ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- The underwater sonar images of a black shape against a grainy, monochrome background are the biggest clues in more than 60 years to the fate of Bruce Abele's father and the submarine he commanded during World War II.
For decades, relatives of the USS Grunion's 70 lost crewmen had no information beyond fragmented U.S. Navy records, and a few rumors, about where and why the sub went down near the islands at the tip of Alaska's Aleutian chain.
They knew the Grunion had sunk two Japanese submarine chasers and heavily damaged a third in July 1942 near Kiska, one of two Aleutian islands occupied by the Japanese. They knew her last official radio message to the sub base at Dutch Harbor, on July 30, 1942, described heavy enemy activity. They knew Dutch Harbor responded with an order to return to the base, but they don't know if Grunion ever received it.
Until a few years ago, the clues were too sparse to justify a search, said Abele, whose father, Mannert Abele, was the Grunion's commander.
"We really didn't do anything about it because there was nothing, no information," Abele said. "What were we going to do?"
Four years ago, a man who had heard about the Grunion's disappearance e-mailed links to several Grunion Web sites to Bruce Abele, who lives in Newton, Massachusetts.
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