DD 784 crew


This one is reported in the book "Blind Mans Bluff" " U.S. intelligence officials have long believed that a U.S. surface ship sank a Soviet sub that came close to an aircraft carrier attack force in 1951, early in the Korean War, according to two former intelligence officers."


This is the story of Rancher and two Russian submarines. Rancher is the destroyer USS McKean DD 784, otherwise known as Mighty Mac. The Russian submarines were part of numerous USSR combat missions during the Korean war. The incident started early March 1951. Rancher and it's crew had left Long Beach August 1950, and now seven long months later her crew was battle hardened. Under the command of CDR J. C. WEATHERWAX since Novenber 1950, her crew had just come from liberty in Sasabo, Japan. Rancher had just left Sasebo Harbor to rejoin task force-77. Task force 77 included the USS Missouri, BB-63, USS Boxer CV ,USS Manchester C 43 and dozens of destroyers to screen the capital ships. Rancher was steaming with the Frank Knox DD 742. About an hour after clearing the sub nets, but with the Japanese shoreline still in site, she recieved a hard contact from sonar. "Bridge, Sonar, we have a solid contact." Sonar had picked up two contacts. Duty Quartermaster on the bridge of Rancher was John D. Price QM3, O.O.D. was Lt.-------, CDR WEATHERWAX had gone to his stateroom. The OOD ordered Quartermaster Price to get the Captain. Capt. Weatherwax ran to the bridge as fast he could go. He didn't waste any time ordering Quartermaster Price to call general quarters.

John Price QM3

After general quarters CDR WEATHERWAX ordered depth charge runs. The captain had the sonar sounds piped to the bridge, so we were able to follow the approach to the contact. It was almost a typical training exercise, with the pinging and the course changes leading us in. Rancher immediately sent out the international identification code, dot dash or letter A . Three times this was sent with no response, but evasive action was being taken by the subs.

Rancher started a depth charge run, rolling from the rear racks and firing from the side charges. She completed her initial run, at times she lost contact but then she picked it up again and made an additional run. Quartermaster Price was logging into the ships log that Rancher was making depth charge runs on a submarine, and after a while the Captain checked the log and ordered Price to strike the word submarine from the log. He said that this could lead to an international incedent. Rancher dropped 11 depth charges per pattern. Rancher would drop a pattern and the Frank Knox would cross her wake and drop a pattern.

Frank Knox DD 742

Quartermaster Price was on depth charge central which was on the starboard side of the ship one deck below the bridge. Quartermaster Price fired the k-guns electronically and the crews on the k-guns fired manually. The pattern of depth charges were eleven to a pattern, three on each side of the ship and two stern racks. The submarine was in 250 feet of water or above because any deeper the depth charges would not go off.

K guns

Around midnight the Mighty Mac began to run out of depth charges and had to return to Sasebo harbor where the USS Dixie (Destroyer Tender) was stationed. DMS Doyle was in the vecinity. It came and began dropping it's charges. The USS Taussig (DD 746) was in port and they sent her to assist.

When the USS Taussig got there, Rancher went back into Sasabo, where it was night time. The Submarine net crews first had to be woken up. The when Rancher came alongside the the Dixie she were moving a little too fast and came in hard against the Dixie's side, waking the Captain and other crew members. The Captain of the Dixie yelled down to Weatherwax; Hey, whats going on down there? To that Weatherwax replied; In case you haven't heard, there's a war going on and I need more depth charges. The Dixie went to General Quarters to give Rancher a full load of depth charges. In fact extras were lashed to the deck.

Rancher immediately left the Sasabo harbor through the nets and relieved the second destroyer on the scene. After droping all their depth charges, Rancher finally got oil and a little debris.Rancher had dropped about 132 depth charges in a 12 hour period.

In the a.m. a salvage ship arrived out at Sasabo, to join the 5 destroyers and 3 anti-submarine airplanes. A hard hat diver was lowered to the scene. In a very short time he returned to the surface with a pair of new binoculars. The story the crew was told was that it was a "sunken W.W.II liberty ship". If those binoculars were from W.W.II, why wasn't there depris or barnacles, on the item. Recently (this week) a former shipmate commented to me, "We sunk a W.W.II ship that was doing 5 knots!".

Then they decided that story was not good enough. Thence the affidavite of secrecy signed by members of Ranchers crew. The next morning the anti-sub airplane overhead reported a torpedo wake passing astern of the McKean. It just missed Rancher, and she didn't even see it. The other Russian submarine was lashing back. What happened to the second Russian sub is unknown.

Rancher then returned to the coast of Korea. All hands were sworn to secrecy. Nothing was ever said or reported until "Blind Man's Bluff" hit the best seller list. Rancher completed her deployment in the Far East in the spring of 1951 and returned to Long Beach April 11, 1951. USS McKEAN (RANCHER) received three battle stars for Korean service. But the sinking of the Russian sub remained secrete for forty seven years.