Scripps Team Locates Stern of Storied World War II Destroyer in Aleutian Islands

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Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography announced Wednesday they have located wreckage of the stern of the storied USS Abner Read, which was badly damaged near the Aleutian island of Kiska in World War II.

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Seventy Navy sailors were lost during an anti-submarine patrol when a Japanese mine exploded and tore off the destroyer’s stern. Heroic action saved the ship, but the final resting place of those lost in the predawn hours of Aug. 18, 1943, remained unknown.

The action took place during brutal fighting over the remote islands of Attu and Kiska, which were occupied by the Japanese as a diversion prior to the pivotal Battle of Midway and held for more than a year.

The team included researchers from the University of Delaware and was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Project Recover.

“This is a significant discovery that will shed light on this little-known episode in our history,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, acting under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “It’s important to honor these U.S. Navy sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.”

Within months of the tragedy, the destroyer was back in the war. It went on to fight in several battles in the Pacific Theater before being destroyed in November 1944 by a Japanese dive bomber in a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Abner Read received four battle stars for her World War II service.

The the team on the research ship Norseman II used multibeam sonar to identify the wreck, then sent down a deep-diving, remotely operated vehicle to capture live video for confirmation.

“There was no doubt,” said expedition leader Eric Terrill, an oceanographer at Scripps and co-founder of Project Recover. “We could clearly see the broken stern, the gun and rudder control, all consistent with the historical documents.”

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A force of 7,200 Japanese occupied the two islands, the only United States territories to be occupied by foreign forces in the last 200 years. Many ships, aircraft and submarines from both the United States and Japan were lost during the battle.

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