Private explorers have solved a 75-year mystery about the location of the USS Grayback, giving closure to the families of the 80 U.S. soldiers who lost their lives.
The explorers weren’t initially able to find the location of the missing submarine all because of an error of one single digit in the Japanese translation of the coordinates, which had lead to the Navy searching for the ship in the wrong area.
The error went unnoticed until last year, when an amateur researcher, Yutaka Iwasaki, discovered the flawed translation while going through wartime radio records of the Imperial Japanese Navy base at Sasebo, The New York Times reported.
“In that radio record, there is a longitude and a latitude of the attack, very clearly,” Iwasaki said, noting that it was off by 100 miles from what was in the 1949 Navy history.
Iwasaki developed a love for WWII Japanese ships and uncovering mysteries surrounding lost ones when he was a child.
“For me, finding U.S. submarines is part of my activity to introduce the tragic story of war,” he said. “It is my hobby, and also my passion.”
Lead by Tim Taylor, his “Lost 52 Project” team discovered the USS Grayback more than 1,400 feet underwater about 50 miles south of Okinawa, Japan, in June.
The USS Grayback, which was was the 20th most successful submarine during WWII and earned two Navy commendations and eight battle stars, was sunk by the Nakajima b5N carrier bomber on February 26, 1944 after it left for its final mission on January 28, 1944, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.
The “Lost 52 Project” is named after the 52 submarines the U.S. Navy lost during WWII. According to Taylor, 47 are considered discoverable and the other five were run around or destroyed in known locations.
Since finding the submarines, family members of deceased loved ones on the USS Grayback were given closure.
John Bihn is named after his uncle, John Patrick King, one of the 80 U.S. sailors who died. He told the NYT his family was unable to discuss his uncle’s death because it was “too sad to ask about” and his “mother would cry very often if you spoke to her about it.”
But learning about the discovery of the USS Grayback made him “dumbfounded.”
“I just could not believe it,” he said. “I wish my parents were alive to see this, because it would certainly make them very happy,”