USS Queenfish (SS393)

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Heading to sea, off Point Loma, San Diego, CA* Original Battle flag design.
 by EMC William J. Cavanaugh*

*This History of SS393 and the history of SSN651 are reprinted with permission, from "Subs In The Spotlight", the Spring 1996 edition of "The Klaxon, Submarine Force Library and Museum, Groton, CT "

USS Queenfish (SS393)*

*Updated 05/04/2008
Ship Specifications  Official History Commanding Officers

     Submarine warfare had already reached a fever pitch in the Pacific when the BALAO-class QUEENFISH (SS393) was launched at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in July 1943. By the time she was commissioned a little over seven months later, the U.S. Navy had overcome its initial aversion to wolf pack operations. Fleet-type submarines had become plentiful enough to concentrate multiple units in areas where Japanese supply lines provided a wealth of targets.

   Departing Pearl Harbor in early August 1944, QUEENFISH teamed up with BARB Eradicators" (after pack commander CAPT. E.R. Swinburne in BARB) dispatched six confirmed merchantmen in three separate convoys to the bottom, despite TUNNY's withdrawal after a week on station with hull damage from aircraft bombs. QUEENFISH nailed three of the victims for an official 15,000 tons. However, it is likely that QUEENFISH sinkings were underestimated by half. After that first convoy had been blasted, the adjacent pack moved west and attacked yet another convoy while QUEENFISH was still working on her second.

    QUEENFISH and BARB had just finished dealing with convoy No. 2 whenCOMSUBPAC ordered them to assist the adjacent pack in rescue work. On the way, the Eradicators paused for a couple of hours to attack their third convoy. QUEENFISH fired her last four torpedoes for damage only while BARB recorded two large kills. They then raced away to the rescue scene.

   The Japanese had picked up their own survivors from the wreckage of two large transports sunk by the adjacent pack. They made no attempt to save any survivors from among the 2lOO British and Australian POWs embarked in the transports. The attackers managed to get 127 out of the water, all that could be safely taken aboard. The Eradicators searched for two days, QUEENFISH rescuing 18, her companion 14. An approaching typhoon terminated the hunt and the patrol. QUEENFISH proceeded to Majuro in the Marshall Islands for refit after 59 days at sea.

    Although the first QUEENFISH patrol was not unusual from the wolf pack spect, it was one of the most successful, showing what could be done by well-coordinated packs, acting aggressively in Luzon Strait. The two packs accounted for 13 ships of more than 89,000 tons.

   The hazards of so many submarines working in small areas, communications difficulties and the in-house problem of pack commanders embarked in a pack were being overcome. Submarine Force Commanders saw early on that the German method of central headquarters control was less effective than control by on-scene commanders. Minimizing high frequency radio contact was important. Pack members talked on TBS, the VHF line-of-sight radio, or closed on the surface for flashing light, semaphore or voice (loud hailer or just plain shouting) conversation.

   When QUEENFISH departed on her second patrol in late October 1944, CDR.Loughlin had pack command as well as ship command. "Loughlin's Loopers,"which included BARB and PICUDA (SS382), headed for the East China Sea. The"Loopers" had a sense of humor as well as a penchant for dealing with the enemy: they called their ships "Queerfish," "Boob" and "Peculiar." Their insensitivity was probably not matched by the Japanese who, no doubt, had other names for them, equally offensive, but unlikely to raise eyebrows in their own country. Offensive, indeed, were the Loopers. A companion wolf-pack, called "Underwood's Urchins" after its commander, also operated nearby.

    They had scarcely arrived in their area on the busy track between Shanghai and southwest Korea when QUEENFISH drew first blood, sinking two freighters convoyed by threeescorts. While QUEENFISH was thus occupied, BARB sank a merchant converted from an old light cruiser.

    A couple of days later, QUEENFISH attacked a strongly defended convoy in heavy seas. From an unfavorable firing position, she damaged one ship before the escorts delivered a 50 depth-charge counter-attack. The Japanese warships departed, and QUEENFISH surfaced to alert her packmates. As a result, BARB sank one of the larger cargo ships in the group. The Urchins picked up the convoy farther on, sinking one ship and damaging two others.

   Both packs were then alerted by COMSUBPAC to approach of a large convoy from Manchuria heading for the Philippines. Besides the usual tankers and freighters, this convoy included a small carrier and a large aircraft ferry loaded with planes for Manila plus several troop transports.

   Once again, QUEENFISH made the first contact and quickly sent the 9200 ton ferry to the bottom. In the next 48 hours, the two packs destroyed eight ships of the convoy including the 21,000 ton carrier and the largest of the troop transports. The bulk of a Japanese army division and most of its equipment never reached the Philippines, making General MacArthur's in-progress invasion of the Commonwealth that much easier.

   Before November was over, the two packs sank four more loners. Having expended their torpedoes, they headed for Guam. QUEENFISH accounted for four of the total bag of one of the most successful wolf pack operations of the war (19 ships, 110,000 tons, half of them victims of the Loopers) in her 35-day second war patrol. The Presidential Unit citation for her first two runs awaited her return to port.

   QUEENFISH was underway again two days before the end of 1944, once more leading the Loopers. The Loopers took up station in the northern portion of the Formosa (Taiwan) Strait in shallow water close to the mainland and where convoys holed up at night and hugged the coast by day.

   Almost immediately BARB spotted a big convoy and all three submarines attacked. What happened in the ensuing melee is still not clear. QUEENFISH unleashed an all-tube load of torpedoes at three targets; all ten missed. After reloading, Loughlin scored two hits of four shots at a tanker, getting one-third share for the sinking with his packmates. Two shots from the stern tubes at a charging destroyer missed. QUEENFISH successfully evaded the counterattack, while PICUDA and BARB pressed home attacks. The former leveled a 10-shot salvo that hit and damaged three ships, then sank a tanker with reloads. BARB put at least three ships on the bottom. All told, the pack eliminated five ships from the convoy and three others were severely damaged.

   For the rest of the patrol, QUEENFISH and her sisters operated virtually independently. A little more than a week later, Loughlin attacked a small convoy, firing eight torpedoes (his last) at several ships. PICUDA some days later, expended her last weapons more successfully and sank a transport. Both concluded their patrols while BARB remained, entered a Chinese harbor, shotup the residents and saw her CO, Eugene Fluckey, earn the Medal of Honor. Gone 32 days, QUEENFISH was credited with only one-third of a kill. Still, it was a record which CDR. Loughlin would probably have gladly swapped for the events of the fourth patrol.

   QUEENFISH departed Hawaii as a member "Post's Panzers." CDR. W.S. Post,senior CO in SPOT (SS413), also had SEA FOX (SS402) in his wolf pack, the second to bear the name. The three proceeded to QUEENFISH's previous area in the Formosa Strait. SPOT expended all her weapons, netting one kill and sharing another with Navy aircraft, then left to get more. Pack command devolved upon CDR. Loughlin. Almost two weeks of fruitless patrolling ended when SEA FOX attacked a small convoy, damaged one vessel and alerted the pack commander.

   What occurred that night of 1 April, 1945 has been the subject of dozens of articles in magazines and journals and of entire chapters in several books. QUEENFISH sank a lighted, marked Japanese ship granted U.S. safe conduct to carry supplies for Allied prisoners of war. A tragic combination of circumstances and errors engulfed QUEENFISH and her skipper: missed communications, unclear messages, near-zero visibility, concern for counter-attacking destroyers, perfect accuracy with four radar-aimed torpedoes, etc.. AWA MARU sank in a couple of minutes. When the one survivor picked up by QUEENFISH told his story, Loughlin immediately reported to COMSUBPAC, CINCPACFLT and CNO.

   QUEENFISH was ordered into port; CDR. Loughlin was relieved of command, tried by court-martial and convicted of one of the three charges, negligence in obeying orders. After the war, it was confirmed that AWA MARU was loaded with munitions and contraband. Loughlin survived to continue an illustrious career that led to flag rank. QUEENFISH resumed the war.

   By the time she arrived in the East China Sea on her fifth and last patrol, QUEENFISH, under CDR. F.N. Shamer and operating independently, found that her targets were simply gone. Lifeguard duty could be carried out minus the "distraction" of sinking enemy ships: 13 Navy fliers were rescued. Her 69days completed, QUEENFISH refitted at Midway and was still there at war's end.

    (Corrections from Captain Shamer, forwarded by Harry Hall, 12/23/96: "Fifth patrol entry. The 13 aviators were picked up on the previous patrol. We were closing Guam after sinking the AWA MARU. The spot was about 100 miles west of Iwo Jima. Unfortunately, my patrol (the 5th) was unsuccessful. I think that Tirante's sinking of collier inside a small harbor south of Nagasaki (she surfaced in the harbor and barrelled out on the surface while taking motion pictures in color) was the only ship sunk outside of the Sea of Japan in the time frame of our patrol. We gunned down a four masted junk in the Yellow Sea in an area where any junk was to be destroyed without risking boarding and inspecting first. I didn't like doing this and did no more. We rescued two survivors. The first round, VT fused, killed almost all of the crew. The two rescued were the only visible people in the water. ---------------)"

   After World War II, QUEENFISH served as force flagship at Pearl. When her guns and associated equipment were removed, she became the model for active fleet-type boats that did not receive Guppy, snorkel, SSR, SSG or other special conversions. Little is recorded about this "QUEENFISH Modification" * that was a household word for submariners in the 50s.

* See " The Acid Test " on the stories page for more on this (editor).

   The Korean "Conflict" brought QUEENFISH twice to those waters in 1951 and 1953. Most waterborne targets, were in the Yalu, beyond the range of QUEENFISH and MacArthur's bombers. A home-port shift to San Diego in 1954 assured assignment to "rendering services" as a way of life. A 1960 redesignation as "AGSS" (Auxiliary Submarine, defined by some who served in this type as "same operational tempo, smaller crew") followed QUEENFISH to her decommissioning in 1963. Slated for scrapping, she was "saved" for a nobler end. QUEENFISH rests where she spent all her adult life, in thePacific, sunk as a target for more modern weaponry.

CAPT. John Donlon, USN (Ret)

Additional historical information can be found in The Stories section

Information on Operation Petticoat can be found here

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