Relatives of lost WWII sub's crew to meet in Ohio

Wreckage discovery off coast of Alaska a relief to families

Posted: Monday, August 18, 2008

MIDLAND, Mich. - Don Reid was a boy when his older cousin joined the Navy, then disappeared when his submarine sank off the Alaska coast in 1942 with a crew of 70. Searchers found the wreckage of the USS Grunion last year.

Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News
Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News

Reid says Seaman Arnold Post, 18, took him to the movies and ice skating in Midland, where both grew up and Reid still lives.

The discovery of the wreckage last August was a relief to many family members, Reid told the Detroit Free Press.

"We now know what happened," said Reid, 73. "For years, he was just missing. He just wasn't there anymore. His mother never believed he was dead, though. "She always expected him to come home."

On Oct. 11, family members of the crew plan a gathering in Cleveland.

Five other Michigan sailors were on the Grunion: Torpedo's Mate Richard McCutcheon, 18, of Detroit; Seaman David N. Swartwood, 19, of Flint; Seaman Byron Traviss, 17, of Detroit; Seaman Loyal Ryan Jr., 17, of Lansing; and Ensign William Cuthbertson Jr., 27, of Frankenmuth.

Bruce Abele, whose father Mannert Abele commanded the sub, launched and funded the search with his two brothers. Abele said he believes the 312-foot submarine lost its depth-control function somehow and sank.

"In some respects, we started searching the day we learned the Grunion had not been heard from and was missing," said Abele, 78, of Newton, Mass.

Abele was 12 when he heard that his father's submarine was missing. Abele said he never really believed his father was dead.

"We didn't see him very much," he said. "He was always at sea. So I don't know if I ever believed he wasn't coming home. As a kid, I remember shooting baskets in the driveway. I thought if I could get five in a row, he'd come home.

"But he never did."

The Grunion patrolled Alaska's Aleutian Islands during the early months of World War II. Its last official radio message to the submarine base at Dutch Harbor came on July 30, 1942, and described heavy enemy activity at Kiska Harbor.

Earlier that month, the Grunion had sunk two Japanese submarine chasers and heavily damaged a third near Kiska, one of two islands in the far west Aleutians captured by the Japanese. Until a few years ago, the clues to the Grunion's disappearance were too fragmented to justify a search.

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