| Following the "fiasco" that was their first war patrol,
Dick O'Kane was confident that Wahoo would get a new skipper during
their rest period. When Commander Kennedy unexpectedly reported back aboard
as the boats' skipper, O'Kane took action. In a bold breach of protocol,
he met with the Division Commander, Joe Grenfell, and poured out his reservations
about his captain. Rather than being sacked himself, O'Kane's petitions
got results. A Prospective Commanding Officer was added to Wahoo's
wardroom, a man with seniority similar to Kennedy's. Grenfell hoped he
would be able to assist Kennedy while on patrol - two heads being better
than one. The PCO's name was Lt. Commander Dudley W. "Mush" Morton.
Morton was not without a checkered past himself. He had been criticized for an attack against a German U-boat he had made during an Atlantic patrol as CO of the antique R-5. Transferred to Pearl, he was given command of Dolphin. After a cursory review in which he found the boat to be in deplorable condition, he advised his wardroom to seek other assignments, calling her a "death trap". When Morton requested command of another boat ComSubPac was furious. Only through the personal intervention of his former Annapolis football coach, Captain John "Babe" Brown, was he able to land in the PCO pool. The opportunity to sail with Wahoo as a "makey learn" was a welcome reprieve.
Another new face aboard Wahoo was Forest J. Sterling, Yeoman Second. O'Kane immediately set him to work in the ship's office. It was there that he reacquainted himself with an officer he had met while serving on the China Station in the 30's, Lt.Cdr. Morton. The outgoing officer regularly announced his presence in the ship's office with a hearty slap on the Yeoman's back.
With her bridge cowl cut down and a new 4-inch gun and two 20mm guns installed, Wahoo set sail on November 8, 1942. Her destination was patrol area Dog in the Solomon Islands. Any hope of Morton being a positive influence on Kennedy's aggressiveness was quickly dashed. Kennedy informed his officers that they would continue to patrol submerged during the day with strictly regulated periscope sweeps.
They began patrolling off Buka, to the northeast of Bougainville. On the night of November 30, smoke was sighted during a lightning storm. Ignoring Morton and O'Kane's suggestions to pull ahead for an attack the next morning, Kennedy dove. During the ensuing sound approach, the target got by.
Following a period of seventeen days without enemy contact, Kennedy shifted south to the Shortlands. On December 8, a large tanker was sighted, a target they had been alerted to watch for by ULTRA. It too got by them.
Emotions on board were running high. Morton and O'Kane had found themselves uniquely matched in personality and temperament. Aggressive by nature, both men felt the loss of each target personally. Kennedy's response only exacerbated the problem in his wardroom. The lack of rapport he had with O'Kane repeated itself in his relationship with Morton. Kennedy was "a perfectionist" and constantly interjected himself in the minutia of his command. At the same time "his inability to delegate isolated him from his officers". It didn't help that Morton got along famously with his crew.
With morale plummeting, O'Kane contemplated usurping Kennedy on the basis of his failed attacks. In a reckless (or coldly calculating) moment, O'Kane left a book of Navy regs open in the conning tower. The page detailed conditions under which Executive Officers could assume command. Arriving unexpectedly, Kennedy read the passage learning the full depths of his XO's mistrust. In a moment fraught with tension, Kennedy pondered, "Dick, what am I going to do with you?"
On December 10, a convoy wandered across Wahoo's uncertain path. Made up of three freighters and a destroyer, Kennedy conducted perhaps his best attack. The 5,355 ton Kamoi Maru was sunk. The destroyer dropped over forty depth charges, shaking the boat. A leak in the negative tank's vent valve caused her to slip to 350 feet before depth control was recovered. Surfacing later, O'Kane and Morton urged Kennedy to engage the remaining two freighters but he would have none of it.
Another freighter was sighted on the 12th but again, an aggressive attack was not made and the ship escaped. Kennedy's wardroom decided that the success of the 10th was an aberration, rather than a turning point.
On December 12th a large submarine was sighted on the surface, I-2. The fire control party developed the solution before calling Kennedy. Arriving at the scope, all that was left to do was to give the order to fire. Kennedy did. A hit was observed and they watched the boat sink with men on the bridge. Later, collapsing bulkheads were heard on the sound gear. Kennedy wrote in his report, "This attack was brought to a successful end largely through the splendid coordination of four officers, whose performance was outstanding. They were: Lt. G.W. Grider - O.O.D. and Diving Officer; Lt. R.H. O'Kane - A.A.O.; Lt. R.W. Paine - T.D.C. Operator; Lt.Cdr. D.W. Morton - A.A.O."
At the end of her patrol period, Wahoo was transferred to SubSoWesPac at Brisbane, Australia. She arrived there on December 26, 1942.
Kennedy and Morton went before Admiral James Fife to review the patrol. Kennedy optimisticaly focused on the two sinkings. Fife then asked for Morton's comments. According to Lt. Jack Griggs, a junior officer, Morton told the Admiral that "Kennedy was a yellow S.O.B. and should be relieved of command." Kennedy protested. But when O'Kane was called in to corroborate, the damage was done. Kennedy was awarded a Silver Star and a transfer to the surface fleet.
Thus Wahoo was without a commander. In a prescient, and tradition breaking, move Fife gave the PCO command of the boat he had trained on. On New Year's Eve 1942, Dudley Morton, a "makey learn", became captain of Wahoo.