Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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O'Kane, Richard Hetherington (1911–1994)

U.S. Navy officer. Born in Dover, New Hampshire, on 2 February 1911, Richard O'Kane graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1934 and began a series of tours aboard cruisers and destroyers. He entered the submarine service in 1938. After duty aboard the minelaying submarine Argonaut, O'Kane reported to the submarine Wahoo in early 1942. When Lieutenant Commander Dudley W. Morton took command of the Wahoo after her second war patrol, O'Kane became her executive officer. Morton and O'Kane then worked closely to develop more aggressive submarine tactics, which proved to be some of the most effective of the war. The Wahoo was soon the navy's most effective submarine, sinking 16 Japanese vessels totaling 45,000 tons between May and July 1943.

In July 1943, O'Kane was ordered to fit out and take command of the new submarine Tang. He commanded the Tang throughout her career, implementing and improving on the tactics that he and Morton had previously developed. On 24 October 1944, during her fifth war patrol, while between Taiwan and the Philippines in an attack on a Japanese convoy, one of the Tang's own Mark XVIII torpedoes malfunctioned, circled back, and sank her. Only O'Kane and eight of his crew survived the sinking; they were picked up by Japanese ships. The Tang was credited with sinking 24 Japanese ships totaling 93,285 tons.

O'Kane spent the duration of the war in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. For the Tang's final patrol, O'Kane was awarded the Medal of Honor. O'Kane remains the highest-scoring submarine commander in U.S. naval history.

In 1949, O'Kane commanded Submarine Division 32. Promoted to captain in 1953, he attended the Naval War College and then commanded Submarine Division 7 at Pearl Harbor. O'Kane held various commands after the war, including the Navy Submarine School at New London and Submarine Squadron 7. O'Kane retired from active duty in 1957 as a rear admiral. He died at Petaluma, California, on 16 February 1994.

Edward F. Finch


Further Reading
Beach, Edward L. Submarine! New York: Holt, 1952.; Blair, Clay. Silent Victory: The Submarine War against Japan. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975.; O'Kane, Richard H. Clear the Bridge! The War Patrols of the USS Tang. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1977.; Truscott, Lucian K., Jr. The Twilight of the U.S. Cavalry: Life in the Old Army, 1917–1942. Edited and with Preface by Lucian K. Truscott III and Foreword by Edward M. Coffman. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1989.; Tuohy, William. The Bravest Man: The Story of Richard O'Kane and the U.S. Submariners in the Pacific War. Phoenix Mill, UK: Sutton, 2001.
 

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