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 saved.

This much is not in dispute.

The Controversy

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 p 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]  predates [Okane1987],   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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