USS Triton (SS-201)
, a Tambor
, was the first submarine and third ship
of the United States Navy
named for Triton
. Her keel was down on 5 July 1939 by the Portsmouth Navy
She was launched
on 25 March 1940
sponsored by Mrs. Ernest J. King, wife of Rear Admiral King
, and commissioned
on 15 August 1940 with
Lieutenant Commander Willis A.
(Class of 1925) in
submarine held her shakedown training in the Caribbean Sea from 14 January 1941 to 26 March and then conducted
training and minelaying exercises in the Portsmouth, New
Hampshire - New London, Connecticut area. Triton departed Portsmouth on 1
July, transited the Panama
Canal on 12 July, and arrived at San Diego,
California, on 20 July. Nine days later, she and sister ship
headed for Hawaii and arrived
Harbor on 4 August.
to Submarine Division 62, Triton made a training cruise to
Midway from 30
August to 15 September, then participated in local and fleet
operations in the Hawaiian area. On 19 November, the
submarine headed west to conduct a practice war patrol and arrived
Island on 26 November.
On 8 December, she saw
columns of smoke rising over the island but assumed it was caused
by construction work being done ashore. That night, when she
surfaced to charge her batteries, she was informed by radio Wake
and Pearl Harbor had been bombed and was ordered to stay out of
range of Wake's guns. The next morning, Triton observed
the Japanese bombing the island.
On the night of 10
December, she was surfaced, charging her batteries, when flashes of
light from Wake revealed a destroyer
on a parallel course. The
submarine was silhouetted against the moon, and the enemy ship
turned towards her. Triton
went deep and began evasive
action. When the Japanese ship slowed astern, the submarine came to
and fired four stern torpedoes—the first American torpedoes shot
during World War II
bearings. She heard a dull explosion 58 seconds
later and believed one had hit the target, then went to and cleared
the area. (No sinking was recorded, and she was not
credited with one.) After their initial repulse on 11 December, the
Japanese returned with two aircraft
carrier, Hiryū and
Sōryū; Triton was not informed, and made no
attacks on them.
Neither did she make any effort to evacuate
the 350 Marines. On 21 December, the submarine was ordered to
return to Hawaii, and she
arrived back at Pearl Harbor on 31 December.
January 1942, Triton got underway for the East China
Sea and her second war patrol, covering the sealanes to
Dairen, Shanghai, and
Korea. She was off Kyūshū on 17 February when she contacted a
The submarine launched four torpedoes and scored
one hit in the stern. The target stopped for a few minutes and then
slowly got underway. That evening, Triton
freighter with two torpedoes at a range of . One hit the Japanese
cargo ship aft of her well deck, and the maru went dead in the
water and began settling. Soon, several heavy explosions marked the
end of Shinyo Maru Number 5
. Four days later, the
submarine intercepted two cargo ships. She sank Shokyu
with two torpedoes but could not attack the second ship
because of its speed and the appearance of a four-engine patrol
plane. On the night of 27 February, the submarine was on the
surface for a battery charge when she sighted a ship approximately
three miles away. She closed to attack and launched two torpedoes.
One torpedo hit, but haze over the water and smoke from the damaged
ship prohibited a second attack. Triton
made no further
contacts and returned to Pearl Harbor on 17 March, where she was
praised for an aggressive patrol, earning credit for two ships
totalling 12,000 tons (reduced to 5,982 tons postwar),
but criticized for excessive use of torpedoes, which were in
extremely short supply.
(now in the hands of C.C. Kirkpatrick, Class of 1931) got
underway on 13 April to return to the East China Sea.
Ten days later, the submarine contacted a
2,000-ton trawler near Marcus
stopped and not blacked out. After missing with two torpedoes (at
point blank range), she surfaced to engage with her deck guns,
firing 19 rounds of three-inch (76 mm) and "a hurricane of
small-arms", leaving the trawler a sinking wreck, giving
the first confirmed sinking of an enemy vessel by
deck gun fire by an American submarine.
Amid shallow, glassy seas and poor sonar conditions, on 1 May, she
sighted six freighters, in two columns, escorted by a single
. She launched two
torpedoes, and both hit the leading ship, Taei Maru
(2,200 tons), which sank, then two more at the next freighter;
both missed. She fired at a third cargoman but the torpedo ran
deep; a second torpedo, set shallow and aimed at a different ship,
broke the back of Calcutta Maru
(5,300 tons), which
contacted an escorted convoy on 6 May and launched
two torpedoes at the trailing ship; one sank soon after leaving the
tube, the other missed ahead. She next spotted a destroyer coming
to the rear of the convoy, fired two more (both set shallow) at
this same ship from , and went deep to elude. Her sonar heard two
violent explosions; Taigen Maru
(5,600 tons) had
sunk. At that point, the submarine maneuvered around and ahead of
the convoy to position for another attack. When she attained the
desired position, she launched four torpedoes—two at the third ship
and two at a fourth. Triton
heard two explosions from the
first spread (one in the third ship), none from the second (which
had avoided), as she was forced to take evasive action from the
escort. The submarine later returned to periscope depth, but no
ships were in sight. The convoy had cleared the area. On 15 May,
she sank two deep-sea fishing boats with her deck guns.
The next day, after monitoring orders to other boats attempting to
intercept without success, Triton
ran into position and at
15.20 spotted the crippled Shōkaku
a destroyer, returning from the Battle of Coral Sea
. At , with the
target making , Triton
could not close the range, despite
surfacing and bending on 19½ knots (36 km/h). She sent a
contact report, but it was not acknowledged.
One day later, 17 May, in "one of the luckiest finds of the war",
in front of Triton
; she fired her last bow torpedo from
and parts of the target were blown into the air. I 64
(1,700 tons), the fourth Japanese sub sunk by the Pacific
Fleet Sub Force, went down by the stern. Four days later,
fired her last four torpedoes at another enemy
submarine; all missed. The patrol earned her credit for five ships
of 24,200 tons (reduced to 15,800 postwar), terminating at
Pearl Harbor on 4 June, as the Battle of Midway began.
Triton's fourth war patrol took her
to Alaskan waters and lasted from 25 June to 24 August.
On 4 July, she was patrolling in a heavy fog, in the vicinity of
, when the fog lifted enough to
reveal a Japanese destroyer. The submarine trailed the enemy for
ten hours, in and out of patches of fog, until she had closed the
range to . Triton
then launched two torpedoes, and one hit
amidships. The Japanese destroyer Nenohi
(1,370 tons) capsized to port and slid under the waves in five
sighted a freighter on 28 July, but lost
it in a fog bank. The same thing happened the next day. On 9
saw an enemy submarine's periscope and
prepared to attack. However, the Japanese sub struck first, forcing
to go deep as enemy torpedoes passed overhead. On
15 August, Triton
launched four torpedoes at a darkened
ship from a range of . There were two consecutive explosions, and
flames shot over into the air. To Triton
, the enemy ship
appeared to be larger than a destroyer. However, there is no
official record of a sinking on that date. The submarine made no
further contacts before returning to Pearl Harbor on 7 September,
and was credited with two ships for 3,100 tons (postwar, only
, at 1,600 tons). She then entered
Navy Yard for an overhaul until 6 December.
On 16 December, Triton
got underway for a position east of
Wake on the Midway–Wake route. She was one of three submarines
stationed between the two islands to mark the way for United States Army Air Forces
bombers in strikes on
Wake and to rescue the crews of any planes forced down at sea. She
made no rescues, but, on the night of 23 December, she aided in
guiding the Liberators in a night bombing attack on the island. On
24 December, the submarine sighted the mast of a ship on the
horizon, headed for Wake anchorage. Triton
) closed to and launched
two torpedoes. One hit under the stack
other under the foremast. Amakasu Maru Number 1
obliterated in a cloud of smoke and steam as she went under.
submarine then set a course for Brisbane.
On 28 December, she sighted an enemy ship,
closed to , and launched three torpedoes into the transport Omi
. The ship sank almost immediately and, although there was
much wreckage, no survivors were seen.
Triton was then ordered to patrol
the Truk–Rabaul–New Guinea shipping lanes, north and northwest of New
Ireland, arriving on 30 December 1942.
On 10 January
stalked an unidentified vessel but withheld
her attack upon observing it was marked as a hospital ship. Three
days later, she launched four torpedoes at a tanker and scored one
hit. When the enemy began firing at her periscope, she went deep to
begin an end around. About 20 minutes later, the submarine
returned to periscope depth and launched a spread of four
torpedoes. Two geysers of water rose amidships as high as the
target's bridge, but no explosions followed. The next day,
attempted to attack a freighter, but an escort
forced her down where she was subjected to a two-hour depth charge
attack. On 16 January, she
attacked two cargo ships, scoring two hits on the first and one on
the second; but her victims forced her to submerge before she could
evaluate the damage. Later that day, Triton
fired her last
three torpedoes at a large freighter but heard no explosions.
headed for Australia and reached Brisbane on 26 January, with a total of 6,500 tons for
Falling under the strict tactical control of Admiral James Fife, Jr.
(now in the
hands of George K.
Mackenzie, Jr.) on 16 February
began her sixth and final war patrol, hoping to destroy enemy
shipping between the Shortland Basin
reported smoke on 22 February and a new Japanese radar at Buka.
March, the submarine attacked a convoy of five destroyer-escorted
ships, sinking the cargo ship Kiriha Maru
another freighter. One of her torpedoes made a circular run, and
went deep to evade it. She attacked another convoy
on the night of 8 March and claimed that five of the eight
torpedoes she had fired scored hits. She could not observe the
results or make a follow-up attack because gunfire from the escorts
forced her down. On 11 March, Triton
reported she was
chasing two convoys, each made up of five or more ships. She was
informed was operating in an adjoining area and ordered to stay
south of the equator
. On 13 March,
Triton was warned that three enemy destroyers, including
the Akikaze were in her area either looking for a convoy or
hunting American submarines.
On 15 March, Trigger
reported she had attacked a convoy
and had been depth charged
. Even though
attacks on her ceased, she could still hear distant depth charging
for about an hour. No further messages from Triton
ever received. Post-war examination of Japanese records revealed on
15 March 1943, three Japanese destroyers attacked a submarine a
little northwest of Triton'
s assigned area and
subsequently observed an oil slick, debris, and items with American
markings. On 10 April 1943, Triton
was reported overdue
from patrol and presumed lost, one of three lost in a month.
her 6,500 tons for the trip to Brisbane.
persistent rumors Triton was actually lost off Moreton
Island near Brisbane, sunk either to friendly
fire from an Australian pilot or Japanese mine or torpedoes.
Her loss was allegedly covered up by the Australian military.
undisputed two weeks after Triton was supposed to have
been sunk, a welcoming committee, complete with band, mail
delivery, fresh fruit and ice-cream was waiting for her on the dock
Farm on the Brisbane River; since she could simply have suffered a radio
casualty, this is unsurprising. The Australian
Defence Department refers inquiries to the Australian
War Memorial in Canberra.
The Memorial's position is, it was highly
unlikely Australian fire had sunk the submarine, and if there had
been a cover-up during the war, the truth would have come out in
the intervening years.
received five battle
for World War II
is the subject of an episode of the syndicated television anthology
, which aired during the 1957-1958
- Blair, Silent Victory (J. B.
Lippincott Company (1975), p.907.
- Commanded by Forrest M. O'Leary. Blair, p.83.
- For which squadron commander Captain Al McCann
was critical. Blair, p.120-1.
- Blair, pp.120 and 901.
- Blair, p.123.
- Blair, p.208.
- Thanks to BuOrd's inadequate production. Blair,
pp.69, 120-1, 208-9, and 907.
- "the youngest skipper yet to get a command at Pearl Harbor".
- Blair, p.225.
- Blair, pp.231 & 233.
- Blair, p.233.
- The same day Joe Willingham's Tautog sank I-28.
- Fitzsimons, Bernard, ed. Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th
Century Weapons and Warfare (London: Phoebus, 1978), Volume
13, p.1410, "I61". She later had an extra "100" added and
her original number was reassigned, per usual IJN
practise. Stille, Mark. Imperial Japanese Navy Submarines
1941-45 (Osprey, 2007), p.4
- Fitzsimons, p.1410, "I61".
- Blair, p.908. It was a remarkable first effort for
- Blair, p.270.
- Fitzsimons, Volume 12, p.1247, "Hatsuharu".
- Japanese records are notoriously chaotic, and the JANAC accounting equally unreliable as a
- Blair, p.914.
- Blair, p.334.
- Blair, p.334. On arrival, Kirkpatrick was detached to become an
aid to King, yet another waste of a very productive
- Blair, p.375.
- Blair, Clay, Jr. Silent Victory. Philadelphia:
- Lenton, H.T. American Submarines. New York: Doubleday
& Co., 1973>
- Fitzsimons, Bernard, ed. Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th
century Weapons and Warfare (London: Phoebus, 1978), Volume
13, p.1409-10, "I61", and Volume 12, p.1246-7,
The rumors about Triton'
s loss to friendly fire are laid
out at http://ozatwar.com/ozatwar/usstriton.htm