Grand Portage man finds closure after missing WWII submarine located off Japanese coast
Photo by Jay Hagen

Grand Portage man finds closure after missing WWII submarine located off Japanese coast

Grand Portage resident Ralph Tesser feared he would never find out the location of the submarine his brother was in during World War II. The submarine, known as the USS Albacore, was believed to have sunk during the war.

Despite the odds, Tesser hung on to hope for more than eight decades.

This month, the 83-year-old Tesser found out that the submarine, carrying his brother, William (Bill) G. Tesser, was found off the coast of Japan. The Navy made the official announcement of finding the Albacore on Feb. 16.

“Most importantly, the wreck represents the final resting place of sailors that gave their life in defense of the nation and should be respected by all parties as a war grave,” the Navy’s press release states.

According to Navy records, the Albacore is believed to have been struck by a mine on Nov. 7, 1944. It sank near Hokkaido, a large island in northern Japan.

Ralph Tesser was just over a year old when his brother Bill joined the Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Bill served as EM3, or electrician’s mate 3rd Class, on the Albacore. Tesser says he doesn’t remember too much about his brother, but his family spoke of him as being a great young man.

“I don’t remember too much about him except I’ve seen pictures of him holding me as a baby,” Tesser told WTIP this week.

According to the Navy, the Albacore was commissioned on June 1, 1942. During its relatively short service it earned nine battle stars and four Presidential Unit Citations, awarded for extraordinary heroism, quickly becoming one of the most successful World War II submarines used in combat, the Navy reports.

WTIP spoke with officials from the Veterans Memorial Hall in Duluth this week about the Navy’s announcement regarding the Albacore. Ralph Tesser was concerned that his brother was not listed on the Veterans Memorial Wall in Duluth as he was considered missing in action due to the fact the Albacore was never found. However, officials from the Veterans Memorial Hall in Duluth confirmed that William G. Tesser will be listed on the memorial wall recognizing all veterans from Cook, Lake, St. Louis, and Itasca counties who have died during military conflicts. William Tesser’s name should be on the memorial wall by the end of 2023, according to officials with the Duluth organization.

Click here to learn more about the USS Albacore, including a complete list of the crew who were on board when the submarine sunk in 1944.

Listen to the audio below to hear a conversation with WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs and Grand Portage resident Ralph Tesser.