US Navy submarine lost in World War II found off Hokkaido, Japan

US Navy submarine lost in World War II found off Hokkaido, Japan

The US Navy Gato-class submarine USS Albacore underway off Mare Island, San Diego, California, on April 28, 1944. Credited with at least 10 enemy ship sinkings, the submarine was lost at sea with its entire crew, possibly as a result of a naval mine detonation, off Hokkaido, Japan, on November 7, 1944. (Photo: US Navy)

The US Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) has confirmed the identity of a wreck site off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan, as that of USS Albacore, a US Navy Gato-class submarine that was lost along with its entire crew in World War II.

NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) used information and imagery provided by Dr Tamaki Ura of the University of Tokyo to confirm the identity of Albacore, which was lost at sea on November 7, 1944.

Japanese records originating from the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR) covering the loss of an American submarine on November 7, 1944, guided Dr Ura’s missions. The location mentioned in the records matched a separate ongoing effort by UAB volunteers to establish the location of the shipwreck.

Dr Ura’s team collected data using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to confirm the historical data.

Strong currents, marine growth, and poor visibility on site made it challenging to fully document the wreck or obtain comprehensive images. However, several key features of a late 1944 Gato-class submarine were identified in the video.

Indications of documented modifications made to Albacore prior to its final patrol such as the presence of an SJ Radar dish and mast, a row of vent holes along the top of the superstructure, and the absence of steel plates along the upper edge of the fairwater allowed UAB to confirm the wreck site finding as that of the missing Gato-class submarine.

The wreck of Albacore is a US sunken military craft protected by US law and under the jurisdiction of NHHC. While non-intrusive activities, such as remote sensing documentation, on US Navy sunken military craft is allowed, any intrusive or potentially intrusive activities must be coordinated with NHHC and if appropriate, authorised through a relevant permitting program.

The NHHC added that, most importantly, the wreck represents the final resting place of US Navy sailors who served in wartime and should be respected by all parties as a war grave.

Albacore was constructed by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut, and commissioned on June 1, 1942.

Before being lost in 1944, the submarine conducted 11 war patrols and is credited with 10 confirmed enemy vessel sinkings, with possibly another three not yet confirmed. Six of the ten enemy sinkings were enemy combatant ships, ranking Albacore as one of the most successful submarines against enemy combatants during World War II.

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