Fatal Dive: Solving the World War II Mystery of the U.S.S. Grunion

Peter F. Stevens, Author
Peter F. Stevens. Regnery, $24.95 (250p) ISBN 978-1-59698-767-8
Reviewed on: 05/21/2012
Release date: 07/01/2012
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One of the enigmas of WWII was the fate of the USS Grunion, the submarine carrying a crew of 70 men that vanished without a trace in 1942. Stevens (The Voyage of the Catalpa) charts the Navy career of the sub’s skipper, Jim Abele, from his 1926 Annapolis graduation through to WWII. With Abele in command, the $6 million Grunion was launched on December 22, 1941, carrying the Navy’s new top-secret MK 14 torpedoes. Abele, other skippers, and even the Navy itself were unaware of the weapon’s most dangerous defect: a “circular run” that caused it to boomerang, striking the very sub that had fired it. When news of its disappearance arrived, “the families of the Grunion’s crew experienced shock, denial, despair,” yet in the decades that followed, Abele’s sons were unable to unravel the mystery of the sub’s fate. A scrap of Japanese paper, sold in 1998 for $1 in a Denver antiques shop, was later posted on a military history Web site, eventually leading to the sub’s location and expeditions to find it at Kiska, Alaska. The families’ emotional reactions and the “tapestry of happenstances” involved in the discovery is suspenseful, while Stevens’s speculative description of the sub’s plunge to the ocean floor makes for a chilling conclusion. Color and b&w photos. (July)
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