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USS Flying Fish (SS-229)
USS Flying Fish (SS-229)
Builder: Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine[1]
Laid down: 6 December 1940[1]
Launched: 9 July 1941[1]
Sponsored by: Mrs. Husband E. Kimmel
Commissioned: 10 December 1941[1]
Decommissioned: 28 May 1954[1]
Struck: 1 August 1958[1]
Fate: Sold for scrap, 1 May 1959[1]
General characteristics
Class & type: Gato-class diesel-electric submarine[2]
Displacement: 1,525 long tons (1,549 t) surfaced[2]
2,424 long tons (2,463 t) submerged[2]
Length: 311 ft 9 in (95.02 m)[2]
Beam: 27 ft 3 in (8.31 m)[2]
Draft: 17 ft (5.2 m) maximum[2]
  • 4 × Fairbanks-Morse Model 38D8-18 9-cylinder opposed-piston diesel engines driving electrical generators[3][4]
  • 2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries[5]
  • 4 × high-speed Elliott electric motors with reduction gears[3]
  • 2 × propellers[3]
  • 5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced[3]
  • 2,740 shp (2.04 MW) submerged[3]
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h) surfaced[6]
9 kn (17 km/h) submerged[6]
Range: 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) surfaced at 10 kn (19 km/h)[6]
Endurance: 48 hours at 2 kn (4 km/h) submerged[6]
75 days on patrol
Test depth: 300 ft (90 m)[6]
Complement: 6 officers, 54 enlisted[6]

USS Flying Fish (SS/AGSS-229), a Gato-class submarine, was the first submarine and second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the flying fish, a family of fishes of tropic and warm temperate seas whose long winglike fins make it possible for them to move some distance through the air.

The keel of Flying Fish (SS-229) was laid down on 6 December 1940 by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine. She was launched 9 July 1941 (sponsored by Mrs. Husband E. Kimmel, wife of the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet), and commissioned 10 December 1941, Lieutenant Commander Glynn "Donc" Donaho (Class of 1927) in command.

Flying Fish is credited with having sunk a total of 58,306 tons of Japanese shipping and received 12 battle stars for World War II service.

First war patrol - Battle of Midway

Flying Fish arrived at Pearl Harbor for final training 2 May 1942, and 15 days later was ordered out to patrol west of Midway, which was threatened by an expected Japanese attack. During the Battle of Midway 4 – 6 June, she and her sisters fanned out to scout and screen the island, at which she refitted from 9 – 11 June. Continuing her first full war patrol, she searched major shipping lanes in Empire waters (the seas around Japan) and scored a hit on a Japanese destroyer off Taiwan during the night of 3 July. She returned to Midway to refit on 25 July.

Second war patrol, August – September 1942

On 15 August 1942, she sailed on her second war patrol, bound for a station north of Truk. On 28 August, only three days after arriving on station, Flying Fish sighted the masts of a Japanese battleship (now known to be Yamato),[7] guarded by two destroyers and air cover. She launched four torpedoes at this prime target, and two hits were detected by sonar. Immediately the counterattack began, and as Flying Fish prepared to launch torpedoes at one of the destroyers, rapidly closing to starboard, her commanding officer was blinded by a geyser of water thrown up by a bomb. Flying Fish went deep for cover. A barrage of 36 depth charges followed. When Flying Fish daringly came up to periscope depth 2 hours later, she found the two destroyers still searching, aided by two harbor submarine chasers and five aircraft. A great cloud of black smoke hung over the scene, persisting through the remaining hours of daylight. As Flying Fish upped periscope again a little later, a float plane dropped bombs directly astern, and the alert destroyers closed in. A salvo of torpedoes at one of the destroyers missed, and Flying Fish went deep again to endure another depth charging. Surfacing after dark, she once more attracted the enemy through excessive smoke from one of her engines, and again she was forced down by depth charges. Early in the morning of 29 August, she at last cleared the area to surface and charge her batteries. Possibly the torpedo explosions were premature; Japanese records show no warships lost on 28 August 1942.

Unshaken by this long day of attack, Flying Fish closed on Truk once more 2 September 1942, and attacked a 400 ton patrol vessel, only to see the torpedoes fail to explode upon hitting the target. The patrol ship ran down the torpedo tracks and began a depth charge attack, the second salvo of which damaged Flying Fish considerably. A second patrol ship came out to join the search; Flying Fish successfully evaded both opponents and cleared the area. Determinedly, she returned to the scene late the next night, and finding a single patrol vessel, sank her with two torpedoes just after midnight early on 4 September. Two hours later a second patrol craft came out, and as Flying Fish launched a stern shot, the Japanese ship opened fire, then swerved to avoid the torpedo. Flying Fish dived for safety, enduring seven depth charge runs by the patrol vessel. Two destroyers joined the patrol craft, and all three kept the submarine under attack for five hours. At last able to get clear, Flying Fish sailed for Pearl Harbor, where she arrived 15 September.

Third and fourth war patrols, October 1942 – February 1943

Flying Fish cleared Pearl Harbor 27 October, headed for her patrol area south of the Marshall Islands. Three times on this third patrol she launched bold attacks on Japanese task forces, only to suffer the frustration of poor torpedo performance, or to score hits causing damage which postwar evaluation could not confirm. She arrived at Brisbane for refit on 16 December 1942.

On 6 January 1943, Flying Fish started her fourth war patrol, a reconnaissance of the Marianas. Along with gaining much valuable intelligence, she damaged a freighter in Apra harbor on 26 January, hit a passenger/cargo ship in Tinian's Sunharon Roadstead 6 February, and sank another freighter in the presence of patrolling aircraft and surface escorts 16 February. She returned to Pearl Harbor 28 February.

Crew casualities during R&R, March 9th 1943

On March 9, 1943, three crewmen of the Flying Fish - Lyman Darol Williams,[8] Leonard Mathis Sturms,[9] and Harley Albert Kearney[10] died of drinking wood alcohol at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel during R&R in Honolulu, Hawaii. These three seamen would be the only casualties that the crew of the Flying Fish would suffer during the war.

Fifth war patrol, March 1943 – May 1943

Flying Fish stood out of Pearl Harbor 24 March for her fifth war patrol, this one to the coast of Honshū, where the submarine was battered by foul weather. On 12 April, she closed the northern coast to make a daring attack on a freighter, which she sank, again in the presence of scout planes and armed trawlers. Moving north to Hokkaidō, Flying Fish damaged a large freighter on 13 April, and two days later torpedoed an inter-island cargo ship which beached in a mass of flames. Continuing her bold inshore attacks, on 19 April Flying Fish sank another freighter, and in the Tsugaru Strait on 24 April, sent yet another cargo ship to the bottom. On 1 May a small inter-island freighter was sunk, but an alert enemy antisubmarine group shook Flying Fish considerably before she could clear the area. She returned to Midway from this highly successful patrol 11 May.

Sixth war patrol, June – July 1943

After five grueling patrols Lieutenant Commander Donaho turned command over to Captain Frank T. Watkins. On her sixth patrol (2 June – 27 July), Flying Fish patrolled in the Volcano Islands and off Taiwan. Her first attacks, two against the same convoy, resulted in unconfirmed damage, but off Taiwan on 2 July, she blasted the stern off a cargo ship, watching it sink. While Pearl Harbor-bound from her patrol area, she made a two day chase for a fast convoy, but was forced by her dwindling fuel supply to break off the hunt. On 11 July she destroyed a 125-foot (38 m) sailing vessel with gunfire, leaving it aflame from stem to stern.

Seventh war patrol, October – November 1943

After a major overhaul at Pearl Harbor from 27 July to 4 October 1943, Flying Fish sailed on her seventh war patrol, again with her original skipper , bound for the Palaus. Her first attack, 18 October, scored at least one hit on an auxiliary aircraft carrier. A two-day tracking of a well-escorted convoy from 26 – 28 October resulted in the sinking of one, and the damaging of two merchantmen before Flying Fish ran out of torpedoes. She arrived at Midway 6 November.

Eighth, ninth, and tenth war patrols, November 1943 – July 1944

Flying Fish's eighth war patrol, the first to be commanded by Lieutenant Commander R. D. Risser, between Taiwan and the China coast from 30 November 1943 to 28 January 1944, found her sinking a cargo ship on 16 December, and a tanker on 27 December. Her refit and retraining between patrols were held once more at Pearl Harbor.

Flying Fish sailed for her ninth war patrol 22 February for the waters off Iwo Jima. On 12 March, she sent a merchantman to the bottom, then closed the Okinawa shore and attacked a convoy in the early morning darkness of 16 March. A passenger/cargo ship was sunk and a tanker damaged in this attack. Pressing on with her chase for six hours in the hope of finishing off the tanker, the submarine was detected and held down by aircraft and destroyers while the tanker escaped. On the afternoon of 31 March, Flying Fish was attacked by a Japanese submarine, whose torpedoes she skillfully evaded. Bound for Majuro at the close of her patrol, the submarine torpedoed and sank a freighter moored at Kita Daito Jima. Flying Fish closed out her patrol and arrived at Majuro 11 April 1944.

Clearing Majuro harbor 4 May, Flying Fish sailed for her tenth war patrol, coordinated with the assault on the Marianas scheduled to open the next month. First she covered shipping lanes between Ulithi, Yap, and Palau, coming under severe attack on the night of 24 – 25 May when she was detected while attacking a four-ship convoy. At dawn, however, she had got back into position to sink two of the ships, both passenger/cargo types.

Along with other American submarines, she then headed to take up a patrol station between the Palaus and San Bernardino Strait, from which she could scout any movement by the enemy fleet out of its base at Tawi in the Sulus while the Marines were landed on Saipan. On 15 June, the day of the invasion, Flying Fish spotted the Japanese carrier force emerging from San Bernardino Strait bound westward. Her prompt report of this movement enabled a sister submarine, Cavalla, to sink the carrier Shōkaku four days later while American carrier aircraft broke the back of Japanese naval aviation in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Flying Fish remained on her scouting station until 23 June, then sailed for Manus and Brisbane, arriving there 5 July.

Eleventh war patrol, October – November 1944

On 1 August, Flying Fish headed out to sea for her eleventh war patrol, this one taking her to Davao Gulf, the coast of Celebes, and along the shipping lanes from the Philippines to Halmahera. Flying Fish was held down much of the time by enemy aircraft. After refueling at Mios Woendi from 29 August – 1 September, she closed Celebes, where on 7 September she detected a concealed enemy airstrip. Her report led to the airfield's bombardment by aircraft 11 days later. Through the remainder of her patrol she served on lifeguard duty for air strikes on Celebes, returning to Midway 18 October. The submarine sailed on for an extensive overhaul at San Francisco, where she was equipped with mine detection and clearance equipment to enable her to penetrate the Sea of Japan.

Twelfth war patrol, May – July 1945

Tests with her new gear preceded her return to Guam 18 May 1945, where she joined a submarine task group for her 12th war patrol. She sailed 29 May for the heavily mined Tsushima Strait, entering the Sea of Japan 7 June. Now each submarine headed for her own assigned area, Flying Fish setting course north for the coast of Korea. On 10 June, in separate attacks, she sank two cargo ships, taking aboard one survivor. Five days later she sank ten small craft with gunfire and sent two onto the beach. Completing her patrol at Pearl Harbor 4 July, Flying Fish returned to New London 21 September to become flagship of Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet (COMSUBLANT).

Post-war service

"With lines reminiscent of the Civil War's Monitor, the Flying Fish (AGSS-229) was fitted with a unique round conning tower containing experimental sonar equipment." This is the sonar salvaged from the Prinz Eugen. (US Navy photo/ Sea Classics Magazine)

During the next 8 years, from her base at New London, the veteran Flying Fish conducted reserve training cruises in Long Island and Block Island Sound, exercised off the Virginia Capes, trained men of foreign navies, joined in major operations in the Caribbean, and cruised to Canadian ports. She was reclassified AGSS-229 on 29 November 1950. On 11 January 1951, she completed her duty as flagship, and began to serve the Underwater Sound Laboratory in sonar experiments, notably testing a passive GHG sonar salvaged from the former German cruiser Prinz Eugen in a large array surrounding the conning tower. On 29 February 1952, at 10:53, Flying Fish made became the first American submarine to make 5,000 dives. On board for the event was a distinguished party headed by Secretary of the Navy Dan A. Kimball. Placed in commission in reserve 31 December 1953, Flying Fish was decommissioned at New London 28 May 1954 and was sold for scrapping 1 May 1959.

Of Flying Fish's twelve war patrols, all save the 11th were designated as "successful". She is credited with having sunk a total of 58,306 tons of enemy shipping. She received 12 battle stars for World War II service.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 285–304. ISBN 1-55750-263-3. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 271–273. ISBN 0-313-26202-0. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 271–280. ISBN 978-0-313-26202-9. 
  4. U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 261–263
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305-311
  7. "Combined Fleet - tabular history of Yamato". Parshall, Jon; Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp, & Allyn Nevitt. Retrieved 5 February 2009. 

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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