USS Grayback: 75-year-old World War II submarine discovered near Japan | The independent

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A 75-year-old mystery has been solved and the families of 80 American sailors lost at sea will now be closed.

The USS Grayback has finally been found. He has been hidden from discovery all this time by a single wandering figure.

The mystery began on January 28, 1944, when the Grayback, one of the most successful American submarines of World War II, left Pearl Harbor on its 10th Combat Patrol.

At the end of March, the return of the submarine was over three weeks overdue and the US Navy classified the submarine as missing and presumed lost.

After the war, the navy attempted to piece together a full history of the 52 submarines it had lost. The story, published in 1949, gave the approximate locations of where each submarine had gone.

The Grayback was thought to have sunk in the open sea 100 miles east-southeast of Okinawa. But the navy had subconsciously relied on an erroneous translation of the Japanese war records that was wrong with a figure on the latitude and longitude of where the Grayback had likely reached its end.

The error was not detected until last year, when an amateur researcher, Yutaka Iwasaki, was browsing the war archives at the Imperial Japanese Navy base in Sasebo.

The files included daily reports received by radio from Naval Air Station Naha, Okinawa – and the February 27, 1944 entry contained a promising lead.

Today’s report indicated that a Nakajima B5N ship-borne bomber dropped a 500-pound bomb on a submarine on the surface, hitting just aft of the turret. The submarine exploded and sank immediately, and there were no survivors.

“In this radio recording, there is a longitude and latitude of the attack, very clearly,” Mr. Iwasaki said. And that didn’t match what was in naval history of 1949, not a hundred miles.

Mr. Iwasaki is a systems engineer who lives in Kobe, Japan, who became fascinated as a teenager with Japanese WWII merchant ships – four-fifths of which were sunk during the war, a-t- he declares.

The discovery of the history of these ships necessarily brought him into contact with records on submarines. “For me, finding American submarines is part of my business to present the tragic history of war,” he said. “It’s my hobby and also my passion. “

His work brought him to the attention of Tim Taylor, an underwater explorer who set out to find the wrecks of all American submarines lost in the war.

In 2010, he found his first submarine, the USS R-12, off Key West, Florida, where he sank during a training exercise in 1943. He set up the project. Lost 52 privately funded to track down the rest, building on technology that had available over the past 10 to 15 years.

Mr. Taylor says that of the 52 lost US submarines, 47 are considered discoverable; the other five were washed up or destroyed in known locations.

Mr Taylor and his wife, Christine Dennison, searched for these 47 people and began to focus on those who were likely sunk near Japan.

Through his work in underwater exploration, Mr. Taylor was introduced to Don Walsh, a former Navy submariner who, as a lieutenant in 1960, reached the deepest point in all oceans. Earth, in the Mariana Trench near Guam.

Mr. Walsh gave Mr. Taylor his copy of 1949 Navy History, American submarine losses, WWII.

Armed with the information in this book and Mr. Iwasaki’s discovery, Mr. Taylor and the team at Lost 52 set out to attempt to find the Grayback.

The Grayback’s last patrol was its third under the command of Lt Cmdr John Moore, who had received the Navy Cross for each of the first two.

His third Navy Cross will be awarded posthumously, after the submarine sent 21,594 tons of Japanese ships from below on its last mission. In all, the Grayback sank more than a dozen Japanese ships. The Navy considers submarines like the Grayback to be “always on patrol”.

As Lt Cmdr Moore had done 75 years earlier, Mr. Taylor launched his mission to Okinawa this spring from Hawaii. When they reached Japanese waters in June, he and his team faced mechanical and electrical issues that hampered their mission.

They were looking for an area where the ocean was 1,400 feet deep, and their primary search tool was a 14-foot-long autonomous underwater vehicle weighing thousands of pounds that Mr. Taylor compared to an underwater drone. marine.

It would dive a few hundred feet above the seabed, then spend 24 hours pinging different sonar back and forth for about 10 square nautical miles.

When the drone returned to the mothership, technicians uploaded its data, using computer software to assemble all of the sonar images into a single cohesive image that they could quickly review.

“When you’re at these sites, it feels like you’re one step away from getting home,” Taylor said of the search box. “So every day is precious. “

On the penultimate day of the expedition, the drone reported a malfunction a third of the way for a scheduled 24-hour mission.

An undated photo provided by the Lost52 Project shows Tim Taylor, an underwater explorer. Taylor set up Project Lost 52 to track down lost US submarines, building on technology that has only become available in the past 10 to 15 years. (Project Tim Taylor / Lost52 via The New York Times) –

(Project 52 lost)

As they retrieved the drone, Mr Taylor said, half of his crew began preparing the ship to return to port, believing the vehicle was likely to be beyond repair. But Mr. Taylor began to examine the images captured by the drone.

He quickly spotted two anomalies on the seabed and prepared another remotely operated vehicle from the ship to visit the bottom. Unlike the drone, it was piloted manually from the mother ship and had high definition cameras.

Within hours, Mr. Taylor was looking at the hull of the Grayback. About 400 feet away was the submarine’s deck cannon, which had exploded when the bomb exploded.

“We were delighted,” said Mr. Taylor. “But that’s also sobering, because we just found 80 men.” The next day, Mr. Taylor and his crew held a ceremony in memory of the sailors lost aboard the ship and called out their names one by one.

One of those names was John Patrick King.

His nephew John Bihn, of Wantagh, New York, is named after him. Mr Bihn, who was born three years after the sinking of the Grayback, remembers him as a constant presence in his maternal grandparents’ house, where a black and white photo of the submarine hung in the sitting near a black frame holding Mr. King’s Purple Heart Medal and quote.

(Project 52 lost

(Project 52 lost)

But in his family, the subject of his uncle’s death was “too sad to be questioned,” Mr Bihn said. “My mother would cry very often if you told her about it.” “

With no bodies to bury, Mr Bihn’s grandparents, Patrick and Catherine King, commemorated their son on their own tombstone. Under their names, Mr Binh said, they had engraved “John Patrick King ‘Lost in Action'”.

Mr Bihn received a text message from his sister Katherine Taylor (unrelated to Tim Taylor) two weeks ago saying the Grayback had been found. She had heard from Mrs. Dennison.

“I was stunned,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I wish my parents were alive to see this, because it would certainly make them very happy.

In a video taken by the vehicle that inspected the wreckage, Mr Binh said, the camera tilted upward at one point to show the command turret, and a plaque stating “USS Grayback” was evident. .

“It’s like someone cleaned it up,” Bihn said. “It’s like he wants to be found.”

New York Times


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