paid heavily for their successes in World War II. A total of 52
submarines were lost, with 374 officers and 3,131 enlisted men.
These personnel losses represented 16% of the officer and 13% of
the enlisted operational personnel. Of the 52 losses, two
submarines, Dorado and R-12, were lost in the Atlantic, S-26 was
sunk in a collision off Panama and S-28 was an operational loss in
training at Pearl Harbor. The remaining 48 were lost either
directly or indirectly as a result of enemy action, or due to
stranding on reefs during combat operations.S-39, S-36, S-27 and
Darter were lost as a result of such strandings. In all of these
events, all personnel were rescued.
In the cases of
losses due to enemy action, three officers and five men from the
Flier were saved and all but four of the men from Sealion were
saved. The remaining submarines were lost with all hands, though
some personnel from Grenadier, Perch, Sculpin, Tang, two men from
S-44 and one from Tullibee were repatriated at the end of
hostilities, having been held as prisoners of war by the enemy.
Four are said to have survived Robalo's sinking but they have not
been recovered following the end of the war, and it is assumed
that they perished as prisoners of the enemy.
The 52 submarines
represented 18% of all submarines which saw combat duty. This loss
of 18%, while high in comparison to the losses sustained by other
types of ships of the Allied Forces is considered remarkably low
when considered in relation to the results achieved, or when
compared with the losses sustained by enemy submarine forces. The
Germans, in World War I, lost 178 submarines of a total 272 boats
in commission during that war, and in World War II, they lost
between 700 and 800 submarines. With but meager results to show
for their submarine effort, the Japanese in WWII lost 128
submarines and had but 58 remaining at the end of hostilities,
many of the remaining 58 were non-operational.
In analyzing our
losses, the following factors are considered as having been
responsible for the low figures as compared to our enemies:
mental and physical condition of our submarine personnel and
their high state of training.
of our radar over that of the Japanese.
Japanese anti-submarine measures.
upon their return from a war patrol, were transferred to a Rest
and Recuperation Camp for a period of two weeks while their
submarine was being refitted by a relief crew. During this two
week period, the regular crew had no official duties to perform
other than to rest and relax and divorce their minds from all
thoughts of war and combat. There were some who criticized this
practice as being in the nature of pampering. The submarine force
commanders vigorously defended it as being a luxury but a vital
part of submarine warfare. War patrols, normally lasting 45 to 60
days, introduced a protracted mental tension unknown to other
types of warfare. Without the rest periods to ease this tension
the personnel would have soon cracked under the strain. As a
result of the rest and recuperation policy submarine crews went to
sea mentally and physically alert and it is considered a primary
factor in keeping our losses to a minimum. Hand in hand with the
excellent mental and physical condition of our personnel, was the
high state of training in which they departed on patrol. Prior to
a submarine's first patrol she was given an extensive training
period, on the east coast or at Panama, followed by advanced
training in the Pearl Harbor area. Immediately preceding the
departure upon subsequent patrols, the submarine was given an
intensive refresher training period lasting from four to eight
days. Training kept pace with enemy anti-submarines measures, new
training methods being introduced to counter the latest trends in
enemy offensive or defensive measures.
of submarine radar as compared to the Japanese anti-submarine
forces was another factor contributing much to keeping our losses
low. Submarines started the war without radar, but within a few
months all were equipped with the SD (aircraft warning) radar. The
SD, by giving early warning of the approach of planes, did much to
prevent surprise air attacks on surfaced submarines. The
installation of the SJ (surface search) radar a few months later
did the same to prevent the undetected approach of enemy surface
craft during darkness and low visibility. When it became apparent
that enemy electronic science had progressed to the point where
they were able to produce efficient radars, the APR was developed
to warn of their presence, and later, the ST and SV radars, using
shorter waves than the SD and the SJ, were installed to combat the
enemy's quite successful efforts to detect our own radars.
At the start of
the war, enemy anti-submarine materiel was comparable to our own;
their listening and echo ranging were practically duplications of
that installed in our own anti-submarine vessels. The Japanese
were poor inventors at the time but great copyists, and with their
espionage services cut off during the war, they rapidly fell
behind in the development of anti-submarine measures. And although
their original equipment was good, their techniques of employing
it was faulty. They seemed to have little trouble in locating a
submarine with their listening gear following a torpedo attack,
but having located her, they failed in the solution of where to
drop their depth charges. Their attacks were characterized by a
consistent lack of persistence. They were prone to accept the most
nebulous evidence as positive proof of a sinking, and being sure
of a kill, they were off about their business, to let the
submarine surface and thank God for the Japanese superiority
complex. While 48 submarines were lost in combat operations, and
of these, not more than 41 were directly due to to enemy action,
the Japanese, at the end of hostilities, furnished us with with
information which showed a total of 468 positive sinkings of our
submarines. The U.S. Navy, by a wise policy of total censorship of
submarine operations, encouraged the enemy in their belief of
their anti-submarine successes. When we failed to announce the
successful attacks of our submarines, the enemy naturally assumed
that the submarines never got home to report them.
The above text was
U.S. SUBMARINE LOSSES
(NAVPERS 15784, 1949 Issue)
A total of 52 United States
submarines were lost during WWII.
The United States
submarine service sustained the highest mortality rate of all
branches of the U.S. Military during WWII
1 out of every 5 U.S.
Navy submariners was killed in WWII
submariners made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of their
country in World War II.