One of the most successful submarines of World War II, Tautog was credited with sinking 26 Japanese ships, for a total of 72,606 tons, scoring first by number of ships and eleventh by tonnage.
Late in April, she returned to New London, Connecticut, loaded supplies, and sailed with two other submarines for Hawaii on 1 May. After calls at Coco Solo, Canal Zone, and San Diego, California, they arrived at Pearl Harbor on 6 June. Tautog operated in the Hawaiian area until mid-October. On 21 October, she and stood out to sea, under sealed orders, to begin a 45-day, full-time, simulated war patrol in the area of Midway Island. For 38 consecutive days, the two submarines operated submerged for 16 to 18 hours each day. Tautog returned to Pearl Harbor on 5 December 1941.
Two days later, on Sunday, 7 December, Tautog was at the Submarine Base when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Within minutes of the first enemy bomb explosions on Ford Island, Tautog's gun crews went into action and, with the help of and a destroyer, splashed a Japanese torpedo plane as it came over Merry Point.
Shortly after her arrival in the Marshalls, Tautog was ordered to Truk to intercept ships returning from the Battle of the Coral Sea, especially the Japanese aircraft carriers Zuikauku and Shōkaku (the latter codenamed "Wounded Bear"); because Pearl Harbor underestimated Shōkaku's speed, Tautog and two compatriots arrived too late. South of the harbor, Tautog fired two torpedoes at Goyo Maru, scoring one hit and suffering a circular run (typical of the erratic Mark XIV torpedo), forcing Tautog deep. (Goyo Maru beached herself.) Two days later, Tautog was alerted by ULTRA of four Japanese submarines in the vicinity, also returning from battle. She was caught by surprise by the first, and failed to attack. She detected and fired two torpeodes at the second. Although the Japanese ship was not in sight when Tautog surfaced, she was not officially credited with a sinking. Later in the morning, Tautog sighted another submarine with the designation "I-28" clearly discernible on its conning tower. Just as I-28 fired at Tautog, the American boat fired two torpedoes, then went to to avoid. One torpedo missed, the second sent the Japanese boat to the bottom. Busy with Japanese submarines (the third one sunk by Pacific Fleet submarines) Tautog did not see Shōkaku depart, on 11 or 12 May.
Tautog sighted two ships departing Truk on 22 May and made a submerged sound attack on the larger. The American submarine's crew thought they had sunk the target, but the 5,461-ton cargo ship Sanko Maru had been only damaged. Three days later, Tautog made an attack from periscope depth against a cargo ship. Her spread of torpedoes sent Shoka Maru to the bottom. The patrol ended at Fremantle on 11 June. She was credited with six ships sunk for 19,500 tons; postwar, this was reduced to three for 7,500 tons.
Tautog was refitted by at Albany, south of Fremantle. Again loaded with mines, the submarine put to sea 8 October 1942. On 20 October, her lookouts spotted the dim outline of a ship through a rain squall. Quickly submerging, the submarine determined that the ship was a 75-ton fishing schooner. Tautog prepared for battle, surfaced, closed the range, and fired a shot from her deck gun across the schooner's bow; the target hove to. The stranger broke the Japanese colors and hoisted a signal flag. Investigation revealed a Japanese crew and four Filipinos on board. The Filipinos swam over to the submarine and later enlisted in the United States Navy. The Japanese were ordered to take to their boats but refused to do so. Three shells fired in the schooner's stern disabled her rudder and propeller. The Japanese then launched a boat, were given water, and directed to the nearest land. When Tautog opened fire to sink the ship, several more Japanese emerged and scrambled into the boat. Ten more rounds left the schooner a burning hulk.
On 27 October, Tautog tracked a passenger-cargo ship until dark and fired two torpedoes into her. A fire started in the target aft, her bow rose into the air, and the unidentified ship sank within a few minutes.. The next day, a spread of torpedoes fired at another merchantman turned out to be duds; their impacts on the target which could be heard in the sub. However, escort ships had seen their tracks, and the submarine received a thorough depth charging which caused no serious damage. During the night of 2 November, Tautog laid mines off Haiphong, Indochina, with several exploding as they were emplaced. On 11 November, she fired a torpedo at another passenger/cargo ship. It missed and alerted an escort which gave Tautog a severe depth charge attack. Five explosions close aboard caused extensive minor damage. The submarine returned to Fremantle ten days later for repair and refit. She was credited with one ship of 5,100 tons; postwar, it was reduced to 4,000 tons.
That night, Tautog was headed for Alors Strait when she sighted a ship )thought to be a freighter) coming west, accompanied by an escort. The targets suddenly turned toward Tautog and were recognized as an antisubmarine warfare team. The submarine went deep but still received a severe pounding. On 5 January 1943, Tautog sighted a sail off her port bow and promptly closed the ship. It turned out to be a native craft with a dozen Muslim sailors, four women, several babies, some chickens, and a goat on board. After he had examined the ship's papers, Tautog's commanding officer allowed the vessel to resume its voyage. On 9 January at 08:38, Tautog (relying on ULTRA) sighted a Natori-class cruiser off Ambon Island, at a range of about . Three minutes later, the submarine fired her first torpedo. At 09:43, her crew heard a loud explosion, and sonar reported the cruiser's screws had stopped. In the next few minutes, as the cruiser got underway at reduced speed, Tautog scored two more hits, while the cruiser opened fire on her periscope with guns, preventing her from tracking the target for another attack; the cruiser limped into Ambon.
Later in the patrol, in the Salajar Strait, Tautog spotted a second cruiser (again thanks to ULTRA), and fired for torpedoes in heavy seas; all missed. She sighted a freighter on 22 January in the Banda Sea, and three of the submarine's torpedoes sent her to the bottom. The victim was later identified as Hasshu Maru, a former Dutch passenger-cargo ship which had been taken over by the Japanese. Tautog then headed for Fremantle, where she was greeted warmly for her "extreme aggressiveness. She was credited with two ships sunk for 6,900 tons; postwar, this was limited to two of 2,900.
Tautog's next patrol was conducted in Makassar Strait and around Balikpapan (where she again laid mines) from 24 February 1943 to 19 April. On 17 March, she sighted a grounded tanker with topside damage from an air attack. One torpedo, well placed near the stern, produced a secondary explosion, and the ship settled by the stern. Tautog expended three additional torpedoes on a freighter, but missed. On 9 April in the Celebes Sea off Boston Island, Tautog contacted a convoy of five ships. She sank Isonami (1,750 tons) with three torpedoes, the 5,214-ton freighter Penang Maru with three more, and missed with three. During this patrol, in four battle surfaces to test her new gun, with just the third 5"/25 cal pirated from an old V-boat, Tautog also sank a schooner, a sailboat, and a motor sampan. Despite five torpedo and four gun attacks, however, she only sank two confirmed ships for 7,000 tons (wartime, 6,800).
The next day, Tautog made radar contact with a ship and tracked the target while working toward a good firing position. A profligate spread of six torpedoes produced four hits which broke Usa Maru in half. When last seen, the cargoman's bow and stern were both in the air. On 11 January, Tautog intercepted two freighters and fired three torpedoes at the first and larger, and one at the second. Escorts forced the submarine deep, but timed explosions indicated a hit on each ship. Tautog was later credited with inflicting medium damage to Kogyo Maru. She returned to Pearl Harbor for a refit by on 30 January, credited with two ships for 9,700 tons (postwar, 6,000),.
On 13 March, Tautog tracked a freighter until she reached a good position for an attack and then fired three torpedoes from , of which two hit and stopped Ryua Maru. The target refused to sink, even after Tautog fired four more torpedoes into "the rubber ship".. To avoid wasting more precious torpedoes, the submarine surfaced and finished the job with her 5" gun. While she was attempting this, another ship came over the horizon to rescue survivors. Leaving the bait sitting, Tautog dived and began a submerged approach, firing a spread of three torpedoes; cargo ship Shojen Maru sank, more quickly than her inexplicably durable sister. As the sub headed homeward on the night of 16 March, Tautog made radar contact on a convoy of seven ships off Hokkaidō. She maneuvered into position off the enemy's starboard flank so that two ships were almost overlapping and fired four torpedoes. After watching the first one explode against the nearer ship, Tautog was forced deep by an escort, but heard two timed explosions and breaking-up noises accompanied by more explosions. The American submarine pursued the remaining ships and attacked again from their starboard flank, firing three torpedoes at a medium-sized freighter and four at another ship. A Japanese destroyer closed the submarine, forced her deep, and subjected her to a depth charge attack for one and one-half hours. Tautog was officially credited with sinking Shirakumo (1,750 tons) and the passenger/cargo ship Nichiren Maru, bringing her total for the patrol to five ships for 17,700 tons (reduced postwar to four for 11,300), one of the most aggressive, and successful, of the war. She returned to Midway on 23 March.
On 2 August, Tautog sighted several ships off Miki Saki. She fired three torpedoes at a freighter from a range of . The first hit caused a secondary explosion which obscured the target, and the second raised a column of black smoke. When the air cleared, the cargo ship Konei Maru had sunk. The submarine was briefly attacked by escorts but evaded them and set her course for Midway. Tautog arrived there on 10 August, credited with a disappointing two ships for 4,300 tons (postwar reduced to 2,800); she was routed to the United States for overhaul.
Tautog completed her patrol at Midway on 1 February 1945 and was assigned to training duty. On 2 March, the submarine shifted her operations to Pearl Harbor to assist aircraft in anti-submarine warfare for one month before heading for the United States. She reached San Diego on 9 April and operated in conjunction with the University of California's Department of War Research in experimenting with new equipment which it had developed to improve submarine safety. On 7 September, she headed for San Francisco to join the Pacific Reserve Fleet. Her orders were subsequently modified, and she got underway on 31 October for the East Coast. Tautog arrived at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 18 November and was decommissioned on 8 December 1945.
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