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USS Swordfish (SS-193), a Sargo-class submarine, was the first submarine of the United States Navy named for the swordfish, a large fish with a long, swordlike beak and a high dorsal fin. She was the first United States Navy ship to sink a Japanese ship during World War II.

Operational history

Her keel was laid down on 27 October 1937 by the Mare Island Naval Shipyardmarker of Vallejo, Californiamarker. She was launched on 3 April 1939 sponsored by Miss Louise Shaw Hepburn, and commissioned on 22 July 1939 with Lieutenant Chester C. Smith in command.

Following shakedown and post-shakedown repairs at Mare Island, Swordfish operated out of San Diego, Californiamarker, until early 1941, when she set sail for Pearl Harbormarker. On 3 November, Swordfish, in company with three other U.S. submarines, departed Pearl, and on 22 November, arrived at Manilamarker, Philippine Islandsmarker. The submarine remained at Manila until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbormarker on 7 December 1941. The following day, she set sail on her first war patrol, conducted off the coast of Hainanmarker, Chinamarker. After damaging several enemy vessels on the 9th, 11th, and 14th, Swordfish sank her initial victim of the war on 16 December. Hit amidships by one of three torpedoes, the cargo ship Atsutasan Maru erupted in a cloud of smoke and flames and disappeared beneath the waves. On 27 December, Swordfish embarked the organizational staff of the Submarine Asiatic Command Staff at Manila and headed for Soerabajamarker, Javamarker, arriving on 7 January 1942.

Swordfish departed Soerabaja on 16 January for her second war patrol, conducted in the Celebes Seamarker and in the Philippinesmarker. On 24 January, she torpedoed and sank a cargo ship off Kema, Celebes Islandsmarker. On 20 February, she submerged in the entrance of Mariveles, Luzonmarker, only to surface after dark to take on board the President of the Philippinesmarker and his family. She departed through a minefield and arrived at San Josemarker, Panaymarker, Philippine Islands on 22 February, where the President and his party were transferred to a motor tender. Swordfish then returned to Manila Bay and embarked the High Commissioner of the Philippines, arriving Fremantlemarker, Western Australiamarker, on 9 March.

Swordfish got underway from Fremantle on 1 April for her third war patrol, with her primary mission being to deliver 40 tons of provisions to the besieged island of Corregidormarker. However, Corregidor fell to the Japanese before the mission could be carried out and the submarine was ordered to patrol in the vicinity of Ambon Islandmarker. The only ships sighted were beyond effective range, and the submarine returned to Fremantle on 1 May.

Departing Fremantle for her fourth war patrol on 15 May, Swordfish was in the South China Seamarker on 29 May where she sank a 1900-ton cargo ship and was in the Gulf of Siammarker on 12 June where she torpedoed and sank another cargo ship. The submarine returned to Fremantle on 4 July.

Although her fifth war patrol, conducted in the Sulu Seamarker, and her sixth war patrol, conducted in the Solomon Islandsmarker, were unproductive, during her seventh war patrol Swordfish sank a 4122-ton cargo ship on 19 January 1942. Returning to Pearl Harbor on 23 February, the submarine underwent overhaul until 29 July, when she got underway for her eighth war patrol.

On 22 August, she sighted her first target of the patrol, and quickly sent the cargo ship to the bottom, the victim of two torpedo hits. A convoy was intercepted on 5 September, and Swordfish damaged a large tanker before sinking a cargo ship. The submarine concluded this patrol at Brisbanemarker, Australia, on 20 September.

Swordfish's ninth war patrol lasted only three weeks. Shortly after reaching her assigned patrol area, material defects were discovered, and the submarine had to return to port.

On the day after Christmas 1943, Swordfish departed for her tenth war patrol, conducted in Tokyo Baymarker. On 14 January 1944, she sank a passenger-cargo ship and two days later sank a converted gunboat. On 27 January, she fired two torpedoes at a converted salvage vessel which broke in half and sank. Swordfish terminated her tenth patrol at Pearl Harbor on 7 February.

Swordfish put to sea on 13 March for her eleventh war patrol, conducted in the Mariana Islandsmarker. Although several enemy ships were damaged during this patrol, no sinkings could be confirmed; and the submarine returned to Majuromarker on 29 April.

Swordfish's twelfth war patrol was conducted in the area of the Bonin Islandsmarker. On 9 June, the submarine found Japanese destroyer Matsukazemarker clearly illuminated against the horizon and sank the enemy ship with two torpedoes from her bow tubes. On 15 June, she torpedoed and sank a cargo ship. The remainder of the patrol was unproductive, and the submarine terminated her twelfth patrol at Pearl Harbor on 30 June.

On 22 December, Swordfish departed Pearl Harbor to conduct her thirteenth war patrol, in the vicinity of Nansei Shotomarker. She topped off with fuel at Midwaymarker on 26 December and left that day for her area. In addition to her regular patrol, Swordfish was to conduct photographic reconnaissance of Okinawamarker, for preparation of the Okinawa Campaign.

On 2 January, Swordfish was ordered to delay carrying out her assigned tasks in order to keep her clear of the Nansei Shoto area until completion of carrier-based air strikes which were scheduled. She was directed to patrol the general vicinity of 30°N; 132°E until further orders were received. Her acknowledgement of those orders on 3 January was the last communication received from Swordfish.

On 9 January 1945, Swordfish was directed to proceed to the vicinity of Okinawa to carry out her special mission. It was estimated that the task would not take more than seven days after arrival on station, which she should have reached on 11 January. Upon completion of her mission, Swordfish was to proceed to Saipan, or to Midway if she was unable to transmit by radio. Since neither place had seen her by 15 February, and repeated attempts to raise her by radio had failed, she was reported as presumed lost on that date.

In the report of her loss, mention was made that , which at the time was patrolling the vicinity of Okinawa, reported that on the morning of 12 January she contacted a submarine by radar. It was believed that contact was with Swordfish. Four hours later Kete heard heavy depth charging from this area, and it was believed that this attack might have been the cause of Swordfish’s loss.

Japanese information on antisubmarine attacks does not mention the attack heard by Kete on 12 January, and records no attacks in which Swordfish is likely to have been the victim. However, it is now known that there were many mines planted around Okinawa, since the Japanese were expecting an Allied invasion of that Island. The majority of the mines were planted close in. It is considered about equally likely that Swordfish was sunk by depth charge attack before she reached Okinawa for her special mission or that she was lost to a mine at that place.

Honors and awards

Swordfish earned eight battle stars for World War II service.

A memorial to the boat has been erected in St. Paul, Minnesotamarker near the Como Park Zoo and Conservatorymarker. It is just off Churchill Street, on a rise a short walk south of Hamm Falls. This consists of a torpedo on a stand. On one side of the base is a plaque listing the names of the crew and giving a brief history of the vessel. On the other is a roll of U.S. submarines lost in World War II.


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