Frank DeVere Latta, captain of USS Lagarto (SS 371), had a passion for motorcycles. So much so that he would bring his bike with him on his patrols during World War II, even though it was against Navy policy. According to his son Mike, Latta would disassemble his Harley-Davidson and stow it on board the submarine. Whenever Lagarto made port for shore leave or supplies, Latta and a crewman would reassemble the bike and Latta would take off down the dock.
On May 3, 1945, Lagarto was sunk by the Japanese minelayer Hatsutaka. For 60 years, Lagarto’s final resting place was unknown. In May 2005, divers found the remains of Lagarto, intact and sitting upright at a depth of 200 feet in the Gulf of Thailand. If, as believed, the Harley-Davidson was aboard when Lagarto went down with Latta and her crew, the bike is certainly still there. Latta’s bike is thought to be a late 1942 EL or CL civilian model.
Shipbuilding has long been a predominant industry in Manitowoc; in the middle of the 19th century the banks of the Manitowoc River were lined with boat yards. By 1940 there were only two left: Burger Boat Company and Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company. It was then that the Navy Department contacted the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company and asked them to build submarines.
Celebrate the 28 Manitowoc-built submarines with this unique collectors pin.
The creation of battle insignia is a long standing tradition of the American armed forces. In 1940, Walt Disney studios in California began designing insignia using animal caricatures. Eighteen Manitowoc submarines are Disney designs. The battle insignia were thought to be a good omen and the insignia is placed on letterheads, worn on backs of jackets, and were painted on conning towers when submarines were not on patrol.
Many of the submarines were named after the “denizens of the deep,” with fierce names and fierce insignia. Their patches depicted fierce fighting fish, mermaids ridding or holding a torpedo, or exploding torpedoes and Japanese flags. The designs were meant to send a “don’t mess with us” warning to the enemy. The tougher the creatures looked, the more the submariners liked them.