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World War II Submarine Warfare

World War II Submarine Warfare

"Execute unrestricted air and submarine warfare against Japan."
- Admiral R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, December 1941.The attack on Pearl Harbor was Japan's calculated attempt to gain the upper hand against America's increasing confrontation with the Japanese empire. However, the Japanese aircraft barely touched the American submarine base — which historically proved to be a serious mistake.Victory would exact a painful cost for Americans — U.S. submarines completely cut the supply lines to an island nation, a feat that German U-boats failed to do in two world wars.InsightDuring World War II, submarines comprised less than two percent of the U.S. Navy, but sank more than 30 percent of Japan's navy, including eight aircraft carriers. More important, American submarines contributed to the indirect decapitation of the Japanese economy by sinking almost five million tons of shipping — more than 60 percent of the Japanese merchant marine.However, disharmony in command between the U.S. Asiatic Fleet in Manila for manpower and matériel accounted for infighting that lasted virtually throughout the entire war.Gearing upTwenty-nine U.S. Salmon (SS-182) class.Manila Bay units were commanded by Captain John Wilkes and serviced by two tenders and a converted merchant ship. Tambor (SS-198) class submarines. When the war began, however, 11 of the Pearl Harbor boats were in the United States in various stages of overhaul.ManilaWhile General Douglas MacArthur was withdrawing southward into defensive positions on the Bataan Peninsula, Admiral Thomas C. That left only his submarines to oppose the coming onslaught, and by December 11, 22 of Hart's 29 boats had left Manila on their first war patrols, to seek and destroy the expected Japanese invasion forces.On the 10th of December, a massive Japanese air raid on the Cavite Naval Station south of Manila, damaged the U.S.S. Sealion (SS-195) beyond repair. The Sealion was the first U.S. submarine lost in World War II.Because of inexperience, poor military intelligence, bad torpedos, and bad luck, the Manila-based submarines sent out to oppose the Japanese invasion were almost totally ineffective. Patrolling the approaches to Luzon, many succeeded in making contact with enemy forces, but their 45 separate attacks sank only three freighters.Six U.S. Finally, with the fall of Manila clearly approaching, Captain Wilkes decided at the end of the year to abandon the Philippines and move his submarines south to Surabaja in Java.East IndiesAs the Asiatic Fleet retreated southward, the Japanese commenced to conquer the Philippines, Burma, Malaya, and Thailand. submarines nevertheless attempted to curb the tide by concentrating off Japanese staging bases and attacking the invasion forces wherever they could be found.On February 28th, 1942, despite the Navy’s courageous rearguard defense, the Japanese took Java in little more than a week after squashing the surface forces of the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, and Australia in the Battle of the Java Sea.Midway difficultiesTactical errors by the top brass and insufficient boat designs plagued the submarine fleet throughout the war. The conventional method that subs should be employed as a defensive weapon and a support facility for land-based military activities continued, despite a much-needed change.In June 1942, 12 boats were assigned to picket duty in the defense of Midway Island. The ensuing Battle of Midway, from which the U.S. submarines stationed around the island, their part became an exhausting and insufficient effort — subs were continually given orders to stalk the entrances of harbors and ports, while ignoring the Japanese shipping presence on high seas trade routes.Of the dozen boats assigned to that defensive duty, only a quarter ever saw an enemy ship. Of that number, only one sub was in a position to fire any torpedoes — which failed to explode.Torpedo failures, during the battle of Midway and earlier, were numerous and succeeded in hamstringing numerous skippers. After setting up ideal attacks, their torpedoes often detonated prematurely, missed completely, or didn't explode at all.The BuOrd (Bureau of Ordnance) held firmly to the opinion that human error was the cause of the torpedo troubles, not a design flaw.Improvements madeBy August 1942, the first surface search Radar system was installed aboard a U.S. In addition, the new Gato class boats (SS-212), were arriving on a regular basis to replace and reinforce those battle-weary subs that had been bearing the brunt of the war so far.Fortunately, major intelligence advances were being made at that time by the United States in intercepting and deciphering Japanese communications. "Ultra," as it was known, gave U.S. code breakers the ability to forward critical information to submarine captains.In the fall of 1943, the torpedo dilemma became a thing of the past. The resulting dramatic increase in tonnage scores removed any doubt about the cause of the problem that had been haunting the submarine fleet during the first few years of the war.Victory in the Philippine SeaWith torpedoes working now, and the arrival of newly commissioned subs, the U.S. submarines had sunk more than 1,500,000 gross registered tons of Japanese merchants.The early months of 1945 proved to be highly productive on a regular basis — Japanese supply lines were down to almost nothing, and U.S. submarine hunting grounds were becoming thin.The Allied victory during the Battle of the Philippine Sea dealt a body blow to the Japanese military machine. Three of five Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers were sunk (two by submarines) and the substantial loss of aircraft basically all but terminated the Japanese Naval air force.


Watch the video: World War II Submarine Warfare (November 2021).