of the Hour
Although he was born in Virginia
in 1890, Charles Andrews Lockwood, Jr. was raised in Missouri. He entered
the United States Naval Academy in 1908, joined the Submarine Force two
years after graduation, and rose to command the old gasoline-powered A-2
(SS-3) and B-1 (SS-10) in the Philippines during World War I. Later,
he led the First Asiatic Submarine Squadron and served as the Assistant
Naval Attaché in Tokyo. Subsequently, he commanded the Simon Lake boats G-1
(SS-19-1/2) and N-5 (SS-57), took the ex-German submarine minelayer UC-97
into the Great Lakes on a Victory Bond drive, and commissioned R-25
(SS-102), S-14 (SS-119), and V-3 (SS-165). In his varied
career, Lockwood also commanded the venerable monitor USS Monadnock
(BM-3) and two gunboats on the Yangtse Patrol, served on the U.S. Naval
Mission to Brazil, held down both headquarters and naval shipyard jobs, and
headed SUBDIV THIRTEEN at San Diego from 1935 to 1937. Before his
assignment as COMSUBSOWESPAC at Fremantle, he had been the U.S. Naval
Attaché in London from January 1941 until May 1942. Thus, Lockwood's
accomplishments were extraordinary even before the untimely death of RADM
English brought him to COMSUBPAC in February 1943.
Two months before Lockwood took
up his new position at Pearl Harbor, CAPT James Fife, then a Navy liaison
officer at GEN MacArthur's new headquarters at Port Moresby, was ordered to
replace the recently-reassigned Ralph Christie at Brisbane. In the
aftermath of RADM English's death, however, Christie - now a rear admiral -
was hurriedly brought back from the Newport Torpedo Station to replace
Lockwood at COMSUBSOWESPAC in Fremantle.
In response to the demands of the
Solomons campaign in late 1942, Brisbane was by then home to three
submarine squadrons - some 20 boats and their associated tenders and
support facilities. Between the build-up to the invasion of Guadalcanal in
August 1942 and its final pacification in February 1943, the Brisbane boats
mounted nearly 60 war patrols, including forays into the Solomon Islands
and inter-force transfers to Pearl Harbor by way of Truk and Rabaul. This
offensive - largely steered by ULTRA cues into heavily-defended areas -
accounted for only two-dozen enemy ships, nearly half of those near Truk.
Moreover, three of the five boats that left Brisbane in February were lost
to enemy action, leading to an internal investigation of Fife's leadership.
In any event, with the Solomons campaign winding down and the war moving
north and westward, Fife's command would be reduced to only one squadron by
During their last several months
under Lockwood, the small Fremantle force mounted just over 15 war patrols,
but a third of these had been devoted to minelaying off Siam and Indochina,
and another third had been associated with transits to Pearl Harbor.
Postwar analysis credited 16 enemy ships to this effort, but as the only
submarines well positioned to interdict the flow of petroleum - only
lightly protected - from the Dutch East Indies to the Japanese operating
bases and home islands, the Fremantle boats lost a significant opportunity.
With Christie, in the first half of 1943, this pattern began to change, and
half of the Fremantle sorties targeted Japanese convoy routes to the north
and west. 23 sinkings were eventually confirmed - about one per patrol -
but two more boats were lost to the enemy.
from Pearl Harbor
With their failure to retake the
eastern Solomons in late 1942, the Japanese turned in 1943 to defending
what remained of their earlier conquests. Thus, with new war materiel
arriving daily from the United States, the Allies quickly regained the
initiative, took back Attu and Kiska in May and August and - under GEN
MacArthur - attacked the northern Solomons and "leap-frogged"
westerly along the coast of northern New Guinea while isolating and
bypassing Rabaul. Late in the year, ADM Nimitz's island-hopping campaign
across the central Pacific got under way in earnest with the invasion of
Tarawa and Makin in the Gilbert Islands in November.
Accordingly, during 1943 the COMSUBPAC
submarine force at Pearl Harbor - now under RADM Lockwood - gradually came
to predominate over their counterparts in Australia. Because the Solomons
action had drawn so many submarines to SOWESPAC, SUBPAC could only muster
28 war patrols for the first three months of 1943, and over half were sent
to Truk, Palau, and the Marianas.
Chosen as COMSUBPAC
after the death of RADM English in January 1943, VADM Charles Lockwood -
"Uncle Charlie" - formulated the strategy that won the U.S.
Submarine Force their unprecedented undersea victory in the Pacific.
Lockwood's extraordinary submarine career had begun with command of A-2 (SS-3) in the
Philippines during World War I.
A notable exception was the first
penetration of the Yellow Sea in March by USS Wahoo (SS-238) under
"Mush" Morton, with a total bag of nine enemy ships.
Unfortunately the other Pearl Harbor patrols for that same period saw only
limited success, at least partially because of the high priority placed on
hard-to-target enemy capital ships. By mid-spring 1943, however, Lockwood's
force had grown to 50 submarines. Between April and August, he was able to
send an average of 18 to sea each month for war patrols of 40-50 days, with
over half targeted at enemy shipping in Empire waters and the East China
Sea. A significant innovation occurred in July, when Lockwood and his
brilliant Operations Officer CAPT (later RADM) Richard Voge sent three
submarines into the Sea of Japan, entering from the north through the La
Pérouse Strait. The three boats only managed to sink three small freighters
in four days before withdrawing, and two subsequent patrols the next month
- one under "Mush" Morton - did little better. In September,
however, Morton returned to the Sea of Japan a second time and apparently
sank four ships before Wahoo was lost to a Japanese anti-submarine
aircraft in early October while attempting to come back out.
April 1942, RADM Ralph Christie (left) was the first commander of the
U.S. Submarine Force at Brisbane, Australia and became COMSUBSOWESPAC at
Fremantle in early 1943. RADM James Fife (right) relieved Christie at
Brisbane in December 1942 and remained there until March 1944. Then,
following an assignment in Washington, Fife relieved RADM Christie again
- as COMSUBSOWESPAC
in December 1944.
Tackling the Torpedo
Much of Lockwood's command
attention during 1943 was consumed by several nagging materiel problems
that had crippled U.S. submarine effectiveness early in the war. Foremost
among these was torpedoes - not only a shortage of numbers, but continuing
evidence of the design defects the admiral had already encountered during
his tenure as COMSUBSOWESPAC.
Lockwood's earlier investigations at
Fremantle had established that U.S. torpedoes were running too
but even when this deficiency was corrected, torpedo performance continued
to be suspect. Following an increasing number of attacks foiled by
premature warhead explosions apparently due to a too-sensitive magnetic
influence exploder, Lockwood prevailed on ADM Nimitz in June 1943 to order
the magnetic "pistol" disabled on COMSUBPAC torpedoes and to rely
solely on the contact exploder. But even with the magnetic feature
disabled, Pearl Harbor submarines continued to experience a significant percentage
of "duds," and it soon emerged that there were also major defects
in the contact exploder. This led Lockwood to a series of careful
experiments in Hawaii in which torpedoes were fired against underwater
cliffs to determine potential causes of failure. These revealed that the
firing pin was too slender to withstand the shock of a 90-degree encounter
without buckling and "dudding" the torpedo. When this last piece
of the puzzle fell into place in September 1943, performance of the Mark
XIV submarine torpedo finally reached acceptability, but it had taken
literally half the war to get there. That the problem had to be solved in
the field by the operators themselves - and in spite of a technical
community that only wanted to minimize the deficiencies - still evokes
Moreover, the dubious reliability of
the H.O.R. main-propulsion engines - apparent from the beginning of the war
- became even more critical in May 1943 when the twelve boats of SUBRON
TWELVE arrived at Pearl Harbor, all fitted with H.O.R. diesels. In both
shakedown cruises and their European service with the Atlantic Fleet, all
of the SUBRON TWELVE submarines revealed engine problems. These only became
worse under combat conditions in the Pacific, where virtually all the H.O.R.
boats were handicapped by catastrophic breakdowns that often required
curtailing war patrols and returning to base for repairs. One by one, the
H.O.R. submarines were shuttled back to Mare Island for new Winton engines,
but it was nearly a year until all had been returned to duty and the H.O.R.
maintenance problems eliminated.
Mark XVIII electric torpedo shown here during loading was slower than the
troublesome Mark XIV but left no wake and could be produced in greater
quantities. By mid-1944, three-quarters of the standard patrol load-out
consisted of Mark XVIIIs.
a New Focus
For the bloody, but successful,
invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November, a dozen submarines provided
direct support: conducting reconnaissance, landing commandos, performing
"lifeguard" duty to pick up downed U.S. pilots, and blockading
Truk. During this same period, however, Lockwood and Voge introduced two
additional tactical innovations: deploying small, coordinated submarine
"wolf-packs" as tactical units; and concentrating more
anti-shipping efforts in the Luzon Strait between the northern Philippines
and Formosa, where several Japanese north-south convoy routes from the
conquered territories converged. The first three three-boat wolf-packs
departed Pearl Harbor in September, October, and December - the first for
the East China Sea; the others for the Marianas. Results were mixed. The
first Marianas effort sank seven ships, but the total score for the other
two was only four. Even as tactics and techniques improved, communications
and coordination among wolf-pack members at sea remained difficult, and
"blue-on-blue" engagements were a worrisome possibility.
Nonetheless, in 1944, wolf-packing became increasingly common, particularly for
commerce-raiding north of Luzon.
"The Submarine Force played a key role in the
not only by providing crucial
but by sinking or heavily damaging six enemy combatants."
Although both Fremantle and Brisbane
maintained a steady level of activity throughout 1943, the latter steadily
lost importance as a submarine base in the later stages of the conflict.
Early that year, the number of submarines stationed in Australia had been
fixed at 20, nominally with 12 at Brisbane under CAPT Fife and eight at
Fremantle under RADM Christie. As the war moved up the Solomons chain and
westward into New Guinea, the boats were reapportioned in favor of
Fremantle, and when the total number of Australia-based submarines was
increased to 30 late in the year, Fremantle was allocated 22 and Brisbane
the rest. Fife made the best of this disparity by establishing an advance
base at Milne Bay, New Guinea, 1,200 miles closer to his operating areas
off Truk, Rabaul, and Palau. In the latter half of the year, his 33 war
patrols resulted in 29 confirmed sinkings along the supply lines linking
the three Japanese bases. During that same period, after Japanese tankers
were moved up the priority list, Christie's growing force at Fremantle
turned aggressively to attacking the oil traffic from Borneo and Sumatra.
Nearly 50 enemy ships were sunk by the Fremantle force between June and
December, and a dozen of these were oil
1943 - the Year of
For all of 1943, the Submarine
Force was credited with sinking 335 Japanese targets - or 1.5 million tons
of shipping - essentially twice the corresponding figures for 1942. More
importantly, after diminishing only slightly in 1942, the total tonnage of
the Japanese merchant marine (including oil tankers), dropped 16 percent in
1943, despite a vigorous shipbuilding program not yet disrupted by Allied
air attacks. Correspondingly, the importation of bulk commodities (not
including petroleum products) into Japan had diminished by the end of 1943
to 81 percent of the pre-war level. Surprisingly, though, Japanese tanker
tonnage actually increased by nearly 30 percent over the year due to need
to transport oil from the East Indies.
Starting in mid-1943, the gradual
introduction of the Mark XVIII electric torpedo into the theater brought
substantial relief from the persistent torpedo shortages of the early war
years. Although slower than the Mark XIV by 10 to 15 knots and somewhat
limited in range, the Mark XVIII left no tell-tale wake that could give
away a submarine's position, and it was much easier to manufacture in
quantity. By the middle of 1944, when all their teething problems had been
solved, Mark XVIII torpedoes constituted three-quarters of the standard
patrol load-out. Despite the large percentage of U.S. war patrols targeted
specifically at major Japanese bases or cued against Japanese combatants by
ULTRA information, U.S. submarines sank only one major Japanese warship in
1943 - the light aircraft carrier IJS Chuyo. That same year, fifteen
U.S. submarines were lost in the Pacific - plus two in the Atlantic. The
the number of war patrols from Pearl Harbor, Fremantle, and Brisbane
mounted in 1943 and 1944, the percentage of Japanese merchant tonnage
remaining afloat dropped relentlessly from its pre-war level. Of note id
the peak of U.S. submarine activity in May 1942 in preparation for the
Battle of Midway.
By the time ADM Nimitz's
cross-Pacific thrust reached the Marshall Islands at the beginning of 1944,
over 60 submarines were assigned to Pearl Harbor and 36 to Australia.
Moreover, in recognition of the submarine contribution to the war effort,
RADM Lockwood had been promoted to vice admiral just before the turn of the
year. He quickly took advantage of the capture of Kwajalein and Majuro in
the Marshalls in January 1944 to establish an advance submarine base on the
latter in April, which put his Pearl Harbor boats 2,000 miles closer to
Japan. Even before the fall of Eniwetok in February, and with Truk coming
under increasing carrier-based air attacks, Japanese commander-in-chief ADM
Mineichi Koga, had ordered his heavy units to abandon Truk and fall back on
the Palaus. Then, under further pressure in late March and early April,
Koga ordered a further dispersal of his fleet to Davao and Tawi Tawi (in
the southern Philippines), Surabaja, and Singapore.
Accordingly, Lockwood's and Christie's
submarines at Pearl Harbor and Fremantle were kept busy supporting both the
Marshalls campaign and U.S. carrier air strikes. With ULTRA intercepts to
give advanced warning of the resulting Japanese withdrawals, numerous
attempts were organized to intercept both enemy men-of-war and supply
ships. Although a number of Japanese freighters and auxiliaries were sunk,
the only major warships destroyed during this period were three light
cruisers. Simultaneously, however, Lockwood increased pressure on the
Empire, East China Sea, and Kurile Island supply routes, and in March and
April sent two more wolf-packs to the Luzon Strait. Only the first of these
produced significant results - seven freighters confirmed for about 35,000
tons - but all told, U.S. submarines sank 183 ships or nearly three-quarters
of a million tons of shipping in the first four months of
Decision in the
In the SOWESPAC area, GEN
MacArthur's forces continued their advance westward across New Guinea, and
by June 1944 the entire northern coast of the island had been secured.
Simultaneously, Nimitz moved on toward the Mariana Islands with the
intention of seizing Saipan, Guam, and Tinian as staging bases for the push
toward Palau and the Philippines. To soften up those objectives, the 15
carriers of Task Force 58 under RADM Raymond Spruance mounted a series of
powerful air strikes, while Lockwood sent a new wave of submarines westward
to interdict any Japanese attempts to reinforce the islands and to provide
lifeguard services for downed airmen.
To defend the Marianas and Palaus, ADM
Soemu Toyoda, replacing ADM Koga, had earlier concentrated the Japanese
fleet at Tawi Tawi, and he sortied a powerful force under ADM Jisaburo
Ozawa on 13 June in an attempt to thwart the gathering attack on the
Marianas. The result was the Battle of the Philippine Sea a week later,
pitting Spruance's 15 carriers against Ozawa's nine. Subsequently dubbed
"the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot," in which Ozawa lost nearly 350
aircraft without sinking a single American ship, the encounter on 19 and 20
June also cost the Japanese three large aircraft carriers, including two -
IJS Taiho and IJS Shokaku - sunk by U.S. submarines. By the
time Ozawa broke off the engagement and retreated northward, Japanese naval
aviation had suffered a devastating loss that would never be redressed.
Instead, Japan began training kamikaze pilots. Meanwhile, Saipan had been
invaded on 15 June, to be followed by Guam and Tinian later in the summer.
By 10 August, the entire Marianas had been taken, and additional advance
submarine bases were promptly established at Saipan and
at the formal Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945 were
the submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) and 12 submarines of SUBRON 20.
(Fifteen years later, Proteus was converted to serve as a tender for the
first of the Polaris SSBNs and performed in that capacity in both
Scotland and Guam until 1982. She was decommissioned less than ten
The emphasis on attacking Japanese
shipping continued to grow. An analysis of submarine patrol assignments
from the beginning of 1944 until the end of the war shows a steady increase
in the percentage targeted at Japanese supply lines - rising from
approximately 40 percent at the beginning of that period to more than
double that by August 1945. Consequently, Lockwood began sending wolf-packs
into the Luzon Strait on a regular basis, redirecting a group of three
boats that had participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and
dispatching three more wolf-packs by mid-July. All told, these four efforts
netted 17 enemy ships. Additionally, COMSUBPAC increased his emphasis on
the East China Sea and also established a series of so-called "polar
routes" that vectored submarines northward past the Aleutians and
westward to the Kurile Islands and the Sea of Okhotsk, where they could
prey on Japanese fishing fleets and coastal traders before slipping
southward to patrol off Hokkaido and Tokyo Bay.
With Brisbane's importance steadily
diminishing in early 1944, CAPT Fife was re-assigned to staff duty in
Washington, and overall command of the Australia-based submarines devolved
on RADM Christie. Meanwhile, the Fremantle operation was approaching a peak
of activity in September and October, when a total of 38 boats - most in
wolf-packs - joined patrols against the Japanese oil "pipeline"
from Sumatra and Borneo and enemy attempts to shore up the defenses of the
Philippines. These COMSUBSOWESPAC operations were facilitated by
establishing two new advance bases north of New Guinea in mid-year: at
Manus in the Admiralty Islands, and at Mios Woendi, just east of Biak. In
July through October alone, Christie's boats sank nearly 100 enemy ships,
joining over 150 more destroyed by their counterparts at Pearl Harbor.
Exacerbated by the growing toll exacted by air attacks, the effect on the
Japanese war effort was catastrophic. Total Japanese importation of bulk
commodities for 1944 was half the pre-war level, and by the end of the
year, their merchant tonnage (again including tankers) had dropped to 47
percent of the pre-war figure.
trail of submarine advance bases established by COMSUBPAC westward from
Pearl Harbor - and by COMSUBSOWESPAC northward from Australia - clearly
marks the convergence of the Allied offensive on the Japanese homeland in
the last years of the war. Japanese defeats in the Battles of the
Philippine Sea and the Leyte Gulf marked the beginning of the end.
The Beginning of the
In preparation for the ensuing
invasion of the Philippine Islands, GEN MacArthur's forces invaded the
island of Morotai, northwest of New Guinea, in September 1944, and ADM
Nimitz moved on Peleliu and Angaur in the Palau group. When U.S. troops
came ashore on eastern Leyte on 20 October, however, ADM Toyoda had already
initiated a series of countermoves. His overall plan was to bring VADM
Ozawa's carriers down from Japan to lure VADM William Halsey's Task Force
38 away from Leyte Gulf so that a powerful surface fleet, including the
super-battleships IJS Yamato and IJS Musashi, could come up
from Singapore, penetrate the San Bernardino and Surigao Straits, and catch
the invasion forces at Leyte Gulf in lethal pincers. The result was the
Battle of the Leyte Gulf, 23-25 October 1944, perhaps the largest naval
encounter ever fought.
To support the U.S. invasion, RADM
Christie positioned a dozen submarines southwest of Luzon to interdict
Japanese forces coming up from the south, while VADM Lockwood deployed over
twenty boats off Japan's Inland Sea and near the Luzon Strait to counter
enemy moves from the north. Christie's submarines drew first blood early on
the morning of 23 October by sinking two Japanese heavy cruisers and
severely damaging two others west of Palawan. Then, on the 24th, U.S. carrier
aircraft badly mauled the enemy surface forces in the San Bernardino and
Surigao Straits - sinking Musashi - and then turned northward to
find Ozawa's carriers. In subsequent surface actions, VADM Thomas Kinkaid
annihilated the Surigao Strait force, but found himself badly outmatched at
the San Bernardino Strait to the north, where the debouching Japanese
battleships sank two escort carriers, two destroyers, and a
destroyer-escort before withdrawing - inexplicably - without attacking the
Then, on the morning of the 25th,
Halsey found the approaching Japanese carriers and sank all four of them,
leaving only two hybrid carrier-battleships, IJS Ise and Hyuga,
and their escorts to run a gauntlet back to Japan through several scouting
lines of U.S. submarines deployed to intercept the "cripples."
Among these, the U.S. boats managed to pick off a light cruiser and a
destroyer. In addition to guaranteeing the successful invasion of the
Philippines, the Battle of the Leyte Gulf reduced the Japanese Navy to a
mere remnant of its former self, almost entirely bereft of carrier
aviation. The Submarine Force played a key role in the victory - not only by providing
crucial sighting reports, but by sinking or heavily damaging six enemy
The re-conquest of the Philippines
continued with the invasions of Mindoro and Luzon in December 1944 and
January 1945, leading to the recapture of Manila in early February.
Meanwhile, with the remains of the enemy war fleet withdrawn into home
waters, U.S. submarines were free to concentrate almost entirely on
Japanese shipping. During all of 1944, more than 600 Japanese ships - or
2.7 million tons - were eventually credited to the U.S. boats, including a
battleship, seven aircraft carriers, nine cruisers, and numerous smaller
combatants. In the same period, the Pacific boats rescued 117 downed airmen
from the sea in lifeguard missions. On the negative side, 19 U.S.
submarines were lost to enemy action during 1944 - plus one sunk in a training
accident - but in contrast, the Japanese sacrificed 56.
Final Victory in the
1944's anti-shipping campaign was
so successful that by the beginning of 1945, virtually nothing was left to
sink. Few enemy targets remained outside the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea,
and narrow coastal lanes plied only by day. Nonetheless, U.S. submarines
pursued their remaining quarry wherever it could be found, patrolling up
and down the Japanese coast and often penetrating deep into their harbors,
while performing lifeguard duty in support of a crescendo of air attacks on
mainland targets by both carrier-based and long-range bombers. In February,
the Australia-based Submarine Force - now under newly-promoted RADM James
Fife - established another advance submarine base at Subic Bay north of
Manila, and within a few months, VADM Lockwood had moved his own
headquarters forward to Guam. By then, more than 120 U.S. submarines were
operating in the Pacific.
By the time of the invasions of Iwo
Jima and Okinawa in February and April 1945, Japan's war-making capacity
had been virtually eliminated, and continuing air-raids on the major cities
and military complexes were wreaking horrendous destruction on the civil
and industrial infrastructure. Although detailed planning had begun for a
massive invasion of the Japanese home island of Kyushu in November 1945,
the unleashing of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August
brought a merciful end to the conflict on the 14th of that month. The
formal surrender instrument was signed on the deck of USS Missouri
(BB-63) in Tokyo Bay on 2 September. Appropriately, VADM Lockwood
participated in the ceremony, and a dozen submarines and the tender USS Proteus
(AS-19) were anchored nearby.
Reflecting how completely the Japanese merchant
marine had been swept from the seas, U.S. submarines sank only 190 enemy
ships - most of them quite small - in the seven and one-half wartime months
of 1945, equivalent to half the monthly average achieved in 1944. Since
1941, the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force had sunk over 1,300 enemy vessels -
or 5.3 million tons of shipping - approximately 55 percent of all Japanese
ships lost during the conflict. (The remainder was lost to aircraft, mines,
and other causes.)
Although this destruction was wrought
by less than two percent of U.S. Navy personnel, our undersea victory in
the Pacific exacted a heavy toll of ships and men. A total of 52 U.S.
submarines were lost in World War II, most with all hands. Over 3,500
officers and enlisted men sacrificed their lives - 22 percent of those who
went on patrol - the highest casualty rate in the U.S. armed forces. Lest
"There is a port of no return, where ships
May ride at anchor for a little space
And then, some starless night, the cable slips,
Leaving and eddy at the mooring place…
Gulls, veer no longer. Sailor, rest your oar.
No tangled wreckage will be washed ashore."
- Leslie Nelson Jennings ("Lost Harbor")
Most useful among the many references consulted in the preparation of
this article and its predecessor have been:
Alden, John D., The Fleet Submarine in the U.S. Navy, Naval
Institute Press, Annapolis, 1979.
Alden, John D., U.S. Submarine Attacks During World War II, Naval
Institute Press, Annapolis, 1989.
Blair, Clay, Silent Victory, the U.S. Submarine War Against Japan,
Lippincott, New York, 1975.
Liddell Hart, B.H., History of The Second World War, G.P. Putnam's
Sons, New York, 1971.
Morison, Samuel Eliot, History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War
II, 15 volumes, Little, Brown, Boston, 1947-62.
Roscoe, Theodore, United States Submarine Operations in World War
II, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1949.