Submarine sinks a train

Discussion in 'Submariners' started by Evilgoblin, Dec 12, 2007.

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  1. Found this on the Military history pages on ARRSE thought it merited a post here.


    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 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. For tunately 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 poted 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 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. Sud denly, 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 tas. 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 madethe 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 lowing 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 States 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 reunion s for the mn 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.
  2. AS ever the septics trying to suggest they did it first, read the records of Naysmiths patrols in the sea of Marmara in WW1 they landed demolition oparties and blew up trains.
  3. But surely you know they always do it first...... look at enigma must be true they made a film about it!!

    Do you have a link to Naysmith's patrols?
  4. No I read the book about him a few years ago.
  5. janner

    janner War Hero Book Reviewer

  6. With regard to a submarine sinking a train I think you will find that HS/M Unbroken was the first boat to do this back in 1942. You will find it in 'Unbroken - Story of a Submarine' by her skipper Alistair Mars.

    Mick Jones who was ping bosun on Unbroken at the time related it in our Merseyside SA January 2008 newsletter 'The Submariners Times' Here is the excerpt from his article:

    During the afternoon of August 8th 1942 the Captain of submarine ‘Unbroken’ examined the shoreline between Paola and Longobardi on the instep of Italy through the periscope. After sunset we steered to within 1500 yards of the coast. We were waiting for a train carrying vital supplies to Rommel’s armies in the western desert. Two trains passed and we lay silently waiting for our target. As the time approached we moved to 900 yards from the shore and prayed that our target would be lit up like the trains that had passed. The guns crew huddled on the casing and our Gunnery Officer Lt Archdale whispered instructions to them , range 1000 yards, deflection 20 right, independent firing, open fire when train reaches the datum point. There was a long pause as the gun held the train in its sights, until it reached the datum point. With a roar the gun opened fire, its tiny point of crimson swallowed quickly in the darkness, the shell screamed through the air and exploded with a tremendous crash. A hit! by God. Indeed it was. There was a vivid blue flash as the overhead wires were brought down and in its brilliance the engine could be seen to be detached from the coaches and idling on down the track. The gun roared again and again and after five rounds, all of them hits, the carriages and trucks were all blazing merrily with dancing yellow fires, the signals were out, the power was out. Gunlayer Peter Fenton transferred his attention to the engine and methodically blew it to pieces. In two minutes it was all over, we had deprived Rommel of at least 24 hours of supplies – 14,000 tons worth. ‘Pedro’ Fenton a late member of our branch received a DSM for this gun action.

    Red Sailor
  7. I read Mars' book when I was at school. I initially thought that this topic was referring to Unbrokens exploits. Although in this article they don't actually claim to have done it first, the implication seems to be there.
  8. IIRC, the Jimmy of Naysmith's boat, D'Oyly Hughes, did the laying of the explosives that knackered the train. He subsequently commanded GLORIOUS until she was sunk off Norway in June 1940. As usual, Uncle Sam followed "the Limeys" in this particular habot.

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