Slade Cutter

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Slade Cutter
No. 15
Slade Cutter football.gif
Cutter wins 1934 Army-Navy Game
Date of birth: November 1, 1911
Place of birth: Oswego, Illinois
Date of death: June 9, 2005(2005-06-09) (aged 93)
Place of death: Annapolis, Maryland
Career information
Position(s): Tackle
Height: 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight: 215 lb (98 kg)
College: Navy
High school: East High School, Aurora, IL
Severn Prep, Annapolis, MD
Career highlights and awards
Honors: All America
Slade Deville Cutter
Born November 1, 1911
Oswego, Illinois
Died June 9, 2005
Annapolis, Maryland
Allegiance United States United States
Service/branch Seal of the United States Department of the Navy (alternate).svg United States Navy
Years of service 1935-1965
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Captain
Commands held USS Seahorse (SS-304)
USS Requin (SS-481)
USS Neosho (AO-143)
USS Northampton (CLC-1)

World War II

Awards Navy Cross (4)
Silver Star (2)
Bronze Star Medal
Presidential Unit Citation

Slade Deville Cutter (November 1, 1911 – June 9, 2005) was a career U.S. naval officer who was awarded four Navy Crosses and tied for second place for Japanese ships sunk in World War II. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy as an All-American American football player.

Naval Academy and early naval career[edit]

Originally intending to become a professional flutist, Cutter instead went to Severn School, at the time a prep school for aspiring Naval Academy applicants, and was noticed in their athletic program. Not only a football star, he was an intercollegiate boxing champion.[1]"An all-American football player, he achieved instant fame as a first classman when he won the 1934 Army-Navy game with a first-quarter field goal.

On the basis of his Academy football career, he was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Cutter graduated in 1935, served on the battleship USS Idaho (BB-42), where he coached another winning football team." [2]

Submarine duty[edit]

He entered Submarine School in June 1938. By the Attack on Pearl Harbor, he had advanced to Executive Officer.[2]

First wartime assignment, first "down-the-throat" shot[edit]

"Cutter was the Executive Officer of USS Pompano (SS-181) under LCDR Lew Parks when she left Pearl Harbor on her first war patrol on 18 December 1941, just 11 days after the Japanese attack. Only two days out of Pearl Harbor, Pompano was sighted by a U.S. patrol plane, which attacked the friendly submarine and called in dive bombers from the nearby USS Enterprise (CV-6). Three additional near-misses ruptured Pompano's fuel tanks and left the ship trailing an oil slick. Parks shook off his friendly pursuers and pressed on to confirm the presence of Japanese troops on Wake Island. Pompano then continued to the Marshall Islands, where she found a 16,000-ton Japanese transport at Wotje, which was attacked with four torpedoes and presumably sunk. Parks remained off Wotje for five more days and eventually attacked a destroyer, but his first two torpedoes detonated early." The next two, the first "down the throat" attempted by a United States submarine, missed.[2]

After an inevitable depth-charge attack and with fuel draining relentlessly from the oil leak, Pompano returned to home base on 31 January 1942. Unfortunately, postwar analysis credited Parks with no more than possible damage to the Wotje transport.

Cutter made two more war patrols as Executive Officer of Pompano, operating in the vicinity of Okinawa and Honshū, respectively. The boat narrowly escaped destruction on 9 August 1942, when a Japanese depth charge unseated an engine exhaust valve, causing major flooding and driving her into the bottom near the Japanese coast. Fortunately, the crew managed to surface the boat and creep away.

USS Seahorse[edit]

After the third patrol on Pompano, Cutter was assigned as Executive Officer on USS Seahorse (SS-304), then under construction. Initially commanded by CDR Don McGregor; Seahorse took a shakedown cruise, and reached the Pacific in summer 1943.[2]

Seahorse's first war patrol began on 3 August 1943. "It was not successful. Stationed off the Palaus, McGregor made only two attacks and allowed a number of convoys pass by unscathed. After the boat returned to port, an investigation of her poor performance" by Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, [Commander, Submarines, Pacific Fleet: COMSUBPAC] and his staff led to McGregor's removal for not being aggressive enough." Cutter was named Commanding Officer of Seahorse in October 1943.

Cutter took his new charge out of Pearl Harbor on 20 October for her second war patrol and his first as Commanding Officer. Heading for the East China Sea, he drew first blood on the 29th, 30th, and 31st, when Seahorse sank three trawlers with gunfire south of Japan." Subsequently, Seahorse, working with USS Trigger (SS-237), coincidentally assigned to the same area, attacked a large convoy that had already been fingered by USS Halibut (SS-232) the day before. Surprised by the sudden evidence of Trigger's torpedoes, Cutter shot nine of his own and sank two freighters. "Moving northward in the East China Sea toward the Korea Strait, Cutter sank two more ships. "Seahorse returned to Pearl Harbor on 12 December boasting a total kill of 4 ships and 19,570 tons, not even counting the trawlers."

His next patrol left Pearl Harbor on 6 January 1944, headed for a patrol area near the Palau Islands, near the Philippines. En route, he sank an escorted freighter. Arriving in the patrol area, he received a communications intelligence intercept alerting him to a convoy, which he located visually on 21 January: two freighters and three escorts. He sank both freighters.

Seahorse then moved directly to Palau itself, and on 28 January, Cutter discovered three freighters emerging from the harbor under heavy escort. He tracked the convoy for 32 hours waiting for an opening and at 0200 on the 30th was finally able to put three torpedoes into Toku Maru (2,747 tons). One of these blew the stern off, and she went down directly, taking over 450 troops with her. Harassed by the escorts and accompanying aircraft, Cutter nonetheless kept Seahorse in trail of the remaining Japanese for another 48 hours and attempted another attack just after midnight on 1 February. Eight torpedoes missed. Under heavy pressure from a charging escort, he shot two last torpedoes from his stern tubes just before going deep. Amid the violence of the ensuing depth charge attack, the Seahorse crew heard both torpedoes strike home and the now-familiar sound of exploding gasoline drums. Indeed, it was later confirmed that they had sunk the Japanese steamer Toei Maru (4,004 tons). After this 80-hour chase - nearly a record. Seahorse returned to Pearl Harbor on 16 February with another five ships and 13,716 tons to her credit."

Seahorse's fourth war patrol took her to the Marianas, specifically to prevent the Japanese from reinforcing Guam and Saipan. She departed Pearl Harbor on 16 March 1944, and near Guam on 8 April came across a Japanese supply convoy, damaging two vessels that were subsequently lost. Seahorse moved on, and the very next day found a 15-20 ship convoy that had already been attacked by Trigger as it neared Saipan, sinking another cargo ship.

On lifeguard [aircrew rescue] duty in support of carrier air strikes on Saipan, Seahorse next sighted and sank the Japanese submarine I-174. This was one of the few submarine attacks on another submarine in World War Two. Inadvertently losing depth control and leaving periscope depth, "A week later, Seahorse found another convoy 45 miles west of Saipan and sank another freighter, refueling in New Guinea and making port in Brisbane, Australia, on the 11th.

"With the U.S. invasion of the Marianas (Saipan, Guam, and Tinian) approaching in mid-June 1944, VADM Lockwood sent more than a dozen submarines westward to interdict possible Japanese reinforcements. Accordingly, Seahorse left Brisbane on 3 June for her 5th war patrol and took station with USS Growler (SS-215) off the Surigao Strait between Mindinao and Leyte ten days later." Seahorse's greatest contribution to the upcoming Battle of the Philippine Sea was locating a Japanese battle group centered around the Japanese battleships Yamato and Musashi, the heaviest-gunned ships in the Second World War. Cutter described this achievement as

"The U.S. hadn't known where that task force was for two weeks," he told a reporter in 1997. "It was far ahead of us and we couldn't catch up, but we radioed its position, course and speed to headquarters."[1]

After the battle, Seahorse joined a wolfpack in the Luzon Strait, and sank five more ships.

Assigned to new construction[edit]

After the fourth patrol of the Seahorse and a rest leave, he was assigned as Commanding Officer of the new-construction USS Requin (SS-481). His wife, Fran, sponsored the ship when it was commissioned on 28 April 1945. Requin left Portsmouth for the Pacific theater in early June and arrived at Pearl Harbor at the end of July, but the war ended shortly after she departed on her first war patrol.

Cutter in an informal torpedo room chat

World War II summary[edit]

Summary of CDR Slade D. Cutter's USS Seahorse (SS-304) War Patrols
  Departing From Date Days Wartime Credit
JANAC[3] Credit
Patrol Area
Seahorse-2 Pearl Harbor, TH October 1943 53 6 / 48,700[4] 5 / 27,579[5] East China Sea
Seahorse-3 Pearl Harbor, TH January 1944 41 5 / 30,900[6] 5 / 13,716[5] Palau
Seahorse-4 Pearl Harbor, TH March 1944 56 4 / 25,700[7] 5 / 19,375[5] -->Brisbane
Seahorse-5 Brisbane, Australia June 1944 47 6 / 37,000[8] 4 / 11,059[5] -->Pearl Harbor


CDR Cutter's Ranking Compared with Other Top Skippers
Ranking Number of Patrols Ships/Tons
2 4 21 / 142,300[9] 19 / 71,729[5]


Command style[edit]

"In addition to the fighting spirit and relentless persistence he showed on patrol in seeking out and destroying the enemy, Slade Cutter was revered for his natural amiability and abiding concern for the well-being of his crew. To him, they were just like the football teams he had coached, and he trained and practiced with them the same way, starting with the fundamentals and working up to an integrated "game plan" for approach and attack. After every engagement or depth-charging, he would drop by the crew's mess to offer his own account to the "team" of what had happened and why. As a result of this and other examples of his generous humanity, the affection and respect he received then from his Sailors is still alive among a new generation of submariners today."

His biographer, Carl Lavo,[10] described Cutter as having an abrasive style with superior officers, which may well have cost him selection for promotion to rear admiral. Especially controversial was his effective challenge to Adm. Hyman Rickover, claiming that the first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), was "strictly a test vehicle. I doubt if she will ever fire a shot in anger."[11]

Postwar naval service[edit]

"After the war, Cutter achieved the rank of Captain and subsequently commanded the oiler, USS Neosho (AO-143), and the converted heavy cruiser USS Northampton (CLC-1) while the latter served as flagship of the United States Second Fleet.

"In the late 1950s, Capt. Cutter was made the Naval Academy's athletic director to encourage popular football coach Eddie Erdelatz to resign. LaVO said that Erdelatz was running a "professional-style football program" but that too few players were opting to remain in the Navy after graduation because of his reputed disparaging of the service. Capt. Cutter's knowledge of the sports program and his feeling that Erdelatz was "disloyal to the Navy" led to Erdelatz's departure. Much of the task was helped by Capt. Cutter's stature as an athletic and wartime hero."[1] "His final active-duty assignment, in 1965, was head of the Naval Historical Display Center in Washington."

Retirement and death[edit]

He retired from active duty in 1965 and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1967. He later became headmaster of a boys' school in Tucson, where he moved to care for his first wife's asthma condition. Frances Leffler Cutter died in 1981. After her death, he moved back to Annapolis, MD. In 1982, he married Ruth McCracken Buek.

Slade D. Cutter, 93, died June 9, 2005 at Ginger Cove retirement community in Annapolis. He had Parkinson's disease. Survivors include his wife of 23 years, Ruth McCracken Buek Cutter of Annapolis; two children from the first marriage, Slade D. Cutter Jr. of Austin and Anne McCarthy of Santa Fe, N.M.; three stepchildren, Scott Buek of Delran, N.J., Harvey Buek of Conshohocken, Pa., and Pamela Sullivan of Sparks, Nev.; a sister; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.


A 40-acre athletic field in Hampton Roads, Virginia was dedicated as the Captain Slade Cutter Athletic Park on 14 October 2011. Ruth Cutter (widow) was in attendance to hear the dedication remarks: "They say the name makes a man—and what a name. Slade Cutter—he was destined for greatness."[12]

Awards & Decorations[edit]

Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Navy Cross with three gold award stars
Gold star
Silver Star with one gold award star
Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device
Bronze star
Navy Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze service star


  1. ^ a b c "Capt. Slade Cutter, Naval Athlete and Submariner, Dies", Washington Post, 13 June 2005: B04  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  2. ^ a b c d Whitman, Edward C., Submarine Heroes: Slade Deville Cutter 
  3. ^ Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee. Blair rounded entries in his tables (see Blair p. 900, bottom) while Roscoe's tables are an accurate transcription of the JANAC report.
  4. ^ Blair (1975) p. 939
  5. ^ a b c d e Roscoe (1949) p. 552
  6. ^ Blair (1975) p. 942
  7. ^ Blair (1975) p. 944
  8. ^ Blair (1975) p. 949
  9. ^ Blair (1975) pp. 984-987
  10. ^ Lavo, Carl (2005), Slade Cutter: Submarine Warrior, U.S. Naval Institute 
  11. ^ "Full Speed Astern", Time Magazine, 18 January 1954 
  12. ^ Vice Admiral John Richardson, USN, quoted in Naval History News


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Navy.

External links[edit]