Thousands of ships lost during WWI and WWII found their last refuge beneath the waves. Researchers have discovered the exact or approximate locations of at least a few hundred ships, but the fate of some remains a mystery.
Search expeditions scour the waters of the world’s oceans, checking archives in the hope of finding information that points to the location of this or that ship. One such discovery was made in Japanese waters in 2019 by the “Lost 52” research project, which aims to find all 52 submarines that disappeared during World War II. One of them was the USS Greyback (SS-208), which became the last refuge for 80 crew members and was found at a depth of 435 meters in Japanese waters.
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Using the latest state-of-the-art technologies such as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV and ROV) and fancy camera equipment allowed the team to get all the data and take great shots of the wrecks. USS “Crayback” was a Tambor-class submarine launched on 01/31/1941 and under the command of Lt. Commander John Anderson Moore and was one of the most dangerous submarines of World War II. In ten combat patrols, she sank 14 ships, including an Imperial Japanese Navy submarine early in the war.
From archival information, researchers were able to learn that on 02/26/1944, several Imperial planes attacked and sank a submarine in the East China Sea. But the next day, USS “Greyback” dispatched Japanese naval vessels to the Kraken. After a successful attack, the Japanese carrier launched a supporting bombardment attack. According to the pilots, the submarine exploded and sank, leaving behind a film of oil and lots of air bubbles. The ship remained a ghost for nearly 75 years, although the pilots recorded the location.
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The SS-208 received two commendations from the Army Navy units and eight battle stars for service in World War II. The discovery of the USS Greyback honors the memory of the brave sailors who gave their lives in the war to preserve our freedom. The Lost 52 project uncovered submarine documents discovered and translated by Japanese historian and researcher Yutaka Iwasaki. These authentic documents contained accurate information about the location of the submarine’s sinking, but the translations were slightly off. As it later turned out, a mistake was made in 1946 when the document was translated from Japanese. This small typo is the reason why no one has been able to find the submarine for so many years.
The new information allowed the search expedition to correctly locate the previously suggested area mentioned in the historical records of World War II. After some time they finally found the USS Greyback sitting on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean about 50 miles southwest of Okinawa, 100 miles from the previously reported location. The ship’s hull is 1,400 feet deep, and its deck gun is thrown a further 400 feet from the wreck. The crew had no chance of surviving the impact.
Every sunken ship discovered is an opportunity to honor the memory of the dead sailors who gave their lives for a better future. Knowing their final resting place allows relatives of fallen sailors to better understand the circumstances of their deaths.