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USS Rasher

The SS-Rasher (SS/SSR/AGSS/IXSS-269) was one of the most dangerous and effective submarines in its class during its service over three decades. It was Built and launched in 1942, and commissioned on June 8th 1943, at the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The Rasher was one of ten submarines of the GATO class commissioned by the navy for the Manitowoc Company to produce. It ventured out on eight separate patrols in World War II in the Pacific, having sunk the second highest total tonnage by an individual vessel in the war. After the war, it was converted to a radar picket submarine, and was used in an auxiliary and assisting capacity in the South Pacific for the Korean War and part of the Vietnam War before finally being struck from the Naval Register in 1971, and sold for scrap in 1974.[4]

Battle flag of the USS Rasher

Submarine Warfare in the Pacific

Submarine turned out to be one of the most important and effective tools in the arsenal of the Allies in the fight against Japan. With submarines being responsible for destroying the majority of shipments and vessels and resources for the Japanese army and mainland. Japan has the disadvantage of being an island nation, so boats and other vulnerable craft are needed to ship vital supplies to its citizens and armies and also receive and do trade. According to the Navy, submarine warfare and activities conducted against Japanese bound ships single handedly caused the Japanese economic collapse that assisted in the breakdown of the Japanese forces and possibly shortened the war.[3]

While not directly on the offensive, the submarine also performed a range of key duties. Submarines with their underwater capabilities of moving around while remaining not easily detected, were used to full effective, scoping out landings for possible beach landing spots, or finding enemy armaments or defense strategy and capabilities. This allowed the Allies to create a strategy and plan to best combat those areas and coordinate effective offensives. Also, with new airpower capabilities becoming available, aircraft warfare was increasingly becoming an effective way to eliminate Japanese defenses or inland factories without needing to send in ground troops. However, the Japanese had a variety of defenses for such attacks, so the Rasher, and other submarines acted in a lifesaving capacity, patrolling areas near attacks, waiting to come to the rescue of a downed aircraft crew.[7]

In the Atlantic, the Wolfpacks of German submarines were such a huge adversary that the United States had become aware of tactics for their own submarines to use and how to combat the Japanese forces. Perhaps one of the reasons the submarine missions by the Allies were so effective was that the Japanese army had completely underestimated the force and effectiveness of that particular facet of the Allied forces, and therefore did not focus much on building submarines to combat ships or other submarines. Also, as a byproduct of the poor production, or another part of the underestimation, was that the ships carrying necessary supplies to the Japanese mainlands or troops and supplies to garrisons spread out across the Pacific was that these ships laiden with troops and crucial supplies were not protected well with the underwater support that a submarine so vitally supplies. This oversight by the Japanese Navy made attacking and successfully sinking these vessels particularly easy.[8]

The Rasher

The USS-Rasher (SS/SSR/AGSS/IXSS-269) was in one of the largest classes of submarines, measuring in at three hundred and eleven feet nine inches in length and a twenty-seven foot three inch beam, and a seventeen-foot breach. This sub, being one of the largest type produced at the time had a displacement of one thousand five hundred and twenty five tons. Perhaps the most intriguing, effective, and unique feature was its range at eleven thousand nautical miles compared to the five thousand mile range of its predecessor S-class, making it able to do long and far reaching patrols, keeping many other vessels and soldiers safe.[2,7]

It had a crew of fifty-four men strong with six commanding officers on board during any patrol in World War II, starting with Commander Hutchinson at the helm and ending with Commander Nace in 1945. This was also an improvement from the S-class predecessor, with that class only having crews of thirty-eight to forty-two men. In this case, more men meant more hands available for duties relating to attacking, scouting and piloting the submarine. During the war, there were five unique commanders aboard the vessel during the war, which compared to other vessels, was unusual for such a high number of changes to a commanding officer post.

Wartime activities

The Rasher was docked in San Francisco and mostly Pearl Harbor during its tenure in World War II. It participated in eight patrols, each lasting from a few weeks to over two months. With its heightened range and capacity, it was more easily able to do these longer patrols. Below is a report of each of its attacks. As said earlier, it sunk the second highest total tonnage of shipping and supplies for any singular vessel in the war. The highest tonnage sunk by a singular vessel was achieved only a few months by the Flasher, after the Rasher had obtained that title. However, the vessel credited with sinking the most total ships, since the previously mentioned two subs were focused on tonnage heavy single shipping vessels, was the Tambor.[3]

During its service in WWII, it went on eight patrols total, sinking eighteen enemy vessels, destroying approximately 99,901 tons of supplies, weapons, and enemy vessels, totaling the second highest individual tonnage total for a vessel in WWII, behind the SS-Flasher, which sunk only one more vessel than the Rasher. The Rasher was never hit by enemy attacks. It earned many awards for its invaluable service to the Allies including: seven Battle Stars, four Navy Crosses, twelve Silver Stars, sixteen Bronze Stars, one Legion of Merit, one Navy & Marine Corps Medal, six Commendations, and a Presidential Unit Citation.[5]

Profile of the Rasher on duty (from

WWII Patrols (information from primary and secondary source reports)

The Rasher was sent out on its first patrol on the twenty-fourth of October on a two month mission to Manipe and Kalang Pass in Singapore where it sunk two ships then it went on to the Mangkalihat Peninsula in Indonesia for the remainder of its attacks, sinking two more ships after a long covert trailing due to these convoys being protected by planes, so swift and pointed night attacks were needed to successfully sink these ships. Interestingly, the log did make a note about going on the surface near Fremantle and only having to dive for a short period of time, noting the distinct lack of reconnaissance aircraft in the area.[1]

The second patrol started out with the Rasher in the company of the Bluefish, an American Gato class submarine, very similar to the Rasher, and the Australian minesweeping vessel the HMAS Horsham. This grouping, according to the reports, underwent exercises together, and also engaged with enemy vessels three separate times at least. However, things did not go completely according to plan for the Rasher. On the first encounter with enemy vessels, the Rasher and the group thought it would be an easy encounter because there was eerily no air support and no underwater hidden dangers either. But problems arose when the Rasher attempted to fire torpedoes at the ships, and their aim was true but no impact and damage took place. It was determined by the Bluefin, who was surfaced for the encounter, that the torpedoes that had been fired by the Rasher had prematurely detonated, not reaching and damaging their targets. This problem was later remedied. The other notable characteristic of this patrol was that it was around the full moon time toward the middle of the excursion, so night attacks and using darkness as a tool became much more difficult due to reconnaissance aircraft having much more visibility in the bright light of the moon. The Bluefish and Rasher were forced to dive for long periods, unable to continue forward sometimes to complete enemy attacks. Some reports have indications that chases of cat and mouse took place, lasting up to several hours to take down certain vessels. Also, the Australian ship was invaluable due to its use of depth charges used to take down the second and third ship in this patrol, in which four ships total were destroyed. [1]

The third patrol, according to the reports, was one of the most aggressive and harrowing patrol of the Rasher’s tenure. It was characterized heavy attacks on ships and constantly being vigilant, seemingly always finding enemy reconnaissance craft to avoid, or targets to be attacked. Luckily, for this most difficult patrol, the Rasher was not alone. The Raton accompanied her and the two worked together to create more efficient and coordinated attacks for better precision and chance of success. On this particular patrol, the sub sank two ships of soldiers heading for post, killing over an estimated 8500 soldiers and weaponry. This was also the most successful campaign in terms of amount destroyed, as seven total vessels fell victim to a whopping thirty-five torpedoes from the Rasher’s and Raton’s tubes. This patrol was so successful, that the sub was sent a message from the commander of the seventh fleet and chief of submarines, congratulating the crew on their efforts in such a successful and positively destructive campaign.[1]

The fourth patrol was the longest for the sub. It was in the Celebes Sea and Makassar Strait and lasted fifty-five days. This patrol was plagued by a variety of issues, most notably radar malfunction and another premature detonation issue. The radar issue was a user created malfunction, as some instrument was knocked askew according to reports. The parts were replaced in Australia quickly and the sub was sent out, but the quick fix did not work. The sub was then properly docked and made repairs as quickly as possible before being sent out again. Luckily, they were accompanied by the Bluefish, making these malfunctions not as catastrophic or crippling, having the assistance and protection of a friendly sub. The Rasher, on this patrol, suffered its most dangerous malfunction of its time though. It had sneaked up upon a set of three cargo ships that were being escorted by destroyers. It set its sights on one of the ships, fired, but the torpedo detonated prematurely, causing a ruckus and an intense firefight. In the end, the Rasher had 3 confirmed sunk ships and possibly an unconfirmed fourth( the intensity of the firefight caused the subs to have to dive deep to avoid enemy fire, so they were unable to get visual on sunken ships and smoke. The crew were then again lauded, as they had confirmed over eighty thousand tons of shipping and supplies sunk total for them, over twenty thousand on this patrol alone.[2]

Then the fifth patrol was an interesting experience. The first half was characterized by diving to avoid increased air reconnaissance missions and other vessels wanting to spot them. A few night attacks brought down 3 ships, bring the total up to thirteen vessels total. The worst internal issue also happened on this patrol. A valve in the engine room failed, causing a reported eighteen thousand gallons of water to pour in, ruining an engine and damaging other equipment. [2]This could have been a disaster for the Rasher, but it was quickly rectified and the damage contained. The ship finished off its campaign in that area, being again lauded for its efforts, being commended on the massive amounts of damage it had done to Japanese shipping industries. This campaign ended with another few ships being sunk, no official numbers, as the reports are vague, but these were to be the last ships she sunk in World War II.[2]

For the sixth patrol, the Rasher was sent back to Pearl Harbor for some much needed resupplying and proper fixes. It sailed back out shortly after, accompanied by the Pilotfish and Finback. This group had found a few targets, but no suitable situations arose in which they could safely and effectively hit the targets. A few torpedoes were fruitlessly fired, missing their targets.

The reports book does not have much information on the last two patrols by the Rasher, but they were relatively calm, no downed aircraft were seen, no larger vessels were found to be patrolling or carrying supplies.        She was then ordered back to port and arrived there in late August, long after the war had ended. She was then ordered around to New York to be decommissioned.[9]

Other Campaigns and duties by the Rasher

After WWII had concluded in the Pacific, the Rasher was decommissioned and led to dry dock in New Orleans where it was outfitted as a radar picket sub, and reclassified as an auxiliary craft. It patrolled the south pacific during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, assisting in intercepting radar positions of naval craft and intercepting other communications, all from the secrecy beneath the depths of the ocean.

Finally, in 1971, the boat was struck off the naval list in favor of newer, more technologically advanced craft. The Rasher was finally sold off for scrap in 1974, ultimately ending its decorated life as a warship.

Primary Sources

  1. Pekelney, Richard, comp. “Submarine War Reports 1952 with Inserted Primary Sources of War Reports.” 1: 8,35,115,117,180,183. ISSUU the USS Rasher. Web. 20 Nov.
  2. Pekelney, Richard, comp. “Submarine War Reports 1952 with Inserted Primary Sources of War Reports.” 1: 8,35,115,117,180,183. ISSUU the USS Rasher. Web. 20 Nov.2014

Secondary Sources

  1. Johnston, David. “A New Class of Submarines for the United States Navy.” Sci Am Scientific American (1909): 332. Print.
  2. “” Rasher (SS-269) of the US Navy. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.
  3. Moll, Micheal. “NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive.” Submarine Photo      Index. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.
  4. Sasgen, Peter T. Red Scorpion: The War Patrols of the USS Rasher. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute, 1995. 34-47. Print.
  5. Schultz, Dave. “U.S.S. RASHER.” USS RASHER (SS-269) Deployments & History. 1997. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.
  6. “Wisconsin Maritime Website.” USS RASHER (SS 269). Web. 12 Oct. 2015

Further Reading