The goal of the Abele brothers has always been to determine what happened to the Grunion. Although some may disagree we feel that the evidence is strong enough that we have determined its location to at least make the next step in finding out what happened.
Below is the information we have about the attack. In light of our readership, particularly submariners, hopefully someone can help develop one or more viable hypothesis as to the demise of the Grunion.
It should be pointed out that there are some comments about the crew (shoddy construction, forgot to pull the firing pin) that should be taken with a grain of salt. There were major operational problems in the beginning of the war both with the torpedoes and with the subs themselves. To leave those comments out, in my opinion, would be a disservice to finding the truth.
There are three witnesses (diagrams and dialog) and a number of other bits of ancillary info.
Aiura: (Aiura was the military commander on the Kana Maru) Yutaka translating:
â€œThe escort subchaser also came in and out the fog, at last we lost contact and the night came. KOANO MARU again went on alone in the foggy Bering sea toward KISKA. At July 30 08:00 we reached at the north of Kiska Is. about 20 nautical miles apart. But the dense fog prevented us to approach. We were forced to drifting and waiting the fog getting thin. The fog was getting thin for a moment and back to dense. We could do nothing but waiting. This day whole day the fog was dense and we were impatient. 15:30 A friendly seaplane fighter[Pete] ditched near us and we picked up. The plane and a pilot were both safe. The pilots were so young as just graduated his boy air school, similar age of my[S.AIURA] son. I was impressed with his figures that do his duty in the Northern sky. It was a happening that our ship saved him but I was so glad that we could help him. At the evening the fog still dense, we were alerting the enemy submarine attack. 17:15 We turned outside the open ocean, under 15 knots speed maneuvering zigzag course, decided to enter the KISKA harbor next morning.
July 31 Next early morning we again reached off KISKA harbor but the fog was still dense. We are drifting and waited. 04:40 The fog became a little thin and we can get our position by astronomical observation. We confirmed the altitude and latitude fixed the course toward the KISKA.
Enemy Torpedo Struck Home
05:15 We were avoiding the “MacArthur’s reef’ and at 158 degree 12 nautical miles distance of Segula Is. changed course toward 255 degree.
[*2] 05:47 “Torpedo! starboard fore!” Suddenly the signal master WAKISAKA first sergeant shouted. I saw two torpedo wake overlapped at I 00m starboard fore in the course crossing 45 degree with us, rapidly approaching. I at once ordered “Full turn starboard”. As KANO MARU went fast and the rudder turned much degree, the ship change the course rapidly toward right. I prayed the god and got tense for few second that was the most intolerable moment in my life. One torpedo wake passed after the stem we could avoid it, but other one hit the machinery room starboard side where was my back below and large explosion and sound occurred that was like a rumbling of the hell ground.
At the same time the main engine instead of its usual rhythmical sounds, but made two or three times of inertial dull movement and stopped. I was shocked by the force from the bottom and seized unconsciously the handrail and the base of compass. In a moment the machinery room was flooded whole, main engine lost power. We could not go anymore. Also generator, radio communication equipment and other auxiliary machines absolutely stopped. It was my disappointing but I had nothing to do.
The crews and soldiers seemed they did not feel fear at all and was vigorously preparing anti submarine combat or launch work of seaplane.
Lucky Dud Torpedo
This time we found a periscope of the submarine at very near right fore. Immediately 8em gun and 13mm machine gun started shooting. 8cm gun has less possibility to hit the submarine, but we thought the sounds of the gun was the only way to tell the KANO MARU’s crisis to the KISKA base. And also the 13mm machine gun fire were useless against the sub under the water but the splash aids the aim of 8cm gun crews. Further more the 8cm gun on the aft poop deck was malfunction by the heavy shock of torpedo explosion.
The periscope that had been right fore, gradually moved to right aft. 05:57 From the right 157 degree 300m distance the sub shot second salvo. One torpedo wake line from right aft passed below the ship bottom at about the bridge. It was no harm. How lucky we were I To transmit our crisis to the KISKA base, we planned as the last way to use the seaplane that we had picked up yesterday. The plane was still hooked under the derrick. The whole crews set the plane on the sea surface by only man power. The pilot, NMRASAWA the second class air soldier, tried much efforts but the engine never started so we had no way but accept the fate. The periscope sometimes appeared and moved from the stem to the portside. 06:07 From the left 135 degree very near the sub shot third salvo. Three torpedoes wake came toward us. Perhaps the sub shoot whole the rest torpedoes in the tubes and intended to finish us. I gave up whole, thinking the torpedoes must finish KANO NLARU and hard to breathe in more than ten seconds. Two torpedoes hit! but nothing happened! One torpedo struck the bridge fore, No.2 cargo hold. But unexpectedly it didn’t explode, lost its head and the rest body floated on the water tail down and about 0.5m part dry. Next one torpedo struck amidships portside, but also dud. Last one torpedo went away passing near ship stem. How lucky we are! I thank to the God protection.
06:10 Then we find the periscope at left 13 5 degree about 400m distance. Our forecastle 8cm gun and 13mm machine gun again started the fire. The sub kept the periscope up and moved calmly ignoring damaged KANO MARU. We clenched our fists but had no way to do. [*3] Then the sub seemed to begin to surface. The conning tower made ripple on the surface and the wave began washing the conning tower. I think the sub was unable to sink KANO MARU by the torpedo ( reload the stocked torpedo to the tube needs much minutes ) so finish KANO MARU by its gun or the sub thought KANO MARU could do no harm any more. Just then a 8cm gun shot hit the washing wave, made water column and dull water explosion sound. Also we saw the swell of heavy oil. All crews shout ‘BANZAI!’
Aiura: second source:
This day’s antisubmarine combat action aimed only the periscope so continued intermittently about 20 minutes. At last we found the periscope at left 135 degree about 400m distance, immediately start firing. The fourth shot that was the 84th counting from the first shot got directly the target.
About this submarine sink, later coming mine layer ISHIZAKI and other ships observed much oil spouting, piece of lifeguard buoy, chips that seemed to be the material of submarine decks, and other many things. They confirmed the sinking and radioed to the Fifth fleet and combined fleet chief of general staff through the fifth guard command. [*4]
More important info is about the torpedo. They, IJN Kiska base soldiers, took the rest of the torpedo which lost the head and floating near Kano Maru. They towed the torpedo body by boat to the Base, and observed. Aiura reported, apparently the head and body connection was irregular work. Because it seemed more than 30 bolts hole exists around the head-body connection part, but only three bolts were used and the rest was partial 10cm length silver-wax work not by welding.
Aiura said it is apparently not regular navy-yard work.
Aiura also reported, he thought the maneuver of the sub was strange. The sub seemed to have approach to the aft behind of Kano Maru shadowed from the forecastle deck gun, but is was too near to keep safe from the gun fire. Forepeak deck gun could at least bow or aft-end of the submarine. And Aiura said also it was strange 5 in 6 torpedoes were dud. 2 of them hit but not exploded. Aiura said the torpedo men must forgot the normal procedure to unlock safety pin.
Second Witness: RIKIMARU NAKAGAWA, ARMY Medical Sublieutenant
While I was looking aft on boat deck(port) in front of my cabin, I saw bubble running on the surface figuring half circle just 2 or 3 hundreds meters apart from shipside. I shouted ‘Must be Submarine!’ Then just at the head-end of bubble running, big black-brown water arose, something oily afloat on the surface, after a while a black thin bar appeared on the surface then fell down and submerged. I in spite of myself cried out ‘Good, You got what you deserved!’, and I am convinced the submarine was sunk by the shell. ”
Third Witness: was a â€œcontract newspaper manâ€ who visited the site after the attack.
WITNESS NOTE by KENJI HAMADA
I had got on a motor launch and left KANO MARU from portboard.
The boat ran over the stem and went to the starboard side of the ship.
Then I saw at left side of the boat, about 200m apart from my boat, that was 500m from KANO MARU’s stem, something was afloating on the surface. That were two cylinder, like oil drum, upright about 0.5m over the surface.
I found that objects but couldn’t approach so I didn’t understand what they were.
When my boat went on to the starboard and aft side of the KANO MARU, I saw the same two objects at the front of my boat, 50m distance, that was about 400-500m from the KANO MARU’s stern.
Again I didn’t understand what they were.
Later I saw a torpedo at land, that was without explosive warhead, picked up by the same(my) DAIHATSU boat.
Then I heard from Navy men (about the torpedo), and I understand what I had seen were torpedoes that lost its warhead and afloating upright.
SYOWA 17(1942) August 3rd PM 03:30
Army contract newspaperman
Kenji provided a sketch. Two copies are provided each with slightly different annotation
Few submariners think that a 3 in shell that hits the wake caused by the conning tower would sink a Gato class sub. However we must consider the proximity of the 84th shot and â€œdull water explosionâ€ Whatever happened was in some way amplified by the shot. Most submariners are aware of the poor quality of the MK 14 torpedoes. They pre-exploded, would run low, did not detonate upon contact and occasionally would circle around. In addition the submarine batteries were subject to explosions and fires. The exterior torpedo doors were closed manually and such things as a displaced gasket would be devastating.
It also should be noted that the sub did not implode / explode which would have happened if the compartments had been closed off. This tends to imply that what ever happened was rather sudden.
On the slide path there appears to be some debris, some fairly large, and about 25 ft of the bow of the sub appears to be buried or blown off.