World War II

THE TRAGEDY OF BEING LAST

WHEN I WAS IN IRAQ, and later in Afghanistan, I would occasionally ponder a question that is likely eternal among combatants: “Who will be the last to die in this war?” I was too narrow in my thinking, as I considered only Americans and only the U.S. Army.

I was reminded of that a few weeks before writing this column by the. Found in 2018 and confirmed by the U.S. Navy in July 2019, last appeared on the surface on April 23, 1945, just a few miles off Cape Elizabeth, Maine. At 12:14 p.m. on that clear and cold day, it blew up amidships and almost instantly sank. All but 13 of its 62-man crew died in the attack. Initially ascribed to a boiler explosion, it took years of patient research for a historian to track down the truth.

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