Posts Tagged ‘Lost Subs’

The Grunion’s Ghost

Lost Subs | Posted by Rebekah
Aug 02 2010

To finish the post on the Grunion…

The USS Grunion, under the command of Cmdr. Mannert Abele, left their families on the East coast on 24 May 1942, and took their brand new boat to her assigned base in Pearl Harbor.  The trip to Pearl was eventful, since they ran across survivors of the USAT Jack which had been torpedoed by U-Boat 558.  These sixteen men reported that they had seen thirteen more in the waves right after the sinking, and Grunion changed course to head for the site of the sinking.  They found nothing, and after searching for twenty-four hours, continued on to the Panama Canal.  (They likely dropped off the survivors there, though they do not mention it).

They arrived at Pearl, trained for a few days, and headed off for their first patrol, in the Aleutian Island Chain, off Alaska.

USS Grunion, during her testing phase in 1941. Her bridge and periscope shears would be remodeld between when this photo was taken and when she sank, likely at Pearl Harbor. Photo from

Why the Aleutians?  Well, one of the fears shortly after WWII began was the Japanese might try to attack North America not by crossing the ocean (since they had already done that once) but by skirting around the north and coming down the western coast.  These fears were actually well founded, and the Japanese invaded Attu and Kiska Islands in early June, 1942.  The American military struck back and re-took Attu Island in 1943, but on this date 68 years ago, the Grunion was sent to patrol through enemy territory.

They were highly successful, taking out two enemy patrol vessels.  On 22 July, Grunion was assigned to patrol the entrances to Kiska.  Crowley’s S-28 was in the area, also patrolling the entrances to Kiska.   On 30 July, the Grunion, tracking a ship later revealed to be the Kano Maru, came under attack.  At some point on the 30th of July, possibly early in the morning, they sent a message to their headquarters reporting they were under heavy anti-submarine attack.  HQ ordered Grunion back to Dutch Harbor, the submarine base in Alaska immediately.

Also on 30 July, HQ contacted the S-28 and the S 32, two submarines patrolling nearby and asked them to report immediately to the Kiska area.  They never saw Grunion, nor were they expecting to, and neither of them reported seeing a ship that day.  Commander Crowley, on the S-28 however, reported seeing a periscope around 10:45 am, and another (or the same one) at 2:38 pm that afternoon. S-28 never tried to identify that submarine as friend or foe and neither did the other (Japanese submarines were likely in the area.)  Both also recorded hearing underwater explosions between 2:36 pm and 10:31 pm on 31 July.  Both boats assumed that what they were hearing was the bombardment of Kiska Island.

After her transmission on 30 July, Grunion was never heard from again, and she was considered lost in August of that year, though the military, not hearing of any submarine attacks in the area and knowing of no mines, had no idea what happened.

Following the war, the Japanese records showed no anti-submarine attacks in that area around that date either, leaving the military to assume that Grunion may have been the victim of a mechanical failure or an unknown minefield.

But the sons of Commander Abele never gave up looking for their father, but they were faced with a huge problem:  that area of the ocean is large and treacherous.  Even during the summer, the weather may not hold.  S-28’s reports showed days of thick fog or storms when they couldn’t get a bearing.  it is also deep and full of reefs and shallow places.

Through an amazing lucky chance, a map to the final attack of the Grunion and her fate was discovered, and the Abele brothers set out to search for her remains based on the accounts of men who saw her final battle from the deck of her intended victim.  Published in the 60’s in a little known Japanese magazine, the map lead them almost straight to her, and over two seasons searching, once with sonar, once with an ROV, the Grunion finally came to light. (I’m truncating a lot of the story here, and will post a far better place to read the full story).

She’s been blown apart and rests almost ten times deeper than Flier.  Her bow is gone, and she imploded as she descended.  There is some evidence that she slid down the mountainside that she rests on.

The wreck is so deep there is no natural light down there. This artist used the photos and video brought back from the site to create this painting of what the Grunion looks like today. From

Perhaps, all those years ago, those underwater explosions that Crowley heard aboard S-28 was the Grunion’s dying breath.  Perhaps not.  But either way, it is interesting that Crowley was sent to the same area Grunion reported suffering a severe anti-submarine attack, and later, both the Grunion and the Flier, his future boat, would be found through the dogged determination of those left behind.

Grunion's periscope, photographed from above. From

S-28 was also lost during the course of the war near Hawaii.  Perhaps she will be the next one to come to light?

The Official Website of the USS Grunion, containing the story of her location, confirmation and photos of the wreckage, as well as theories as to what happened to her. pages on the Grunion, containing many images and maps about Grunion

On Eternal Patrol’s website about Grunion, with photos of her crew.

Sailors, rest your oars.

It’s time to Return

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jul 07 2010

Thanks to all of you who e-mailed me and condoled me on the loss of my Kairey Girl.  She was one special dog.  But then again, I think everyone says that about their dog, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I do want to make one correction to that post.  My husband talked to the firemen who hit Kairey (they were nice enough to come back so we at least knew what happened to her) and told him why they couldn’t stop when it happened.  They were the ones who told him about the little girl.  When I asked him if the girl survived, he apparently said “I don’t know,” but between his sobs and mine, I heard “No”.

The girl may have survived.  I dearly dearly hope so. I have not seen any obits for anyone that young, nor any articles in the local paper.

If Kairey had to go, at least another life might have been spared.

Taken last fall by my brother, this was my Kairey dog. She loved to run, fetch, play, give kisses and nap. She could fit into two square inches of space and nap, especially if it was against a warm body or in the sun.

I thought I would post a photo of Kairey dog.  Though purebred, she had too much white on her chest to really qualify as a show animal (which was fine by us, we wanted a hunting dog and family pet and had no interest in breeding,) but the white patch on her chest was in the shape of a nearly-perfect five-pointed star.  I’m not kidding.

The star on Kairey's chest was one of the first things we noticed about her. That, and the fact that she kept trying to chew our shoes apart. Though technically considered a "disfiguring" mark, we thought it was great. She narrowly avoided being named "Star", but apparently "S" names don't work well in the hunting field. Some of her full-blooded brothers and sisters are in breeding programs all over the country, so maybe someday, several years from now, we'll adopt a great-great nephew or niece. I'd even take one of those sisters or brothers if they need a home after being retired from breeding.

Thanks for your patience and understanding during this difficult time for me and my husband.

Now back to our (semi) regularly scheduled program…

Flier arrived in Fremantle on July 5, 1944 to a welcoming committee.  Having claimed to sink four boats on patrol and damaging another two, she was one of the stars of Fremantle at that time.  Captain Crowley would win a Navy Cross for this patrol, and Flier and her crew would earn a battle star for that patrol.

The Flier was in decent condition.  Unlike the Robalo, who had six pages of defects to check and fix, Flier had only three items that needed attention:  The high pressure air compressor motors needed to be looked at since both had been flooded during a routine dive, and had been disassembled and dried before being reassembled.  The electrical panels controlling the low-pressure blowers seemed to be troublesome too, and needed to be looked at.  The worst trouble, however, was the Flier lost control of her stern planes three times during critical moments during an attack.  It turned out that the motor operating those planes had three settings: slow, medium and fast, in terms of how quickly it would change the tilt angle of the planes.  When on slow or medium, there was an electrical problem, that caused the planes to fail completely, so Flier kept them on “full” for the rest of the patrol.  They wanted all of that looked at and fixed in addition to the usual  tinkering, polishing, deep cleaning, airing out, and other usual things.

The men were now free to spend the next two weeks any way they wanted.  They had four hotels to pick from and the Navy would pick up the tab, in addition to the family homes of any friends they might have in Fremantle (at least Earl Baumgart had such a friend).  There was swimming, fishing, dancing, sports, almost anything one could think of to do.  Some men, according to Michael Sturma’s “USS Flier: Death and Survival on a WWII Submarine” borrowed Flier’s small arms and ammo to go kangaroo and rabbit hunting in the Outback.

Redfin, meanwhile, pulled into Darwin, sixty-six years ago today.  Pluta was taken off the sub and transported to the hospital in Darwin, and since Redfin had already been out for over a month, she was told to proceed to Fremantle and terminate her patrol there.

Robalo, on the other hand is a mystery.  She may have been sunk by now, or severely damaged.  On the other hand, she might be just fine, stalking the west coast of Palawan or on her way to Indo-China.  I have to go through my research and organize my thoughts before I can delve really deeply into this.

Today, I also want to take time to remember the USS S-28, for two reasons.  One, because it sank sixty-six years ago on the Fourth, and two, she was Captain Crowley’s command before he was awarded Flier.

S-28 was a very old boat, who completed seven patrols in Alaska, the first four of which were under Crowley’s command.  After the seventh patrol, the S-28 was transferred to Pearl Harbor to be a training boat.  On July 3, 1944, S-28 left Pearl with a crew of fifty to train with the US Coast Guard Cutter (though the Coast Guard vessels had been taken over by the Navy by this point, ) Reliance. On the Fourth of July, they went into the last exercise, but Reliance had problems contacting S-28. It was as if S-28’s radio was having problems or was broken. An hour after they dove, Reliance heard one brief radio call, then nothing.  Alarmed, Reliance called Pearl Harbor, who sent out several more ships.  Two days later, on the 6th of June, they discovered an oil slick in the vicinity that S-28 was last spotted.  It was quickly discovered that S-28 was far too deep to recover using the best technology of the time, and so she was left in peace, along with her crew.  She has remained undiscovered.

The S-28 taken after her refit in 1943.

Since S-28 sank during a practice patrol, the Navy did not wait to announce her loss.  Captain Crowley likely heard about her loss the day they came in from patrol, if not shortly afterwards.

What effect this might have had on him is not known.  I’m sure he grieved the loss of his old boat, and her crew, though more than likely, all the men he had known had been transferred off over the course of the last year and a half.  It was becoming disturbingly commonplace to hear of lost boats every time a submarine came to port, but it must have been a touch of a shock to hear of the loss of a boat he had previously commanded.  It wasn’t going to get better…

Memorial Page for USS S-28’s lost crew


Lost Subs, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Apr 03 2010

Sixty-six years ago today, Flier was finishing up her repairs, Redfin was on patrol, and Robalo was completing training runs day and night to get ready for their next patrol.  It was also the anniversary of the Pickerel’s destruction.

When WWII began, Pickerel was already an older submarine, a sister of the Perch.  She was operating near the Philippines on December 8, and as soon as she heard of the invasion, she started hunted enemy ships.  She completed six war patrols, sinking two ships, before leaving Pearl Harbor for her ill-fated seventh patrol.  After topping off fuel at Midway, she departed for Honshu, the northern main island of Japan, and was never heard from again.  In August, the Navy announced her “overdue and presumed lost”.

She took 74 men with her.

The USS Pickerel as she appeared after her Mare Island refit. Notice the unusual additional torpedo tubes added to her bow up near the deck. When she was launched, she only had four torpedo tubes in her bow, rather than the six that soon became standard. Should she ever be found, these tubes would be a strong identifying marker, as would the odd shape of her bullnose, or the loop through which the mooring line is threaded on the tip of her bow.

After the war, Japanese records revealed that Pickerel likely sank at least two ships on her last patrol, then was destroyed by a depth charge attack  on or around this date.   It’s impossible to know what sank her, a ship or a plane since there were several ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) attacks in Pickerel’s patrol area at the same time.

Her wreck has not been found, and until it is, we’ll likely not know her exact fate.

On Eternal Patrol’s page of USS Pickerel’s Last Crew

USS Trigger Fades into the sea

Lost Subs | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 30 2010

In 1941, three fearsome sisters were being constructed at Mare Island: The Silversides, the Trigger and the Wahoo.   They were sisters in every respect, they were built in the same yard, they were numbered consecutively (Silversides: SS-236; Trigger: SS-237; Wahoo: SS-238)  They were launched and commissioned within weeks of each other, and they looked like each other, down to the limber holes and lookout rings.

And according to Edward Beach, no three sisters created more havoc for the Japanese.  Between them, they sank 62 Japanese ships totaling 236,670 tons.  At least one CO from each sister is a top-scoring WWII submarine commander.

Wahoo went down in 1943, but the Trigger almost made it.  She made 12 patrols, and sank 18 ships for a total of 86,552 tons.  (This makes her the 11th most successful submarine in terms of ships sunk and 7th most successful in terms of amount of tons sunk.)

USS Trigger rigged out with her bunting just after she was launched at Mare Island.

In March of 1945, the war was drawing to a close.  The Philippines had been retaken.  There was a new submarine base at Guam so the subs didn’t have to travel all the way to Australia to re-fuel (a change not exactly welcomed by the crews: there were not many women on Guam and forget the pubs, bars, and theaters!).  Trigger, under the command of her fourth and brand new CO, David R. Connole, left Guam for her newest patrol area: near and around the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.  Two of the islands in this chain were Iwo  Jima, which was in the midst of the Marine Invasion, and Okinawa, which was next on the list.

She sank two ships, and was closely observing convoys through a particular strait (trying to figure out where the safe passage around the minefields were) when HQ ordered her to join a Wolf Pack (a group of submarines working together) named Earl’s Eliminators.  (The Sea Dog and Threadfin operating under the command of Sea Dog’s CO Earl T. Hydeman).

Later that day, she sent in a weather report, but no acknowledgment that she’d heard her orders.  HQ re-sent the message.  She never responded.  She was ordered to proceed to Midway on April 4, but did not respond.  When she hadn’t been heard from or arrived in Midway (or anywhere) by May 1, she was considered “overdue and presumed lost”.

After the war, a cross reference of Japanese ship records and American submarine records revealed Trigger’s likely fate:    A Japanese plane had spotted a submarine and lead two destroyers to the spot, where they attacked until an oil slick appeared on the surface (usually a sign of a ruptured and sunken sub).  Nearby, the Silversides, Hackleback, Threadfin and Sea Dog all heard the depth charges, but only Threadfin was lightly attacked.  Silversides heard the death of her second sister, without knowing it for nearly another year.

Trigger has never been found.  She does, however, live on in an unusual manner:

One of Trigger’s most famous crewmen was Edward L. Beach.  He was an officer assigned aboard during her commissioning, and was the last of these original officers to leave the Trigger over two years later.  He had served as her Executive Officer for one of those years.

Following the war, Beach, who had transferred to the Tirante before the fateful 12th patrol, continued to command submarines, including becoming the First Commanding Officer of Trigger II in 1952.

But what he’s now known for is his writing.  He wrote “Run Silent, Run Deep”, a novel based on fictional submarines, but the Trigger he immortalized in his second book, SUBMARINE!  Her men will forever live on in these pages.

The Memorial Page for Trigger’s final crew