The USS Barb — A personal recollection

[The following is an article about the USS Barb, SS-220.  During the Christmas break, 1962, while a Senior Midshipman at the U of Missouri, I had the chance to fly with our CO, a Naval aviator who needed to record some flight time in order to retain his proficiency and qualify for his flight pay, to the Ingalls shipyard at Pascagoula, MS to tour the USS Barb, SSN 596, the replacement sub for the one being retired.

USS Barb (SSN-596)

The “new” Barb, nuclear powered, was nearing completion at the shipyard but was still open enough that you could really get a great view of the innards which would later be covered by panels and bulkheads during the final stages of construction.  It was fascinating.  I was offered the chance to go because I was considering applying for sub school following graduation. While there I was given a memento of the sub, a Zippo lighter bearing the crest of the Barb.  It was really nice — a real treasure.  Unfortunately, at the time I was dating a girl by the name of Barb Rockelman, one of the “sisters” at the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house where I worked as a “house boy.” I showed the lighter to Barb and told her it was great having it because it reminded me of her.  Well, without missing a beat she grabbed it and said that she just had to have it.  Well, so much for my keepsake.  And, so much for Barb — who eventually started dating and later married one of my instructors at the NROTC Unit there at Mizzou, LT Jack LNU, i.e., last Name Unrecalled.  I hope they are happy.  Turned out that she wanted the lighter not only for the fact that it bore her name — but also because she was a smoker!   Blah, blah, blah.  Anyway, here is the article.  Oh, one last thing — I have a copy of Adm. Fluckey’s book, Thunder Below,  about his wartime experience on the USS Barb.

Thunder Below

I keep it in the bathroom as reading material.  Given its title, it seems an appropriate place for it. RMF]

U.S.S. Barb: The Sub That Sank A Train In 1973 an Italian submarine named Enrique Tazzoli was sold for a paltry $100,000 as scrap metal. The submarine, given to the Italian Navy in 1953 was actually an incredible veteran of World War II service with a heritage that never should have passed so unnoticed into the graveyards of the metal recyclers.  The U.S.S. Barb was a pioneer, paving the way for the first submarine launched missiles and flying a battle flag unlike that of any other ship. In addition to the Medal of Honor ribbon at the top of the flag identifying the heroism of its captain, Commander Eugene “Lucky” Fluckey, the bottom border of the flag bore the image of a Japanese locomotive. The U.S.S. Barb was indeed, the submarine that “SANK A TRAIN”.

July 18, 1945 (Patience Bay, Off the coast of  Karafuto ,  Japan ) It was after 4 A.M. and Commander Fluckey rubbed his eyes as he peered over the map spread before him. It was the twelfth war patrol of the Barb, the fifth under Commander Fluckey. He should have turned command over to another skipper after four patrols, but had managed to strike a deal with Admiral Lockwood to make one more trip with the men he cared for like a father, should his fourth patrol be successful. Of course, no one suspected when he had struck that deal prior to his fourth and what should have been his final war patrol on the Barb, that Commander Fluckey’s success would be so great he would be awarded the Medal ofHonor.

Commander Fluckey smiled as he remembered that patrol. “Lucky” Fluckey they called him. On January 8th the Barb had emerged victorious from a running two-hour night battle after sinking a large enemy ammunition ship. Two weeks later in  Mamkwan   Harbor  he found the “mother-lode” …more than 30 enemy ships. In only 5 fathoms (30 feet) of water his crew had unleashed the sub’s forward torpedoes, then turned and fired four from the stern. As he pushed the Barb to the full limit of its speed through the dangerous waters in a daring withdrawal to the open sea, he recorded eight direct hits on six enemy ships.

To see the remainder of this article navigate to:


About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church ( Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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