The USS Tang SS-306 was the most successful American submarine of WWII. In one year of service, she sank 31 vessels and 227,800 tons of enemy transports, more than any other American sub in the war. The Tang was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation twice, and her commanding officer, Richard O’Kane, was awarded the Medal of Honor. Commissioned October 15th, 1943, the Tang totaled five war patrols in her year of service. It was during the fifth and last patrol, on the morning of October 25th, 1944, that the Tang launched a night surface attack on an enemy transport off the China coast. The first torpedo fired true, but the second breached and circled, striking the stern of the Tang. Crew members as far forward as the control room received broken limbs from the explosion. While the other compartments flooded, survivors fled to the forward torpedo room where they burned all documents and publications, while depth charges dropped by the Japanese vessel on the surface started an electrical fire. By the time thirteen men were able to escape from the torpedo room, the heat from the fire was so intense that the paint was melting off of the walls. Although the Tang had sunk to 180 feet, 5 from the torpedo room survived using the Momsen lung, a breathing device designed for submarine escape, whose only real-life emergency use was in the evacuation of the Tang. In addition to the five men from the torpedo room, three from the bridge were able to swim until rescue, and one man from the conning tower survived using his pants as a flotation device. In total, 78 men were lost and nine were rescued by the Japanese. They were placed in a Japanese prison camp until the end of the war.
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