News, WW2

WW2 USS Albacore Found off the Coast of Japan

  • On 25 May 2022, Dr. Tamaki Ura found the wreck of a US submarine 7 kilometres east of Hakodate, Japan.
  • The team identified the submarine as the American USS Albacore using an ROV. 
  • After leaving Pearl Harbor, the Gato-class submarine went missing at sea on 7 November 1944.
  • Albacore was one of World War Two’s top combat submarines that sank 13 Japanese vessels.

The long-lost USS Albacore from World War Two was discovered off the coast of Esan on Hokkaido in northern Japan. The submarine is the USS Albacore and has been recognised by Naval History & Heritage Command (NHHC). 

Japan’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) used data and underground imagery from Dr. Tamaki Ura to confirm the wreck’s identity. The Gato-class submarine had gone missing at sea on 7 November 1944. 

Submarine USS Albacore

USS Albacore
The impressive USS Albacore off Mare Island in April 1944. She was the US Navies most successful submarine of WW2

Dr. Ura spearheaded the wreck-survey project using the underwater technology he developed. Initially, he went through Japan Centre for Asian Historical Records, where his team found references to the location of a missing American submarine. The site also matched a different search by UAB volunteers.

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Moreover, Dr. Ura and his team collected video data using multi-beam echo sounding. Finally, he deployed an ROV to dive into the wreck. 

Strong currents, marine growth, and poor visibility made it challenging to fully document the impact or obtain comprehensive images. However, the UAB experts identified several key features in the video.

Additionally, researchers noticed the modifications documented before Albacore’s final patrol. These were the SJ radar dish and its 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 plane that controls the depth.

The Final Patrol

On 24 October 1944, Albacore left Pearl Harbour on her final patrol. Four days later, the vessel topped up her fuel tanks at Midway but was never heard from again. However, according to Japanese records captured after the war, on 7 November 1944, a submarine assumed to be Albacore had struck a mine close to the shore off north-eastern Hokkaido. 

USS Albacore
A murky photo of the USS Albacore deep in the sea off of Japan. (USN Photo)

Reportedly, a Japanese patrol boat witnessed the explosion of the submarine. The crew reported heavy oil, cork, bedding, and food supplies rising to the surface after the blast. 

On 21 December, the US Navy assumed that Albacore was lost.

During World War Two, the US lost nearly 52 ships. Samuel J Cox, Director of NHHC, said, “The final resting place for sailors who died to defend our nation. We sincerely thank and congratulate Dr. Ura and his team for locating the wreck of Albacore.”

“Through their hard work and continued collaboration, we could confirm Albacore’s identity after being lost at sea for over 70 years.”

USS Albacore

Sponsored by Mrs. Elwin F. Cutts, USS Albacore was built by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut. The submarine was laid on 21 April 1941 and later commissioned on 1 June 1942

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The ship was 95m long, had a surface speed of 20 knots (9 knots submerged), and had a crew of 60 men. It had one 3-inch, two .50, and two .30 calibre machine guns and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.

In eleven war patrols, the submarine is credited with having sunk at least 13 Japanese vessels.

What’s more praiseworthy is that she holds the distinction of sinking the highest warship tonnage of any American submarine.

According to the Navy, six of Albacore’s targets were enemy combat ships, including two destroyers, a light cruiser, and the aircraft carrier Taiho. This feat made Albacore one of World War Two’s top combat submarines.

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It is worth noting that the submarine earned nine battle stars and four presidential unit citations for its service. 

The Closure

William Bower II,  a Missouri retired aerospace engineer, feared he would never know his father’s final resting place. So he hung on to hope for decades. Then, on Thursday, he fought back the tears as he learned about the discovery of the USS Albacore by the shore of Japan.

Bower was born nearly two months after the Albacore sank and only knew his father through photos and stories. Decades later, Dr. Ura’s work helped him receive the closure he had long waited for.