USS Grunion (SS-216) was a Gato-class submarine that was sunk at Kiska, Alaska, during World War II. She was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for the grunion, a small fish of the silversides family, indigenous to the western American coast.
Her keel was laid down by the Electric Boat Company inGroton, Connecticut on 1 March 1941. She was launchedon 22 December 1941, (sponsored by Mrs. Stanford C. Hooper, wife of Rear Admiral Hooper), and commissionedon 11 April 1942 with Lieutenant Commander (Lt. Cmdr.)Mannert L. Abele, USNA class of 1926 in command.
After shakedown out of New London, Grunion sailed for the Pacific on 24 May. A week later, as she transited theCaribbean Sea for Panama, she rescued 16 survivors ofUSAT Jack, which had been torpedoed by the German U-boat U-558, and she conducted a fruitless search for 13 other survivors presumed in the vicinity. Arriving atCoco Solo on 3 June, Grunion deposited her shipload of survivors and continued to Pearl Harbor, arriving 20 June.
Departing Hawaii on 30 June after ten days of intensivetraining, Grunion touched Midway Island before heading toward the Aleutian Islands for her first war patrol. Her first report, made as she patrolled north of Kiska Island, stated she had been attacked by a Japanese destroyerand had fired at her with inconclusive results. She operated off Kiska throughout July and sank two enemy patrol boats while in search for enemy shipping. On 30 July the submarine reported intensive antisubmarine activity, and she was ordered back to Dutch Harbor.
Grunion was never heard from nor seen again. Air searches off Kiska were fruitless; and on 5 OctoberGrunion was reported overdue from patrol and assumed lost with all hands. Her name was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 2 November 1942. Captured Japanese records show no antisubmarine attacks in the Kiska area, and the fate of Grunion remained a mystery for 65 years until discovery in the Bering Sea in August 2007 of a wreck believed to be the boat. In October 2008, the U.S. Navy verified that the wreck is theGrunion. The reason for her sinking is still not known, though there are two possible explanations.
One is: During World War II, magnetic pistols often exploded prematurely or not at all. The reason was that magnetic lines are more horizontal close to the equator than towards the poles. For example, the US Mark 6 magnetic pistol was designed and tested only once at 41° latitude (60° geomagnetic latitude) at Narragansett Bay, but was primarily used in equatorial latitudes. At the equator, the signal strength to the Mark 6 magnetic pistol was only about half that of where the Mark 6 was tested. Moreover, relative velocity (i.e. when a torpedo is fired from behind or in front of a ship) would additionally change the abruptness of the magnetic signal, resulting in the magnetic pistol being triggered prematurely or not at all.
Eventually, the US Mark 6 magnetic pistol was replaced by contact pistols (which, in case of the US Mark 15 torpedo, proved to be unreliable as well).
The second Grunion was sunk on July 30, 1942, by the armed Japanese freighter Kano Maru, approximately 10 miles northeast of Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.
Grunion received one battle star for World War II service
The Grunion was never heard from again. Air searches off Kiska were fruitless, and on 5 October the Grunion was reported overdue from patrol and assumed lost with all hands. Her name was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 2 November 1942. Captured Japanese records show no antisubmarine attacks in the Kiska area, and the fate of Grunion remained a mystery for 65 years until the discovery in the Bering Sea in August 2007 of a wreck believed to be her. In October 2008, the U.S. Navy verified that the wreck is the Grunion