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USS Largo

Wreck Of Lost World War II Submarine Lagarto Found

By James Donahue

The U.S. Navy says wreckage of a submarine recently found at the bottom of the Gulf of Thailand appears to be that of the USS Lagarto, lost in the final days of World War II.

Eighty-six sailors perished when the Lagarto disappeared on a mission in the Pacific Ocean in May, 1945. The Japanese minelayer Hatsutaka reported dropping depth charges and sinking a U.S. submarine in the area, but no one ever knew the identity of the lost boat.

A British shipwreck diver located what looked like the Lagarto, and the Navy sent divers to examine the wreck and make a determination.

During a six-day survey, the divers took photos and a video of the wreck and returned with enough evidence to say that this appears to be the Lagarto. The hull measured 311 feet, nine-inches, the sub had twin five-inch gun mounts on both forward and rear decks, and divers found the word Manitowoc displayed on the propeller.

The Lagarto was built at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and commissioned in mid-October, 1944. She didn't enter the war until early 1945 and only saw two missions. The submarine was sunk on its second and final mission.

According to Navy records, Lagarto, under the command of Lt. H. D. Andrews, sank a small freighter and submarine, and participated in the destruction of a number of picket boats in April, during that first successful mission. On the second patrol, traveling in company with the submarine Baya, Lagarto was attacking a Japanese convoy when it was lost.

The two submarines had been in pursuit of the convoy for two days before they attempted an attack. The Baya lost contact with Lagarto and later was driven off by the Hatsutaka, which was aggressively defending the convoy.

Interesting to note that the commander of another U.S. submarine operating in the area, the USS Harkbill, was a close friend of Andrews. Upon hearing what happened to Lagarto, he requested and was granted permission by COMSUBPAC to divert from his patrol orders for a revenge attack.

He successfully sought down and sank the Hatsutaka just 12 days later, firing three torpedoes from a distance of nearly three miles.