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The Search For Pompano


After several years of keen anticipation and suspense, I was recently informed by Keith Kibbe, the man responsible for getting the Navy involved in the search for the submarine Pompano and for keeping the relatives of the boat’s crew members informed of the Navy's progress, that the Navy has abandoned its efforts to locate the submarine's wreck. The text within the asterisks below is the full text of Keith's e-mail message. I commend Keith for his hard work and persistence. Job well done, sir. Thank you!

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Dear Friends of the Pompano,

I have some very bad news. Rather than risk altering the meaning of the message I received today from the Navy, I am doing a copy-paste of the exact language from the email I received. I have only omitted the name of the person who sent it to me.

Mr. Kibbe,

I am really sorry to tell you this, but it appears the wreck they were diving on up off Shiriyazaki is not Pompano. They found a propeller, but it was not the right size, and the shaft was too short from the hull to the prop. Also, they found no dive planes or a rudder, and what they thought might be a conning tower turned out to be part of a boiler. The dive team/historians did not mention finding anything that resembled a pressure hull. Perhaps all the drawings and diagrams they had to support the possibility of it being a sub were wishful thinking and seeing what they hoped to see.

NHHS will compile its report, eventually, on the dive, but right now, the Navy is of the opinion that the wreck is not Pompano. If Kevin can get some photos of the wreck from Dr. Neyland [Naval History and Heritage Command] and his team, I will ask him to send me some.

Kevin and I were really hoping things would turn out to prove this wreck was the sub. There is a very faint possibility that we can send a ship up there on a different training exercise and scan some of the seabed in the vicinity of this wreck, but I would not hold out much hope of that happening. I’m afraid the Navy will do nothing more with this project and Pompano will continue to be lost.

Feel free to inform the families of this unwelcome news. The Navy is not likely to say anything about it. I truly wish it had been Pompano, and am sorry you have expended so much time and effort only to have it all come to naught.

I have really enjoyed corresponding with you about this over the past 3+ years and sharing insights and information. Take care of yourself. As always, if I hear anything, or if anything changes, I shall let you know.

I am truly sorry this did not turn out as we had hoped.

Very respectfully,

So it appears that the wreck was probably a Japanese ship sunk later in the war by one of our subs or by our air power. This leaves me a little underwhelmed with the analysis by the guys at NHCC from the underwater robot mission last summer when they reported it was a sub.

This bad news comes as a shock and a letdown to me as I am sure it will to you also. But it is understandable why the Navy is probably going to consider the project closed, resulting in the Pompano continuing to be lost.

It is possible that the Pompano somehow got things patched up enough to slink off quietly on low battery speeds on Sept 18 and escape the dragnet the Japanese had set up with picket boats in the mouth of the straight to try to prevent such an escape. If so, she later died off the north east coast of Honshu of injuries received on Sept 17 or perhaps by hitting a mine. I do think Pompano can be found someplace either in the Strait within a few miles of the light house or in the ocean waters close by off northeast Honshu. But it is understandable why the Navy must now close the case. The fact that the Naval officer Kevin, mentioned above, traveled a year or so ago up to northern Honshu to verify availability of hotel rooms near the light house to support a memorial service at the light house is an indication of the sincerity and good intentions of the Navy's and showed that the Navy believed chances were good the Pompano was going to be identified.

Another thing I feel very bad about is the effort that Loretta Hill put into developing such a complete list of Pompano kin contact information. Loretta's efforts produced far more than a contact list. Loretta has given birth to the extended Pompano family and I think all of you will join me in expressing a heart felt thanks to her. As a result of her efforts kin have produced much info on the crew members including photos that were needed by the Pompano site on Eternal Patrol website (http://www.oneternalpatrol.com/uss-pompano-181.htm). Also, NavSource http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/08181.htm) has done a great job of incorporating info uncovered in the last four years on their Pompano web page. Speaking for all kin, we are all grateful for the attention to the Pompano project by these two websites. There may be other websites paying attention to the Pompano situation and, if so, they should accept my apology in advance for not mentioning them.

Also on the upside, is that as a result of this 4 year effort, we all know about the anti-sub action on September 17 (reported in Japanese archives at the Ominato Guard Station #7 on northern Honshu) near the Shiriya-Zaki light house, that the target was probably the Pompano, and I think the chances are fair that she lies somewhere in the strait near the light house in areas the Navy did not search with side scan sonar ...... or in ocean waters not too far offshore of northeastern Honshu. We know more now than we did prior to this effort.

We will always be grateful for the very kind and competent efforts by Sander Kingsepp for his valuable assistance in locating and preparing an English summary of the 1943 Japanese report. I believe the report to be authentic but perhaps the location information where the Japanese thinks the sunken sub rests was somewhat in error.

At this time I have nothing further to report and although this may be the last "Pompano Update" I hope that there will be, from time to time, reasons for contacting you all again. I wish you all well and will certainly keep you posted if I should get any more information.

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