She was lost in mysterious circumstances off the coast of Japan in late 1944. But now the wreck of the submarine USS Albacore (SS 218) has been identified.
The discovery was made by the underwater archaeology team of Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), a Washington DC-based institution tasked with preserving American naval history. The find was announced in mid-February this year.
A Gato-class submarine that served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, Albacore was constructed by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut, and commissioned on 1 June 1942 – around the time of the decisive Battle of Midway. Before being lost in late 1944, she conducted 11 war patrols and is credited with ten confirmed enemy vessel sinkings, with another three sinkings unconfirmed.
Albacore earned nine battle stars and four Presidential Unit Citations during her career, and was one of the most successful submarines against enemy combatants during the war.
Her fate, however, was mysterious until now. She was last accounted for refuelling at Midway on 28 October 1944. According to Japanese records, a submarine assumed to be Albacore struck a mine close to the shore off north-eastern Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island, on 7 November.
At the time, a Japanese patrol boat witnessed the explosion of a submerged submarine and reported a great deal of heavy oil, cork, bedding, and food supplies rising to the surface. Assumed to have been lost, the vessel had her name struck from the US Navy list on 30 March 1945.
The NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) used information provided by Dr Tamaki Ura from the University of Toyko. Ura worked with Japanese records originating from the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR) to confirm Albacore’s location.
Strong currents, marine growth, and poor visibility on site made it challenging to obtain comprehensive images of Albacore using a Remotely Operated Vehicle. However, several of the submarine’s key features, including the absence of steel plates along the upper edge of the sail, were identified.
‘As it is a final resting place for sailors who gave their lives in defence of our nation, we sincerely thank and congratulate Dr Ura and his team for their efforts in locating the wreck of Albacore,’ said NHHC Director Samuel J Cox, a retired rear admiral.