Damn you iTunes! After reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, I was surfing suggested titles and I saw this book on WW2 Submarine Forces. The book is called “The Bravest Man” by William Tuohy and is the story of Dick O’Kane and his eventual command of the USS Tang.
I am not a real big military buff or into biographies. However, I had some long flight times ahead of me, and I had just finished a similar book. So, I bought it and downloaded it onto my iPad.
This book was very well researched and the narrative is very well written. It details the history and career of O’Kane but also the pain and success of the US Navy Submarine forces in WW2.
LT O’Kane US Navy around 1943. Photo US Navy.
SPOILER ALERT – Details about the book are below.
Dick O’Kane served aboard the USS Wahoo as the Executive Officer (XO) under Lieutenant Commander Dudley Morton. He eventually got his own command, the USS Tang (SS 306) and would go on to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
O’Kane and Morton on the USS Wahoo around 1943. Morton would not survive the war. Photo US Navy.
USS Tang in WW2. A Balao Class submarine. Photo US Navy.
He would write two books about his exploits:
Clear the Bridge!: The War Patrols of the USS Tang in 1977.
Wahoo: The Patrols of America’s Most Famous World War II Submarine in 1987.
Eventually, during WW2, O’Kane is taken prisoner by the Japanese. He ends up in the port city of Nagoya where he is interred in the Ofuna Prison Camp that became known as the “Torture Farm”.
USS Tang in WW2. Photo US Navy.
From the heading of, it’s a small world, it appears that Dick O’Kane and Louis Zamperini were both prisoners in this hell hole. At that point in the reading, I discovered that two independent authors, researching two different people, in two different branches of the service during WW2, both described the same conditions at Ofuna. If you doubted Zamperini’s story as a POW, you have confirmation in this biography!
The POW’s from the Pacific theater of war endured horrendous conditions. Suffering for decades after the war, PTSD was little understood and they all paid a heavy price both during and after the war. Ms. Hillenbrand does an admirable job describing the after war turmoil the surviving POW’s suffered in the book Unbroken.
Again, get your teen to read about this period of our history. The suffering endured by so many men and women. And then get them to take the trash out without whining!
IMHO there should be a three or four story arc taught in High School so students understand what happened from 1930 to 1946 or later. Unbroken and this book, The Bravest Man, would make my A list.
On my way to Afghanistan, I flew back to the USA to start my medical and process back into the military system. Landing in San Francisco, I had a day to start moving my body clock over to the West Coast time from Europe, see an old friend from the service, and take a day to sight see (he had obligations so I was free for one of the days).
I went down to San Francisco on Fisherman’s Warf and took a tour of the USS Pampanito (SS-383). Since I had just read the book, I wanted to see the insides of one of these amazing vessels. I’ll post the pictures and narrative in another post!
USS Pampanito (SS 383) in WW2 around 1945. A Balao class submarine. Photo US Navy.