Mystery of Lost Argentine Submarine Ends a Year Later, Deep at Sea
By Daniel Politi and Mihir Zaveri / November 17, 2018
BUENOS AIRES — In the year since 44 Argentine sailors vanished aboard a submarine, some relatives of the missing crew members had refused to speak of their loved ones in the past tense as they held out hope for a miracle — or at least clarity as to what befell them. This weekend, Argentine officials said the wreckage of the submarine had been found, offering the first concrete answers about one of the deadliest and most confounding maritime disasters in modern times. “If we had a speck of hope, now there is none left,” said Gisela Polo, the sister of Esteban Alejandro Polo, 32, one of the sailors who died. “We’ve seen the images. They described the depth where it was found. It makes no sense to keep talking about him as if he were still alive.”
The discovery of the submarine, almost a year to the day after it disappeared in stormy weather, revealed that it imploded close to the ocean floor, officials said on Saturday, but that its main hull appeared to be whole. Now the government of President Mauricio Macri will have to answer questions from frustrated families about what more can be gleaned from the wreckage. The disappearance of the submarine had confounded experts and had drawn attention to the dilapidated state of Argentina’s armed forces. Relatives of the missing sailors decried the military as reckless. “This is news that fills us with enormous pain,” Mr. Macri said in a recorded message Saturday night in which he announced three days of national mourning. “Now we’re opening a period of serious investigations to find out the whole truth.”
Above: Undated file photo of the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan.
Ocean Infinity, a Houston-based ocean-mapping company hired a few months ago, found the submarine nearly 270 nautical miles from the port of Comodoro Rivadavia in Chubut Province and about 3,000 feet under water. The company used unmanned, robotic devices to find it. Early this year, Ocean Infinity was retained in the hope of solving another maritime mystery: the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished over the Indian Ocean in 2014. In that case, relatives of the missing passengers have also demanded that the airline and governments not give up on a four-year search that has cost millions of dollars and yielded few solid clues. Argentina’s government signed a contract with Ocean Infinity that guaranteed the company $7.5 million if it found the submarine. The deal came after many crew members’ relatives accused the government of abandoning the search.
Navy officials said on Saturday that the relatively small area in which debris from the vessel was scattered and dents on its hull suggested an implosion caused by high pressure from the depth of the ocean. The submarine was found in an area that was searched extensively but that is filled with canyons, making finding it difficult. That area became a focal point after the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, which has sensors around the globe to monitor nuclear tests, recorded an incident deep in the ocean that was consistent with an explosion. “This is the area where we had assigned 90 percent of probability for it to be located,” said Vice Adm. José Luis Villán, the head of the Argentine navy. He added that Ocean Infinity brought to bear unique capabilities. “All the navies looked in this area but absent the technology that this company had, we had not found it,” Mr. Villán said. The Norwegian-flagged Seabed Constructor vessel operated by Ocean Infinity was scheduled to leave the coast of Argentina on November 15, as the 60-day search contract was up and the crew was scheduled to head to South Africa in preparation for its next mission, said Oliver Plunkett, C.E.O. of Ocean Infinity. The company wanted to return in February to continue the search. Then, as a member of the team was combing through the images they had already gathered in previous sonar sweeps, he said he had found something in the data, something worth postponing the departure by a few days and inspecting more closely. It was the San Juan.
“The remarkable thing about it, it was literally the last thing we were going to do,” Mr. Plunkett said. “It is a truly unbelievable moment, in the last hour on the last day.” Argentine officials had little to say regarding next steps or recovery efforts beyond the need to survey the scene more carefully. The crew of the San Juan was last heard from on November 15, 2017. During the early days of the search, the Argentine military sought assistance from neighboring countries and the United States as rescue personnel scoured the ocean in terrible weather conditions believing the crew could be alive.
After the government acknowledged in late November that the sailors were presumed dead based on the information provided by the nuclear sensors, the search fizzled and it seemed likely that the remains would never be found. But that was unacceptable to relatives, who pressed Mr. Macri’s cash-strapped government to keep looking. Many relatives of the victims received the news in Mar del Plata, a port city where they had already gathered in the last few days to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the disappearance.
Ms. Polo, 24, said relatives were hopeful the remains would be brought to shore.“It is what we all want, but they tell us they are still evaluating it,” she said. Some relatives said the news, while painful, brought a measure of closure.“I had already assumed he died,” said María Itatí Leguizamón, the 33-year-old wife of Germán Oscar Suárez, a radar operator on the vessel who was 29 when the San Juan vanished. “But I couldn’t help it. There was a part of me that kept holding on to the hope that he could still be alive. But now I know for sure and I can mourn. “It’s strange how I feel such a mixture of happiness that they found it but also immense sadness. I just can’t describe it,” she said.
Officials did not immediately shed new light on what caused the disaster. They also did not say whether, or how soon, the submarine would be brought to shore. It also was unclear whether human remains could be identified. Officials said they would release a report next week with more technical details about the fate of the submarine and those aboard. The submarine disappeared during a routine trip from Ushuaia in the Patagonia region to Mar del Plata in Buenos Aires Province. Eight days later — in the midst of recovery operations that covered 186,000 square miles — the navy said an explosion had been recorded near the submarine’s last known location hours after its final communication with the military. Vessels from Brazil, Britain, Chile, Russia and the United States, among others, combed the seas as part of the search for the German-made submarine, which had been part of Argentina’s fleet since 1985.
The loss of the San Juan led to a shake-up in the navy, including the dismissal of its top commander, Adm. Marcelo Eduardo Srur. Oscar Aguad, the defense minister, has remained in his post. Ocean Infinity began its search on September 7. Three naval officers and four relatives of crew members accompanied Ocean Infinity personnel aboard the ship. It involved “technology never before used during the localization of a submarine,” the navy said at the time. It said the company would deploy “Autonomous Underwater Vehicles,” which are unmanned, robotic devices equipped with sonar and high-definition cameras that are not tethered to a ship. They could function to a depth of almost 20,000 feet. Ocean Infinity said Saturday that the wreckage of the San Juan was found in a ravine during a search by five such vehicles. The devices were operated by 60 crew members on board the Seabed Constructor. “Our thoughts are with the many families affected by this terrible tragedy,” Ocean Infinity’s C.E.O., Oliver Plunkett, said. “We sincerely hope that locating the resting place of the ARA San Juan will be of some comfort to them at what must be a profoundly difficult time.” Mr. Plunkett said he hoped the “work will lead to their questions being answered and lessons learned which help to prevent anything similar from happening again.”
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Paul Allen’s hunt for historic shipwrecks scores another WWII find: the USS Helena
By Alan Boyle on
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s seagoing sleuths are reporting one more find in their quest to locate sunken military vessels from World War II. This time it’s the USS Helena (CL-50), a St. Louis-class light cruiser that was hit during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 but went on to meritorious service in three Pacific naval battles. Its service was so meritorious that the Helena became the first U.S. ship to receive a Navy Unit Commendation.
The cruiser’s action at Pearl Harbor was something of an anomaly, brought about because the Helena was docked in a berth that was supposed to be occupied by the battleship Pennsylvania. The USS Pennsylvania was high on the target list for Japanese pilots, but it was in dry dock instead of its usual spot. A torpedo attack killed scores of sailors aboard the Helena, but the crew’s quick action saved the day, and the Helena was repaired to fight on.
The cruiser played key roles in the Battle of Guadalcanal (1942), the Battle of Cape Esperance (1942) and the Battle of Kula Gulf (1943). It was during that last battle that the ship was sunk by three Japanese torpedoes, after its blazing guns revealed its location to enemy vessels. One of the most gripping chapters in the Helena’s saga came after its sinking.
“As various rescue efforts got under way over the course of 10 days, amazing stories of sailor toughness unfolded in which 732 of the 900 crew survived the sinking and were ultimately rescued,” Dave Werner, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said today in a news release..
With Allen’s support, the 250-foot research vessel Petrel has been making the rounds in the South Pacific in search of historic shipwrecks. Late last month, the Petrel’s crew identified the Helena resting on the floor of the New Georgia Sound off the coast of the Solomon Islands, at a depth of 2,800 feet (860 meters).
The discovery was hailed by the skipper of another vessel bearing the Helena’s name.
“USS Helena (CL-50) was an exceptional ship whose impact on the path of the Pacific conflict in WWII cannot be overestimated,” said Cmdr. Jason Pittman, commanding officer of the submarine Helena. “The crew of the current Helena is proud to carry on CL-50’s legacy of excellence, and we are humbled to know the final resting place of our namesake, and those who were unable to be rescued, has finally been identified. We owe many thanks to Mr. Allen and his team for bringing closure to this chapter in Helena’s storied history.”
Allen-led expeditions have also resulted in the discovery of USS Juneau (March 2018), USS Lexington (March 2018), USS Indianapolis (August 2017), USS Ward (November 2017), USS Astoria (February 2015), the Japanese battleship Musashi (March 2015) and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere (March 2017). His team was also responsible for retrieving the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy.
“We do these missions as testament to the brave souls who served on these ships,” Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Paul Allen, said in today’s news release. “Each ship has a story that touches families and friends of those who perished or survived. It’s gratifying to hear those stories each time we announce a new discovery.”
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Wreckage from World War II-era USS Juneau found!
5 Sullivan brothers among nearly 690 who died
National News – March 20, 2918
Wreckage from the USS Juneau (CL-52) was found March 17 by an expedition backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The Juneau, which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, was found 4,200 meters (almost 14,000 feet or 2.7 miles) below the surface off the coast of the Solomon Islands
Allen’s team is on a mission to find and explore historic warships. Team members on the Research Vessel Petrel have located wreckage from several warships, including the USS Lexington (March 2018), USS Indianapolis (August 2017), USS Ward (November 2017), USS Astoria (February 2015), Japanese battleship Musashi (March 2015) and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere (March 2017). The team also retrieved the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood, according to a release from Allen.
The Juneau, an Atlanta-class light cruiser, was participating in delivery of reinforcements to Guadalcanal in November 1942, according to Stars and Stripes. When reports arrived of an oncoming Japanese naval force that included two battleships, an American attack group of cruisers and destroyers left Guadalcanal to engage them. The Juneau and the USS Atlanta sank an enemy destroyer, but the Juneau was forced to withdraw after being hit by a torpedo. Another Japanese submarine launched torpedoes at both the Juneau and the damaged USS San Francisco, hitting the Juneau. The Juneau sank in 30 seconds. Although approximately 115 of Juneau’s crew reportedly survived the explosion, naval forces did not start rescue efforts for several days because of Japanese activity in the area, Stars and Stripes reported. All but 10 of the 687 men aboard died.
Books of interest:
USS Lexington: Lost World War II aircraft carrier found after 76 years
The discovery of the Lexington, along with 11 of its 35 aircraft, was made by Mr Allen’s company Vulcan on Sunday. Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, praised the discovery. “As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to Paul Allen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel for locating the ‘Lady Lex’,” he said on Tuesday.
The Battle of the Coral Sea is considered a key moment in halting Japan’s advance in the Pacific during the war. The Lexington was scuttled by US forces after being struck by several Japanese torpedoes and bombs during the battle. The US Navy said 216 crew members died after the ship was attacked. More than 2,000 others were rescued. “Lexington was on our priority list because she was one of the capital ships that was lost during World War II,” Vulcan spokesman Robert Kraft said.
Pictures from the seabed taken by the Petrel show the Lexington’s nameplate and guns. Some of the ship’s aircraft are also shown in remarkably good condition. The ship will not be retrieved because the US Navy considers it to be a war grave. Mr Kraft said it had taken about six months of planning to locate the ship.
Books of interest:
Blue Skies And Blood – the Battle of the Coral Sea
Sunken Japanese World War II warship Isokaze found on sea bed
A destroyer that accompanied the famous battleship Yamato of the now-defunct Japanese Imperial Navy appears to have been found on the sea bed off the coast of Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan. The Isokaze took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the Battle of Midway the year after in 1942. The vessel sank off the coast of Makurazaki on April 7, 1945, in an attack by US forces. The destroyer was on its way to Okinawa with Yamato, which was the world’s largest battleship at the time.
Above: Japanese destroyer Isokaze
A marine survey company says it found a vessel in May 2016 on the sea bed 450 meters deep some 9.5 kilometers northeast of where Yamato sank. The company has conducted submersible studies with Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture, in western Japan. The curator of the Yamato Museum in Kure City is an expert on the history of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Kazushige Todaka says, “based on the extent of damage that has been recorded and the place the vessel was found, there is no doubt it is Isokaze.” He described the discovery as precious, as very few surveys on warships other than Yamato have so far taken place.
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Sunken World War II submarine (USS S-28) located off coast of Oahu, Hawaii
HONOLULU (AP) — A wreck-hunting organization located a sunken World War II submarine off the coast of Oahu. STEP Ventures found the USS S-28, which sunk in 1944 with 49 crew members aboard during training, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday (December 15, 2017).
The sub was found in 8,700 feet (2,650 meters) of water. The organization said the sub is “considered to be one of the most important lost ships in the central Pacific.” It was found with autonomous underwater vehicles and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The sub was in service during World War II. It initially was sent to Alaska to defend the Aleutian Islands against a possible Japanese invasion. It sunk during training after making contact with a U.S. Coast Guard ship. But a reason for why it sunk was never determined. Because of the depth, salvage operations were not possible, the Navy said.
“At no time during the approach or the ensuing sound search were distress signals from S-28 seen or heard, nor was any sound heard which indicated an explosion in S-28,” the Naval History and Heritage Command said. The armed forces’ Court of Inquiry said the sub lost depth control “from either a material casualty or an operating error of personnel, or both, and that depth control was never regained. The exact cause of the loss of S-28 cannot be determined.” Data from the organization’s find will be shared with the Navy to help determine the cause of the loss.
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Long-Lost World War II Warship USS Ward Destroyed by Japan Found
By Kastalia Medrano
Researchers have found and recorded footage of the first American World War II-era ship to fire shots during the attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1944—three years to the day after the attack—the USS Ward (DD-139) was destroyed by Japanese kamikaze aircraft. It sank to the bottom of Ormoc Bay, off the island of Leyte in the Philippines, never to be seen again—until now.
According to ABS-CBN News, scientists found the USS Ward at a depth of about 650 feet on December 1. As military publication “Stars and Stripes” reported, an expedition to find the wreck was carried out aboard the 250-foot research vessel, the Petrel. According to a press statement by Petrel owner Paul G. Allen, the Petrel is one of the only such vessels capable of gathering data from depths as low as 3 and a half miles. Allen is an American investor and philanthropist who, along with Bill Gates, co-founded Microsoft.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the crew of the USS Ward, a Wickes-class destroyer, spotted a Japanese submarine a little over an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor began on the morning of December 7, 1941. They fired the first shots and sank a valuable 80-foot Japanese submarine that could have torpedoed the harbor before the air attack began, while it was still dark.
“The USS Ward found herself in the crucible of American history—at the intersection of a peacetime Navy and war footing. She took decisive, effective and unflinching action despite the uncertain waters. Now 76 years on, her example informs our naval posture,” Admiral Scott Swift, current commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in the press statement.
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Los Angeles-class submarine USS Dallas arrives in Bremerton, WA. for decommissioning
December 7, 2017
The U.S. Navy’s Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700) arrived at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton on May 22 to start her inactivation and decommissioning process.
Dallas completed her most recent deployment November 22, 2016. During her final extended 7-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation, the submarine traveled 37,000 nautical miles and made port calls to Brest, France, Al Hidd, Bahrain, and Duqm, Oman.
Dallas was second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Dallas, Texas. The keel was laid by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Groton, Conn., October 9, 1976. The boat was launched April 28, 1979, and commissioned July 18, 1981. She was based her entire life on the east coast and executed 14 major deployments over her lifespan, traveling over a million miles in the process and visiting 30 countries.
The submarine was perhaps best known for her staring roll in the 1990 blockbuster movie “Hunt For Red October.” “The Big D” as she was lovingly called has also been featured in a number of other media releases, including other novels, video games, and various television shows, adding to its unique mystique and lore.
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Wreckage of USS Indianapolis found in Philippine Sea
August 19, 2017 –
“We’ve located the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis (CA-35) in Philippine Sea at 5500m below the sea.” That tweet from billionaire Paul Allen around 12:20 Saturday confirmed what many have been searching for since the World War II ship was sunk on July 30, 1945.
The heavy cruiser, carrying 1,197 sailors and Marines, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine (I-58) while sailing back to the Philippines after delivering components for “Little Boy,” the atomic bomb that helped end the war. It took only 12 minutes to sink. While 900 crewmen made it through the initial sinking, only 317 managed to be rescued when help arrived on August 2.
The latest break in the search for the wreckage came in July 2016, when the Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division reported that a sailor had confirmed that a tank landing ship, LST-779, had passed the Indianapolis 11 hours before the torpedo struck. That backed up the testimony of Captain Charles McVay III and was confirmed by deck logs confirmed. Allen’s 13-person team on the R/V Petrel is still surveying the site of the wreckage and plans to conduct a live tour of the wreckage in the next few weeks, according to Fox59.
“I hope survivors/families gain some closure,” tweeted Allen along with numerous photos taken of the wreckage.
Books of interest:
Japanese super-battleship “Musashi” wreck found!
Microsoft co-founder, billionaire Paul Allen has discovered the Japanese battleship “Musashi.” One of just two super battleships built by the Japanese during World War II, Musashi, sister to the Yamato were the largest most powerful warships ever built. Displacing 72,800 tons, Musashi was 862 feet long with nine 18.1 inch guns, more powerful than even the American Iowa-class battleships. During the battle for Leyte Gulf on October 24, 1944, Musashi was attacked by over 30 American aircraft in Sibuyan Sea. The vessel was eventually sunk but not until she had taken an estimated 19 torpedo and 17 bomb hits. Over half of her crew were rescued but 1,023 men were lost. The wreck has been discovered at the bottom of the Sibuyan Sea at a depth of 1.6 miles.
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USS Houston, sunk in World War II, discovered by navy divers
The Associated Press | August 19, 2014
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — Navy divers from the U.S. and Indonesia confirmed that a sunken vessel in the Java Sea is the World War II wreck of the USS Houston (CA-30), a cruiser sunk by the Japanese that serves as the final resting place for about 700 sailors and Marines, officials announced Monday.
The Japanese sank the Houston during the Battle of Sunda Strait on February 28, 1942. The ship carried 1,068 crewmen, but only 291 sailors and Marines survived both the attack and being prisoners of war. The Houston’s commanding officer, Capt. Albert H. Rooks, posthumously received the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism. U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Harry Harris said Monday that divers have documented evidence the watery gravesite has been disturbed. Assessments conducted in June to determine the condition of the Houston found that hull rivets, a metal plate and unexploded ordnance were removed from the ship. There is also oil actively seeping from the hull. Officials are working on measures to keep the site from further disturbance.
“In my discussions with our Indonesian navy partners, they share our sense of obligation to protect this and other gravesites,” Harris said in a statement. “Surveying the site, of course was only the first step in partnering to respect those sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the freedoms and security that we richly enjoy today.” The Navy History and Heritage Command concluded that all of the recorded data is consistent with the identification of the former USS Houston. The Houston was nicknamed the “The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast.” Resting off the west coast of Java, Indonesia, the ship, which remains sovereign property of the United States, is a popular recreational dive site, the Navy said. The Navy estimates there are more than 17,000 sunken ships and aircraft resting on the ocean floor worldwide.
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USS Wahoo lost in 1943 has been found!
July 2006: A team of Russian divers have reported finding the American submarine USS Wahoo (SS-238). Using information obtained from outside sources Russian divers found the wreck of Wahoo. Lost with all hands in October 1943, Wahoo was the pride of the U.S. Pacific submarine fleet. Under the command of Dudley “Mush” Morton, Wahoo became the most famous American submarine in World War II. Sinking 19 Japanese ships, Morton quickly rose to the top in the U.S. sub fleet. Returning from her successful seventh war patrol in the Sea of Japan, Wahoo was attacked and sunk in the narrow La Perouse Strait on October 11, 1943; all 79 men aboard the submarine died, including Commander Dudley Morton. Yeoman Forest J. Sterling was the last man off Wahoo and later wrote the book “Wake of the Wahoo.” Of Wahoo’s loss, Navy Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Jr. wrote in his book “Sink ‘Em All”; “It just didn’t seem possible that Morton and his fighting crew could be lost. I’d never have believed the Japs could be smart enough to get him.”
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World War II submarine, USS Flier, sunk in 1944, found
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
On the night of August 13, 1944, Ensign Al Jacobson was topside on the USS Flier (SS-250) as the submarine raced to intercept a Japanese convoy reported to be off Palawan in the Philippines. Jacobson, then 22, was taken by the beauty that surrounded him. “He said it was actually one of the prettiest moments of his life. There were mountains all around and the sunset and just extraordinary beauty,” his son, Nelson, recalled his father saying. It was a moment of tranquility that was suddenly replaced by the hellish reality of war. The 311-foot sub sank in 30 seconds when a hole was torn in the hull by what survivors and historians believe was a mine. Only 14 men made it out. Just eight of those, including Jacobson, made it to safety.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet submarine force yesterday (February 1, 2010) confirmed that a sunken sub found in the Balabac Strait in 330 feet of water is the USS Flier. “I am honored to announce that, with video evidence and information provided by a team from YAP Films and assistance from the Naval History and Heritage Command, USS Flier has been located,” said Rear Admiral Douglas McAneny, commander of the Pacific submarine force. “We hope this announcement will provide some closure to the families of the 78 crewmen lost when Flier struck a mine in 1944.” Flier is the fifth sunken World War II U.S. submarine to be found since 2005. The Flier’s sinking highlights the danger faced by Pacific Fleet submariners during World War II. According to the United States Navy, of the 288 submarines deployed in the Atlantic and Pacific during World War II, 52 were lost, with 48 destroyed in the Pacific war zones.
Jacobson was the last of the Flier survivors when he died in 2008. He had gathered as much information as he could about the Flier’s demise and location to fully understand what happened, his family said. They carried on the quest after he died. In spring 2009, with the aid of the Jacobson family, a team from Toronto-based YAP Films located the wreckage of the Flier. The Navy said father-and-son divers Mike and Warren Fletcher of the television show “Dive Detectives” captured the first footage of the rusting submarine since it went down, and provided the imagery to the Naval History and Heritage Command to confirm the identification. “It’s an emotional and exciting time for us, and obviously it’s not just my father’s sub, it’s the whole crew, and the whole idea that we’re sort of bringing closure to this extraordinary story,” said Nelson Jacobson, who lives in Michigan. His father was “very blessed later in life with a successful career, and he was an engineer and problem solver and wanted to really understand what happened that evening,” he added.
The Flier had left Pearl Harbor in January 1944 but ran aground at Midway Island. After repairs in California, the Flier again left Pearl in May of that year and attacked several Japanese ships. The night of the sinking, as the 1,525-ton Gato-class submarine made 18 knots, nine men were on deck on lookout. Jacobson was sitting in the gunner’s seat of the aft gun when the sub exploded and started going down, his son said. “All he could think about were those great big brass propellers churning right past him,” Nelson Jacobson said. The explosion came at 10 p.m. In the darkness, the survivors treaded water until the moonrise provided some light, and at about 4 a.m. the men began to make their way toward a silhouette of land, said Michael Sturma in his book, “The USS Flier, Death and Survival on a World War II Submarine.” By then, some of the men had disappeared. The remaining men clung to palm trunks and swam landward. For the next five days the survivors swam and used makeshift rafts to hop from one coral outcropping to another, surviving on coconuts, before they were aided by Filipinos. Clad only in underwear, the Flier survivors were severely sunburned, and their feet were gashed and bleeding from walking across sharp coral, Sturma said. Sturma said the eight Flier sailors were the first Americans of the Pacific war to survive a submarine sinking and make it back to the United States.
Now in stock: “EIGHT SURVIVED” The Harrowing Story of the USS Flier and the Only Downed World War II Submariners to Survive and Evade Capture.
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World War II submarine USS Lagarto found!
Divers have just discovered the U.S. submarine USS Lagarto (SS-371) in the Gulf of Thailand. Lost with her entire crew of 86 men, in May 1945, Lagarto now rest on the bottom in 220 feet of water. According to diver Jamie McLeod the wreck “is perfectly upright and seems to be intact…” Japanese records from World War II state the minelayer Hasutaka attacked an American submarine later believed to be Lagarto at this location. Among the lost is Leslie M. Doud, RM2c, a former USS Snook crewman.
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Sunken American World War II submarine USS Perch found by accident near Java
By Gregg K. Kakesako – Honolulu Star-Bulletin
January 21, 2007: The wreck of a World War II submarine was discovered by accident near Java on Thanksgiving Day 2006, according to officials of the “USS Bowfin Submarine Museum.” Charles Hinman, the museum’s education director, said the 300-foot diesel submarine USS Perch (SS-176) was discovered in 190 feet of water in the Java Sea by an international team of divers and photographers who were hoping to photograph the wreck of the British cruiser Exeter. The news of the discovery was welcome news to Robert Lents, who was a 20-year-old torpedoman when the Perch was sunk on March 3, 1942. “I got $35 still in my locker,” said Lents, 85, who now lives in Mountain Home, Arkansas. “The only thing I grabbed when I left the ship was my toothbrush and the Japanese took that away.” U.S. Navy records show that the Perch, after a shakedown cruise in the North Atlantic, reported to the Pacific Fleet in November 1937.
On March 1, 1942, the Perch was on the surface 30 miles northwest of Soerabaja, Java, when it was attacked by an enemy convoy that was landing troops west of Soerabaja. Two Japanese destroyers forced the Perch to the bottom with depth charges, damaging the submarine’s starboard engines. Two days later the Perch, while on the surface and unable to dive because of extensive damages, was attacked by two Japanese cruiser and three destroyers. At that point, David Hurt, commander of the submarine, ordered the Perch to be scuttled. The crew of 54 sailors and five officers was taken prisoner by the Japanese. Six later died in prison camps of malnutrition. Lents spent 3 1/2 years in two Japanese prison camps and was released on September 18, 1945. He recalls that one of the camps housed nearly 600 sailors from the Exeter. He had only been on the Perch for six months when it was sunk. “There are only five of us left now.” Lents said in a telephone interview last week.
Hinman said a team of divers led by Vidar Skoglie, who owns and operates the vessel MV Empress, found the wreck north of Surbaya City, Java. It was first discovered by the ship’s sonar. Dive team members Kevin Denlay, Dieter Kops, Mike Gadd and Craig Challen discovered a plaque, (see photograph above) covered with more than half a century of marine growth, that read “USS Perch Submarine.” Hinman said Denlay contacted him and Navy officials in early December and sent the museum photographs and a DVD of the dive. Hinman said the wreck, like all Navy warships sunk at sea, is protected from salvage operations by U.S. and international laws. Commander Mike Brown, spokesman for “Pacific Fleet Submarine Forces,” said the information he’s seen indicates that the vessel looks like the Perch. “However, official confirmation will have to come from higher headquarters.”
The discovery of the Porpoise-class submarine follows other announcements last year of the location of three other submarines lost in World War II: the USS Wahoo north of Hokkaido in 1943, the USS Grunion near the Aleutian chain in 1942, and the USS Lagarto, which was sunk 62 years ago by a Japanese minelayer in the Gulf of Thailand. More than 3,500 submariners lost their lives aboard 52 submarines that were destroyed during World War II, which is about the number of nuclear attack submarines that now make up the Navy fleet. Hinman said the museum has played a crucial role in the attempts to find the Lagarto, Wahoo, Grunion and Perch. “In the Wahoo and Perch discoveries, we were the people who contacted the Naval Historical Center and the local Naval commands, and provided them with the dive photos and historical material. We assisted with the Navy with the identification of Lagarto and Wahoo, and will be the site of the memorial ceremony for the Wahoo families this October.”
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USS Petrof Bay World War II fighter plane has been found!
An FM-2 Wildcat now under restoration (see photo above) was recently discovered to be one of the veteran fighter planes formerly attached to Composite Squadron VC-93. During World War II, the battle scared fighter saw action from the tiny deck of the escort carrier USS Petrof Bay (CVE-80). In late March 1945, the FM-2 was placed aboard the carrier before it sailed for the invasion of Okinawa. During the bloody battle, the fighter flew countless sorties over the enemy held island. When the planes’ serial numbers were uncovered from the official Petrof Bay log book, its World War II history was confirmed. Following World War II, the plane hit a low point in its career, placed on a children’s playground in a Seattle, Washington suburb. The Wildcat remained on the playground for 10-years before it was removed around 1970, as a safety hazard. Over the next 25-years there were several failed attempts to restore the battered FM-2. Finally in 1998, Milt James at the Seattle Museum of Flight in Everett, Washington received the go ahead to bring the fighter back to its original combat condition. During the project, the fighters’ serial numbers (# 74512) were traced back to the Petrof Bay.
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U.S. Navy confirms sunken World War II submarine is the USS Grunion
By Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class (SW) Cynthia Clark, COMSUBPAC Public Affairs
PEARL HARBOR, HI. (NNS)—Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC), Rear Admiral Douglas McAneny announced today (Oct. 2008) that the sunken vessel off the coast of the Aleutian Islands is in fact the World War II submarine USS Grunion (SS-216). “I am honored to announce that, with records and information provided by the Abele family and assistance from the Naval Historical Center, USS Grunion has been located,” said McAneny. “We are very grateful to the family of Grunion’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Mannert L. Abele for providing the underwater video footage and pictures that allowed us to make this determination. We also appreciate the efforts of the USS Cod Submarine Memorial for their assistance in this matter. We hope this announcement will help to give closure to the families of the 70 crewmen of Grunion.” The submarine Grunion arrived at Pearl Harbor on June 20, 1942. The vessel completed pre-patrol training before departing on its first war patrol June 30. Grunion’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Abele, was ordered to proceed to the Aleutian Islands and patrol westward from Attu on routes between the Aleutians and the Japanese Empire. On July 10, Grunion was reassigned to the area north of Kiska. Over the next 20 days, the submarine reported firing on an enemy destroyer, sinking three destroyer-type vessels, and attacking unidentified enemy ships near Kiska. Grunion’s last transmission was received on July 30, 1942. The submarine reported heavy antisubmarine activity at the entrance to Kiska, and that it had 10 torpedoes remaining forward. On the same day, Grunion was directed to return to Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base. There was no contact or sighting of the submarine after July 30, and on August 16, 1942, Grunion was reported lost. Commander Abele was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for heroism. A destroyer, USS Mannert L. Abele (DD 733), was commissioned in his honor, and was later lost in action off Okinawa in 1945. Japanese anti-submarine attack data recorded no attack in the Aleutian area at the time of Grunion’s disappearance, so the submarine’s fate remained an unsolved mystery for more than 60 years. After discovering information on the internet in 2002 that helped pinpoint USS Grunion’s possible location, the sons of Grunion’s commanding officer, Bruce, Brad, and John Abele, began working on a plan to find the submarine. In August 2006, a team of side scan sonar experts hired by the brothers located a target near Kiska almost a mile below the ocean’s surface. A second expedition in August 2007 using a high definition camera on a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) yielded video footage and high resolution photos of the wreckage of a U.S. fleet submarine. “This discovery has come about through a stream of seemingly improbable events; it’s like we won the lottery 10 times in a row,” said Bruce Abele, eldest son of Grunion’s commanding officer. “It is so dramatic to see the underwater photo and be certain it was in fact Grunion; not only is this announcement important for the families of the crew members, it’s also important for the Navy and the country.” The Abele brothers then contacted the USS Cod Submarine Memorial for assistance in identifying the wreckage. The vessel is lying at a depth of about 3,200 feet. Very cold water and lack of significant currents has preserved much of the wreckage. Dr. John Fakan, director of the USS Cod Submarine Memorial, remarked about the importance of having an unmodified example in USS Cod, a fellow Gato-class submarine, in identifying the wreckage of USS Grunion. “USS Grunion and USS Cod shared the same blueprints,” he said. “It is very gratifying for me and my crew to help with the identification of the submarine.” With the information provided by the Abele family and the USS Cod Submarine Memorial, COMSUBPAC and the Naval Historical Center examined the evidence and historical records and determined that the submarine found at the reported position could only be USS Grunion. “The synergy of our group working together with the Navy for the common cause has been a wonderful group effort,” Bruce Abele said. “The teamwork combined with everyone’s compassion and wisdom has resulted in our success.” According to Bruce’s brother John Abele, those responsible for contributing to this included historians and engineers from the discovery United States, Australia, Israel and Japan. Of particular note was the involvement of Japanese naval architect Yutaka Iwasaki, who provided information critical to pinpointing the location of the submarine. Bruce and John’s brother, retired Lieutenant Brad Abele, who recently passed away, also played a significant role in the find. As his brother John explained, “Brad’s experience as a Naval aviator helped a great deal by helping us to plot the strategy for the discovery.”
Unfortunately, the cause of Grunion’s sinking remains a mystery. No matter what the cause, the end result was the loss of all hands. As the Naval Historical Center noted, “no amount of analysis or speculation will change or alter the fact that families lost fathers, husbands, uncles and brothers… the Navy and the nation will always be grateful for their service and their sacrifice.” Former Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz once said, “When I assumed command of the Pacific Fleet on 31 December 1941 our submarines were already operating against the enemy, the only units of the Fleet that could come to grips with the Japanese for months to come. It was to the Submarine Force that I looked to carry the load until our great industrial activity could produce the weapons we so sorely needed to carry the war to the enemy. It is to the everlasting honor and glory of our submarine personnel that they never failed us in our days of great peril.” By the end of World War II, submarines had made more than 1,600 war patrols. Pacific Fleet submarines like Grunion accounted for more than half of all enemy shipping sunk during the war. The cost of this success was heavy: 52 U.S. Pacific Fleet submarines were lost, and more than 3,500 submariners remain on “eternal patrol.” A representative of the submarine force will speak on behalf of the U.S. Navy at a memorial service in Cleveland, Ohio, October 11. The service, hosted by the USS Cod Memorial, will honor the 70 crewmembers killed when USS Grunion was sunk near the Aleutian Islands on or about July 30, 1942. “To provide ourselves and the families this closure, it’s icing on the cake,” said John Abele. “The memorial service is a symbolic event; we’ve discovered family we didn’t know we had. Not only is this an honor for all of us, it increases the feeling of community we’ve been able to achieve.”
For more news from Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/subpac/. -USN-
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Johnny Lipes, famous World War II submarine ‘surgeon’ dies at age 84
April 2005: Wheeler Bryson “Johnny” Lipes, the Navy pharmacist’s mate who during World War II performed the first emergency appendectomy ever done aboard a submerged submarine, died of pancreatic cancer in April 2005—he was 84.
His historic surgery was one of the most famous lifesaving acts of World War II and took place aboard the submarine USS Seadragon (SS-191) on September 11, 1942. His patient was 19 year old Seaman 1c, Darrell Dean Rector. Lipes was not a doctor, and of course had no prior experience in surgery. To that date there had never been an appendectomy performed aboard an American submarine. The surgery took place at a depth of 120 feet and lasted two-hours-and-36-minutes. By the end of the patrol young Rector was back on duty. Upon the American press hearing of the appendectomy, Wheeler Lipes became a war hero. Lipes’ operation was later memorialized in the classic films: “Destination Tokyo” (1943) and “Run Silent, Run Deep” (1958). In February 2005, Wheeler B. Lipes belatedly received a Navy Commendation Medal at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for his historic World War II appendectomy. At the Navy ceremony, Lipes downplayed his role, saying only, “I did what I had to do to save a man’s life. Darrell Rector was the brave one.”
Sadly, Darrell D. Rector did not survive the war. Two years later in October of 1944, Rector was a gunners mate aboard the submarine USS Tang (SS-306). The 21 year old was among the 77 men lost when Tang was struck and sunk by her own circle-run torpedo.
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Aircraft Carrier book reveals World War II Purple Heart candidate
James E. Dreiling of Parsons, Kansas, a World War II Navy Veteran, has received the “Purple Heart” Medal 55-years after his injury. Dreiling was injured in a bizarre flight deck accident aboard the carrier USS Petrof Bay in October of 1944. One of two crewmen who were accidentally thrown over the side of the moving ship on the final day of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Dreiling was rescued from the turbulent seas by an escorting destroyer and suffered a broken leg—the other man was lost. 54-years later (in 1998) Dreiling’s daughter, Cecilia Baugher purchased Rick Cline’s book Escort Carrier WWII which she found at the USS Petrof Bay website. Upon reading the book, which is about the Petrof Bay, Baugher said; “To my surprise my dad is mentioned in the book [and] the book told of his experience.” When she read the other crewman was reported ‘killed in the line of duty’ Baugher said; “It really sparked us to seek this [Purple Heart] further. Continuing, Baugher wrote; “We got together and decided to see if dad qualified for the honor of the Purple Heart. I sent copies of the title page of the book [Escort Carrier WWII] and the pages with the incident on them to our Senator’s office to see if he could help. I had everything that was needed including medical records stating he had been injured in the line of duty. In two-days I received a letter back requesting all the records I could come up with on dad. I received word [Veterans Day—November 11, 1999] from our Senator’s office that they have received the Purple Heart and Senator Sam Brownback will present it to him in Pittsburg, Kansas.” On November 23, 1999, in front of National television and print media, Senator Brownback presented James E. Dreiling his Purple Heart, “On behalf of a grateful Nation.” During the presentation, he received a standing ovation. Congratulations to Mr. Dreiling.
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Famous Australian warship HMAS Sydney discovered
CANBERRA, March 17 (Xinhua): The Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced Monday (March 17, 2008) the wreckage of HMAS (Her Majesty’s Australian Ship) Sydney, sunk off the West Australian coast during World War II, has been found. -See photo above- The Sydney’s entire crew of 645 went down with the vessel in the Indian Ocean in November, 1941, and its location has been a mystery for more than 66 years. It was announced Sunday that the wreckage of the German merchant raider Kormoran—which is believed to have sunk the Australian warship—was found in waters about 800 kilometers north of Perth. The Sydney was located Sunday, about 22 kilometers from the Kormoran. HMAS Sydney was found about 12 nautical miles from the Kormoran, just eight nautical miles from the scene of the battle site at a depth of 2,470 meters. See website for more photos and more info.
Author Forest Sterling passes away at 91
By Jeff Porteous
So Long, Yeo.
Retired Chief Yeoman Forest James Sterling, author of the nonfiction World War II submarine classic Wake of the Wahoo, succumbed to congestive heart failure in a Gulfport, Mississippi hospital in the early hours of Thursday, May 23, 2002—just six days after celebrating his 91st birthday.
Sterling, for years a resident of the nearby U.S. Naval Home, had been suffering from poor circulation and steadily declining health in recent months. He spent his last few weeks in the Home’s “Sick Bay” before being transferred to the hospital, where he soon slipped into a coma and passed away. Memorial services were held at the Biloxi National Cemetery on Tuesday, May 28, where he was laid to rest.
Long known to shipmates and friends as “Yeo,” the career Navy yeoman gained national recognition when his Wake of the Wahoo—an autobiographical account of his duty aboard the renowned USS Wahoo, perhaps the most successful U.S. fleet submarine of W.W.II—was first published in 1960. Wahoo, under the command of daredevil Dudley W. “Mush” Morton, became famous for a number of tactical firsts, including entering an enemy harbor to torpedo a ship, and wiping out an entire convoy single-handedly. Sterling’s reporting on these and other events is nearly unique in the submarine canon: the unassuming viewpoint of an ordinary enlisted sailor, rather than the more commonly published privileged or technical perspective of command. This has made his book not only thrilling but also accessible to both layman and “old salt” alike. Another indicator of Wake’s acceptance and notoriety: it’s periodically assigned reading for incoming cadets at the Naval Academy. Forest narrowly survived the October, 1943 wartime loss of the Wahoo through an unexpected last-moment transfer off the sub by order of his C.O., Morton, in order to allow him to further his Navy schooling back in the States. Sterling then went on to serve on several other subs and ships, not only surviving World War II, but enjoying a long and successful postwar naval career as well. He retired from the Navy a Chief Petty Officer in 1956, and thereafter took college writing courses in Ventura, California to prepare for his Wahoo memoir. Since then, Sterling had also been active with the U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II organization, belonging to and helping to found local chapters in Southern California, for example.
Forest Sterling was predeceased by his wife Marie, the “one great love of his life,” in the 1980s, and is now survived by only a handful of distant, scattered relatives in California, Oregon, Oklahoma and Arizona. With Wake of the Wahoo just recently returning to print after a nearly forty year absence, the book now becomes a legacy; a truly fitting tribute to the man whose famous World War II skipper often referred to him as “The best damned yeoman in the Navy!”
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U.S. admits to salvaging sunken Soviet submarine
American government has finally revealed details of a top-secret mission to raise a sunken Soviet submarine.
By Tom Leonard
February 2010: The admission ends more than 30 years of silence over one of the most elaborate and expensive projects of the Cold War. The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has always refused to confirm even the barest details of “Project Azorian,” a daring 1974 exercise that was backed by the industrialist Howard Hughes and estimated to have cost $1 billion in today’s money.
However, following an application to declassify the information under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the CIA has released an internal account of the mission, albeit with some of the biggest mysteries still unanswered. The newly released documents have passages that are blacked out and questions about the ultimate success of the operation—and what the CIA learned about Soviet subs and warheads remain a mystery. Journalists and historians have concluded the ambitious salvage effort produced mixed results, as only sections of the submarine could be retrieved and the most sensitive Soviet equipment was not recovered.
In the 50-page article published in 1985 in the agency’s in-house journal, the CIA details how President Richard Nixon went against the advice of his senior military chiefs in the hope of gaining crucial intelligence from the nuclear missiles being carried by the sub. The Soviet Golf-II submarine, K-129, sank in 1968 in the Pacific, 1,560 miles northwest of Hawaii, in circumstances that have never been explained. It was carrying three ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. According to the newly-released papers, despite the difficulties of reaching the vessel some three miles down, Richard Nixon ordered the creation of a task force to bring it to the surface. The project was nearly cancelled due to soaring costs and concern that it might damage improving U.S.-Soviet relations. However, a portion of the sub was eventually winched to the surface by the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a specially-designed salvage ship using a unique lifting cradle. Mr. Hughes lent his name to the project to give the ship cover as a deep-sea mining vessel but the CIA papers reveal that she was continually dogged by Soviet ships. Fearing the Russians might even try to storm the ship, the Americans blocked up its helicopter landing pad with crates. The Americans buried six lost Soviet crewmen at sea, after retrieving their bodies in the wreckage. Exactly what the operation managed to salvage remains unclear as portions of the CIA text have been redacted, but historians and journalists have concluded that the most sensitive Soviet equipment was never recovered. The CIA article—obtained by the National Security Archive, an independent watchdog—mentions only “intangibly beneficial” results such as the morale boost it gave to US intelligence and advances in maritime heavy-lifting technology.
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