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USS Swordfish (SS-193)
Swordfish (SS193). Port side, 09-29-1939 - NARA - 513034.tif
Swordfish in 1939
Career (U.S.)
Builder: Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California[1]
Laid down: 27 October 1937[1]
Launched: 1 April 1939[1]
Sponsored by: Miss Louise Shaw Hepburn
Commissioned: 22 July 1939[1]
Struck: 19 May 1945
Fate: Probably sunk by Japanese vessels in the Ryukyu Islands, 12 January 1945
General characteristics
Class & type: Sargo-class submarine[2]
Displacement: 1,450 long tons (1,470 t) standard, surfaced[3]
2,350 long tons (2,390 t) submerged[3]
Length: 310 ft 6 in (94.64 m)[3]
Beam: 26 ft 10 in (8.18 m)[3]
Draft: 16 ft 7 12 in (5.067 m)[3]

4 × General Motors Model 16-248 V16 diesel engines[2][4]
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries[3]
4 × high-speed General Electric electric motors with reduction gears[2]
two shafts[2]
5,500 shp (4.1 MW) surfaced[2]

2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged[2]
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h) surfaced[3]
8.75 knots (16 km/h) submerged[3]
Range: 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)[3]
Endurance: 48 hours at 2 knots (3.7 km/h) submerged[3]
Test depth: 250 ft (76 m)[3]
Complement: 5 officers, 54 enlisted[3]
Armament: 8 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
 (four forward, four aft)
 24 torpedoes[3]
1 × 3-inch (76 mm) / 50 caliber deck gun[3]
four machine guns

USS Swordfish (SS-193), a Sargo-class submarine, was the first submarine of the United States Navy named for the swordfish, a large fish with a long, swordlike beak and a high dorsal fin. She was the first United States Navy submarine to sink a Japanese ship during World War II.

Operational history

Her keel was laid down on 27 October 1937 by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard of Vallejo, California. She was launched on 3 April 1939 sponsored by Miss Louise Shaw Hepburn, and commissioned on 22 July 1939 with Lieutenant Chester C. Smith in command.

Following shakedown and post-shakedown repairs at Mare Island, Swordfish operated out of San Diego, California, until early 1941, when she set sail for Pearl Harbor. On 3 November, Swordfish, in company with three other U.S. submarines, departed Pearl, and on 22 November, arrived at Manila, Philippine Islands. The submarine remained at Manila until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The following day, she set sail on her first war patrol, conducted off the coast of Hainan, China. After damaging several enemy vessels on the 9th, 11th, and 14th, Swordfish sank her initial victim of the war on 16 December. Hit amidships by one of three torpedoes, the cargo ship Atsutasan Maru erupted in a cloud of smoke and flames and disappeared beneath the waves. On 27 December, Swordfish embarked the organizational staff of the Submarine Asiatic Command Staff at Manila and headed for Soerabaja, Java, arriving on 7 January 1942.

Swordfish departed Soerabaja on 16 January for her second war patrol, conducted in the Celebes Sea and in the Philippines. On 24 January, she torpedoed and sank a cargo ship off Kema, Celebes Islands. On 20 February, she submerged in the entrance of Mariveles, Luzon, only to surface after dark to take on board the President of the Philippines, his family and select high-ranking officers.[5] She departed on the surface about 11:30pm and sailed through a minefield. She submerged during the day of 21 February, between 6:20am and 6:20pm which caused it to be quite warm, 94F & 92% humidity. She arrived off the coast of San Jose, Panay, Philippine Islands on 22 February at 10pm and they stopped at 2:30am on 23 February about a mile off the coast of San Jose de Buenavista, Antique. Fifteen minutes later they were advised that their launch was approaching. The passengers debarked the sub around 3am on 23 February. The President and his party were transferred to a motor tender. Swordfish then returned to Manila Bay and embarked the High Commissioner of the Philippines, arriving Fremantle, Western Australia, on 9 March.

Swordfish got underway from Fremantle on 1 April for her third war patrol, with her primary mission being to deliver 40 tons of provisions to the besieged island of Corregidor. However, Corregidor fell to the Japanese before the mission could be carried out and the submarine was ordered to patrol in the vicinity of Ambon Island. The only ships sighted were beyond effective range, and the submarine returned to Fremantle on 1 May.

Departing Fremantle for her fourth war patrol on 15 May, Swordfish was in the South China Sea on 29 May where she sank a 1900-ton cargo ship and was in the Gulf of Siam on 12 June where she torpedoed and sank another cargo ship. The submarine returned to Fremantle on 4 July.

Although her fifth war patrol, conducted in the Sulu Sea, and her sixth war patrol, conducted in the Solomon Islands, were unproductive, during her seventh war patrol Swordfish sank a 4122-ton cargo ship on 19 January 1943. Returning to Pearl Harbor on 23 February, the submarine underwent overhaul until 29 July, when she got underway for her eighth war patrol.

On 22 August, she sighted her first target of the patrol, and quickly sent the cargo ship to the bottom, the victim of two torpedo hits. A convoy was intercepted on 5 September, and Swordfish damaged a large tanker before sinking a cargo ship. The submarine concluded this patrol at Brisbane, Australia, on 20 September.

Swordfish's ninth war patrol lasted only three weeks. Shortly after reaching her assigned patrol area, material defects were discovered, and the submarine had to return to port.

On the day after Christmas 1943, Swordfish departed for her tenth war patrol, in the hands of one of the Submarine Force's oldest commanders, 42-year-old Karl G. Hensel (Class of 1923), formerly commanding Submarine Division 101.[6] The patrol was conducted in Tokyo Bay. It was plagued with equipment casualties in old Swordfish, including radar trouble and electrical fires.[7] On 13 January 1944, she sank 6,921 ton freighter Yamakuni Maru, while surviving "heavy—and close—depth charges".[7] The depth charging caused her to lose power in her electrical systems, and when she dived at dawn the next day, she suffered two separate fires and nearly went right to the bottom; her captain managed to bring her back up, where she wallowed on the surface, only to have a Japanese patrol boat close on her.[7] She regained power in the nick of time and dived.[7] At around 2200 on 14 January, Swordfish detected another ship, and made radar contact at 7 nmi (8.1 mi; 13 km) on the Japanese navy's first genuine Q-ship,[7] the 2,182 ton merchantman Delhi Maru, on her maiden voyage.[7] She had been outfitted with sonar (which Swordfish had heard pinging), new watertight bulkheads, depth charge throwers, and concealed guns, specially to destroy submarines. At midnight, Swordfish fired three bow torpedo tubes, scoring three hits[7] with the recently corrected Mark XIV torpedo.[7] Delhi Maru blew up, and the two patrol boats of her escort kept Swordfish down with depth charges for three hours before she evaded.[8]

17 January, Swordfish was detailed to intercept Shōkaku and her escort.[9] In the dark, it was impossible to see the carrier, but radar made contact on the force at 16,000 yards (15,000 m) (8 nmi (9.2 mi)), making 27 kn (31 mph; 50 km/h).[9] To avoid being detected, Swordfish dived, only to end up 2,000 yards (1,800 m) in front of one of Shokaku's escorting destroyers, which practically ran right over her.[9] Shokaku came on so fast, Swordfish could barely get off a shot from her four stern tubes, with the carrier going away; all missed.[9] On 27 January, Swordfish fired two torpedoes at a converted salvage vessel which broke in half and sank. She completed her tenth patrol at Pearl Harbor on 7 February. Her total score was claimed to be two ships for 15,200 tons; this was reduced by JANAC to 12,543 tons postwar, but raised to three ships.[10]

Swordfish put to sea on 13 March for her eleventh war patrol, conducted in the Mariana Islands. Although several enemy ships were damaged during this patrol, no sinkings could be confirmed; and the submarine returned to Majuro on 29 April.

Swordfish's twelfth war patrol was conducted in the area of the Bonin Islands. On 9 June, the submarine found Japanese destroyer Matsukaze clearly illuminated against the horizon and sank the enemy ship with two torpedoes from her bow tubes. On 15 June, she torpedoed and sank a cargo ship. The remainder of the patrol was unproductive, and the submarine terminated her twelfth patrol at Pearl Harbor on 30 June.

On 22 December, Swordfish departed Pearl Harbor to conduct her thirteenth war patrol, in the vicinity of Nansei Shoto. She topped off with fuel at Midway on 26 December and left that day for her area. In addition to her regular patrol, Swordfish was to conduct photographic reconnaissance of Okinawa, for preparation of the Okinawa Campaign.

On 2 January, Swordfish was ordered to delay carrying out her assigned tasks in order to keep her clear of the Nansei Shoto area until completion of carrier-based air strikes which were scheduled. She was directed to patrol the general vicinity of 30°N; 132°E until further orders were received. Her acknowledgement of those orders on 3 January was the last communication received from Swordfish.

On 9 January 1945, Swordfish was directed to proceed to the vicinity of Okinawa to carry out her special mission. It was estimated that the task would not take more than seven days after arrival on station, which she should have reached on 11 January. Upon completion of her mission, Swordfish was to proceed to Saipan, or to Midway if she was unable to transmit by radio. Since neither place had seen her by 15 February, and repeated attempts to raise her by radio had failed, she was reported as presumed lost on that date.

In the report of her loss, mention was made that Kete (SS-369), which at the time was patrolling the vicinity of Okinawa, reported that on the morning of 12 January she contacted a submarine by radar. It was believed that contact was with Swordfish. Four hours later Kete heard heavy depth charging from this area, and it was believed that this attack might have been the cause of Swordfish’s loss.

Japanese information on antisubmarine attacks does not mention the attack heard by Kete on 12 January, and records no attacks in which Swordfish is likely to have been the victim. However, it is now known that there were many mines planted around Okinawa, since the Japanese were expecting an Allied invasion of that island. The majority of the mines were planted close in. It is considered about equally likely that Swordfish was sunk by depth charge attack before she reached Okinawa for her special mission or that she was lost to a mine at that place.

Honors and awards

Swordfish Memorial at Como Park, St. Paul, Minnesota

Swordfish earned eight battle stars for World War II service.

A memorial to the boat has been erected in St. Paul, Minnesota near the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. It is just off Churchill Street, on a rise a short walk south of Hamm Falls. This consists of a torpedo on a stand. On one side of the base is a plaque listing the names of the crew and giving a brief history of the vessel. On the other is a roll of U.S. submarines lost in World War II.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 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. 269–270. ISBN 0-313-26202-0. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
  4. U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 202–204
  5. Diary of Philippine Basilio J. Valdes linked here, reads General MacArthur with General Sutherland arrived at 10:25 p.m. As per schedule we left the tunnel in three cars at 10:30 p.m. Car N-1 carried the Vice-President, The Chief Justice and Colonel Huff. Car N-2 carried Baby and Nini Quezon and myself. Car N-3 carried General MacArthur, General Sutherland, the President, Mrs. Quezon and Nonong. We went to the dock and boarded a launch that took us to the Submarine Swordfish, one of the large ones the U.S Navy has. We left Mariveles at about 11:30 p.m. I read and talked until 1 a.m. when I went to sleep on top of the dining table.
  6. Blair, pp.533 & 941.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Blair, p.534.
  8. Blair, pp.534–535.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Blair, p.535.
  10. Blair, p.941.

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