USN Sub lost in 1945 is found

Ad: This forum contains affiliate links to products on Amazon and eBay. More information in Terms and rules


Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
Suspected discovery of lost WWII sub brings relief at last
[email protected]
Posted: May 5, 2006
At age 18, Joyce Sinkula married a handsome sailor and watched him ship out for battle in World War II aboard a submarine built in her native Wisconsin.

It was a time of innocence and romance, but it ended in heartbreak a few months later when Sinkula learned that her husband was missing in action, along with the rest of the crew aboard the USS Lagarto.

During the war against Japan, the U.S. government was so secretive about its submarines patrolling the Pacific Ocean that family members got little information whenever a crew was lost.

Sinkula visited fortunetellers and used Ouija boards in a futile attempt to learn the fate of her beloved husband, Thomas Hardegree, who was just 19 years old.

But after 60 years of lingering uncertainty, those who lost loved ones aboard the USS Lagarto have received unexpected news: The wreckage of the submarine built and commissioned in Wisconsin apparently has been found.

"I thought, 'My God, after all these years,' " Sinkula, 79, said from her home in Kewaunee. "This was a jolt."

Divers contacted by a Wisconsin submarine veterans group have reported finding the sunken vessel under more than 200 feet of water in the South China Sea off the coast of Thailand.

If confirmed, the discovery would resolve decades of unanswered questions about how Thomas Hardegree and the Lagarto's 85 other crew members perished during the final months of WWII.

"It's huge news," said Karen Duvalle of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, where about 160 family members are gathering this weekend for a special Lagarto memorial service.

"The families are very shocked," said Duvalle, the museum's events coordinator. "For most of them, it's been pretty much of a mystery."

Activities planned this weekend include a presentation by the diver who discovered the wreckage and a visit from Rear Adm. Jeffrey Cassias, commander of the U.S. Pacific submarine force, based at Pearl Harbor.

Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, spokesman for the submarine force, said Cassias will tell families that the Navy plans to send its own dive team into the South China Sea next month in an attempt to verify whether the wreckage is, in fact, the Lagarto.

In accordance with longstanding practice, the Navy would leave the wreckage undisturbed as a mass burial site.

But Navy officials decided to look for themselves after examining photographs and other evidence supplied by the Lagarto dive team.

"It's very compelling," Davis said. "We have no reason to believe it's not the Lagarto."

Subs produced in Manitowoc
Assembled in Manitowoc at a shipbuilding facility that closed in the 1960s, the Lagarto was one of 28 submarines produced there for WWII. The 300-foot-long vessel was commissioned for military service in October 1944.

In an area near Thailand where U.S. ships worked to disrupt Japanese military supply routes, the Lagarto vanished on May 3, 1945 - just three months before President Truman ordered atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, setting the stage for Japan's surrender.

Lagarto family members received only cryptic notices from the military that their loved ones were missing and presumed dead.

Rae Kinn, 84, of Oconomowoc recalls struggling to remain optimistic that her husband, crew member Harold Todd, would be found alive on a remote island somewhere. She eventually gave up hope and moved on with her life.

She had given birth to the couple's only child, a boy, after the Lagarto shipped out.

Hearing that the ship's wreckage had been located 60 years later filled Kinn with a mix of shock and gratitude.

"It was a comfort that I knew where he was," she said.

Owen Williams, commander of the Wisconsin chapter of the U.S. Submarine Veterans of WWII, said his organization long ago adopted the Lagarto as Wisconsin's official missing submarine.

Annual memorial services seldom attracted anyone with a direct connection to the lost vessel, Williams said.

"It was more make-believe, because it wasn't anybody we knew," he said of the missing crewmen. "Well, now it's totally different."

Since learning that divers in Thailand had reported finding the wreckage, members of the veterans group have been working to contact Lagarto family members and plan this weekend's gathering.

Along the way, another tragedy occurred when a key organizer, Roy Leonhardt, 58, of Eagle, died of natural causes in March.

Williams said Leonhardt was a Vietnam War-era submarine veteran and was the first to contact British diver Jamie Macleod, who operates a private shipwreck search operation in the South Pacific.

Although Macleod's diving team first located the wreckage in May 2005, word of the discovery has spread slowly among family members and others, as this weekend's gathering in Manitowoc approached.

Among those planning to attend is Michael Todd, who was 3 months old when his father, Harold, vanished. Todd will accompany his mother to the memorial.

Todd, 61, a real estate appraiser from Hartland, said the discovery of the Lagarto's final resting place would help him deal with the loss of a father he never knew.

"We always wondered what happened," Todd said. "It means a little closure, I guess, closure that I didn't have."
One I'd like to know the fate of is Mush Morton's Wahoo....
"Japanese records also reported that, on 11 October, the date Wahoo was due to exit through La Perouse Strait, an antisubmarine aircraft sited the wake and an apparent oil slick from a submerged submarine. Commander O'Kane (who had gone on to command Tang) states in his book that he believes Wahoo was the victim of a circular run by one of her own torpedoes, damaging her bow and releasing the oil slick, because of the tendency of Mark 18's to act in this fashion.

The Japanese then initiated a combined air and sea attack with numerous depth charges throughout the day. Sawfish had been depth-charged by a patrol boat while transiting the strait two days before, and the enemy's antisubmarine forces were obviously on the alert in that area. There could be little doubt that this attack fatally holed Wahoo, and that she sank, taking down "Mush the Magnificent" and all hands. Wahoo was announced overdue on 2 December 1943 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 6 December 1943."


  • peace-memorial.jpg
    107 KB · Views: 264

Information on the last two days of this sub, plus its discovery.

2 May
Baya's SJ picked up four contacts at 15,000 yards at 21:55 on 2 May 1945; her battle stations tracking party took their places. At 22:10, Baya sent a contact report to Lagarto. Latta responded at 22:45 that his boat was in contact with a convoy, tracking it on a base course of 310° (T), speed nine knots (17 km/h), running along the 5 to 7 fathom curve (10 m). There was one large ship, one medium, and two escorts, both of which appeared to be equipped with 10-centimeter radar. Beneath a clear, dark, sky, Baya began her attack at 12 knots (22 km/h) through the flat sea, from off the convoy's starboard bow, setting her torpedoes to run at four feet. Soon she began encountering SJ and 10-centimeter radar interference "all around the dial." Two additional contacts materialized—one turned out to be a large three-masted junk, the other proved to be Lagarto. Baya, however, soon had her hands full; as her commanding officer later reported: "Jap gunnery poor but plenty of it. Tracers passing down both sides of the periscope shears and overhead…" Both escort vessels—one of which Baya identified as a "Shiretaka-type minelayer"—gave a good account of themselves; at 23:33, Baya informed Lagarto "that we had been driven off by gunfire." Baya's skipper later ruminated: "It is nothing short of a miracle that we came through so much gun fire without a single hit." "We were in a continuous hail of lead, fire, and steel and sustained not a scratch."

3 May
The dogged defenders, who skillfully utilized searchlights and withering gunfire of calibers from 4.7-inch to 25-millimeter, elicited grudging admiration of the American submariners. During the mid watch on 3 May 1945, Baya rendezvoused with Lagarto and their captains discussed plans. The latter's proposed to dive on the convoy's track to make contact at 14:00, in the middle of the afternoon watch; Baya would be 10 to 15 miles further along the track, "if no contact was made we [Baya] were to intercept at 20:00 at convoy's possible 21:30 position." That having been arranged, the boats set course for their arranged stations.

At 15:00 on 3 May 1945, Baya sent the first "of numerous contact reports to Lagarto." By 23:47, "having sent Lagarto contact reports almost half hourly with no receipt," Baya decided to go it alone. Again, however, the Japanese escorts drove off Baya when she attacked during the mid watch on 4 May, again saving their charges from destruction.

Post-war examination of Japanese records revealed the most likely reason for Lagarto's silence. One of the two escorts, the minelayer Hatsutaka, made an attack on 3 May against a submerged submarine in 30 fathoms of water at 07°55'N, 102°00'E.

Announced as "overdue from patrol and presumed lost" on 10 August 1945, Lagarto was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 September 1945.

Discovery, 2005
In May 2005, a group of private deep-sea divers, led by British wreck diver Jamie MacLeod, discovered the wreck in 70 m (225 ft) of water in the Gulf of Thailand. The wreck is mostly intact and sitting upright on the ocean floor. During the dive, a large rupture was discovered on the port bow area, suggesting a depth charge as the catalyst to her sinking. Also observed during the dive was an open torpedo tube door, with an empty torpedo door behind it, suggesting the possibility that Lagarto fired off a torpedo shortly before her sinking.
The story I heard about the Wahoo was it was in Russian Territorial waters and they wouldn't let anyone dive it. Fishermen in the local area know where it is from them losing nets on it (every want to find a wreck, ask the local fishermen). Evidently, nobody has gotten around to officially asking permission or if they did, it just wasn't coming.

Take all that with a grain of salt. It was told to me during a "hanger flying" afternoon.

Users who are viewing this thread