USS Barb (SS-220)

USS Barb, a 1525-ton Gato class submarine built at Groton, CT, was commissioned in July 1942. In addition to an outstanding combat record during WW II, the Barb may be the only US submarine that "sank" a railroad locomotive and train.

Commander Eugene B. Fluckey, USN, Commanding Officer, USS Barb (SS-220).  Barb's insignia is painted on her fairwater, behind Commander Fluckey
Commander Eugene B. Fluckey, USN, Commanding Officer, USS Barb (SS-220). Barb's insignia is painted on her fairwater, behind Commander Fluckey.

Today in WW II: 7 Dec 1941 Japanese attack US Navy at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, sinking or severely damaging 18 ships: 8 battleships, 3 light cruisers, and 3 destroyers .  More 
7 Dec 1941 Japanese declare war on Britain and United States.
7 Dec 1941 In North Africa, the Afrika Korps fell back to El Agheila, halting their retreat and the British Operation Crusader advance there.
7 Dec 1944 US Army units land at Ormoc Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands cutting off the Japanese ability to reinforce and supply Leyte.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

USS Barb (SS-220), 1942-1954

USS Barb (SS-220) in San Francisco Bay, near the Mare Island Navy Yard, CA, 3 May 1945
USS Barb (SS-220) in San Francisco Bay, near the Mare Island Navy Yard, CA, 3 May 1945.

In the fall of 1942, USS Barb was sent to operate in European waters, taking part in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa in November 1942. Four more war patrols in the first half of 1943 took her to the Bay of Biscay, the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea but produced no damage to the enemy.

In mid-1943 Barb went to the Pacific. That fall her sixth war patrol took her off China, where she damaged two enemy ships. Following a West Coast overhaul, Barb operated in the central and western Pacific during March and April 1944, sinking one ship and bombarding an enemy shore facility. After that, under Commander Eugene B. Fluckey (her skipper for the rest of the war), her combat record became remarkably successful. Barb's eighth war patrol, off northern Japan in May-July, deprived the enemy of five ships and saw the first of many gunfire actions that ultimately destroyed some twenty small vessels.

On Barb's ninth war patrol, operating with two other submarines between the Philippines and China in August and September 1944, Barb sank three more Japanese ships, among them the escort carrier Unyo. In addition, she rescued fourteen Allied prisoners of war. Her next two cruises, in the East China Sea during October 1944 - February 1945, were also made in close cooperation with other U.S. submarines. Barb sank two ships on her tenth patrol and four more on her eleventh, with a partial credit for another. For a daring late January attack into an enemy inshore anchorage Barb received a Presidential Unit Citation (her fourth) and Commander Fluckey was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Another Mare Island overhaul gave Barb a larger deck gun and a rocket launcher. Returning to northern Japan in June 1945 for her twelfth war patrol, both of these weapons were used to sink small craft and bombard shore facilities. Her torpedoes sank two more ships, a freighter and the escort Kaibokan No. 112, and some of her crew made raid ashore that destroyed a Japanese railroad train (more below). Barb ended World War II among the dozen top-scoring U.S. submarines in terms of ships sunk, and third in terms of tonnage. If a disputed credit for another ship is counted, Barb would have ranked first in the latter category.

After returning to the U.S. East Coast in September 1945, Barb was generally inactive until formally decommissioned in February 1947. The intensified Cold War brought her back into commission in December 1951, and she performed training service until mid-January 1954. Barb then underwent conversion to the streamlined "GUPPY" configuration and operated briefly on trials and training from August until December 1954, when she was loaned to Italy and renamed Enrico Tazzoli. The submarine served actively with the Italian Navy until 1972 and was sold for scrapping in April 1975.

USS Barb Bags a Train

Members of the USS Barb demolition squad pose with her battle flag at the conclusion of her 12th war patrol, Pearl Harbor, August 1945
Members of the USS Barb demolition squad pose with her battle flag at the conclusion of her 12th war patrol, Pearl Harbor, August 1945.

The distinguished war record of USS Barb was uniquely enhanced by the crew's success in destroying a Japanese train. On the night of 22-23 July 1945, she entered Patience Bay, off the coast of Karafuto, Japan. Having previously observed munitions trains moving on tracks close to the shore, the Barb's crew had improvised tools, explosives and a contact switch capable of doing the job. Under cover of dark after midnight, small boats were launched close to shore in the shallow bay. The shore party successfully evaded Japanese guards, reached the tracks, placed and disguised the explosives, and withdrew to the Barb without incident. The train arrived as the crew was reboarding Barb, triggering a huge explosion that completely destroyed the engine and its 16-car train, pyrotechnics that were cheered by the Barb's crew from its deck. The sub quietly left the area, returning to Midway on 2 August 1945 at the conclusion of her twelfth war patrol.

Members of the submarine's demolition squad were:

  • Chief Gunners Mate Paul G. Saunders, USN;
  • Electricians Mate 3rd Class Billy R. Hatfield, USNR;
  • Signalman 2nd Class Francis N. Sevei, USNR;
  • Ships Cook 1st Class Lawrence W. Newland, USN;
  • Torpedomans Mate 3rd Class Edward W. Klingesmith, USNR;
  • Motor Machinists Mate 2nd Class James E. Richard, USN;
  • Motor Machinists Mate 1st Class John Markuson, USN; and
  • Lieutenant William M. Walker, USNR.

The Patience Bay raid is represented by the train symbol in the middle bottom of the submarine's battle flag.

Thanks to William A. Wynne for suggesting this story. (See Smoky, the Yorkie Doodle Dandy).

Recommended Book about USS Barb

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