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Hull Number: DDG-77

Launch Date: 03/28/1998

Commissioned Date: 10/23/1999

Call Sign: NOKN





Wikipedia (as of 2024)

Richard Hetherington O’Kane (February 2, 1911 – February 16, 1994) was a United States Navy submarine commander in World War II, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for commanding USS Tang in the Pacific War against Japan to the most successful record of any United States submarine ever. He also received three Navy Crosses and three Silver Stars, for a total of seven awards of the United States military‘s three highest decorations for valor in combat. Before commanding Tang, O’Kane served in the highly successful USS Wahoo as executive officer and approach officer under noted Commander Dudley “Mush” Morton. In his ten combat patrols, five in Wahoo and five commanding Tang, O’Kane participated in more successful attacks on Japanese shipping than any other submarine officer during the war.

O’Kane was born in Dover, New Hampshire, on February 2, 1911. He was the youngest of four children of University of New Hampshire entomology professor Walter Collins O’Kane, of Irish ancestry, and his wife, Clifford Hetherington.[1] O’Kane graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover in 1930 and the United States Naval Academy in May 1934, upon which he was commissioned an officer in the United States Navy.[2]

O’Kane spent his first years of active duty on the heavy cruiser USS Chester and destroyer USS Pruitt. He received submarine instruction in 1938 and was then assigned to the USS Argonaut. O’Kane qualified for submarines aboard Argonaut in 1938 and remained aboard until her overhaul at Mare Island in 1942.[2]

In early 1942, Lieutenant O’Kane joined the pre-commissioning crew of the new submarine USS Wahoo and served as its executive officer on five war patrols during World War II, first under Lieutenant Commander Marvin G. “Pinky” Kennedy and later under the legendary Lieutenant Commander Dudley “Mush” Morton. Morton established a record as an excellent tactician, as he preferred to run the demanding analysis and plots while his executive officer manned the periscopes, a reversal of standard practices. Under Morton’s tutelage, O’Kane developed the skills which enabled him to become the single most accomplished American submarine commander in history.[3][4]

In July 1943, following his fifth patrol in Wahoo, O’Kane was detached, promoted to lieutenant commander, and shortly made prospective commanding officer of USS Tang, which was then under construction. He placed her in commission in October 1943 and commanded her for her entire career. He was an innovator, and developed several operational tactics that markedly increased his ship’s effectiveness. Among these were daylight surface cruising with extra lookouts, periscope recognition and range drills (enabling clear tactical sureness when seconds counted), drifting when not bound somewhere, and methods of night surface attacks, one of his favorite techniques to obtain and maintain the initiative in battle.[5]

In five war patrols on the Tang, O’Kane was originally recognized with sinking a total of 24 Japanese ships – the second highest total for a single American submarine and the highest for a single commanding officer. Postwar reviews of Japanese war records, corroborated by Tangs surviving logs and crewmen, revised the totals to 33 ships totalling over 116,454 long tons (118,323 t) sunk. This placed Tang first for both number of ships and tonnage (ahead of USS Tautogs 26 ships and USS Flashers 100,231 long tons).[6] Several times during the war, he took Tang into the middle of a convoy and attacked ships ahead and behind – counting on Tangs relative position, speed, and low profile to keep clear of enemy escorts.

Tangs third patrol, into the Yellow Sea, sank more Japanese ships than any other submarine patrol of the war. O’Kane claimed eight ships sunk; post-war analysis increased this to 10 ships. During one attack, he fired six torpedoes at two large ships. Japanese records showed the torpedoes actually hit four ships. This number of sinkings surpassed the next highest patrol, Wahoos (with O’Kane as executive officer) in the same area the year before.

Under O’Kane, Tang also performed “lifeguard duty”, a common joint operation, with a Fast Carrier Task Force, of positioning one or more submarines in a “ditching station” off an enemy island under air attack in order to rescue downed pilots. Off Truk, he and the Tang rescued 22 airmen in one mission, thus earning a Presidential Unit Citation.

Commander O’Kane being awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman.

O’Kane was captured by the Japanese when Tang was sunk in the Formosa Strait by her own flawed torpedo (a circular run of a Mark 18) during a surface night attack on October 24–25, 1944. O’Kane lost all but eight members of his crew, and was at first secretly held captive at the Ōfuna navy detention center, then later moved to the regular army Omori POW camp.[7] Following his release, O’Kane received the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” during his submarine’s final operations against Japanese shipping.

In the years following World War II, O’Kane served with the Pacific Reserve Fleet as commanding officer of the submarine tender USS Pelias, testified at Japanese war crimes trials, was executive officer of the submarine tender USS Nereus and was Commander, Submarine Division 32 (ComSubDiv 32). He was a student at the Armed Forces Staff College in 1950–51 and was subsequently assigned to the Submarine School at New London, Connecticut, initially as an instructor and, in 1952–53, as the commanding officer.

Promoted to the rank of captain in July 1953, O’Kane commanded the submarine tender USS Sperry until June 1954 and then became Commander, Submarine Squadron Seven (ComSubRon 7). Following studies at the Naval War College in 1955–56, he served in Washington, D.C., with the Ship Characteristics Board. O’Kane retired from active duty in July 1957 and, on the basis of his extensive combat record and under the tombstone promotion rule in effect at the time, was simultaneously advanced to the rank of rear admiral on the Retired List.[3]

O’Kane died of pneumonia in Petaluma, California, at age 83.[8] O’Kane and his wife Ernestine (1912–2008) are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia.[9]

In addition to the Medal of Honor, O’Kane received three Navy Crosses, three Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit with “V” device for valor, the Purple Heart and several other decorations throughout his career. (O’Kane’s original ribbon rack is on display at the US Navy Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut.)

Medal of Honor Citation

Rank and organization: Commander, United States Navy, commanding USS Tang. Place and date: Vicinity Philippine Islands, October 23, and October 24, 1944. Entered service at: New Hampshire. Born: February 2, 1911, Dover, N.H.

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 October and 24 October 1944, during her fifth and last war patrol. Boldly maneuvering on the surface into the midst of a heavily escorted convoy, CMDR 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 1,000-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.

USS O`KANE DDG-77 Ship History

Wikipedia (as of 2024)

USS O’Kane (DDG-77) is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the United States Navy. The ship was built by Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, starting on 8 May 1997. The ship was commissioned on 23 October 1999. She is named for Medal of Honor recipient Rear Admiral Richard O’Kane.

USS O’Kane, a Baseline 5.3 Flight II Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, is the 27th destroyer of the class and the sixteenth built by Bath Iron Works. O’Kane is the second ship to be commissioned in her home port of Pearl HarborHawaii. She was laid down on 8 May 1997 at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, launched on 28 March 1998, christened on 17 April 1998 and commissioned 23 October 1999.[4][5] While transiting to Pearl Harbor on 2 October 1999, twenty one days prior to her commissioning, O’Kane briefly rendezvoused off the coast of Ixtapa, Mexico with the decommissioned battleship USS New Jersey (BB-62) en route to Philadelphia for restoration as a museum ship.[6]

O’Kane participated in RIMPAC 2000.[5] O’Kane participated in Fleet Week San Diego in October 2000. O’Kane deployed on her maiden deployment on 1 August 2001.[5] While on deployment O’Kane conducted Maritime Interdiction Operations in the Northern Persian Gulf during the opening stages of Operation Enduring FreedomO’Kane returned home to Pearl Harbor in late January 2002. O’Kane received the Battle “E” award for Destroyer Squadron 31 for 2001. O’Kane also received the Navy Unit Commendation, her first Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, her first Sea Service Ribbon, and National Defense Service Medals while on her Maiden Deployment.[citation needed]

In September 2002, O’Kane completed an accelerated innovative training cycle eight months ahead of schedule with the Carl Vinson Battle Group to be ready for contingency operations. O’Kane was further accelerated and deployed independently, leaving homeport 17 January 2003. Initially O’Kane provided escort to shipping and conducted Operation Enduring Freedom boardings of suspect terrorist vessels, then she rapidly transitioned to combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi FreedomO’Kane projected combat power ashore with several salvos of Tomahawk cruise missiles and provided early warning of ballistic missile launches to command centers, Patriot missile batteries, and civil defense forces, supporting a protective umbrella for coalition ground and naval forces. O’Kane then transitioned to providing post-hostility maritime security of Iraqi waters. O’Kane returned home to Pearl Harbor late July 2003. O’Kane was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation and Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal for her second deployment. Following post-deployment maintenance, O’Kane commenced the basic phase of training for her next deployment.[citation needed]

In February 2005, O’Kane deployed with USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). In July, O’Kane returned to her Pearl Harbor homeport after the scheduled deployment which also included Maritime Security Operations (MSO) off the Horn of Africa and Indian Ocean.[5]

In July 2006, the guided-missile destroyer departed Pearl Harbor to participate in exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2006. In September, O’Kane participated in Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), as part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group Three.[5]

In January 2007, O’Kane departed Pearl Harbor for a scheduled deployment with the John C. Stennis group. In February, O’Kane entered the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations (AoO) to conduct Maritime Security Operations. In August the guided-missile destroyer participated in exercise Valiant Shield 2007. In August, O’Kane returned home after a seven-month deployment.[5]

In April 2008, O’Kane went on a surge deployment with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in the western Pacific. In June, O’Kane returned to homeport after a seven-week underway period. In July the guided-missile destroyer participated in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2008.[5]

In February 2009, O’Kane returned to Pearl Harbor homeport after a four-and-a-half-month underway period which included ANNUALEX 20G and the defense of Iraqi oil platforms in the Persian Gulf. In September, O’Kane departed homeport for a western Pacific deployment. In November the guided-missile destroyer participated in Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) 21G. In December, O’Kane returned to Naval Station Pearl Harbor after her deployment.[5]

In July 2010, O’Kane departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a Middle East deployment as part of Commander, Task Force-Iraqi Maritime, supporting maritime security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AoR).[5]

In February 2011, O’Kane returned home after her seven-month deployment. On 14 April, O’Kane, fired and guided an SM-3 Block IA missile that intercepted the intermediate-range ballistic missile, the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense. In November the participated in integrated training exercise “Koa Kai 12-1”, off the coast of Hawaii.[5]

On 23 March 2012, O’Kane departed Pearl Harbor for a scheduled Middle East deployment with a primary focus on Ballistic Missile Defense operations. In November, O’Kane returned to her homeport in Pearl Harbor after seven-and-a-half-month deployment.[5]

The ship entered Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in February 2015 for an overhaul at a total cost of over $56 million. It ended in February 2016, four days shy of a full year.[citation needed]

On 4 March 2017, O’Kane departed Pearl Harbor for an Eastern Pacific Deployment to participate in Northern Edge. She made her way to Port Hueneme, San Diego, and Juneau Alaska.[7] O’Kane returned to Pearl Harbor 15 June 2017.

On 3 November 2017, O’Kane departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor heading towards the Western Pacific. For the next seven months O’Kane remained the ready ballistic missile defense asset for Defense of Guam. During these seven months O’Kane made three short port visits to Guam, Saipan, and at the request of the Commanding Officer, Yokosuka, Japan. O’Kane was welcomed back to Pearl Harbor on 4 June 2018.[8]