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Dudley Walker Morton
Commander Dudley "Mush" Morton
Nickname Mush
Born (1907-07-17)July 17, 1907
Died October 11, 1943(1943-10-11) (aged 36)
Place of birth Dallas, Texas
Place of death Onboard USS Wahoo (SS-238)
Died at sea La Pérouse Strait
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1930 - 1943
Rank Commander
Commands held USS R-5 (SS-82)
USS Wahoo (SS-238)
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Navy Cross (4)
Distinguished Service Cross
Purple Heart
Presidential Unit Citation
Morton and OKane 1943

Morton speaks with his executive officer, Richard O'Kane on the bridge of the Wahoo ca. February 7, 1943

Dudley Walker Morton (July 17, 1907 – October 11, 1943) was a submarine commander of the United States Navy during World War II. He was commander of USS Wahoo (SS-238) during its third through seventh patrols. Wahoo was one of the most-celebrated submarines of World War II, sinking at least 19 Japanese ships, more than any other submarine of the time.[1] Morton and Wahoo disappeared in 1943 during a patrol near La Perouse Strait, and was ultimately declared deceased three years later. A native of Owensboro, Kentucky, Morton graduated from the Naval Academy in 1930. There he received the nickname "Mushmouth", after a character in the cartoon strip Moon Mullins whose large square jaw and prominent mouth resembled Morton's. The nickname was shortened to "Mush", by which he was known for much of his life.[citation needed]


Prior to the beginning of World War II, he served in the USS Saratoga (CV-3), USS Chicago (CA-29), USS Canopus (AS-9), USS Fairfax (DD-93), and the submarines USS R-5 (SS-82) and USS S-37 (SS-142).

Promoted to Commander October 15, 1942, he was in nominal command of USS Dolphin (SS-169) while it underwent extended repairs at Pearl Harbor. He was relieved to make a war patrol in USS Wahoo (SS-238) between November 8 and December 26 as prospective commanding officer, a supernumerary position to prepare him for command of a fleet boat. Morton took command of Wahoo on December 31 in Brisbane, Australia. Between January 26, 1943 and October 11, he carried out four offensive patrols,during which Wahoo was responsible for sinking 19 cargo and transport ships for a combined total of 55,000 tons.

During Wahoo's third war patrol, Morton was responsible for an incident which resulted in shipwrecked soldiers in about twenty lifeboats[2] of sunken Japanese transport Bunyo Maru[3] being fired on while in the water. O'Kane, who was on Wahoo's bridge when the incident took place, likened to attacks on small craft made during the Dunkirk evacuation, and for the same reason: to prevent the enemy from recovering a body of troops that would shortly fight again.[4] However, the Hague Convention of 1907 bans the killing of shipwreck survivors under any circumstances.[5]

Controversy still attaches to this action, since survivors in the water may have been deliberately targeted. Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, the contemporary COMSUBPAC, asserts survivors were army troops and turned machinegun and rifle fire on Wahoo while she maneuvered on the surface, and such resistance was common in submarine warfare.[6] Morton's exec, Richard O'Kane, stated fire from Wahoo was intended to force the troops to abandon their boats and no troops were deliberately targeted.[7] Clay Blair states Morton opened fire first and the shipwrecked returned fire with handguns.[8]

Whatever the case, Morton and O'Kane had misidentified the survivors as Japanese. In fact, they were mainly Indian POWs of 2nd Battalion, 16th Punjab Regiment, plus escorting forces from the 26th Field Ordnance Depot.[9] Of 1,126 men aboard Buyo Maru, just 195 Indians and 87 Japanese died in all, including those killed in the initial sinking.[10] The low number suggests O'Kane's defense, that Morton fired only on the boats, may be correct.[11] It proved a rare occurrence, in any event.[12] Unlike German submariner Heinz-Wilhelm Eck, who was executed as a war criminal for ordering the killing of civilian shipwreck survivors, Morton did not face any criminal liability for his alleged actions. O'Kane believed this event prevented Morton from being awarded the Medal of Honor.[13] After three arduous war patrols, Morton was given the highly dangerous assignment of penetrating the Sea of Japan. Commander Morton was reported missing in action in December, when his submarine was presumed lost. After the war, it was determined from Japanese records that, on October 11, in the time frame in which the Wahoo was expected to exit through La Perouse Strait, an antisubmarine aircraft found a surfaced submarine and attacked, dropping three depth charges.[14]

Declared deceased on January 7, 1946, Morton had been awarded the Navy Cross, three gold stars in lieu of a second, third, and fourth Navy Cross, and the Army Distinguished Service Cross.

World War 2 SummaryEdit

Summary of CDR Dudley W. Morton's USS R-5 (SS-82) and USS Wahoo (SS-238) War Patrols
  Departing From Date Days Wartime Credit
JANAC[15] Credit
Patrol Area
R-5-1 Atlantic 1942 ? zero/zero[16] zero/zero Atlantic
Wahoo-3 Brisbane, Australia January 1943 23 5/31,900[17] 3/11,348[18] -->Pearl Harbor
Wahoo-4 Pearl Harbor, TH February 1943 42 8/36,700[19] 9/19,530[18] East China Sea
Wahoo-5 Pearl Harbor, TH April 1943 26 3/24,700[20] 3/10,376[18] Empire
Wahoo-6 Pearl Harbor, TH August 1943 27 zero/zero[21] zero/zero[18] Empire
Wahoo-7 Pearl Harbor, TH September 1943 lost 1/7,100[22] 4/13,429[18] Empire


CDR Morton's Ranking Compared with Other Top Skippers
Ranking Number of Patrols Ships/Tons
3 6 17/100,400[23] 19/54,683[18]

In popular cultureEdit

In 1960 Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Jr., ComSubPac during the war, was asked to write the foreword for former Wahoo crewmember Forest Sterling's book, Wake of the Wahoo. He wrote about Morton, "When a natural leader and born daredevil such as Mush Morton is given command of a submarine, the result can only be a fighting ship of the highest order, with officers and men who would follow their skipper to the Gates of Hell…. And they did." Added Lockwood, "Morton lined up an impressive number of 'firsts' during the short ten months that he commanded Wahoo: first to penetrate an enemy harbor and sink a ship therein; first to use successfully a down the throat shot; and first to wipe out an entire convoy single-handed."


The destroyer USS Morton (DD-948) was named in his honor.

See alsoEdit


  1. A WWII Submarine Finally Comes Home
  2. Bridgland p115-129.
  3. Holwitt, Joel I. "Execute Against Japan", Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 2005, p.287.
  4. O'Kane. Wahoo: The Patrols of America's Most famous WWII Submarine. pp. 153–154. 
  6. Lockwood, p...
  7. O'Kane, Richard (1987). Wahoo: The Patrols of America's Most Famous WWII Submarine. Presidio Press. 
  8. Blair, pp.384-386.
  9. Holwitt, p.288; DeRose, James F. Unrestricted Warfare (John Wiley & Sons, 2000), pp.287-288.
  10. Holwitt, p.289; DeRose, pp.77 & 94.
  11. Holwitt, p.289fn29; O'Kane, Wahoo!, pp.153-154. If so, it differed dramatically from the strafing of Japanese troops in the water at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.
  12. Blair, p.360; Holwitt, p.289.
  13. DeRose, James F. (2000). "Unrestricted Warfare: How a New Breed of Officers Led the Submarine Force to Victory in World War II". John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. 
  14. United States Submarine Losses, World War II - Wahoo (SS 238)
  15. Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee. Blair rounded entries in his tables (see Blair p. 900, bottom) while Roscoe's tables are an accurate transcription of the JANAC report.
  16. Blair (1975) p. 895
  17. Blair (1975) p. 923
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 Roscoe (1949) p. 563
  19. Blair (1975) p. 926
  20. Blair (1975) p. 930
  21. Blair (1975) p. 933
  22. Blair (1975) p. 939
  23. Blair (1995) pp. 984-987

Forest J. Sterling "Wake Of The Wahoo"


External linksEdit

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