Share This Article

Once again the USS Barb will be patrolling the seas.

On Tuesday, Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite announced that two new vessels were joining the fleet: the John F. Lehman, a future guided-missile destroyer named after the former Navy Secretary under President Ronald Reagan; and the Barb, a future Virginia-class attack submarine, was first to report.

The original Barb, commissioned in 1942, holds the distinction of sinking the most Japanese shipping tonnage during the Pacific War—in five war patrols between May 1944 and August 1945 the Barb sank 29 ships and, using the tactic invented by the sub’s innovative lieutenant commander, Eugene Fluckey, destroyed numerous factories using shore bombardment and rockets launched from the foredeck.

Improbably, the crew’s exploits even took them ashore—on July 23, 1945, in the cover of darkness, eight saboteurs went ashore on Karafuto, Japan, blowing up a train before slipping back to the surfaced sub. Navy sailors were, in fact, the first American combatants to set foot on Japanese soil.

Over the course of the war, the USS Barb carried out 12 patrols with its crew being awarded a Presidential Unit Citation; a Navy Unit Commendation; eight battle stars; six Navy Crosses; 23 Silver Stars; 23 Bronze Stars; and a Medal of Honor for Fluckey.

Commander Eugene B. Fluckey (Naval History and Heritage Command)

In addition to the impressive list of accolades, Fluckey single-handedly rewrote the American submarine warfare manual. “While traditional tactics counseled subs to lie submerged in wait, Fluckey believed—taking a page from Germany’s most successful U-boat skipper, Otto Kretschmer—that a sub should be used like a motor torpedo boat that pursues the enemy on the surface,” writes Sam Moses.

However, Fluckey always maintained that he most proud of the fact that during his patrols there was no loss of life or significant injury to his crewmembers, which earned him the nickname “Lucky Fluckey.”

“I’ve always believed luck is where you find it,” Fluckey later wrote in his memoir Thunder Below!, “but by God, you’ve got to go out there and find it.”

While no commission date has been set, the latest Virginia-class submarine will be the third of its name. After the original Barb was decommissioned in 1947, a Permit-class submarine served in Vietnam with the same moniker, later becoming a test site for the Tomahawk cruise missile before being decommissioned in 1989.

With the latest naval announcement, the legacy of the Barb lives on.

“These naval combatants, and many others named after historic leaders and battle-tested namesakes are one of the key components of our great Naval culture and heritage,” Braithwaite said. “The other is the men and women who volunteer to serve this great nation above self, adding to the fabric of honor, courage and commitment which guides our great Navy each and every day.”