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Mystery of Sunk Sub Re-examined in Survey

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050419-02
Release Date: 4/19/2005 9:14:00 AM

By Cara Berkley, Naval Historical Center Public Affairs

WASINGTON (NNS) -- The Naval Historical Center (NHC) received the official report in April from a September 2004 survey, which shed light on the loss of the submarine USS O-9, which mysteriously sank June 20, 1941, with the loss of all 33 Sailors.

Coordinated with the NHC, the survey was undertaken by the National Undersea Research Center (NURC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the History Channel Series, Deep Sea Detectives.

“The NHC is responsible for archiving the Navy's history and as such, safekeeping this report ensures that the Center and the Underwater Archeology Branch in particular continues to fulfill its mandate," said Dr. Robert Neyland, Underwater Archaeology Branch, NHC.

The wreck of the submarine, renumbered SS-70 in 1941, was examined over three days using a NURC research vessel and remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The Research Center's staff and crew were able to confirm the exact position of O-9, which is situated at an upright angle at an average depth of 409 feet and remains virtually intact despite the decades it has spent permanently submerged on the New London seabed.

“The objectives of the survey included determining the condition of the vessel, collecting video and photographic documentation, and investigating a potential cause for the submarine's loss," said Dr. Susan B.M. Langley, senior scientist/principal investigator. "The report indicates that these aims were largely achieved despite the interference from marine life."

The film crew faced the challenge of navigating the ROV while carefully avoiding entangling fishing nets that surround the submarine's bow. When approaching from the stern, the survey discovered that the most severe damage to the vessel is in the vicinity of the engine room and the aft battery compartment.

"Dr. Langley's survey of the USS O-9 provides the Navy with a fresh look at the wreck and the grave site," said Neyland. "This survey and the following documentary illustrate that the Navy's history, tradition, and sacrifice survives in the sea."

Due to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, just six months after the sinking, the tragedy was almost forgotten. This remained the case until 1997, when retired naval officer and diver Glen Reem personally persuaded Klein Associates, a sonar designer and supplier, to run a sonar search to relocate the stricken submarine, reopening interest in the O-9 mystery.

During the survey, a film crew from History Channel’s Deep Sea Detectives documented, filmed and chronicled the research team’s activities, which will be featured on an upcoming episode entitled “The Forgotten Sub of WW II”, which is due to air in May. Descendants of the lost Sailors also participated in the documentary by throwing a commemorative wreath in memory of their relatives who have not received the same attention as their shipmates lost in action during World War II.

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