World War II Sub Found

This article is more than 13 years old.

Bruce, Brad, and John Abele of Newton, Mass., have spent more than 60 years wondering what happened to the submarine their father commanded during World War II.

The USS Grunion, the sub on which Lt. Cmdr. Mannert Abele's crew of 70 disappeared in July 1942, was found in the Bering Sea after a far-reaching search by his sons.

Despite an extensive search of Japanese and American records after the war, nothing revealed what may have happened to the submarine, let alone where it ended up.

"It has been on the books as missing, not missing in action but missing, for 65 years," said 78-year-old Bruce Abele, the eldest of the three brothers.

On July 30, 1942, Navy officials received a vague transmission from the sub that said it had encountered Japanese ships. It was never heard from again.

Bruce Abele said the series of events that led them to the Grunion are almost impossible to believe.

"It's like winning the lottery 10 times in a row," Bruce Abele said. "I can't say it any other way."

The turning point came five years ago, when a Japanese man named Yutaka Iwasaki posted a translation of an article from an obscure maritime journal on a web site dedicated to Pacific submarines.

The article came in response to a wiring diagram that a man bought for one dollar at a Denver, Colo., thrift shop. Wanting to know its historical value, he posted it online.

The Abeles didn't know it yet, but the diagram detailed the Kano Maru, a Japanese cargo ship that encountered their father's sub.


As it turned out, the obscure Japanese article described a violent confrontation that the Kano Maru had with an American submarine that just happened to be patrolling where the Grunion would have been.

"In a very strange combination of circumstances, I found out about it and needless to say, there was a lot of excitement in our area," said Bruce Abele.

The youngest brother, John Abele--who is also the founder of Boston Scientific--immediately began searching for the Japanese man's e-mail address.

After a string of 74 e-mails, Abele tracked him down.

Things picked up from there. A year ago, sonar images indicated the size and shape of what the Abeles believed was their father's vessel.

This week, a remotely operated vehicle captured three hours of video footage of the vessel nearly a mile underwater off the coast of Alaska.

While the expedition crew was able to identify the submarine by its unique propeller guards, Bruce Abele says there are still a lot of questions to be answered.

For one thing, the sub has imploded. Even stranger? It's hatch is wide open.

"We are just flabbergasted," said Bruce Abele. "Of all the things that you don't do is have a hatch wide open, and there's no way it was left open by mistake. Something really, really bizarre must have happened."

John Abele and his 17-person crew plan to return from Alaska next week, after which a team of experts will review the footage to begin to piece together the rest of the mystery.

This program aired on August 24, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.