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Ramage’s Rampage-Submarine Attack That Made History

In the early hours of July 31st, 1944, the submarine USS Parche embarked on a daring mission, setting the stage for what would become an epic naval engagement in the heart of the South China Sea. Led by the audacious Commander Lawson Ramage, the USS Parche would soon be known for its heroic actions in what was later dubbed ‘Ramage’s Rampage.’ In this article, we delve into the gripping tale of courage, strategy, and triumph that marked this extraordinary moment in the submarine campaign against Japan.

Commander Lawson P. Ramage
Commander Lawson P. Ramage

The Crucial Second War Patrol

Commander Lewis Parks led the USS Parche on its second war patrol as a flagship of a three-boat wolfpack consisting of Parche, Hammerhead and Steelhead, undertaking a crucial mission to disrupt enemy supply lines and weaken Japan’s war effort. Departing from Midway Island on June 17th, 1944, the submarines set course for their designated patrol area between Luzon and Formosa.

The Battle Against Nature

The journey to the patrol area was not without challenges. As the days passed, the weather worsened, with 60-knot winds and turbulent waves buffeting the deck of USS Parche while on the surface. The crew had to endure these treacherous conditions, all the while maintaining their vigilance for enemy ships on the horizon.

The First Encounter: Parche vs. Japanese Destroyer

On July 3rd, the USS Parche found itself in a heart-pounding encounter with a Japanese destroyer. The enemy ship spotted and closed in on Parche, forcing the submarine into a crash dive to avoid detection. The tense confrontation highlighted the ever-present danger faced by submariners during their patrols.

Near Miss with an Aircraft Carrier

July 19th brought another thrilling moment when Parche encountered a Japanese aircraft carrier. Commander Ramage seized the opportunity to get his submarine close to the carrier for an attack. However, the carrier turned away, eluding Parche’s pursuit. The incident underscored the challenges of pursuing faster surface vessels in a submerged submarine.

Extending the Patrol

As the scheduled end of the patrol approached at the end of the month, Commander Parks faced a dilemma. Despite having numerous torpedoes remaining, the lack of significant action and adverse weather conditions led to frustration among the crew. Sensing an opportunity to make a difference, Parks requested permission to extend the patrol, a decision that would soon pay off.

The Encounter with MI-11: Setting the Stage for Ramage’s Rampage

Fuso Maru
Fuso Maru

On July 30th, the USS Hammerhead established contact with the Japanese convoy MI-11, setting the stage for the audacious attack that would become “Ramage’s Rampage.” The MI-11 convoy, steaming south from Formosa to Borneo, comprised 11 merchant ships and six military escorts. Notably, it included the troop transports Fuso Maru and Yoshino Maru, each carrying 5000 troops, and the oil tankers Koei Maru and Ogura Maru, crucial to sustaining Japan’s war effort.

However, initial confusion arose as Hammerhead provided incorrect positioning information for the convoy, causing some delays in coordinating the attack. Despite this setback, USS Parche and USS Steelhead converged on the convoy with determination.

Parche’s Daring Approach

In the early hours of July 31st, Parche and Steelhead positioned themselves strategically to launch a surprise attack on the convoy. As Parche closed in, the convoy came into view on the radar at a range of 34,000 yards. An hour later, Steelhead initiated the attack, firing ten torpedoes that struck Koei Maru and Ogura Maru, causing significant damage.

The Japanese convoy responded with flares and machine gun fire, searching for the unseen enemy. In the midst of the confusion, Commander Ramage seized the moment and ordered Parche to turn starboard, veering towards the convoy at high speed. However, by an extraordinary twist of fate, MI-11 also turned starboard at the same time, inadvertently putting Parche and the convoy on a collision course.

The Audacious “Ramage’s Rampage” Begins

The Audacious "Ramage's Rampage" Begins
The Audacious “Ramage’s Rampage” Begins

Despite the impending danger, Ramage fearlessly pressed the attack, boldly steering Parche into the heart of more than a dozen enemy ships. In the dim light, the first merchant ship loomed dangerously close, less than 400 yards away. In a daring maneuver, Parche narrowly avoided a collision, passing by the enemy vessel so closely that the crews exchanged heated insults.

With adrenaline pumping through their veins, Ramage directed Parche to make an attack run on the freighter. At this point, the submarine was still on the surface, hurtling forward at almost 20 knots. Parche’s torpedo tubes were loaded and ready for action, a crucial detail that would play a significant role in the ensuing onslaught.

A Barrage of Torpedoes

Commander Ramage initiated the attack, firing two bow torpedoes at the enemy ship, marking the commencement of what would later be known as “Ramage’s Rampage.” The time was 3:56 am, and the submarine’s crew watched with bated breath as the torpedoes closed in on their target. However, MI-11’s skilled evasive maneuvers allowed the freighter to dodge the oncoming torpedoes successfully.

Undeterred, Ramage decided to withhold fire on the other forward tubes, steering northwards to assess the situation and observe the enemy vessels’ movements. Parche’s position between the lines of merchant ships presented a unique opportunity, and Ramage seized it with calculated precision.

Targeting the Oil Tankers

At 4:02 am, Ramage fired one torpedo from the stern tubes at the leading merchant vessel. An explosion was heard, and the crew claimed a hit, but the chaos of the attack made it difficult to confirm the source of the noise. Amidst the commotion, the Japanese ships fired flares and machine guns, while their escort vessels scrambled to redeploy and engage the hidden enemy.

Amid the confusion, a lookout on Parche spotted the two oil tankers sailing line astern and initially mistook them for aircraft carriers. Ramage saw an opportunity to strike at the convoy’s vital lifeline—the oil tankers.

Decimating the Enemy Supply Line

Decimating the Enemy Supply Line
Decimating the Enemy Supply Line

With Parche’s torpedoes reloaded, Ramage wasted no time and quickly closed the distance to the first tanker, Koei Maru. At 4:07 am, four torpedoes were fired at the tanker, and the crew confirmed four resounding hits. The oil tanker began to sink rapidly, its valuable cargo now lost to the depths.

Not pausing for a moment, Parche executed a sharp starboard turn, aligning its stern tubes with the second tanker, Ogura Maru. Ramage’s crew worked swiftly to reload the tubes, a remarkable feat accomplished even as the submarine faced the turbulent waves on the surface.

A Relentless Attack

At 4:10 am, Parche fired three torpedoes at Ogura Maru, claiming two hits and ensuring the tanker’s demise. The Japanese vessel sank, taking with it a significant portion of the enemy’s precious resources. Parche’s unyielding assault demonstrated the submariners’ courage and determination to disrupt the enemy’s vital supply lines.

Two forward tubes were ready again by at 4:12 and Ramage ordered an attack on the Dakar Maru which was conveniently sailing right across Parche’s bow at the time. Two torpedoes slammed into the ship amidships, blowing a massive hole and cutting its power.
Commander Ramage now circled back, bringing his boats stern torpedoes to bear on the already damaged Ogura Maru. The Ogura Maru was down by the bow, so its 4-inch gun on the aft of the ship could not depress itself low enough to hit Parche as she steamed behind the stricken tanker. Three torpedoes were fired at 4:21, smashing into the tanker and causing it to finally sink.

Striking the Troop Transports

With their mission far from over, the crew of USS Parche turned their attention to the troop transports-Fuso Maru and Yoshino Maru. These vessels carried thousands of enemy soldiers, making them high-priority targets to weaken Japan’s military capability.

The Final Blow

Ramage and his crew calculated the torpedo solutions while enemy escort ships rained machine gun fire upon them. The situation intensified when the converted gunboat, Kazan Maru, appeared on the starboard side, seemingly intent on ramming Parche. In a tense moment, Ramage’s quick thinking and Chet Stanton’s, boat helmsman, timely orders for full ahead just a few seconds before Ramage himself issued them, allowed Parche to avoid a potentially disastrous collision, escaping the danger by a mere 50 yards.

Steadfast in the Face of Danger

Yoshino Maru
Yoshino Maru

Despite the perilous circumstances, the submariners on USS Parche remained resolute and focused. They maintained their course, positioning themselves for the final attack on Yoshino Maru. At 4:29 am, three torpedoes were fired, and the troop transport was struck with devastating precision. Two hits immobilized the vessel, resulting in the tragic loss of over 2400 soldiers on board.

A Remarkable Victory in the Face of Adversity

The relentless barrage of torpedoes from Parche left the Japanese convoy in disarray. With the escort vessels closing in and the rest of the convoy scattering, Commander Ramage made a strategic decision to disengage and escape the area.

The crew of USS Parche navigated the dangerous waters, skillfully evading the enemy vessels, and emerging from the chaos of battle unscathed. As the submarine retreated from the scene, the magnitude of “Ramage’s Rampage” became apparent—five ships sunk, including the two vital oil tankers, and a significant number of enemy troops lost.

Ramage’s Reputation as a Headhunter

As part of the wolfpack “Parks Pirates,” Commander Ramage earned the nickname “headhunter” due to the presence of three redheads on the team—himself and the submarines Hammerhead and Steelhead. This playful moniker added a sense of camaraderie and unity among the crew, who displayed exceptional teamwork throughout their second war patrol.

The Aftermath and Legacy

USS Parche SS 384
USS Parche SS 384

Parche’s daring attack on the Japanese convoy MI-11 had a lasting impact on the war effort. The disruption of enemy supply lines and the destruction of key vessels severely hampered Japan’s ability to sustain its military operations.

Commendation and Recognition

News of the extraordinary success of “Ramage’s Rampage” spread rapidly through the submarine force. Commander Ramage and his courageous crew were hailed as heroes, admired for their exceptional bravery and tactical brilliance.

Upon their return to Pearl Harbor, Rear Admiral Charles Lockwood, the commander of the Pacific submarine force, personally greeted Commander Ramage. Lockwood credited Parche with sinking five enemy ships for a total of 34,300 tons and Steelhead with two ships sunk, totaling 14,700 tons. The crew’s audacity and skill earned them accolades and commendations, and the submariners’ legendary feat would be forever etched in naval history.

A Medal of Honor: Recognizing Extraordinary Valor

The exceptional achievements of Commander Ramage and his crew did not go unnoticed. In recognition of his extraordinary leadership and valor during “Ramage’s Rampage,” Commander Lawson Ramage was bestowed with the highest military honor in the United States—the Medal of Honor.

A Historic Achievement

Commander Ramage’s Medal of Honor was a landmark moment in the history of the United States Navy. He became the first living submariner to receive this prestigious award, a testament to the unparalleled courage and determination displayed by him and his crew on that fateful day.

A Humble Dedication

In an act of humility, Commander Ramage dedicated his Medal of Honor to his courageous crew. He recognized that the success of “Ramage’s Rampage” was a collective effort-a result of each submariner’s unwavering commitment to the mission and their exceptional teamwork in the face of extreme adversity.

To commemorate their remarkable contribution to the mission, Ramage went above and beyond, issuing a special certificate to every crew member. This certificate served as a lasting reminder of their valor and the pivotal role they played in one of the most audacious submarine attacks in history.

The Submarine Campaign Against Japan

“Ramage’s Rampage” was a remarkable moment in the larger submarine campaign waged against Japan during World War II. The courage and tenacity displayed by the submariners were emblematic of the overall strategy employed by the United States Navy to weaken Japan’s military capabilities and bring the empire to its knees.

The Silent and Deadly Submarines

Throughout the war, American submarines were a formidable force, silently patrolling the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. These underwater vessels, equipped with state-of-the-art technology and skilled crews, struck fear into the hearts of the enemy. Operating beneath the surface, submarines stealthily stalked enemy ships, delivering devastating blows with torpedoes and wreaking havoc on Japanese supply lines.

The Battle of the Pacific

The submarine campaign against Japan was part of the larger Pacific War—a theater that witnessed intense naval battles, island hopping campaigns, and aerial dogfights. American submarines played a pivotal role in disrupting Japanese logistics and isolating their forces, contributing significantly to the ultimate Allied victory in the Pacific.

Unyielding Perseverance: The Spirit of USS Parche

The triumph of “Ramage’s Rampage” exemplified the indomitable spirit of the submariners who served aboard USS Parche. The crew’s unwavering commitment to their mission and their resolute determination in the face of danger epitomized the values upheld by the United States Navy.

The Bond of Brotherhood

Life on a submarine demanded a unique level of camaraderie and mutual trust among the crew. The submariners formed a close-knit brotherhood, relying on each other’s skills and abilities to navigate the treacherous waters of the Pacific and carry out daring missions like “Ramage’s Rampage.”

The Unsung Heroes

While Commander Ramage’s leadership and strategic acumen were instrumental in the success of the mission, the remarkable achievements of USS Parche were the result of the collective efforts of every crew member. From the skilled mechanics in the torpedo room to the vigilant lookouts stationed on deck, each submariner played a crucial role in the vessel’s operations and the success of the mission.

The Legacy of “Ramage’s Rampage”

The legacy of “Ramage’s Rampage” extended far beyond the confines of the South China Sea. The audacity and success of this daring attack inspired other submariners and instilled a sense of fear in the Japanese naval forces. The tale of USS Parche’s triumph became a symbol of American resilience, resourcefulness, and courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

A Testament to American Valor

The daring actions of Commander Ramage and his crew demonstrated the ingenuity and determination that defined the United States military during World War II. “Ramage’s Rampage” stood as a testament to the valor of the American armed forces and their unyielding commitment to securing victory for the Allied powers.

Shaping the Course of History

The disruption caused by “Ramage’s Rampage” and the wider submarine campaign played a crucial role in tipping the scales in favor of the Allies. By crippling Japan’s supply lines and weakening its naval capabilities, American submarines helped pave the way for the ultimate defeat of the Japanese Empire.

Conclusion

In the early hours of July 31st, 1944, Commander Lawson Ramage and the crew of USS Parche etched their names into history through the audacious and successful “Ramage’s Rampage.” Their daring attack on the Japanese convoy MI-11 exemplified the valor and strategic brilliance displayed by American submariners during World War II.

As the first living submariner to receive the Medal of Honor, Ramage’s recognition highlighted the extraordinary contributions of the submariners in the larger Pacific War. Their relentless pursuit of victory and unwavering commitment to their mission secured an enduring place in the annals of naval history.

The legacy of “Ramage’s Rampage” serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who served aboard submarines during World War II. Their courage, resilience, and steadfast determination continue to inspire generations and stand as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the United States Navy in the face of adversity.

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