US Navy officially identifies WWII submarine S-28 wreck

The US Navy has officially validated the identity of WWII submarine S-28 (SS-133) wreck located off Oahu, Hawaii, in 2017.

3D Photogrammetry Imagery of the deck gun and bridge of the USS S-28 lost 75 years ago on July 4th, 1944. Photo: Lost 52 Project

After almost 75 years, Tim Taylor and his Lost 52 Expedition Team officially discovered the final resting place for the 49 sailors of the US submarine.

July 4, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of the loss of the submarine, which was conducting exercises at the time she disappeared.

“Identification of a navy gravesite is something Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch takes great care in doing,” said Sam Cox, Director of Naval History and Heritage Command.

“After an exhaustive review of the data provided by Tim Taylor’s team, we can positively identify the wreck as S-28.”

The keel of USS S-28 (SS-133) was laid down in April of 1919, just months after the end of the First World War. Commissioned on December 13, 1923, the S-Class submarine spent 16 years taking part in various navy exercises in the Caribbean and eventually the Pacific.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, she was being overhauled at Mare Island Naval Shipyard outside of San Francisco, California. She was one of several S-boats put into service in World War II and was initially sent to Alaska to defend the Aleutians against a possible Japanese invasion.

By mid-November, S-28 arrived in Pearl Harbor and for the next seven months trained in the waters around the island.

On July 3, 1944, S-28 embarked on an antisubmarine warfare training exercise off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. During the training, communication became sporadic and the boat sent her last communication to the Coast Guard cutter Reliance in the evening of July 4.

The navy’s search of the area did not reveal the location of the submarine and two days later, a diesel oil slick appeared in the area. Later, a Navy Court of Inquiry could not determine the cause of the loss.

During her service during WWII, she completed six war patrols and earned one battle star.

“We now know the final resting place of our shipmates. This discovery helps to ensure their service will always be remembered, honored and valued and we hope provides some measure of closure to their families,” Cox continued.

S-28 (SS-133) rests in approximately 8,700 feet of water, which made the location of the ship impossible due to technological limitations of the era.

After such an initial discovery, archeologists conduct exhaustive research to ensure its identity. In the case of S-28, the location at which it was discovered offered a key clue to its identity.

Following World War II, the US tested ordnance and scuttled US and Japanese ships in the vicinity of the wreck site.  Records indicated that her sister ship, USS S-35, had been scuttled in that same area. Finding the subtle differences between the two series of S-class submarines demanded some technical expertise and analysis.

Taylor’s team utilized advanced photogrammetry to create imaging that allows them to research the site long after they have returned to the dock. The data produced by their expedition was key in helping to confirm that we were looking at the S-28 and not the S-35.

The Lost 52 Expedition 2017 deploys deep-water autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) as well as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

The ongoing multi-year project is supported by STEP Ventures, who are dedicated to continuing work of the Lost 52 Project.

Video Courtesy: Ocean Outreach/Blue Matters