A WWII Submarine Finally Comes Home

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This story is about a submarine, but perhaps it is best to begin it in the hills of central Pennsylvania.

When Bobby Logue was a boy in the 1930s, he loved to go hunting here, in woods his family had owned for half a century.

"He was a great athlete, a hunter, a fisherman, and when I was a little kid I used to go fishing with him," said his younger brother George, now 79. "He was going to be a great engineer."

But the Depression was at its deepest when Bobby finished high school in 1938. He joined the Navy and, after Pearl Harbor, was assigned to the crew of a submarine.

Its name: the USS Wahoo.

'Mush' Morton

The Wahoo's early maneuvers in the Pacific were considered unremarkable, but then it was assigned a new skipper -- a charismatic, aggressive young man named Dudley W. Morton. The men who served under him called him "Mush," and, apparently without exception, they loved him.

"My father took over the sub in 1942," said his son Doug, who now lives in Colorado, "and he got the crew together, and he said to them, 'We are not going to sit around. We are going to go out and kill 'em. And in so doing, we might, you might be killed.'"

Morton offered his crew the option of reassignment, no questions asked. "And not one person left. They absolutely adored him."

'Destination Tokyo'

The Wahoo became one of the most-celebrated submarines of World War II. In a year and a half, Morton's crew sank at least 19 Japanese ships -- more than any other submarine of the time.

The U.S. Navy, breaking with its usual wartime secrecy, allowed newspaper stories about the Wahoo's exploits. A movie was made, "Destination Tokyo," with Cary Grant as the captain of a fictional submarine that steals into Tokyo harbor. Mush Morton was technical adviser, and people who saw the film said Grant's character was modeled after him.

In September 1943, the Wahoo set out from Midway Island on its seventh mission. The sixth had been unsuccessful; there were problems with the torpedoes. Now the sub was equipped with the Navy's newest torpedo model. Bobby Logue, who had been due for reassignment, was asked to stay on with the crew.

And then, unexpectedly, the submarine went silent. By October, the Wahoo was supposed to be in a very dangerous place, looking for enemy ships in the La Perouse Strait (the Soya Strait on Japanese maps), just miles off the coast of northern Japan.

"And I come home from school one day," Logue told us slowly, "and my mother was ironing, and she was crying.

"I said, 'What's wrong?' And she showed me the newspaper. It said USS Wahoo was overdue and presumed lost."

Overdue and presumed lost. The phrase was accurate as far as it went; all the Navy knew was that the Wahoo had not returned to base.

But to parents, wives and children of submariners, no phrase was more feared, or less conclusive.

"I was four, said Morton. "I know my immediate response was, 'Why don't they find him?'"

"I wasn't going to settle for that," said Logue, who was seven years younger than his brother. "When I heard 'overdue and presumed lost,' I said, 'Like hell. I'm going to find out what happened to the Wahoo.' I was just a kid."

The Search

For decades, the trail was as cold as the waters off Hokkaido. Logue pored through naval records, made contact with Japanese researchers, traveled to Japan in search of the lost submarine, and helped erect a peace monument there.

And then, an extraordinary thing happened. War records showed that on Oct. 11, 1943, at 9:20 in the morning, an American submarine had been fired upon in the La Perouse Strait.

A Russian expedition came to the strait in August 2006. And there, in 200 feet of water, they found the wreck of a submarine.

Three weeks ago, the U.S. Navy confirmed it is most likely that of the USS Wahoo.

"I'm not sure I'll ever get over his loss," said Morton, the skipper's son. "Maybe through finding the Wahoo, we'll solve that, but I'm not sure that it will.

"It's just nice that there's a place now," he said. "I'm glad it was found."

I asked Logue how he thought his brother should be remembered.

"He should be remembered as a real, true American hero," he said. "A guy who went through four years of submarine warfare and then volunteered to go on another trip.

"I'll never forget about Bobby. You know, I still think about him a lot."

Logue's eyes moistened. He gestured to the hills out the window. "But my brother loved this place up here. This is being close to him."

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