Groton - In the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 1944, a crew member of the USS Flasher spotted smoke on the horizon of the Pacific Ocean. It was the first enemy ship the Flasher had spotted since it was dispatched to the Pacific to help the Allies defeat their enemy. When the smoke was spotted, the crew of the submarine went to work, tracking their target, an ex-gunboat of the Japanese. After 13 hours, the Flasher launched its first torpedo of World War II and moments later the 2,900 ton class boat went to the bottom.
The ex-gunboat was the Flasher's first victim during World War 11. In the following months, the submarine, which was built at Electric Boat, would sink more tonnage of enemy vessels than any other ship in World War II. On one day alone, she sank 28,600 tons of shipping off French Indo-China. Submarines, including many that were made at EB, played a critical role in World War II. They sunk enemy boats, carried supplies and reinforced guerrillas in the Philippines, according to the 1945 Electric Boat annual report. They also participated in reconnaissance missions and rescued 504 allied aviators from enemy controlled waters, including former President George Bush. Though they were used in the war in Europe, the majority of submarines were put to use in the Pacific after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor severely impacted the United States' Pacific naval fleet.
63 percent of sinkings
The "long illustrious career" of the Tautog began in March 1, 1939, when her keel was laid at Electric Boat. The second of three submarines in the 1938 program that were built by EB, she and her sister ships - the USS Tambor and USS Thresher - were the beginning of the 10-tube class of submarine, according to the Office of Naval Records and History.
Launched on Jan. 27, 1940, the Tautog was commissioned July 3, 1940, and skippered by Lt. J.H. Willingham. After a training period in Long Island and a shakedown cruise that took her to Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast, the Tautog underwent a six-week overhaul at Portsmouth and then worked out of New London on a 10-tube mine-laying problem, making the Tautog the founder of the mine plant doctrine. During 1941, the Tautog conducted missions in the Virgin Islands and operations in Newport, R.I., before setting course for Pearl Harbor in May of that year. In the fall of 1941, the submarine received sealed orders to patrol off Midway for 45 days along with the Thresher. The submarine was submerged for 15 to 16 hours a day for 38 consecutive days, according to the Office of Naval Records and History "Most provisions ran out and the patrol was one of the hardest on personnel that Tautog ever made," the report said. The Tautog returned to Pearl Harbor on Dec. 5, 1941, just two days before the Japanese attack. Emerging unscathed, the boat underwent a refit period and then set course for Midway again on a reconnaissance mission. The 41-day patrol was the only one in which the Tautog did not sink a ship though it may have hit a medium sized freighter on Jan. 13, 1942. In the ensuing years, the Tautog went on to sink 26 enemy vessels, setting a record for submarines during World War II. The keel of the Flasher was laid Sept. 30, 1942, and the boat was launched nine months later. The submarine was commissioned in September 1943 and the following day underwent an intensive shakedown near Newport, R.I. "Captain (Reuben T.) Whitaker was testing his ship to make sure nothing would go wrong when the time came to dive fast and deep to serve the ship or to lose a heavily laden enemy merchantman because of a minor engine casualty," a report from the Office of Naval Records and History states.
The work paid off. The Flasher departed New London Nov. 6,1943, for Florida, where the crew received training before setting off for Pearl Harbor. Following two weeks of extensive refresher training there, the Flasher set off for her first war patrol, which lasted 54 days. In addition to sinking the ex-gunboat in January 1944, the Flasher sank freighters, tankers, transports, destroyers, cargo vessels and other enemy ships over the course of 14 months. Her performance earned her numerous awards, including six Battle Stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Area Service Ribbon and the Presidential Unit Citation. The Flasher's success was touted at EB where workers were updated on the performance of the submarine. When Arland Davenport Barnes, a personnel manager at EB, received a letter from the commander of the submarine, he read a portion of it out loud over the plant's broadcast system and posted excerpts from it on the company's bulletin board. "The employees in the plant thoroughly enjoy letters such as yours not because they want praise for themselves but because they take pride in knowing that something which they have helped create has really had a part in the fine job which the Navy is doing in the Pacific, " Barnes wrote in a June 1944 letter to Whitaker.
Hundreds of citations
The USS Dace, whose keel laying marked the opening of EB's Victory Yard in July 1942, was also recognized for its performance in the war. The Dace along with the EB's USS Darter sank two heavy Japanese cruisers and badly damaged a third. making it inoperable for the rest of the War.
While touting the accomplishments of EB's submarine during World War II, the annual report also emphasized the need to remain prepared by developing weapons in future years.
"Twice within a single generation America has been forced into a world war because our enemies considered us unprepared," the report states. "From bitter experience we in the United States now know that we must maintain the development of key security weapons in proportion to our devotion to a world peace.
"The responsibility of the Electric Boat Company, as pioneer builders of United States submarines, is to help maintain America's leadership in submarine invention and development through a moderate building program keyed to, the proved concept that to keep peace, America must keep pace."---end---