My WWII Story: "Fish! Incoming Starboard!"

Mandeville, LA

[written by Herman Prager Jr. in the third-quarter 2019 American Submariner magazine. "Dutch" Prager served aboard Kingfish for war patrols nine through twelve. Reprinted with permission of American Submariner.]

On 12 October 1944 USS Kingfish (SS 234) departed Pearl Harbor on her ninth war patrol. Her brand new skipper, LCDR Talbot E. Harper, was new to her but not to the war effort. He had made five war patrols on USS Grayback (SS 208) and had most recently served as XO onboard USS Burrfish (SS 312). The crew was relaxed and confident as they got underway for
their assigned patrol area off the Bonin Islands. Kingfish’s crew had no way of knowing that they were about to play a small but important part on the fringe of one of the most critical sea battles of the entire war. Some historians claim it was the greatest naval engagement in the history of the world—the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
The battle took place October 23-25 and involved virtually all of the Japanese Navy in a desperate attempt to thwart the American landings on Luzon. A “decoy force” under Japanese Admiral Ozawa consisting of four carriers, three cruisers and a gaggle of destroyers had sailed south in an attempt to lure Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s fast carrier force away from the main battle raging off Leyte. They were murderously treated by Halsey’s airmen, and the surviving ships retreated northward toward the island of Honshu, Japan from October 25-29. On the 24 October Kingfish sighted a heavily escorted Japanese freighter and sank her with two well-placed torpedoes. The escorts didn’t take too kindly to Kingfish’s treatment of Ikutagawa Maru as her 2500 tons quickly sank. One of her escorts sped up to evade Kingfish’s three torpedoes while others took reprisal, dropping a dozen depth charges in response, as Kingfish went deep and silently slipped away.
Three days later Kingfish was patrolling a hundred miles from her successful attack location when she sighted two convoys: one of four ships, the other of two, headed in the same direction. A lone ship offered itself too, but it was headed the opposite way. Naturally, Kingfish went after the larger convoy, the “plum.” Her approach was interrupted by a fast escort
crossing astern.

[Read the conclusion of the story above.]
[Text via University of Florida Digital Collections]

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