Monday, September 24, 2007

Saga of a lost sub


The Reporter
By Jennifer Gentile
September 24, 2007

Deepsea clue helps sister get closure

The telegram relayed the news every serviceman's family dreads - a beloved brother, son and friend was missing in military action and likely never to be seen again.

Now 93 years old, Lenore Gearhart of Vacaville recalls receiving such a document after her brother's submarine, the USS Grunion, was reported missing in the summer of 1942, at the height of World War II.

"The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that ... Seaman Second Class Lawrence Dale Deaton, U.S. Navy, born in Ames, Iowa, on Feb. 8, 1920, is missing in the performance of his duty and the service of his country," the somber message explained. "The department appreciates your anxiety, but details are not now available.

Gearhart remembers her reaction with clarity - even more than six decades later.

"It was shock, sorrow, grief; I almost had a nervous breakdown," she recalled. "War is a terrible thing anyway, and then to lose someone, it's worse."

The telegram came directly to Gearhart, then in her mid-20s and living in Vacaville with her husband, which left her with the unenviable task of sharing it with family members and others close to her brother.

"We were afraid to tell my mom because she had a bad heart," she said. While her mother took the news better than expected, Gearhart said, "My dad never recovered. He went downhill after that."

For 65 years, Deaton's family and those of about 70 other sailors were in the dark about the Grunion's disappearance.

Named after a family of fish native to the West Coast, the submarine was commissioned in April 1942. According to the Naval Historical Center, the Grunion rescued 16 survivors of the U.S. Army Transport Jack, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat, before continuing on to Hawaii and ultimately Alaska's Aleutian Islands.

After reporting Japanese anti-submarine activity near Kiska in July, 1942, and being ordered to return to the base at Dutch Harbor, the Grunion was never heard from again. Her fate remained a maritime mystery - until recently.

Since a search began in August of 2006, sonar technology revealed a wreck beneath the waters of the North Pacific. The location of the find, at the tip of the Aleutian chain and in the vicinity of three Japanese wrecks, is consistent with the probable resting place of the Grunion.

The Abele brothers, whose father was commander of the ill-fated sub, mounted the search. The story of their quest aired in a segment last week on the NBC's Today Show and is thoroughly documented online at

Based in Massachusetts, Bruce Abele said the project owes much to Navy buff and interpreter Yutaka Iwasaki, who found and translated an article in an obscure maritime magazine describing a confrontation between the sub and a Japanese cargo ship.

"It gave us a viable hypothesis for what happened," Abele said, "More importantly, it gave us a location." Armed with more than three hours of high-quality footage and hundreds of photographs, Abele said, "now we're in the process of putting this together in such a way that we can get some ex-submariners to take a look and try to figure out what happened to the sub."

He estimates that about 25 feet of the bow is gone from the Grunion, which is in a generally sorry state.

"To our surprise, it's been crushed pretty badly," he said. "We expected it to be intact."

Explaining how sure he is that he found his father's lost charge, Abele joked, "I'm not 100 percent certain the sun is going to rise in the east, but its roughly equivalent to that." Aside from the wreck's location, Abele said further proof of its identity are the presence of prop guards like those on the missing sub.

According to the Web site devoted to the search, the tale has also piqued the interest of the History Channel, National Geographic, Reader's Digest and numerous other venues.

While the Abele brothers combed the sea for answers, a trio of women calling themselves "The Sub Ladies" conducted a search of its own. The group, composed of Mary Bentz of Bethesda, Md., Rhonda Raye of Cartersville, Ga., and Vickie Rodgers of Mayfield, Ky., each of whom had lost a relative in the tragedy, set about finding the families of all of the Grunion's crew members.

"We're three women who've never met each other and live in different parts of the United States," Bentz said. "It's been a wonderful experience."

Describing the devastating effect the loss of her uncle, Carmine Anthony Parziale, had on her family, Bentz said, "The Grunion went down two years before I was born, but I've known about it all my life. My father would mention him and he would get emotional about it - the same as his siblings." Bentz added that her grandmother, on her death bed, said, "The fish ate my son."

Bentz and her partners reached out to other Grunion families by any means available - including newspapers and radio talk shows.

"It was something my dad would have wanted me to do," she said. "But it was not very long into this project that these men became alive to all of us. All of them are our family."

The "Sub Ladies" located Gearhart via an e-mail from her grandson, Bentz said. One of Gearhart's grandsons served in the Coast Guard, and was well apprised of his family's connection to the Grunion.

When he ventured into the frigid waters off the Alaskan coast, "he'd say, 'I've got a great uncle down there," according to his grandmother.

Gearhart's brother had been married about a year when he disappeared, and his wife had moved back in with her family when he shipped out. Only 22 when he died, Deaton left no children behind.

"At first, I just couldn't get it off my mind; it was hard to take," Gearhart acknowledged, adding, "He was a great person. We were just broken-hearted when he was lost; everybody liked him."

However, at least in Gearhart's case, there is truth to the axiom "Time heals all wounds."

"You get over grief," she said. "I don't feel the real deep sorrow that I used to."

For Bentz and others, the Abele brothers' discovery has afforded them some measure of peace.

"People tell me they're getting sympathy cards, Mass cards ... ," she said. "It's closure - now we know what happened."


Friday, September 21, 2007

Why raise "U" boat 778?


Derry Journal
By Malcolm Tattersall
September 21, 2007

Having read the article on the City Council's ambitious plan to raise a W/W2 German "U" Boat No 778 from the seabed to display it as a static exhibit in the City I feel I must ask why?

It would seem that this submarine has NO links with the city and didn't even surrender in the city. However, this huge project and its vast cost would make more sense if it where a British submarine that was based in the city attached to the former Naval Base HMS Sea Eagle.

There is no denying that the city was an important command post for British Naval Forces during W/W2 and beyond. But perhaps the council should, before committing itself and vast amounts of public money to this project, consider the following:

• Is this project going to provide long term employment for local people?

• Will it be used as an educational tool by allowing people to see the conditions that these submariners lived in?

• Will people be allowed walk onboard including the inside of the vessel?

• Will this vessel give people who visit it the chance to operate some of its machinery?

• Can this vessel provide exhibition space for Community and Business based projects?

• Will this project help to attract investment within the City from outside Big Businesses?

• Could this project help to raise the profile of the City as an International City of the future?

• Can this project raise the numbers of tourists to the City and thus, increase the tourist industry that exists within it?

I am afraid the answer is a resounding NO!!

So would it not make more financial and economic sense for the council to support a project that not only promotes the Cities Maritime Heritage as a Military Port but can also fulfil ALL of the above? A project that involves the restoration of a vessel that was actually based in the City and that during her time there provided local people with jobs?

There is such a project one that ALL councillors are aware of, a project that the council have already stated they would be prepared to support in principle. It is the project to restore the former landing ship tank, HMS Stalker 3515, locally known by those who remember her as HMS Never Budge or 3515 London Road.

I would therefore, urge the council to 'Fully support' this project to restore this vessel and use a project that can bring a community together as a "Common Ground" project, a project that has more to offer the cities communities and their residents than a "Static" exhibit that nobody will be able to use of even walk round!

Malcolm Tattersall (Chairman)
Maritime Steam Restoration Trust
39 Fairfield
West Yorkshire


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

U-boat dive postponed


Derry Journal
September 19, 2007

An exploratory 70 metre dive to the site of an unique U-boat off the coast of Donegal was postponed this week due to bad weather.

The dive has been re-scheduled for Tuesday, October 2, providing the skilled divers get the right weather on the day.

The U-boat, which sank while it was being towed to Derry from Scotland, is considered to be unique as it is fully intact.

The aim is to make the U-boat a permanent fixture at a new maritime
museum in the city and is potentially a huge tourist attraction for anyone interested in the Battle of the Atlantic.

The divers were due to film the U-boat and forward the footage to experts who will consider whether it will be viable to raise it.

Geoff Millar from Dive North West, who is leading the dive team to film U-boat 778 off the coast of Malin Head, said the weather this week made the dive too dangerous.

Speaking to the Journal yesterday he said: "We couldn't have gone out in the water as the waves were crashing over the top of the pier. This morning it is calm enough but the wind is due to pick up later on and we just couldn't take the chance."

"We have had to sit down and work out the tides, as we need slack water to do the dive. We can only go on the tides and because of that October 2 is the next possible date."

"We had everything ready to go on Monday - all the dive and film equipment and the divers were assembled. It just means that the next time round we don't have to prepare."

"The only thing that could hold us back is the weather, otherwise we will be going for it."


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dive To Film U-Boat Off Donegal Coast Confirmed


Highland Radio
September 13, 2007

It's been confirmed today that a specialist dive will be conducted early next week to film a submarine from the Second World War sunk off the coast of Malin Head.

The Dive is part of proposals to raise the German U-Boat, which was scuttled intact at the end of the war at a depth of 70 metres 16 miles off the Coast of Malin Head.

The idea to raise the submarine was first proposed on Highland Radio and has now achieved international backing.

It's hoped the U-Boat can become a major tourism attraction for the North West and a memorial to the thousands of people killed in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Looking beneath the surface of the Gallipoli campaign


ABC News
September 11, 2007

Most Australians know about the Anzac campaign on the beaches of Gallipoli in 1915.

But what is sunk beneath the surface of our memories is the historic role played by a submarine, HMAS AE2.

For five days, the submarine disrupted Turkish supply lines before it was damaged by enemy fire and had to be scuttled in the Sea of Marmara.

Now 92 years on, an underwater survey has been launched, involving Australian scientists, historians, and a lot of technology, including a remotely operated camera.

This plunge into the past will help determine the wreck's future.

The AE2 was the first Allied submarine to penetrate the Dardanelles. Two previous attempts by two other submarines had resulted in their destruction, so AE2 was going into a very risky situation.

Not only were there minefields blocking the entrance to the Narrows, but there was also a large current flowing out from the Sea of Marmara.

Nevertheless, in following his instructions to create a diversion as the Australian soldiers were landing at Anzac Cove, Lieutenant-Commander Henry Stoker exposed himself in the Narrows, drew the fire of forts along the coastline, and torpedoed a Turkish ship.

The expedition's director of operations, Terry Roach, told Lateline that the AE2 led the way for "the first successful submarine campaign in history in which a series of 15 patrols by British and French submarines sank over 230 Ottoman [Turkish] ships, and completely cut the supply lines of the Ottoman forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula.".

Mr Roach says the AE2 was sunk after buoyancy problems.

"It surfaced inadvertently in front of a Turkish gunboat, and the Ottoman gunboat put three 37-millimetre shells into the engine room," he said.

"So the captain ordered abandon ship, and scuttled the submarine to prevent it falling into enemy hands.

"The crew all got out and they were rescued by the Turkish gunboat, and spent the rest of the war in captivity."

The dive survey will assess the structural integrity of the AE2's hull, so that a recommendation can be made to the Turkish and Australian governments on the future management of the wreck.

Mr Roach says there are a range of options open.

"They range from doing nothing, which is obviously highly unlikely, to a full-scale recovery," he said.

"But if it is a full-scale recovery, it will have to be carefully preserved ashore because the submarine, once it's exposed to the air, will start corroding very rapidly, much more rapidly than it has in the last 92 years at the bottom of the ocean."

The survey team has been diving for two days, and Mr Roach says the team has captured some excellent footage of the wreck.

"It still has the classic shape. I regret to say that since the last expedition in 1998, which identified it, there's been that significant damage to the casing of the submarine," he said.

"This is the superstructure which provides streamlining of the apparatus that is on outside the pressure hull.

"Fishing nets have obviously dragged at the casing and dislodged some of it, and it is markedly different from what it was before."

Mr Roach says the expedition is pivotal to raising consciousness of a little-known chapter in Australian history.

"We want all Australians to be aware of the exploits of AE2," he said.

"We would like to think that it's a tale that could rival the heroism of Simpson and his donkey, the exploits of AE2 and the crew in penetrating the Narrows and starting this campaign."


Friday, September 07, 2007

Local divers team up to salvage an old submarine museum


September 07, 2007

A Rhode Island submarine museum has been closed since April after it sunk during a Nor'easter. Army divers from Fort Eustis and Navy divers from Little Creek are attempting to salvage the sub. About 30 of them teamed up with a group of engineers to figure out how they can get the sub back to the surface.

It was once called a "shining star" in the city of Providence, but now The "Russian Submarine Museum" sits in the mud, 30 feet below Narragansett Bay.

Army and Navy divers say attempting to salvage the sub is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Peter Sharpe is one of 13 divers based out of Little Creek working to first stabilize the sub. He says, "The worst case scenario is it rolls on it's side or it rolls upside and then it's nearly impossible for you to refloat it."

Divers are using metal cables to anchor the sub, they'll then drain it next summer and finally bring it to the surface. But, "there's virtually no hope of that boat ever being a museum again," says Sharpe. "With all of the marine growth and organic material you wouldn't be able to go on a tour unless you were wearing a self contained breathing device."

Still everyone agrees salvaging the sub is not a wasted effort. They say divers can learn valuable skills that they can apply to a vast array of diving operations. It's good for both the military and those working to restore it.

The sub is tentatively set to be brought up next May. There's been some talk about using parts of the submarine as a static display, but divers say they won't know it's exact condition until it's raised and inspected.