Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Silent Service in World War II

Commander K. with USS Torsk, Baltimore, MD
The flip side of the story of the Liberty Ships such as the Jeremiah O'Brien (see earlier post, SS Jeremiah O'Brien, 8/13/12) was the fate of the Japanese Merchant Marine at the hands of the submarines of the US Navy.  A staggering 56 percent of these ships were sunk by the US Navy submarines in the course of the war  (The Storm of War, Andrew Roberts, 2009 http:/www.amzn.com/0061228605).

USS Pampanito, SF, CA
The historian Niall Ferguson writes, "The Germans had already made the concept of 'lightning war' their own.  But never in military history has lightning struck in so many places with such devastating results as it did in Asia and the Pacific between the beginning of December 1941 and the end of April 1942.  Moreover, the distances involved were vastly greater than those being covered simultaneously by the Germans in Europe.  At its maximum extent, the Japanese Empire stretched 6,400 miles from west to east and 5,300 miles from north to south; its circumference was a staggering 14,200 miles.  By the beginning of May 1942, the Japanese could plausibly contemplate attacks on Midway, New Caledonia, Fiji, Samoa, New Guinea and even Australia , Ceylon and India."  The War of the World, Niall Ferguson, 2006. (http:/www.amzn.com/0143112392)

Commander K. in the Map Room, USS Torsk, Baltimore, MD
The initial and overwhelming success of the Japanese onslaught in the six months following  the attack on Pearl Harbor created a vast sprawling empire encompassing most of the Pacific ocean.  The far-flung Japanese garrisons and forces needed to be re-supplied entirely by sea.  The Japanese home islands also depended on shipments of scarce natural resources such as oil and rubber as well.  This put enormous pressure on the Japanese merchant marine.

USS Torsk, Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD

These ships were vulnerable to attack by American submarines. The British historian Andrew Roberts wrote, "the American naval blockade that had been in effect since 1943 would eventually starve the overcrowded island into surrender, though not for many months or possibly longer.  No fewer than 4.8 million tons of Japanese merchant shipping were sent to the bottom by US submarines in the course of the war, 56 percent of the total, and that did not include 201 warships, comprising a further 540,000 tons.  It came at the grievous cost of fifty-two US submarines, however, and thus the worst death rate of any branch of the US armed forces, even higher than the bomber crews of the Eighth Air Force."  (The Storm of War, Andrew Roberts, 2009 http:/www.amzn.com/0061228605).

"Still on Patrol" 52 US subs lost in WW II, USS Torsk, Baltimore, MD
203 US submarines were constructed by the US during World War II (Source: Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II by Arthur Herman, 2012  (http:/www.amzn.com/1400069645).   Some are, thankfully, still afloat.  (See earlier posts The Corporations that Won World War II, 7/20/12) and Freedom's Forge, 8/10/12).

Commander K. in the Engine Room,  USS Torsk, Baltimore , MD

In San Francisco at Pier 45, you will find and can tour the USS Pampanito (http://www.maritime.org/tour/index.php).  This ship is a Balao class submarine built at Portsmouth Naval station in Maine in 1943.  In Baltimore's Inner Harbor you will see the USS Torsk  (http://www.usstorsk.org/.)  The USS Torsk is a Tench class submarine also built by the Portsmouth Naval Station and launched on 12/16/44.

Even the bluest cities in our land enjoy celebrating these vestiges of our Military Industrial Complex (MIC) and the brave men who all volunteered to serve on board them.

Commander Kelly says, "Go on board to experience a small part of the claustrophobia, body odor and terror that these brave crew members had to endure."

Tribute to the Silent Service

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article. Thank you. I've been aboard the USS Pamponito and the USS Bowfin at Pearl Harbor. I've also met members and family of those in "The Silent Service". Bless them all.