USS Sunfish (SS-281)
|Builder:||Mare Island Naval Shipyard|
|Laid down:||25 September 1941|
|Launched:||2 May 1942|
|Commissioned:||15 July 1942|
|Decommissioned:||26 December 1945|
|Struck:||1 May 1960|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap, 15 December 1960|
|Class and type:||Gato-class diesel-electric submarine|
|Length:||311 ft 9 in (95.02 m)|
|Beam:||27 ft 3 in (8.31 m)|
|Draft:||17 ft 0 in (5.18 m) maximum|
|Range:||11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) surfaced at 10 knots (19 km/h)|
|Test depth:||300 ft (90 m)|
|Complement:||6 officers, 54 enlisted|
USS Sunfish (SS-281), a Gato-class submarine, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the ocean sunfish, Mola mola, a plectognath marine fish, having a deep body truncated behind, and high dorsal and anal fins.
Construction and early career
The first Sunfish (SS-281) was laid down on 25 September 1941 by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California; launched on 2 May 1942; sponsored by Mrs. J. W. Fowler; and commissioned on 15 July 1942, Comdr. R. W. Peterson in command.
First and second war patrols, November 1942 – April 1943
She arrived at Pearl Harbor, T.H., on 1 November, and departed on her first war patrol on 23 November. Her assigned patrol area was off the coasts of Honshū and Hokkaidō, Japan. The submarine laid a minefield at the entrance to Iseno Imi on the night of 16 December – 17 December. On 18 December, she fired a spread of torpedoes at a transport Kyowa Maru and damaged her. The patrol ended on 14 January 1943, upon her return to Midway Island.
Sunfish began her second patrol on 4 February, which took her into the East China Sea. She attacked a ship on the night of 4 March, but the first spread missed the target. Three stern shots gave her the satisfaction of seeing flames shoot up from the target.
Two days later, a transport was fired at with a four-torpedo spread, and three explosions were heard. When the submarine raised her periscope, destroyer screws passed over the conning tower. Close depth charges loosened bolts and temporarily extinguished the lights, but no serious damage was suffered. On the night of 13 March, Sunfish launched three torpedoes at a cargo ship in the approaches to Takarajima (Toro Shima in DANFS) in . They ran true, and the 3,262-ton Kosei Maru went under.[note 1] The submarine returned to Pearl Harbor on 3 April.
Third and fourth war patrols, May – September 1943
Her third patrol was made from 4 May to 24 June in the shipping lanes near Truk Atoll. No enemy shipping was found, so Sunfish reconnoitered Anguar Island on 23 May and shelled a refinery on Fais Island five days later.
From 28 July to 25 September, Sunfish sought targets in waters off Formosa. In two attacks on 13 August, she left a tanker down by the stern and witnessed a second ship explode, sending flames 200 feet (60 m) high. This signified the end of the converted gunboat Edo Maru. In the early-morning hours of 4 September, Sunfish dodged between lighted sampans to attack a 10-ship convoy. The Kozon Maru went down after a terrific secondary explosion.
Fifth and sixth war patrols, October 1943 – March 1944
Sunfish refitted at Pearl Harbor and sailed on 16 October for an area northeast of Formosa. No worthy targets were found, and she returned to Pearl Harbor on 14 December 1943.
On 14 January 1944, Sunfish got underway to prowl the shipping lanes between the Caroline and Mariana Islands. She made a photographic reconnaissance of Kusaie and another atoll in the Carolines between 21 January and 30 January. On 23 February, the submarine made four determined attacks on a convoy and sank Kunishima Maru and Shinyubari Maru for a total of 9,437 tons of enemy shipping. When she returned to Pearl Harbor on 7 March, she was routed onward to San Francisco for an overhaul.
Seventh and eighth war patrols, June – September 1944
When the overhaul was completed in early June, Sunfish returned to Pearl Harbor and was ordered to begin a patrol on 22 June in the Kuril Islands area. She sank the passenger-cargo ship Shanmai Maru on the night of 5 July. The next day, the submarine destroyed a fleet of 14 sampans and trawlers with her deck guns. A Soviet merchant ship, the Ob, was sunk by Sunfish on 6 July. The 6,284-ton cargo ship Taihei Maru was torpedoed and sunk on the morning of 9 July. Sunfish steamed to Midway for a refit period from 1 August to 19 August.
Sunfish began her eighth war patrol on 20 August when she departed Midway for the Yellow Sea. On 10 September she intercepted a convoy coming out of Tsushima Strait and sank Chihaya Maru and damaged several other targets. On the night of 13 September, another convoy was sighted. Etashima Maru was sunk and Sunfish claimed damage to other targets, including one ship left with her decks awash. The patrol ended at Pearl Harbor on 27 September.
Ninth war patrol, October – December 1944
Sunfish returned to the Yellow Sea on 23 October as part of a “wolf pack” that included Peto (SS-265) and Spadefish (SS-411). On 17 November, the Sunfish sighted a convoy of eight ships led by the 21,000-ton escort carrier Shinyo. The carrier quickly passed out of range, and word was flashed to the other two members of the pack. Sunfish attacked the remaining ships of the convoy and sank two troopships, Edogawa Maru with 2,113 killed, and Seisho Maru with 448 killed. Spadefish caught Shinyo with four torpedoes and sent her under with 1,130 sailors killed. The running battle continued, and Peto sank Aisakasan Maru and Chinkai Maru, while Spadefish added Submarine Chaser No. 156 to the score.
On 29 November, Spadefish sank Daiboshi Maru and the next day, Sunfish sank the transport Dairen Maru. The patrol terminated at Majuro, Marshall Islands, on 19 December 1944 after the coordinated attacks had sunk 59,000 tons of Japanese shipping on a single patrol.
Tenth and eleventh war patrols, January – April 1945
Sunfish stood out of Majuro on 15 January 1945 to patrol in the East China and Yellow Seas. However, she had to terminate the patrol on 20 February when a collision with an unsighted ice floe bent both periscopes. The ship entered Apra Harbor, Guam, on 27 February, for refit and repairs.
Sunfish began her 11th, and last, war patrol on 31 March 1945 off Honshū and Hokkaidō. She operated in the approaches to Ominato in April. On the 9th, a ship was damaged, but managed to speed away and enter a protected harbor. Five days later, Sunfish launched three torpedoes at a merchantman; but all missed. The submarine carried out a daylight attack on 16 April, which resulted in the sinking of Manryu Maru, a transport, and the frigate Coast Defense Vessel No. 73. Her last torpedoes were expended three days later in night-radar attacks, sinking Kaiho Maru and Taisei Maru. Sunfish returned to Pearl Harbor on 28 April and departed for the United States two days later.
Sunfish was in the Mare Island Naval Shipyard from 7 May to 31 July for an overhaul and returned to Pearl Harbor on 9 August. She was preparing for another patrol when hostilities with Japan ceased. The submarine sailed out of Pearl Harbor on 29 August en route to the West Coast. She arrived at Mare Island on 5 September for inactivation, and was decommissioned there on 26 December 1945. She was the first submarine of the Gato class to be decommissioned after the war. Sunfish remained out of commission, serving as a classroom for naval reserve units until she was struck from the Navy List on 1 May 1960.
- Position in reference is southeast of the island. Kosei Maru was built as the World War I era Emergency Fleet Corporation Design 1023 type Buffalo Bridge (O/N 218821) in 1919 by Submarine Boat Corporation, Newark, N.J. sold to Japan.
- Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 285–304. ISBN 1-55750-263-3.
- Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 271–273. ISBN 0-313-26202-0.
- Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 270–280. ISBN 978-0-313-26202-9.
- U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 261–263
- U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
- U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305-311
- Cressman, Robert (2000). "Chapter IV: 1942". The official chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-149-3. OCLC 41977179. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
- Japanese Naval and Merchant Shipping Losses: During World War II by All Causes (Report). Washington, D.C.: Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee. February 1947. p. 39. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
- Axis History Forum