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ANTONY PRESTON, JOHN BATCHELOR
THE SUBMARINE SINCE 1919

By comparison with the staggering losses inflicted by the American submarines, the tonnages sunk by the British and Dutch were modest, largely because the Japanese had withdrawn many of their units. But many small coasters and junks were destroyed by gunfire. HMS Tally Ho sank the cruiser Kuma off Penang, however, while Taurus sank the submarine 134 in the same locality. When the patrol was extended the losses went up, and HMS Trenchant's CO was awarded the US Legion of Merit for sinking the cruiser Ashigara. The midget submarines XE1 and XE3 disabled the cruiser Takao in Singapore, and two "Chariots" from HMS Trenchant attacked merchant shipping at Phuket in Thailand. Excluding minor vessels under 500 tons, British and Dutch submarines sank a total of 87,000 tons of shipping.

Japanese counter-measures were poor, and only 60 US submarines were sunk, with a much lower loss ratio than that suffered by the German U-Boats. When the war ended the Japanese authorities told the Americans that their anti-submarine forces had sunk 486 boats! American submarines were also able to sink eight aircraft carriers and 12 cruisers, the classic examples being the torpedoing of the 62,000-ton Shinano by the Archerfish, and an ambush by the Dace and Darter which sank two heavy cruisers and damaged a third. Such was the ascendancy of American submarines over the Japanese that they were able to tackle escorts with impunity. Their outstanding tactic was the "down the throat shot", a full salvo fired at short range at an escort bearing down on the submarine. It required very fine judgment and an iron nerve, but it meant that US submarines sometimes sank escorts faster than they could sink submarines.

American Drum (SS228). The Gato Class was the standard wartime design for the USN, and proved a superb weapon for the Pacific. As the war progressed the AA armament was increased, because American submarines operated on the surface for much of the time. The Drum is preserved at Mobile, Alabama. Displacement: 1,526 tons (surfaced). Armament: Ten 21-in torpedo tubes (6 forward, 4 aft); 24 torpedoes carried; one 3-in gun; two 5 and two 3 machine-guns. Speed: 20¼ knots (surfaced), 8¾ knots (submerged)

Japanese I368. The Type D1 was designed to carry supplies to isolated Japanese garrisons in the Pacific, and had a radius of action of 15,000 miles on the surface. The bow torpedo-tubes were removed after trials, and they relied solely on their guns for defense. One or two Daihatsu landing craft could be carried in wells on the deck casing

The German wolf pack system was introduced in the Pacific in 1943, but the Americans used groups of only three boats, with such exotic nicknames as "Laughlin's Loopers", "Ed's Eradicators" and "Ben's Busters". With the advantage of radar, which the Japanese escorts lacked, they were able to track their targets with ease and avoid any counter-attacks. Like the Germans, the Americans found that attacking on the surface at night was very profitable, but unlike the British the Japanese escorts could not stop submarines from racing ahead to a new attacking position, because of their lack of radar.

Triumph at Midway

By comparison the US Navy suffered relatively little from Japanese submarine attacks. The battleship North Carolina was torpedoed by 115 in 1942 but survived, as did the carrier Saratoga when hit by 126. The greatest Japanese triumphs took place at Midway when I168 put four torpedoes into the crippled carrier Yorktown, and the sinking of the carrier Wasp by I19 south of the Solomons. The main reason for this was the high degree of skill shown by American anti-submarine forces, as underlined when the destroyer escort England sank six submarines in twelve days in May 1944. But the concentration on warship targets by the Japanese freed the Americans from having to organise a massive convoy system in the Pacific, and released escorts for more urgent duties with the front-line forces.

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