Warship Wednesday April 2, The Lost Dorado

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday April 2, The Lost Dorado


Here we see the Gato-class fleet submarine USS Dorado (SS-248) fitting out just before commissioning–note the Rosie the Riveter types on deck.  Named after the mahi mahi fish, the Dorado had a very short life, but one that will live on forever in what she left behind.

A member of the famous Gato-class of fleet submarines, Dorado was but one of 77 of that extended family commissioned between 1943-44. These 311-foot long boats could make 21-knots on the surface, which meant they could chase down just about any Japanese Maru that was on the ocean. Her 11,000-mile range and 24 torpedo magazine allowed her to stay at sea, taking the war to the Japanese home islands, for upto 75 days at a time.

The Gatos were some of the most famous of US fleet boats in WWII, and they suffered for it, with 20 being lost at sea. Ships of this class included USS Wahoo who, under Mush Morton, slaughtered an entire Japanese convoy off New Guinea all by her self. USS Cavalla, assassin of the Japanese aircraft carrier (and Pearl Harbor veteran) Shokaku. USS Albacore, who took the carrier Taiho, the flagship of Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa’s fleet– was a Gato. The USS Flasher, the most successful US sub of the war, with over 100,000-tons to her credit, was also Gato.

All of these 77 Gatos, save the Dorado, would fight in the Pacific, but the ill-fated submarine would never make it that far.

Laid down 27 August 1942 at the famous General Dynamics Electric Boat yard, Groton, Connecticut, Dorado was completed just one year and one day later, and commissioned 28 August 1943.

In September, she took aboard two artists employed by the US War Department, Thomas Hart Benton  and Georges Schreiber to document the ship’s cruise and preserve the images of a fleet boat at sea during wartime operations (although safely in US waters most of the time).

Schreiber and Benton along with the Dorado's skipper, Sept 1943

Schreiber and Benton along with the Dorado’s skipper, Sept 1943

While underway  Schreiber and Benton sketched, painted and interacted with the crew. They even got some excitement when the ship encountered a derelict vessel in the sea-lanes that Dorado dispatched with her deck guns.

The art from that cruise lives on for eternity.

Going Home by Georges Schreiber

Going Home by Georges Schreiber

Up Periscope by Thomas Hart Benton,

Up Periscope by Thomas Hart Benton,

Score Another One, Thomas Hart Benton

Score Another One, Thomas Hart Benton


Dorado‘s sea trials proved the readiness of the crew, and she sailed from New London, Connecticut, on 6 October 1943 for the Panama Canal Zone.

She did not arrive.

It is thought that she was sent to the bottom by a friendly fire attack of the US Mariner aircraft (of VP-210 USN/P-9, pilot Lt(jg) Daniel T. Felix, Jr.) stationed on NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on 12 Oct, 1943. The aircraft was patrolling around the convoy GAT-92 and dropped three depth charges and one bomb on a surfaced U-boat at 20.51 hours on 12 October.

Another theory is that she ran into a minefield set by German U-214. Between 15.51 hours on 19.02 hours on 8 Oct, 1943, U-214 had laid a mine field of 15 mines off Colon. It is possible that USS Dorado (SS 248) was lost on one of these mines when she passed the area on her way to Colon on 14 October. The mine field was detected on 16 October and ten mines swept.

Overdue at Colon, Dorado is still considered on eternal patrol.


A memorial to Dorado has been constructed in the Veterans Memorial Park in Wichita, Kansas while the USS Dorado Assoc still keeps watch that some day she will be found. In 2007 a remote sensing survey was conducted to try and find her resting place.

To visit a sister-ship of the lost Dorado, Six retired Gatos are on display in the United States:

USS Cavalla is at Seawolf Park near Galveston, Texas (in SSK configuration).
USS Cobia is at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.
USS Drum is at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama.
USS Cod is on display in Cleveland. It does not have doors cut through its pressure hull nor stairwells added.
USS Croaker is on display in Buffalo, New York (in SSK configuration).
USS Silversides is on display in Muskegon, Michigan.

Go aboard and pay your respects.


Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

Displacement:     1,525 long tons (1,549 t) surfaced, 2,424 long tons (2,463 t) submerged
Length:     311 ft 9 in (95.02 m)
Beam:     27 ft 3 in (8.31 m)
Draft:     17 ft (5.2 m) maximum
Propulsion:     4 × General Motors Model 16-248 V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries
4 × high-speed General Electric electric motors with reduction gears
two propellers
5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced
2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged
Speed:     21 kn (39 km/h) surfaced,[4] 9 kn (17 km/h) submerged
Range:     11,000 nmi (20,000 km) surfaced @ 10 kn (19 km/h)
Endurance:     48 hours @ 2 kn (3.7 km/h) submerged, 75 days on patrol
Test depth:     300 ft (91 m)
Complement:     6 officers, 54 enlisted
Armament:     10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes  (six forward, four aft) with 24 torpedoes
1 × 3-inch (76 mm) / 50 caliber deck gun
Bofors 40 mm and Oerlikon 20 mm cannon

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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