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First underwater photos come back from what may be Newton commander's lost WWII submarine

Posted by Ralph Ranalli August 24, 2007 02:35 PM

A historic image of the USS Grunion taken during its launch. Note the propeller guard visible above the waterline at the stern.
(Image courtesy of www.ussgrunion.com)

A photo taken by a deep-diving robot submarine yesterday of the stern of a sunken submarine. The configuration of the sunken sub's propeller guard, together with historic records, has convinced the sons of Commander Mannert L. "Jim" Abele that they have at last found their father's submarine.


The USS Grunion disappeared in July 1942, leaving 70 American families grieving and the three sons of skipper Mannert L. "Jim" Abele, a Newton native, without a father. Abele's boys, ages 5, 9, and 12 when their father disappeared, grew up and built their own lives, but they never forgot him.

For years, the sons Bruce, Brad, and John, pored over Navy documents, any shipping records of the area they could locate, and contacted others interested in the Grunion's fate. John Abele, the billionaire founder of Boston Scientific Corp., has paid for much of the search.

Yesterday, those sons received the first in a series of underwater pictures that they hope will very soon positively confirm that they have found the final resting place of their father's submarine.

"It's an amazing story," Bruce Abele said in an e-mail. "And it's still unfolding."

The Grunion, one of the Gato-class attack submarines commissioned in the early part of World War II, was on its maiden operational voyage when it disappeared while patrolling the seas between Alaska's tip and Japan, according to a Navy website. Almost exactly a year ago, the brothers discovered a wreck using side-scan sonar that matched the probably location of their father's sub. But it wasn't until yesterday that they could put a robot sub down on the wreck and take pictures.

Bruce Abele said the pictures have given his family great confidence that they have found the Grunion, although not yet definitive proof. The former crab-fishing boat that is carrying the robot sub has been forced back to port by heavy seas and 75-mile-per-hour winds.

"The evidence is very strong that it is the Grunion but we still don't know what caused its demise," Abele said.

For more information:

Read a story about the search for the Grunion.

Visit the Abele brothers' USS Grunion web site.

View pictures of:
Part of the sunken sub's periscope
An open hatch cover
A portrait of Commander Mannert L. "Jim" Abele

-- Ralph Ranalli

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