"I wholeheartedly recommend Undersea Warrior. Don Keith has done a fine job. Buy the book! It is a great read and one you will want to keep." -- Michael Hyman, The Silent Sentinel
"Don Keith should rightly be regarded as the most prolific current historian of U.S. submarine history. Undersea Warrior is a fast-paced and well-written history. (T)hose who want to learn about the first U.S. submarine ace and WAHOO’s remarkable story will enjoy Undersea Warrior." --The Submarine Review (official journal of the Naval Submarine League)
Watch Don's appearance on CSPAN's BookTV discussing Undersea Warrior and Dudley "Mush" Morton.
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No man above or below the waves was as admired-or feared-as this determined naval commander...
Among submariners in World War II, Dudley "Mush" Morton stood out as a warrior without peer. At the helm of the USS Wahoo in WWII, he completely changed the way the sea war was fought in the Pacific. He would relentlessly attack the Japanese at every opportunity, going through his supply of torpedoes in record time on every patrol. In only nine months, he racked up an astounding list of achievements, including being the first American skipper to wipe out an entire enemy convoy single-handedly. And an amazing number of men who went on to become top submarine captains served with him, including Dick O'Kane, the #1 skipper in enemy ships sunk.
Here, for the first time, is the life and legend of a heroic, dynamic, and ultimately divisive submarine commander who fought the war on his own terms, and refused to do so any other way. Based on extensive research--and with a tragic ending to the story that could only now be told--this fascinating story deals not just with the mythical undersea warrior, but the complicated and misunderstood man.
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Excerpt from UNDERSEA WARRIOR by Don Keith
Copyright 2011 by Don Keith
At 1318 an object was sighted in the bight of MUSHU ISLAND, about five miles farther into the harbor, much resembling the bridge-structure of a ship. Commenced approach at three knots. As the range closed the aspect of the target changed from that of a tender with several small ships alongside to that of a destroyer with RO class submarines nested, the latter identified by the canvas hatch hoods and awnings…it was our intention to fire high speed shots from about 3000 yards, which would permit us to remain in deep water and facilitate an exit.
No, he wasn’t!
Mush Morton was going to enter Wewak harbor and fire torpedoes at a destroyer! And the sun was about to show up on the horizon within the hour!
Everyone in the con was busy, charting and confirming islands, the beach, shallow spots—all in the name of plotting a course of escape after this mad intrusion into an enemy harbor inevitably blew up in their faces. But Morton seemed calm, at ease, in control.
Once, the boat began to rock noticeably, side to side. They were so close to a reef that the swells were actually moving the submarine.
Dick O’Kane, who had been calling out every bit of land and shallow he could see through the periscope, suddenly shouted, “Captain, we’re too close to land! All I can see is one coconut tree!”
“Aw, Dick,” the captain responded calmly. “You’re just in low power.”
O’Kane, his mouth little more than a thin line, flipped the ‘scope handle to increase the device’s magnification and took another peek.
“Down periscope! All back emergency!”
Men grabbed anything solid they could find as the boat reversed direction.
“What’s the matter, Dick?”
“All I could see was one coconut!”
Grider later reported, “The captain was in his element. He was in danger but he was hot on the trail of the enemy, so he was happy. The atmosphere in the conning tower would have been more appropriate to a fraternity raiding party. Mush even joked when we almost ran the boat aground.”
On the next observation, when the generated range was 3750, our target, a FUBUKI class destroyer was underway.
“George, we can take that son of a bitch by complete surprise,” Morton told Grider. “He’d never suspect a submarine would be in here shooting at him.”
No shit! No one on Wahoo would have suspected it either.
The water in the bay was dead calm and even a small portion of their periscope sticking up would be easily spotted. O’Kane raised it every few minutes, took a quick look, and dropped it back into its housing.
It was beginning to get uncomfortable up and down the length of the boat. Rigged for silent running, the humidity and temperature in the boat had gone up dramatically, and tension only added to the discomfort. Men wiped sweat from their eyes as they studied gauges and listened on headsets.
In retrospect, even the most aggressive skippers would have probably let the destroyer go, backed away, and reported what they had found at Wewak. And would have done it from a safe distance while proceeding on to their primary hunting grounds. Pinky Kennedy and others who commanded submarines at the beginning of the war, trained in totally different methods of running their boats, would never even have been there to begin with.
However, Mush Morton was not backing away from anything. It was clear that he had every intention of shooting at the enemy warship. Forget the shallow water, the tight escape route, and the likelihood that even if they hit this quick and agile target with a good enough shot to cripple or sink her, there were likely other ships up there who could do them harm. Hell, they had already seen and drove away from two patrol boats already.
At 1441 fired spread of three torpedoes on 110 degree starboard track, range 1800 yards, using target speed fifteen since there had been insufficient time to determine speed by tracking.
Oh, there was that, too. The destroyer—they had now determined her to be the Harusame—was moving rapidly, following an erratic course. With only quick peeks through the ‘scope and by listening to the noise she made, it was difficult even for O’Kane, who was a master at such calculations, to determine where to fire torpedoes.
“Anytime, Dick,” Morton said, his voice cool, unruffled.
Three torpedoes were away on O’Kane’s command of “Fire!” Three torpedoes, fired from the forward tubes, eleven and twelve seconds apart, set to run only two feet deep to assure they would punch holes in the ship at the water line, not run beneath her.
O’Kane boldly left the periscope up and watched all three torpedoes miss astern. The destroyer was moving quite a bit faster than they had hurriedly calculated. They got off another torpedo, based on a new estimated speed, but the Japanese captain had seen the first three fish swimming his way and past him. He easily dodged the fourth.
O’Kane’s eyes at the ‘scope suddenly grew large.
“He’s turned and he is coming straight at us!” he reported, fighting to keep his voice calm, cool. “Down ‘scope!”
The men in the forward torpedo room were moving as quickly as they could, getting ready to reload their empty tubes. The men in the maneuvering room stood ready to move the array of rheostats and levers to get the power they would need to run.
Back in the crew’s mess, Forest Sterling felt “an almost uncontrollable urge to urinate.”
“To hell with that!” Mush Morton shouted. “Leave the damn ‘scope up, by God! We’ll give the son of a bitch a point of aim if he wants one!”
Jesus, he was really going to do it! Mush was going to try a down-the-throat shot on a charging enemy warship in a tiny arm-pit of a harbor.
They were all about to die.
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