Friday, May 15, 2009

Loss of the USS Grunion

The first U.S. submarine launched in World War II goes to war and disappears without a trace, leaving families of the lost crew to wonder what happened to them
Read more:
"Loss of the USS Grunion: The Birth, Life and Disappearance of a World War II Submarine

The keel of a new United States Gato class fleet submarine was laid by the Electric Boat Company at Groton, Connecticut, on March 1, 1941. The boat was launched on December 22, just two weeks after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor which had propelled the U.S. into World War II. Under the command of Lieutenant Commander Mannert “Jim” Abele, the boat was commissioned as the USS Grunion (SS-216) on April 11 and began preparing for war.
Read more:
"Loss of the USS Grunion: The Birth, Life and Disappearance of a World War II Submarine

One month later, Lt. Cmdr. Abele invited his wife and three sons to join him for dinner at the submarine base at New London, Connecticut. It was a beautiful Sunday on May 24, 1942, and the Abele’s enjoyed a leisurely meal. After sending his family home, Abele returned to his command and prepared to head out to sea. He was not allowed to tell his family he had orders to leave, so he left for war that afternoon without being able to tell his family goodbye. They never saw him again.
Abele’s orders were to take Grunion to Pearl Harbor. Traveling down the Atlantic Coast into the Caribbean, the boat's crew helped to rescue 16 survivors of the USAT “Jack”, which had been torpedoed by a German U-boat. The survivors were dropped off at the naval base in Coco Solo, Panama, and Grunion continued on through the Panama Canal.Read more: "Loss of the USS Grunion: The Birth, Life and Disappearance of a World War II Submarine

Grunion arrived in Pearl Harbor on June 20, received ten days of additional training and left on her first mission, which was to patrol the area between Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and Japan. Japanese forces had seized the islands Kiska and Attu, on the western tip of the Aleutians, earlier that month and Japanese military vessels were traveling along that route.
The boat headed toward its patrol area making a brief stop at Midway Island to drop off a crew member, Roy Sampsel, who had fallen ill. On July 10, Grunion was reassigned to an area north of Kiska and, five days later, reported firing three torpedoes at a Japanese destroyer that had attacked her. Later, Grunion transmitted that she had sunk three destroyer-type vessels although, after the war, only two sinkings were confirmed.

In August 06, with information supplied by a remarkable Japanese gentleman, Yutaka Iwasaki, and help from numerous other sources, the Abele brothers initiated a search for the USS Grunion, their dad’s sub, lost since 1942. Using the services of Williamson Associates and a side scan sonar they found a target near the tip of the Aleutian chain, almost a mile down that was about the right length and breadth and that appeared to have an appendage called a prop guard characteristic of that class of submarines. In addition they were able to locate the three Japanese wrecks in the area so it seems unlikely that there is confusion between wrecks.

The most important element of the find was that the target was located almost exactly where it was predicted by their source (a major story in itself). That piece of information did two things.

It added enough credibility to the hypothesis that the target was the Grunion to justify the return in August 07 with a Remote Operated Vehicle ( ROV ) equipped with HD video to more clearly identify the target
It added credibility to the entire Aiura report. (Aiura was the military captain of the freighter attacked by the Grunion) In turn that focuses attention on a couple of hypotheses as to the cause of the demise of the Grunion.

updated 2:00 p.m. PT, Thurs., Jan. 1, 2009
After more than 60 years, the Abele brothers have finally found their father.
Lt. Cmdr. Jim Abele commanded the USS Grunion, a submarine that disappeared off the coast of Alaska during World War II.
Seven years ago his sons made a deal with their hearts, not their heads,
and went looking for him.
It cost them a bundle. "If this were an official Navy project, I would guess that the taxpayers would be paying about 10 times what we're paying,"


Dr. Rafael Fabre said...

Excellent article, madam. Most US submariners focus on the loss of the "modern" subs (the Scorpion and the Thresher), but the Grunion is sadly overlooked in the parthanon of submarine losses.
Fortunatly, since the loss (or sinking of) the Thresher, the US fleet's QA program has been quite effective in mainiaing quality in workmanship, unlike the Soviet Sub forces (e.g. the Kursk, Tomsk, and of course, the Kosmolets - among the 25-or-so losses they have suffered since 196o).
Again, excellent work, Miss Carver.

Breezy Carver said...

Dear Dr Fabre
thank You Sir , might I add your reply is a wonderful full of information response .. As a child My mother (( who was a Wave in the day )) took us to groton often .. So often I have to admit I have always had an interest .. when this story broke, now being a local wash ashore on the cape it was quite an interest (big deal) story!! I had read of the Grunion long ago .. What touched my heart was it was the three sons that recovered her and the fact so many were now gone over the 60 yr period but they never gave up. This is a passion and the older the tail the greater depth ( sorry no pun intended ) Indeed We must never forget so many lost, and ultimate losses ah each of their stories are indeed the reason we are Free today !! Thank YOU Sir !!
always miss carver