A US Navy submarine wreck has been discovered nearly eight decades after it went missing off the coast of Japan. Last May, researchers discovered the wreck. It has now been verified that the ship is the USS Albacore, which was last seen in late October 1944.
The USS Albacore (SS-218) set out from Pearl Harbor on her 11th combat mission on October 24, 1944. The Albacore, a 311-foot-long Gato-class sub with a submerged displacement of nearly 2,400 tons, was a battle-hardened submarine. She had already sunk 13 Japanese ships, including the 30,000-ton aircraft carrier Taih, and was the US submarine with the largest warship tonnage sunk. Lieutenant-Commander James W. Blanchard, her commanding officer, and the 59 other men on board took the submarine to Midway Island, where they topped off her gasoline tanks on October 28, then sailed towards Japan’s north coast.
She was never seen or heard from again.
Following the war, Naval investigators discovered a report from a Japanese patrol boat of an unidentified submarine striking an undersea mine off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost of two main Home Islands. The crew of the patrol boat witnessed the submarine explode underneath, followed by a pile of oil and wreckage floating to the surface. Because the sinking occurred within Albacore’s patrol area, the US Navy suspected it was the missing sub, but no one could be certain.
Then, in May of this year, University of Tokyo expert Tamaki Ura began looking for the wreck. Ura, an ocean engineering emeritus professor and expert in underwater drones, sent down a robot submersible in the region of the sinking story — and on May 26, he discovered a 164-foot-long chunk of submarine resting on the seafloor 780 feet down. He was certain it was the Albacore and submitted film to the US Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). On February 17, the NHHC reported that they had compared Ura’s video pictures to records of modifications made to the missing boat prior to her last patrol and had confirmed the identification; Ura’s wreck was the USS Albacore, which is still on patrol after more than 78 years. The location has now been designated as a war grave.