Home On Eternal Patrol - The Loss of USS Kete (SS-369)


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USS Kete Forward Torpedo Tubes

USS Kete - Forward Torpedo Tubes

Kete (SS-369)

Compiled by Paul W. Wittmer and Charles R. Hinman,

with editorial notes by Robert H. Downie, originally from:

U.S. Submarine Losses World War II, NAVPERS 15,784, 1949 ISSUE

Departing Guam on 1 March 1945, KETE (LCDR Edward Ackerman) headed for her second patrol in the vicinity of the Nansei Shoto. In addition to performing a normal patrol, KETE had orders to submit special weather reports, and to carry out rescue service during air strikes by carrier based planes.

On the night of 10 March 1945, KETE reported having sunk three medium sized freighters on the previous night. She reported on the night of 14 March that she had fired four torpedoes, which missed a small enemy cable laying vessel, and that she had only three torpedoes remaining aboard. In view of the small number of torpedoes left, KETE was directed to depart her area on 20 March, and proceed to Pearl Harbor for refit, stopping at Midway enroute for fuel. On 19 March, she acknowledged receipt of these orders. On 20 March she sent in a special weather report from position 29° 38'N, 130° 02'E. This was the last message received from her. At normal cruising speed she should have arrived at Midway about 31 March 1945. When she was neither sighted nor heard from by 16 April 1945, she was reported as presumed lost.

Japanese information concerning anti-submarine attacks gained since the end of the war gives no positive evidence as to what happened to KETE; none of the attacks on U.S. submarines occurring within the period from 20 March to 31 March 1945 was made in a position in which KETE was likely to be.

Approximate location of USS Kete (rough estimate)

Google Earth image of the general area in which USS Kete is assumed to have been lost

There were a few mine-lines in the Nansei Shoto Chain, but since KETE was already east of the islands at the time of her last message on 20 March and was heading home, loss through a mine is considered highly improbable. It is now known that a number of enemy submarines were in the area through which KETE was required to pass enroute to Midway. RO-41 was sunk east of Okinawa by a U.S. destroyer on 23 March 1945, and two other Japanese submarines were sunk southeast of Okinawa near this date. Conditions attendant to KETE's loss suggest the likehood that one of these submarines might have torpedoed and sunk her and been unable to report the attack before being sunk. Thus, KETE must be considered probably a loss due to an unreported enemy attack. [Editor's note: While this is a tempting conclusion, it is speculative and based entirely on circumstantial evidence.  Use of the words "must" and  "probably" may be unwarranted.] She is credited with sending three medium freighters, totaling 12,000 tons, to the bottom on this last patrol. During her first patrol, conducted in the East China Sea, KETE encountered no enemy targets.

USS Kete Crew

Click here for complete and accurate listing of men lost on USS Kete

See also Ed Howard's Final Patrol page on USS Kete (external link).

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