Last Known Activity|
Seventh patrol, September–October 1943
Morton, smarting from that last luckless patrol, asked to return to the Sea of Japan, and permission was granted. He elected to take a full load of the newly arrived Mark 18 electric torpedo rather than chance the Mark 14 steam torpedoes might still be defective. Wahoo got underway from Pearl Harbor, topped off fuel and supplies at Midway on 13 September, and headed for La Perouse Strait. The plan was to enter the Sea of Japan first, on or about 20 September, with Sawfish following by a few days. At sunset on 21 October, Wahoo was supposed to leave her assigned area, south of the 43rd parallel, and head for home. She was instructed to report by radio after she passed through the Kurils. Nothing further was ever heard from Wahoo.
On 25 September 1943 the "Taiko Maru" was torpedoed in the Sea of Japan; mistakenly credited to the USS Pompano (SS-181) it was apparently sunk by the "Wahoo".
On 5 October, the Japanese news agency Domei announced to the world that a steamer, the 8,000 long tons (8,100 t) Konron Maru, was sunk by an American submarine off the west coast of HonshÅ« near Tsushima Strait, with the loss of 544 lives. Postwar reckoning by JANAC showed Wahoo sank three other ships for 5,300 tons, making a patrol total of four ships of about 13,000 long tons (13,000 t). Japanese records also reported, that on 11 October, the date Wahoo was due to exit through La Perouse Strait, an antisubmarine aircraft sighted a wake and an apparent oil slick from a submerged submarine. The Japanese initiated a combined air and sea attack with numerous depth charges throughout the day. Sawfish had been depth-charged by a patrol boat while transiting the strait two days before, and the enemy's antisubmarine forces were on the alert; their attacks apparently fatally holed Wahoo, and she sank with all hands. Despite the assertions of Commander O'Kane, it is unlikely she was the victim of a circular run by one of her own torpedoes. Other speculation in some texts suggests that she may have struck a mine. She was declared overdue on 2 December 1943 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 6 December 1943. A list of all those lost with her can be seen here.
The loss of Wahoo caused profound shock in the submarine force. All further forays into the Sea of Japan ceased, and it was not breached again until June 1945, when special mine detecting equipment became available. Wahoo earned six battle stars for World War II service.
The search for and discovery of Wahoo
Wahoo had long been believed to be resting in the Soya (La Pérouse) Strait between HokkaidÅ?, Japan and Sakhalin, Russia. Beginning in 1995, the Wahoo Project Group (an international team of Americans, Australians, Japanese, and Russians, and led by a relative of Commander Morton) searched for her based on the available evidence. Japanese Vice Admiral Kazuo Ueda, working with the Wahoo Project Group, examined the historical record and correctly predicted the location of Wahoo.
In 2005, electronic surveys in the region yielded what turned out to be a U.S. Gato-class submarine in the Strait; in July 2006, the Russian team "Iskra" investigated the site which contributed further evidence of location of Wahoo.
On 31 October 2006, the U.S. Navy confirmed that the images provided by the "Iskra" team are of Wahoo, the wreckage lying intact in about 213 ft (65 m) of water in the La Pérouse (Soya) Strait. The submarine was sunk by a direct hit from an aerial bomb in the middle of the conning tower.
On 8 July 2007, the U.S. Navy conducted a wreath-laying ceremony at sea for the crew of Wahoo. The ceremony was held on the confirmed site of the sinking of the submarine as a joint exercise with the Navy of the Russian Federation.
On 11 October 2007, the U.S. Navy held an official remembrance ceremony for the crew of Wahoo, conducted at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park at Pearl Harbor, and followed by a presentation of the history of Wahoo search and discovery by the Wahoo Project Group.