Missing WWII submarine carrying Albuquerque sailor found 75 years later

Veterans Voices

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque sailor has been missing since the submarine he was on sunk off the coast of Japan during World War II. Seventy-five years later, the submarine has finally been found.

“I don’t really have any memories of my uncle, but I’ve heard stories about him,” said Tom Adkins.

On January 28, 1944, 24-year-old James Northam set sail from Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Grayback; but that submarine never came back.

“I was probably about 4 years old when his submarine went down,” said Adkins.

Adkins is Northam’s nephew and says the family called him J.T. While his uncle was on a mission in the East China Sea in February 1944, the submarine with 80 sailors was attacked and sunk.

“You know for a while they got the word that it was missing, and you know after so long it’s deemed missing in action,” Adkins said.

Northam’s family, who lived in Edgewood, never knew if they’d get his remains back, or find out what happened to him. So, they created a memorial at the Mountain Valley Cemetery to honor his sacrifice.

“He would always be remembered at Thanksgiving and Christmas… You know, they never forgot him,” said Adkins.

Northam was lost at sea for 75 years, until a team of undersea explorers with the Lost 52 Project found the USS Grayback earlier this year, off the coast of Okinawa.

“It’s been a long time, you know, for them to find something like that,” he said.

Adkins says his uncle’s story was always one with many missing parts, but he’s glad to finally get the last piece to his story.

“For them to find something like that, and to be able to identify them is really remarkable,” said Adkins.

The explorers were able to find the submarine after a researcher in Japan detected a mistake in the coordinates where the Grayback probably sank.

The records were off by a single digit. The explorers for the Lost 52 Project have made it their mission to find every submarine that sunk during World War II.

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