“Ghost Ship” Identified as USS Kailua Discovered in Hawaii

Researchers from the University of Hawaii discovered the remains of a “ghost ship”, revealed as the USS Kailua, on the seabed just twenty miles off of Oahu’s coast. The surprisingly intact shipwreck is resting along with the remains of several Japanese submarines.

 USS Kailua – or as its discoverers call it the “ghost ship” –  is believed to have been fixed in its location for over sixty years to date. It is under 2,000 feet of water and is resting in an upright position on the ocean floor. All the upper deck structures of USS Kailua along with its mast are erect and intact, surprisingly, considering that it was used as a torpedo target — the reason why it sunk over six decades ago.

USS Kailua: How it looked way back in 1943. [Photo: University of Hawaii at Manoa]
USS Kailua: How it looked way back in 1943. [Photo: University of Hawaii at Manoa]
According to the researchers, before being used as a target for submarine torpedoes or being USS Kailua, the ship was named Dickenson and was built as a layer of submarine cables for the Commercial Pacific Cable Company. Eventually, it was chartered by the US Navy and was used to service submarine nets as well as cables during WWII. However, after the war, the US Navy and the cable company had no use for it. So, it was used as a torpedo target and was finally sunk being that.

As James Delgado, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s director of the maritime heritage program, pointed out, the discovery of the USS Kailua and seeing that the ship is almost intact comes as a surprise for them knowing about the nature of its sinking.

USS Kailua II A
[Photo: University of Hawaii at Manoa]

It was also revealed during the press release Friday, December 5, that the USS Kailua is just one of a wide variety of wreckage during the Battle of the Pacific littering Oahu’s seabed.

Other Remains

Sonar surveys conducted by the Undersea Research Laboratory of the University of Hawaii showed other wrecks as well that include a WWII midget submarine of the Japanese which was sunk during the opening hour of the Pearl Harbor attack. There are two big Japanese aircraft carrier submarines within the area as well.

[Photo: University of Hawaii at Manoa]
[Photo: University of Hawaii at Manoa]
Only two aircraft carrier submarines – the largest submarines ever made until the nuclear ballistic missile-carrying submarines in the 1960s were built – went into service during the Second World War and these two were captured by the US Navy right after Japan surrendered in 1945.

These two were, then, promptly destroyed in Oahu so their technology wouldn’t fall into the Soviets’ hands.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE