USS Flying Fish (SS-229)

USS Flying Fish (SS/AGSS-229), a Gato-class submarine, was the first submarine and second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the flying fish.

United States
Builder: Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine[1]
Laid down: 6 December 1940[1]
Launched: 9 July 1941[1]
Sponsored by: Mrs. Husband E. Kimmel
Commissioned: 10 December 1941[1]
Decommissioned: 28 May 1954[1]
Struck: 1 August 1958[1]
Fate: Sold for scrap, 1 May 1959[1]
General characteristics
Class and type: Gato-class diesel-electric submarine[2]
  • 1,525 long tons (1,549 t) surfaced[2]
  • 2,424 long tons (2,463 t) submerged[2]
Length: 311 ft 9 in (95.02 m)[2]
Beam: 27 ft 3 in (8.31 m)[2]
Draft: 17 ft (5.2 m) maximum[2]
  • 21 knots (39 km/h) surfaced[6]
  • 9 kn (17 km/h) submerged[6]
Range: 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) surfaced at 10 kn (19 km/h)[6]
  • 48 hours at 2 kn (4 km/h) submerged[6]
  • 75 days on patrol
Test depth: 300 ft (90 m)[6]
Complement: 6 officers, 54 enlisted[6]

The keel of Flying Fish (SS-229) was laid down on 6 December 1940 by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine. She was launched 9 July 1941 and sponsored by Mrs. Dorothy K. Kimmel, wife Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet). The boat was commissioned 10 December 1941, Lieutenant Commander Glynn "Donc" Donaho (Class of 1927) in command.

Flying Fish is credited with having sunk a total of 58,306 tons of Japanese shipping and received 12 battle stars for World War II service.

First war patrol - Battle of Midway

Flying Fish arrived at Pearl Harbor for final training 2 May 1942, and 15 days later was ordered out to patrol west of Midway, which was threatened by an expected Japanese attack. During the Battle of Midway 4 – 6 June, she and her sisters fanned out to scout and screen the island, at which she refitted from 9 – 11 June. Continuing her first full war patrol, she searched major shipping lanes in Empire waters (the seas around Japan) and scored a hit on a Japanese destroyer off Taiwan during the night of 3 July. She returned to Midway to refit on 25 July.

Second war patrol, August – September 1942

On 15 August 1942, she sailed on her second war patrol, bound for a station north of Truk. On 28 August, only three days after arriving on station, Flying Fish sighted the masts of a Japanese battleship (now known to be Yamato),[7] guarded by two destroyers and air cover. She launched four torpedoes at this prime target, and two hits were detected by sonar. Immediately the counterattack began, and as Flying Fish prepared to launch torpedoes at one of the destroyers, rapidly closing to starboard, her commanding officer was blinded by a geyser of water thrown up by a bomb. Flying Fish went deep for cover. A barrage of 36 depth charges followed. When Flying Fish daringly came up to periscope depth 2 hours later, she found the two destroyers still searching, aided by two harbor submarine chasers and five aircraft. A great cloud of black smoke hung over the scene, persisting through the remaining hours of daylight. As Flying Fish upped periscope again a little later, a float plane dropped bombs directly astern, and the alert destroyers closed in. A salvo of torpedoes at one of the destroyers missed, and Flying Fish went deep again to endure another depth charging. Surfacing after dark, she once more attracted the enemy through excessive smoke from one of her engines, and again she was forced down by depth charges. Early in the morning of 29 August, she at last cleared the area to surface and charge her batteries. Possibly the torpedo explosions were premature; Japanese records show no warships lost on 28 August 1942.

Unshaken by this long day of attack, Flying Fish closed on Truk once more 2 September 1942, and attacked a 400-ton patrol vessel, only to see the torpedoes fail to explode upon hitting the target. The patrol ship ran down the torpedo tracks and began a depth charge attack, the second salvo of which damaged Flying Fish considerably. A second patrol ship came out to join the search; Flying Fish successfully evaded both opponents and cleared the area. Determinedly, she returned to the scene late the next night, and finding a single patrol vessel, sank her with two torpedoes just after midnight early on 4 September. Two hours later a second patrol craft came out, and as Flying Fish launched a stern shot, the Japanese ship opened fire, then swerved to avoid the torpedo. Flying Fish dived for safety, enduring seven depth charge runs by the patrol vessel. Two destroyers joined the patrol craft, and all three kept the submarine under attack for five hours. At last able to get clear, Flying Fish sailed for Pearl Harbor, where she arrived 15 September.

Third and fourth war patrols, October 1942 – February 1943

Flying Fish cleared Pearl Harbor 27 October, headed for her patrol area south of the Marshall Islands. Three times on this third patrol she launched bold attacks on Japanese task forces, only to suffer the frustration of poor torpedo performance, or to score hits causing damage which postwar evaluation could not confirm. She arrived at Brisbane for refit on 16 December 1942.

On 6 January 1943, Flying Fish started her fourth war patrol, a reconnaissance of the Marianas. Along with gaining much valuable intelligence, she damaged the Japanese troop transport Tokai Maru (8359 tons) in Apra harbor, Guam, on 26 January, hit the Japanese troop transport Nagizan Maru (4391 tons) in Tinian's Sunharon Roadstead 6 February, and sank the freighter Hyuga Maru (994 tons) in the presence of patrolling aircraft and surface escorts 16 February. She returned to Pearl Harbor 28 February.

Crew casualties during R&R, March 9th 1943

On March 9, 1943, three crewmen of the Flying Fish - Lyman Darol Williams,[8] Leonard Mathis Sturms,[9] and Harley Albert Kearney[10] died of drinking wood alcohol at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel during R&R in Honolulu, Hawaii. These three seamen would be the only casualties that the crew of the Flying Fish would suffer during the war.

Fifth war patrol, March 1943 – May 1943

Flying Fish stood out of Pearl Harbor 24 March for her fifth war patrol, this one to the coast of Honshū, where the submarine was battered by foul weather. On 12 April, she closed the northern coast to make a daring attack on the cargo vessel Sapporo Maru No.12 (2865 tons) which she sank, again in the presence of scout planes and armed trawlers. Moving north to Hokkaidō, Flying Fish damaged a large freighter on 13 April, and two days later torpedoed the inter-island transport ship Seiryu Maru (1904 tons) which beached itself in a mass of flames. Continuing her bold inshore attacks, on 19 April Flying Fish sank the Japanese army cargo ship Amaho Maru (2774 tons), and in the Tsugaru Strait on 24 April, sent cargo ship Kasuga Maru (1374 tons) the bottom. On 1 May a small inter-island freighter was sunk, but an alert enemy antisubmarine group shook Flying Fish considerably before she could clear the area. She returned to Midway from this highly successful patrol 11 May.

Sixth war patrol, June – July 1943

After five grueling patrols Lieutenant Commander Donaho turned command over to Captain Frank T. Watkins. On her sixth patrol (2 June – 27 July), Flying Fish patrolled in the Volcano Islands and off Taiwan. Her first attacks, two against the same convoy, resulted in unconfirmed damage, but off Taiwan on 2 July, she blasted the stern off of the merchant passenger/troop transport Canton Maru (2822 tons) watching it sink. While Pearl Harbor-bound from her patrol area, she made a two-day chase for a fast convoy, but was forced by her dwindling fuel supply to break off the hunt. On 11 July she destroyed the 125-foot (38 m) sailing vessel Japanese guard boat Takatori Maru No.8 (51 tons) with gunfire, leaving it aflame from stem to stern.

Seventh war patrol, October – November 1943

After a major overhaul at Pearl Harbor from 27 July to 4 October 1943, Flying Fish sailed on her seventh war patrol, again with her original skipper , bound for the Palaus. Her first attack, 18 October, scored at least one hit on escort carrier ''Chuyo''. A two-day tracking of a well-escorted convoy from 26 – 28 October resulted in the sinking of troop transport ship Nanman Maru (6550 tons), on 27 October and the damaging of two merchantmen before Flying Fish ran out of torpedoes. She arrived at Midway 6 November.

Eighth, ninth, and tenth war patrols, November 1943 – July 1944

Flying Fish's eighth war patrol, the first to be commanded by Lieutenant Commander R. D. Risser, between Taiwan and the China coast from 30 November 1943 to 28 January 1944, found her sinking the passenger/cargo ship Ginyo Maru (8613 tons) laden with 6880 tons of maize, 600 tons of rice, 50 tons of beans, and 195 passengers on 16 December, taking 66 crewmen, 3 IJN gunners, and 118 passengers to the bottom, and fleet tanker Kyuei Maru (10,171 tons - entering service on 6 September 1943.) from convoy Hi-27 on 27 December. Her refit and retraining between patrols were held once more at Pearl Harbor.

Flying Fish sailed for her ninth war patrol 22 February for the waters off Iwo Jima. On 12 March, she sent the merchantman Taijin Maru (1924 tons) to the bottom, then closed the Okinawa shore and attacked a convoy in the early morning darkness of 16 March. The passenger/cargo ship Anzan Maru (5493 tons) was sunk and the tanker Teikon Maru (ex-German Winnetou), was damaged in this attack. Pressing on with her chase for six hours in the hope of finishing off the tanker, the submarine was detected and held down by aircraft and destroyers while the tanker escaped. On the afternoon of 31 March, Flying Fish was attacked by a Japanese submarine, whose torpedoes she skillfully evaded. Bound for Majuro at the close of her patrol, on April Fool's Day 1944, the submarine torpedoed and sank the freighter Minami Maru (2398 tons - formally the Norwegian: Solviken.) at Kita Daito Jima. Flying Fish closed out her patrol and arrived at Majuro 11 April 1944.

Clearing Majuro harbor 4 May, Flying Fish sailed for her tenth war patrol, coordinated with the assault on the Marianas scheduled to open the next month. First she covered shipping lanes between Ulithi, Yap, and Palau, coming under severe attack after one of her torpedoes exploded just outside the tubes on the night of 24 – 25 May when she was detected while attacking a four-ship convoy. At dawn, however, she had got back into position to sink the Japanese troop transport Taito Maru (4466 tons) loaded with 5,300 aviation gasoline cans, 2,500m3 of arms and 500-tons of cement, and the passenger/cargo ship Osaka Maru (3740 tons). The Osaka Maru was also out of Saipan bound for Palau in the same convoy, carrying 824 passengers and materials for the war effort. 97 passengers and all of the cargo went down with the ship.

Along with other American submarines, she then headed to take up a patrol station between the Palaus and San Bernardino Strait, from which she could scout any movement by the enemy fleet out of its base at Tawi in the Sulus while the Marines were landed on Saipan. On 15 June, the day of the invasion, Flying Fish spotted a Japanese carrier force emerging from San Bernardino Strait bound westward. Her prompt report of this movement enabled a sister submarine, Cavalla, to sink the carrier Shōkaku four days later while American carrier aircraft broke the back of Japanese naval aviation in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Flying Fish remained on her scouting station until 23 June, then sailed for Manus and Brisbane, arriving there 5 July.

Eleventh war patrol, October – November 1944

On 1 August, Flying Fish was escorted out to sea from Brisbane, Australia in the company of the USS Flounder, SS-251. On August 8, the Flying Fish and the Flounder arrived at the Admiralty Islands and moored alongside the submarine tender, USS Eurayle, AS-22 to take on fuel (Flounder would be in the same patrol area as the Flying Fish). Flying Fish arrived on war patrol station off Manado on August 14[11] for her eleventh war patrol, this one taking her to Davao Gulf, the coast of Celebes, and along the shipping lanes from the Philippines to Halmahera. Flying Fish was held down much of the time by enemy aircraft. After refueling at Mios Woendi from 29 August – 1 September, she closed Celebes, where on 7 September she detected a concealed enemy airstrip. Her report led to the airfield's bombardment by aircraft 11 days later. Through the remainder of her patrol she served on lifeguard duty for air strikes on Celebes, returning to Midway 18 October. The submarine sailed on for an extensive overhaul at San Francisco, where she was equipped with mine detection and clearance equipment to enable her to penetrate the Sea of Japan.

Twelfth war patrol, May – July 1945

Tests with her new gear preceded her return to Guam 18 May 1945, where she joined a submarine task group for her 12th war patrol. She sailed 29 May for the heavily mined Tsushima Strait, entering the Sea of Japan 7 June. Now each submarine headed for her own assigned area, Flying Fish setting course north for the coast of Korea. On 10–11 June, in separate attacks, she sank two cargo ships, the Taga Maru (2220 tons) on the 10th and the Meisei Maru (3095 tons) on the 11th, taking aboard one survivor. Five days later she sank ten small craft with gunfire and sent two onto the beach. Completing her patrol at Pearl Harbor 4 July, Flying Fish returned to New London 21 September to become flagship of Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet (COMSUBLANT).

Post-war service

During the next 8 years, from her base at New London, the veteran Flying Fish conducted reserve training cruises in Long Island and Block Island Sound, exercised off the Virginia Capes, trained men of foreign navies, joined in major operations in the Caribbean, and cruised to Canadian ports. She was reclassified AGSS-229 on 29 November 1950. On 11 January 1951, she completed her duty as flagship, and began to serve the Underwater Sound Laboratory in sonar experiments, notably testing a passive GHG sonar salvaged from the former German cruiser Prinz Eugen in a large array surrounding the conning tower. On 29 February 1952, at 10:53, Flying Fish became the first American submarine to make 5,000 dives. On board for the event was a distinguished party headed by Secretary of the Navy Dan A. Kimball. Placed in commission in reserve 31 December 1953, Flying Fish was decommissioned at New London 28 May 1954 and was sold for scrapping 1 May 1959.

Of Flying Fish's twelve war patrols, all save the 11th were designated as "successful". She is credited with having sunk a total of 58,306 tons of enemy shipping. She received 12 battle stars for World War II service.



  1. Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 285–304. ISBN 1-55750-263-3.
  2. Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 271–273. ISBN 0-313-26202-0.
  3. Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 271–280. ISBN 978-0-313-26202-9.
  4. U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 261–263
  5. U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
  6. U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305-311
  7. "Combined Fleet - tabular history of Yamato". Parshall, Jon; Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp, & Allyn Nevitt. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  11. Russel, Dale (1995). Hell Above, Deep Water Below. Tillamook, Oregon: Bayocean Enterprises. ISBN 0-9643849-9-X.

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

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