On Eternal Patrol: USS Shark (I) SS-174 11 Feb 1942

Posted by Rebekah
Feb 11 2012

USS Shark was an older Porpoise class submarine n December 7, 1941.  Launched in 1935, she had been in Manila for a full year when the Japanese attacked Manila harbor just hours after laying waste to Pearl.  Like most of the submarines, she survived the attack, and left on patrol the next day.  Like Swordfish, Shark was recalled to Manila to evacuate Manila personnel, in this case, Admiral Thomas Hart, Commander in Chief of the Asiatic Fleet.

Her career after this, was sadly, very short. So short, in fact, that no record of her War Patrol Reports is found at HNSA, which lists and carries all submarine War Patrol Reports from WWII.  So it appears that after December 8, 1941, Shark was never in port at a Sub Base long enough to file her war patrol reports, and sank with all of her records.  Without this record in her own words, we can only speculate about her movements.

On January 6, 1942, Shark radioed home saying she narrowly missed a torpedo dropped by a Japanese submarine. After observing Ambon Islands in theMoluccas, she headed north on the Molucca Passage, on her way to join a pack of submarines patrolling the area, as the Japanese worked their way quickly south.

February 2, she reported to Java that she’d been depth-charged, and missed a Japanese ship.  Febrary 7, she radioed in, reporting chasing an empty cargo vessel.  According to Clay Blair Jr.’s book, “Silent Victory: the US Submarine War against Japan.”, Admiral John Wilkes, coordinating and commanding the submarines from Java, upbraided Hart for breaking radio silence for a report on an empty cargo ship.

It was the last radio message from the Shark.

The next day, February 8, Shark was ordered to to proceed to Makkassar Strait.  She never responded.  She was ordered to respond.  And didn’t.  On March 18, the Navy released the following Communique:

Navy Department Communiqué No. 57, March 18, 1942

The U. S. submarine Shark has been overdue in the Far East for more than a month and must be presumed to be lost.  The next of kin of the personnel of the Shark have been notified.

During the month of December, the U. S. submarine Sealion which was under extensive overhaul at Cavite, was so damaged as to necessitate her demolition to prevent her use by the enemy in the event of capture.

After the war, Japanese records revealed a number of attacks on the 11th, 17th and 21st of February.  There were many English and Dutch submarines in addition to American subs, which may have been attacked, so until the Shark is discovered, it’s impossible to connect any particular date with her demise.

In her honor, Shark was honored with a little sister, Shark (II), SS-314.  Shark (II) commissioned 14 February 1944.  Serving three patrols, she shared her older sister’s fate.  Another, nuclear submarine, Shark (III) SSN-591 was named in both their honors.  Shark (III) thankfully, seemed to escape her sister’s fate.

The Shark (I) sleeps with 59 souls.

Rest in Peace.

3 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Hi Rebekah,

    The patrol report for USS Shark (SS-174) is contained in the USS Shark (SS-314) files.

    Please take a look at SS-174’s patrol report detailing its time in the Marinduque area.

  2. Chris says:

    To clarify, I meant to say only the report for the first patrol is available in the files I linked to in my prior comment.

  3. Rebekah says:


    Thanks for the correction. When I get a moment, I’ll have to take a look…no idea when that might be! 😉

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