Sunken US Navy Submarine Discovered Off Okinawa After 75 Years

If you think spellchecking doesn't matter, prepare to have your boat rocked. A 75-year mystery regarding the location of the U.S.S. Grayback has finally been solved, thanks to the correction of a single-digit typo. 

The story begins in the late stages of World War II, on Jan. 28, 1944, when the Grayback, one of the US Navy's most successful subs during the war, sailed out of Pearl Harbor. Little did the 80-man crew know it would be their last voyage.

According to the New York Times, the Navy wasn't quite sure what happened to the vessel after it failed to return to port. Based on a 1949 report detailing the 52 submarines lost during the war, the Grayback was thought to have gone down in the open ocean about "100 miles east-southeast of Okinawa."

However, the Navy based its report on a flawed translation of Japanese war records which had gotten one digit wrong in the coordinates where the Grayback supposedly met its end.

The typo correction that brought back the Grayback

That one typo went unnoticed until 2018, when amateur researcher Utaka Iwasaki began studying wartime naval records of the Imperial Japanese Navy base at Sasebo. He found a radio report from Feb. 27, 1944, claiming that a "Nakajima B5N carrier-based bomber had dropped a 500-pound bomb on a surfaced submarine, striking just aft of the conning tower. The sub exploded and sank immediately, and there were no survivors."

"In that radio record, there is a longitude and a latitude of the attack, very clearly," Mr. Iwasaki said. The data showed a location over 100 miles from what the US Navy report listed. 

Word of the finding reached undersea explorer Tim Taylor, who happened to be on a mission to find all the US submarine wrecks from WWII. He found his first in 2010, and set out to find the other 47 that hadn't run aground or been destroyed, according to CBS.

On the final day of his expedition to search for the Grayback, Taylor and his team found it. They were able to make out the deck gun which had been separated from the sub during the explosion, along with a plaque on the conning tower which clearly read "U.S.S. Grayback."

The ensuing celebration was subdued, and included a memorial to the 80 lost sailors. Though they met a sad end, the discovery of the Grayback offers their families long awaited closure.