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USS Grunion, on Eternal Patrol, Detected

65 Years Later, her Commanding Officer's sons lead the search, find their father's ship, and shed light on their father's last hours. CDR Mannert Abele was lost with USS Grunion, but the definitive history of World War II submarine operations, a book called Silent Victory, by Clay Blair, lists the type of man CDR Abele was.

On the way from New London to Panama, [immediately after her delivery and on the way to the Pacific for battle] Grunion -- manuevering in a heavy gale -- had rescued sixteen men in a lifeboat from a merchant ship torpedoed by a German U-boat, dropping them in Panama. One of the survivors, George F. Drew, the ship's engineer, later wrote, "I have never seen such wonderful seamanship as Abele executed when he rescued us."

Such is the stuff which prides a submarine officer. I've personally spent many weeks in the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea. Kiska is a difficult piece of real estate to support and to find. I even spent a week on Adak while there for one day. Tough place to live. The weather sucks. Always.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The mangled remains of a World War II submarine were found in the Bering Sea on Wednesday night, more than six decades after the U.S. Navy vessel disappeared with a crew of 70 off the Aleutian Island of Kiska.

The discovery of the USS Grunion culminates a five-year search led by the sons of its commander, Mannert Abele, and may finally shine a light on the mysterious last moments of the doomed vessel.

"Obviously, this is a very big thing," the oldest son, Bruce Abele, said Thursday from his home in Newton, Mass. "I told my wife about it when she was still in bed and she practically went up to the ceiling."

A remotely operated vehicle snapped pictures and captured three hours of video footage of the Grunion on a rocky underwater slope north of the volcanic island, according to John Abele, who was in Kiska Harbor with the search team on Thursday.

The submarine lies 1,000 feet from the surface and had been crushed by water pressue, said Abele. He is director and co-founder of the medical equipment company Boston Scientific Corp. and the youngest of the three brothers.

"The most surprising thing was the damage," said Abele. "It was much more than we or anyone else imagined. Initially it was very hard to recognize as a ship."

The hull had imploded so severely that the interior, including bunks and a dive wheel, are clearly visible, Abele said. No human remains were found.

The search team hired by the Abeles, Deep Sea Systems International, said no identifying markings or lettering could be seen, however, the location and appearance of the vessel indicate it is the missing sub.

The USS Grunion had left for patrol with her propeller guards still in place, and these appendages were found on the wreck off the coast of Kiska. The Abele brothers have a blog of their own on the search for USS Grunion here.

An update off COMSUBPAC's website has shed some light on USS Grunion's fate.

UPDATE - A gentleman in Japan, Yutaka Iwasaki, posted some interesting information on his website, about sunken Japanese ships during WWII, which includes information about the possible fate of the USS GRUNION.

The Kano Maru was sunk at Kiska Mr. Iwasaki kindly provided some very interesting information about the ship's history and the USS GRUNION. He provided the following on the history of the ship in connection to the loss of the GRUNION (publications S.Komamiya's Wartime ship history (1991 private issue) and JIRO Kimata's Submarine attack" (2000 Kojin-Sya)):

Kano Maru
30 July, 1942 - 08:00 Arrived at 36km north of Kiska. Heavy fog prevented approach, lost contact with the escort, forced drifting. Getting location by astronomical, she restarted approach to Kiska with 15kt.

31 July, 1942 - 05:47 Torpedoed by Submarine Grunion (SS-216). One hit at machinery room starboard, main engine and generator stopped. No more escape nor radio.

05:57 Second torpedo came, but passed below the ship. Kano Maru pretended to launch seaplane without pilot, failed to start propeller.

06:07 Third and fourth torpedo came, hit fore bridge and amidships on the port but both dud. The Grunion intended to surface and sink by gunfire, ripples was seen 400m distance from her. Kano Maru had two old 8cm guns on forecastle and stern. Stern's one malfunction by the torpedo shock, but forecastle gun fired to the periscope. 13mm machine guns on bridge fired as well. Before the sub appear the whole, fourth shot from Kano Maru hit the conning tower of the sub. It is thought the last of Grunion. The attack had ceased. Later rescue came from Kiska, three seaplanes, cable layer Ukishima, and sub chaser No. 26.

Congratulations to the Abele brothers for their determination and dedication to the memory of their father and his valiant crew. The COMSUBPAC site lists the members of the crew still on eternal patrol. The Grunion blog has a synopsis of the search efforts and how Grunion was found.

Subsunk out.

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