American WWII submarine found off Okinawa after 75 years

The US Navy Tambor-class submarine USS Grayback shortly before its commissioning in 1941 (Photo: US National Archives)

An American submarine that went missing in World War II has finally been found more than 75 years after its reported disappearance.

On Sunday, November 10, the private research group Lost 52 Project confirmed that the wreck of the Tambor-class diesel-electric submarine USS Grayback was discovered at a depth of 430 metres off the coast of Okinawa in June of this year.

Although it was sitting upright on the seafloor, Grayback was found in two pieces. The wreck also shows severe damage indicative of a direct hit from an aerial bomb, which the US Navy has always attributed as the main reason for the submarine’s loss following a review of Japanese combat action reports that became available after the war.

Ocean explorer Tim Taylor and his wife Christine Dennison, who head the Lost 52 Project, then spent the months following Grayback‘s discovery locating the crews’ surviving relatives and informing them of their loved ones’ eventual fate before announcing the discovery to the general public.

Commissioned in June 1941, Grayback was on its tenth wartime patrol in the Pacific in the early spring of 1944 when it was lost at sea with all hands on board.

The submarine had sailed out of Pearl Harbor on January 28 of that year and was scheduled to arrive at Midway Island in the Central Pacific at the end of its patrol on March 7. Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood, who had been serving as Commander Submarine Force Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) at the time of Grayback‘s disappearance, officially declared the submarine as missing and presumed lost on March 30, 1944.

Japanese records confirm that Grayback was sunk by an aerial bomb in the East China Sea on February 27 of that year.

At the time of its loss, Grayback had been officially credited with sinking 14 enemy ships totalling over 57,000 tonnes.

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