Sunday, October 13, 2013

Vets will pay tribute to lost World War II sub Saturday

Oct 10, 2013  
By James Mayse, Owensburg Messenger-Inquirer

IN LATE DECEMBER 1942 -- as the tide of the World War II began to turn against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan -- an Owensboro native, Lt. Commander Dudley "Mush" Morton, took command of the USS Wahoo, a Gato class attack submarine stationed at Pearl Harbor.

Although the Wahoo had sailed under a different commander between August and December of that year, the submarine's crew had sunk only one Japanese tanker and damaged one freighter.

Morton quickly changed the Wahoo's fortunes. On Morton's first war patrol between January and February of 1943, the Wahoo's crew sank three Japanese ships and damaged several others, according to the Naval Historical Center. Morton sunk nine ships on his second patrol in the East China Sea and Yellow Sea.
In its career, the Wahoo's crew is believed to have sunk more than 20 Japanese ships, making it one of the most successful American submarines of the war.

But the war for the Wahoo and Morton ended on Oct. 11, 1943. While on patrol in a strait between the Japanese island of Hokkaido and Sakhalin Island, the Wahoo was attacked and sunk. All 80 crew members went down with the submarine.

In 1995, the American Legion's James L. Yates Post placed a memorial -- a World War II era Mark 14 torpedo -- on the Legion grounds in honor of Morton and the Wahoo's crew. Although there is an organization of submarine veterans that conducts remembrance services at submarine monuments across the United States, the group was not aware of the existence of the memorial at the Owensoro Legion post.

Until now.

On Saturday, submarine veterans from Owensboro and other parts of the region will congregate at the post, at 118 Veterans Blvd., for a "bell tolling" ceremony at the Wahoo monument. The event will begin at 11 a.m.
Terry Diehl, past Kentucky commander of United States Submarine Veterans Inc., said the service was initially planned as a small affair, with just a few submarine veterans in attendance. The event, however, has grown through word-of-mouth.

"The word is getting out every day," Diehl said Wednesday. "I'm at the point where I'm wondering if I should print some more programs."

Part of the training of Navy submarine personnel is learning the history of the 52 U.S. submarines that were lost during World War II, Diehl said. The Wahoo is a famous submarine in Navy history, he said.

"(Morton) only made five patrols out of the six or seven the boat made, and he was gone long before the end of the war -- but he was the second top-rated skipper on sinkings" during the war, Diehl said.

The Naval Historical Center says, although the Wahoo was active during a time when torpedo malfunctions were common, the Wahoo had the seventh-best record in terms of sinking Japanese ships in the U.S. submarine service.

"He's a hero," Diehl said of Morton. "He did a job (without equal) as far as I'm concerned." The wreckage of the Wahoo was discovered by Russian divers in 2006.

Diehl said he "stumbed" across the Wahoo monument in Owensboro. About a dozen submarine veterans from different time periods are expected to attend the event.

There aren't many World War II submarine veterans left. The national organization for World War II submarine veterans disbanded last year, Diehl said.

"They're dwindling fast," Diehl said. "... Now, we only have three left in Kentucky that we are aware of. They're all in their late 80s or beyond --we know it's going to be the next morning when we're going to get the next phone call" saying another submarine veteran from that era has died.

"We lost four Kentuckians on that boat" when the Wahoo was sunk, Diehl said. "Our intention is to keep this centered on the Wahoo itself and the 80 men who were lost there."

In addition to the bell tolling, the ceremony will include reading the names of the crew members. An honor guard to perform taps and conduct a 21-gun salute is in the works, Diehl said.

The history of the Wahoo "is a neat story," Diehl said. "Without Mr. Dudley W. Morton, it wouldn't have happened."


NINA ratiana on 10:09 AM said...


crob708 on 3:27 PM said...

It was truly surprising and wonderful to find your blog, plus all the other information on the Wahoo. My second cousin, William Howell Holmes, Electricians's Mate, First Class, was onboard when it was attacked and subsequently went down in 1943. I was on a search for any information or stories when I found your blog. I look forward to receiving future updates.

Thank you for the work you are doing.

Carolyn Robbins

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About Me

The first 'grown up' book Paul Crozier ever read was "War Fish" by George Grider. Since then he has spent most of his life researching the U.S. Submarine Force in WWII and USS Wahoo (SS-238) in particular.


This blog is dedicated to all who have served in the U.S. Submarine Force. Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Admiral Chester Nimitz

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