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USS Tang

Two submarines of the United States Navy have borne the name USS Tang, named for several West Indian species of surgeonfish[?].

The first USS Tang (SS-306) was a Balao-class submarine[?]. The contract to build her was awarded to Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 15 December 1941, and her keel was laid down 15 January 1943. She was launched 17 August, commissioned 15 October, and delivered to the Navy on 30 November 1943.

Tang is credited with sinking 31 ships in her five patrols, totaling 227,800 tons, and damaging two for 4,100 tons. This record is unexcelled among American submarines; Tang was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation twice during her career.

In her first patrol, spending February 1944 west of Truk and Saipan, she sank three freighters, a large tanker and a submarine tender. Tang's second patrol was in the area west of Palau, east of Davao[?], and at Truk. She made no ship contacts worthy of attack, but at the latter island she rescued 22 Navy airmen during a carrier-based strike at Truk on 30 April through 1 May 1944. Her third patrol was in the East China and Yellow Seas. Here she sank six freighters, a tanker, and a large aircraft transport. She covered the waters along the southern coast of Honshu in August 1944. She sank a freighter, a large transport, a tanker, and two patrol craft, while she damaged another freighter and small craft.

On 24 September 1944, Tang set out from Pearl Harbor under Commander R.H. O'Kane on her fifth war patrol. Commander O'Kane has been called the Submarine Service's most outstanding officer; he served as Executive Officer of the very successful Wahoo[?] before taking command of Tang. On 27 September Tang topped off with fuel at Midway Island and left there the same day, heading for an area between the northwest coast of Formosa and the China Coast.

In order to reach her area, Tang had to pass through narrow waters known to be heavily patrolled by the enemy. A large area stretching northeast from Formosa was known to be mined by the enemy, and O'Kane was given the choice of making the passage north of Formosa alone, or joining a coordinated attack group (Silversides[?], Trigger[?], and Salmon[?], under Commander Coye in Silversides[?]) which was to patrol off northeast Formosa, and making the passage with them. Tang chose to make the passage alone and these vessels never heard from Tang, nor did any base, after she left Midway.

The story of Tang's sinking comes from the report of her surviving commanding officer. Tang had found good hunting and had fired twenty-two torpedoes in three attacks. Twenty-one torpedoes hit enemy ships, sinking thirteen of them, and one missed.

The fourth attack, a night surface attack, was launched on 24 October, 1944 against a transport which had previously been stopped in an earlier attack. The twenty-third torpedo of the patrol was fired, and when it was observed to be running true, the twenty-fourth and last was shot. It curved sharply to the left, broached, porpoised, and circled. Emergency speed was ordered and the rudder was thrown hard over. These measures resulted only in the torpedo striking the stern of Tang, rather than amidships.

The explosion was violent, and people as far forward as the control room received broken limbs. The ship went down by the stern with the after three compartments flooded. Of the nine officers and men on the bridge, three were able to swim through the night until picked up eight hours later. One officer escaped from the flooded conning tower, and was rescued with the others.

The submarine came to rest on the bottom at 180 feet and the men in her crowded forward as the after compartments flooded. Publications were burned, and all assembled to the forward room to escape. The escape was delayed by a Japanese patrol, which dropped charges, and started an electrical fire in the forward battery. Thirteen men escaped from the forward room, and by the time the last made his exit, the heat from the fire was so intense that the paint on the bulkhead was scorching, melting, and running down. Of the 13 men who escaped, only eight reached the surface, and of these only five were able to swim until rescued. A total of 78 men were lost.

When the nine survivors were picked up by a destroyer escort, there were victims of Tang's previous sinkings on board, and they inflicted tortures on the men from Tang. O'Kane stated, “When we realized that our clubbing and kickings were being administered by the burned, mutilated survivors of our handiwork, we found we could take it with less prejudice.”

The nine captives were retained by the Japanese in prison camps until the end of the war, and were treated by them in typical fashion. The loss of Tang by her own torpedo, the last one fired on the most successful patrol ever made by an American submarine, was a stroke of singular misfortune. She is credited with having sunk 13 vessels for 107,324 tons of enemy shipping on this patrol, and her commanding officer earned the Medal of Honor.

Tang was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 8 February 1945.

General Characteristics

  • Length: 312 feet overall, 307 feet waterline
  • Beam: 27 feet
  • Draft: 17 feet
  • Displacement: 1470 tons light, 2040 tons full, 570 tons dead
  • Accommodations: ten officers, 68 enlisted

The second USS Tang (SS/AGSS-563) was the lead ship of her class[?] and the first submarine designed for underwater performance rather than surfaced speed and handling. Key features included removing the deck guns, streamlining the outer hull, replacing the conning tower with a sail, installing new propellers designed for submerged operations, installing more air conditioning and a snorkel mast, and doubling the battery capacity. The contract to build her was awarded to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 16 May 1947.

Her keel was laid down on 18 April 1949. She was launched 19 June 1951 sponsored by Mrs. Richard H. O'Kane, and commissioned 25 October 1951 with Commander E.P. Huey in command.

Following trials and training along the east coast, the submarine was assigned to Submarine Squadron (SubRon) 1, Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. From her base at Pearl Harbor, Tang operated in the Hawaiian Islands, providing services to surface and air antisubmarine warfare (ASW) forces. She also conducted type training. In October 1953, Tang commenced her first overhaul which she completed in July of 1964.

Upon emerging from the yard, the submarine began training for her first western Pacific deployment. That cruise began in September and ended at Pearl Harbor in March 1956. She then operated in the Hawaiian area until June, when she headed back to sea for a training cruise in Alaskan waters. Tang returned to Pearl Harbor in August and, soon thereafter, began her second overhaul.

On 20 July 1966, Tang put to sea on her second deployment to the western Pacific. That deployment set the pattern for seven more between then and 1972. The submarine came under the command of the Commander, Seventh Fleet, and provided training services to units of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force[?], the Nationalist Chinese Navy[?], SEATO[?] naval forces, and the United States Navy. When not cruising Far Eastern waters, she operated among the Hawaiian Islands and underwent overhauls at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard[?].

On five occasions during those years, she cruised to the northwestern coast of North America. In March of 1959, during a cold weather training cruise, Tang tested a newly developed snorkel de-icer system. In addition, the submarine provided services to the Naval Torpedo Testing Station at Keyport, Washington[?], and to Canadian naval forces at Esquimalt, British Columbia[?]. She returned to the Pacific Northwest in late February 1961, following her fourth overhaul at Pearl Harbor, for shakedown training and participation in a First Fleet Exercise, SLAMEX. Two years later, she made her third voyage to the northwestern coast of the United States; this time to join in First Fleet ASW exercises. In May and June of 1964, Tang made a postoverhaul shakedown cruise to the west coast. Four years and two deployments later, Tang made her fifth and last voyage to the west coast while still homeported at Pearl Harbor. Two months later, she resumed local operations in the Hawaiian Islands before embarking upon her eighth deployment to the western Pacific in mid-January 1969.

Tang's ninth deployment came after a period of repairs and intense training around Hawaii and lasted from August 1970 until February 1972. Upon her return to Pearl Harbor, she resumed local operations until August, when she again entered the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for extensive repairs and refurbishments, which included replacing the original "pancake style" engines with the three Fairbanks-Morse engines, extensive sail modifications, and a hull stretch during which the boat was cut completely in two and a new section inserted to provide space for an extensive sonar, electronic and ventilation modernization. At the completion of these overhauls, Tang was more than 600 tons heavier and more than 22 feet longer than when originally launched.

In May 1972, she left the yard with a new AGSS hull classification symbol and began preparation for changing home port to San Diego, California. Following ten days at sea and two at San Francisco, Tang arrived at the Naval Submarine Facility at San Diego. There she joined Submarine Division 32 of SubRon 3. The ensuing year brought ASW operations with destroyers and air units followed by a two-month restricted availability at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard and a return to normal operations. On 2 April 1973, she put to sea for the tenth western Pacific deployment of her career. During it, she again participated in surface and air ASW exercises with units of the Seventh Fleet and of various Allied navies. After visiting Yokosuka[?], Sasebo[?], Chinhae[?], Kaohsinng[?], and Pusan, Tang returned to San Diego on 12 October 1973. She resumed local operations after a 30-day standdown period, then made preparations for a deployment to South American waters for Exercise UNITAS XV. On 2 October 1974, she headed south to conduct training exercises with surface units and submarines of the United States, Chilean, and Peruvian navies. At the completion of UNITAS XV, Tang visited Acapulco, Mexico, before returning to San Diego on 16 December, for Christmas standdown. Throughout 1975, she continued to conduct normal operations out of San Diego.

On 11 January 1976, Tang commenced overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard where she remained until completion on 20 January 1977. With the exception of a brief MIDPAC deployment in March, Tang operated out of her home port of San Diego for the remainder of 1977 and the first half of 1978. On 1 August, her home port was changed to Groton, Connecticut and her SS hull classification symbol was restored in anticipation of her forthcoming inter-fleet transfer.

Tang departed San Diego on 23 August, and, following a transit of the Panama Canal, arrived at Groton on 30 September. For the remainder of 1978, she engaged in her new primary mission-training Iranian Navy personnel as well as providing service to units of the Atlantic Fleet.

On 8 February 1980, the oldest diesel-electric submarine in the Navy and the last operational one in the Atlantic Fleet was decommissioned. Tang was sold to Iran but not actually transferred, then was transferred to Turkey 6 August 1987, becoming the Piri Reis (S-343)[?].

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 1616 tons surfaced, 2100 tons submerged
  • Length: 269 feet
  • Beam 27 feet
  • Draft: 17 feet
  • Speed: 16.3 knots surfaced, 17.4 knots submerged
  • Complement: 87 men
  • Armament: eight 21-inch torpedo tubes, 40 Mk.49/57 mines

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