Remembering Grayback and Memphians Moore and Francis

Remembering Grayback and Memphians Moore and Francis

[TSMA – February 27, 2024] Eighty years ago today 80 U.S. Submariners aboard USS Grayback were deep into their 10th combat war patrol in the enemy controlled waters of the Western Pacific.

Grayback’s crew had sent two Japanese army cargo ships to the bottom a week earlier in the East China Sea. On the 26th Grayback was damaged by land-based Japanese aircraft attack but pressed on to attack and sink the Ceylon Maru, a naval transport early on the 27th. Later that day Grayback was hunting the enemy on the surface near Okinawa when she was spotted and attacked by Japanese carrier-based Nakajima B-5N bomber. She was struck by a bomb aft of the conning tower, causing an explosion and almost immediate sinking of the Grayback with all 80 officers and men. She was overdue at Midway on March 7th and listed as presumed lost on March 30, 1944. Her fate was unknown until review of post-war enemy records.

Grayback men were among the fearless crews that took the war to the enemy in their home waters. She sunk over 21,000 tons of Japanese shipping in her final war patrol and she ranked 20th among American submarines in the war with a total of 68,835 tons sent to the bottom — representing 14 enemy ships.

Grayback’s heroic patrols and achievements and those of other American submariners did not come at a low cost. Among her 80 crew lost were two Tennesseans. Grayback’s skipper, Commander John Anderson Moore and Motor Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Milton Lawrence Francis, both hailed from Memphis. They were among 3,506 officers and enlisted men lost aboard 52 American submarines, the highest casualty rate of any U.S. military service in the war, about 20%.

Commander Moore and Petty Officer Francis contributed to the defeat of America’s enemies in World War II. U.S. Submariners were first to bring the war to the enemy in the Pacific and their relentless years of combat patrols helped bring the Japanese naval and logistics forces to their knees.

We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the lines against the enemy.

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz

Grayback, winner of eight WWII battle stars, remained among those lost in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, final resting place for her crew. However, in 2019, she was located by a team from the Lost 52 Project resting almost intact at a depth of 1,427 feet off the coast of Okinawa.

“The discovery of the USS GRAYBACK provides us another precious opportunity to honor the brave Sailors who sacrificed so much in combat to preserve our freedom. Those selfless and committed submarine Sailors left a legacy of courage that we strive to attain every single day as we prepare the next generation of U.S. Navy Submariners.”

Rear Adm. Blake Converse
Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The Lost 52 Project contributed to our understanding of Grayback’s loss and helped her family members with knowledge of their final resting place, through their documentation and videos of their discovery.

Never Forgotten

Americans justly take pride in remembering the men and women who died in the Armed Forces. Since 1868 those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the nation were commemorated on Memorial Day, and other ceremonies at other times.

American Submariners are proud of their forerunners in the Silent Service, especially those who have gone on “Eternal Patrol.” Across the country there are memorials dedicated to the men who were lost, in cemeteries, public places, military bases and elsewhere. The Submarine Veterans of WWII asked that each state create a memorial to one of the 52 boats lost in the war.

The Tennessee Submarine Memorial

Tennessee lacks a memorial to the 87 lost Tennessean Submariners; to the 52 submarines lost in WWII, and USS Darter, that was designated for commemoration in our state. With that in mind, Submarine veterans who are members of the Volunteer Base (Nashville) chapter of the U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc. (USSVI) founded the Tennessee Submarine Memorial Association (TSMA). It is an independent, nonprofit organization with IRS 501c3 tax exempt status and recognized by the Tennessee Secretary of State as authorized to solicit charitable contributions.

Perpetuating the memories of submariners who didn’t come home

The mission of the Tennessee Submarine Memorial Association is to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the American Submarine Force sailors who gave their lives in the line of duty in war and in peace, especially Submariners who called Tennessee their home.

The Tennessee Submarine Memorial Association’s purpose is to educate members of the community about the sacrifice of American submariners of the United States Navy who have been lost during wartime and peacetime and to highlight the service of the American men and women of the United States Submarine Force.

The Tennessee Submarine Memorial Association will fulfill its mission of perpetuating the memory of U.S. Submariners through the building of memorials and other suitable projects and through educational programs and media.

Help Build A Memorial to Tennesseans Lost in Submarine Duty in Defense of the Nation

The Tennessee Submarine Memorial Association is a tax exempt charitable organization and donations are subject to treatment in accordance with IRS 501c3 considerations.

The Tennessee Submarine Memorial Association is approved by the Tennessee Secretary of State to solicit charitable contributions for the purposes of our mission.

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