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Jun 4th, 2012 by Richard Lowry

June Remembrance – USS Herring (SS-233)

We lost 84 brothers and the USS Herring to the sea on the first of June 1, 1944. According to Japanese records, these brave men and their submarine went down fighting, all perishing at sea[1].

Herring was a young submarine. She was under construction when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After the attack, Herring was rushed to completion – launched on January 15, 1942 and then commissioned in May. The brand new submarine participated in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, where she sank the 5,700 ton cargo ship – Ville du Harve. For the next year, she made a total of five war patrols in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, returning to New London on July 26, 1943.[2]

Two weeks later, Herring sailed for Pearl Harbor. After her transit and a stint of rigorous crew training, she sailed again on November 15th for her sixth war patrol. This time, Herring’s fury would be unleashed on the Imperial Japanese Navy. Herring sank two cargo ships on that patrol; the nearly four thousand ton Hakozaki Maru on December 14th and the sixty-one hundred ton Nagoya Maru on New Year’s Day of 1944[3].

Lieutenant Commander David Zabriskie, Jr. assumed command of Herring after her sixth patrol. Zabriskie, a Naval Academy football star, was an experienced submarine officer. He had six war patrols under his belt, on which he had participated in the sinking or damaging of seventeen enemy vessels[4]. His courage and skills on those patrols earned him a Silver Star and command of his own boat. David Zabriski, Jr, was a rising star in the US submarine service. Zabriskie, Herring and a seasoned crew set sail for the boat’s seventh patrol and on March 24, 1944, she almost sank a Japanese carrier. The carrier’s escorts detected Herring as she moved in for the kill and drove her deep before she could get a firing solution. Herring escaped the attack and returned to port to prepare for its eighth and final patrol.

Under Zabriskie’s aggressive leadership, Herring’s last patrol would prove to be her most successful. Herring motored out of the harbor at Midway Island for the last time on May 16th, 1944. She rendezvoused with USS Barb (SS-220) on May 30th and the two captains coordinated their upcoming combined operations. That night, Zabriskie and his crew encountered three Japanese cargo ships, accompanied by the Japanese destroyer escort Ishigaki. Herring attacked Ishigaki first, sinking the convoy’s only protection. Then Zabriskie turned on the Hokuyo Maru, sinking her too[5]. The other two ships bolted, but were hunted down and sunk by Barb.

Zabriskie then headed for the Japanese anchorage at Matsuwa Island. He moved in close to shore and sank two Japanese cargo ships at anchor in the shallow waters near the island on the morning of June first[6]. During the bold attack, a Japanese shore battery opened fire and Herring took two direct hits to her conning tower, mortally damaging the ship[7]. She led a short life – loved by her crew – so much so that they all battled the sea with her to the end.


[1] The Navy Department Library, Herring (SS-233) www.history.navy.mil/online/sublosses.herring.htm.

[2] Wikipedia, USS Herring (SS-233), http://en.wikipedia/wiki/USS_Herring_(SS-233).

[3] Ibid, Wikipedia.

[4] Silver Star citation for David Zabriskie, Jr., MilitaryTimes.com.

[5] Ibid, The Navy Department Library.

[6] Ibid, The Navy Department Library.

[7] Ibid, The Navy Department Library.

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