Commander Richard H. O’Kane, USN (October 23-24, 1944)

go Two days ago, I gave the story of the greatest Naval Aviator of World War II: David McCampbell. Today, we get the story of the greatest submarine officer and commander of the war, who was credited with sinking 31 Japanese vessels as the commanding officer of the USS Tang (SS-306). Richard Hetherington O’Kane was born in Dover, New Hampshire on February 2, 1911. He graduated with the United States Naval Academy class of 1934 and commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy and later volunteered for submarine duty in 1938.

can you buy Lyrica from canada O’Kane went to war as an officer on the USS Wahoo (SS-238) and was decorated three times with the Silver Star during her war patrols. He was then named as the commissioning skipper of the Tang. As a submarine captain, he took the Tang on five war patrols, earning the Navy Cross on three and the Legion of Merit on one.

buy Lyrica from canada At the end of Tang‘s fifth war patrol, seventy years ago, Commander O’Kane earned the Medal of HonorTang carried 24 torpedoes on patrol. O’Kane’s boat was tragically sunk by her own 24th and final shot which circled back on itself.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

O’KANE, RICHARD HETHERINGTON

Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy, commanding U.S.S. Tang
Place and date: Vicinity Philippine Islands, 23 and 24 October 1944
Entered service at: New Hampshire
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Tang operating against 2 enemy Japanese convoys on 23 and 24 October 1944, during her fifth and last war patrol. Boldly maneuvering on the surface into the midst of a heavily escorted convoy, Comdr. O’Kane stood in the fusillade of bullets and shells from all directions to launch smashing hits on 3 tankers, coolly swung his ship to fire at a freighter and, in a split-second decision, shot out of the path of an onrushing transport, missing it by inches. Boxed in by blazing tankers, a freighter, transport, and several destroyers, he blasted 2 of the targets with his remaining torpedoes and, with pyrotechnics bursting on all sides, cleared the area. Twenty-four hours later, he again made contact with a heavily escorted convoy steaming to support the Leyte campaign with reinforcements and supplies and with crated planes piled high on each unit. In defiance of the enemy’s relentless fire, he closed the concentration of ship and in quick succession sent 2 torpedoes each into the first and second transports and an adjacent tanker, finding his mark with each torpedo in a series of violent explosions at less than l,000-yard range. With ships bearing down from all sides, he charged the enemy at high speed, exploding the tanker in a burst of flame, smashing the transport dead in the water, and blasting the destroyer with a mighty roar which rocked the Tang from stem to stern. Expending his last 2 torpedoes into the remnants of a once powerful convoy before his own ship went down, Comdr. O’Kane, aided by his gallant command, achieved an illustrious record of heroism in combat, enhancing the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

O’Kane survived and was captured by the Japanese along with eight other Tang crewmembers. The remainder of the crew was lost. As was true with McCampbell, the story of Richard O’Kane is best told by his full record of valor.

So from Military Times’ Hall of Valor, here are the citations for O’Kane’s three Navy Crosses, three Silver Stars, and the Legion of Merit with Combat “V”.

NC-200pxThe President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander [then Lieutenant Commander] Richard Hetherington O’Kane (NSN: 0-73324), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. TANG (SS-306), on the FIRST War Patrol of that submarine during the period 22 January 1944 to February 1944, in enemy controlled waters of the Pacific War Area. Skillfully maneuvering his ship into a favorable position to strike at enemy shipping, Commander O’Kane launched bold, aggressive attacks in the face of heavy and persistent hostile counter-measures, to sink five Japanese vessels totaling over 41,000 tons, two of these being a valuable enemy submarine tender and a capacity-loaded tanker. Although severely depth charged during the closure of his attacks, he courageously and expertly directed his vessel and succeeded in bringing her to port without serious injury to the ship or crew. Commander O’Kane’s inspiring leadership and devotion to the fulfillment of his hazardous mission reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

NC-200pxThe President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Commander Richard Hetherington O’Kane (NSN: 0-73324), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. TANG (SS-306), on the THIRD War Patrol of that submarine during the period 8 June 1944 to 14 July 1944, in enemy controlled waters of the Pacific War Area. Relentlessly seeking out the enemy throughout a period of intense offensive operations, Commander O’Kane fought his ship with brilliant tactical ability and, despite strong hostile escort screens, pressed home a series of bold and accurate torpedo attacks which resulted in the sinking of an important amount of valuable enemy shipping. Constantly subjected to vigorous Japanese countermeasures, he employed skillful evasive tactics and successfully brought his craft through each engagement without damage. Commander O’Kane’s inspiring leadership and valiant conduct in the face of grave peril reflect great credit upon himself, his gallant command and the United States Naval Service.

NC-200pxThe President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Second Gold Star in lieu of a Third Award of the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Commander Richard Hetherington O’Kane (NSN: 0-73324), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. TANG (SS-306), on the FOURTH War Patrol of that submarine during the period 31 July 1944 to 3 September 1944, in enemy controlled waters of the Pacific War Area. Skillfully directing the operations of his ship throughout this hazardous mission, Commander O’Kane fearlessly penetrated strong enemy escort screens and launched powerful, expertly-timed torpedo attacks which resulted in the sinking and damaging of an important amount of vital Japanese shipping. By his deft execution of brilliant tactical maneuvers, he successfully evaded the enemy’s vigorous countermeasures and brought the vessel through unscathed. Commander O’Kane’s superb seamanship and indomitable fighting spirit were an inspiration to his officers and men and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

SilverStar-200pxThe President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Lieutenant Commander [then Lieutenant] Richard Hetherington O’Kane (NSN: 0-73324), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Assistant Approach Officer of the Submarine U.S.S. WAHOO (SS-238), on the THIRD War Patrol of that submarine during the period 16 January 1943 to 7 February 1943, during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific Area. When his submarine was attacked by a hostile destroyer while he was on periscope watch, Lieutenant O’Kane, grimly aware of the danger involved and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, withheld fire until minimum range had been obtained, then discharged torpedoes which destroyed the enemy craft. Later, he rendered invaluable assistance to his Commanding Officer in the attack on and destruction of an entire Japanese convoy of four important vessels. By his determination and daring aggressiveness, he contributed to the success of the WAHOO in the sinking of 31,890 tons of shipping during two actions. His determination, coolness, and unflinching spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

SilverStar-200pxThe President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star to Lieutenant Commander Richard Hetherington O’Kane (NSN: 0-73324), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Assistant Approach Officer of the Submarine U.S.S. WAHOO (SS-238), on the FOURTH War Patrol of that submarine during the period 23 February 1943 to 6 April 1943, during action against enemy Japanese forces in a dangerous enemy-patrolled area in the Pacific. While on periscope watch during vital operations in extremely hazardous waters, Lieutenant Commander O’Kane, by his outstanding professional ability and fine cooperation with the fire control party, contributed directly to the destruction of eight enemy freighters, on trawler and two sampans, a total of 36,693 tons, as well as the damaging of another freighter. The exemplary conduct of Lieutenant Commander O’Kane throughout the entire period of action reflects great credit upon the United States Naval Service.

SilverStar-200pxThe President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Second Gold Star in lieu of a Third Award of the Silver Star to Lieutenant Commander Richard Hetherington O’Kane (NSN: 0-73324), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Executive Officer and Assistant Approach Officer of the Submarine U.S.S. WAHOO (SS-238), on the FIFTH War Patrol of that submarine during the period 25 April 1943 to 21 May 1943, during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific Area. Skilled and tireless in the performance of duty, Commander O’Kane rendered invaluable assistance to his Commanding Officer in pressing home his bold, relentless gun and torpedo attacks against heavily escorted enemy task forces and convoys to sink over 24,000 tons of combatant and auxiliary units. His outstanding leadership, cool courage and sound judgment in the face of intense hostile countermeasures served as an inspiration to the officers and men of his ship, thereby reflecting great credit upon Commander O’Kane and the United States Naval Service.

LegionOfMerit-200pxThe President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” to Commander [then Lieutenant Commander] Richard Hetherington O’Kane (NSN: 0-73324), United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Commanding Officer of the Submarine U.S.S. TANG (SS-306), during the Second War Patrol of that vessel in enemy Japanese-controlled waters of the Pacific from 16 March to 14 May 1944. During air strikes by our forces against the enemy-held Truk Islands, Commander O’Kane ably commanded his ship in performing hazardous lifeguard services with the result that twenty-two of our naval aviators were rescued and safely returned to port. Although the rescues were carried out against active enemy aerial opposition and bombardment from shore batteries, he not only skillfully evaded the enemy without damage to his ship or personnel, but on two occasions returned the fire of shore batteries on Ollan Islands and succeeded in silencing them. His devotion to duty throughout reflects the highest credit upon himself, his officers and men and the United States Naval Service. (Commander O’Kane is authorized to wear the Combat “V”.)

O’Kane retired as a Rear Admiral in July of 1957. He lived until age 83 and passed away on February 16, 1994. The greatest combat submariner in United States history rests in peace in Arlington National Cemetery.

The Navy submarine force remembers its greatest-ever officer by keeping his personal cribbage board in the wardroom of the oldest submarine in commission. That honor is currently held by the USS Bremerton (SSN-698).

His present namesake, the USS O’Kane (DDG-77), is a destroyer with the Pacific Fleet.

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