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From the Boston Globe -

Lost submarine found off Alaska

Search for father may have turned up USS Grunion

There was no distress call, no indication of enemy depth charges exploding or bulkheads breached, just a dead silence that stretched from a few days into 60 years.

The USS Grunion disappeared in July 1942, leaving 70 American families grieving and the three sons of skipper Mannert L. "Jim" Abele without a father. Abele's boys -- who were 5, 9 and 12 and lived in Newton, Mass., when their father disappeared -- grew up and built their own lives. But they dwelt on the fate of their father.

At 2 a.m. Wednesday, a grainy sonar picture e-mailed via satellite appeared in Bruce Abele's in-box, appearing to show what they had searched for for much of their adult lives: the outline of an oblong object believed to be the Grunion deep in frigid Alaskan waters.

If the discovery is confirmed, it would signify a triumph of luck and perseverance, and put to rest a quest for clues that has spanned decades.

"It's big, very big," 76-year-old Bruce Abele, the eldest of the three sons, said Wednesday. "This mystery has been a part of my consciousness for as long as I can remember."

The Grunion, one of the Gato-class attack submarines commissioned early in World War II, was on its maiden operational voyage when it disappeared while patrolling the seas between Alaska's tip and Japan, according to a Navy Web site.

The submarine made several transmissions in July 1942, reporting that it had sunk three Japanese destroyers. On July 30, it reported heavy anti-submarine activity nearby and said it had 10 remaining torpedoes. It was never heard from again. Warplanes searching for wreckage never found anything.

For years, the sons -- Bruce, Brad and John, who is the founder of Boston Scientific Corp. -- have pored over Navy do***ents and any shipping records of the area they could locate, and contacted others interested in the Grunion's fate. John Abele, a billionaire, has paid for much of the search.

The brutal seas around the Aleutian Islands are widely considered some of the most dangerous in the world, with winds that can howl at 100 mph, waves taller than a house, and ocean depths of 1,800 feet and greater. Any search mission would have to know where to look, as a long scouting voyage would be dangerous and expensive.

A break came in 2002, when a Japanese man, Yutaka Iwasaki, posted a translation of an article in an obscure Japanese shipping journal on one of several Web sites dedicated to the Grunion.

The article, written by a military officer on board an armed Japanese merchant ship, the Kano Maru, described an exchange of cannon fire and torpedoes with a U.S. submarine in an area where the Grunion would have been patrolling.

Iwasaki's involvement changed everything, John Abele said Wednesday. Not only did the brothers have a place to look for their father's submarine, but they also had newfound friends from the other side of the war.

They were so inspired by the cooperation they received from Iwasaki and others in Japan that they decided to expand the search to find two Japanese sub-chasers, SC-25 and SC-27, that the Grunion sank, along with the Arare, a Japanese destroyer that went down in the same area.

"This has been a very emotional thing for a lot of us," John Abele said.

After four years of research, the brothers finally decided they could make a good enough guess at locations to start looking, with John Abele deciding to fund the search himself.

After a discussion with renowned Titanic explorer Robert Ballard, who declined to take on the exploration, the brothers hired a Seattle ocean surveying firm, Williams and Associates. They also chartered a crab fishing boat, the Aquila, skippered by Kale Garcia, a seasoned veteran of the dangerous waters.

The family is represented on the boat by Peter Lowney, a former Newton resident and crab boat crewman who is chronicling the search with a pair of high-resolution video cameras and sending back frequent updates.

The search, with sonar equipment capable of returning high-quality images, began two weeks ago. The boat traversed a grid, seeing nothing but sonar images of the ocean floor.

Then they saw on the screen a smooth, oblong object with features that could be a tower and periscope mast.

With no other submarines they know of reported sunk in the area, they concluded it must be the Grunion.

John Abele said that the brothers will fly to Alaska next week on his private jet to tour the area and meet with the survey crew. They said they will probably return to the site next year and send an unmanned, remote-control device beneath the waves to get a closer look at the object and take pictures.

Jack Green, a historian at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday that the Navy has been aware of the Abeles' quest for the Grunion. Green said the Navy rarely helps with such searches and is unlikely to aid in theirs unless the brothers provide more proof than a sonar image.

"But this is very, very exciting," he said. "We'll be very excited to see what they come up with."

While photographs could finally solve the puzzle of what actually happened to the Grunion, John Abele said the brothers' motivations are much more personal.

"We're doing this as much from a desire for connection with my father as to learn the answer to a mystery," he said.

What a fantastic story - Rushie

Premium Member
2,044 Posts
That is a great story Rushie. I find it hard to believe that the US Navy would be so disinterested considering the level of importance they attach to personnel who have died in service of their country. This is potentially a war grave for 70 US Navy personnel not only the Grunion's.

3,691 Posts
Well done Rushie, another good find, a very interesting piece.

Good on the sons of Jim Abele for their perseverance, I am sure it will be a relief for all the families involved.

May they rest in peace.

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