Friday, April 18, 2008

Lost hero of Gallipoli


The Australian
By Michael White
April 18, 2008

AS the terrible tragedy of the Anzacs was being played out on the beach and hills of the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915, an enthralling story of Australian daring and success was taking place in the narrows behind the peninsula in the Sea of Marmora involving the AE2 submarine.

It was Winston Churchill's plan to damage the German war effort with a surprise attack on the eastern front with Russia through Germany's Ottoman ally, Turkey. He proposed that the joint British and French fleets attack the Ottoman forts on the shores of the Dardanelles, steam up the Sea of Marmora and harass Constantinople (now Istanbul).

This did not go according to plan. The forts proved resistant to naval bombardment and the decision was made to land the army on the peninsula while the fleet stood well off. While that was happening, the AE2, under the command of Hugh Stoker, penetrated the narrows on the morning of April 25, 1915, harassed the Turkish naval vessels attacking the allied landings and secured a respite from the shelling.

It remained a little-known Gallipoli success story until the publication of Fred and Elizabeth Brenchley's book Stoker's Submarine in 2001.

The story of the AE2 begins in 1910 when the Australian government resolved to build its own navy. In addition to the flagship light battle cruiser HMAS Australia, hot debate ensued whether to include what were regarded as new-fangled submarines.

Australia bought two E class submarines and in early 1914 the AE1 and AE2 (the A designation distinguished them from the Royal Navy E class submarines) were towed halfway across the world from Britain to Australia. They arrived in Sydney on May 24, 1914, to excited public acclamation.

War was declared on August 5, 1914, and the AE1 and AE2 joined the Australian fleet to search the waters around Papua, now Papua New Guinea, for the German Pacific battle fleet. On September 4, 1914, disaster struck. While on patrol off Rabaul, the AE1 disappeared and was lost with all 35 crew. No trace has been found despite extensive searches. As it could not operate alone, AE2 was sent back to Britain to join one of the British submarine squadrons in the North Sea. It was the sole armed naval vessel escorting the second contingent of soldiers from the First Australian Imperial Force as their convoy sailed across the Indian Ocean towards war. As the ships passed through the Suez Canal in January 1915, Australian soldiers guarding the canal cheered them on.

The AE2 was diverted at Suez, along with many other ships and soldiers, to the naval attack on the Dardanelles. On February 5, 1915, the AE2 joined three British B class and two French submarines and witnessed the unsuccessful bombardment of the Ottoman forts by the big battleships and cruisers.

Several of the allied battleships were sunk or damaged by mines and return fire from the forts. Stoker and many of the AE2 crew recorded the events in their diaries.

Due in part to the incompetence of the British admirals, the failing naval attack was called off and the army brought in for landings to clear the forts. It was expected that the fleet could then sail through and complete its task of attacking Constantinople. But when the allied landing finally occurred, beginning on the morning of April 25, 1915, the German and Ottoman armies and navies were ready.

Stoker was keen to penetrate the Dardanelles. Already three submarines had been lost in that attempt, including the newly arrived E15. On April 23, Stoker was given permission to attempt the passage. He sailed in the dark on the surface as far up the Dardanelles as he could before the dawn would allow the shore gunners to see him. At first light he dived, but one of the forward hydroplanes broke and the boat became unmanageable. He surfaced and raced back to safety in the dawn light.

He returned to the depot ship for repairs and was briefed for the landings the next morning and instructed to try again.

In the early hours of April 25, 1915, as the surface ships unloaded soldiers into their boats for the invasion, the AE2 again went on the surface up the Dardanelles. At first light the first fort fired on the submarine and it dived. Almost immediately it was among mines. The crew could hear the scraping of the mine mooring wires down the side of the submarine but, thanks to the newly welded wires, they survived. It was clear weather above and every time Stoker raised the periscope the guns opened fire. All around there were explosions from the shells, making it difficult to see.

Fortunately, no shell put the periscope out of action. Stoker saw a Turkish warship to starboard, turned the AE2, ran in and fired a torpedo. The ship, the Peykisevket, was hit and, with the rudder damaged and jammed, ran up on to the beach.

A Turkish battleship was anchored in the narrows, lobbing shells across the peninsula that fell directly among the allied landings. Threatened by the presence of the AE2, the battleship left the area for safer waters, granting a respite from its shelling.

But strong and uncertain currents running through the Dardanelles, together with the primitive gyro compasses of the day, resulted in the AE2 running aground in the mud so close to Fort Anatoli Medjidieh that the gunners could not depress the guns sufficiently to blow the building apart.

Stoker had to lower the periscope as he was being blinded by gunpowder flashes. The AE2 slid astern into the deeper water and continued up the narrows, running aground on the other side.

Again the boat got off without being hit. By then, numerous destroyers, gunboats, armed fishing vessels and other craft were pursuing the AE2. They dragged grapnels and wires, fired at the raised periscope and tried to ram when the AE2 was at periscope depth. With great skill and courage from all the crew, Stoker took the AE2 deeper and navigated through the narrows. With the submarine battery almost flat, he bottomed in the Sea of Marmora. There they lay for many hours while the heat of the chase eased. When the submarine finally surfaced the air inside was so foul it barely supported the crew.

With the engines running to charge the battery and change the air, Stoker sent a signal on the newly installed Marconi wireless reporting that they had succeeded in penetrating the Dardanelles.

In allied headquarters on the British battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, general Ian Hamilton had called an emergency midnight meeting. General William Birdwood, commanding officer of the Anzacs, had signalled that they had suffered horrific casualties and were now so few, he feared they might be wiped out altogether. There was a possibility the survivors would need to be taken to the ships. When the AE2 signal was read to the meeting, the mood became more optimistic, and Hamilton sent back the famous signal to Birdwood that the AE2 had got through and all the Anzacs had to do was "dig, dig, dig" until they were safe.

Back at the submarine squadron, the next vessel, the E14, immediately sailed for the narrows knowing that, despite earlier losses, penetration could be achieved. The AE2 spent the next five days patrolling the Sea of Marmora and fired all but one of its torpedoes. There was no gun on the E class until later, so the AE2 could not surface and sink the numerous small craft by gunfire.

Thousands of Turkish soldiers and tonnes of supplies were being ferried across the Marmora to the battle on the Gallipoli peninsula. This was disrupted by the AE2 and more so after the E14 and other allied submarines arrived in the Marmora.

After the E14 arrived through the narrows into the Marmora, the two submarines rendezvoused south of Marmora Island on April 29. They arranged a further meeting the next day and spent the night charging batteries and getting some sleep. The next day, at the rendezvous, the AE2 was attacked by the Ottoman gunboat Sultanhissar. The AE2 hit a patch of cold, dense water, lost depth and broke surface. The gunboat achieved a hit on the pressure hull. Diving was impossible so Stoker ordered the signal books destroyed and the crew to abandon ship. He and his first lieutenant, Arthur Haggard, scuttled the submarine. They only just got out before it sank and became the first Australian naval vessel to be lost in battle.

On seeing the AE2 abandoned, the Sultanhissar stopped firing and rescued the crew. They spent 3 1/2 miserable years in a prisoner of war camp where four of the crew died.

For 82 years the AE2 rested on the seabed in the Sea of Marmora. Efforts were made to find it and in 1997 Turkish maritime historian, diver and museum director Selcuk Kolay discovered a submarine in 72m of water. A joint Turkish and Australian team, including Mark Spencer, marine archeologist Tim Smith and diver John Riley, joined Turkish colleagues and, amid much rejoicing, their dives confirmed that it was indeed the AE2. Unlike the AE1 and HMAS Sydney, the AE2 is not a war grave, as the crew escaped.

Another joint Australian and Turkish team surveyed the submarine last year and found it in reasonable shape. Dragged anchors and nets from fishing trawlers had damaged some of the casing but the control room was as the crew had left it in 1915.

Another joint Australian and Turkish workshop is to be held the weekend after Anzac Day in Istanbul to discuss what to do with the AE2. Defence ministers from both countries will attend with defence chiefs.

Raising the AE2 would be expensive and technically challenging, but it is hoped a resolution will be reached before the centenary commemorations in Turkey in 2015.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

WW II Japanese Midget Submarine Donated To Park


National Parks Gallery
April 17, 2008

The park has acquired a very rare Type C Japanese midget submarine from World War II and placed it on display in front of its visitor center on Guam. The submarine was donated to the park by the U.S. Navy.

In August, 1944, a Ko-Hyoteki (Target A) Hei Gata (Type C ) Japanese midget submarine ran aground off the southeastern coast of Guam. The submarine was crewed by two Japanese soldiers, who held off American troops ashore for three days prior to surrendering. The submarine was then internally gutted and placed on exhibit at Camp Dealy on Toghca Bay, Guam, by the United States Navy’s 103rd Construction Battalion.

The Type C class was equipped with a diesel generator to recharge its batteries and for use in running on the surface. Built in three sections of 5mm to 8mm thick welded steel with rivets added for extra strength in the fore and aft sections, the submarine is just over 80 feet long. The forward section contained two bow-mounted 17.7-inch torpedoes in tubes. In the center section was the conning tower and the stations for the two-man crew. Fore and aft of the conning tower were the batteries, while the aft section held the motor and the reduction gear.

The submarines were carried by either Chitose class seaplane tenders or C1 type submarines. They had a displacement of 46 – 49 tons submerged and had a range that varied, but was not thought to exceed 300 miles. Most craft were launched very close to their targets. Few crewmembers were expected to return safely.
It’s believed that 47 subs of this type were built before the end of the war, but only 15 saw action during World War II. The fate of eight of the submarines is known, while the boat recently donated to the NPS is one of seven that have remained unaccounted for since the war.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What to Do with Hitler's Submarine Bunker?


By Michael Fröhlingsdorf
April 16, 2008

The submarine bunker is gigantic -- and expensive. A World War II-era military facility is slowly succumbing to the elements, and nobody seems willing to pay for its upkeep. In fact, the German armed forces has offered it up for sale.

By far the largest object in the rather odd real estate catalogue carries the number 220039 on the Web site of Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr. It is nestled about midway down the long list of property bargains, part of the Bundeswehr's project of shutting down hundreds of unneeded facilities. One can make offers on storage tanks, training camps, barracks and former weapons depots.

But number 220039 is different. The "Materiel Depot Wilhelmshaven -- TE Bremen" is a dark gray cement colossus -- 426 meters (1,398 feet) long, 97 meters wide and 25 meters high. The ceilings are up to 7 meters thick. Indeed, the structure is so cavernous that even an institution as large as the German armed forces is only able to occupy a third of it. The rest lies empty -- as it has since the end of World War II.

The structure is left over from one of the most megalomaniacal projects of Adolf Hitler's Nazi dictatorship: the submarine bunker named "Valentin." Some 12,000 prisoners of war, concentration camp inmates and forced laborers constructed the bomb-proof submarine factory from 1943 to 1945. An estimated 4,000 of the slave workers didn't survive to see the project's completion.

Excesses of the Nazis

Now the military wants to get rid of the site, and the current search for a buyer has become Exhibit A in an absurd dispute between the state of Bremen and the federal government in Berlin. For months, the two sides have quarrelled over whose budget should pay for expensive maintenance work and upkeep.

But all sides agree that the landmark should be saved. It is a unique memorial to both Nazi inhumanity and the technocratic future envisioned by Hitler's dictatorship.

Since the mid-1960s, the bunker has been used by the German military as cheap storage. Nowadays, though, the facility is spooky in its emptiness. Just six soldiers and 24 civilians are responsible for guarding the mostly empty space. The only life comes from the 10,000 annual visitors who file through its echoing halls.

But such limited use is hardly efficient. Each year, the facility costs taxpayers an estimated €700,000 ($1.1 million) to €800,000. "And that is only for the most necessary of expenses," says Wolfgang zu Putlitz, who is in charge of the facility.

The results are clear to all: Unused parts of the bunker are crumbling and can no longer be visited. Signs warn that bits of the ceiling may fall. German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung says he is aware of the bunker's "unique importance." But, he goes on, the German military is not in the business of maintaining historical monuments.

Waiting for a Buyer

The Finance Ministry, which is normally responsible for federally owned properties, likewise denies authority. The bunker, says Ministry deputy Karl Diller, still belongs to the military after all. And in any case, he adds, it should be Bremen's responsibility -- states, he points out, have jurisdiction for cultural sites like memorials.

Bremen, though, is not exactly swimming in extra money. The city(which has the status of a state) has no desire to cough up for the World War II facility. "The bunker belongs to the federal government," says Bremen Mayor Jens Böhrnsen, "and for financial and ethical reasons it should not be sold."

The mayor says his city-state would have no problem contributing to the development of a concept for the memorial site. But Bremen, he says, simply can't afford the site's restoration and maintenance.

The only possible savior for the site is Federal Commissioner for Culture Bernd Neumann. He is, as it happens, also head of Bremen's Christian Democratic Union party and is currently in negotiations with all German states to create a nationwide framework for sites of commemoration. But Valentin has so far not been made a talking point.

On Tuesday, Mayor Böhrnsen visited the bunker together with his cabinet in order to raise awareness of the site's deteriorating condition and provide symbolic support for its conversion into a memorial site. But so far, no one has come forward with the money. And article number 220039 continues to wait for a buyer.


DDA eyeing Navy submarine for museum


The Times of India
April 16, 2008

NEW DELHI: So what if the Capital is thousands of miles away from the sea? If the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has its way, Delhiites will soon have an added attraction on their must-see list in the form of a submarine. The Indian Navy has offered DDA one of the two Russian-made Foxtrot submarines it plans to decommission soon. The idea is to use the mammoth seacraft - 92 metres in length - to create a submarine museum which will be an educational and tourist attraction in the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Having decided in principle to accept the Navy's offer, DDA is now working on the modalities of who would bear the cost of transporting the submarine from its present base in Vishakhapatnam. A DDA team recently visited the southern port town where the country's first submarine museum was set up by the development authority there. The museum today is a major tourist attraction and boasts of a decommissioned submarine. The idea is that instead of letting decommissioned submarines rot as scrap, it is better to use them for educational purposes.

DDA's director public relations Neemo Dhar told TOI that in principle DDA has decided to opt for the offer. "But first we want to work out the modalities of bringing the submarine to Delhi and the cost involved. Also the location where the craft will be placed too has to be finalised," Dhar said.

According to senior officials, DDA has carried out inspections of various green spaces under its purview like the Millennium Park, the Swarn Jayanti Park in Rohini and another location in Dwarka but as of now a large open space near the Delhi-Noida-Delhi flyover has emerged as a plausible option for setting up the mega museum. The location has another plus to its credit as it falls along the route of the yet to be built elevated road over the Barapulla drain, connecting the Games Village to the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium. If the submarine is located in the open space along this route then it will be visible to players who will use the stretch during the 2010 Games.

In the proposed museum, visitors will be introduced to the internal mechanisms of a submarine and it is likely that officials from the Navy will themselves be stationed there to impart technical information.

The Indian Navy acquired eight Foxtrot submarines between 1964 and 1974. Six of them have already been decommissioned. As of now the Navy has two of these sea crafts - INS Vela and INS Vagli - which are functional. One of these is likely to be decommissioned soon and would be the one to be handed over to the DDA for the museum. These submarines cost around Rs 75 crore and require a crew of 75, led by eight Naval officials.

The Indian Navy has 16 submarines as of now. These include 10 kilo class Russian submarines, four HDW submarines from Germany and two Foxtrot submarines.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Tonight's submarine talk dives into history


The Plainville Citizen
April 14, 2008

"David Bushnell's ‘Infernal Machine'" will be the subject of an illustrated talk at the Plainville Historic Center, 29 Pierce St., tonight, April 15, at 7 p.m. Bushnell, of Saybrook, invented the world's first fully operational submarine, the American Turtle, at the time of the American Revolution. The event is being sponsored by the Plainville Historical Society.

Brenda Milkofsky, senior curator of the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, will present the history of the original submarine that was used in the New York City harbor against the flagship of the British Navy, its subsequent missions, and the 20th century development and preservation of Bushnell's life story. A mystery surrounds the final disposition of the underwater craft and Milkofsky will talk about ongoing research, new interpretations and future projects related to what the British called an "infernal machine."

The Connecticut River Museum, which owns the only working, full-scale model of Bushnell's 1776 invention, provided the following information about the American Turtle.

This first submarine ever to be used in combat was actually constructed as an afterthought. Bushnell and fellow Yale University intellectual, Phineas Pratt, had conceived of the underwater bomb with a time-delayed flintlock detonator. The one-man, hand-propelled submarine was designed simply to transport the bomb to the enemy vessel.

The American Turtle was successfully launched in the dark of night on Sept. 6, 1776 against the British flagship, HMS Eagle, a 64-gun frigate moored in New York harbor off of the island now occupied by the Statue of Liberty. The Turtle had undergone extensive test trials in the safe colonial waters of the Connecticut River off Old Saybrook, piloted by the inventor's brother Ezra Bushnell. Unfortunately, on the eve of the submarine's first combat mission, Ezra Bushnell was, according to one version of the story, taken ill and unable participate.

With a freshly recruited, but less-practiced pilot, Ezra Lee, of Old Lyme, the American Turtle made its way underwater to the rudder of the Eagle's hull. Unfortunately, Lee first struck metal rather than wood with the screw intended to attach the bomb to the enemy's hull. After a second failed attempt, Lee propelled the American Turtle away, only to be observed and chased. The bomb was released into the water and resulted in a frightening explosion. While the American Turtle failed to destroy its target, the British recognized the threat and moved the fleet. Weather problems, and other operating difficulties prevented a successful attack by the submarine before it was scuttled by the British while being transported.

The model on exhibit at the Connecticut River Museum was designed by Joseph Leary and built by Fred Frese in 1976 as a U.S. bicentennial project. Christened by Gov. Ella Grasso and launched in the Connecticut River, the model was tested for its maneuverability and submersible ability. This demonstrated for modern viewers that the submarine worked as intended and confirmed the ingenuity of early American inventor David Bushnell. Last November, a second reproduction built by students of Old Saybrook High School was also launched at the museum.

Milkofsky, who is the past director of Wethersfield Museum and Historical Society, is a consultant to several Connecticut museums, as well as the Merchant Marine Museum at King's Point, N.Y. She has written and lectured widely on river valley topics.

A $2 donation for the historical society is suggested at the lecture.

For more information, call the historic center at (860) 747-6577. For more information about the Connecticut River Museum, call (860) 767-8269 or visit the Web site


Sunday, April 13, 2008

129 victims remembered


The Boston Globe
By Maria Sacchetti
April 13, 2008

The nuclear submarine USS Thresher sank 45 years ago off Cape Cod

KITTERY, Maine - On a dark night in April 1963, Fernley Wagner's Navy buddies awakened him in his bunk. The USS Thresher, the submarine he had left months earlier in Maine, was in trouble - with 129 men aboard.

more stories like thisHe knew those men - Pappy, Heiser, Tilly, the five Johnsons, and the rest. For months he ate with them, slept with them, tipped back beer with them. They were on the Navy's finest submarine, the fastest, deepest-diving vessel in the world.

He shook his head.

"I said they should be all right. Don't worry about it," he recalled yesterday. "They'll bring that boat back up."

He paused, his eyes cloudy. "Well," he said, "they didn't."

Forty-five years have passed since the nuclear submarine sank and shattered at the bottom of the sea, more than 100 miles off Cape Cod, stunning the Navy and devastating a tight-knit community at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery. Yesterday, 300 survivors, naval officers, and others gathered for a memorial service to remember those lost in one of the Navy's worst disasters and the safety measures that followed to prevent calamities.

Fifteen of the men in the crowd yesterday - their hair white, their hearing less than it used to be - were among the former crew who were transferred off the ship weeks or months before the disaster. Now they are symbols of what might have been and storytellers who can connect dozens of now-middle-age children to the fading memories of their fathers.

The Thresher was a sleek "hunter-killer" submarine built to pinpoint and destroy Soviet ships during the throes of the Cold War. In Portsmouth, it was a point of pride.

To the wives, sons, and daughters of the Thresher seamen, it was also the job that separated them for months at a time. They were proud but missed them.

Tilmon Arsenault's daughter Lori recalled yesterday how her father taught her to play the organ and to love music. Michael Lyman remembered how his father, John, the ship's engineering officer, umpired his baseball games, even though he was exhausted from work on the sub.

At work, the men were a serious but fun-loving. They played pranks like putting shaving cream on a guy's hands when he slept and tickling his nose so he would cover his face with the stuff. On their off hours, they sometimes hit the beach with families and friends.

On April 9, 1963, the Thresher left the shipyard in Kittery for three days of testing. It was supposed to be a short trip. Back home, families made plans. The Lymans eagerly hoped for news that their father would be assigned to Hawaii.

John Riemenschneider, a Navy seaman, gloated that he had won a $2 bet with his best friend, Jack Hudson. Hudson had gambled that Riemenschneider would be on the Thresher for the journey. But Riemenschneider had left the crew 18 days before.

"It was the first trip it ever made without me," he said yesterday.

more stories like thisOn April 10, 1963, the television news started reporting that a submarine was in trouble. Despite frantic efforts on board, the ship was unable to surface. It sank and broke apart, crushed by water pressure.

The news ripped through the Naval community. In shock, parents, wives, and children searched for answers.

Days after the disaster, at his wife's urging, Wagner visited the parents of his friend Laird Heiser in Pennsylvania. He was reluctant to go, unsure whether he could bear it.

Heiser's mother served cookies and coffee, and both parents peppered him with questions. Most of all, they wanted to know whether he thought their son had suffered.

"He did not suffer," he told Heiser's parents. "It was that quick."

Wagner was 29 then.

Yesterday, at 74, he and other former crew members still offered comfort, with their stories, to the children and relatives of survivors who had traveled from as far away as Seattle and Florida to attend the service.

Riemenschneider said he would get phone calls from children asking about their fathers. He searches his memory and tells them everything he knows - and how their loss ultimately helped others, like the young submarine students who attended the service yesterday.

Mike Lyman, a captain in the US Public Health Service, said he was moved when one of his father's former employees said he admired his father for always keeping a clear head, never getting angry or rattled. "It was extraordinarily meaningful," he said. Mike Lyman is 54; his father was 31 when he died.

The Navy concluded that electrical problems caused by a hole in a pipe triggered the disaster, according to news accounts. Yesterday officials said the Navy made changes as a result of the calamity that surely prevented future losses.

"If they had kept building them the way they were the would have lost some more," said Riemenschneider.

The mourners listened to speeches and shared condolences. They read each name and rang a bell after it. Tissues were pulled out of pockets and tears wiped away. Men stood stock-straight and sailors in dress blues saluted.

Then, as the afternoon fog crept in, the group gathered on a grassy hill across the river from the shipyard. A relative of one of the men lost placed a flowery wreath on the water. An easterly wind and incoming tide pushed the wreath into the bay, past the families.

When the tides change, they said, the flowers will head out to the Atlantic, out of reach.


Friday, April 11, 2008

'Sub-committee' on WW 2 U-Boat


Derry Journal
April 11, 2008

An all-party working group is to be established by Derry City Council to assist plans to raise a World War Two U-Boat from the sea bed off the coast of Malin Head.

SDLP Councillor Shaun Gallagher has been working on the project for the last twelve months but it was decided at this week's meeting of the council's delevopment committee to establish a group to speed up the project.

SDLP Councillor Sean Carr said he hoped to see the U-Boat brought to the surface as soon as possible. "Councillor Gallagher has done a lot of good work on this project but I think we should formalise that work and give him some assistance. It is a very worthwhile project and hopefully with cross party support we can speed it up," he said.

DUP Alderman Joe Miller quipped that the working party should be called a "sub-committee."


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

WWII sub mystery revealed at Norwich


Burlington Free Press
By Sam Hemingway
April 09, 2008

NORTHFIELD -- Bruce Abele, 78, stepped toward the big screen in the darkened lecture hall at Norwich University and reached out toward the watery image of a damaged submarine hatch door.

"That's very important," he told the class of 175 cadets and midshipmen, pointing to a set of arrows and the words "To Lock" on the encrusted hatch door wheel.

The class leaned forward to see what Abele was seeing.

"That proves this was not a Japanese sub," Abele said.

The tiny lettering in English, embossed on the hatch wheel of a sunken submarine 3,000 feet below the surface of the North Pacific Ocean near the Aleutian Islands, was a very big deal to Abele and his two brothers, Brad and John Abele.

It meant their search for the USS Grunion, a 312-foot attack submarine that went missing on its maiden voyage in 1942, was over.

After 65 years, they finally knew what had happened to their father, Mannett "Jim" Abele, the submarine's skipper, and the 69 sailors under his command.

"Emotions are hard to describe with words," Bruce Abele said of what it felt like to finally learn the location of the submarine his father had commanded. "It was sort of like throwing a pin at the moon."

Now, he said, comes the even harder part: determining what caused the submarine to go down.

"We haven't solved that at all," he said.

One theory, Abele told his rapt audience Tuesday, is that artillery fire from the Kano Maru, a nearby Japanese merchant vessel, hit the Grunion's periscope and disabled its sonar, locking the submarine into a fatal dive to the bottom of the ocean.

Another is that one of the torpedoes the Grunion fired at the Kano Maru circled around and struck the submarine.

The question of what happened to the Grunion is a lingering World War II naval mystery. The ship had sunk three Japanese destroyers on its first trip out of Pearl Harbor in the summer of 1942.

On July 30, it reported that it was under heavy anti-submarine fire but still had 10 torpedoes left to deploy. An American sub base at Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians ordered the Grunion to return to the base, but no one knows whether the vessel got the message.

The Navy had no clue what had happened to the Grunion and still doesn't. Even now, it won't confirm that what the Abele search found is the Grunion, although no other allied submarine was lost in the area where the wreck was located.

For years, the search by the Abele brothers for their father's ship had gone nowhere. The break came in 2002, when the family was told about an Internet posting of a report by a Japanese man, Yutaka Iwasaki.

Iwasaki's posting was a translated account from a Kano Maru ship member who described a battle with an American submarine in the area where the Grunion disappeared. After four years of research into the information provided by Iwasaki, the Abeles felt they finally could pinpoint the location of the sunken sub.

John Abele, who owns a home in Shelburne and is co-founder of Boston Scientific, a medical device company, agreed to fund the expensive exploration that led to the discovery of what they thought was the Grunion in 2006, and confirmation of the wreck in 2007.

Last year, John Abele spoke to the same class at Norwich about the Grunion case. Tuesday's appearance by Bruce Abele, who lives in Newton, Mass., was both a promised follow-up report on the matter and an appeal to the students to help solve the puzzle of why the sub sunk.

"What's made this project so remarkable is that people all over the world have collaborated on it without any formal direction," Bruce Abele said.

Tuesday's presentation at Norwich, which included never-before-seen video of the wreck taken by the underwater remote vehicle, will be repeated at the Museum of Science in Boston on May 1.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Ex-sailor wins fight to have submarine he sank declared a war grave


The Scotsman
By Gerri Peev
April 08, 2008

AS A teenage navy seaman, four hours into his maiden voyage, he fired the depth-charge that sank a German U-boat off the coast of Scotland.

Yesterday, Roger Williams quietly honoured the lives of the 50 men who lost their lives as his campaign to have the wreck declared a protected war grave was finally won.

The U-boat U-714, which went down eight miles off St Abb's Head, Berwickshire, on 14 March, 1945, is one of ten sites to be given protected status by the Ministry of Defence, it was announced yesterday.

Mr Williams struck up a friendship with Axel Schwebcke, the son of the 27-year-old skipper of the U-714, and the two began their campaign. Mr Schwebcke, a retired journalist who is now 64, met his father, Hans-Joachim, only once.

Yesterday, Mr Williams said his fight to see the site designated a military grave was not about guilt, and he insisted: "We have respect for seamen of all nations; that is part of the brotherhood of the sea."

He was just 18 when the South African frigate Natal fired on the German sub, during the final weeks of the Second World War.

Both Mr Williams and the ship were on their first voyage, setting off from Newcastle upon Tyne where the vessel had been built, when they received a distress signal from the Danish ship Magne.

Speaking to The Scotsman from his home in Cape Town, Mr Williams recalled: "As we passed the Firth of Forth, a Danish merchant ship was torpedoed and sank. We were just five miles away, so we went at full speed to rescue the crew.

"We found some survivors bobbing in the life rafts," he went on. "While we were rescuing them, we picked up a very positive underwater signal."

The radar signal was from U-714 and the depth-charge mortar team wasted no time in firing their weapon, sending the submarine to the seabed. Mr Williams said: "It was billed as a feat unique in the annals of naval history, and it still is."

But he insisted there was no sense of euphoria at the time, as the crew were aware "we could have been the ones being torpedoed".

Mr Schwebcke is coming to Scotland next month to pay his last respects at the site where his father perished. But his mother, who is in her eighties and never remarried, will not be making the trip.

Stevie Adams, from South Queensferry Sub Aqua Club, along with divers from Marinequest, discovered the wreck nearly 18 months ago. He has kept the GPS co-ordinates of the sitesecret, as he is anxious the site is not disturbed by looters, not least because the boat's pressure hull is still sealed, meaning the remains of the crew are probably lying there.

He said: "This protected status is great, because it does mean that people are told they can look but not touch anything at the site."

Derek Twigg, the defence minister, said he was pleased to be able to extend protection to the ten wreck sites, which will come into force on 1 May.

He said: "I hope this will be of some comfort to the families of those who lost their lives on board these ships."

The other sites include the Atlantic Conveyor container ship sunk by the Argentines during the Falklands War, the HMS Curacao, a cruiser sunk in the Atlantic during the Second World War with the loss of 338 men, and HMS Amphion, which was the first British warship to be lost in the First World War.