THE AMERICAN ISLANDER is a little family. The
ships captain is Mario Luis, a longhaired and mild
mannered Portuguese with a taste for strong cigars. The crew
chief is Rob Kraft, an intense young man with a goatee and
close-cropped sandy hair who barks needed orders. The
mate is Boy Makua, whose muscular arms and legs are
covered with the triangle-shaped patterns of Hawaiian
warriors. Theyre family decorations, he says.
My father has them, too. The engineer is a broad-shouldered German named Rainer Pabst, a man of such dark,
sweaty vitality that he looks like hes working hard
even when standing still. The cook is Joby Todd, a
diminutive Japanese-Hawaiian with a crooked grin who puts
up a lot of hearty lunches. Today its hamburgers
grilled on charcoal on the deck.
As the sun filters through the heavy glass of the ports,
Ballards brain trust pores over maps and charts.
Dwight Coleman, Ballards scientific assistant at the
Institute for Exploration, and Cathy Offinger, Director of
Operations, have widened the search area. Using pencil and
ruler, they have extended new squares off onto remote
corners of the table. Its like playing battleship on
graph paper. Wheres the sub hiding?
Members of the team, sea veterans all, see an
opportunity for gamesmanship, a sort of office pool.
Lets sell squares, says one, Five bucks a square,
and if we find the sub in your box you take all.
Theres no shortage of gamblers or experts on
board. Rear Admiral Jay Cohen, Chief of the Office of Naval
Research, an agency that has backed Ballard expeditions for
years, is visiting for several days. Put my five bucks on the
square thats farthest north in your search area, he says
Farthest north? Does the Admiral think that the sub
nearly made the channel entrance? Look, he says, several
witnesses have told us that they saw through the hole in the
midget subs sail. He asks for a sketchpad and pencil
and outlines the configuration of the midgets sail. It
consists of an outer armor plate separated from an interior
core that is pressurized. Between the core and the armor is
empty space, so if witnesses could see through the hole it
meant that the core wasnt damaged.
My guess is that the captain regained depth control,
knew the torpedo nets were open, then headed straight for
the harbor, which was his mission. If thats the case
youll never find him.
Ballard agrees. Im the midget commander and
Im heading up into the harbor entrance, he muses.
And Im obviously not aware of someone behind
me, or I would have been submerged. Im sneaking in,
and all of a sudden theres a shot fired. Either
Im hit fatally and starting to dive, or Im
diving because I suddenly realize Ive been detected.
In either case Im moving north. I dont want
to be to be known in history as the guy who gave away the
The crew of the Ward had little time to analyze the
situation on that Sunday morning. Most of them were
excited about seeing a little action. And there was work to
do. Minutes after the attack on the submarine, the Ward
spotted a local fishing sampan that was steaming toward the
harbor entrance where shipping was restricted and
permission required. She chased down the sampan and fired
a warning shot across her bow. The sampan captain lurched
out on deck waving a white flag. Outerbridge, signaled for
the Coast Guard to pick up escort of the sampan, and
headed back to her patrol area.
In minutes the skies to the north were erupting with
smoke and flame, and the boys from St. Paul knew they
were in a war. Erasing any doubt were two Japanese dive
bombers that wheeled past the Ward and dropped bombs
toward her stern.
They missed, Will Lehner remembered, but the
pilots were so close that I could see their scarves, ones like
the old barn-stormers used to wear. The concussion of the
bombs lifted the aft of the Ward into the air, out of the
water so the propellers were cavitating. Thats how
far out she came.
About a week after the sinking the sailors sighted two
floating bodies in their patrol area; they were Japanese,
dressed in what looked like long underwear. One had no
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