Electric Boat Co. via Bruce Abele/Associated Press
USS Grunion

Discovered WWII Sub Vindicates Sons’ Mission

October 03, 2008 12:53 PM
by Josh Katz
The U.S. Navy has verified the discovery of a lost World War II submarine, the most recent revelation in the journey of three brothers to uncover their father’s fate.

The Successful Search for the Grunion

Three brothers, the sons of a commanding officer who disappeared during World War II, have helped discover their father’s missing submarine, the USS Grunion.

The search was more than 60 years in the making, and may have remained unsuccessful if not for a couple of history buffs, a Colorado antique shop, and some high-tech equipment.

“The synergy of our group working together with the Navy for the common cause has been a wonderful group effort,” brother Bruce Abele said, according to the U.S. Navy press release. “The teamwork combined with everyone’s compassion and wisdom has resulted in our success.”

On July 30, 1942, the submarine made its final communication with the United States, reporting on heavy antisubmarine activity near Kiska island, part of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, according to the Associated Press. Almost a month later, the ship was declared lost.

The final fate of the ship had remained a mystery since 1942, and the Japanese could not pinpoint any attack in the area at the time. The search for the ship has also been extremely difficult, as the “brutal seas around the Aleutian Islands, widely considered some of the most dangerous in the world, with winds that can howl at 100 miles per hour, waves taller than a house, and ocean depths of 1,800 feet and greater,” necessitated search crews to pinpoint a precise location first, The Boston Globe reported in Aug. 2006.
Bruce, Brad, and John Abele, the sons of Lt. Cmdr. Mannert L. Abele, learned about the possible whereabouts of their father’s ship in 2002 thanks to chance Internet postings by two history buffs, and helped initiate an expedition to uncover it.

Retired Air Force officer Richard Lane had purchased a “Wiring diagram of Deck Winch on Kana-Maru” from a Colorado antique shop in 1995 for $1, and in 2001 he wrote about the document on his Web site for military historians, according to the Wichita Eagle. Yutaka Iwasaki, a history enthusiast from Japan, responded by relating a story he read about a naval battle between the Japanese Kano-Maru ship and the Grunion. The Abele brothers gleaned enough facts from the story to home in on the location where the ship sank.

John Abele, founder of the Boston Scientific medical company, and a billionaire, was able to help fund the search for the missing submarine.

In August 2006, sonar images revealed the outline of an object near Kiska, and then in August 2007 a high definition camera provided clearer pictures. On Oct. 3, 2008, the Navy officially confirmed the wreckage to be the USS Grunion.

Related Topic: The HMS Ontario

In June 2008, a sunken British warship was discovered after it had been lost for 228 years. The HMS Ontario had been the largest British war ship to ever sail in the Great Lakes until it sank in 1780. It sank after just 5 months on the water.

The ship and its crew disappeared in a blizzard on Halloween night.

In 1995, divers apparently misidentified another ship as the HMS Ontario. Finding a sunken ship is like “finding a tossed coin in the lake,” said one of the investigators who thought he had found the HMS Ontario 13 years ago.

Even more impressive than the discovery of the real HMS Ontario was that the vessel was nearly intact, thanks to the preservation-effect of the deep water, according to the Arthur Britton Smith, who chronicled the shipwreck in his book, “Legend of the Lake.”

Reference: Searching for the USS Grunion


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines