Sunday, March 22, 2009

Clear the Bridge!

During the Second World War, submarines comprised less than 2 percent of the U.S. Navy, but sank over 30 percent of Japan's navy, including eight aircraft carriers. I recently completed reading Clear the Bridge by Dick O'Kane. Two of the most aggressive boats were USS Wahoo (SS-238) and USS Tang (SS-306). One man had the chance to serve on both, Dick O'Kane.

O'Kane was the XO on Wahoo under Capt. Mush Morton and was then given command of the Tang. Despite the lack of torpedoes that worked most of the time, O'Kane hunted down imperial vessels with a vengence. Tang went on to set the record for the highest rate of sinking of enemy ships. On average, they sank a Jap ship every 11 days.

Unfortunately, the book doesn't have a happy ending. The Tang was sunk by one of her own torpedoes that circle back on her. O'Kane survived the sinking and Japanese POW camps and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

If you get the chance, Clear the Bridge is a great way to get a feel for what the submarine war in the Pacific was really like.

I really appreciated O'Kane's honest assessment of the bureaucracy in fleet operations and his description of how Admiral Lockwood responded by putting his sailors first.

No doubt about it. Dick O'Kane and the Tang exemplified the No Slack, Fast Attack mindset even before we knew what fast attack was. And somehow they managed to do it all without splitting a single atom at all, go figure.

1 comment:

Lou said...

I have not read that book, but I've read "The Bravest Man: Richard O'Kane and the Amazing Submarine Adventures of the USS Tang". Good read!