Imploded after Losing Depth Control off Aleutian Islands
LCDR Mannert L Abele, USN
On September 30th 1942 the Abele family received a Western Union telegram that in essence said that the Grunion had not been heard from and was presumed lost. At the end of the war there was an extensive search of both Japanese and American records for any clues as to the loss. Nothing was found.
Around 1998 began a collaborative effort of remarkable proportions. That was combined with a stream of improbables so unusual that if fiction it couldn't be imagined.
* An Air Force Colonel put a schematic of a part of a World War II Japanese freighter on the Internet to see if he could get it authenticated. That document, which he had purchased for one dollar in a Denver antique store, started the process.
* A Japanese naval historian responded that the document was authentic and that in his efforts he had found some clues to the loss of the Grunion.
* The colonel contacted our Navy who recognized the significance of the find and put that information on their appropriate website.
* About the same time one of the Abele brothers had put together a book describing what was known at that time about the loss. Although intended only for the family it got passed around all over the country. A World War II history buff read it and passed a list of Grunion websites to the Abele brothers. That's when they first saw the clues provided by the Japanese naval historian.
* One of the brothers who spends a lot of time on the lecture circuit bumped into Robert Ballard of Titanic fame. He provided an education on the principles of finding the wreck of a sub at extreme depths.
* An owner of an Alaskan crab boat heard about the project and offered his services for a very reasonable price.
* At that time the Abele brothers realized that they had the means, interest, capability and desire to locate the sub. The effort began.
In 2006 using side scan sonar an image was picked up that the brothers felt, in spite of contrary opinions from the experts, was quite likely that of an American sub. On a second expedition in 2007 a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) photographed a wreck 3000 feet down off the island of Kiska Alaska. In 2008 it was confirmed by the Navy to be the Grunion.
The sub's demise was the result of a number of defective torpedoes including a final circular run of a dud torpedo which hit the shears (which hold the periscopes) and triggered a stream of unrecoverable events including a locked rear dive plain. The submarine lost depth control and imploded.
That collaborative effort has continued along different lines. Three remarkable women were able not only to locate relatives for 100% of the crew but also to get articles published in local newspapers for every individual on the sub. Another heterogeneous group of analysts developed what has turned out to be a highly credible hypothesis as to the cause of the loss.