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The Grayling Mystery


The USS Grayling (SS-209) went missing while on her eighth war patrol. She left Fremantle on July 30, 1943 with a new captain at her helm. On August 19, 1943, she reported via radio that she had sunk a freighter off Balikpapan and a small tanker in the Sibutu Passage. It was the last message anyone would ever receive from the Grayling. On August 23, 1943, Filipino guerrilla fighters on Panay Island reported via radio that the Grayling had made a scheduled supply drop to them. Japanese records reviewed after the war provided evidence proving the Grayling had sunk the 5,480-ton passenger-cargo ship Meizan Maru off northeastern Mindoro Island on August 27, 1943. The Japanese records also provided several sighting reports about torpedo attacks and submarines running on the surface in the Tablas Strait and the Lingayen Gulf. But there is nothing conclusive in this information. Harry Holmes wrote that on September 9, 1943, the Japanese passenger-cargo vessel Hokuan Maru reported sighting a submarine in shallow water west of Luzon Island. The Japanese merchant sailed over the area where the submarine had been sighted and noted an impact with a submerged object. Holmes wrote the submerged object "...was, no doubt, Grayling." The problem is there is no conclusive evidence to prove there was an encounter between the Hokuan Maru and the Grayling. ComSubSoWesPac’s September 12, 1943 radio message to the Grayling ordering her to respond immediately went unanswered. Her loss is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the Pacific war. She paid back the investment in her well, earning six battle stars and sinking 20,575 tons of Japanese shipping in five vessels. On September 30, 1943, the Grayling was listed as lost in action with all hands due to unknown reasons.

USS Grayling

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