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Another World War II submarine discovered

When famed novelist and sailor Joseph Conrad wrote in 1900, "I have known the sea too long to believe in its respect for decency," perhaps he had some foresight into the mysterious disappearance of a U.S. Navy submarine 42 years later.

The foreboding comment by Conrad, author of sea novels such as "Lord Jim," "Typhoon" and "The Rescue," dramatically applies to the fate of the crew of the submarine USS Grunion and the anguish of the families of the missing whose ship vanished in 1942 while steaming off the coast of Alaska.

The 311-foot, diesel powered Grunion and its 70-member crew had not been heard from for 65 years since they went missing while on patrol off the island of Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.

In early July of 1942, the Grunion had sunk two Japanese sub chasers and damaged a third near Kiska, one of two islands in the Aleutians that had been captured by the Japanese during the early months of World War II.

But the Grunion, named for a small fish and commissioned just three months earlier, had not been located since its last message of July 30, 1942, when it reported by radio the receipt of a Navy message ordering it back to the U.S. Navy base at Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

One month ago, the remains of the USS Grunion were found in 1,000 feet of water off Kiska Island following a lengthy and intensive search led by the son of the Grunion's skipper and with the cooperation of the Alaskan Civil Air Patrol and World War II Japanese navy veterans who had served in the Aleutians in 1942.

Utilizing Japanese navy records discovered in Tokyo last summer, John Abele, the son of Grunion skipper Lt. Cmdr. Mannert Abele, discovered the mangled remains of the sub utilizing an underwater, remotely operated vehicle equipped with video cameras.

The director a co-founder of the medical equipment company Boston Scientific Corp., John Abele also enlisted the aid of Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Robert J. Miller, who flew his Cessna 182 over the wreck site, employing the Archer hyperspectral system that initially identified the sunken submarine as "a smooth, oblong object with features that could be a conning tower and periscope mast."

Sailing to the wreck site aboard the ship SS Aquila, Abele and his two brothers, using Miller's images, the video taken by the underwater vehicle, recollections of the World War II Japanese naval officers and the recently found Japanese Navy records, discovered that the Grunion's interior, including bunks and a dive wheel, were clearly visible. No human remains were found, according to an Associated Press report of Aug. 24 that quoted Abele.

What caused the Grunion's loss has not been determined. It is possible the ship was sunk by Japanese naval vessels patrolling in the area, experienced an internal explosion or struck an underwater reef.

Two years after the Grunion's disappearance, a 376-foot destroyer escort was commissioned named the USS Mannert L. Abele in honor of the Grunion's captain. While participating in the invasion of Japanese-held Okinawa, the Mannert L. Abele was sunk by a "baka" bomb, a Japanese-piloted, rocket-powered, glider bomb. Seventy-three of the 336-member crew died during the sinking.

The discovery last month of the USS Grunion's remains off Alaska brings to mind the discoveries of three other naval vessels, two of them submarine, during the past 17 years.

In 1990, the 39-foot Confederate Navy submarine CSS Hunley was discovered resting underwater at the mouth of the harbor in Charleston, S.C. The sub had sunk in 1862 with the loss of its eight-member crew after engaging in battle with a Union warship.

The Hunley's wreck was brought to the surface intact in 2000 and is now being studied by researchers at a Charleston laboratory. The Hunley eventually will be placed in a museum there.

In 1973, the remains of the famed Union Navy warship USS Monitor were discovered 26 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. The ship sank in 1862 while under tow with the loss of 16 of its 62 crewmembers.

The Monitor's gun turret and other objects were later removed and now are displayed at the Mariners' Museum of Newport News, Va.

In 2006, the wreckage of the 306-foot submarine USS Wahoo was discovered in 213 feet of water between the Russian island of Sakhalin and the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

U.S. and Japanese naval records indicate the Wahoo was undoubtedly sunk by a combined Japanese sea and air attack involving depth charges and aerial bombs in September of 1943.

All 80 of the Wahoo's crew were lost in the sinking.

Two months ago, Rear Adm. John Christenson, a relative of a Wahoo crew member and the commander of Naval Mine and Antisubmarine Warfare Command, laid a wreath in the Pacific over the sunken submarine from the deck of the Guam-based tender USS Frank Cable.

© lahontanvalleynews.com

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