Richard H. O'Kane
Rear Admiral Richard Hetherington O'Kane
February 2, 1911 - February 16, 1994

Richard Hetherington O'Kane was born in Dover, New Hampshire on February 2, 1911, son of Dr. Walter Collins O'Kane and Mrs. (Clifford Hetherington) O'Kane.  He attended Phillips Academy, Andover, New Hampshire and the University of New Hampshire at Durham, before entering the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland on appointment from his native state in 1930.  He was graduated and commissioned Ensign on May 31, 1934.

Following graduation he served a year in USS CHESTER and then two more years in USS PRUITT before reporting in January 1938 for instruction in submarines at the Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut.  After completing his training in June 1938, he served in the submarine USS ARGONAUT until April 1942, when he reported for duty in connection with fitting out the USS WAHOO at the Navy Yard, Mare Island, California.  He served as Executive Officer of that submarine from her commissioning, May 15, 1942 until July 1943, being detached before she was announced overdue and presumed lost in November 1943.  For outstanding service in the WAHOO, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal with two gold stars in lieu of a Second and Third Silver Star Medal and a Letter of Commendation, with authorization to wear the Commendation Ribbon from the Secretary of the Navy.   He was also entitled to the Ribbon for, and a facsimile of, the Presidential Unit Citation awarded the USS WAHOO.

In August 1943 he returned to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard where the USS TANG was building.  He assumed command of that submarine upon her commissioning on October 15, 1943.  After intensive training excersizes in the San Diego area the USS TANG left for the Pacific, arriving in Pearl Harbor on January 8, 1944.  He commanded USS TANG during four highly successful war patrols.  He was awarded the Navy Cross, Gold Stars in lieu of a Second and Third Navy Cross and the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for rescuing twenty-two downed U.S. naval aviators.

TANG's fifth war patrol began on September 24, 1944 and ended October 25, 1944.  Having expended all but two of his torpedoes against enemy shipping TANG fired her two remaining torpedoes at a crippled transport.  The first ran true to the target but the second torpedo ran erratically and started a circular run.  Emergency speed was called for but twenty seconds after firing the malfunctioning torpedo hit the stern of TANG and she sank immediately.

Commander O'Kane was rescued by a small Japanese man o'war and imprisoned on Formosa.  He was later transferred to a secret prison camp near Tokyo, Japan where he was not registered.  Therefore he was carried on the Navy's records as Missing In Action until his liberation following the cessation of hostilities.  He was evacuated by air to the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

President Truman presented the Medal of Honor, awarded by Congress, to Commander O'Kane at the White House on March 27, 1946.  The TANG received two Presidential Unit Citations for outstanding performance in combat (1) during her First, Second and Third War Patrols and (2) for her Fourth and Fifth War Patrols.  Richard H. O'Kane was the highest scoring submarine commander of World War II.

In April 1946 he joined the Staff of Commander Mare Island Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet, with additional duty as Commanding Officer of the USS PELIAS.  In the assignment that extended to July 1948, he attended and testified at the War Crimes Trials in Tokyo, Japan in September-October 1947.  He next served for a year as Executive Officer of the USS NEREUS, based at San Diego, and in August 1949, became Commander Submarine Division THIRTY-TWO.  He was a student at the Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Virginia from August 1950 until January 1951 then had duty as Instructor in Command Class and Assistant Officer in Charge of the Submarine School, U.S. Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut.  In July 1952 he became Officer in Charge of that school and was subsequently promoted to the rank of Captain.

He commanded the USS SPERRY from August 1953 until June 1954 after which he served as Commander Submarine Squadron SEVEN.  Detached in June 1955, he next had instruction at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island and in July 1956 was assigned to the Ship Characteristics Board, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, D.C.  He remained there until relieved of active duty pending his retirement, effective July 1, 1957.  At retirement he was advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral on the basis of combat awards.

In addition to the aforementioned awards, Rear Admiral O'Kane received the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver and three bronze stars; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Europe Clasp; National Defense Service Medal; Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two bronze stars; Purple Heart Medal; and the Prisoner of War Medal.

After selecting early retirement from active duty, Rear Admiral O'Kane worked for Great Lakes Carbon Corp. in New York until 1960.  He then moved to the Red Hill Horse Ranch in Sebastopol, California and wrote two best selling accounts of his war experiences; Clear the Bridge! in 1977 and WAHOO in 1987.

Rear Admiral O'Kane died on February 16, 1994 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.  He was survived by his wife of 57 years, Ernestine and their two children, James H. O'Kane and Marsha O'Kane Allen.  In December 1994 the Navy named its newest ARLEIGH BURKE Class Destroyer, DDG-77, the USS O'KANE.