U.S. NAVY, NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
USS Wahoo (SS 238) is launched Feb. 14, 1942, at Mare Island Navy Yard, Calif., just eight months after her keel was laid. On Oct. 11, 1943, nearly a month into Wahoo's seventh patrol, a combined sea and air attack sank the submarine. CLICK FOR LARGE
3 nations plan USS Wahoo sub tribute
A second ceremony in Hawaii will honor WWII's USS Wahoo
TWO MEMORIAL services will be held next year for crew members of the legendary World War II submarine USS Wahoo, lost 63 years ago in La Perouse Strait, midway between Japan and Russia.
The first tribute will probably be held next spring at sea between the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido and the Russian island of Sakhalin and will involve U.S., Russian and Japanese officials.
The major Wahoo memorial service will likely take place on Oct. 11, 2007 -- on the 64th anniversary of the sinking of the submarine -- at the USS Bowfin Museum at Pearl Harbor, said Charles Hinman, Bowfin's director of education.
The Bowfin Museum was selected by the Wahoo Project Group, an international team of experts, to serve as the central repository for any items dealing with the search for the wreck. The Wahoo Project is coordinated by Bryan MacKinnon, a relative of Wahoo's skipper, Cmdr. Dudley W. "Mush" Morton.
Hinman pointed out that no relics will ever be taken from the sunken submarine because all sunken military vessels are protected by law.
Last July Russian divers confirmed the final resting place of the Wahoo, sitting nearly upright on a sandy bottom in 212 feet of water.
The Russian divers, led by Vladimir Kartashev, shot about 20 minutes of color video, Hinman said, which was used to verify the Wahoo's identity. That video is expected to be part of the Wahoo exhibit at the Bowfin Museum that will include other memorabilia dealing with the famed submarine.
Rear Adm. Jay Donnelly, Pacific Fleet deputy commander, said additional information came from Japan Maritime Self Defense Force retired Vice Adm. Kazuo Ueda, who used historical records from the Imperial Japanese Navy and interviews with sailors who participated in the battle to verify the location where Wahoo was sunk.
Donnelly, a submariner who leaves the Pacific Fleet to command Submarine Force, Atlantic, said Ueda was able to pinpoint the date and the geographical position of the Wahoo.
Donnelly said Russian divers videotaped the sunken submarine from bow to stern.
"It was badly encrusted with marine growth," said Donnelly, "but there was enough there to identify it as a Gato-class submarine from World War II."
Through the Navy, the family of the Wahoo's skipper issued a written statement.
"The Morton family is thrilled that there will be closure to the loss of our father," said Doug Morton, son of skipper Dudley Morton, who also spoke on behalf of his sister, Edwina Thirsher and her family. "The loss of a famous submariner who was loved by his family and crew has been very difficult."
Donnelly said Morton is considered one of the true heroes of the Navy and its submarine fleet. He was awarded four Navy Crosses -- the military's second highest medal for valor -- and credited with sinking 19 enemy ships during his four patrols as commander of the Wahoo.
His total was second only to his own executive officer, Richard H. O'Kane, Donnelly added. O'Kane went on to command USS Tang and to receive the Medal of Honor. He retired as a rear admiral.
The Navy has said the Wahoo first stopped at Midway Island and entered the Sea of Japan via La Perouse Strait about Sept. 20, 1943, and patrolled below the 43rd parallel for about four weeks, sinking four ships in the area.
The Wahoo was officially listed as missing on Nov. 9, 1943. It was believed to have been sunk on Oct. 11, 1943, with 79 crew members still on board.
"We owe a great debt of gratitude to the brave men on Wahoo and to all of our WWII submariners who performed so magnificently during the war," Donnelly added. "Much of our submarine force heritage, and many of our traditions, can be traced back to their legacy."