Jump to content

A really GREAT war story!


Whizkid
 Share

Recommended Posts

This is great action and story of WWII in the Pacific....and Japan! One of the many great stories of Yankee ingenuity at war. Anyone would love to have this submarine captain as his commander...

NOTE: RADM Eugene Fluckey USN (Ret), the renowned skipper of the submarine

BARB died at 93 last month.

U.S.S. Barb: The Sub that Sank a Train

In 1973 an Italian submarine named Enrique Tazzoli was sold for a paltry

$100,000 as scrap metal. The submarine, given to the Italian Navy in 1953

was actually an incredible veteran of World War II service with a heritage

that never should have passed so unnoticed into the graveyards of the metal recyclers. The U.S.S. Barb was a pioneer, paving the way for the first

submarine launched missiles and flying a battle flag unlike that of any

other ship. In addition to the Medal of Honor ribbon at the top of the flag

identifying the heroism of its captain, Commander Eugene "Lucky" Fluckey,

the bottom border of the flag bore the image of a Japanese locomotive. The

U.S.S. Barb was indeed, the submarine that "SANK A TRAIN".

July, 1945 (Guam)

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz looked across the desk at Admiral Lockwood as

he finished the personal briefing on U.S. war ships in the vicinity of the

northern coastal areas of Hokkaido, Japan. "Well, Chester, there's only the

Barb there, and probably no word until the patrol is finished. You remember

Gene Fluckey?"

"Of course. I recommended him for the Medal of Honor," Admiral Nimitz

replied. "You surely pulled him from command after he received it?"

July 18, 1945 (Patience Bay, Off the coast of Karafuto, Japan)

It was after 4 A.M and Commander Fluckey rubbed his eyes as he peered over

the map spread before him. It was the twelfth war patrol of the Barb, the

fifth under Commander Fluckey. He should have turned command over to another

skipper after four patrols, but had managed to strike a deal with Admiral

Lockwood to make one more trip with the men he cared for like a father,

should his fourth patrol be successful. Of course, no one suspected when he

had struck that deal prior to his fourth and what should have been his final

war patrol on the Barb, that Commander Fluckey's success would be so great

he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Commander Fluckey s miled as he remembered that patrol. "Lucky" Fluckey they

called him. On January 8th the Barb had emerged victorious from a running

two-hour night battle after sinking a large enemy ammunition ship. Two weeks

later in Mamkwan Harbor he found the "mother-lode"...more than 30 enemy

ships. In only 5 fathoms (30 feet) of water his crew had unleashed the sub's

forward torpedoes, then turned and fired four from the stern. As he pushed

the Barb to the full limit of its speed through the dangerous waters in a

daring withdrawal to the open sea, he recorded eight direct hits on six

enemy ships. Then, on the return home he added yet another Japanese

freighter to the tally for the Barb's eleventh patrol, a score that exceeded

even the number of that patrol.

What could possibly be left for the Commander to accomplish who, just three

months earlier had been in Washington, DC to receive the Medal of Honor? He

smiled to himself as he looked again at the map showing the rail line that

ran alng the enemy coast line. This final patrol had been promised as the

Barb's "graduation patrol" and he and his crew had cooked up an unusual

finale. Since the 8th of June they had harassed the enemy, destroying the

enemy supplies and coastal fortifications with the first submarine launched

rocket attacks. Now his crew was buzzing excitedly about bagging a train.

The rail line itself wouldn't be a problem. A shore patrol could go ashore

under cover of darkness to plant the explosives...one of the sub's 55-pound

scuttling charges. But this early morning Lucky Fluckey and his officers

were puzzling over how they could blow not only the rails, but one of the

frequent trains that shuttled supplies to equip the Japanese war machine.

Such a daring feat could handicap the enemy's war effort for several days, a

week, perhaps even longer. It was a crazy idea, just the kind of operation

"Lucky" Fluckey had become famous...or infamous...for. But no matter how

crazy the idea might have sounded, the Barb's skipper would not risk the

lives of his men. Thus the problem... how to detonate the charge at the

moment the train passed, without endangering the life of a shore party.

PROBLEM? Not on Commander Fluckey's ship. His philosophy had always been "We don't have problems, only solutions".

11:27 AM

"Battle Stations!" No more time to seek solutions or to ponder blowing up a

train. The approach of a Japanese freighter with a frigate escort demands

traditional submarine warfare. By noon the frigate is laying on the ocean

floor in pieces and the Barb is in danger of becoming the hunted.

6:07 PM

Solutions If you don't look for them, you'll never find them. And even

then, sometimes they arrive in the most unusual fashion. Cruising slowly

beneath the surface to evade the enemy plane now circling overhead, the

monotony is broken with an exciting new idea. Instead of having a crewman on

shore to trigger explosives to blow both rail and a passing train, why not

let the train BLOW ITSELF up. Billy Hatfield was excitedly explaining how he

had cracked nuts on the railroad tracks as a kid, placing the nuts between

two ties so the sagging of the rail under the weight of a train would break

them open. "Just like cracking walnuts," he explained. "To complete the

circuit (detonating the 55-pound charge) we hook in a microswitch ...between

two ties. We don't set it off, the TRAIN does." Not only did Hatfield have

the plan, he anted to be part of the volunteer shore party.

The solution found, there was no shortage of volunteers, all that was needed

was the proper weather...a little cloud cover to darken the moon for the

mission ashore. Lucky Fluckey established his own criteria for the volunteer

party: ...No married men would be included, except for Hatfield...The party

would include members from each department...The opportunity would be split

between regular Navy and Navy Reserve sailors... At least half of the men

had to have been Boy Scouts, experienced in how to handle themselves in

medical emergencies and in the woods....FINALLY, "Lucky" Fluckey would lead

the saboteurs himself.

When the names of the 8 selected sailors was announced it was greeted with a

mixture of excitement and disappointment. Among the disppointed was

Commander Fluckey who surrendered his opportunity at the insistence of his

officers that "as commander he belonged with the Barb," coupled with the

threat from one that "I swear I'll send a message to ComSubPac if you

attempt this (joining the shore party himself)." Even a Japanese POW being

held on the Barb wanted to go, promising not to try to escape.

In the meantime, there would be no more harassment of Japanese shipping or

shore operations by the Barb until the train mission had been accomplished.

The crew would "lay low", prepare their equipment, train, and wait for the

weather.

July 22, 1945 (Patience Bay, Off the coast of Karafuto, Japan)

Patience Bay was wearing thin the patience of Commander Fluckey and his

innovative crew. Everything was ready. In the four days he saboteurs had

anxiously watched the skies for cloud cover, the inventive crew of the Barb

had built their microswitch. When the need was posed for a pick and shovel

to bury the explosive charge and batteries, the Barb's engineers had cut up

steel plates in the lower flats of an engine room, then bent and welded them

to create the needed tools. The only things beyond their control was the

weather....and time. Only five days remained in the Barb's patrol.

Anxiously watching the skies, Commander Fluckey noticed plumes of cirrus

clouds, then white stratus capping the mountain peaks ashore. A cloud cover

was building to hide the three-quarters moon. This would be the night.

MIDNIGHT, July 23, 1945

The Barb had crept within 950 yards of the shoreline. If it was somehow seen

from the shore it woud probably be mistaken for a schooner or Japanese

patrol boat. No one would suspect an American submarine so close to shore or

in such shallow water. Slowly the small boats were lowered to the water and

the 8 saboteurs began paddling toward the enemy beach. Twenty-five minutes

later they pulled the boats ashore and walked on the surface of the Japanese

homeland. Having lost their points of navigation, the saboteurs landed near

the backyard of a house. Fortunately the residents had no dogs, though the

sight of human AND dog's tracks in the sand along the beach alerted the

brave sailors to the potential for unexpected danger.

Stumbling through noisy waist-high grasses, crossing a highway and then

stumbling into a 4-foot drainage ditch, the saboteurs made their way to the

railroad tracks. Three men were posted as guards, Markuson assigned to

examine a nearby water tower. The Barb's auxiliary man climbed the ladder,

then stopped in shock as he realized it was an enemy lookout tower....an

OCCUPIED tower. Fortunately the Japanese sentry was peacefully sleeping and

Markuson was able to quietly withdraw and warn his raiding party.

The news from Markuson caused the men digging the placement for the

explosive charge to continue their work more slowly and quietly. Suddenly,

from less than 80 yards away, an express train was bearing down on them. The

appearance was a surprise, it hadn't occurred to the crew during the planning

for the mission that there might be a night train. When at last it passed,

the brave but nervous sailors extracated themselves from the brush into

which they had leapt, to continue their task. Twenty minutes later the holes

had been dug and the explosives and batteries hidden beneath fresh soil.

During planning for the mission the saboteurs had been told that, with the

explosives in place, all would retreat a safe distance while Hatfield made

the final connection. If the sailor who had once cracked walnuts on the

railroad tracks slipped during this final, dangerous procedure, his would

be the only life lost. On this night it was the only order the saboteurs refused to obey, all of them peering anxiously over Hatfield's shoulder to

make sure he did it right. The men had come too far to be disappointed by a

switch failure.

1:32 A.M.

Watching from the deck of the Barb, Commander Fluckey allowed himself a sigh

of relief as he noticed the flashlight signal from the beach annoncing the

departure of the shore party. He had skillfully, and daringly, guided the

Barb within 600 yards of the enemy beach. There was less than 6 feet of

water beneath the sub's keel, but Fluckey wanted to be close in case trouble

arose and a daring rescue of his saboteurs became necessary.

1:45 A.M.

The two boats carring his saboteurs were only halfway back to the Barb when

the sub's machinegunner yelled, "CAPTAIN! Another train coming up the

tracks!" The Commander grabbed a megaphone and yelled through the night,

"Paddle like the devil!", knowing full well that they wouldn't reach the

Barb before the train hit the microswitch.

1:47 A.M.

The darkness was shattered by brilliant light and the roar of the explosion.

The boilers of the locomotive blew, shattered pieces of the engine flying

200 feet into the air. Behind it the cars began to accordian into each

other, bursting into flame and adding to the magnificent fireworks display.

Five minutes later the saboteurs were lifted to the deck by their exuberant

comrades as the Barb turned to slip back to safer waters. Moving at only two

knots, it would be a while before the Barb was into waters deep enough to

allow it to submerge. It was a moment to savor, the culmination of teamwork,

ingenuity and daring by the Commander and all his crew. "Lucky" Fluckey's

voice came over the intercom. "All hands below deck not absolutely needed to

maneuver the ship have permission to come topside." He didn't have to repeat

the invitation. Hatches sprang open as the proud sailors of the Barb gathered on her decks to proudly watch the distant fireworks display.

The Barb had "sunk" a Japanese TRAIN!

On August 2, 1945 the Barb arrived at Midway, her twelfth war patrol

concluded. Meanwhile United State s military commanders had pondered the

prospect of an armed assault on the Japanese homeland. Military tacticians

estimated such an invasion would cost more than a million American

casualties. Instead of such a costly armed offensive to end the war, on

August 6th the B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a single atomic bomb on the

city of Hiroshima, Japan. A second such bomb, unleashed 4 days later on

Nagasaki, Japan, caused Japan to agree to surrender terms on August 15th. On

September 2, 1945 in Tokyo Harbor the documents ending the war in the

Pacific were signed.

The story of the saboteurs of the U.S.S. Barb is one of those unique, little

known storis of World War II. It becomes increasingly important when one

realizes that the 8 sailors who blew up the train at near Kashiho, Japan

conducted the ONLY GROUND COMBAT OPERATION on the Japanese "homeland" of

World War II. The eight saboteurs were: Paul Saunders, William Hatfield,

Francis Sever, Lawrence Newland, Edward Klinglesmith, James Richard, John

Markuson, and William Walker.

NOTE: Eugene Bennett Fluckey retired from the Navy as a Rear Admiral, and

wears in addition to his Medal of Honor, FOUR Navy Crosses... a record of

awards unmatched by any living American. In 1992 his own history of the

U.S.S. Barb was published in the award winning book, THUNDER BELOW. Over the

past several years proceeds from the sale of this exciting book have been

used by Admiral Fluckey to provide free reunions for the men who served him

aboard the Barb, and their wives. Admiral Fluckey was born in Washington ,

D.C. in 1913 and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1935. He died 28

June 2007 in Annapolis, Maryland.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...