PATROL 9 - OPERATION BARNEY
24 May 1945 to 4 July 1945
Upon their return to Guam, the crew of Bowfin got as much rest and relaxation as possible in the short time allocated before their final war patrol. This patrol consisted of a secret mission designated Operation Barney that sent Bowfin and eight other submarines into the Sea of Japan, known as the Emperor’s backyard, through a highly dangerous path, and the only feasible way to enter the Sea of Japan was through the heavily mined Tsushima Strait. To accomplish this suicidal task they would be using the new FM Sonar mine detecting equipment which had been recently installed on each of the boats.
Each of the nine submarines assigned for this operation was grouped in wolf packs of three. Bowfin was grouped with USS Flying Fish (SS-229) and USS Tinosa (SS-283), and the wolf pack was named Bob Risser’s Bobcats, for the commander of the Flying Fish. As a whole, the nine submarines were known as Hydeman’s Hellcats, for the officer in charge of the operation.
Bowfin, Flying Fish and Tinosa traveled together towards the Tsushima Strait and then to the Sea of Japan. When using the sonar through the Tsushima Strait the hell’s bells were a near-constant tone as they came within 300 feet of a mine. Through the treacherous strait, Bowfin’s crew could hear the sound of a mine cable scraping along the side of the boat's hull.
Once through the deadly strait and in the Sea of Japan, Bowfin was assigned to patrol off the eastern coast of Korea. On 11 June Bowfin sighted an unescorted cargo ship and fired four torpedoes, one of which hit. The ship was the 1,898-ton Shinyo Maru sinking in only three minutes. Two days later Bowfin torpedoed and sank the Akiura Maru, a small, 887-ton freighter.
On 24 June, the Hellcats rendezvoused in preparation for the wolf pack’s exit from the Sea of Japan. One of the submarines, USS Bonefish (SS-223), did not appear. The remaining eight boats made a daring and successful high-speed surface run out of the Sea of Japan through the narrow and heavily-patrolled La Perouse Strait, between Russia’s Sakhalin Island and Hokkaido.
The operation was a success and on 4 July, a triumphant USS Bowfin pulled into Pearl Harbor, having completed a historic patrol. VADM Lockwood awarded each of the Hellcats’ crew members with a certificate enrolling them as members of the “distinguished order of Mighty Mine Dodgers” for their success in transiting what he called “the most dangerous of war waters.”
USS Bowfin‘s ninth patrol had been a life or death situation in more ways than one. An aerial photographer, Marshall LaCour, was chosen to film Bowfin’s ninth patrol. Mr. LaCour recalls drawing straws in a pool of photographers to decide which submarine each person would be assigned to. Finally, it was down to only two submarines: Bowfin and Bonefish. However, it was then decided that the more experienced photographer would go aboard Bowfin, the more highly decorated submarine. If Mr. LaCour had been assigned to Bonefish, he would not be here today to tell his story. USS Bonefish, one of the nine submarines to participate in this dangerous mission, was the only submarine that did not return safely from the Sea of Japan.
PATROL 9 SUMMARY
USS Bowfin was underway for 8,559 miles during her ninth patrol. CDR Tyree and higher authorities believed Bowfin sank 6,300 tons (two vessels). JANAC credited USS Bowfin with sinking 2,785 tons (two vessels). CDR Tyree was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of his second Navy Cross.