Grayback (SS-208) photographed in 1941. Naval History and Heritage Comand. Catalog# NH 53771.

The USS Grayback, Missing for 75 Years, Is Discovered Off Okinawa

Private explorers of the Lost 52 Project have finally solved the mystery of the US Navy Submarine, USS Grayback (SS-208), after 75 years. Although the wreck was found on June 5th, they officially announced the discovery on November 10, 2019. The wreck was kept hidden for decades due a single digit error in the Japanese wartime records.

Japanese amateur researcher, Yutaka Iwasaki, discovered the error last year. In a daily report from February 27, 1944, he found that a Nakajima B5N carrier-based bomber had dropped a bomb on a surfaced US submarine, causing the submarine to explode and sink immediately. However, in the historical records from just after the war, a single-digit errant gave the wrong last known location.

Grayback (SS-208) photographed in 1941. Naval History and Heritage Comand. Catalog# NH 53771.
Grayback (SS-208) photographed in 1941. (Courtesy: Naval History and Heritage Comand. Catalog# NH 53771.)

In that radio record, there is longitude and latitude of the attack, very clearly,” Mr. Iwasaki said in an interview with the New York Times. “And it did not match what was in the 1949 Navy history, not by a hundred miles.”

After sailing out on January 28, 1944, for her tenth and final combat patrol, the USS Grayback met her fate on 27 February 1944. The USS Grayback (208) suffered damage when a land-based Japanese naval aircraft attacked her in the East China Sea on Febr. 26, but sank the naval transport Ceylon Maru the next day. That same day, a Japanese carrier-based plane spotted a submarine on the surface in the East China Sea and attacked. According to Japanese reports the submarine “exploded and sank immediately,” nonetheless antisubmarine craft were called into depth-charge the area, clearly marked by a trail of air bubbles until at last a heavy oil slick swelled to the surface.

Slated to reach Midway on 7 March 1944, Grayback did not arrive as scheduled. She was listed as overdue, presumed lost, on 30 March 1944. She ranked 20th among all submarines in total tonnage sunk with 63,835 tons and 24th in the number of ships sunk with 14.

Now after 75 years, she’s finally discovered, lying 1,400 feet deep on the ocean’s floor. With her, lie the remains of 80 sailors, who went down with her. [Note: On Eternal Patrol, you can find her full crew list.]

You can learn more about Lost Project 52 here.

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