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As It Was: 1942: Japanese Sub Sinks Tanker Near Gold Beach, Ore.

On October 5, 1942, a Japanese submarine torpedoed the SS Larry Doheny, which sank off the Southern Oregon Coast near Gold Beach.

The 430-foot oil tanker was sailing from Long Beach, Calif., to Portland, carrying 66,000 barrels of heavy crude oil known as Bunker-C.

The torpedo struck at 22:07 Pacific War Time.  The crew reported hearing a loud thud and snapping crack as the vessel rose two feet and the number-three tank exploded and set the bridge afire.  The port side buckled where a hole opened six feet below the waterline.  No evasive maneuvers or counterattacks were possible.

The ship was abandoned immediately and a rescue vessel rushed full speed from eight miles away to rescue 40 survivors.  Six crew members were either missing or dead.  Thirteen hours after the attack, the burning ship sank in approximately 4,500 feet of water, 36 miles offshore of Cape Sebastian, its precise   location unknown.

In 2010, Congress appropriated funds to identify wrecks potentially polluting U.S. waters.  A summary of the Larry Doheny risk assessment is publicly available online.


Sources: Webber, Bert, and Margie Webber. Shipwrecks and Rescues on the Northwest Coast. Webb Research Group Publishers, 1996, pp. 35-39; Masterson, Pat. Port Orford A History. The Friends of Cape Blanco, 1994, pp. 168-69.

"Tankers Lost to Japanese Submarine." Curry County Reporter, 15 Oct. 1942, p. 1; "Larry Doheny." National Marine Sanctuaries, Mar. 2013, nmssanctuaries.blob.core.windows.net/sanctuaries-prod/media/archive/protect/ppw/pdfs/larry_doheny.pdf.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.