On 11 February 1943, USS GRAMPUS (SS-207) and USS GRAYBACK (SS-208) stood out from Brisbane, Australia. It was GRAMPUS’s sixth war patrol and the one from which she would never return.
On 18 February she damaged a Japanese transport; in retaliation, the Japanese sortied a number of aircraft, one of which sank a surfaced submarine with a bomb that exploded squarely on the conning tower. It is possible that submarine was GRAMPUS. But the commanding officer of her sister sub, GRAYBACK, reported making sonar and visual contact with the boat on 4 March, although there is no evidence to suggest an American sub was sunk in the area in the following days.
The precise date and cause of GRAMPUS’s loss are still a mystery. The boat and her 71 crewmen remain on eternal patrol.
Note: “On the night of 17 May 1942, while conducting a surface patrol off Truk during her second war patrol, Grampus was detected by a Japanese patrol vessel and forced to make a quick dive. While passing 30 foot depth, one shell, believed to have been a 3-inch or 4.7-inch common projectile, struck the starboard bulwark of the cigarette deck and detonated approximately three feet beyond its point of impact about two feet above the cigarette deck over the main engine air induction trunk. While no damage of a serious or military nature was caused, and Grampus experienced no difficulty in subsequently evading the enemy, the action has been included in this report to illustrate the shrapnel effect of medium caliber projectiles and the obvious vulnerability of submarines to such attacks. While other U.S. submarines have been more heavily damaged by gunfire attack, this experience of Grampus was chosen [because] it is the only such action in which photographs of the damage were available to the Bureau.” –Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, California, 30 June 1942
The photo shows some of the damage GRAMPUS sustained in that attack. One can only imagine how much worse the damage that ended her life must have been.