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USS Grunion (SS-216)
USS Grunion (SS-216), 20 March 1942 at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT.
Builder: Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut[1]
Laid down: 1 March 1941[1]
Launched: 22 December 1941[2]
Sponsored by: Mrs. Stanford C. Hooper
Commissioned: 11 April 1942[1]
Struck: 2 November 1942
Fate: Sunk off of Kiska around 30 July 1942, cause unknown[2]
General characteristics
Class & type: Gato-class diesel-electric submarine[2]
Displacement: 1,525 long tons (1,549 t) surfaced[2]
2,424 long tons (2,463 t) submerged[2]
Length: 311 ft 9 in (95.02 m)[2]
Beam: 27 ft 3 in (8.31 m)[2]
Draft: 17 ft (5.2 m) maximum[2]
  • 4 × General Motors Model 16-248 V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators[3][4]
  • 2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries[5]
  • 4 × high-speed General Electric electric motors with reduction gears[3]
  • two propellers [3]
  • 5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced[3]
  • 2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged[3]
Speed: 21 kn (39 km/h) surfaced[6]
9 kn (17 km/h) submerged[6]
Range: 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) surfaced at 10 kn (19 km/h)[6]
Endurance: 48 hours at 2 kn (3.7 km/h) submerged[6]
75 days on patrol
Test depth: 300 ft (91 m)[6]
Complement: 6 officers, 54 enlisted[6]

USS Grunion (SS-216) was a Gato-class submarine that was sunk at Kiska, Alaska, during World War II. She was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for the grunion, a small fish of the silversides family, indigenous to the western American coast.

Her keel was laid down by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut on 1 March 1941. She was launched on 22 December 1941, (sponsored by Mrs. Stanford C. Hooper, wife of Rear Admiral Hooper), and commissioned on 11 April 1942 with Lieutenant Commander (Lt. Cmdr.) Mannert L. Abele, USNA class of 1926 in command.

After shakedown out of New London, Grunion sailed for the Pacific on 24 May. A week later, as she transited the Caribbean Sea for Panama, she rescued 16 survivors of USAT Jack, which had been torpedoed by the German U-boat U-558,[7] and she conducted a fruitless search for 13 other survivors presumed in the vicinity. Arriving at Coco Solo on 3 June, Grunion deposited her shipload of survivors and continued to Pearl Harbor, arriving 20 June.

Departing Hawaii on 30 June after ten days of intensive training, Grunion touched Midway Island before heading toward the Aleutian Islands for her first war patrol. Her first report, made as she patrolled north of Kiska Island, stated she had been attacked by a Japanese destroyer and had fired at her with inconclusive results. She operated off Kiska throughout July and sank two enemy patrol boats while in search for enemy shipping. On 30 July the submarine reported intensive antisubmarine activity, and she was ordered back to Dutch Harbor.

Grunion was never heard from nor seen again. Air searches off Kiska were fruitless; and on 5 October Grunion was reported overdue from patrol and assumed lost with all hands. Her name was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 2 November 1942. Captured Japanese records show no antisubmarine attacks in the Kiska area, and the fate of Grunion remained a mystery for 65 years until discovery in the Bering Sea in August 2007 of a wreck believed to be the boat. In October 2008, the U.S. Navy verified that the wreck is the Grunion.[8] The reason for her sinking is still not known, though there are two possible explanations.

Grunion received one battle star for World War II service.

The search for the Grunion

File:USS Grunion (SS-216) sunk4.jpg

USS Grunion wreckage as found in 2008

In 1998 Lieut. Col. Richard Lane purchased for $1 a wiring diagram from a Japanese cargo ship, the Kano Maru, which had been involved in World War II activities.[9] Later, in an attempt to authenticate the document, Lane posted it on a Japanese naval historical website, asking if anyone could help. He received a reply from a Japanese naval historian, Yutaka Iwasaki, who not only authenticated the document, but suggested that he knew what happened to the Grunion. Lane contacted ComSubPac, and their public affairs officer, Darrel Ames, placed that information on ComSubPac’s Grunion website.[9]

When the Grunion disappeared in 1942, the captain, Lt Cmdr Abele, left behind three sons: Bruce, Brad, and John. For almost 65 years they searched for information about the loss of their father’s submarine.[9]

A few years after Lane's research, when the Abeles discovered that information, they were able to contact Yutaka Iwasaki, who provided them with a translated article by the military commander of the Kano Maru. He described a confrontation with a submarine near Kiska Island in the Aleutians which took place at the time the Grunion was reported missing.[9]

A few years after the Yutaka discovery, John Abele, who was cofounder of Boston Scientific, had an opportunity to meet Robert Ballard. Dr. Ballard provided the Abeles with an introduction to the process of finding a wrecked submarine; John Abele then decided to fund an expedition in an attempt to find the Grunion.[9]

In 2006, Williamson Associates, using side-scan sonar, located a promising target that was almost exactly at the location indicated by the commander of the Kano Maru, one which had many other characteristics of a wrecked submarine.[9]

In 2007, using a ROV, DSSI/Oceaneering returned to the site, and took video recordings of the imploded remains of a submarine, one which had markings in English, and propeller guards and limber holes identical to those on the Grunion. In 2008, the U.S. Navy acknowledged that the find was, in fact, the Grunion.[9]

Although there is no absolute certainty the evidence strongly suggests that the Grunion was lost as a result of horrific torpedo performance in the confrontation with the Kano Maru. One torpedo ran low, but despite the magnetic pistol it did not explode; two others bounced off the Kano Maru without exploding. The last one circled back, hitting the periscope supports on the submerged submarine without exploding.[9]

That event, coupled with a jammed rear dive plane, triggered a sequence of events that led to loss of depth control. At about 1000 feet the sub would have imploded, then hit the bottom, breaking off about 50 feet of the bow. It then slid 2/3-mile down the side of an extinct volcano, finally coming to rest on a notch on the underwater mountain.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 285–304. ISBN 1-55750-263-3. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 271–273. ISBN 0-313-26202-0. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 275–280. ISBN 978-0-313-26202-9. 
  4. U.S. Submarines Through 1945 p. 261
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
  7. "Jack". Retrieved on 4 December 2008.
  8. "U.S. Navy Confirms Lost WWII Sub Found Off Aleutians". via AP. Fox News. 3 October 2008.,2933,432102,00.html. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 Peter F. Stevens. Fatal Dive: Solving the World War II Mystery of the USS Grunion, Regnery History, 2012

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

External links

Coordinates: 52°14′16″N 177°25′5″E / 52.23778°N 177.41806°E / 52.23778; 177.41806

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