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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive

Grayback (SS-208)

Radio Call Sign: November - Echo - Kilo - Foxtrot

Gar Class Submarine: Laid down, 3 April 1940, at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT.; Launched, 31 January 1941; Commissioned, USS Grayback (SS-208), 30 June 1941; Lost to enemy action, sunk by Japanese carrier based aircraft and anti-submarine surface units, 27 February 1944 in the East China Sea; Struck from the Naval Register, (date unknown); Grayback received two Navy Unit Commendations and eight battle stars for World War II service.
Her wreck was located by Tiburon Subsea CEO Tim Taylor along with his "Lost 52 Project" team and released for publication November 2019.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 1,475 t., Submerged: 2,370 t.; Length 307' 2"; Beam 27' 3"; Draft 13' 3"; Speed, Surfaced 20 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts; Complement 5 Officers, 54 Enlisted; Armament, ten 21" torpedo tubes, 24 torpedoes, one 3"/50 dual purpose deck gun, two .50 cal. machine guns, two .30 cal. machine guns; Propulsion, diesel-electric, four General Motors Co., diesel engines, 5.400 hp, Fuel Capacity, 96,365 gals., four General Electric Co., electric motors, 2,740 hp, Battery cells 252, twin propellers.
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Grayback 376k Grayback (SS-208) was sponsored by Mrs. Wilson Brown, wife of Rear Admiral Wilson Brown.
Mrs. Brown was apparently camera shy; Her husband appears here receiving a medal from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on 28 April 1942.
Photo courtesy of NATIONAL ARCHIVES CATALOG / National Archives Identifier: 195444 via
NR Moses Parts the Ways for the Launching of the Charr (SS-328).
This would at least have been more accurate than the caption that accompanies the photo, which lists the boat as the Grayback (SS-208).
For starters, none of the external characteristics in the photo in question match the Grayback. This is a summertime photo. Charr was launched on 28 May 1944, the Grayback 31 January 1941.
I strongly suspected that it was a Balao class given the configuration of the fairwater and the presence of the periscope shears. The Gar class Grayback was launched without her periscope shears installed.
It never ceases to amaze me at the willingness of newspaper reporters and editors to just throw any picture of a submarine on their pages and never check to verify which one it is. It really is sloppy journalism.
Partial text & photo I.D. via Dave Johnston.
Image and text provided by Connecticut State Library, Hartford, CT.
Photo from Eastern Connecticut News. (Groton, Conn.) 1946-194?, 02 September 1946, Image 13, via
Grayback 240k All decked up with bunting, the REAL Grayback (SS-208) slides down the launching ways at Electric Boat on 31 January 1941. USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
NR The fanfare and the gay laughing crowds were missing at the launching of the Grayback (SS-208). There was a grim tense feeling in the January 31st air of that year of 1941. The chill was not from the winter weather but the premonition of things to come. This twentieth launching of the new submarine building program at the Groton, Conn., plant of the Electric Boat Company was closed to the public by the Navy Department and with only the officials of the Boat Company and a few worker spectators to watch her, Mrs. William Brown, wife of Rear Admiral Wilson Brown, christened the noble 300-footer, the Grayback, a name that was destined to stand out in the annals of United States naval history!
Bleak and disappointed faces pressed close against the wire fence of the North Yard as the spectators who had been turned away from the launching tried to catch a glimpse of her journey down the ways. They were the faces of the gay spectators of other launchings who did not want to break their record of witnessing every launching since the new SUB building program had started in 1933. Soane drew their coats a little closer as they crowded to the fence in anticipation of the great moment, and though the January wind was sharp, another coldness had penetrated deep within themócould this mean war?
As if in answer to the question in their hearts the Grayback, bedecked with international code flags, the union jack at her bow, the E. B. pennant strident amidships, and, the national ensign whipping proudly at her stern, as she freed herself from the launching cradle in the Thames River was greeted by the distant cheers of the crewmembers of a sister SUB that was plying her way out for maneuvers in New York Sound. Ten months later the Grayback and her crew were at war in the service of their country. The start of an heroic and gallant career.
Insert image (Slightly above the bottom left corner) provided by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, Chapel Hill, NC.
Photo from The Wilmington Morning Star. [volume] (Wilmington, N.C.) 1909-1990, 01 February 1941, FINAL EDITION, Image 10, via
Text provided by Connecticut State Library, Hartford, CT.
Photo from Eastern Connecticut News. (Groton, Conn.) 1946-194?, 02 September 1946, Image 13, via
Grayback 28k Commemorative postal cover on the occasion of Grayback's (SS-208) launching, 31 January 1941, at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT. Courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Grayback 486k Grayback (SS-208), port side view, probably just after launching at the Electric Boat Co. Photo courtesy of Scott Koen &
Grayback 50k Color-tinted postcard of the Grayback (SS-208), port side view, probably just after launching at the Electric Boat Co. USN photo courtesy of
Muskallunge 1.95k Grayback's (SS-208) 1st CO was Lt. Comdr. Willard A. Saunders.
He appears here in the center of this photo showing officers of the Muskallunge (SS-262) during her commissioning, on 15 March 1943.
Official USN photo courtesy of George & Linda Salava.
This photo was from the collection of FC3 Frank Salava who was K.I.A. when the Sculpin (SS-191) was sunk & 62 other crewmen were K.I.A. on 19 November 1943.
 204 / 2081.03k Grayback (SS-208) fitting out & Mackerel (SS-204) with ice on her fore deck and radio wires, photographed in early 1941.Photo courtesy of Scott Koen &
Grayback 1.10k Grayback (SS-208) on her shakedown trials, 6 May 1941. U.S. National Archives # 19-N-23992 courtesy of
Grayback 24k Commemorative postal cover on the occasion of Grayback's (SS-208) first day in service, 30 June 1941. Courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Grayback 20k Commemorative postal cover on the occasion of Grayback's (SS-208) first day in service, 30 June 1941. Courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Grayback 50k Grayback (SS-208) viewed from about 500 feet, probably during her shakedown period in Long Island Sound out of Newport, New London, and New York. Photo & partial text courtesy of
Navy Day20kCommemorative postal cover marking Navy Day, 27 October 1941 and the following submarines commissioned since the previous year:
Trout (SS-202),
Tuna (SS-203),
Mackerel (SS-204),
Marlin (SS-205),
Gar (SS-206),
Grampus (SS-207),
Grayback (SS-208),
Grayling (SS-209),
Grenadier (SS-210) &
Courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Grayback 366k Grayback (SS-208) dockside, 26 August 1943 at Mare Island. USN photo # 6138-43 courtesy of Scott Koen &
Grayback 218k Possible scorecard markings on the Grayback's (SS-208) aft bridge section, possibly in drydock while looking up at what appears to be an attack transport (AK) on 26 August 1943 at Mare Island. USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen &
Grayback 132k Stern view of the Grayback (SS-208) off San Francisco (Hunter's Point) on 26 August 1943. USN photo # 6137-43, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Grayback 131k Broadside view of the Grayback (SS-208) off San Francisco on 26 August 1943. USN photo # 6139-43, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Grayback 96k Bow on view of the Grayback (SS-208) off San Francisco on 26 August 1943. USN photo # 6141-43, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Grayback 287k Grayback (SS-208), underway, starboard view 26 August 1943, off San Francisco. USN photo # 6138-43 courtesy of Scott Koen &
Grayback 39k The seventh patrol was more successful. Departing Brisbane 25 April 1943, Grayback (SS-208) intercepted a convoy whose position had been radioed to her by Albacore (SS-218) 11 May. In a night surface attack Grayback fired a spread of six torpedoes at the seven freighters and their three escorts. The three escorts charged and she had to go deep to elude the attacking enemy. She was credited with the sinking of cargo ship Yodogwa Maru. Text courtesy of DANFS
Photo courtesy of
Grayback 76k 17 May 1943: NE of the Admiralty Islands. At about 1800, LtCdr (later Rear Admiral) Edward C. Stephan's (USNA '29) Grayback (SS-208) torpedoes and sinks troop transport England Maru at 00-45S, 148-30E. 232 of the 1,500 troops aboard and 13 crewmen are KIA. Equipment lost included the 7.7mm heavy machine guns of the 31st Independent Field Antiaircraft Artillery Company and the single-barrel 20mms of the 22nd and 23rd Field Machine Cannon Companies (six 20mms in each cannon company). Horses and trucks belonging to both units are also lost. Text & photo courtesy of
Grayback 899k Arriving Pearl Harbor 12 September, Grayback (SS-208) prepared for her eighth war patrol. Sailing 26 September with Shad (SS-235), she rendezvoused with Cero (SS-225) at Midway to form the first of the Submarine Force's highly successful wolfpacks. The three submarines under Captain C. B. Momsen in Cero, cruised the China Sea and returned to base with claims of 38,000 tons sunk and 3,300 damaged. Grayback accounted for two ships, a passenger-cargo vessel torpedoed 14 October and a former light cruiser, Awata Maru, torpedoed after an end-around run on a fast convoy 22 October. Text courtesy of DANFS
Photo courtesy of
Grayback 2.20k With almost a quarter of her crew untested in battle Grayback (SS-208) departed Pearl Harbor for the East China Sea 2 December 1943 for her ninth war patrol. Within 5 days of her first contact with Japanese ships, she had expended all her torpedoes in a brilliant series of attacks which netted four ships for a total of over 10,000 tons.
Here is a 23 page PDF of Grayback's next to last patrol.
Text courtesy of DANFS.
PDF courtesy of Scott Koen &
Grayback 216k On the night of 18 December to 19 December 1943, Grayback (SS-208) attacked convoy of four freighters and three escorts. She sent freighter Gyokurei Maru and escort Numakaze to the bottom and damaged several others in surface attack. The Numakaze appears here in a photo dated 1925. Text courtesy of
Photo courtesy of
Grayback 183k 24 February 1944: 20 miles E of Formosa. At 0336, Cdr John A. Moore's (USNA '32) Grayback (SS-208) torpedoes and sinks oiler Nampo Maru at 24-20N, 122-25E and slightly damages transport Asama Maru at 24-28N, 122-21E. Shimushu counterattacks unsuccessfully. Photo from "Color Paintings of Japanese Warships" by Takeshi Yukivia & text
Grayback 757k From captured Japanese records the gallant submarine's last few days can be pieced together. Heading home through the East China Sea, on 27 February Grayback (SS-208) used her last two torpedoes to sink the freighter Ceylon Maru. That same day, a Japanese carrier-based plane, a Nakajima B5N2 "Kate, spotted a submarine on the surface in the East China Sea and attacked. According to Japanese reports the submarine "exploded and sank immediately," but antisubmarine craft were called in to depth-charge the area, clearly marked by a trail of air bubbles, until at last a heavy oil slick swelled to the surface. Grayback had ended her last patrol, one which cost the enemy some 21,594 tons of shipping. Text courtesy of DANFS.
Photo courtesy of
Grayback NR Submarine Grayback (SS-208)
Listed by Navy as Lost
24th Since War Began

Comdr. John A. Moore
Was Skipper of Craft,
Presumably in Pacific.

Loss of the submarine Grayback, presumably in operations against the Japanese in the Far Pacific, was announced today by the Navy.
The 1,475-ton submersible carried an estimated personnel of 65 officers and men.
She was commanded by Comdr. John Anderson Moore, Lowell, Ariz., who is listed as missing in action. Comdr. Moore's wife, Mrs. Virginia S. Moore, lives in Memphis, Tenn. Comdr. Moore was on duty in the Bureau of Navigation here in 1940.
The loss of the Grayback, officially listed as overdue and presumed lost, brings to 24 the number of American submarines missing since December 7, 1941, Of that total, two were sunk in the Atlantic Ocean during training and other maneuvers and one was destroyed to prevent capture. The others all are listed as overdue from patrol and presumed lost.
The Navy never tells where submarines operated on their last war patrols. However, most action by American submersibles has been in the Pacific, many of them operating along Japan's shorelines against enemy shipping.
Against the total of 24 submarines lost since the war started, the submersibles have built up a record of 758 Japanese ships sunk, probably sunk or damaged. The total includes 607 definitely sent to the bottom.
Among the enemy vessels accounted for by subs are a number of warships, although the submersibles' activities have been directed principally against enemy supply lines for Japanese garrisons in the Pacific.
The subs have been credited by Admiral Ernest King, commander in chief of the United States Fleet, with operations that could determine the course of the war in the Pacific.
The Grayback, built by the Electrie Boat Co. at Groton, Conn., was commissioned in 1941. She was christened by Mrs. Wilson Brown, wife of Rear Admiral Brown, naval aide to President Roosevelt. Comdr. Moore, 34, a native of Brownwod, Tex., had taken submarine warfare deep into enemy territory and was officially credited with the sinking of an auxiliary cruiser and two freighters. He received the Navy Cross for heroism in the action.
Image and text provided by Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Photo from Evening Star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, 20 June 1944, Image 1, via
East China & Yellow Seas 167k Google Earth satellite photo where Grayback (SS-208) was found, 1427 feet deep, 50 nautical miles south of Okinawa. View courtesy of Google Earth.
Grunion22kIn preparation for the expedition, the team's Japanese historian and researcher, Yutaka Iwasaki, located and re-translated the original documents to discover 1946 post-war error in the longitude. This original error remained for 75 years until discovered by the Lost 52 Team. The new data, along with newly discovered and translated Japanese mission logs, enabled the team to refocus their search on the area southwest of Okinawa. On June 5th, 2019 the team discovered the Grayback (SS-208) 100 miles from an area recorded in WWII historical records.
It was Yutaka Iwasaki who originally corresponded with Lt. Col Richard Lane's inquiry as to the authenticity of a 1$ electronic document which brought about the discovery of the Grunion (SS-216) in 2007.
Majority text via
Photo courtesy of
Grayback 10k John Anderson Moore, Commander (Commanding Officer) of the Grayback (SS-208) at the time of her loss. USN photo courtesy of
Grayback 38k Commemorative photo in honor of the memory of the crew of the Grayback (SS-208).Photo courtesy of Tom Kermen.
Dante's Prayer courtesy of Loreena McKennitt via
Grayback132k On 2 July 1957, upon the occasion of the launching of the Grayback (SSG-574), the sponsor was presented with several gifts during the reception which followed the launching. Shown are RADM M. J. Lawrence (Shipyard Commander), Mrs. John A. Moore (Sponsor), Mr. I. H. Whitthorne (President of Master's and Foreman's Association), and Mr. Ernest D. Wichels (President of the Navy Yard Association). Mrs. Moore is the widow of the commanding officer of the 1st Grayback (SS-208). USN photo # NY9 35070-7-57, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Grayback132kMrs. John A. Moore, Sponsor of the Grayback (SSG-574) vists the ship in dry dock 4 at Mare Island on 3 July 1957. RADM M. J. Lawrence, USN, Shipyard Commander and Capt E. J. Fahy, USN, Production Officer are seen with her. The building in the background is the yard's machine shop. The cupola in the right corner of the pcture is the periscope test tower for the optical shop which was on the top of the building. Periscopes were suspended from the ceiling and scopes head window projected into the cupola for test and calibration. USN photo # NY9 35079-7-57, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Grayback156kThis is the historic data plate made to commemorate the recommissioning of the Grayback (LPSS-574), 25 July 1969 and in memorium of the first Grayback (SS-208), lost to enemy action, sunk by Japanese carrier based aircraft and anti-submarine surface units, 27 February 1944 in the East China Sea. USN photo # MSA 93334-7-69, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Grayback14k Commemorative postal cover marking the first Grayback (SS-208) and the second Grayback (LPSS-574), on 21 June 1982.Courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Fremantle 365k This plaque was unveiled 20 March 1995 by His Excellency Major General P.M. Jeffery OA MC, Governor of Western Australia to commemorate the sacrifices made by Allied submarines that operated out of Fremantle, Western Australia during WW II. Photo courtesy of Ron Reeves (of blessed memory).
Tolling the Boats 117k Joyce DaSilva, the wife of Jesse DaSilva of the Tang (SS-306), one of the nine survivors of the boat, tosses a flower into a reflecting pool to honor the memory of one of the 52 submarines lost during World War II at the National Submarine Memorial-West on board Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, Calif. On this Veterans Day, the Submarine Veterans of World War II transferred ownership of the memorial to the U.S. Navy.

The following text is from The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton., pg. 478.
"Major Sullivan Ballou of Rhode Island was killed in the battle, and just before it he had wrote to his wife, Sarah, to tell her that he believed he was going to be killed and to express a tremulous faith that could see a gleam of light in the dark:
"But O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and float unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you in the gladdest days and in the gloomiest nights, always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your chest it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait, for we shall meet again!"
Text i.d. courtesy of Marlynn Starring. Photo i.d. courtesy of Chuck Senior, Vice Commander, Los Angeles-Pasadena Base, USSVI.
USN photo # N-1159B-021 by Journalist 2nd Class Brian Brannon, courtesy of
NR New London Tercentenary Pays Tribute to Grayback (SS-208) Heroes
Nearest "Doc" in Tokyo; Pharmacist's Mate Operates
Ralph Theodore Shaw CTM, USN.(K.I.A.)
Image and text provided by Connecticut State Library, Hartford, CT.
Photo from NEW LONDON TERCENTENARY EDITION NO. 2. (Groton, Conn.) 1946-194?, 23 May 1946, Image 3, via
NR Lost at Sea
45 Members of the Crew of the Grayback (SS-208)
Image and text provided by Connecticut State Library, Hartford, CT.
Photo from NEW LONDON TERCENTENARY EDITION NO. 2. (Groton, Conn.) 1946-194?, 6 June 1946, Image 3, & Eastern Connecticut News. (Groton, Conn.) 1946-194?, 02 September 1946, Image 13, via
NR Poems on the Grayback (SS-208) Lost at Sea by By Ralph Theodore Shaw CTM, USN.(K.I.A.) Image and text provided by Connecticut State Library, Hartford, CT.
Photo from Eastern Connecticut News. (Groton, Conn.) 1946-194?, 02 September 1946, Image 11, via
NR Grayback's (SS-208) data plate viewed at 1427 feet on the ocean's bottom off Okinawa.
Imagine the deck scene prior to the bomb hit, probably 6 - 8 or so bridge personnel, including a 2-3 plus look outs on the periscope shears,etc. Maybe the Kate's came in out of the sun, maybe the crew didn't even know what hit them & within maybe 30 seconds or less the Grayback was already an oily wreck heading towards Davey Jones locker.
Col. John Hart wrote: Sadly if caught on the surface and rapidly sunk by one or more bombs there is a good chance some bridge, and potentially conning tower watch, survived to float for a while based on Tang (SS-306) experience etc. It proves how difficult it is to determine the last minutes of a lost submarine based on wreckage.

In Memorium:

In the Second Book of Shmuel (Samuel), 22nd chapter, 5th through the 20th verses, translated from the original in Hebrew and published by the Koren Publishers of Jerusalem, Israel, 1982, can perhaps aptly describe the fate of the crew and all other U.S. submariners who died defending their county:

"When the waves of death compassed me / the floods of ungodly men made me afraid; / the bonds of She'ol encircled me; / the snares of death took me by surprise; / in my distress I called upon the Lord, / and cried to my G-D: / and he heard my voice out of his temple, / and my cry entered into his ears. / Then the earth shook and trembled; /the foundations of heaven moved / and shook because of his anger /...the heavy mass of waters, and thick clouds of the skies /... And the channels of the sea appeared, / the foundations of the world were laid bare, / at the rebuking of the Lord, at the blast at the breath of his nostrils. / He sent from above, he took me; / he drew me out of many waters; / he delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too strong for me. / They surprised me in the day of my calamity: / but the Lord was my stay / He brought me forth also into a large place: / he delivered me because he delighted in me./"
Data plate insert courtesy of Bob Canchola
Grayback Discovered courtesy of

View the Grayback (SS-208)
DANFS history entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway Web Site.
Crew Contact And Reunion Information
U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation
Fleet Reserve Association

Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
On Eternal Patrol
ComSubForPac US Pacific Fleet - USS Grayback (SS 208), 26 February 1944 - 80 Men Lost
PigBoats.COM TM, a Historic Look at Submarines

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