Hunt for WWII Sub Sunk Near CA May be Over

Posted: September 25, 2002 at 6:13 p.m.

PILAR POINT, SAN MATEO COUNTY (KRON) -- Bill Anderson is a man with a burning obsession: to find the submarine he believes he helped sink in the waning days of World War II. 

"We picked it up on sonars," Anderson remembers, " and we picked up the propeller noise and they gave the coordinates to the captain."

Anderson was an 18-year old sailor on board the destroyer USS Willard Keith on that gray spring morning in March of 1945. He believes they sank a Japanese heavy submarine. 

"It was 352 feet. It's two feet longer than our destroyer was," Anderson says. " Tonnage was about the same. It's a monster submarine." 

But no record of the action was apparently kept, and it would have faded completely except for a reunion in 1993 of men who had been on board the Willard Keith. Bill and some of his shipmates determined to try to find the submarine in her watery grave somewhere off the coast between Half Moon Bay and San Francisco.

"Our ship kind of feels a responsibility to find it," Anderson says. " I had pretty good support from my crew to start with, but about half of them are dead of old age."

Anderson himself is now 76 years old. But he is determined. Every summer, in the boat he and his shipmates bought for their search, he has mapped the bottom with sonar along the Northern California coast. He actually found his most promising target five years ago, but until now has been unable to verify what, exactly, it is. 

But now, there's a new member of Anderson's crew. It's a submersible remotely operated vehicle about the size of a shoe box capable of diving to the 200-foot depth where Anderson believes the submarine may lie. And from that depth, it can send back live pictures.

Richard Faulk has donated the vehicle and its crew to help Anderson's search. 

"He's such a good guy," Faulk says, " and he has a passion and my deal is, if you have somebody that has a passion, you don't see that very often and I'm more than willing to assist and get involved."

With luck, sometime in the next month, with the remote camera on board, Bill Anderson will set sail on tjhe boat he has aptly named "Echo Hunter" on a final hunt for the echoes of a long dead ship in a past that's nearly faded from living memory. 

(Copyright 2002 KRON 4 News.  All Rights Reserved.) 

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