J.T. McDaniel Official Site
Richard H. O’Kane
Dick O’Kane was at sea when the United States entered World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time he was serving as third in command of the USS Argonaut (SM-
Argonaut never managed to get into position to attack what was, at the time, thought to be a Japanese invasion force heading for Midway (actually a pair of destroyers and not an invasion, which was just as well, considering that Argonaut, whose crew was somewhat busy just keeping the boat from falling apart, was the only American fleet unit in a position to do anything). (O’Kane gives a much more detailed account of his time in Argonaut in his autobiography, Clear the Bridge.)
When Argonaut returned to Pearl Harbor, her XO was sent ashore to a staff job, O’Kane stepped up to XO, and her commanding officer, Stephen C. Barchett, who was due for rotation after three years in command, took the giant submarine back to Mare Island for a complete refit.
It was at Mare Island that O’Kane left Argonaut, reassigned to the then under construction USS Wahoo as executive officer. He would hold that job during Wahoo’s first five war patrols.
Wahoo would become one of the two or three best known American submarines of World War II. O’Kane writes that, at first, this didn’t seem likely to be the case. Wahoo’s first commanding officer, Marvin Kennedy, comes across as perhaps a little too much of what we would now call a micro-
Kennedy, it should be noted, recognized his own limitations, and was apparently as surprised as anyone when he found himself still in command on Wahoo’s second war patrol. This time they had a passenger, Dudley W. “Mush” Morton, who was riding along on a PCO (Prospective Commanding Officer) cruise. Morton was there to observe, and to get used to the day-
That command turned out to be Wahoo. Morton took command for her third war patrol, and would continue to command her for the rest of Wahoo’s career. Morton, according to O’Kane, was a completely different type of commanding officer than Kennedy. While Kennedy tended to caution and was very likely overly concerned with the possibility of being detected, Morton was aggressive almost to the point of recklessness. He figured the job of a submarine was to sink enemy shipping, and that job entailed the possibility of being detected and attacked.
He also had some very unorthodox ideas about attacks. He wanted O’Kane, his XO, to make all the periscope observations. Morton would then be free to concentrate on the overall tactical situation. It was a system that worked very well indeed for these two men. Morton knew tactics, and he certainly knew how to find enemy shipping. O’Kane, who would go on to become America’s top scoring submarine commander, was an outstanding shot.
Morton and O’Kane worked very well together. Then, following Wahoo’s fifth war patrol, O’Kane took command of the brand-
O’Kane used the patrol report to write up his account of Wahoo’s sixth war patrol. For the seventh, he was forced to speculate, basing his guesses on his knowledge of Morton’s tactics, and reports of Japanese shipping losses in the Sea of Japan during the patrol period.
In Wahoo, O’Kane presents us with a first-
For the actual patrol reports, see: U.S.S. Wahoo (SS-
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