Submarine updates: USS Albacore found, SSN-23 Turns 18, U-17 Finds a Home
Lots of submarine news broke over the weekend, and all of it deserving of a pause to cover.
USS Albacore found
One of the most successful American subs of WWII, the Gato-class fleet boat USS Albacore (SS-218) was a “war baby,” having been commissioned at Electric Boat on 1 June 1942– the same week as the Battle of Midway– and quickly earning a Presidential Unit Citation and nine battle stars in her own Pacific service. This included officially sinking the highest warship tonnage of any U.S. submarine in history, chalking up the Japanese light cruiser Tenryu (3948 tons), destroyers Oshio (2408 tons) and Sazanam (2080 tons); auxiliary gunboats Heijo Maru (2677 GRT) and Choko Maru No.2 (2629 GRT); aircraft carrier Taiho (29300 tons), minesweeper Eguchi Maru No.3 (198 GRT), and submarine chaser Cha-165 (130 tons).
Tragically, Albacore disappeared on her 11th War Patrol in late 1944. As noted by DANFS:
Albacore left Pearl Harbor on 24 October, topped off her fuel tanks at Midway on 28 October, and was never heard from again. According to Japanese records captured after the war, a submarine assumed to be Albacore struck a mine very close to the shore off northeastern Hokkaido on 7 November. A Japanese patrol boat witnessed the explosion of a submerged submarine and saw a great deal of heavy oil, cork, bedding, and food supplies rise to the surface. On 21 December, Albacore was assumed to have been lost. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 30 March 1945.
Well, she has been officially marked located by the Naval History and Heritage Command, who confirmed the identity of a wreck discovered by a Japanese team last year off Hokkaidō in waters about 4 miles east of Hakodate as Albacore, based on documented modifications made to her prior to her last patrol.
NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) used information and imagery provided by Dr. Tamaki Ura, from the University of Tokyo, to confirm the identity of Albacore, which was lost at sea Nov. 7, 1944.
“As the final resting place for Sailors who gave their life in defense 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, U.S. Navy rear admiral (retired). “It is through their hard work and continued collaboration that we could confirm Albacore’s identity after being lost at sea for over 70 years.”
Japanese records originating from the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR) covering the loss of an American submarine on Nov. 7, 1944, guided Dr. Ura’s missions. The location mentioned in the records matched a separate ongoing effort by UAB volunteers to establish the location of the shipwreck.
Dr. Ura’s team collected data using a Remotely Operated Vehicle to confirm the historical data. Strong currents, marine growth, and poor visibility on site made it challenging to fully document the wreck or obtain comprehensive images. However, several key features of a late 1944 Gato-class submarine were identified in the video.
Indications of documented modifications made to Albacore prior to her final patrol such as the presence of an SJ Radar dish and mast, a row of vent holes along the top of the superstructure, and the absence of steel plates along the upper edge of the fairwater allowed UAB to confirm the wreck site finding as Albacore.
The wreck of Albacore is a U.S. sunken military craft protected by U.S. law and under the jurisdiction of NHHC. While non-intrusive activities, such as remote sensing documentation, on U.S. Navy sunken military craft is allowed, any intrusive or potentially intrusive activities must be coordinated with NHHC and if appropriate, authorized through a relevant permitting program. Most importantly, the wreck represents the final resting place of Sailors that gave their life in defense of the nation and should be respected by all parties as a war grave.
SSN-23 Turns 18
Named for the only former nuclear submarine officer (and last battleship officer) to occupy the White House, the third and final Seawolf-class attack boat, USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) celebrated the 18th anniversary of her commissioning. The much-modified boat has spent most of her career never going into places and doing things she that will never see a press release. This is evidenced from her 2017 appearance back home at Kitsap with a Jolly Roger aloft with no explanation.
Of course, the news that SSN-23s adult birthday comes as her Annapolis-educated namesake, now 98, is entering hospice care. While his record as a president may be up for debate, his naval service was not.
Mr. Carter spent almost two years of service on old school dreadnoughts (USS Wyoming and Mississippi while they were gunnery test ships), and another five on subs including earning his dolphins on USS Pomfret (SS-391), then as a plankowner for USS K-1(SSK-1), and PCU USS Seawolf (SSN-575). He also is often credited with helping to avert the first nuclear reactor meltdown during the Chalk River incident while in the service.
U-17 Finds a Home
Finally, from Germany comes the news that the Technik Museums Sinsheim Speyer is all set to receive the retired Bundsmarine Klasse 206A Uboot FGS U-17 (S-196) as a museum ship.
The tiny HDW-built 500-ton Baltic sub was commissioned in 1973 and retired in 2010 after a healthy 37-year run that included the distinction of being the first German post-war submarine to cross the Atlantic when she visited New York City for Fleet Week in 1992 along with her sister U-26.