On February 16, 2023, the Naval History and Heritage Command confirmed the identity of the wreck of the USS Albacore (SS-218). The WWII submarine was found off the coast of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands. Albacore was lost at sea with all hands on November 7, 1944.
A Gato-class submarine, Albacore was launched on February 17, 1942. During WWII, she sunk 13 Japanese ships (10 confirmed, 3 possible) including two destroyers, a light cruiser and the aircraft carrier Taihō. Albacore sank six enemy warships, making her one of the most successful U.S. submarines in terms of enemy tonnage sunk. Over the course of her 11 patrols, she earned nine battle stars and four Presidential Unit Citations.
On November 7, 1944, Japanese records show a patrol boat report of a submarine striking a mine off the northeast coast of Hokkaido with oil and debris floating to the surface. The records were reviewed after the war and the submarine was presumed to be Albacore.
In May 2022, approximately 7 kilometers east of the city of Hakodate, a submarine wreck was discovered by a team from the University of Tokyo led by Dr. Tamaki Ura. The wreck was located with sonar and surveyed using a remotely operated underwater vehicle. Battling strong currents, marine growth and poor visibility, the team captured footage of the wreck for identification purposes.
The NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch used information and imagery provided by Dr. Ura to confirm the identity of the wreck as 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,” said NHHC Director Rear Adm. Samuel J. Cox (retired) 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.”
Albacore‘s wreck is a war grave and remains the final resting place of her crew who perished aboard when she sank. As such, the wreck is protected by U.S. law and is under the jurisdiction of the NHHC.