Search for the USS Grunion

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Posted by Jim on July 21, 2006 at 21:09:20:

Every so often a random event occurs that shakes us from our complacency and reminds us that some people still undertake adventures to go look for lost vessels. It also reminds of that in war, people pay the ultimate price. My turn to be reminded of this came today when Peter Lowney visited the office where I work.

Peter stopped by to talk to a coworker of mine who resides in an adjacent cubicle. Among his duties, Mike maintains the shipwreck information database for Alaska. He has amassed the single most complete information source on lost vessels in Alaskan waters. As a result, he fields numerous inquiries regarding lost or wrecked vessels, just as I did when I worked for our Pacific office. The object of Peter’s inquiry was the U.S. Navy submarine, U.S.S. Grunion, which was lost during the early days of the Aleutian campaign of World War II.

Recall that the Japanese invaded Alaska in the Spring of 1942 as a feint preceding the Battle of Midway Island setting off what has been described as “the 1000-mile war.” Although the attack may have been a diversion, the resulting conflict was quite real.

For many years, the fate of the submarine remained a mystery. As Peter--a Bering Sea crabber--told the story, recent translations of action reports by Japanese sailors revealed details of an engagement with the Kano Maru and the USS Grunion that led to the sinking of the submarine and suggested a likely location from which to begin a search. I was transfixed as he briefly related the highlights of the story. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned the scenes of the battle as he described it and could almost see the exchange of cannon fire. Peter is on his way to the Aleutians to take part in an expedition that will attempt to locate the submarine using remote sensing equipment--the search sponsored by the family of the sub’s captain.

I will be following the details of the search as they unfold via the expedition’s website, Searchforthegrunion.com.

The Wikipedia article on the USS Grunion shows the fate of the vessel as “lost due to unknown causes.” Perhaps the expedition will begin to provide some clues as to the causes.

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