Tuesday, November 11, 2008

USS Gato (SS-212)

Figure 1: Bow view of the Gato (SS-212) looking aft, at Electric Boat Co., Groton, Connecticut, 31 December 1941 immediately after launching. USN photo courtesy of ussubvetsofworldwarii.org. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: Broadside view of the Gato (SS-212) off Mare Island on 6 August 1943. She was in overhaul at the shipyard from 14 June until 15 August 1943. USN photo # 5735-43, courtesy of Darryl Baker. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: Stern view of the Gato (SS-212) departing Mare Island on 6 August 1943. USN photo # 5733-43, courtesy of Darryl Baker. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: Starboard forward quarter view of Gato (SS-212) off Mare Island on 6 August 1943. USN photo # 5736-43, courtesy of Darryl Baker. The photo is off a negative from the Vallejo Naval Historic Museum. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: Stern plan view of Gato (SS-212) at Mare Island on 23 Nov. 1944. She was in overhaul at the shipyard from 10 September until 6 December 1944. The barge tied up to her port side is YF-513. USN photo # 7158-44, courtesy of Darryl Baker. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: Modifications made on 29 November 1944 at Mare Island for Gato (SS-212) include installation of a new freestanding mast for her SD radar and relocation of her SJ to a new mast supported by her periscope shears. In some boats, the new SJ mast was mounted forward of the periscope shears. The three girders supporting the shears are the only remnants of the prewar enclosed bridge: their height indicates how far the fairwater has been cut down. Note also the ammunition-passing scuttle let into the deck abaft the bridge fairwater. Photo and text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History, by Norman Friedman, Naval Institute Press. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7: This close up of the starboard side of the bridge superstructure of the Gato (SS-212)shows the arrangement of the guns, periscope, and other deck gear. This photo was taken during the boat's overhaul at Mare Island Shipyard, November 29, 1944. The circles indicate new items added during the overhaul. The boat mounts a 4-inch gun forward and a 20mm gun aft. On the gun deck forward is another 20mm gun and a 40mm gun aft. The telephone mounted to a board hanging on the railing was a temporary import connection. USN Archives photo # 19-N-75565. Photo and text courtesy of The Floating Drydock, Fleet Subs of World War II, by Thomas F. Walkowiak. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8: This top view of the 4-inch/50 cal deck gun mounted onboard the Gato (SS-212)during her November 29,1944 overhaul. Note the deck hatches for the stowage of the small boats carried below the main deck. To the left of the gun at the tip of the barrel is the forward marker buoy. The forward escape trunk top hatch is open. To the right of the marker buoy is the access to the escape trunk side door. USN Archives photo # 19-N-75563. Photo and text courtesy of The Floating Drydock, Fleet Subs of World War II, by Thomas F. Walkowiak. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 9: Gato (SS-212), off Mare Island Navy Yard, 29 November 1944. US Navy photo # 7266-44, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

USS Gato (SS-212) was the lead ship in a highly successful class of 77 submarines built in the United States during World War II. The ship displaced 1,526 tons on the surface and 2,424 tons submerged and had a top speed of 20.25 knots surfaced and 8.75 knots submerged. Gato was approximately 311 feet long and 27 feet wide and had a crew of 60 officers and men. She was armed with one 3-inch gun, four machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes. Gato was built by the Electric Boat Company at Groton, Connecticut, and was commissioned on 31 December 1941.

After her shakedown cruise off New London, Connecticut, Gato left on 16 February 1942 for Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal. On her first war patrol out of Pearl Harbor (which lasted from 20 April to 10 June 1942), Gato unsuccessfully attacked a converted Japanese aircraft carrier on 3 May 1942 off the Marshall Islands. Although attacked and depth-charged by four Japanese destroyers, Gato somehow managed to get away. On 24 May she patrolled the western approaches to Midway Island, just prior to the major battle that took place near there.

During her second war patrol (2 July to 29 August 1942), Gato patrolled the waters east of the Kurile Islands next to the Aleutians. She torpedoed an unidentified Japanese ship on 15 August and ended her patrol at Dutch Harbor, Unalaska. On her third war patrol (4 September to 23 December 1942), Gato was initially assigned to operations off Kiska. She then went to the Japanese stronghold at Truk atoll, where on 6 December three destroyers attacked Gato after she had attacked a Japanese convoy. Gato once again was able to elude the destroyers and made it to Brisbane, Australia, on 23 December 1942.

Up to this point, Gato did not have a stunning record of accomplishments. However, this all changed with Gato’s fourth war patrol (13 January 1943 to 26 February 1943). While prowling off the coast of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands chain, Gato sank one Japanese transport and two cargo ships. On her fifth war patrol (19 March to 6 June 1943), Gato landed an Australian commando team at Toep, Bougainville, on 29 March 1943 and evacuated 27 children, nine mothers and three nuns from that same island. On 4 April she was seriously damaged by some Japanese escorts between the islands of Tanga and Lihir and was forced to return to Brisbane for temporary repairs. After being repaired, Gato landed some additional Australian commandos at Toep Harbor on 29 May and evacuated some more refugees to Ramos Island. She then patrolled off Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands before arriving at Pearl Harbor on 6 June 1943.

After an overhaul at the Mare Island Shipyard in California, Gato returned to Pearl Harbor on 22 August 1943. Her sixth war patrol (6 September to 28 October 1943) took her to Truk, Bougainville, and then on to Brisbane. Along the way, Gato attacked a Japanese convoy, scoring several hits on two large cargo ships. On her seventh war patrol (18 November 1943 to 10 January 1944), Gato sank one cargo ship north of the Bismarck Archipelago and sank one cargo ship and damaged another off Saipan. Japanese escorts tried to depth charge her after the last attack, but Gato once again managed to escape.

During her eighth war patrol (2 February to 1 April 1944), Gato sank three Japanese trawlers, one transport, and one cargo ship off New Guinea and Truk. Gato’s ninth war patrol (30 May to 22 June 1944) found her transporting Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood to Midway Island. She also made a photographic reconnaissance of Woleai Island and acted as a rescue ship for downed American pilots. Gato spent most of her tenth wartime patrol as a rescue ship for pilots, which lasted from 15 July to 2 September 1944. After this patrol, Gato once again went to Mare Island for another overhaul.

On her eleventh war patrol (28 January to 13 March 1945), Gato patrolled the Yellow Sea, where she sank a Japanese coast defense ship and a cargo ship. During her twelfth war patrol (12 April to 5 June 1945), Gato acted as a rescue ship off Okinawa and rescued 10 Army aviators near the beaches of Toi Misaki, Kyushu. She also was nearly sunk by two Japanese submarines after they fired torpedoes at her. The torpedoes, though, missed by a narrow margin and Gato managed to escape from the area.

Gato left Pearl Harbor on 8 July 1945 on her thirteenth and last war patrol. Once again she acted as a rescue ship, this time off Wake Island and Honshu. She received the word on 15 August to “Cease Fire” just as she was about to begin an attack on another Japanese merchant ship. The war was over and Gato steamed into Tokyo Bay on 31 August for the official Japanese surrender, which took place on board the American battleship USS Missouri. After the surrender ceremony on 2 September 1945, Gato returned to Pearl Habor and then went via the Panama Canal to the New York Naval Shipyard. She was decommissioned there on 16 March 1946. Gato served for many years as a naval reserve training ship at New York and later at Baltimore, Maryland, until her name was struck from the Navy List on 1 March 1960. She was eventually sold for scrapping on 25 July 1960 to the Northern Metals Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

USS Gato received the Presidential Unit Citation for her performance during war patrols four through eight and she also received an impressive 13 battle stars for her service during World War II. Gato sank a large amount of enemy tonnage and she had many harrowing encounters with the enemy, yet she was always able to make it back home. This was a tough ship with an even tougher crew and she certainly was a worthy leader for one of the largest classes of submarines ever produced by this nation.