USS Robalo (SS-273)

USS Robalo (SS-273)

USS Robalo SS-273, launching at Manitowok, Wisconsin.

The wreck of the USS Robalo (SS-273) was discovered in May 2019.

The drawing is based on the actual dives along with reference from videos take so should be fairly accurate with regards to the actual condition and key features.

The USS Robalo was lost in July 1944, she was last heard from on the 2nd July, just East of Borneo; reporting that the Robalo had sighted a Fuso class battleship with two destroyer escorts and air support. She was not heard from again and presumed lost.

A note was received through a cell window in PoW camp on Palawan Island. It advised that the Robalo was sunk on 26th July 1944 around 2 miles west of Palawan Island. The sinking was thought to be as a result of an explosion in the vicinity of her after battery, and was suspected to be due to a Japanese mine.

Only 4 men were thought to have survived the sinking, all of whom were captured shortly after reaching shore and sadly all of whom were never heard from again after leaving the Palawan PoW camp.

The wreck was discovered in May 2019 by the Sea Scan Survey team in the Philippines, it is located to the East of Balabac Island in southern Palawan at a maximum depth of 78m. The majority of the wreck is in good condition, although the wooden decks and supporting steelwork have rotted or collapsed the main superstructure and features remain intact.

The rear section to the maneuvering room is completely missing, including the entire after torpedo room. A large opening in the outer hull is also present on the starboard side, roughly inline with the forward engine room and close to the after battery space. The rear portion is completely obliterated, although some debris around the rear of the wreck could include a torpedo tube, however the other mean features were not seen.

The port side propellor shaft lies twisted protruding from the wreck and disappearing into the sand, with a single bent propellor blade protruding a few metres behind the shaft – the starboard side propellor or shaft could not be located within the wreck.

It’s not fully clear what caused the devastation observed on the wreck, although the debris around the rear and the symmetry of the damage around the rear area may suggest something more than an enemy mine explosion occurred at the time of sinking. The initial theory was that a live torpedo in the after torpedo room may have been triggered as a result of the contact with the enemy mine; however, this is only a theory but would explain the extent of damage to the rear section of the submarine.

The crew of 81 souls from the final war patrol of the Robalo were lost, 77 in the sinking and 4 in PoW camps after surviving the explosion. During the dives that only the conning tower and crews mess hatches were open, as would often be the case for surface passage, the hatches for the forward torpedo room and engine room were both closed, the escape hatch from the after torpedo room was no longer in place as it would form part of the missing section.

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