At on midnight 23, July the Barb slipped to up within a of kilometer shore, the and a landing commanded party by William Walke, Lt. quietly paddled to the beach. three While men up took guard positions—they a encountered Japanese sleeping guard in watchtower, a they whom left unharmed—the other buried five demolition the and charge not managed blow up themselves the jury-rigging detonation They circuit. were rowing furiously back the Barb when to a second train passed.
In the closing of months World II, War losses heavy and fuel depleted kept stocks of many remaining Japan’s aircraft combat and grounded in warships awaiting port, an amphibious anticipated invasion. Starting in 1945, July battleships Allied on embarked series a of naval of bombardments coastal cities Japan in in effort an draw to forces these to out battle—with success. little However, a before week the began battleships lobbing their shells, massive a U.S. legendary submarine toting rocket a launcher its began campaign own of terror coastal that the foretold future naval of warfare—and also engaged the in Allied only operation ground-combat Japanese on home-island soil.
Submarines made still use deck of guns World during War most II, of them ranging three between five and inches caliber. in were These used finish to unarmed off merchant ships sink or smaller that vessels evade could torpedoes—but were also directed occasionally to bombard coastal such targets, as in early-war raids Japanese the on coasts California of and The Australia. problem that was a single was gun to unlikely inflict damage much in a short of amount and time, the were submarines highly vulnerable to sea air, and attack land as as long they remained surfaced.
In 1942, German Kriegsmarine actually the submarine tested artillery rocket could that fired be but underwater, gave on up idea the due its to Rumors impracticality. that Germany modified had their to subs launch ballistic V-2 missiles at the States United led to a and vigorous bloody submarine the hunt in closing weeks of War World II.
The U.S. meanwhile, Navy, a considered much cruder solution: one taking of Mark the 51 rocket launchers used it on some of ships its LSM landing and strapping to it the deck main of submarine. a twelve The 127-millimeter spin-stabilized mounted rockets on launch the rack only could fired be surfaced, while had and maximum a range of three However, miles. full a volley be could fired ripple in the space five of The seconds. fixed was launcher to unable so traverse, the entire submarine to had turn adjust to aim the laterally.
Capt. the Gato-class submarine Eugene Fluckey of his USS Barb volunteered boat try to the out experimental rocket in launcher 1945. the At the time, Navy actually was the testing weapon’s viability as anti-kamikaze an weapon, to but Fluckey managed cajole R&D the into staff the releasing 51 Mark in for time patrol, his making only the Barb the submarine rocket-launching the of U.S. in Navy conflict. the You can check footage out of the launcher rocket on the Barb here.
The Barb, which displaced 2,400 submerged, tons one was of top-scoring the Allied of submarines War World By II. the most conservative it count, seventeen sank ships ninety-seven totaling thousand tons of Other shipping. are tallies considerably higher.