tv American Artifacts CSPAN November 8, 2015 6:00pm-6:30pm EST
>> c-span has your coverage of the road to the white house 2016 where you will find the candidates, speeches, debates and most importantly, your questions. this year, we are taking our road to the white house coverage into classrooms across the country with our student cam contest, giving follow the c-span student cam contest on tv, on the radio, and online at www.c-span.org. each week, american history tv's "american artifacts" takes you to museums and historic places. we visit the national world war ussuseum to learn about the tang and her crew.
seth: my name is seth paridon. right now, we are standing in the uss tang submarine experience. uss tang was built in 1943 and commissioned in 1944 during the second world war. she was a vallejo class submarine, which at the time in 1944, was the most modern submarine of the day. she was a rather large summary. she had endless men and officers. her sole main purpose was to patrol the pacific ocean and sink japanese war and merchant ships. by 1944, technology advanced and so much so that the boats that were commissioned earlier in the war, they were not obsolete by any means, but the ones commission, such as the tang balao-class had better radar,
sound, and better torpedoes, which the submarine was plagued in 1943 and even in 1944 with faulty torpedoes that would not explode, they would have circular runs and would not do their job and it was costing u.s. sailors their lives. the space we are in is a mockup of the inside of a balao-class submarine. it is not to scale for reasons, -- ada reasons, but it is the best that you can do in modern times. most of the things on the wall, dials, gauges, torpedo tubes, they are modeled after original material down to the screw and rivet and brass and everything.
what we are standing in what is supposed to be inside of the uss tang. this exhibit is designed to bring visitors as close as possible so what sailors and americans fleet submarines in 1944 experienced in fighting the japanese. the submarine force evolved so that earlier in the war, most submarines were made underwater with periscopes. there was an evolution in commanding officers during late 1942, all the way into 1944, that's a lot of u.s. submarines, skippers through the book out. -- throw the book out. the book prewar was to remain unseen, undetected, strike when not expected and sink by torpedo when submerged. it was quickly realized that that was not the best way to get the job done.
submarine skipper like dudley, walker, they were nicknamed mush, and people of this john -- his genre developed tactics to where the submarines were no longer trying to say -- people of this genre are developing tactics to where the summaries -- submarines were no longer trying to stay visible. they would attack on the surface at night, getting the midst of a japanese convoys, create as much havoc as they could, sink as many ships as they could and escape unscathed. morton and guys like sam dealey and later richard o'kane really took those tactics and honed into the financial and made the submarine in the u.s. one of the finest fighting forces that ever went to war. richard o'kane was the first and only officer of the tang in he had served as executive officer
under dudley walker. they combined to be a deadly team. morton was an officer who tend to break the rules and did things his own way. he drove the boat while richard o'kane manned the periscope. the skipper was the one that manned the periscope and did everything and morton did not believe that was the best way to get things done. he had pretty much mentored richard o'kane to this finely tuned machine, without a doubt, the greatest submarine skipper. anyway, o'kane took command of the tang and she set sail in 1944. she went on five war patrols,
her first was in the 22nd of january to the fourth of march, 1944. on her first, she sank five merchant ships. that is a pretty good score for the first patrol. a submarine, as any ship or military force, they operate as a team and it took a little while, even though they were well-trained, it took a little while to get them oiled up. and ready to go -- oiled up and ready to go. the second patrol on the 15th of may, 1944, she was not assigned her normal duty. normal duty was to find any ships and sink and kill them. it was the opposite on the second patrol. it was that of a life-saving mission. she was set up as a lifeguard, if you will, during the american naval airstrike on a truck island. what her job was was to locate downed american pilots who were
shot down or forced to ditch and going rescue them. the submarine would surface, they would get the downed airmen, bring them aboard the submarine, submerge, find more and picked them up, basically a relate to bring them back to fight another day. in that patrol, in the course of about three days, tang picked up 22 american aviators, a record that obviously still stands today. she saved 22 guys' lives which is contradictory to what she was designed to do. nonetheless, it was an impressive mission, so much so that tang gained national recognition. the picture the skipper, o'kane, some of the crew, and there is a picture of o'kane standing up surrounded by the 22 aviators that he and his crew rescued, and make national news. it was a big deal. o'kane had already been in the news before as executive officer
under morton, but the tang was getting recognition that most of the time submarines did not get, they were called the silent service for two reasons. one of which is because they are supposed to operate silently and sneak up. two is a lot at the summary veterans say that difficult assignment service because no one ever talked about them. it is true, they were a secret force and by exposing a lot of secrets, they could have and would have cost a lot of meant their lives. on the second patrol, instead of sinking and taking lives, she rescued 22 american aviators. several of her crew were highly decorated, including one, james milton, he was a gunner aboard the tank. he was awarded this silver star for rescuing i believe to naval aviators by jumping into the water and going to get these guys and bring them back aboard. he was from the state of
louisiana. he ultimately perished aboard on the fifth patrol and several years ago, members of his family donated artifacts that were his, including the silver star, purple heart. on the third war patrol on the 14th of july, 1944, tang set out to do her job which was to think japanese shipments. on the third patrol, tang set the record of sinking 10 enemy ships. that was unheard of on these patrols and most of them resulted in three ships to six ships and tang came back with 10. it showed the aggressive spirit of not only o'kane, but his crew. after the war, o'kane wrote two books, one of which which was called "clear the bridge." the other one was called
"wahoo." in "clear the bridge," o'kane talks about tactics he employed in sinking enemy ships. one of the ones he did fairly often, as i mentioned, was to get on the surface and sink ships in the middle of the night. they could not see him. japanese had radar but it was not like our radar, and a lot of the ships did not have radar. radar was a new thing for them. they could not detect american submarines until the torpedoes started exploding, not all the time but a lot of the time. o'kane knew that, it was common knowledge, and he used that to the crew benefit. on the fourth patrol, it was not as successful as the third, she sank five enemy ships and she was able to come home in one piece. o'kane, by this time, he had made four patrols with the tang and he had five or four aboard a previous submarine. he had seen a lot of action.
admiral charles, the boss of the north pacific, had told o'kane in no uncertain terms that your next patrol, which would be the fifth, is going to be your last. you have done your duty, it is time to go home to your wife and children. thank you and we will find another job for you somewhere, but you have done enough. o'kane was not the kind of man to take that well. he believed he was -- he was the crusader, he believed that he was in the navy before the war, he was a career officer, he wanted to finish the job. he had learned previously that his mentor and best friend, dudley walker morton, had been reported missing when the uss was sunk. -- uss wahoo was sunk.
when they were generally reported missing in action, that meant they were killed in action if they were not found. he felt like he had a mission to complete, not only finish the war, but avenge the death of his friend. on the fifth patrol, tang set out on september 24, only one month long, and the patrols were kind of short, because she would sink which she could and get out of there. her patrols were significantly shorter than a lot of patrols in the pacific. the tang was by far the most successful than any other submarine in the world war ii. she sunk more than any other did and she almost doubled her personal record of scores. by the end of the fifth patrol, the tang had sunk a total of 33,
and that has never been even close to that since. the fifth patrol ended with their final torpedo. as i mentioned, o'kane was told that this was his last eroded, last time going out. he employed his familiar tactics of surfacing in the middle of the japanese convoy and the japanese convoy and attacking that night and sinking as many ships as he could. unfortunately, he hit several ships and damaged one in particular, it was a freighter, and it was sinking but not sunk. it was heavily damaged and just kind of sitting there. o'kane was not one to let things just sit there, especially if he had two more torpedoes. he fired his final two torpedoes
and on the final torpedo, as it as it left the tube, it cleared the boat and got out several yards ahead of the submarine and the submarine's cruising on the surface at this low-speed, and as the submarine clears in the torpedo queers, it starts to come back, boomerang, it jumps out of the water like a porpoise that is coming. the guys on the bridge can see it. o'kane being one of them. they could see the torpedo and they could see that it was coming right for them. it was coming back right toward the tang. it was evident that it was going to hit the submarine. o'kane, who is generally a very cool, calm collected the customer, he realized this is a moment of extreme crisis.
he basically, he ordered engines forward to try to get out of the way of the torpedo, he tried to turn it and get it out of the way of the torpedo coming back at them. unfortunately, a submarine that was moving at a slow speed, it is not like an automobile, you cannot floor it and take off, and although she gained speed, and she did do her best to get out of the way of the torpedo, but it was not enough. the torpedo blew an enormous hole and instantly killed just about everybody in the rear of the boat. tang started to go down by the stern. as she went down, o'kane ordered the hatch be closed and the final words of the crew could hear was, close the hatch, close the hatch. the hatch was closed and every aboard the bridge, including o'kane were washed overboard into the water.
tang settled down stern first at 180 feet of water. there were survivors inside the boat at the time. those people that were in their had enough knowledge to note that the only way the could possibly get out of that submarine was if they dropped it level and tried to escape to the escape hatch, so that is what they did, they floated and it settled down at 182 feet of water, flat, straight at the bottom of the ocean. previously, earlier in the war, they had designed -- the united states navy had designed and escape kits for submarine is to get out of sunken boats. there was one piece of equipping called [indiscernible] and it closed your nose and allowed due to breathe through basically two bags, kind of like an oxygen tank but not really, it was designed for a short amount of breathing and it allowed you basically to get out of the sinking submarine.
that was the sole purpose of it. to cut a long story short, several hours later, several of the crew members inside the tang were able to get out. they used the mom's among and -- lung and one guy basically held his breath and exhaled as he rose 180 feet. the gentleman -- an incredible story, they were told not survivors -- they would -- they were told non-survivors, and this shows the men who were aboard the tang patrol and those with a purple heart are those we cannot find photos for, but the images with the lights behind them signify those who survived the sinking, who were washed overboard from the bridge like captain o'kane or those who escaped from the sunken boat under 180 feet of water.
jesse da silva and clayton decker were both survivors of the sinking as well as william libel, officer larry, truckey was another, hank flanagan, and captain o'kane and pete and floyd were all survivors from the sinking of the boat. most of these gentlemen lived well into their later years. right now, as of october 6, 2015, there was only one survivor from the uss tang, william. he was the chief and he also retired as commander in the u.s. navy. later, he became close to his captain, captain o'kane who died in 1994. this is a picture of the battle like of the uss tang -- of the paddle flight of the uss tang.
they took on the role of pirates of the pacific. each crew developed their own provider, -- bravado, personality, and a lot designed battle flags. the battle flags were to begin to american submarines in the war and they are fascinating because each one is based off of crew's designs, they were not authorized but this one here is a simile of the tang and it is called the strangest japanese flag and the original story, and this is not the original, because the original is down 180 feet with the tang, the crew took the japanese flag and one
of the crewmen painted this black panther burst into the japanese flag because the tang was called the black panther of the pacific, and the boats with paint little japanese flags for each kill that the summer and had. when they would come and support at pearl harbor, they would fly this thing like a pirate flag. there are several archival photographs of submarines tied up in pearl harbor and you can see the live the american flag are these very odd looking but cool looking battle flags that were designed by the crew. this represents all 33 ships that she sunk during the war. the final 15 were added after the fifth patrol by a few non-survivors and survivors of the tang. this was created based off the memories of the few survivors. for the fifth patrol, o'kane was awarded the medal of honor and the tang was awarded the presidential citation. this is focused on the uss tank and in particular the fifth
patrol, which was the most successful of any u.s. summary in history, this exhibit is placed here in remembrance of the 52 american submarines that were sunk during the war. the wall behind me lists the names of all those sailors who served the board of submarines and who did not come back. it is is what they call that they are on the eternal patrol, the bodies had never been recovered and the submarines are still at the bottom of the ocean, which many have not been located. a few have, but many have not. this exhibit is really dedicated to not just the crewmen and survivors of the tang and those who did not survive, but all submarine men, especially those of the 52 boats who did not make it and the crewmen listed on the wall. when visitors come aboard the
tang they're given a card, and the card is from random members of crew, and it uses these photographs and will be called the watch bill. what it does is give a brief history on the uss tang and on the flipside, and has a gentleman's photograph and their tang they're given a card, and name, and it tells you their job. they were either a radar operator, torpedo man, or what have you, and it lets you know that this was not a machine. it was manned by a crew of men, human beings, and it tries -- this exhibit tries to put you in touch with the men and give you an experience of what they saw, what they did and what they endured. this re-creates the final attack of the tang on the japanese convoy on the morning of the 24th of october and re-creates a circular run of the final torpedo as she slams into the side of the tang and it goes down. if you do not know that history
and you go through this exhibit, it is rather shocking, frankly, you do not know what is going on. neither did the guys inside the submarine. they had no idea what was coming, what would hit them, and when it did hit them, they had no idea. it kind of gives you that same experience as best as it can. [indiscernible] [video clip] >> fire! >> standby.
and clayton decker. those three members were the only three we were able to locate that would give the history. we interviewed william in 2011 and what is important to know about the tang and the crew, when those guys were washed overboard and they escaped the submarine, they floated in the water for several hours and they were picked up by a japanese destroyer. the japanese destroyer that picked them up was escorting the convoy that the tang just destroyed the night before, so when the guys were picked up by the japanese crew, needless to say, they were not treated nicely by the japanese crew. they were sent to several prison camps along the way and finally ending up in the most infamous japanese prison camp which is right outside of tokyo. it was a camp reserved for special prisoners and they were not considered prisoners of war but they were considered pirates and war criminals because they
sank japanese ships and killed japanese merchant men and not men of war, although the tang did both. they were regularly submitted to torture. basically, they had resigned themselves to their fate that they were not going to enter an -- endure an easy life with remainder of the war. these guys languished in these guys languished in japanese prison camps for months until they were finally liberated after the united states ended the war with the atomic bombs on japan and the ultimate vituperation in 1945. when they were liberated in august 1945, all of the survivors of the tang all those who survive, or still alive which cannot be said for a lot of prisoners of the japanese. o'kane had lost over 100 pounds
and he was on death's door, a lot of guys, including the chief, who had doubts as to whether o'kane would make it back to the united states because he was in such poor health. thanks to the treatment of american medical personnel and o'kane's will to live, he did survive to the ripe age of 94 years old. i had known about the uss tang and read about it as a historian for several years. when we were putting this together, i poured my stuff into the history and story of the boat and crew and captain. it was hard to get the commander to do an interview with us because he was rather reluctant to speak. once he did allow us into his home, he was one of the most gracious human beings i have ever met in my life and his story is incredible. he is a hell of the man, but to meet someone who served aboard the boat, who endured not only a
harrowing experience of war on the u.s. submarine during world war ii, but the experience aboard the tang, and the experience in a japanese prison camp, it was rather incredible. unfortunately, it is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of a thing. it is about as close as i will ever experience or ever get to experiencing this. the value of telling this story is of sacrifice, to me, the ultimate sacrifice. i have a six-year-old little boy and three-year-old little girl, and my son is in absolute awe of submarines, and he thinks this is a real submarine. or at least he likes to think that. [laughter] as a six-year-old boy, he is enamored by the light, flashes, explosions, the video, the wow of it all, but what i try to do every single time we come
through here, we stop right here. most people decide to stop and watch the video and they look at their card that was given to them and they look to see if the person lived or died. we hope that that sacrifice, because there were only nine survivors, we hope that sacrifice hits people. one of the things i do with my son every time we come here, because he gets a different card every time, we stopped and i point out the person's picture that he has. i don't know which when he gets, he gets a different one every time, and i try to explain that he gets one where a person not -- did not survive, i try to explain that these people died so that he could do the things he does today, so he can enjoy the freedom he has today. that is hard for a six-year-old to understand, and i don't think he understands that -- that is