Mystery Submarine off Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco...


Full Member
Jun 21, 2005

I have heard about a mystery sub that was sunk by the Navy during WWII. It is located near Half Moon Bay a few miles away from the Golden Gate Bridge.

An old timer from the ship that sunk it has tried to find it but nut much luck.

Would be wonderful if someone with the equipment could locate and identify it.

Here is the story and links.


Is there a sunken Japanese sub from WWII off the coast? One veteran is sure of it
Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, September 26, 2002


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It was a great morning for sea stories Wednesday, and Bill Anderson, a World War II veteran with an eye toward history and an obsession with sunken submarines, had a good one.
"We think we found a Japanese submarine," he said, standing on the deck of his weathered sub hunting boat, the Echo Hunter, at the Pillar Point Marina in Half Moon Bay.
As he spoke, the fog was just lifting, and one could almost imagine an enemy submarine prowling off the coast a lifetime ago. Anderson can see it in his mind's eye: It is just off the coast of San Mateo County, he said, 10 miles out to sea and 235 feet under the Pacific.
Anderson was there the day the sub was depth charged by an American destroyer, back in the spring of 1945, and he never forgot it.
What he has for now is a mystery wrapped up in a secret -- what could be the hulk of a big, powerful Japanese sub sent on a desperate mission to destroy San Francisco in the last days of World War II.
Or, he might have nothing at all -- an old shipwreck, a sunken barge, or some undersea rock.
Anderson has had this idea that a sunken sub rested not far from the Golden Gate for years. He got it from hints and clues, and, he says, from a mole deep in Navy intelligence who told him things.
For nine years now, he's been searching for the sub in the waters off Half Moon Bay, looking, and this is his last, best chance. He's 76 years old, thin as a rail and a little weathered himself, with a bad hip and a bad knee.
This time, he said, he has a VideoRay remote-control vehicle at his disposal, and maybe this week, maybe next, he'll be sure of what he's found.
As he spoke, the underwater vehicle moved around the harbor like a baby seal, diving, twisting and turning. It is only a foot long and weighs 8 pounds,
but it has two bright lights and a video camera and can dive deep. If a sub is out there, it will find it.
The hunt goes back to a March day in 1945, when Anderson was 18 and a sailor aboard the destroyer Willard Keith. Not far from the Farallon Islands, the general alarm went off, the loudspeaker barked, "Condition Able! Condition Able!" and the ship made a fast turn back and forth over a targeted area and dropped maybe a dozen depth charges.
"Our skipper had been sunk twice," Anderson said. "He wanted to shoot first and ask questions later."
Anderson saw an oil slick, but nobody said anything about the target. Instead they headed for San Francisco Bay and tied up at Treasure Island. Next thing anybody knew, the crew was mustered on deck and sworn to secrecy.
"We were told never to say a word," he said, "not to anybody."
Years went by, and Anderson, who used to buy and sell military surplus, started hearing stories about a sunken sub off the Golden Gate.
Official inquiries got him nowhere, but unofficial inquiries led him to believe in the submarine. He turned to intelligence sources.
"We had a helper, let's say, who told me there definitely is a sub out there," Anderson said.
At first he thought it was a German U-boat, then maybe a sunken American sub. Now he thinks it is the Japanese submarine I-12, which was never accounted for.
The I-12 was a large submarine, over 300 feet long, designed for long-range operations. Anderson thinks it was on what he calls "a special mission" to somehow set fire to San Francisco as a last desperate attempt to hit at the American homeland.
So far on his searches, Anderson and his crew on the Echo Hunter have found sunken barges. Now his depth finder and sonar tell him that 20 miles west by northwest of Pillar Point, 10 miles off the coast, "we found what looks like a submarine to our equipment." Sport divers, he said, had found it, too, but none of them was on deck Wednesday to tell the tale.
Burl Burlingame, a Honolulu author whose book on Japanese submarine operations, "Advance Force Pearl Harbor," has just been published by the U.S. Naval Institute, said the I-12 did operate between Hawaii and California toward the end of the war. It sank the Liberty Ship John A. Johnson, in October 1944 but was last seen in the Central Pacific, thousands of miles away.
That it could be Anderson's sub is "not impossible, but unlikely," Burlingame said. "It would have to be way off its usual operations."
Burlingame pointed out that large Japanese submarines had operated just off the California coast early in World War II.
A couple of them, he said, were so close to the Golden Gate that crew members were allowed to look through the periscope at the lights of San Francisco blazing just over the horizon.
Burlingame noted that the wreck of a Japanese midget submarine that participated in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was found earlier this month. "There is a whole lot of stuff about World War II that we still don't know," he said.
At the end of the war, however, he said, Japan was in such bad shape that it was hard to believe the Imperial Navy would risk sending one of its few remaining subs as far as the West Coast of the United States.
Anderson, though, is betting on it. He financed some of his expeditions by selling a forklift and a big water truck one year. This year, he's taken a cash advance on his credit card.
"I don't know how many years I have left," he said, "but the good Lord gave me this job, and we need to finish it."
E-mail Carl Nolte at
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VideoRay to Search for Submarine Sunken in Half Moon Bay, CA, in 1945
Helping Fufill a 42-Year Mission of Mystery
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Members of the media watch the VideoRay system that will be used to search for a submarine sunken in 1945. A press conference at Pillar Pint Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, CA, set the stage for the search, which will be conducted in the next few weeks.

Rich Faulk, president of Above and Below H2O and VideoRay customer, stands with Bill Anderson, who was on the USS Willard Keith in 1945 when it dropped 12 depth charges on a mysterious submarine. Anderson has been searching for the submarine since. Faulk, holding the VideoRay, is planning to search locations Anderson has identified as possible sites for the destroyed sub.
Read the history of this search.
For media coverage of the sub hunt with a VideoRay, see:
 From the Bay Area's News Station KRON 4
 From the San Francisco Chronicle

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.)


Half Moon Bay Sub Hunt - Background
The Beginning - 1945
On a blustery overcast spring
morning in 1945, the destroyer USS
Willard Keith, DD-775, was returning
from a coastal patrol to Catalina Island
when it made contact with an
unidentified submarine off San
Francisco. The general quarters alarm
sounded and the ship intercom
bellowed; “Condition Able, Condition
Able.” Within minutes, the Willard
Keith made a depth charge run
dropping about 12 charges.
In a depth of less than 150 feet
of water, the charges were set at 50 feet out from the ship and then at 100 feet deep. The charges
exploded so close to the ship they damaged the after fire and the after engine rooms.
Bill Anderson, an enlisted man at the time, was aboard
that day and remembers it well. “At the end of the pattern the
ship made a turn and came back over the area.” Anderson said.
“A large light oil slick covered a section of the water but the
sonar could no longer locate the submarine.”
Anderson asked an officer standing next to him how we knew
it wasn’t one of our subs. He looked quite nervous and answered,
“We don’t, but they’re supposed to be running above water this close
to port.” After several more passes without locating the submarine,
the Willard Keith went in to dock at Treasure Island. According to
Anderson, the Captain, usually a very cool hand, must have been a
little agitated as he came in so fast he nearly tore the dock out.
The battle of Okinawa, shipping raids in the China Sea, and
the occupation of Japan nearly erased the incident from the mind of
Bill Anderson. Then, in 1970, Anderson met Fred Tinner at a
government surplus sale in Oakland. Tinner asked Anderson if he’d
help him raise a German sub in the shallow waters off the Golden
Gate. Anderson had more pressing business and lost track of Tinner.
The Search
Then, in 1990, Dean Morrow, owner of White Orca divers in Portland, Oregon, asked Anderson
if he knew of a shipwreck off California that he might take a dive team to. Anderson answered, “How
about a submarine?” Morrow returned, “Do you know about that sub off the Golden Gate.” Morrow
said a diver told him he’d found one in 120 feet of water but the Navy chased him away.
It seemed more than coincidence that over a span of 45 years, different people in different places
mentioned a submarine off the Golden Gate to Anderson. With that, Anderson started to research the
location of the submarine in the California. In a section of the State Library in Sacramento and found a
number of unidentified wrecks that had already been charted. He’s also started searching for Fred
Tinner but through the years has been unable to locate him.
Shortly thereafter, one of Anderson’s old shipmates from the Willard Keith called to tell him
about a ship’s reunion in San Diego. While there, Anderson told his shipmates about his interest in the
submarine. Some remembered, some didn’t. In any event they asked Anderson to find the sub.
Since that time Anderson has found a retired Navy man who told him that a diver came into the
12th Naval District Headquarters in the late ‘60’s or early ‘70’s requesting permission to remove
mercury from a submarine in 120 feet of water. The sailor researched the request and discovered
American submarines didn’t carry mercury.
Anderson also received a copy of the unclassified “War Diary” of the Willard Keith, but all
mention of the submarine incident off San Francisco had been removed.
After reading a number of books on submarines, Anderson wrote the author of “U-BOATS
UNDER THE SWASTIKA”, Jak Mallman Showell, who lives in England. He suggested Anderson
contact Captain Otto Geise, a former U-boat captain now living in Florida, both of whom have
encouraged the group to search and have offered to help identify any subs that might be found.
First Search Attempt
The first attempt to conduct a search got underway the spring of 1993, but had result that were much
less than were hoped for. Anderson, along with a friend, Wayne Phillips, took an 18-foot boat equipped with
loran and sonar into the search area. After about two-and-a half hours fighting a ten-knot wind Anderson
asked how much fuel the tank held. Phillips said, “36 gallons.” Anderson said the gauge was still on full.
Phillips tapped the gauge and it dropped to under half. They promptly turned around, went back to the fuel
dock and just barely made it. They decided right then to get a larger boat with greater range.
The Right Boat and Equipment
In 1995, a 33-foot Navy personnel boat was purchased in San Diego and brought to Half Moon
Bay. The craft has a forward and aft cabin with flying bridge in the center and is Detroit-diesel powered
with a 90—mile range. It’s been named the Echo Hunter and on it has been installed modern sonar and
GPS units needed for a search of this type.
After the few years of searching, both above and below the water, Fred Tinner has never been
located. Anderson’s research shows mercury was loaded in the keels of German submarines. Documents
have also been found showing that there was enemy submarine activity off the West Coast during this
time. And with the Echo Hunter, Anderson and his small team have located many submerged objects
between Half Moon Bay and the Golden Gate. One object found early in the search efforts turn out to be
a missing barge that sank during WWII loaded with equipment intended for use in an invasion of Japan.
The Answer May Be Close
The waters off San Francisco and Half Moon Bay is a graveyard of ships, many dating back to
California’s gold rush era. So finding any sunken ship is easy, picking the right one is the real challenge.
The search may be coming to its conclusion. Of the many objects located by Anderson off Half
Moon Bay, careful analysis shows six of those fit the profile of a submarine.
Now, with the help of an underwater 8-pound, remote-control swimming video camera from
VideoRay, Anderson may be able to solve the mystery this fall. One thing is for certain, whatever
Anderson finds in the waters off San Francisco could very well re-write some history books.

USS Willard Keith - 1945

Bill Anderson - 1945


Full Member
Jun 21, 2005
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Had to make some corrections to the originla post. Mixed up another article with these articles about the GG Bridge sub.

It's all cleaned up now.


Full Member
Jun 21, 2005
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Well, I recall seeing a special on the history or discovery channel where a famous attack by a nazi uboat occurred early in 1942 around Fl or maybe even the Lousianna area.

It would be great if we could gather all the information out there and come up with a comprehensive list of the most recent locations and explainations.

Of course I have heard rumors of a 100 or so unaccounted subs from the Germans that no one was able to account for. But that gets into the discussion about their activities in the South Pole and if they had a base there and of Operation High Jump by the Allies in 1947 to the South Pole lead by Admiral Byrd.... but I dont like to spread rumors ::)


Aug 21, 2015
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
Hi everyone RE: Bill Anderson


Well, I recall seeing a special on the history or discovery channel where a famous attack by a nazi uboat occurred early in 1942 around Fl or maybe even the Lousianna area.

It would be great if we could gather all the information out there and come up with a comprehensive list of the most recent locations and explainations.

Of course I have heard rumors of a 100 or so unaccounted subs from the Germans that no one was able to account for. But that gets into the discussion about their activities in the South Pole and if they had a base there and of Operation High Jump by the Allies in 1947 to the South Pole lead by Admiral Byrd.... but I dont like to spread rumors ::)

I wonder if anyone has any interest in some of Bill Anderson's original equipment used is his sub search? I now own his property, his family didn't want any of his belongings, so I have a bunch of it. I have his sonar pinger, plus 2 of the straight line underwater recorders, I have other misc. items that belonged to Bill. They are all in great condition, I have no use for the items, if interested in purchase, please email me catchmydrift929 at aol...

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