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What happens to a submarine sunk by depth charges?

Discussion in 'Underwater Treasures' started by Jayfarmlaw, Aug 21, 2019.

  1. Jayfarmlaw

    Jayfarmlaw Divemaster

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Tuttle, Ok
    This is hardly underwater treasure but maybe I can find some information about a US submarine lost in WWII off of the Northeast coast of Japan. I have a case that has taken a more personal impact than most. The case details are not important for this post, but it involves a WWII veteran whose sub was sunk and never heard from again. He was on the submarine USS Golet, SS-361. The only proof they have of the sinking was that it was never heard from again and Japanese war records indicated an action report that listed an oil slick 5200 meters long with cork debris and a raft in an area that the sub could have been in. The most detailed report shows that there were two Japanese ships and aircraft involved in the battle.

    On Eternal Patrol - Loss of USS Golet (SS-361)

    To my knowledge the sub has never been located. When a sub was sunk by depth charges, would there have been an explosion rendering any recovery impossible (blown to pieces) or would there have been a hull breach that sent the sub to the bottom relatively intact? 82 Americans went to the bottom with her. One of those men was was a husband whose son was born two weeks later. My involvement is the result of a ripple from that event 80 years later.

    If we can locate the Titanic and German u boats, is finding the Golet even possible?

    Any information would be greatly appreciated, this is so far out of any realm of knowledge I possess, and google has turned up lots of the same information over the last few days. The family has become friends and I would like to share any information I can find.

    Thanks in advance for your response.

  2. diversteve

    diversteve always tired Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    What do depth charges do to a submarine?
    A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare weapon. It is intended to destroy a submarine by being dropped into the water nearby and detonating, subjecting the target to a powerful and destructive hydraulic shock. ... Depth charges can be dropped by ships, patrol aircraft, and helicopters.

    I can't remember the name but there's a Navy department whose mission is to recover and identify war remains if at all possible. They got involved in a WWII plane crash - I believe it missed the runway and went down in the English Channel? They ID'd the pilot from his ring - found part of his hand.

    They have a forensics lab in Hawaii - I assume at Pearl Harbor. IIRC many Congressmen know it.

    If you google articles about the recent repatriation of remains from North Korea post-Trump visit - it should be mentioned since those remains were sent there for analysis and ID.
    Jayfarmlaw likes this.
  3. Wookie

    Wookie Secret Field Agent ScubaBoard Business Sponsor

    I dive a u-boat sunk by hedgehogs on occasion. It’s in 210 feet. It’s mostly intact.
  4. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: NorCal
    The depth charges are not so much to destroy, in the conventional meaning, as making a hydrostatic shock that will disrupt power, break lighting, and crack piping. Not being able to see, no power to run pumps, and flooding , perhaps fire, not to mention the depth and whether there was a bottom before crush depth, makes damage control a nightmare. It's a matter of stopping the damage before it takes the boat.

    What's amazing, is the number of boats that survived and made it home. The name alludes me, but one sub was so badly damaged it had to go back to port on the surface from within Japanese waters, and was scrapped after making the trip, because it could not be repaired. The story is incredible.

    Subs Lost in WWII

    Submarine service during World War II was the most dangerous duty in the military with casualty rates around 20 percent. More than 3,600 sailors -- nearly one in five serving aboard diesel submarines -- died during the war.

    KWS, lowflyer, laikabear and 3 others like this.
  5. DeepSeaExplorer

    DeepSeaExplorer Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Cave Country
    The U-352 took a spread of depth charges and sank intact off the NC coast. Many others have too, but there may be differences in construction that need to be taken into account.
  6. GJC

    GJC Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southern California, USA
    Looking at this chart:

    Nautical Charts Online - View details of Chart 97005, Northeastern Coast of Honshu and Southern Hokkaido

    It looks like the ocean bottom is around 300 meters. Assuming the location is accurate, it could possibly be located.

    This submarine was found deeper, in the Gulf of Mexico, by accident while doing a sonar and ROV survey prior to laying a pipeline.

    German submarine U-166 (1941) - Wikipedia

    Finding your submarine would most likely take quite some time and fairly expensive resources. Something like this:

    Robert Ballard found the Titanic. Can he find Amelia Earhart’s airplane?
    Jayfarmlaw likes this.
  7. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: NorCal
    Depth charges are highly inaccurate, most of the damage they cause is from their shock wave disrupting the systems in the boat. Similar to dropping your cellphone on the floor, picking it up and not seeing any damage, but the f'n thing dosen't work any more.

    The movie Das Boot, or the books Thunder Below, Wahoo, Clear the Bridge!, or Silent Victory will give you an idea.

  8. Steve_C

    Steve_C Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC USA
    The boat may have come to rest some distance away from where the action occurred.
    Bob DBF likes this.
  9. Barnaby'sDad

    Barnaby'sDad ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Virginia
    ChuckP likes this.
  10. Akimbo

    Akimbo Lift to Freedom Volunteer Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    The US Navy did an interesting study in the 1970s to find out what happens to submarines that implode. A friend was a diver and submarine qualified sailor on the team. They took two WWII subs and rigged them to sink in deep water using explosive valves to vent ballast tanks off San Diego. One of the Alvin class submersibles (can't remember which one) was sent town to document the debris field.

    As I recall the discussions, one hull failed in the aft torpedo room and the other amidships. In both cases the subs were generally intact except inside. The near-instant pressure increase heated the air in the hull and created a huge pocket of superheated steam. The internal watertight bulkheads were sheared off and acted like pistons in the pressure hull and swept the inside clean -- shearing off piping, hull penetrations, machinery mounts, and compressing everything into a slug at the end(s) that didn't fail; like a huge trash compactor. The sub's hulls were fitted with stress sensors but I'm not sure if any survived the implosions.

    As mentioned, the basic purpose of a depth charge or torpedo is to create a failure on the sub that causes it to take on enough water-weight and sink below crush depth. The ocean does the rest. In a similar way, modern guided torpedoes are designed to explode well-under a surface ship's hull amidships rather than strike it. The giant gas bubble created by several tons of high explosive reduces the density (buoyant force) making the center unsupported while the bow and stern still are. The ship "breaks it's back" because the shock wave weakens the bottom of the hull (like the bottom flange of an I-beam) and then removes the support in the middle. Again, the ocean does the real work and causes far more damage than the explosives could on their own.

    The story I heard was this phenomenon was discovered by Nazi U-boat commanders armed with new magnetic proximity sensors on unguided torpedos. Maybe some ex-Torpedomen on the board can explain it better?
    OceanEyes and Jared0425 like this.

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