Barbel (SS 316) was a United States Navy submarine that saw action during World War II. She was laid down on 11 March 1943 at Groton, Conn., by the Electric Boat Co.; launched on 14 November 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Harold A. Allen; and commissioned on 3 April 1944, Comdr. Robert A. Keating in command.
Following brief shakedown training, Barbel headed, via the Panama Canal, for Hawaii. The submarine reached Pearl Harbor on 21 June and entered a period of voyage repairs and training exercises. She got underway again on 15 July for her first patrol, made a refueling stop at Midway on the 19th, and then proceeded to her patrol area in the Nansei Shoto. After several fruitless contacts, the submarine made her first attack on enemy ships on 5 August. She spotted a medium cargo ship with three escorts sailing off the southeast tip of Tokuno Shima. After carefully tracking her target, Barbel fired a spread of four torpedoes. One of them hit the Japanese ship, and Miyako Maru sank by the stern.
Barbel continued her patrol and, two days later made contact with a large Japanese oiler that was down by the bow. The submarine emptied all 10 torpedo tubes during her attack on the ship and heard several violent explosions shortly thereafter. However, a postwar study of Japanese records did not give her credit for sinking the ship.
Two days later, at 0200, Barbel came upon a convoy of three large cargo ships and six escorts. She fired torpedoes at all three cargo ships then quickly submerged to evade depth charges. Twenty minutes after she loosed her torpedoes, Barbel crewmen heard noises characteristic of a ship breaking. Postwar analysis credited the submarine with sinking two of the Japanese ships, Yagi Maru and Boko Maru. After she attacked the convoy, several Japanese destroyers and patrol craft pursued Barbel. She remained submerged for 13 hours before eluding her pursuers and surfacing to recharge her batteries. At 0500 on the 13th, the submarine began tracking a contact and, just over an hour later, fired four torpedoes. Two of them exploded, but no sinking was ever confirmed. Barbel concluded her patrol at Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands on 21 August.
After a refit alongside Bushnell (AS 15), Barbel embarked on her second patrol on 13 September, setting course for the waters northeast of Amami Shima. At 1352 on the 25th, the submarine made her first contact. After a pursuit of more than eight hours, she fired her bow tubes at a cargo ship. While swinging around to bring her stern tubes to bear, the submarine endured a severe shaking when a torpedo exploded prematurely. Nevertheless, one or more of the torpedoes found the mark and sank Bushu Maru.
For the next three weeks, Barbel patrolled uneventfully. On 13 October, she sighted a large convoy and quickly moved to the offensive. Yet, in spite of her repeated attacks, all the enemy ships escaped. The submarine finished her patrol unscathed and headed for Saipan. Along the way, she encountered a Japanese submarine running on the surface. Unfortunately, Barbel had already exhausted her supply of torpedoes, and the enemy quickly dived from sight. Barbel finally arrived at Saipan on 24 October.
Returning to sea on 30 October, Barbel headed out on her third patrol. That patrol took her across the Philippine Sea to the Luzon Strait and ultimately ended in Fremantle, Australia. On 4 November at 0530, she encountered two enemy destroyers in Balingtang Channe1 near Sabtang Island. Half an hour later, the Japanese warships began depth charging Barbel, but the submarine managed to escape without damage and continued her patrol. On 14 November, Barbel located a five ship convoy and fired six torpedoes at a freighter. Shortly thereafter, men in the submarine heard explosions and saw raging fires. While Barbel worked her way around to launch her final four torpedoes, one of the escorts began chasing her, and another ship raked her with machinegun fire. Nevertheless, Barbel managed to empty her stern tubes and sank another cargo ship. Her two victims were later identified as Sugiyama Maru and Misaki Maru. Two days later, Barbel fired six torpedoes at an enemy destroyer escort, but all ran under their target. This was the last action of the patrol, and Barbel arrived in Fremantle, Australia, on 7 December.
After refitting, she sailed from Fremantle on 5 January 1945 bound for the South China Sea on her fourth war patrol. Late in January, she received orders to join Perch (SS 313) and Gabilan (SS 252) for a patrol in the western approaches to Balabac Strait and the southern entrance to Palawan Passage. On 3 February, Barbel radioed that she had been attacked by enemy aircraft dropping depth charges. No further word was received from Barbel after then. Japanese records captured after the war contained a report of an air attack on 4 February on an American submarine. It stated that the Japanese plane had scored one hit near it’s target's bridge. This submarine was probably Barbel. She was officially reported lost on 16 February 1945.
See also Barbel-II.