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Sometimes known as "Killer" O'Kane, he was a junior officer aboard USS WAHOO under the famed Dudley "Mush" Morton before getting his own boat, USS TANG.
O'KANE as a Commander
O'KANE and USS TANG ran up an incredible score against Japanese shipping and on his last patrol, with only one torpedo remaining - fired at a Japanese convoy. The torpedo was a "circle runner" and came back at the boat, slamming into USS TANG amidships and sinking her in a heartbeat.
About a dozen and a half of TANG's complement made it safely into the water but one by one, they succumbed to the deep. By an unusual quirk of fate, the unmarried men in the group slipped beneath the waves and the only survivors were the only married men of the group of survivors. That possibly says something about the will to live.
When the morning sun lit up the sea, the Japanese pulled the seven remaining survivors from the water - and put them in with the survivors of ships sunk by O'KANE and USS TANG! They were badly beaten.
RICHARD O'KANE was decorated with the Medal of Honor, and the citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and
beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the USS TANG operating
against two Japanese convoys on 23 and 24 October 1944, during her fifth
and last war patrol. Boldly maneuvering on the surface into the midst of a
heavily escorted convoy, Commander O'Kane stood in the fusillade of bullets
and shells from all directions to launch smashing hits on three tankers, coolly
swinging his ship to fire at a freighter and, in a split second decision, shot
out of the path of an onrushing transport, missing it by inches. Boxed in by
the blazing tankers, a freighter, transport and several destroyers, he blasted
two of the targets with his remaining torpedoes and, with pyrotechnics bursting
on all sides, cleared the area. Twenty four hours later, he again made contact
with a heavily escorted convoy steaming to support the Leyte campaign with
reinforcements, supplies and crated planes. In defiance of the enemy's
relentless fire, he closed the concentration of ships and in quick succession
sent two torpedoes each into the first and second transports and an adjacent
tanker, finding his mark with each torpedo in a series of violent explosions at
less than 1,000 yards range. With ships bearing down on all sides, he charged
the enemy at high speed, exploding the tanker in a burst of flame, smashing the
transport dead in the water and blasting the destroyer with a mighty roar that
rocked the TANG from stem to stern. Expending his last two torpedoes into
the remnants of a once powerful convoy before his own ship went down,
Commander O'Kane, aided by his gallant command, achieved an illustrious
record of heroism in combat, enhancing the finest traditions of the United
States Naval Service.
RICHARD H. O'KANE was a Member for some years and during that time, was a supportive and helpful Member.
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