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WWII submarine USS Grayback found off Japan

Submarine USS Grayback
Photo: Lost 52 Project

Sunken World War II submarine USS Grayback, the final resting place of 80 sailors, has been found 1,427 feet below the surface, 50 nautical miles south of Okinawa Japan.

One of the most successful submarines of the war, USS Grayback was a Tambor-class submarine launched on January 31, 1941 and was under the command of Lieutenant Commander John Anderson Moore.

She made 10 war patrols total and is credited with sinking 14 ships, totaling 63,835 tons, including an Imperial Japanese Navy submarine. Grayback was a major part of the submarine offensive from the very start of the war.

Post-war Japanese records indicated that on February 26, 1944, Grayback suffered damage when land-based Japanese naval aircraft attacked her in the East China Sea, but it was assumed she sank the naval transport Ceylon Maru the next day. That same day it was recorded that a Japanese carrier-based plane spotted a submarine on the surface in the East China Sea and attacked.

According to Japanese reports the submarine “exploded and sank immediately,” but antisubmarine craft were called into depth-charge the area, clearly marked by a trail of air bubbles, until a heavy oil slick swelled to the surface. Grayback received two Navy Unit Commendations honoring her seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth war patrols, in addition to eight battle stars for her World War II service.

The USS Grayback was discovered on June 5, 2019 by Tim Taylor and his “Lost 52 Project” team.

The US Navy officially verified the discovery of Grayback as the first US submarine discovered in Japanese waters.

This is the 5th US WWII submarine discovery for Taylor and his Lost 52 Project Team.

“Because of the quality of images and the data shared from the groundbreaking project, Naval History and Heritage Command’s underwater archaeology team was able to confirm the final resting place of USS Grayback,” said Robert S. Neyland, Ph.D., Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch Head. “The confirmation of the site as a US Navy sunken military craft ensures it is protected from disturbance, safeguarding the final resting place of our sailors.”

“The discovery of the USS Grayback provides us another precious opportunity to honor the brave sailors who sacrificed so much in combat to preserve our freedom. Those selfless and committed submarine sailors left a legacy of courage that we strive to attain every single day as we prepare the next generation of US Navy Submariners,” said Rear Adm. Blake Converse, Commander, Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet.

In preparation for the expedition, the team’s Japanese historian and researcher, Yutaka Iwasaki, located and re-translated the original documents to discover 1946 post-war error in the longitude. This original error remained for 75 years until discovered by the Lost 52 Team. The new data, along with newly discovered and translated Japanese mission logs, enabled the team to refocus their search on the area southwest of Okinawa. On June 5, 2019 the team discovered the USS Grayback 100 miles from an area recorded in WWII historical records.

“It was amazing, the team had resigned to the fact that we’re headed back to port and would not complete the total search area this year. The AUV had returned early with a minor technical issue and we had a few lines of sonar data to review. As the team was viewing the last bit of this data roll across the screen you could feel everyone shuffling and getting ready to shift gears to secure the ship for getting underway. The next thing we see in the last quarter of the last line of data is the USS Grayback roll across the monitor,” said Taylor.