The controversy over the Wahoo's third patrol
During the Wahoo's historic third mission, an event took place that has
been a source of controversy.
On January 26, 1943, the Wahoo sank a Japanese troop transport. The
sea was then filled with Japanese soldiers in the water and in lifeboats.
The Wahoo surfaced and fired upon some of the lifeboats, forcing the occupants
into the water. There was return fire from the Japanese. Morton's
logic was to prevent these soldiers from reaching their ultimate destination,
which is to combat Allied troops. The thinking is that for each Japanese
solider who does not reach their destination, an American life could be
This much is not in dispute.
The controversy around the events of January 26, 1943 are whether the Wahoo's
crew intentionally fired upon the Japanese soldiers while in the lifeboats
or in the sea. The basis for the controversy are the writings for
Lt. George Grider, a junior officer on the Wahoo at the time. [BLAIR1975
pp 357-366] quotes Grider as claiming that Morton had an "overwhelming
biological hatred for the enemy" and intentionally directed fire at the
stranded soldiers in the water. [Padfield1998
343] again refers to Grider via [BLAIR1975]
calling it a massacre.
However, wahoo's second in command, Dick O'Kane [Okane1987
pp 153-154] states plainly: "Some Japanese Troops were undoubtedly hit
during this action, but no individual was deliberately shot in the boats
or in the sea." Since [BLAIR1975]
Blair could not have cited O'Kane and may have not been aware of O'Kane's
position. [Padfield1998 ] postdates
O'Kane's book but for whatever reason, Padfield did not take advantage
of this resource.
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