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  USS Lagarto SS-371
Balao Class Submarine

1,526 Tons
311 / 27
10 × 21 in torpedo tubes
(6 forward, 4 aft)
24 torpedoes
1 × 5" deck gun
1 × 40mm AA gun
2 × 20mm guns
2 × 50cal MG

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May 28, 1944
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Summer 1944Click For Enlargement
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Mike Gadd June 2006

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 Force.

Wartime History
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.

First Patrol
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.

Second Patrol
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.

Sinking History
On May 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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Last Updated
November 16, 2018



7.55.00 E
102.0.0 S

View on Google Earth

USS Lagarto Official Website

Divers inspect sub

USS Lagarto Discovery

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