Tags: Editor's Pick | abel | grunion | wwii | submarine

Brothers' Book Tells How They Solved Hero Father's World War II Death

By    |   Monday, 06 August 2012 11:38 AM

Three Boston-area brothers “made one of the most stunning finds” in 2007 when they found the wreckage of a submarine commanded by their father that had gone down 70 years ago without a trace in the Alaskan waters during World War II, the author of a book about their effort tells Newsmax.TV.

“It was a long time coming and a long, slow process – but, eventually, they made one of the most stunning finds, probably in the last dozen years at least,” historian and journalist Peter F. Stevens, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

He is the author of the new book “Fatal Dive: Solving the World War II Mystery of the USS Grunion.”

Story continues below video.

The book tells of the USS Grunion, which vanished on July 30, 1942, near Kiska, Alaska, with 69 crew members and their leader, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mannert Abele. It also describes how Abele’s three young sons devoted their lives to finding out what happened.

The Grunion left no trace – only one communication, of heavy fighting in the area, 24 hours before it disappeared – and the fate of the submarine has remained a mystery for 65 years.

Abele’s sons – Bruce, Brad and John – led the effort to find the vessel, which was discovered in the Bering Sea near the Aleutian Islands in 2007. The next year, the Navy verified the wreckage as the Grunion.

Commander Abele posthumously received the Navy Cross for heroism.
At the Grunion's disappearance in 1942, Bruce Abele was 12 years old, Brad 9 and John 5. Now, John is the retired co-founder of Boston Scientific Corp., the medical-device maker. Bruce also is retired, and Brad, who reached the rank of Navy lieutenant before retiring, died nine months after the Grunion was discovered.

Their mother, Kay, passed in 1975.

Stevens said “the sheer mystery” of the Grunion greatly intrigued him. “I’ve always been drawn to the sea anyway. Pretty-much grew up on it.

“But just the sheer mystery of the story – and also the incredible story of these three men who, later on in their lives, after they had become very successful, they wanted answers,” he said. “And they were willing to back it all up with their own money, and just do everything and anything, leave no stone unturned, to try to find out what happened to the Grunion.”

The Abele brothers “were basically on their own” – with no help from the Navy – in trying to determine the fate of the Grunion, Stevens said. “All they wanted to do was to find it and try to find out what had actually happened.
“In terms of during the war, the Navy would not have shared information with the Grunion families any more than others because wartime censorship was in effect,” Stevens continued. “At that point, also, the Navy did not know what had happened to the Grunion.”

But the Abeles hit pay dirt in 2002, when Internet resources eventually led them to a Japanese scholar who provided them with the translated documents from a Japanese cargo ship, the Kano Maru, which described a battle with an American submarine on July 30, 1942.

“The captain of the cargo shipped claimed that they had sunk the American submarine with one of their death guns,” Stevens said. “The Grunion had crippled the Japanese freighter; it was lying dead in the water, basically waiting for help. Waiting until the end, actually. But they claimed they had sunk the submarine.

“This, basically, had remained hidden or overlooked for decade. And when the Abeles came across that, they were encouraged and they continued to look even harder for information,” he said.

John Abele then met Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic in 1985.
“Ballard felt that they might be able to get some sonar equipment out to the Aleutian Islands in search for the sub there,” Stevens said.

“But even so, he cautioned that it was a real long shot, because the water is terrible in the Bering Sea.”

Despite this caution, however, “They were encouraged by this,” Stevens said. “The Abeles decided they could do this themselves.”

The first expedition, in August 2006, located a target near Kiska almost a mile below the surface in the North Pacific. A second expedition the next year yielded video footage and high-resolution pictures of the wreckage of a U.S. fleet submarine.

The Abeles financed the expeditions themselves.

“They went about it in an unorthodox way but, again, they pulled of a miracle,” Stevens said. “They found the sub in over 3,000 feet deep.”

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