Local veteran finds closure after MIA submariner uncle is found

Many Americans are still Missing in Action (MIA) from all wars, but especially World War II. Retired Navy Commander, Steve Middleton, a member of American Legion Post 30, was recently notified by the Department of the Navy History and Heritage Command the remains of his uncle, U.S. Navy Submariner Gordon Harvey Fullilove Jr., have been located. 

Fullilove was assigned to the USS Albacore (SS 218), which embarked on its eternal patrol from Pearl Harbor on October 24, 1944. On October 28, 1944, the Albacore stopped for fuel at Midway Island and never returned to port. On December 21, 1944, the Albacore was presumed lost with all hands and removed from the vessel register on March 30, 1945. The USS Albacore received the Presidential Unit Citation for multiple patrols and nine battle stars for service in World War II.

In May 2022, the University of Tokyo began searching for the wreck and discovered the submarine resting on the seabed in the waters of Hokkaido, Japan, using the position of the bridge and periscope to determine the vessel’s identity. The U.S. Navy further confirmed the identity of the Albacore using maintenance records from modifications made in Pearl Harbor prior to the last patrol. In February 2023, Middleton was notified by U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command in advance of notice to the public. In cooperation with the Japanese Government, the exact location remains undisclosed.

In U.S. Navy Commander (Retired) Steve Middleton’s own words in memory of his uncle:

Gordon Harvey Fullilove, JR, or Bubba as his family called him, was the oldest of five siblings. My Mother, Irene, was the next to the youngest and the last sibling to pass away. They all grew up on a farm in the rural part of north central Mississippi. According to all his siblings, he was a religious man when he enlisted in the Navy. He was on a submarine in Pearl Harbor. Someone on the sub next to them, The Albacore, got sick and left the sub with no one to act as Chaplain. He volunteered to transfer. A week after his transfer the Albacore left Pearl Harbor and went to Midway to refuel. It was never heard from again. The Albacore was being hunted aggressively by a Japanese destroyer and the Captain of the Albacore chose to move in close to a minefield to escape but did not know that a typhoon had shifted the mines. Because of my uncle dying on a submarine, my mother made me promise her I would not pick submarines and my duty assignment when I enlisted in the Navy in 1969. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1974, I served on destroyers instead retiring with 23 years of service.
At present, more than 81,500 Americans remain missing from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, Gulf Wars, and other conflicts. Out of the more than 81,500 missing, 75% of the losses are in the Indo-Pacific, and over 41,000 of the missing are presumed lost at sea (i.e., ship losses, known aircraft water losses, etc.). 163 are listed with Alabama as their home or record. All will never be forgotten. Learn more about the mission to repatriate American remains at POWMIA(defense.gov). 

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