The USS Albacore, a submarine deemed on "eternal patrol" since it went missing in World War II, has been found once over 70 years on.
The submarine began its service on June 1, 1942, and is credited with sinking 10 enemy vessels during its service, making it one of the most successful submarines of World War II. On October 24, 1944, the sub left Pearl Harbor – the last time it and its crew were heard from, according to the US Navy.
Records seized after the war was over showed that a Japanese patrol boat had seen an explosion of a submarine, just off the coast of northeastern Hokkaido on November 7. Shortly afterward, supplies from the submarine floated to the surface. The sub, long thought to be the USS Albacore, is thought to have been sunk by a mine.
The USS Albacore has been deemed on "eternal patrol" ever since. It is a tradition to list those on submarines that don't return as "still on patrol" or "on eternal patrol", though of course, the reality is that the submarines were sunk long ago.
A team led by Dr Tamaki Ura of the University of Tokyo used historical records to attempt to locate the Albacore, before sending a remotely operated vehicle to explore the area. When it found the wreck, it took photos and videos to be used to confirm the ship was in fact the Albacore.
“As the final resting place for Sailors who gave their life in defense of our nation, we sincerely thank and congratulate Dr. Ura and his team for their efforts in locating the wreck of Albacore,” Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Director Samuel J. Cox said in a press release. “It is through their hard work and continued collaboration that we could confirm Albacore’s identity after being lost at sea for over 70 years.”
The NHHC writes that the Albacore will now be protected by US law from any intrusive activities, while any remote scanning or other non-intrusive investigations are allowed on sunken military vehicles.
"Most importantly," they add, "the wreck represents the final resting place of Sailors that gave their life in defense of the nation and should be respected by all parties as a war grave."