The USS Gato (SS-212) was the lead ship of the large Gato-class submarine fleet which numbered 77 boats and, along with the Balao-class submarines, made up the backbone of US Navy submarine operations in the Pacific Theater during World War 2. The type was later accepted into service through nine refurbished examples with the Brazilian, Greek, Italian, Japanese and Turkish navies in the post-war years though it would be its exploits with the US Navy in World War 2 that would rightly solidify its place in naval history. It is of note that the life of a submariner in World War 2 was one of the most dangerous occupations in the conflict. 288 US Navy submarines were launched and 52 of these were lost - often times with all hands on board with little chance of escape or rescue. 3,505 of the 14,750 young USN submariners - some 24% - were lost in the whole of the war.
The Gato-class boats were developed as improved "T-class" boats which themselves appeared following the earlier "S-class". This new breed of boat added more forward torpedo tubes and increased endurance which played well with the vastness that was the Pacific Ocean and allowed for prolonged operations and reserved use of torpedoes. The destruction of the Japanese Empire would be a long campaign, covering tens of thousands of miles of ocean and islands while involving aircraft, surface ships, infantry and submarines to bring her power under control. The primary focus of the submarine would be in controlling the supply/resupply routes utilized by the Empire through her many convoys. These convoys - particularly unprotected ones - represented "juicy" targets for hunting fish like the USS Gato.
From then on, the Gato and crew made their way to Tigmon in an effort to reconnect with the damaged enemy freighter and finish her off. However, the deck crew noticed an unexploded depth charge still clinging to the Gato's hull. Attempts were made to dislodge the charge and, once loaded onto an available raft, was set out harmlessly to sea. To compound matters, however, the Gato watch identified two speeding enemy destroyers and took evasive maneuvers before outrunning the pair. While she did miss out on finishing off the damaged freighter, the Gato watch identified another convoy and gave pursuit. This endeavor was too abandoned when a Japanese Navy floatplane gave chase on December 29th. The floatplane was sent away thanks to the work of the Gato deck gunnery crew but the initiative against the convoy was lost. Her seventh war patrol ended on January 10th, 1944 at Milne Bay, New Guinea.
The Gato was then put out to sea for her eighth war patrol on February 2nd, 1944. She was sent to patrol the waters near Bismarck and Truk to which a trawler was sunk on February 15th, The Daigen Maru No. 3 soon joined the trawler on February 26th and, on March 12th, the Okinoyama Maru No. 3 was sent to the bottom. A pair of trawlers were also added to the tally to which the Gato was then called back to Pearl on April 1st, 1944.
The ninth war patrol of the Gato began on May 30th 1944. During the early stages of this patrol, the Gato served as a clandestine transport for Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, successfully delivering him and his entourage to Midway Island. From there, the Gato conducted a photographic reconnaissance sortie against Woleai island and supported air attacks on Truk (as a lifeguard station charged with recovering downed airmen) from June 11th to June 18th. She was sent to the Majuro Atoll to complete her ninth war patrol on June 22nd, 1944.
USS Gato undertook her tenth war patrol on July 15th and served once again as a lifeguard station during air attacks on Chichi Jima. During the fighting, the Gato was called to rescue at least two downed airmen and she did so successfully before returning to Pearl Harbor on September 2nd, 1944. She was then ordered to Mare Island for another overhaul and refit before returning to Pearl for her eleventh war patrol.
Her eleventh war patrol began on January 13th, 1945 and this brought her to the Yellow Sea. As part of a larger fighting force, the Gato downed the Tairiku Maru cargo ship on February 21st. She was returned to Guam for further orders before embarking out to sea once more, thus ending her eleventh war patrol on March 13th, 1945.
The twelfth war patrol of the USS Gato began on April 12th, 1945. During this month, German leader Adolf Hitler would commit suicide in late April in Europe and effectively and formally end the European campaign in May, allowing much-needed supplies, machine and men to be relocated to the Pacific Theater. Gains by the Allies on the sea and across the various islands of the Pacific (and on land in Southeast Asia) began to encircle the Japanese Mainland proper. The Gato took the role of lifeguard station during the amphibious assault of Okinawa and, on April 22nd and into the 23rd, Gato engaged two enemy submarines without success and barely escaped herself. From April 27th to April 30th, Gato was credited with rescuing no fewer than 10 US Army airmen from the waters off Toi Misaki, Kyushu. She was then ordered to return to Pearl Harbor and did so on June 3rd, 1945.
Her thirteenth war patrol beginning on July 8th saw her as a lifeguard station once more during the air attacks against Wake Island. She then served this same role against Honshu. It was during an attack approach against a Japanese cargo vessel on August 15th that the crew of the USS Gato received the final word to abort further attacks on Japanese targets - formally ending the war in the Pacific and World War 2 in whole. The cargo vessel was no doubt spared by fate and the long wartime career of the USS Gato came to a close.
The USS Gato was part of the massive Allied contingent in Tokyo Bay on August 31st, called to witness the official surrender of the Japanese Empire on the deck of the USS Missouri which occurred on September 2nd, 1945. On the 3rd, the USS Gato left Japan and returned to Pearl Harbor for resupply. She then made her way to the New York Shipyard via the Panama Canal to formally end her tour of duty concerning World War 2. She was officially decommissioned as a US Navy fighting boat on March 16th, 1946. From then on, she served for a time as a reserve training platform for up and coming Navy submariners in New York harbor prior to being relocated to Baltimore. Her name was struck from the US Naval Register on March 1st, 1960 to which then the vessel was sold for scrap on July 25th, 1960 to the Northern Metals Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - such was the end of another glorious fighting ship of the war.
All told, the USS Gato and her crew netted a total of 13 Battle Stars for its accomplishments in World War 2. Furthermore, the Gato was the recipient of the Presidential Unit Citation.
The USS Gato and Gato-class of fighting boats were named after the small Gato catshark, a species generally found off of the west coast of Mexico.
- Blue Water Operations
- Fleet Support
311.8 ft (95.04 m)
27.2 ft (8.29 m)
17 ft (5.18 m)
21 kts (24 mph)
9 kts (10.36 miles)
11,510 nm (13,245 miles; 21,316 km)
10 x 533mm (21-inch) torpedo tubes, six forward and four aft, 24 torpedoes.
1 x 102mm/50 caliber (4-inch) deck gun)
1 x 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft cannon
1 x 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannon