Built by Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut.
Laid down April 3, 1940. Launched January 31, 1941. Commissioned on June 30, 1941. Named "Grayback" for a lake herring fish.
Attached to the Atlantic Fleet Grayback, conducted her shakedown cruise in Long Island Sound out of Newport, New London, and New York City. Next, on September 8, 1941 departed New London, Connecticut with USS Grampus (SS-207) for patrol duty in the Caribbean Sea and Chesapeake Bay; then to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on November 30 for overhaul. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, departed via the Panama Canal for Pearl Harbor arriving on February 8, 1942.
Departed on February 5 along the coast of Saipan and Guam. There she had a four-day encounter with an enemy submarine; the enemy I-boat fired two torpedoes at Grayback on the morning of February 22, then continued to trail her across the Pacific. Grayback spotted the enemy conning tower a couple of times, and the Japanese ship broached once; but the Grayback could not get into position to attack. After four days, Grayback shook the enemy sub and continued on patrol. On March 17 she sank her first ship, a 3291-ton cargo ship off Port Lloyd and returned to base on April 10.
Patrolling found no targets and even patrolled on the surface during the day. On June 22 she arrived at Fremantle which was to be her home base for most of the war.
Third & Forth Patrols
Patrolled in the South China Sea and St. George's Passage, Grayback was hampered by bright moonlight, shallow and treacherous water, and enemy patrol craft. Despite these hazards, she damaged several freighters and an enemy submarine.
Departed Australia on December 7, 1942. A week later, Pharmacist's Mate Harry B. Roby was called upon to perform an emergency appendectomy, the second to be done on a patrolling submarine. With Grayback running a hundred feet beneath the surface, the untutored Roby successfully removed the infected appendix, and his patient was back standing watch by the end of the patrol. On December 25, Grayback surfaced to sink four landing barges with her deck guns. Four days later she was again fired on by an enemy submarine but maneuvered to avoid the torpedoes. On January 3, 1943 sunk I-18, one of 25 Japanese submarines destroyed by western submarines during the war.
On January 5, Grayback served as beacon ship for the bombardment of Munda and during the early morning she received word that six survivors from B-26B "Queenie" 41-17586 shot down two days earlier were awaiting rescue on Rendova Island. Grayback sent ashore two men, then submerged at dawn to avoid enemy aircraft. The submariners located the downed aviators, three of whom were injured, and hid out with them in the jungle. As night fell, Grayback surfaced offshore and by coded light signals directed the small boat "home safe" to the submarine. For this action skipper Edward C. Stephan received the Navy Cross and a US Army Silver Star.
Grayback continued on patrol, torpedoing and damaging several Japanese ships. On January 17 she attacked a destroyer escorting a large transport, hoping to disable the escort and then sink the freighter with her deck guns. However, the destroyer evaded the torpedoes and dropped 19 depth charges on the submarine. One blew a gasket on a manhole cover, and the submarine, leaking seriously, returned to Brisbane arriving February 23.
Departed February 16, 1943 to patrol the Bismarck and Solomons area without any military success. Her SJ radar had failed to function; and although she had taken several shots at cargo ships, none were sunk. Returned on April 4, 1943.
Departing Brisbane on April 25. On May 11, Grayback was radioed the position of a enemy convoy by USS Albacore (SS-218). Surfacing at night, this submarine fired a spread of six torpedoes at the seven freighters and three escorts. The three escorts charged and she had to go deep to elude the attacking enemy. She was credited with the sinking Yodogawa Maru. On May 16 she torpedoed and seriously damaged a destroyer. The following day Grayback intercepted four transports with one escort and sank England Maru and damaged two others before she was forced to dive. Returned to Pearl Harbor on May 30, then to San Francisco for overhaul.
Returning to Pearl Harbor on September 12, 1943 with Captain John Anderson Moore. Departing on September 26 with USS Shad (SS-235), she rendezvoused with USS Cero (SS-225) at Midway to form the first USN submarine wolfpacks. The three submarines under Captain Momsen in USS Cero, searched the China Sea and returned to base with claims of 38,000 tons sunk and 3300 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 October 22. Wolf pack tactics came into play 2 October as Grayback closed a convoy already attacked by Shad and sunk a 9000-ton transport listing from two of Shad’s torpedoes. The submarines had expended all torpedoes, and on November 10 returned to Midway.
Grayson CO, John Anderson Moore was awarded after this mission with a Navy Cross (Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 329 (August 1944))
Departed Pearl Harbor on December 2, 1943 for the East China Sea. Within five days of her first contact with Japanese ships, she had expended all her torpedoes in a series of attacks which netted four ships for a total of over 10,000 tons. On the night of 18 December to 19 December Grayback 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.
Two nights later, 20 December to 21 December, she spotted another convoy of six ships; and, after an end-around run she fired a spread of nine torpedoes into the heart of the Japanese formation. This first attack sunk one freighter and damaged another before Grayback dived to elude depth charges. Three hours later she surfaced and sank a second freighter. After an unsuccessful attack the following night had exhausted her torpedo supply, Grayback headed home. The submarine surfaced 27 December and sank a fishing boat with deck guns before returning to Pearl Harbor on January 4, 1944.
Grayson CO, John Anderson Moore was awarded after this mission by second Navy Cross (see Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 330 (September 1944))
Departed Pearl Harbor on January 28, 1944 for the East China Sea. On February 19, Grayback sunk two cargo ships Taikei Maru and Toshin Maru plus damaged two others, reporting these by radio on February 24.
On February 25, she transmitted her second and final report. That morning she sunk tanker Nanho Maru and severely damaged Asama Maru. With only two torpedoes remaining, she was ordered back from patrol.
On February 27, 1944 Grayback used her last two torpedoes to sink the freighter Ceylon Maru, was spotted by a Japanese carrier aircraft and bombed observing the target "exploded and sank immediately. Anti-submarine ships dropped depth charges on a trail of air bubbles and observed an oil slick that swelled to the surface of the South China Sea.
Due at Midway on March 7, Grayback did not arrive. On March 30 ComSubPac listed her as missing and presumed lost with all hands. Grayson CO, John Anderson Moore was posthumously awarded after this mission by third Navy Cross during March 1945. Grayback ranked 20th among all submarines in total tonnage sunk with 63,835 tons and 24th in number of ships sunk with 14. The submarine and crew had received two Navy Unit Commendations for their seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth war patrols. Grayback received eight battle stars for World War II service.
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May 3, 2016