The Naval Surface Engagement Won By Potatoes


Naval victories have been achieved in many different ways. Some have been because of superior strategy. Others have been won due to superior firepower. However, one Naval ship achieved victory by using potatoes.

USS O’Bannon

The USS O’Bannon was in the waters by the Solomon Islands when the ship came across a Japanese submarine. The O’Bannon was already known as a capable destroyer.

The O’Bannon was the only ship that left Guadalcanal’s battle without a scratch while managing to sink a Japanese ship. In 1943, not long after their victory, they found themselves to be the only ship off of the Solomon Islands.

When they came face to face with the Japanese submarine, they fired immediately. Right off the bat, they took out the boat’s conning tower, trapping it above water.

Not Fleeing

The submarine’s skipper was intent on staying. So they came alongside the O’Bannon and began shooting with small arms.

The O’Bannon’s captain was fine with the sub being close by and wanted to sink it by ramming it. However, on further reflection, he decided that it could be a minelayer which would not end well.

The fight continued with the ships next to each other. Unfortunately, the O’Bannon could not use its guns due to the proximity.

So, they decided to use whatever they could to take out the submarine. They went below deck into the storage locker, grabbed potatoes, and hurled them at the Japanese.

Legend has it that the Japenese were scared and tossed their guns overboard. Though no one really knows what happened that day, and historians think that it’s just too odd to be fake.

Theories Behind The Legend

One Commander, Donald MacDonald, said that a crew member and the cook bet that they could not hit the submarine with a potato. Though, he says that potatoes were never actually thrown.

Another version maintains that potatoes were thrown, but the Japanese took off because they thought they were grenades. They all piled back into the sub and went underwater only to sink because it filled with water since there was no tower.

A third account says potatoes were thrown, but the sub did not go underwater. Instead, the potatoes bought the crew time to get the depth charges ready, and that’s what sank the ship.

No matter which story is true there is a plaque at the Maine Maritime Museum honoring the ship.



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