US Balao Class Submarine USS Lagarto, found after 60 years in the Gulf of Siam

The United States lost the least number of Submarines out of the six nations operating this type of weapon in WW2. 52 US Navy boats did not return to their bases, out of these, the Balao Class Submarine USS Lagarto, SS-371, was sunk on the 3rd. of May 1945 with the loss of her entire 86 man crew. She was found by Jamie Macleod 60 years on at 225 feet in the Southern Gulf of Siam in the South China Sea.

SS Lagarto, underway in late 1944
SS Lagarto, underway in late 1944

USS Lagarto.
This boat was laid down at the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company in Manitowoc Wis. on the 12th. of January 1944, she launched on the 28th. of May, sponsored by Emily Taft Douglas, Congress woman from Illinois, to commission on the 12th. of August 1944 with Commander F. D. Latta in command.

She did trials and training on Lake Michigan, entering a floating dry dock on the 3rd. of December 1944, to be floated down the Mississippi Riverand depart from New Orleans two days later for the Pacific Ocean.

The launch of USS Lagarto in May of 1944
The launch of USS Lagarto in May of 1944

Her Maiden Patrol.
This new submarine left Pearl Harbor on the 7th. of February 1945 on her Maiden Patrol.

In concert with Haddock ( SS 231 ) and Sennett ( SS 480 ) they engaged four heavily armed picket boats to sink two, and damage the others. Further success followed with the torpedoeing of the Japanese Submarine I-371 on the 24th. of February. By the 20th. of March, Lagarto was back
at her base in Subic Bay.

The second patrol also to the South China Sea area commenced from Subic on the 12th. of April 1945. In the Gulf of Siam, Lagarto joined up with Baya ( SS 318 ) on the 2nd. of May. Two days later Baya was unable to raise her partner by radio.

Location of the sunken US Submarine Lagarto
Location of the sunken US Submarine Lagarto

Post war, Japanese records indicate their Minelayer Hatsutaka attacked a submarine in the location where USS Lagarto was known to be operating, and she was presumed to have been lost with all hands.

The Minelayer Hatsutaka was herself sunk 12 days later by USS Hawksbill ( SS 366 )

US Submarine Hawksbill, SS-366
US Submarine Hawksbill, SS-366 that sank the Japanese Minelayer Hatsutaka,
that in turn had sunk US Submarine Lagarto 12 days previously on the 3rd. of May 1945.

Damage to Lagarto when found.
Steve Burton who dived on the wreck soon after it was discovered by Jamie Macleod in May of 2005, made two sketches of her sitting upright on the ocean floor at 225 feet.

These are reproduced here with approval from Steve at I am indebteded to him for graciously allowing me to use his work.

From the sketch showing the port side forward damage to the pressure hull, it is consistent with a depth charge exploding in that area. On the starboard side, Steve has noted a torpedo door is open, it may have been blown open during the attack by the Japanese Minelayer Hatsutaka.

Sketch of the wreck of US submarine Lagarto, drawn by Steve Burton in July of 2005
Sketch of the wreck of US submarine Lagarto, drawn by Steve Burton in July of 2005.
Used with Steve Burton's approval

The second drawing of USS Lagarto, by Steve Burton
The second drawing of USS Lagarto, by Steve Burton, used with his approval.

USS Salvor.
Navy divers from the USS Salvor have recently dived upon the wreck, and confirmed it is the long lost US submarine Lagarto, the name of her builder MANITOWOC is stamped upon her propellor.

Whilst at the wreck site, these divers fixed a bright shiny Memorial Plaque to the Lagarto's stern.

The memorial plaque placed on the stern of Lagarto
The memorial plaque placed on the stern of Lagarto

The crew of 86 from the US submarine Lagarto are part of the 3,500 US submariners who died from the 52 boats sunk in WW2. 61 years on, the US Navy has confirmed this wreck, now 100
miles off the coast of  Thailand, is that of USS Lagarto.

The families of her crew, at last know the final resting place of their loved ones, who  died so long ago in the service of their country. The wreck will be left to lie in peace on the ocean floor, alas, so far from home.

The crew list of those who died when USS Lagarto was sunk on the 3rd. of May in 1945.

Andrews, H. D.CTM

Anker, C. CMOMM

Auchard, F. L. LTJG

Bjornson, C. H. F1

Breithaupt, C. W., Jr. Y2

Britain, W. L. CRMA

Brock, A. S2

Byrer, C. R. F1

Carleton, W. E. RM1

Cathey, L. F. MOMM3

Catozzi, S. G. QM3

Clouse, G. E. TM2

Cook, C. T. MOMM1

Davis, J. E., Jr. TM2

Doud, L. M. RM2

Enns, A. H. TM3

Fisher, R. L. MOMM1

Franze, J. J. S1

Frasch, O. R. MOMM1

Gerlach, J. N. F1

Grace, R. F. F2

Graves, W. QM1

Gray, D. J. EM2

Green, R. STM2

Gregorik, R. L. EM1

Gregory, J. P. S2

Halstead, G. E. RM3

Hardegree, T. MOMM1

Harrington G.C. MOMM2

Harrington, T. J. MOMM2

Harris, J. B. S1

Harrison, J. C. MOMM3

Hinken, W. E. TM3

Honaker, W. F. EM3

Irving, L. G. LT

Jefferson, H. S1

Jobe, J. CEMA

Johnson, F. S1

Johnson, J. R. CEMA

Jordan, W. H., Jr. S1

Keeney, A. H., Jr. LT

Kimball, P. M. RT1

Kirtley, A. STM1

Kneidl, J. W. MOMM3

Latta, F. D. CDR

Lee, N. B., Jr. S1

Lee, R. W. F1

Lewis, R. J. MOMM2

Lynch, L. J. F1

Mabin, W. T. SM1

Marriot, J. M., Jr. S1

McDonald, J. H. SC2

McGee, J. M. TM2

Mendenhall, W. H. LT

Moore, W. L. F1

Moss, W. G. S1

O'Hara, L. R. RT2

Ortega, H. E. F1

Paper, D. M. S1

Pash, J. S. LTJG

Patterson, R. R. RM3

Perry, R. C. EM3

Peterson, J. W. TM3

Peterson, R. F. QM3

Phelps, W. B. LTJG

Plushnik, H. R. F1

Price, G. A. CMOMMA

Reeves, M. D. EM2

Reichert, R. E. F1

Robinson, E. T. BM1

Root, J. H. MOMM1

Ruble, R. T. LT

Rutledge, W. J. S1

Shackelford, W. C. SM2

Simmerman, R. E. TM2

Spalding, R. B. CPHMA

Stehn, J. E. GM2

Stiegler, D. G. EM2

St. John, U. M., Jr. EM3

Tait, F. MOMM2

Todd, H. A., Jr. LTJG

Turner, F. D. CGM

Wade, A. M. S1

Warnick, W. C. S1

Wicklander, M. M. MOMM2 Williams, J. L. S1


In memory of the sailors lost in the USS Lagarto Gulf of Siam, South China Sea, May 3, 1945.

A Sailor's Poem

Run silent, run deep
For freedom we fought to keep
How we spent so many days
Beneath the shimmering waves

A terrible foe we fought
And gave our lives; and freedom bought
Now our souls forever lie
Restlessly beneath the waves
So silent now, so deep

For it is not enough for you to weep
For we shall not have died in vain
Lest you forget for what we gave
We gave our lives, freedom to save

For if you forget our deeds
Then we shall never sleep
Though we lie so silent, so deep.

by Al Alessandra, July 3rd, 2005




I am a retired Royal Australian Navy Officer who served throughout WW2. MayI please reproduce your drawing of USS Legato on my website It carries a great deal of Naval History.

Congratulations on your find.

Best wishes, Mackenzie.

Hi Mackenzie,

Thank you for your kind words.

You are welcome to use my drawings and content from my website to further the historical awareness of Naval history in accordance with your web sites objectives.

I just scanned your web site to check out it's content. It is a tremendous resource, and surely represents many years(a lifetime?) of painstaking research.

A nice little back link or byline giving the source of the my picture or article extract as would be highly appreciated.

I am currently working on preparing an article on Japanese 'Hellships' used to carry Allied POW's throughout the SEAP region during WWII. Do you have any articles relevant to this on that could help me with my research?

Keep up the good work.

Kind regards

Steve Burton BSc(hons) C.Eng., MIEE
Director, Technical Diving, Mermaids Dive Center, Pattaya, Thailand              Pattaya,Thailand. Scuba,wreck & technical diving            Dive Industry Technician Training & Support           Thailand Shipwreck Diving Information Database 

The following report from the Honolulu Advertiser.
Monday, April 16, 2007

Lost crew of USS Lagarto to be honored

MANITOWOC, Wis. - The Wisconsin Maritime Museum is planning to honor next month the lost crew of the USS Lagarto submarine, which sank in the Pacific during World War II.

Norma Bishop, the museum's executive director, said they have so far located families of 68 of the 86 crew members. "We want the event to be a special tribute not only to the Lagarto heroes but to all the brave military members who've fought for our
country," Bishop said.

The Manitowoc-built USS Lagarto disappeared around May 3, 1945 in an area near Thailand where U.S. ships worked to disrupt Japanese military supply routes. Eighty-six men died in the incident, which happened three months before President Truman ordered atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, setting the stage for Japan's surrender.

It was presumed that a Japanese minelayer sank the Lagarto - the 21st of 28 submarines built in Manitowoc, and one of four sunk during World War II combat.

The USS Lagarto had been missing until private divers found a 300-foot-long vessel in the Gulf of Thailand in May 2005. It was found upright in about 200 feet of water.

Navy divers completed the six-day operation in June 2006 to identify the USS Lagarto.

The remembrance, on May 4 and 5, will include a ceremony and appearance by Harvey Moshman and Chuck Coppola. They are the Emmy award-winning producers who are creating a documentary titled "Lost & Found: The Legacy of USS Lagarto,  scheduled for release Memorial Day 2008.


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