The USS Parche and the USS Steelhead

This is the story of two US submarines, the USS Parche and the USS Steelhead, while operating off Formosa during July (30-31)1944. Rear Admiral Ramage received the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the mission.

The story of the USS Ramage is excerpted from A Portrait of the Stars and Stripes, Volume II, by Bud Hannings. Glenside Pennsylvania: Seniram Publishing. 1991.

July 31 1944 (In the Pacific)–During the previous day (30 July), the USS Steelhead had been tracking a Japanese convoy, but the Japanese Air Force prevented an attack. Captain, W. H. WeIchel transmits the information and probable course to the USS Parche at 2015. At midnight, the Steelhead closes quietly. Meanwhile, the Parche streaks along the surface to join the hunt. At just after 0330, the Steelhead fires six torpedoes toward a complacent tanker and a non-cantankerous oversized freighter; within moments there is a loud roar and water is surging upward amidst swirls of black smoke pronouncing the rupture and demolition of the tanker.

A Freighter is also struck by the volley. The Steelhead then fires six more torpedoes at another freighter. The Japanese react and catapult signal flares into the air. The galloping Porche sees the alarm as clearly as the Japanese. Commander Lawson P. Ramage blares orders mandating full steam ahead. Ramage is about to give the Japs an expensive lesson about the U.S. Navy. With Japanese flares in abundance throughout the night sky, the Parche heads directly for the enemy, unleashing a mighty blow at a target less than 500 yards away. The Porche maneuvers to avoid the charging enemy Ship. causing its torpedoes to miss when the enemy takes evasive action, but the Porche’s motion places her within killing range of two freighters.

Immediately, Commander “Red” Ramage attacks and the first freighter is blown to oblivion. The Porche retains her momentum and swerves toward the two tankers. Unhesitatingly, the Porche closes and torpedoes are again fired, four heading for the lead tanker and three for the trailer. The first blow destroys the lead vessel, but the other three strike in rapid succession, causing the tanker, now in sections to plummet to the bottom, leaving only burning oil to attest to its prior existence.

The other Tanker is crippled by two hits, and slowly limps away, its crew yelping several unprintable quotes concerning the U.S. Navy. Meanwhile, Japanese escort vessels close in on the Parche, but the valiant vessel reacts by firing more torpedoes, and another transport ship is struck. Ramage, in calculated calmness, orders his men below as enemy escorts close tighter, but he remains on deck to continue this masterful attack.

The Parche is firing torpedoes at the enemy like a lawman from the Old West, unloading his six shooters, while riding horseback. The Parche maneuvers left and right, then right to left, testing the skill and the nerves of the crew, who are unrelenting. while maintaining their precision movements. It is a modernized version of a nineteenth century sea duel, with an outgunned and outnumbered Yankee warship humiliating and whipping the enemy.

The Japanese by this time, are understandably bewildered at the audacity fo these sailors aboard the Parche. The Warship, which caused Ramage to order his crew below deck, approaches to ram the submarine, but Ramage again evades, avoiding a collision by about fifty feet, equivalent to a cat’s hair, by any mariner’s standards. Suddenly, the submarine is surrounded by Japanese warships and a tanker is dead ahead, moving toward the Parche with the determination of a seagoing Kamikaze. Unperturbed, Ramage orders three “DOWN THE THROAT” shots, halting the raging tanker; he follows with another killing blow, succinctly terminating the futile voyage. Satisfied that there are no more targets of value in the near vicinity, the Porche, heads for calmer seas, its crew exhausted, but victorious and unharmed.

The remnants of the beleaguered convoy departs also, coincidentally heading toward the Steelheod, which pumps a few torpedoes into a passenger cargo vessel and dispatches another volley toward a large freighter. The freighter sinks as a Japanese plane comes over during the early morning dusk, prompting the Stealhead to dive deep prematurely, giving the remaining passenger cargo vessel an extended life. The devastation sustained by the Japanese shipping during this abrupt encounter, according to a post war inquest held by the Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee: the Parche receives credit for sinking the Koei Moru (tanker) and the Manko Moru (passenger-cargoman). The Parche receives shared credit with the Steelhead on the sinking of the Yoshino Moru (transport) and the Steelhead is also credited with the destruction of the freighter Daku Maru and the transport Fuso Mara.

Commander (later Vice Admiral) Lawson Patterson Ramage receives the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary leadership and courage in battle. Within 46 minutes, his submarine had fired nineteen torpedoes and registered fourteen or fifteen hits, while rampaging through a virtual wall of severe enemy fire, and bringing the Parche through unscathed. Subsequently, when the author asked Rear Admiral Lawson where he got his extraordinary courage, he responded: “I DIDN’T NEED COURAGE. MY FAMILY WAS WITH ME IN PEARL HARBOR WHEN THE JAPANESE ATTACKED. I SIMPLY WAITED FOR THE OPPORTUNITY AND TOOK PROPER ACTION.”

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One Response to The USS Parche and the USS Steelhead

  1. Ray D. McDonald, Jr says:

    My dad, Ray D. McDonald, served on the Steelhead and seldom would talk about his service. My son, Ray III recently found the story of this battle and told me about it. My dad, who died in 1991, never mentioned it.

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