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USS Tang (SS-306)
USS Tang (SS-306), off Mare Island Navy Yard, December 1943
USS Tang (SS-306), off Mare Island Navy Yard, December 1943
Name: USS Tang
Ordered: 15 December 1941
Builder: Mare Island Naval Shipyard[1]
Laid down: 15 January 1943[1]
Launched: 17 August 1943[1]
Commissioned: 15 October 1943[1]
Struck: 8 February 1945
Fate: Sunk by own torpedo off Taiwan, 24 October 1944[2]
General characteristics
Class & type: Balao-class diesel-electric submarine[2]
Displacement: 1,470 long tons (1,490 t) surfaced[2]
2,040 long tons (2,070 t) submerged[2]
Length: 311 ft 10 in (95.05 m)[2]
Beam: 27 ft 4 in (8.33 m)[2]
Draft: 16 ft 10 in (5.13 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: 20.25 kn (23.30 mph; 37.50 km/h) surfaced[6]
8.75 kn (10.07 mph; 16.21 km/h) submerged[6]
Range: 11,000 nmi (13,000 mi; 20,000 km) surfaced at 10 kn (12 mph; 19 km/h)[6]
Endurance: 48 hours at 2 kn (2.3 mph; 3.7 km/h) submerged[6]
75 days on patrol
Test depth: 600 ft (180 m)[6]
Complement: 10 officers, 68 enlisted[6]

USS Tang (SS-306) was a Balao-class submarine of World War II, the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the tang. She was built and launched in 1943.

In her short career, Tang sank 33 ships totalling 116,454 tons[7] Commander Richard O'Kane received the Medal of Honor for her last two engagements (23 and 24 October 1944).[8]

Tang was sunk during the last engagement by a circular run of her final torpedo,[9] going down in 180 ft (55 m) of water.[10] Several of the crew managed to reach the surface, and some survived to be captured by the Japanese. These were the first American submariners to escape a sunken submarine using a Momsen lung.[11]


The contract to build Tang was awarded to Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 15 December 1941, and her keel was laid down on 15 January 1943. She was launched on 17 August sponsored by Mrs. Antonio S. Pitre, and commissioned on 15 October 1943 with Lieutenant Commander Richard O'Kane, former executive officer of Wahoo, in command, and delivered to the Navy on 30 November 1943.

Tang completed fitting out at Mare Island and moved south to San Diego for 18 days of intensive training before sailing for Hawaii. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 8 January 1944 and conducted two more weeks of exercises in preparation for combat.

First war patrol

Tang stood out of Pearl Harbor on 22 January 1944 to begin her first war patrol, destined for the Caroline Islands-Mariana Islands area.[DANFS 1] On the morning of 17 February, she sighted a convoy of two freighters, five smaller ships, and their escort. The submarine tracked the convoy, plotted its course, and then prepared to attack. An escort suddenly appeared at a range of 7,000 yd (6,400 m) and closing. Tang went deep and received five depth charges before the escort departed. Undamaged, she returned to periscope depth and resumed the attack. The range on the nearest freighter closed to 1,500 yd (1,400 m), and Tang fired a spread of four torpedoes. Three hit, and Gyoten Maru (6,800 tons)[12] sank by the stern. The submarine cleared the area by running deep and then attempted to get ahead of the convoy for a dawn attack, but the remaining freighter passed out of range under air escort.[DANFS 1]

During the night of 22 February, Tang made a surface attack on a convoy of three cargo ships and two escorts.[13] She tracked the Japanese ships, through rain squalls which made radar almost useless,[13] for 30 minutes before attaining a firing position, on the surface,[13] 1,500 yd (1,400 m) off the port bow of a freighter. A spread of four torpedoes hit Fukuyama Maru (3,600 tons)[13] from bow to stern, and the enemy ship disintegrated. Early the next morning, Tang made another approach on the convoy. The escort of the lead ship, the 6,800 ton[14] Yamashimo Maru, moved from its covering position on the port bow, and the submarine slipped into it and fired four more torpedoes. The first hit the stern of the cargoman, the second just aft of the stack; and the third just forward of the bridge, producing a terrific secondary explosion. The ship was "twisted, lifted from the water",[15] and began belching flames as she sank.[DANFS 1]

On the morning of 24 February, Tang sighted a tanker, a freighter, and a destroyer. Rain squalls hampered her as she attempted to attain a good firing position, so she tracked the ships until after nightfall, then made a surface attack. She launched four torpedoes and scored three hits which sank the freighter Asama Maru. The two remaining ships commenced firing in all directions, and Tang submerged to begin evasive action. She shadowed the enemy until morning and then closed the tanker for a submerged attack from extremely close, just 500 yd (460 m), barely enough to allow her torpedoes to arm.[16][page needed] Additional lookouts had been posted on the target's deck and, when the spread of torpedoes from Tang struck her, they were hurled into the air with other debris from the ship. Echizen Maru sank in four minutes as Tang went deep and rigged for the depth charge attack that followed.[DANFS 1] During this evasion, a water leak developed in the forward torpedo room, and Tang exceeded her depth gauge maximum reading of 612 feet.[17] Fortunately, the crew was able to get the submarine back under control and eventually return to the surface. (Postwar, JANAC denied credit for the tanker seen to explode.)[14]

Downed American airmen near Truk Lagoon are ferried by a Vought OS2U Kingfisher to USS Tang

Tang contacted a convoy consisting of a freighter, transport, and four escorts on the evening of 26 February. She maneuvered into position to attack the wildly zigzagging transport and fired her last four torpedoes and believed she missed; JANAC credited her with sinking Choko Maru, a 1794 ton cargo ship.[14] Having expended all 24 of her torpedoes and scored 16 hits, the submarine put into Midway for refit.[DANFS 1]

Second war patrol

Tang's second patrol began on 16 March and took her to waters around the Palau Islands, to Davao Gulf, and to the approaches to Truk. She made only five surface contacts and had no opportunity to launch an attack before she was assigned to lifeguard duty near Truk. Tang rescued 22 downed airmen, including some rescued by John Burns' Vought OS2U Kingfisher,[18] and transported them to Hawaii at the conclusion of the patrol.[DANFS 1]

Third war patrol

Her third war patrol was one of the most devastating carried out against Japanese shipping during the war. Tang got underway from Pearl Harbor on 8 June and hunted enemy shipping in the East China Sea and Yellow Sea areas. On 24 June, southwest of Kagoshima, the submarine contacted a convoy of six large ships guarded by 16 escorts. Tang closed for a surface attack and fired a spread of three torpedoes at one of the ships and quickly launched a similar spread at a second target. Explosions followed, and Tang reported two ships sunk. However, postwar examination of Japanese records revealed by the Japanese government show that two passenger-cargo ships and two freighters were sunk. The ships must have overlapped, and the torpedo spread must have hit and sunk two victims in addition to their intended targets. Those sunk — Tamahoko Maru, Tainan Maru, Nasusan Maru, and Kennichi Maru — added up to 16,292 tons of enemy shipping.[DANFS 1]

On 30 June, while she patrolled the lane from Kyūshū to Dairen, Tang sighted another cargo ship steaming without an escort. After making an end around run on the surface which produced two torpedo misses, Tang went deep to avoid depth charges, then surfaced and chased the hapless ship until she closed the range to 750 yd (690 m). A single torpedo blew Nikkin Maru in half, and the merchantman sank.[DANFS 1]

The next morning, Tang sighted a tanker and a freighter. While she sank freighter Taiun Maru Number Two, tanker Takatori Maru Number One fled. The submarine trailed until dark, then launched two torpedoes which sent the latter down. Tang celebrated 4 July at dawn by an end-around, submerged attack on an enemy freighter which was near shore. However, with rapidly shoaling water and her keel about to touch bottom, Tang backed off, fired a spread of three with two hits, and then surfaced as survivors of the 6,886 tons cargo ship Asukazan Maru were being rescued by fishing boats. That afternoon, Tang sighted Yamaoka Maru, another cargo ship of approximately the same size, and sank her with two torpedoes. The submarine surfaced and, with the aid of grapnel hooks and Thompson submachine guns, rescued a survivor who had been clinging to an overturned lifeboat. While prowling the waters off Dairen late the next night, the submarine sighted a cargo ship and, during a submerged attack with her last two torpedoes, sank Dori Maru.[DANFS 1] Credited with eight ships for 56,000 tons at the time, the score confirmed postwar by JANAC for her third patrol was 10 ships for a total of 39,160 tons.[19]

Fourth war patrol

Her fourth war patrol was conducted from 31 July – 3 September in Japanese home waters off the coast of Honshū. On 10 August, she fired a spread of three torpedoes at a tanker near the beach of Omaezaki with no hits. The next day, after locating two freighters and two escorts, she launched three torpedoes at the larger freighter and two at the other. The larger freighter (Roko Maru) disintegrated apparently from a torpedo which exploded in her boilers. As the submarine went deep, her crew heard the fourth and fifth torpedoes hit the second ship. After a jarring depth charge attack which lasted 38 minutes, Tang returned to periscope depth. Only the two escorts were in sight, and one of them was picking up survivors.[DANFS 1]

On 14 August, Tang attacked a patrol yacht with her deck gun and reduced the Japanese ship's deck house to a shambles with eight hits. Eight days later, she sank a 225 ft (69 m) patrol boat {"No.2 Nansatsu Maru"}. On 23 August, the submarine closed in on a large ship; Japanese in white uniforms could be seen lining its superstructure and the bridge. She fired three torpedoes, and two hits caused the 8,135 ton transport Tsukushi Maru to sink. Two days later, Tang attacked a tanker and an escort with her last three torpedoes – the tanker {"No.8 Nanko Maru"} sank – and returned to Pearl Harbor.[DANFS 1]

Fifth war patrol

After a refit, Tang stood out to sea on 24 September for her fifth war patrol. After topping off with fuel at Midway Island, she sailed for Formosa Strait on 27 September.[DANFS 1] In order to reach her area, Tang had to pass through narrow waters known to be heavily patrolled by the enemy. A large area stretching northeast from Formosa was known to be mined by the enemy, and O'Kane was given the choice of making the passage north of the island alone, or joining a coordinated attack group (Silversides, Trigger, and Salmon, under Commander John S. Coye, Jr.,[20] flag in Silversides) which was to patrol off northeast Formosa, and making the passage with them. Tang chose to make the passage alone and these vessels never heard from Tang, nor did any base, after she left Midway.[citation needed]

The story of Tang's fate comes from the report of her surviving commanding officer.[21]

On the night of 10–11 October, Tang sank the cargo ships Joshu Go and Ōita Maru. The submarine continued on patrol until 23 October, when she contacted a large convoy consisting of three tankers, a transport, a freighter, and numerous escorts. Commander O'Kane planned a night surface attack. Tang broke into the middle of the formation, firing torpedoes as she closed on the tankers (later identified as freighters). Two torpedoes struck under the stack and engine room of the nearest, a single burst into the stern of the middle one, and two exploded under the stack and engine space of the farthest. The first torpedoes began exploding before the last was fired, and all hit their targets, which were soon either blazing or sinking. As the submarine prepared to fire at the tanker which was crossing her stern, she sighted the transport bearing down on her in an attempt to ram. Tang had no room to dive, so she crossed the transport's bow and with full left rudder saved her stern and got inside the transport's turning circle. The transport was forced to continue her swing to avoid the tanker, which had also been coming in to ram. The tanker struck the transport's starboard quarter shortly after the submarine fired four stern torpedoes along their double length at a range of 400 yd (370 m). The tanker sank bow first and the transport had a 30° up-angle. With escorts approaching on the port bow and beam and a destroyer closing on the port quarter, Tang rang up full speed and headed for open water. When the submarine was 6,000 yd (5,500 m) from the transport, another explosion was observed, and its bow disappeared.[DANFS 1]

On the morning of 24 October, Tang began patrolling at periscope depth. She surfaced at dark and headed for Turnabout Island (25°25′53″N 119°56′24″E / 25.431493°N 119.93989°E / 25.431493; 119.93989). On approaching the island, the submarine's surface search radar showed so many blips that it was almost useless. Tang soon[Clarification needed] identified a large convoy which contained tankers with planes on their decks and transports with crated planes stacked on their bows and sterns. As the submarine tracked the Japanese ships along the coast, the enemy escorts became suspicious, and the escort commander began signaling with a large searchlight. This illuminated the convoy, and Tang chose a large three-deck transport as her first target, a smaller transport as the second, and a large tanker as the third. Their ranges varied from 900–1,400 yd (820–1,280 m). After firing two torpedoes at each target, the submarine paralleled the convoy to choose its next victims. She fired stern torpedoes at another transport and tanker aft.[DANFS 1]

As Tang poured on full speed to escape the gunfire directed at her, a destroyer passed around the stern of the transport and headed for the submarine. The tanker exploded,[citation needed] and a hit was seen on the transport. A few seconds later, the destroyer exploded,[citation needed] either from intercepting Tang's third torpedo or from shell fire of two escorts closing on the beam. Only the transport remained afloat, and it was dead in the water. The submarine cleared to 240 ft (73 m), rechecked the last two torpedoes which had been loaded in the bow tubes, and returned to finish off the transport. The 23rd torpedo was fired at 900 yd (820 m) and was observed running hot and straight.[DANFS 1] Tang's score for the night would later be confirmed as the freighters Kogen Maru (6600 tons) and Matsumoto Maru (7000 tons).[22]

At 02:30 on the morning of 25 October, the 24th and last torpedo was fired. It broached and curved to the left in a circular run. Tang fishtailed under emergency power to clear the turning circle of the torpedo, but it struck her abreast the aft torpedo room approximately 20 seconds after it was fired.[DANFS 1] The explosion was violent, and men as far forward as the control room received broken limbs. The ship went down by the stern with the after three compartments flooded. Of the nine officers and men on the bridge, including O'Kane,[23] three were able to swim through the night until picked up eight hours later. One officer escaped from the flooded[citation needed] conning tower, and was rescued with the others.[23]

The submarine bottomed at 180 ft (55 m) and the thirty[23] survivors crowded into the forward torpedo room as the aft compartments flooded, intending to use the forward escape trunk.[23] Publications were burned, and all assembled in the forward room to escape. The escape was delayed by a Japanese patrol which dropped depth charges, and started an electrical fire in the forward battery. Beginning at 6:00 AM on 25 October, using the Momsen Lung, "the only known case" where it was used,[23] thirteen men escaped from the forward torpedo room. By the time the last had exited, the heat from the battery fire was so intense, paint on the bulkhead was scorching, melting, and running down. Of the 13 men who escaped, only nine reached the surface, and of these, five were able to swim until rescued.[24] A total of 78 men were lost.[25] Those who escaped the submarine were greeted in the morning by the sight of the bow of the transport sticking straight out of the water.[citation needed]

Nine survivors, including O'Kane, were picked up the next morning by Japanese frigate CD-34.[26] Survivors of Tang's previous sinkings were on board, and they beat the men from Tang. O'Kane stated, "When we realized that our clubbing and kickings were being administered by the burned, mutilated survivors of our handiwork, we found we could take it with less prejudice." The nine captives were placed in prison camps until the end of the war.[citation needed]

Tang was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 8 February 1945.[DANFS 1]


Tang received four battle stars and two Presidential Unit Citations for World War II service. Her commanding officer received the Medal of Honor for Tang's final action.[DANFS 1]

During the war, Tang was credited with sinking 31 ships in her five patrols, totaling 227,800 tons, and damaging two for 4,100 tons. This was unequaled among American submarines. Postwar comparison with Japanese records by the Joint Army–Navy Assessment Committee (JANAC) reduced this to 24 ships, totaling 93,824 tons, placing her second on the list for ships sunk after USS Tautog (with 26) and fourth behind USS Flasher, Rasher, and Barb for total confirmed tonnage.[27] These figures have since been revised to 33 ships totalling 116,454 tons, placing her first for number of ships and tonnage.[28] Tang also retains the best patrol by number of ships sunk, her third, with ten for 39,100 tons.[29]


Tang was the subject of an episode of the syndicated television anthology series, The Silent Service, which aired during the 1957–1958 season.



  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 "Tang". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. United States Navy – Naval History and Heritage Command.

Notes and references

  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 2.6 Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 275–280. 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. O'Kane 1989, p. 458. Her commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Richard O'Kane, explains the Joint Army–Navy Assessment Committee (JANAC) report initially credited Tang with fewer sinkings. In 1980, the relevant JANAC section "was officially replaced by the credits in the patrol reports."
  8. "Richard Hetherington O'Kane". Arlington National Cemetery Web Site. 
  9. O'Kane 1989, p. 443
  10. O'Kane 1989, p. 444
  11. "Swede Momsen: Diving & Rescue — Momsen Lung". Office of Naval Research. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  12. Blair 1976, p. 567
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Blair 1976, p. 571
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Blair 1976, p. 573
  15. O'Kane's patrol report, quoted in Blair 1976, p. 573.
  16. Blair 1976, passim; Roscoe, Submarine Operations; Holmes, Undersea Victory.
  17. O'Kane 1989, p. 111
  18. Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue by George Galdorisi and Thomas Phillips, p 79-80
  19. Blair, p.952.
  20. Blair 1976, p. 1018
  21. O'Kane, Richard H. (September 1945). "Report of War Patrol Number Five". . Also in O'Kane 1989, pp. 443–445.
  22. Blair, p.767.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 Blair, p.768.
  24. "Submarine Casualties Booklet". U.S. Naval Submarine School. 1966. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  25. Hinman, Charles R.. "On Eternal Patrol – USS Tang (SS-306)". On Eternal Patrol. Charles R. Hinman. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  26. "Japanese Escorts". Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  27. Blair (1976) pp.988-989.
  28. Blair (1976) pp.988-989; O'Kane (1989), p.458.
  29. Blair (1975), p.988.
  • Blair, Jr., Clay (1976). Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War against Japan. New York: Bantam. ISBN 9780553010503. ; also Naval Institute Press, March 2001, ISBN 978-1-55750-217-9.
  • O'Kane, Richard H. (1977). Clear the Bridge!: The War Patrols of the U.S.S. Tang. Chicago: Rand McNally. ISBN 978-0-528-81058-9. 
  • O'Kane, Richard H. (1989) [1977]. Clear the Bridge!: The War Patrols of the U.S.S. Tang. Presidio Press. ISBN 978-0-89141-346-2.  Different pagination than 1977 edition.

External links

Coordinates: 25°6′N 119°31′E / 25.1°N 119.517°E / 25.1; 119.517

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