Wreck of the USS Lagarto SS-371 Reportedly Found

Story by Michael W. Pocock
July 2, 2005

July 2, 2005: The submarine USS Lagarto has reportedly been located in the Gulf of Thailand. The Lagarto, (SS-371) has been missing since May 4, 1945 when she and the USS Baya (SS-318) were attempting to sink a Japanese tanker which they had spotted on the 2nd. The tanker, traveling under what is described as "heavy escort" was attacked by the Baya on the evening of the 2nd and again after midnight on the night of the 3-4 Both attacks were driven off by the escorting ships. Early on the morning of the 4th the Baya attempted to contact the Lagarto with no success. Records captured from Japan after the war indicate that a minelayer named Hatsutaka, attacked an American submarine on the evening of May 3-4 in that area. It is presumed that this was the cause of the loss of the Lagarto.

The Lagarto was a Balao class submarine built by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co. in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Launched on May 28, 1944 and commissioned on October 14, 1944. She was placed under the command of Frank D. Latta, who commanded her until her loss. After  completing her sea trials in Lake Michigan she was floated down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, Louisiana and departed for Pearl Harbor.

Lagarto departed Pearl Harbor on Feb. 7, 1945 for her first war patrol. On Feb. 13, 1945. Lagarto and two other subs, Haddock (SS-231) and Sennet (SS-408) attacked four armed Japanese picket boats. Two were sunk and the other two were damaged. On her second and last war patrol Lagarto sank the freighter Tatsumono Maru (Feb. 24, 1945) and the Japanese submarine I-371 (Feb. 24, 1945).

The British diver that found the wreck, Jamie MacLeod is sure he has found the Lagarto however Pentagon officials have not yet confirmed the identity of the boat. He located the wreck in May 2005 in 225 feet of water. MacLeod said "It looks to me like it's intact and it's sitting upright on the bottom in very clear water, so you can get a good idea of what it looks like, Everything is still on it all the armaments, the brass navigation lights. It's beautiful."

When the Lagarto was lost in 1945 she took 86 men with her, they remain on "Eternal patrol"

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock

USS Lagarto SS-371