Today marks the 66th anniversary of the loss of the Tulibee, a sinking that would bear some similarities to the Flier’s loss in five months.
Tulibee was a Mare Island Gato-class boat that was commissioned in February 1943 and served four patrols over one year.
On the night of March 26, 1944, in the middle of a squall, Tullibee was on the surface, stalking a large convoy. She had to get unusually close to the convoy in order to see her, and several times, passed within a mile of her, but held fire since they could not get a sure enough bearing. The escorts, probably using either radar or sonar, detected her presence, and started dropping depth charges, but were also unable to see her well.
It was a giant game of chicken.
Finally, the Tullibee was able to get true enough bearings on their target freighter that the fired two bow torpedoes. One shot off towards her target, straight as an arrow.
The other circled around and struck the Tullibee, blowing her up and sinking her in moments.
During the war, this was not known, it was only known that Tullibee stopped responding to radio messages from HQ and about six weeks after she was due back in port, she was declared “overdue and presumed lost”, though her 80-man crew, as per regulations, were listed as MIA. This was because nothing WAS known about Tulibee’s loss. It was possible she’d been captured, and the enemy was being quiet about it. It was possible than one or more, or the entire crew had been captured and were POWs. HQ and the families of the Tulibee would have to wait.
After the war, a Tullibee crewman, C.W. Kuykendall, was discovered in a Japanese POW camp. That night, he was stationed high in the lookout deck of the Tullibee, and blown clear. In the dark and the storm, he heard other voices around him for about ten minutes, and then he was alone.
He was found and picked up by a Japanese patrol the next morning, interrogated, and handed over to a POW camp.
When he returned to the States, he told the story of the circular run torpedo, and as it turned out, Tullibee wasn’t the only submarine to fall prey to her own torpedo: the Tang would as well (That is another interesting story, but more on that later). There are many submarines whose fates are completely unknown and may never be, even if their wrecks are found. There could have been more fates like this.
Incidentally, Japanese records revealed that the other torpedo flew true and destroyed her target, so the two of them lay about a mile from one another.
Tullibee has never been found.