by STEVE GRANT
THE wreck of a US Navy submarine with a strong World War II connection to Fremantle has been discovered in deep water off the coast of Japan.
The USS Grayback was one of the most deadly submarines of the war, credited with sinking 14 enemy ships. While patrolling the Indian Ocean the Grayback was home-ported in Fremantle.
Local author Lynne Cairns, whose 1995 book Secret Fleets lifted the veil on Fremantle’s little-known submarine base, said two Grayback patrols left from Fremantle.
Although they weren’t its most fruitful, the threat of the sub was credited in helping the Americans win their first Pacific offensive, the Guadalcanal campaign.
But on February 27, 1944, the Grayback met her match; shortly after using her last two torpedoes to sink a freighter, the sub was spotted on the surface by a Japanese fighter plane and attacked. Japanese reports said the Grayback sank immediately but the area south-west of Okinawa was depth-charged to make sure.
The wreck of the Grayback was discovered by veteran ocean explorer Tim Taylor and his Lost 52 Project team in July this year, but they delayed the announcement until this month, after they had contacted surviving relatives of the lost submariners.
Mr Taylor has now found five of the 52 US submarines to go missing during WWII and has made it his mission to track down the rest.
He says they’d almost given up on the Grayback after earlier having a breakthrough.
The team’s Japanese historian Yutaka Iwasaki had discovered an error in a translated Japanese report that showed previous searches had been in the wrong place.
Mr Taylor said they switched focus, but after a problem with their underwater drone everyone thought they were going home empty-handed.
“As the team was viewing the last bit of data roll across the screen, you could feel everyone shuffling and getting ready to shift gears to secure the ship for getting underway,” Taylor said.
“The next thing we see in the last quarter of the last line of data is the USS Grayback roll across the monitor.”
Photographs, including one where the sub’s nameplate can be clearly read, confirmed they’d found their target.
Cairns says the discovery can bring closure to families.
When researching her book, she spoke to submariners who’d been based in Fremantle, or the local women who became their wives, but says when she revised the book about 10 years ago they’d nearly all died.
WE’D love to hear your stories about Fremantle’s secret submarine base or life in the port city during the dark years of the war – even if it’s just grandad’s old yarns. Perhaps someone’s grandmother had her heart stolen by a dashing Yankee submariner? Or someone’s dad used to see the subs going in and out while fishing from the wharf? Send your stories (and photos if you’ve got them) to firstname.lastname@example.org