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Sunken WWII Era American Submarine Discovered in Japanese Waters

January 31, 2020

According to a news wire dated Nov. 11, 2019 Veteran ocean explorer and Tiburon Subsea CEO Tim Taylor along with his "Lost52Project" team have discovered the wreck of the WWII USN Submarine USS Grayback SS-208 in Japanese waters. The US Navy has officially verified the discovery of Grayback which was made on June 5th, 2019 at a depth of 1427 feet. Grayback is the first US submarine discovered in Japanese waters and is the final resting place of 80 American submariners.
Taylor’s company, Tiburon Subsea provides global underwater technology, rental and leasing services, and equips marine service providers and companies with the latest technologies and support. According to the “Lost52Project” website the venture is a long-term exploration and underwater archeological project that is documenting and preserving the story of the lost fifty-two USN WWII submarines, providing a foundation of knowledge for future generations. Building on their current discoveries, ocean exploration, and underwater robotics expertise the team is organizing, executing, and managing expeditions with the goal to discover and survey as many of the lost fifty-two U.S, WWII submarines as possible.
Grayback is the fifth US WWII submarine discovery for Mr. Taylor and his Lost52Project Team. Utilizing ground-breaking robotics devices and methods that are at the forefront of modern underwater exploration technology they employ a combination of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV's), remotely operated vehicles (ROV's) and advanced photogrammetry imaging technology resulting in the generation of the most comprehensive historical archeological records available to date. The high quality of images and the data shared from the groundbreaking project has aided the Naval History and Heritage Command's underwater archaeology team to be able to confirm the final resting place of the submarine and her crew. The confirmation of the site as a U.S. Navy sunken military craft ensures it is protected from disturbance, safeguarding the final resting place of our sailors.
USS Grayback SS-208 was a Tambor-class submarine and was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the lake herring, Coregonus artedi. Her keel was laid down by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut and was launched on 31 January 1941 sponsored by Mrs. Wilson Brown, wife of Rear Admiral Wilson Brown, Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy, and commissioned on 30 June 1941 with Lieutenant Willard A. Saunders in command.
 TheTambor-class submarines were the USN's first successful fleet submarines having the speed, range, and endurance necessary to operate as part of a Navy's Battle Fleet. They began the war close to the fighting with six of the class based in Hawaiian waters or the Central Pacific on 7 December 1941, with USS Tautog SS-199 at Pearl Harbor during the attack. The Subs went on to see perilous service and seven of the twelve boats in the class were sunk before the others were withdrawn from front-line service in early 1945. They represented the highest percentage loss of any USN submarine class as the Submarine Force held the line against the Japanese Imperial Navy in the Pacific until the devastated U.S. surface fleet could be rebuilt. Tautog was credited with sinking twenty-six enemy ships, the largest number sunk by any US submarine in World War II. The Tambors attained a top speed of twenty-one knots and had a range of 11,000 nautical miles thus allowing them to execute patrols in Japanese home waters. Compared to the preceding Sargo class their improvements included six bow torpedo tubes rather than four, a more reliable full diesel-electric propulsion plant, and improved combat efficiency with key personnel and equipment relocated to the conning tower. In some references, the Tambors are called the "T Class", and SS-206 through SS-211 are sometimes called the "Gar class".
Attached to the Atlantic Fleet, Grayback conducted her shakedown cruise in Long Island Sound out of Newport, New London, and New York City. Then, in the company with USS Grampus SS-207, she departed New London on 8 September for patrol duty in the Caribbean Sea and the Chesapeake Bay. Subsequently, with the United States’ entry into the war, Grayback sailed for Pearl Harbor, arriving 8 February 1942.
The sub was sunk near Okinawa on 26 February 1944, however, completed nine successful war patrols prior. And, although her fateful tenth patrol was her most successful in terms of tonnage sunk it was also to be her last. She sailed from Pearl Harbor on 28 January 1944 for the East China Sea, then on 24 February Grayback radioed that she had sunk two cargo ships on 19 February and had damaged two others the Taikei Maru and Toshin Maru which then sunk. Later, on 25 February she transmitted her second and final report stating that she had sunk tanker Nanho Maru and severely damaged Asama Maru that morning. So, with only two torpedoes remaining she was ordered home from patrol. However, due to reach Midway on 7 March, Grayback did not arrive as scheduled and on 30 March ComSubPac listed her as missing and presumed lost with all hands.
Captured Japanese records pieced together the submarine's last few days. And they indicate that she was heading home through the East China Sea and after attacking convoy Hi-40 on 24 February, Grayback used her last two torpedoes to sink the freighter Ceylon Maru on 27 February. That same day, a Japanese carrier-based plane spotted the submarine on the surface and attacked it resulting in the submarine suffering an explosion and then submerging immediately. Later, antisubmarine craft were called into depth-charge the area that was clearly marked by a trail of air bubbles until ultimately a heavy oil slick swelled to the surface indicative of the submarine’s final demise. And so, Grayback’s final valiant patrol resulted in the loss to the enemy of 21,594 tons of shipping.  For his efforts Grayback's commanding officer John Anderson Moore was posthumously awarded his third Navy Cross.
USS Grayback ranked 20th among all submarines in total tonnage sunk with 63,835 tons and 24th in the number of ships sunk with fourteen. The submarine and crew had received two Navy Unit Commendations for their prior war patrols.
In preparation for the expedition, the Lost52Project team located and re-translated the original documents and discovered a 1946 post-war error in Grayback’s last reported position that had endured for seventy-five years until discovered. Then, along with the corrected data and newly discovered and translated Japanese mission logs they refocused their search in an area southwest of Okinawa. Consequently, on June 5th, 2019 the team discovered USS Grayback 100 miles away from an area that had originally been recorded in the original WWII historical records. And, it happened when the team had been resigned to the fact that they were headed back to port and would not complete the total search area that trip. But, when the AUV returned early with a minor technical issue and offered a few lines of sonar data for the team to review the last bit of this data rolled across the screen and they saw the image of USS Grayback.
The discovery of the wreckage of USS Grayback provides another precious opportunity to honor the brave sailors who sacrificed so much in combat to defend and preserve American freedom.  And, those selfless and committed submarine sailors left a legacy of courage and valor that we strive to attain every single day as we prepare the next generation of U.S. Navy submariners. Each discovery of a sunken craft is an opportunity to remember and honor the service of our sailors. Knowing their final resting place brings closure, in some part, to their families and shipmates as well as enables a better understanding of the circumstances in which they were lost. And, the respectful, non-intrusive work that Tim Taylor's team performs offers the opportunity to remember them and honor our maritime history.
•  We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the lines against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds.  (Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz)
• Of all the branches of men in the forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariners. (Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill)
 
Additional reading and video; http://www.lost52project.org/; https://www.tiburonsubsea.com.


 

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