom center of the flag - a train!


So why does USS Barb's battle flag have a train on it? Well, because the skipper of that boat, one CDR Eugene Fluckey (whom we met yesterday) had observed Japanese troop and freight trains moving along the coast. Being a rather aggressive chap, as most successful submarine commanders were in World War II, he decided that it would be just the thing for him to lead a small party ashore and sabotage the railroad tracks.
There was no shortage of volunteers, including a Japanese POW onboard the Barb, Fluckey recalled in his book. First, they had to meet Fluckey’s criteria: The remaining seven volunteers had to be unmarried, a fair mix of regular Navy and reserve, represent all departments, and at least half were former Boy Scouts. Why Boy Scouts? As a former Scout, Fluckey knew they had been trained for medical emergencies and what to do if they got lost.
The skipper had his way with all of his criteria, with the exception of one: He wanted to lead the shore party, but was overruled by his officers who threatened to tattle to COMSUBPAC if he did not remain on the boat.* (Go, read the whole thing.)
That wasn't the only first accomplished by USS Barb on this, her Twelfth War Patrol, CDR Fluckey had had rocket launchers (!) installed so that he could also bombard Japanese coastal installations.
Upon completion of her 11th patrol, Barb was sent to the U.S. for a yard overhaul and alterations, which included the installation of 5 in rocket launchers at the Captain's request. Returning to the Pacific, she commenced her 12th and final patrol on 8 June. This patrol was conducted along the coasts of the Sea of Okhotsk. For the first time in U.S. submarine warfare, Barb successfully employed rockets, against the towns of Shari, Hokkaido; Shikuka, Kashiho; and Shiritoru on Karafuto**. She also bombarded the town of Kaihyo To with her regular armament, destroying 60 percent of the town. (Source)
USS Barb and her crew contributed substantially to Allied victory in World War II.
The submarine’s battle flag reflected Barb’s remarkable accomplishments: 12 war patrols, five in the European Theater and seven in the Pacific; six Navy Crosses, 23 Silver Stars, 23 Bronze Stars and a Medal of Honor earned by members of the crew; a Presidential Unit Citation, a Navy Unit Commendation, and eight battle stars; 34 merchant ships damaged or sunk; five Japanese warships damaged or sunk, including the 22,500-ton escort carrier Unyo; rocket and gun symbols to denote shore bombardments, and ever so improbably, a train to commemorate Barb’s final war patrol.

Yet if you asked Fluckey which of the awards and recognitions represented on Barb’s battle flag he was most proud of, he would say it was the one medal not on the flag – the Purple Heart. Despite sinking the third most tonnage during World War II – 17 enemy vessels, 96,628 tons and a 16-car train — not a single Sailor’s life was lost or wounded on USS Barb. (Source)

Patrol Date Name of Vessel Type of Vessel Tonnage Commanding Officer
7 28-Mar-44 Fukusei Maru Cargo 2,219 LCDR John R. Waterman
8 31-May-44 Koto Maru Cargo 1,053 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
8 31-May-44 Madras Maru Passenger-Cargo 3,802 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
8 11-Jun-44 Toten Maru Cargo 3,823 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
8 11-Jun-44 Chihaya Maru Cargo 1,161 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
8 13-Jun-44 Takashima Maru Passenger-Cargo 5,633 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
9 31-Aug-44 Okuni Maru Cargo 5,633 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
9 16-Sep-44 Azusa Tanker 11,177 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
9 16-Sep-44 Unyo Escort Aircraft Carrier 20,000 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
10 10-Nov-44 Gokoku Maru Ex-Light Cruiser 10,438 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
10 12-Nov-44 Naruo Maru Cargo 4,823 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
11 8-Jan-45 Shinyo Maru Cargo 5,892 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
11 8-Jan-45 Anyo Maru Passenger-Cargo 9,256 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
11 8-Jan-45 Sanyo Maru Tanker 2,854 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
11 23-Jan-45 Taikyo Maru Cargo 5,244 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
12 5-Jul-45 Sapporo Maru No 11 Cargo 2,820 CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
12 18-Jul-45 Coast Def Vessel No 112 Frigate 800 (est) CDR Eugene B. Fluckey
17 Vessels  96,628

Warriors all!


* CDR Fluckey had bargained with COMSUBPAC, Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood, for a fifth war patrol in command of USS Barb. Typically submarine commanders were swapped out after four patrols because the thought was that after four, they would be either too cautious or too aggressive.
** Karafuto is the Japanese name for Sakhalin. At one time Japan claimed, and administered, the entire island, as did Russia. In the mid 19th Century the island was split with Russia running the northern half, Japan the southern. Of course, at the end of World War II the Soviets took the whole thing. What a surprise!
*** The nickname applies to CDR Fluckey and USS Barb. Two US Navy gunboats claim that nickname as well - USS Sacramento (PG-19) and USS Tulsa (PG-22).


  1. Submariners are a special breed.
    They have much more training than the average sailor and must qualify to stay on boats.
    Those who sailed in the diesel-electric boats we’re really special.

    1. Can't argue with any of that.

      Having known a few members of the Silent Service, diesel AND nuke, I have to agree.

  2. I like the way that man thought. Proudest, not of the Medal of Honor, but that no one received a Purple Heart. That is what I call Leadership! Or, to put it another way, I would consider Captain Fluckey a....Fighter Pilot.

    1. That is an amazing fact. No one injured enough to get a PH. Even after being shelled, bombed, depth charged, dealing with crappy US magnetic torpedo detonators and circling torpedoes. Not a single major injury. All the while definitely going in harm's way.

      Truly a stat to be happy with.

      Admiral Lockwood wanted, as you, juvat, put it, fighter pilots, not by-the-book authoritarians. Though in order to survive they had to be by-the-book as to maintenance and such, but the attitude.

      One captain, Commander Howard Gilmore, on the USS Growler, while under attack on the surface, had his bridge and deck crew go inside before he left the top bridge. Mortally wounded, he had his crew close the hatch and leave him above.

      These men were giants.

      And we don't, as a nation, teach about them. To our great shame as a nation.

    2. juvat - Good attack boat skippers are fighter pilots, as many demonstrated in WWII. Lockwood wanted that sort commanding "his" boats, and for the most part, he got them.

      One Hell of a leader indeed!

    3. Beans - CDR Gilmore deserves a post, expect it. (POCIR)

    4. (Don McCollor)...Growler made it back to Brisbane Australia with her bow twisted back almost at a right angle. A story (about people that had your back) is that two shipwrights flown all the way from the states almost bowled the crew over coming up the gangway as soon as it was set in place, raced forward to peer down anxiously at the twisted bow and then clapping each other's shoulders with joy. Their welds had held true. Growler went back with an Aussie repaired bow, with kangaroo weld stencils on each side...

  3. Attack subs should be named after WWII subs. It's just... right. And the only way to properly recognize (shipwise) the bravado and daring of these undersea swashbucklers.


    Deck gun.
    Demo Team.

    I am surprised Fluckey didn't find a way to afix a plane to his boat.

    Amazing record. In an amazing part of the war full of... amazing men. Who exceeded the design parameters of their equipment over and over again, and who often paid the price. 263 US subs fought in WWII, with 52 not coming back. 1 in 5. Still better odds than in a bomber over Europe, but not by much.

    1. While I agree with your opening statement, Admiral Rickover nailed it when he said "Fish don't vote." (For those who don't know, most US subs in WWII were named after fish.) As long as we have politicians who are more concerned with getting re-elected than in the interests of the nation as a whole, you'll get ships named after places and politicians. I like the old ship-naming rules better myself, but those days are (unfortunately) gone.

      Lucky Fluckey was quite a guy!

  4. Blind Man's Bluff for a cold war update. Old Guns

  5. That's my kind of submarine!

  6. These posts are very important imo. There are countless stories of Americans behaving like Americans, in and out of warfare, which are completely ignored in the so-called national discourse. When faced with a war that no one wanted to personally fight, a very great many Americans said in essence, "Well, it sucks, but I've got a responsibility here." Personal responsibility balances sovereign liberty and keeps a person between the guard rails. The nation is a collection of sovereign persons. Daring exploits are fantastic and cool to read and think about, but they are just color added to the most daring exploit of all -- stepping up and taking responsibility when it's possible and often even easy to dodge and shirk.

    Rickover was correct in his assessment, but that doesn't mean that pandering to shirkers is the best path. A better path is to patiently urge shirkers to take up a bit of American responsibility. That's not the government's job. It's the job of the non-shirking American, and you folks at the Chant are certainly pulling your weight.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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