Wahoo Anecdotes

The following are anecdotes about the Wahoo that don't necessarily make it in the history books.

Dudley "Mush" Morton meets his future wife Harriet in China

Harriet Nelson's sister, Jeanette, was married to James Avent. Standard Oil in China had employed Avent since 1919. Jeanette's eldest daughter, Jacquline, relates how Harriet met Mush in China in 1934.

 

Aunt Harriet and Uncle Mush would not have met at all if Mother had not been in a bad automobile accident. A drunk ran into a car in which she was riding. One person was killed, some hurt. Mother's left elbow was broken. It was badly set and had to be set again. Daddy was planning to drive us all to the west coast in our new car, but mother was in no condition to drive, or take care of three small children by her self. --- So-- it was decided that daddy and one of mother�s uncles would drive the car to California. Mother, Harriet and the three small ones (I was 4, Mayna 2 and Jimmy about 9 months old) would go by train. All would meet in San Francisco, catch the ship and go to China. When we reached Tsingtao, Aunt Harriet stayed, and was there when the Fleet with Mush came in during the summer.
 

Mush Morton's granddaughter, Chrissy Morton DeMier adds:

Mauny [Harriet] told me that she was there visiting Jeanette and Jimmy.  She was getting ready to leave and Jimmy told her she should stay because the Navy men were coming to town and that she would have a good time.  There she met Mush and they were married in 1936.

What do Ships, Mahogany Furniture, and Ice Cream have to do with each other?

One of Morton's first commands was the S 37, an older submarine.  The S 37 was attached to the submarine tender Canopus. Morton's niece, Jacquline Avent, describes:
We went on the S 37 in Tsingtao.  It would be 1935 and 1936.  That's when we met Uncle Mush, and when he was courting Aunt Harriet.  Most of the time, we went on the Canopus, the submarine tender.  We just had a short visit in the sub, and looked through the periscope.  It was the Canopus that brought the mahogany log from the Philippines.  It would have been about 1935.  The log must have been quite large.  Its main purpose was to build a sailboat.  The leftovers made the furniture.  Daddy [James Avent] must have paid for half of the boat, because we used it while we were is Tsingtao.  The last time I was on the boat was in 1937, the day before Mother and we three children left for the States.  It was a rough day, daddy and I got wet.
The S 37 was very small.  I went in it once, and just remember it as being small, dark and dank.  When Uncle Mush came off maneuvers he had an urge for ice cream.  He would head for our place and eat about a gallon of it.  It was probably due to the lack of adequate ventilation.

 

Chrissy Morton DeMier adds:

... As for the mahogany log, the log was towed in from the harbor of Manila. Over the period of 1 1/2 years, 44 men hand carved an 8 foot, 40 inch wide table, 8 chairs with ornamental carvings on the backs and legs, 2 benches, aside table, a bed and a credenza. The cost was about $400 in about 1935.

The furniture made from the mahogany is still in use. As a child, I used a dresser made from it and it's still in my brother Mike's house in Chattanooga. No one knows what became of the sailboat.  - Bryan MacKinnon.

The Wedding Mush Morton and Harriet Nelson


Harriet Nelson's niece, Mayna Avent, describes her view as a four year old at the 1936 wedding of Mush Morton and Harriet Nelson in Tsingtao, China.

This was the most exciting day of my life, my beloved aunty Harriet and Uncle Mush were getting married.  I could not stay still for a minute. Uncle Mush said "Mayna, you stand right here and don't you move!"  He put his right finger on my shoulder and took it off when the photographer was ready to take the picture. And I pouted because I didn't want to stay still!!!

Jacquline Avent adds:

Uncle Mush gave each your mother and me a sailor hat.  The ship's [S-37] tailor made Jimmy a Sailor suite.  We did not see many festivities, that was all grown up business.  Mother's Mother came out to help plan the wedding.  She stayed quite a while.  There was no sense taking all that time to travel to Tsingtao from DeKalb, Ill. and not having quite a visit.  Tsingtao was a beautiful city.  Our house was above the beach and mountains were in the background.

 It was quite a wedding. All I remember about the reception was a very large crowd.  We three small people couldn't get through except on our hands and knees. The bride and groom went to the Philippines.  In 1937 Uncle Mush was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet.  They went back to the U. S. A. the quick way: via the trans-Siberian railroad!
 

Better dead than in the Army

Before the war, Uncle Mush and Aunt Harriet were in Philadelphia and Panama.  Their two children were born during this time.  They also had a small dog named Trouble.  When Trouble was asked, "Would you rather be in the Army, or be dead?" Trouble would roll over and play dead.
Jacquline Avent, niece of Mush Morton

 

Even submarine commanders get teased...

Mush Morton took his nieces and nephew James, Jacquline, and Mayna Avent out to see the submarine tender Canopus while in Tsingtao, China. Mayna, who was about four years old at the time, could not wait until she found a bathroom:
I guess I made a real mark on the sailors aboard.  Uncle Mush took the three of us out to see the Canopus.  When we were aboard, I said, "Uncle Mush, I have to wee wee."  The sailors that heard that got such a kick out of it that they would tease him when they saw him and say, "Uncle Mush, I have to wee wee."

Flags and Admiral's Wives

Submarine commanders are given some discretion during wartime regarding departures from standard operating procedures. But there is a limit as to how far one can go, especially when the supreme commanders are involved (i.e., Admiral's wives).  Doug Morton, son of Mush Morton, relates this:
The Wahoo had a custom flag mounted on its mast that stated plainly, "shoot the sonza bitches".  The Wahoo had the flag hanging and an admiral�s wife saw it.  She didn't like the flag and they were told to take it down. And so they did.

Careers and Dolphins

George Logue recalls how his brother Robert first met Mush Morton
Robert had served four years on the USS Dolphin.  It left Pearl Christmas Eve to go on its first war patrol. The Captain had a nervous breakdown and B A Clarey brought the sub back.
Later Mush was offered command of this sub and after a ten-day shakedown said it was death trap and he refused command. This about ruined his Navy career.  He met my brother on this ten-day period.
Imagine how my brother felt when he was offered an opportunity to sail with the best captain in the Navy.  Old Dolphin was a real junker and Bob told us the sub scared them more than the Japanese ever did.    When Morton took over Wahoo on patrol 3 his reputation was on the line after the Dolphin incident.

Mush Morton puts his career on the line against defective torpedoes

Defective torpedoes have been plaguing the US Submarine forces since the beginning of the war. After the Wahoo's 5th patrol, Comdr. Morton had had enough and stormed into Admiral Lockwood's office at Pearl Harbor. Never at a shortage for words at any time, he spoke in direct and frank language. His wife Harriet recounts the conversation she had with him afterwards:
After the meeting, Mush called me on the phone and said his career was finished.  A subordinate cannot speak this way to a superior, much less the commander of the Submarine Forces in the Pacific. He even went as far as saying that I had married an officer without a future. Perhaps had Mush not been so highly regarded at the time, his career would have been over.
Not only did Morton's career survive the meeting intact, to the credit of Submarine command, he and other commanders were listened to and improvements made. - As recounted by Harriet [Morton] Bradford to her grand nephew Bryan MacKinnon

 

How to subvert Navy censors

Censorship of letters from the officers and crew of a submarine was serious business.  Any indication of the patrol area and activities of a submarine, even when it was back from patrol, could pose significant risks. As a matter of policy, the Navy waited at least two months before publicly announcing the exploits of a sub to protect other boats currently on patrol. Mush Morton found a way around this without risking his command. Morton's niece, Mayna Avent, shares how she and her family were thrilled to find where the Wahoo was while on patrol:
Before the war we lived in Tsingtao [Qingdao], China, on the Yellow Sea; in front of our house, which was right on the coast, was a flag pole where we flew the American flag.  While living in New York during the war, we often received letters from Uncle Mush but they would only in the most general terms contain information about the Wahoo and its patrols. One day, when we sat down together to read a letter just arrived, we read, "I saw your flag pole today."  We were stunned to
silence because we knew instantly where he was, thousands miles away in the Yellow sea.  It was thrilling moment for us all.
This letter was likely written during the extraordinary 4th patrol during which the Wahoo sunk an unprecedented nine ships.

Morton visits his family for the last time

During the war, the Avents were relocated from China to Scarsdale, New York. In between patrols, Morton visits the Avents as Mayna Avent recalls:
The last time I saw my beloved Uncle Mush was in Scarsdale, New York, during the war.  He came to see us there.  I was about 10 or 11 years old. I can remember so strikingly how changed he seemed.  He was grave and distracted, not the fun-loving Uncle I had always known.  There seemed to be a distance between us that I couldn't understand, but I knew it was serious and it worried me.  The memory is so strong that only now I am thinking that it may not be complete.  Jacky [Mayna's elder sister] and I talked recently about that visit and she remembers that Aunty Harriet [Morton's wife] was there as well and Doug [his son] who was only a year or two. They brought Doug to stay with us so they could have some time together before Uncle Mush left for his next assignment.

New Torpedoes yield mixed results and demand a new addition to the Wahoo's crew

George Logue's brother Robert was lost on the Wahoo's final patrol. The Wahoo was one of the hot assignments and to be assigned to it was highly sought after. George recalls how his brother was transferred
Robert got on the Wahoo for the seventh patrol only as a specialist on the new Mk18 electric torpedo. Wahoo was the first US sub to take a full load.     He had gone to Wash DC in February 43 to a six-week school on them. He then returned to Pearl Harbor where he worked on them for trial use, It was then that Morton came back from patrol 6 where the torpedoes had failed so bad. When my brother Mush showed him the MK 18 asked him to go along. The torpedoes worked damn well since five ships were sunk.
Sawfish went into Sea of Japan at the same time with the new MK 18 and all failed to work.  Brother Bob certainly must have done something right along with a damn good Captain.  The record speaks for itself.    Bob had spent 5 years on subs and had been transferred to the new sub tender Orion.  They released him for this one patrol only. Shortly after Wahoo topped off with fuel at Midway a replacement arrived at Midway for Bob who was to be flown back to Pearl.  But the Wahoo had already left Midway.
When Wahoo�s loss was announced publicly the Navy told us he had been transferred off.  We were overjoyed only to get a telegram days later apologizing for the mistake.

 

Mush Morton is remembered in a 1963 newspaper article

The November 3, 1963 Sunday Courier and Press (Evansville, Indiana) commerates the 20th anniversary of the Wahoo's sinking. Click on each page for a full view.

One of the participants of the attack on the Wahoo reflects on his encounter of Morton's Widow

Mr. Uchida was one of the Pilots who attacked the Wahoo on October 11, 1943.  During the Wahoo Peace Memorial service fifty-two years later, he encounters Morton's Widow.
Mrs. Morton has been giving us bad looks until the day before the Memorial. Of course she couldn�t help it, the actual people who attacked her husband were right in front of her. We are all human. But on the day of the Memorial service, I saw her expression relax. I was amazed.

 
 
 


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