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

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Trip_Wire, Aug 25, 2007.

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  1. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

    A Great story!


    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. 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 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. 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. Time for bed everyone..
  3. Any chance of an executive summary?
  4. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

    Sorry, but there wasn't a website link to this story. So, I posted it as it was sent to me. A bit long; however, I thought it was a worthwhile read, especially for WWII history buffs.

    The link I posted was just an overall look at the history of the Barb, although it did mention the train.
  5. Fair enough :)

    Did this inspire that movie with Cary Grant and the Pink Submarine? It's one of those films that I rather enjoy when I find it on.
  6. Damn trip, thats pretty freaking cool never heard of that story until now!! Thanks for the history lesson Trip.
  7. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

    No, I don't think so, other then it was a WWII type sub, in the movie. It was more of a comedy.

    As I recall; however, there was one movie starring James Garner, that was a little closer to real WWII Submarine operations.

    Actually, though I don't think any movie, can close to the real story and actions of the men in this story.
  8. I thought I told you lot to go to bed. Lights out. I'll be back in half an hour.

    If I find one eye open, it will be closed forever - geddit..!
  9. "At least half of the men had to have been Boy Scouts, experienced in how to handle themselves ..."

    Fnaa, fnaa.
  10. I have half a memory of a British submarine doing something similar to the Turks during WWI.

    Apologies for lack of details, but it was a long time ago.

  11. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

    Actually, becoming an Eagle Scout, in the American Boy Scouts, is an accomplishment, for any boy or man!

    I'd much rather as an former NCO, have people with a background of a Boy Scout with me in the field, on a mission than say, someone that has lived his whole life, say in th streets of London or New York, etc. Particularly one who had reached the status of Eagle Scout!

  12. I think you may have missed the joke there, old boy, and in replying in such a way you might well be at risk of being the butt of a follow-up.

    Anybody care to demonstrate, class?
  13. Crabtastic,

    Would that be 1st/2nd class, or in the trucks. Now, what camel left that in my straw.?

    I did tell them to go to bed chum. Looks like my advice ended in a bunch of 'em in straw furniture, and may they long become it.

  14. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP


    I’m not up on Brit humor, all that much, I admit. I’m one that does even have some problems with Brit movies and some of the humor, (?) in them. So perhaps, one of these Brits here, could post something that had a perverse and/or perverted meaning that I wouldn’t give a second thought too.

    I guess that I was naive enough, to think when I cited some true American WWII heroes exploits here, that people would respect them and their accomplishments for what they were, just as I would for the Brit heroes at Arnhem and the bridge, or other famous Brit actions in WWII. Looks like I was wrong, in a few cases here.

    I guess I didn’t think some Brit ‘dick-wad’ would use it, to spread his perverse humor (?) in a thread about such heroes, such as the brave crewmen of the Barb in WWII.

    I find no humor, nor does it make me sleepy, to read about the brave exploits of the crew of the Barb. Instead, it make me proud to be an American and to have such people, that did battle, to preserve my rights and my freedom as an American! If it wasn’t for men like them, I might be writing and/or speaking German or Japanese now.

    I respect, honor and salute them!

    For those that would dishonor such heroes, by using a tread to honor them by turning it into their private joke and/or are bored by their exploits etc., I have no respect for you, and think you are as bad as one of your local Chavs. (Or perhaps you are one.)
  15. Trip-Wire,

    To give serious answer (At the risk of sounding like David Niven) I'm sure that no insult was intended to the crew of the Barb but (This is a big but) Brits like to find the humour in everything and as a race we tend to ake the rise out of everything, very little is sacred.

    Your posting was a reasonable use of space and informative as well. I had never heard of the Barb so it was interesting too. However, Americans (To the British way of thinking) are a little strait laced in matters of military achievement and national honour and patriotism. We appreciate our achievers but don't generally celebrate them in the same way.

    Example: The Falklands War, A wounded Brit soldier calls to his comrade, "Oh my god, I've lost my leg!" His mate replies, "No you haven't, it's over there..."

    It's not disrespect but a different point of view.

    Had it been an American conflict, I imagine that it would have been reported thus; "During the the US involvement one incident occurred whereby a wounded GI called his buddies for battlefield aid and was comforted by them during the wait for medics to arrive. The wounded trooper was awarded the XYZ medal following the action for his personal bravery. Speaking to press afterwards he referred warmly to his buddies and mentioned his hometown and or local high school sports team"

    To the Brit way of thinking, innuendo, basic smut and satirising events are the very core of our military humour. Once again, I think, two races separated by a common language.

    From my travels in the US, I quite like the way that Americans will celebrate patriotism and achievement but I would feel a little uncomfortable were it to become the British norm.

    As for Boy Scouts, sorry matye they'll always be a butt of humour in this country although the Scout movement is alive and thriving. To the Brit mind, there's always a mental link between Scouts and adolescent sexual experimentation and predatory choir masters, pastors and the like...

    Sorry but that's how it's seen over here :)

    In summary, you cope with such events by lauding them and giving out praise to the participants, Brits tend to look for the humour even when it's a little bit forced or innapropriate. It's how our countries do things. We're similar in lots of way but very different in many others.