Laid down January 12, 1944 by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company at Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Launched May 28, 1944. Commissioned on October 14, 1944. Commanded by Frank D. Latta, a veteran of nine war patrols and the Navy Cross, while C.O. of USS Narwhal (SS-167). Every patrol made by
Latta was designated successful for the award of combat
insignia, a record surpassed by no commanding officer in the US Navy Submarine
Transported down the the Mississippi River inside a floating dry dock, then transited the Panama Canal and proceeded to Pearl Harbor arriving on December 25, 1944. On January 24, 1945, USS Lagarto and USS Haddock proceeded to Tanapag Harbor, arriving February 4, 1945.
This submarine's first patrol began on February 7, 1945 in the Nansei
Shoto chain as part of an anti-picket-boat sweep by submarines
to aid Task Force 38 carrier plane attacks on Japan. She sank the Japanese submarine RO-49 on
February 24, 1945, and participated in several surface gun attacks
with Haddock and Sennet. Two small vessels were sunk and two more
damaged in those attacks, and Lagarto shared credit for the results
with these submarines.
Departed Subic Bay on April
12, 1945, for her second patrol in the South China Sea. On April
27, she was directed to the outer part of Siam Gulf. Lagarto contacted Baya, already patrolling in
Siam Gulf on May 2, 1945, and exchanged calls with her by SJ radar.
Later that day Baya sent Lagarto a contact report on a convoy
she had contacted consisting of one tanker, one auxiliary and
two destroyers. Lagarto soon reported being in contact with the
convoy, and began coming in for an attack with Baya. However,
the enemy escorts were equipped with 10cm radar, and detected
BAYA and drove her off with gunfire, whereupon the two submarines
decided to wait and plan a subsequent attack.
Early on the morning of May 3, 1945, Lagarto
and Baya made a rendezvous and discussed plans. Lagarto was to
dive on the convoy's track to make a contact at 1400, while Baya
was to be ten to fifteen miles further along the track. During
the day, numerous contact reports were exchanged.
4, 1945 at 0010, after a prolonged but unsuccessful attack, Baya was finally
driven off by the alert escorts, and no further contact was
made with Lagarto. Japanese records records an
attack on a U.S. submarine made by the minelayer Hatsutaka, believed
to be one of the two radar-equipped escorts in the convoy.
The attack was made in about 30 fathoms of water and
must be presumed to be the one which sank Lagarto.
During May 2005, a group of private deep-sea divers, led by British wreck diver Jamie MacLeod, discovered the wreck in 70m in the Gulf of Thailand off Malaysia. The wreck is mostly intact and sitting upright on the ocean floor. During the dive, a large rupture was discovered on the port bow area, suggesting a depth charge as the catalyst to her sinking. Also observed during the dive was an open torpedo tube door, with an empty torpedo door behind it, suggesting the possibility that Lagarto fired off a torpedo shortly before sinking.
In June of 2006, Navy divers surveyed and photographed the wreck for six days. More evidence was noted that this is the USS Lagarto including twin 5" gun mounts on the forward and rear of the ship plus "Manitowoc" on the propellers.
Divers placed a memorial plaque on the sub's coning tower. This wreck is a war grave, and still considered property of the US Navy. Diving activities are subject to USN permission. The crewmen's bodies still lie entombed within her sealed compartments. No penetration or artifact recovery whatsoever is permitted.
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November 16, 2018