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DDG 77 O'Kane

The O'Kane is the twenty-seventh destroyer of the Arleigh Burke class and the sixteenth built by Bath Iron Works. O'KANE is named after the late Rear Admiral Richard H. O'Ka ne and was launched March 28, 1998 and commissioned October 23, 1999

She departed on Aug 1, 2001 on her maiden WESTPAC deployment.

On Aug. 23, 2002 O'Kane became the 25th U.S. Naval vessel to fire a VLA (Vertically Launched Anti-Submarine Rocket) since the weapon came into use in 1993. Only two ships are selected to fire each year - one from the Pacific Fleet and one from the Atlantic Fleet. O'Kane's crew discovered six months ago that they were this year's Pacific Fleet shooter. Their self-defense loadout message arrived with a VLA in the list of ammunition. The workdays leading up to the August underway period extended late into the night for members of the Undersea Warfare Division.

Once underway, O'Kane's Combat Systems team rehearsed the VLA shot in between tracking and the simulated attacking of USS Olympia and HMAS Sheehan, the two submarines participating in Prospective Commanding Officer Operations (PCO OPS) 2002. When Aug. 23 finally arrived, the sonar technicians crawled out of their racks at 12:30 a.m. to ensure that they had not overlooked anything that might prevent the shot from succeeding.

Richard H. O'Kane

Richard H. O'Kane was born in Dover, New Hampshire, on February 2, 1911. He attended Phillips Academy, Andover, and the University of New Hampshire before entering the United States Naval Academy in 1930. Upon graduation in 1934, O'Kane was commissioned as an Ensign and served on USS CHESTER and USS PRUITT before reporting for instruction in submarines at the Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut, in January 1938. After completing his training, O'Kane served on the submarine USS ARGONAUT until 1942, when he reported for duty as Executive Officer of USS WAHOO. For outstanding service on WAHOO, O'Kane was awarded the Silver Star Medal with two Gold Stars, and a Letter of Commendation from the Secretary of the Navy.

In August 1943, O'Kane returned to the Mare Island Navy Yard where he assumed command of USS TANG upon her commissioning on October 15, 1943. After intensive training exercises in the San Diego area, TANG left for the Pacific, arriving in Pearl Harbor on January 8, 1944. Under Commander O'Kane, TANG went on five war patrols, sinking a total of 31 ships, totaling more than 227,000 tons, and damaging two other ships, a record unsurpassed by any American submarine.

During its fifth and final war patrol, which began on September 24 and ended on October 25, 1944, TANG sank 13 enemy ships. In what was to be her final battle, the TANG encountered a heavily escorted enemy convoy. Engaged in a fierce surface battle, Commander O'Kane directed TANG to fire her last two torpedoes at a crippled transport ship. The first torpedo went straight and true and struck its target. The second torpedo was faulty and turned around almost immediatley, heading directly for TANG. Ordering emergency speed, TANG tried to pull out of its path, but it struck the submarine in the stern, causing a violent explosion. Of the entire crew, only nine were able to escape the sinking submarine. They swam through the night until they were picked up by a Japanese destroyer escort eight hours later.

Commander O'Kane and the others from TANG were imprisoned on Formosa. He was later transferred to a secret prison camp near Tokyo where he was not registered and was therefore listed as "missing in action" until the camp's liberation two weeks after V-J Day. During his imprisonment, he and the other prisoners sruvived on a diet of less than 300 calories a day, eating mostly rice or barley, without fruit, vegetables or protein. Upon his release, O'Kane was suffering from scurvy and beriberi. He was evacuated by air to Pearl Harbor and, after a short hospitalization there, was transferred to the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

After his recovery, O'Kane's commands included USS PELIAS and USS SPERRY, as well as the Submarine School in New London, Connecticut, Submarine Division THIRTY-TWO and Submarine Squadron SEVEN. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his exemplary service on TANG on March 27, 1947. Rear Admiral O'Kanes other military decoration include the Navy Cross with two Gold Stars, the Legion of Merit with Combat "V", the Purple Heart and the Prisoner of War Medal. He also wrote two books based on his experiences in World War II, Clear the Bridge and WAHOO.

Rear Admiral O'Kane passed away in February 1994. He is survived by his wife, Ernestine, two children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:54:56 ZULU