Navy Destroyer Sunk in World War II Is Discovered Off Okinawa
A US Navy destroyer sunk by kamikaze planes in 1945 during the World War II Battle of Okinawa has been discovered by a group of civilian underwater explorers deep in the Pacific Ocean, the group’s leader said Wednesday.
The USS Meinert Lable was the first battleship to do so. A new Japanese weapon Called the Ohka – essentially a flying bomb capable of reaching speeds of up to 600 mph.
A group called the Lost 52 Project, which searches for Navy submarines and warships sunk during World War II, found the ship in December.
The US Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, which is responsible for tracking the 3,000 ships and submarines the service has lost at sea in both peace and war, confirmed the discovery in April.
“The Battle of Okinawa was the biggest battle of the Pacific campaign,” said Tim Taylor, who leads the Lost 52 Project. “Fifty thousand casualties on the US side alone, so that’s a monumental find.”
“And it’s a very deep connection for me,” he added. “My father’s ship was hit by a kamikaze just 10 days before the Abel sank in the same area – maybe 90 miles south of there.”
The small battleship was one of many that surrounded Okinawa during the campaign to take the island by force during World War II. It used its radars to detect enemy aircraft approaching from Japanese territory and provide information to aircraft carriers, which could then launch fighter jets to intercept them.
Able, pronounced ABLE-ee, survived several attacks by Japanese kamikaze pilots, who flew suicide missions near the end of World War II. But it died when two planes collided on its starboard side and exploded, sending it down. Its exact location was – until now – unknown.
In all, 84 Abel sailors died from the twin explosions, the sinking of the ship, or Japanese pilots who later strafed and bombed the survivors in the water.
Sam Cox, a retired Navy rear admiral who leads the Navy’s Historical Command, said identifying the ship was relatively easy given the evidence provided by the Lost 52 team.
The Navy considers the Abel, and others like it sunk in battle, to be a grave and will leave the ship undisturbed.
About a dozen Navy destroyers such as the Abel were sunk along with other ships during the Okinawa campaign, killing about 5,000 sailors, Admiral Cox said.
The Missing 52 Project, named after the number of US Navy submarines lost in World War II, has located several wrecks, including USS Greyback – A submarine sunk in battle. Off Okinawa a year before Abel. Mr Taylor is using autonomous underwater vehicles to locate and survey the wreck.
Families of former crew members welcomed Abel’s discovery.
“I think my dad would have been extraordinarily interested and wanted to see every detail,” said Scott Anderson, whose father, Roy, served as a junior officer at Abel. “But I’m not sure what kind of shock it might cause.”
In 2007, Roy Anderson wrote a book about the ship’s war service titled “Three Minutes of Okinawa”. He died in 2014 at the age of 94, his son said.
“He once told me he rarely got a good night’s sleep since the shipwreck,” Mr. Anderson said.
ship name, Lt. Cmdr Meinert Lablecommanded the USS Grunen, a submarine. Lost at sea. He received the Navy Cross posthumously for sinking three Japanese ships in a single day during the war. The Navy commissioned a ship in his honor on 4 July 1944.
According to Naval History Abel K, on April 12, 1945, while patrolling 75 miles off the north coast of Okinawa “suddenly found itself surrounded by enemy aircraft”. At 1:38 p.m., the ship’s gun crew rammed a Japanese dive bomber, setting it on fire and sending it crashing into the sea. About an hour later, three Japanese Zero fighters approached. Abel shot one down but the other hit the ship’s starboard side and exploded, killing nine sailors.
A minute later, Abel is hit again, but this time by a rocket-propelled aircraft called Ohka, Japanese for “cherry blossom.” Ohka’s pilot rammed the ship, and the more than 2,600 pounds of explosives she was carrying detonated, breaking Abel in two and sinking her in 4,500 feet of water.
Admiral Cox said Abel and other Navy warships around Okinawa supported the kamikaze attacks by transporting troops and supplying support ships ashore.
Admiral Cox said the ships could not escape. “They had to stay and fight.”