Play Catch Up and The Herring Greets Eternity

Posted by Rebekah
Jun 01 2010

So after Memorial Day Weekend, it’s time to play catch up with our three submarines.

The Robalo has safely made it into Fremantle Harbor sometime around May 30, and so now her crew would be on R&R while the relief crews and repair crews try to fix everything on the damaged list.

Redfin is only a day away from Lombok Strait on her way to her third patrol, and carrying the eight Signal Servicemen, bound for behind the lines reconnaissance work.  On the 30 of May, 1944, they spent the day next to Exmouth Gulf practicing getting these men and the massive amounts of gear off the Redfin, onto rubber rafts, and to shore.

Flier, of course, is still in the middle of nowhere, making her way west towards the battle fields.  She passed north of Wake Island, still occupied by Japanese forces, though due to the continuing advance of the Allies, the Japanese soldiers occupying the island were starting to starve.  American pilots would bomb the island occasionally, (in fact, a young pilot named George Herbert Walker Bush, bombed Wake Island during one of his first runs) but they were otherwise left alone.  All American military and civilians were gone from Wake now: some had been taken to POW camps elsewhere, and the 98 remaining civilians were executed in October 1943.  All American naval vessels steered clear of Wake, and she was slowly starving into submission.

As the Redfin and Flier are setting out on their patrols, and Robalo is taking her break, the Herring scored her last two kills and slipped into Eternal Patrol.

A Gato-class submarine built in Kittery Maine, Herring was one of the few boats who spent time in the Atlantic as well as the Pacific. For her first five patrols her homeport was Rosneath Scotland, where she first patrolled off Casablanca, Morocco in preparation for Operation Torch, the code name for the invasion of North Africa.  She later patrolled Icelandic waters and reported two kills, including a U-Boat (that was later not credited to her).

This photo, taken in Scotland around December 7, 1942, shows the Submarine Tender Beaver and two of her six sub charges. The six submarines stationed in Scotland at the time were the Herring, Barb, Blackfish, Shad, Gunnel and Gurnard. From navsource.org

Afterwards, she reported to the Pacific where she took down two ships on her sixth patrol and none on her seventh.

It was her eighth patrol, made with her Scottish mate USS Barb, which would be her most successful and fatal.  She left Pearl, re-fueled at Midway, and was assigned to patrol the Kurile Islands, which is string of islands trailing from Russia to northern Japan.  On May 31, according to the War Patrol Reports of USS Barb, (Pg. 155) they rendezvoused and decided to split the  patrol areas, Barb traveling the south and east way, and Herring taking the north and western islands, including Matsuwa Island.

She was never heard from again.

Post war records reveal that the night before seeing Barb, Herring sank two ships, the Hokuyo Maru, and the Ishigaki. In taking out the Ishigaki, Herring avenged her sister sub S-44, which the Ishigaki sank nearly eight months earlier.  After her meeting with the Barb, Herring found two ships at anchor, the Hiburi Maru and the Iwaki Maru, and promptly sank them.  This action cost her her life, since the sinking ships attracted the attention of the shore guns, which sank Herring, taking her eighty-three member crew with her.

USS Herring taken after her overhaul at Mare Island October 1943.

She has not been found.

Incidentally, Herring was assigned to Midway for overhaul between her sixth and seventh patrols, and she arrived there on January 8, 1944.  She was there when Flier grounded, when Macaw grounded and during the whole time the crew at Midway pried Flier free.  Even stranger, just as Flier lost a crewman to drowning, (James Cahl, on January 16) ,one of Herring’s crew, Louis Jones, also drowned at Midway on January 26, just three days after Flier was towed away.

She also had a connection with another lost ship, the Scorpion. According to Herring’s War Patrol Report, (page 96) one of Scorpion’s crew broke his arm and Scorpion requested a rendezvous and transfer of this man since they were heading out on patrol and Herring was nearby and returning.  The transfer was attempted, but the January seas made it impossible.  Since the arm appeared to be healing, the transfer was canceled, and the two submarines went on their way.  Scorpion was never seen again, and there are no Japanese records that hint at her possible fate.  What happened to her and where is a complete mystery, but the Herring was the last to see her.

An interesting article about the loss of the Herring. Note: a number of the links in the article are now disabled.

One Response

  1. Janice E Smith says:

    In June 2016 the USS Herring was reportedly found by a combined group of divers from Russia and another group. My uncle, Omer Potvin, was on the Herring.

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