Cuthbertson and the Grunion
“The soldier does not fight for hate of the enemy or what is in front of him, but for love of his brothers and what's behind him.”
William Cuthbertson, just 28 years old in the Summer of 1942, had a lot behind him to fight for. He had recently married his fiancé, Dorothy Nuechterlein, in April. Little did he know, but Dorothy would have a child 9 months later. He had friends and family in Michigan, not to mention the brothers serving in close proximity on the submarine, the Grunion.
In the Summer of 1942, a German submarine torpedoed another U.S. vessel, the U.S.S. Jack in the Caribbean. The explosion opened a large hole in the hull, blew the hatch covers off, stopped the engines, and damaged the radio. The ship sank quickly within four minutes and the suction swamped the port lifeboat, taking it with it under sea. 2 soldiers managed to launch the starboard lifeboat, and picked up the other 14 men who were floating on top of a piece of the wreckage. Stranded at sea, the crew rationed a few canteens of water for seven days.
On the seventh day, a large wave rose out of the middle of the ocean. It was the Grunion, which just so happened to surface near the survivors. Cuthbertson and the Grunion’s crew were in the middle of lunch. After spotting the survivors, they cracked the submarine hatch, pulled the survivors in, and offered them their lunch, and took them back to shore. One survivor said, “At first we thought it was a German sub, but then we saw the Stars and Stripes flying from its masthead, and I never saw a more beautiful flag.”
The Grunion took the survivors back to shore before eventually heading to Kiska Island off the coast of Alaska. After engaging with a Japanese destroyer and sinking two Japanese sub-chasers, the Grunion radioed for assistance. Only July 30, the submarine reported intensive anti-submarine activity and was ordered back to Dutch Harbor. The Grunion and its 70 men were never heard from again.
The Grunion’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Abele, left behind three sons who started a search on the Grunion. They met with Dr. Robert Ballard, famous for discovering the shipwreck of the Titanic, to get advice on locating shipwrecks. The family decided to fund an expedition and in 2006, they found the Grunion.
While the Grunion and its crew died at sea, their memories, and 16 other men, lived on as a result of their brave service. They fought bravely for their families back home and the men beside them. Cuthbertson, just 28 years old, left behind his wife Dorothy and his daughter who he never met. Come see our temporary exhibit, The Great Lakes State Goes to War, to remember Cuthbertson and the four other men from Frankenmuth who gave all..
Nathan is the Director of Education, Events, & Exhibits at the FHA.
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