Veteran ocean explorer and Tiburon Subsea CEO Tim Taylor and his “Lost 52 Project” team have added to their list of ocean discoveries with submarine USS Stickleback (SS 415). The submarine was lost 62 years ago in close to 11,000′ of water and is one of four submarines that suffered this fate during the Cold War.
In nine years, Taylor and his Lost 52 Project Team have discovered six U.S. submarines utilizing pioneering robotics and methods at the forefront of today’s underwater technology. By applying a combination of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV’s), remotely operated vehicles (ROV’s), and advanced photogrammetry imaging technology, Taylor and his team have amassed the most comprehensive historical archaeological records to date, the team said.
The World War II submarine Stickleback was commissioned on March 29, 1945. The sub was deployed to Guam and began her first war patrol on Aug. 6 that year when it departed for the Sea of Japan. Stickleback arrived the following week and began her patrol. During this timeframe, atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and it was believed the war would end shortly.
Stickleback had only been in the patrol area for two days when the cease-fire order was passed. It remained in the area and, on Aug. 21, she sighted two bamboo rafts containing 19 survivors of a freighter. They were taken on board for 18 hours, given food, water, medical treatment, and set afloat again a short distance from one of the Japanese islands.
Stickleback returned to Guam on Sept. 9, 1945. She departed for the U.S. the next day, arriving in San Francisco and participating in the Third Fleet parade on Sept. 28. After a short cruise to the Hawaiian Islands, Stickleback was decommissioned and placed in reserve on June 26, 1946.
The sub was recommissioned on Sept. 6, 1951 and served in San Diego as a training ship. It was decommissioned a second time on Nov. 14, 1952 and converted into a Guppy IIA type submarine. Recommissioned on June 26, 1953, Stickleback joined Submarine Squadron 7 at Pearl Harbor. The Sub supported the United Nations forces in Korea from February to July 1954 when it returned to Pearl Harbor. From 1954 to 1957, she conducted intelligence gathering operations off of the Soviet Union.
On May 28, 1958, Stickleback was participating in an antisubmarine warfare exercise with the destroyer escort USS Silverstein (DE 534) and a torpedo retriever in the Hawaiian area.
In the course of these drills, the submarine had just completed a simulated torpedo run on Silverstein and was diving to a safe depth when she lost power and descended uncontrolled to close to 800′. Emergency buoyancy ballast was added, and the boat ascended rapidly only to breach approximately 200 yards (180 m) ahead of the destroyer escort. On the assent a flare could not be fired as crew had evacuated the aft torpedo room. The collision alarm sounded, and Silverstein backed full, put its rudder hard left but could not avoid a collision. The result of which was a hole to the submarine on its port side and loss of the submarine.
Remarkably there were no fatalities. The Stickleback‘s crew was removed by the torpedo retriever and combined efforts were made by several vessels to save the submarine. The rescue ships attached lines around her, but all compartments flooded, and Stickleback sank in 1,800 fathoms (3,300 m) of water.
Stickleback is the third submarine to be discovered of the four Navy submarines lost since the end of World War II. USS Cochino (SS 345), USS Thresher (SSN 593), and USS Scorpion (SSN 589) were also lost during the Cold War.
“The Lost 52 Project continues to expand our work to search for additional lost WWII ships. Having just made the historical discovery of the USS Grayback and the final resting place of her 80 valiant crew offshore Japan, I am proud of this recent Cold War discovery which honors the men, their memory and their mission.” Taylor said in a prepared statement.
“We’re grateful for the respectful, non-intrusive work of the Lost 52 Project to locate and document the Navy’s submarine wrecks,” said Dr. Bob Neyland, Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archeology Branch head. “Each discovery assists the Naval History and Heritage Command in its mission to preserve and protect the Navy’s sunken military craft and provides an opportunity to remember and honor the service of our sailors and marines.”
The Discovery of the Stickleback is part of the ongoing “Lost 52 Project” supported in part by STEP Ventures and has been recognized by JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology) as the first and most comprehensive offshore underwater archaeological expedition in Japanese waters.