Skip to comments.Japanese U-Boat I-401 is Found!
Posted on 03/21/2005 6:22:08 PM PST by vannrox
20 March 2005.....I-401 was one of three huge Japanese submarines taken by the US Navy at the end of the war, studied and eventually scuttled in deep water. This boat and her sister I-400 had watertight aircraft hangars that housed small floatplanes which were to be used for scouting. These boats were surrendered to US Navy forces at the end of the war, taken back to Hawaii to be studied then because the Soviets were demanding access to these boats, they were taken out to sea on 31 May 1946 and used as torpedo targets of USS CABEZON. Below is a photo of one of the AA guns taken by HURL (Hawaii Undersea Research Lab).
© 2001-2003 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp
Sasebo Navy Yard. The Sen-Toku class I-401 is laid down as the largest submarine class in the world.* The class will carry three two-seat Aichi M6A1 "Seiran" (Mountain Haze) float torpedo-bombers capable of carrying either 1,764 lbs. of bombs or a 45 cm. (17.7-inch) torpedo 654 miles.** During her construction it is planned to use the Sen-Tokus to launch a surprise air strike against the Panama Canal. The plan calls for departure from Singapore via the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic to attack the Gatun Locks from the east. Ten Seirans are to strike the Locks with six torpedoes and four bombs. Destroying these locks would empty Gatun Lake and block the passage of shipping for months. 8 January 1945:
The I-401 is completed and commissioned in the IJN and based in the Kure Naval District. The Sen-Toku-class carries three two-seat Aichi M6A1 "Seiran" (Mountain Haze) float torpedo-bombers capable of carrying either 1,764 lbs. of bombs or a 45 cm. (17.7-inch) torpedo 654 miles.* The I-401 is assigned to Vice Admiral Miwa Shigeoshi's (former CO of CL KINU) Sixth Fleet as the flagship of Captain Ariizumi Tatsunosuke's (former CO of the I-8) SubDiv 1 with the I-13, I-14 and the I-400. LtCdr (later Rear Admiral, JMSDF) Nambu Nobukiyo (former CO of I-174) is the Commanding Officer. Western Inland Sea. The I-401 departs Sasebo for battle training in SubRon 11 with the I-400 and the I-13, but the war situation has changed for Japan and the Panama Canal operation is discarded. 9/10 March 1945: The First Fire Bombing of Tokyo:
B-29s of MajGen (later Gen/CSAF) Curtis E. LeMay's Twentieth Air Force's XXI Bomber Command take off from Guam, Tinian and Saipan. 280 B-29's bomb Tokyo by radar at night. Dropping 1,900-tons of incendiaries from altitutes of 4,500 to 9,000 feet, they burn out about one-fourth of the city. At least 83,000 people die in the raid, the highest death toll of any day in the war, including deaths caused by the atomic bombs. March - April 1945:
In retaliation for the fire bombing of Tokyo, the Imperial Naval General Staff considers a proposal from the Sixth Fleet to use the I-400's to bomb San Francisco. The proposal is opposed by Vice Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo (former CO of HARUNA), Vice Chief, NGS. 19 March 1945:
Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Marc A. Mitscher's Task Force 58 carriers USS ESSEX (CV-9), INTREPID (CV-11), HORNET (CV-12), WASP (CV-18), HANCOCK (CV-19), BENNINGTON (CV-20) and the BELLEAU WOOD (CVL-24) make the first carrier attack on the Kure Naval Arsenal. More than 240 aircraft (SB2C "Helldivers", F4U "Corsairs" and F6F "Hellcats") attack the battleships HYUGA, ISE, YAMATO, HARUNA, the carriers AMAGI, KATSURAGI, RYUHO, KAIYO and other ships. The I-13 crash-dives and escapes damage. The I-400, in drydock, and the I-401 are strafed but not damaged. 1 April 1945:
Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Raymond A. Spruance's Fifth Fleet, including more than 40 aircraft carriers, 18 battleships, 200 destroyers and over 1,000 support ships surround Okinawa. LtGen Simon B. Buckner Jr's Tenth Army (7th, 77th, 96th Infantry, 1st, 6th Marine divisions) makes amphibious landings and begins the campaign to take the island from LtGen Ushijima Mitsuro's 32nd Army. 11 April 1945:
The I-401 departs Kure with ComSubDiv 1 aboard for Dairen, Manchuria to obtain fuel. The I-401 runs aground just after departure from the harbor, but later breaks free. 12 April 1945:
Iyo Nada, 750 meters from the Himejima lighthouse, bearing 037. Early in the morning, the I-401's stern grazes a mine laid by a Boeing B-29. Some instruments and aft ballast tank valves are damaged. The I-401 is forced to return to Kure for repairs. The I-400 completes the tanker mission and returns with the fuel oil. May 1945:
The I-401 undergoes repairs. A "snorkel" breathing tube is installed to allow operation of the diesel engines while submerged. 1 June 1945:
All four of SubDiv 1's boats are fueled and equipped with snorkels. Departs Kure through the heavily mined Shimonoseki and Tsushima Straits in the Sea of Japan and heads N for Nanao Bay on the west coast of Honshu near Takaoka. 4 June 1945:
Arrives at Nanao Bay for battle training. A team of four trained men can prepare a floatplane for launch in seven minutes. All three Seirans carried aboard each submarine can be assembled, fueled, armed and catapulted in 45 minutes. SubDiv 1's training is hampered by mines, American submarines and shortages of aviation gasoline, material and aircraft, but they manage to launch a number of simulated air strikes. 12 June 1945:
Before SubDiv 1 can depart, the Imperial High Command decides to attack the American naval anchorage at Ulithi Atoll because of the imminent fall of Okinawa and the carrier raids on the Japan. 21 June 1945:
Eighty-two days after the initial landings, Okinawa is declared secure. 25 June 1945: Operation "ARASHI" (Mountain Storm): The Seiran Bombing Attack on Ulithi:
At 1325, Vice Admiral Ozawa, now CINC, Combined Fleet, issues Battle Order No. 95 that details the impending operation. The bombing attack is designated as Operation ARASHI. The "HIKARI" (Shining Light) part of Operation ARASHI calls for the I-13 and I-14 to proceed to Truk in late July and deliver their Nakajima C6N1 Saiun ("Myrt") long range reconnaissance aircraft. The aircraft will then be assembled and used to reconnoiter Ulithi. The Myrt's will relay target information on American aircraft carriers and troop transports to the I-400 and I-401's six Seiran torpedo-bomber crews for a strike on 17 August. The attack is to be made under a full moon. Prior to the start of the attack, the pilots are to receive a special hormone injection to enhance their night vision. The Seirans are tasked to each carry an 800-kg bomb and land near their submarines. After the attack, all four of SubDiv 1's boats are to proceed to Singapore, refuel and embark new planes for the new attack. Ten Seirans are to be stationed there prior to the attack on Ulithi. 13 July 1945:
Departs Nanao, enters Maizuru harbor on the evening of the same day to evade air attacks.Embarks provisions for three months and ammunition. 18 July 1945:
Maizuru. A departure ceremony is held at the Shiraito Inn. Vice Admiral, the Marquis, Daigo Tadashige (former CO of ASHIGARA), CINC, Sixth Fleet, greets the 631st Kokutai aviators of the I-400 and the I-401 for a farewell sake toast and wishes them success. 20 July 1945:
Departs Maizuru for Ominato with the I-400, escorted by a minesweeper. Just before the departure, Lt Asamura Atsushi's 631st Ku pilots receive their ritual short swords from Captain Ariizumi. Their unit is designated "Shinryu Tokubetsu Kogekitai" (Divine Dragon Special Attack Unit). The I-401's pilots and navigators of Seiran No. 1 are Lt Asamura (Hikocho) and Ensign Takano, No. 2 are Lt(jg) Takeuchi Hiroo and CPO Nishino and No. 3 are Lt(jg) Takahashi Kazuo and CPO Noro. 21 July 1945:
Arrives at Ominato. One-day of liberty is granted to all crews. Japanese markings are deleted from Seirans and fake U.S. markings are applied. A model of the anchorage at Ulithi is taken aboard as a training aid for the pilots. 23 July 1945:
At 1400, the I-400 departs Ominato for Ulithi, followed at 1600 by the I-401. They take separate tracks far to the east for a rendezvous at sea on 16 August off Ponape Island, Carolines. At 2015, while the I-401 is negotiating the Tsugaru Strait, she becomes the target of two Imperial Army 150-mm Type 96 coastal batteries on Shiokubi Cape, Hokkaido, mistaking her for an enemy submarine. After one shell lands within 300 meters off her port quarter, the 401 crash-dives. ComSubDiv 1 sends a protest after he clears the area. 24 July 1945:
At 0630, the I-401 exits Tsugaru Strait and surfaces again. 28 July 1945:
During the next two days, the I-401 endures a heavy storm with typhoon-like conditions. Late July 1945:
The I-401 sights an American tanker sailing without escort, but makes no attack so as not to endanger her mission. 31 July 1945:
Off Minami-Torishima (Marcus) Island. Captain Ariizumi orders LtCdr Nambu to run surfaced at 19 knots to make up the lost time. 14 August 1945:
100 miles S of Ponape. Half an hour after sunset, the I-401 surfaces in the prearranged rendezvous area, but the I-400 is nowhere in sight. According to the plan, both submarines are to proceed to the west and rendezvous again S of Ulithi at 0300 on 17 August to launch a combined strike. ComSubDiv 1 reports the situation to the Sixth Fleet HQ. They decide to postpone the attack until 25 August. 15 August 1945:
The Imperial Palace, Tokyo. Emperor Hirohito (Showa) broadcasts an Imperial Rescript that calls for an end to the hostilities. The news of the surrender is received on the I-401, but her senior officers decide to ignore it as lacking credibility. 16 August 1945:
Early in the morning, the I-401 heads towards Ulithi to rendezvous with the I-400 and to carry out the attack. 18 August 1945:
After sunset, the I-401 surfaces again. Captain Ariizumi receives an order from Vice Admiral Daigo to cancel the operation. Later that day, she and the I-400 receive an order to return to Kure. The crew of I-401 is inclined to head for Truk and continue fighting. ComSubDiv 1 suggests that the I-401 should return to either Ominato or Nanao where she should be scuttled. The I-401 heads toward home waters. 26 August 1945:
The I-401 receives an order to hoist a black flag of surrender with a black ball. The I-401's unmanned planes are catapulted into sea and all 20 Type 95 torpedoes are fired out. All codes, logs, charts and secret documents are also destroyed. 29 August 1945:
E of Honshu, off Sanriku Bight. Around midnight, the I-401's lookouts sight a suspicious vessel. LtCdr Nambu attempts to avoid it at full speed. At dawn, the I-401's port engine fails. The I-401 is picked up by radar by LtCdr (later Captain) Stephen L. Johnson's USS SEGUNDO (SS-398). At dawn, the I-401 is ordered to halt. Cdr Nambu sends his Navigation Officer, Lt Bando Muneo, over to the SEGUNDO. At 0500, after he returns, Nambu contacts Tokyo for instructions. He is told to surrender his ship to the SEGUNDO. A prize crew of one officer and five enlisted men comes aboard. The Americans are presented with a bottle of Suntory whiskey after they arrive aboard, but none of them go below decks. The I-401's hatches are secured with chains to prevent the submarine from diving. As the Japanese understand it, the Americans want them to proceed to Yokosuka. ComSubDiv 1 insists that the I-401 should sail to Ominato, but LtCdr Nambu disagrees. Ariizumi then suggests the submarine be scuttled at once. 30 August 1945:
Off Izu Oshima Island. Early in the morning, Captain Ariizumi commits suicide with his pistol in his cabin. His body is wrapped in a flag and dumped overboard through hatch No. 2. None of the SEGUNDO's men see Ariizumi's body, nor a burial at sea. *** Tokyo Bay. Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Jr., COMSUBPAC, arrives on board Captain Charles N. Day's submarine tender USS PROTEUS (AS-19) to attend the formal surrender ceremony to be held three days later aboard the battleship MISSOURI (BB-63). Twelve American submarines are present to represent the submarine force. They tie up on either side of the PROTEUS. They are the USS ARCHER-FISH (SS-311), PILOTFISH (SS-386), CAVALLA (SS-244), RAZORBACK (SS-394), GATO (SS-212), RUNNER (SS-476), HADDO (SS-255), SEA CAT (SS-399), HAKE (SS-256), SEGUNDO (SS-398), MUSKALLUNGE (SS-262) and the TIGRONE (SS-419). 31 August 1945:
At 0500, the I-401 and the SEGUNDO arrive at Sagami Wan and the American flag is raised aboard the I-401. At 1100, LtCdr Nambu Captain delivers two samurai swords, as a symbol of surrender, to Lt J.E. Balson, the SEGUNDO'S XO and Prize Crew officer. Cdr (later Captain) Arthur C. Smith (former CO of TRUTTA (SS-421) and a prize crew proceed from the PROTEUS to the I-401 and relieve the SEGUNDO's prize crew. The I-401 proceeds to Yokosuka. The I-400 and the I-14 are tied up near Captain J. A. Jordan's PROTEUS and the 12 American submarines. The huge Japanese I-boats dwarf the much smaller American "fleet" boats. 1 September 1945:
At 0800, the IJN battle flag is lowered. 2 September 1945: The Formal Surrender of the Empire of Japan.
Admiral Lockwood, aboard the MISSOURI for the surrender, orders his personal flag hoisted over the I-400 during the time the ceremony is held. 15 September 1945:
The I-401 is removed from the Imperial Navy List. 29 September 1945:
Vice Admiral (later Admiral) John H. Towers (former CO of LANGLEY (CV-1), new Commander of Task Force 38, conducts an inspection aboard the I-401. 29 October 1945:
The I-401, under Cdr (later Captain) Edward D. Spruance (former CO of USS LIONFISH (SS-298) and son of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance) and a skeleton 40-man American crew, departs Yokosuka for Sasebo with the I-400 and the I-14 escorted by the submarine rescue vessel USS GREENLET (ASR-10).**** A heavy storm arises while the ships are enroute south. The Americans find that I-401 rides remarkably smoothly even in rough seas due to her double hull construction. 1 November 1945:
Arrives at Sasebo. 11 December 1945:
The I-401 departs Sasebo for Pearl Harbor with the I-400 under Cdr (later Captain) Joseph M. McDowell and the I-14 under Cdr (later Admiral/ CINCPAC) John S. McCain, Jr. (former CO of USS GUNNEL (SS-253) and DENTUDA (SS-335), son of Vice Admiral (Admiral posthumously) John S. McCain. They are escorted by the GREENLET. Cdr Cassedy is the Squadron Commander. 18 December 1945:
Arrives at Apra Harbor, Guam. 21 December 1945:
Departs Guam for Eniwetok, Marshall Islands. December 1945:
Arrives at Eniwetok. 26-27 December 1945:
Stops at Kwajalein to take on fuel and supplies. 6 January 1946:
Arrives at the Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor. The I-400, I-401 and the I-14 are met by a Navy band and local celebrities. 16 January 1946:
Pacific. Off Pearl. Cdr C. R. Dwyer's USS PUFFER (SS-268) conducts exercises with the I-401 at sea. 16 January 1946:
Pacific. Off Pearl. Cdr R. B. Byrne's USS STEELHEAD (SS-280) conducts radar test exercises with the I-401 and the I-14. 26 March 1946:
Washington, DC. At a Submarine Officer's Conference, attended by former ComSubPac Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, it is decided to dispose of all captured Japanese submarines by sinking. 31 May 1946:
The I-401 is a target ship in the Pacific off Pearl Harbor for tests of the Mark 10-3 exploder. At 1059, she sinks by the stern at 21-12N, 158-07W after being hit by two Mark-18 electric torpedoes fired by Cdr O. R. Cole's USS CABEZON (SS-334). 17 March 2005:
Oahu, Hawaii. The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's (HURL) deep-diving submersible Pisces VI locates the I-401 off the coast of Kalaeloa. The I-401 lies in about 820 meters (2665 feet) off the coast of Barbers Point. The bow is broken off just forward of the aircraft hangar. The two pieces are not far apart and are connected by a debris field. The main hull is sitting upright on the bottom and the numbers "I-401" are clearly visible on the sides of the conning tower. Her 25-mm antiaircraft guns are in almost perfect condition.
|Displacement||3530t standard, 5223t surface, 6560t submerged|
|Length||116.0m pp, 120.1m wl, 122.0m oa|
|Machinery||2-shafts diesel/electric motor, 7700bhp surface, 2400shp submerged|
|Speed||18.7kt surface, 6.5kt submerged|
|Armament||8-53cm TT, 1-14cm/50cal. gun, 10-25mm AA machine gun, 3 aircraft|
|I-400||FY1942||Kure NYd||1943. 1.18||1944. 1.18||1944.12.30||SS1||1945. 9.15 disc
1946. 6. 4 scuttled
|I-401||FY1942||Sasebo NYd||1943. 4.26||1944. 3.11||1945. 1. 8||SS1||1945. 9.15 disc
1946. 5.31 scuttled
|I-402||FY1942||Sasebo NYd||1943.10.20||1944. 9. 5||1945. 7.24||SS1||1945.11.15 disc
1946. 4. 1 scuttled
|I-403||FY1942||Kure NYd||-||-||-||1945 cancel|
|I-404||FY1942||Kure NYd||1943.11. 8||1944. 7. 7||-||1945. 7.28 sunk incomplete
|I-405||FY1942||Kawasaki, Kobe||1944. 9.27||-||-||1945 BU incomplete|
Los Angeles & Santa Barbara, California
February 28th, 1984
Revised February 1991
| [ed. notes: The document on which this page was based was to have formed the nucleus of Tom Paine's memoirs. It began as a simple reply to a request for information from Commander Compton-Hall, who was then researching Submarine Warfare: Monsters & Midgets.6 It served as the basis of a short piece that appeared in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings in 1986. An expanded version was published privately by the Submarine Warfare Library in February 1991. He continued to work on it from time to time over several months, leading up to this version.
Thomas O. Paine died from cancer on 4 May 1992. He had continued his work on submarine bibliography up to the very end. His personal papers are in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress in Washington DC; his massive Submarine Library is now a special collection of the Nimitz Library in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis MD. His biography is online at the NASA History site. Had he lived to see the flowering of the 'net, surely he would have made excellent use of it for sharing his wealth of information about submarines, space travel, and the many other subjects in which he took a lively interest. This page is but a piece, a very small piece, of what he would have done.
An artifact from the submarine USS Pompon (SS-267) was discovered in December 2001 on display in a riverside park in Alexandria VA. For details click here.
For links to further information on the the I-400 submarine and the Seiran aircraft scroll down to the following editor's notes near the bottom of this page.
The photos: The illustrations in this page were scanned from xerox copies of photos, and are the best available. Unless indicated otherwise, most are thought to be U.S. Navy Photographs. Should any turn out to be copyrighted images, or if any reader of this page can provide further attribution, please advise by email to firstname.lastname@example.org . The text contained references to another 14 images that are either lost or irreproducible due to poor image quality.]
This saga recounts my adventures during the last voyage of His Imperial Japanese Majesty's Sensuikan Toku (Special Submarines). In 1945 I returned from World War II as Executive Officer and Navigator of the U.S. Navy prize crew in one of these aircraft-carrying giants: H.I.J.M.S. I-400. Sailing her from Sasebo, Occupied Japan, to Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, seemed a fitting finale to my career in the Submarine Service.
I'll begin by describing Japan's Top Secret submersible aircraft carriers, summarize their operational history, recount my experience in the Occupation of Japan, explain how our prize crew learned to operate the unusual I-boats, and tell the tale of I-400's eventful transpacific passage. An abridged version of this yarn has been published in U.S.N.I. Proceedings.1
Two well-illustrated articles on these giant submarines have appeared in Maru Special, a Tokyo nautical magazine: Japanese Naval Vessels, No. 13: I-400 & I-13, 1977,2 and Japanese Navy Warships of World War II, No. 16: Submarines, 1975.3 A first-hand contemporary description by a naval constructor who helped build them is Lt. Cmdr. Shizuo Fukui, I.J.N.: The Japanese Navy at the End of World War II, 1947.4 Other good references are Erminio Bagnasco: Submarines of World War Two,5 and Commander Richard Compton-Hall, RN: Submarine Warfare: Monsters & Midgets.6
Figure 1 shows the unique asymmetrical cross section of the I-400 class boats.5
The twin athwartships pressure hulls did not extend the entire length of her double hull; the crew compartment aft reverted to a single pressure hull, while forward the twin torpedo rooms were stacked vertically. This design permitted a sea-kindly external hull shape with good surface stability and a draft of 23 feet. Each torpedo compartment had four 21 inch tubes with ten torpedoes. The test depth of her pressure hull was 328 feet (82% of her 400 foot length).
Another of I-400's noteworthy design features was the long vertical trunk leading down from the conning tower outside the hangar to the control room. With a diving time of 56 seconds, the bridge watch leaped into spectacular action on the command Clear the Bridge! The lookouts had to jump down the conning tower hatch, then hurtle through this long tube to man their diving stations in the control room 25 feet below (Figure 3). To cushion the landing impact a three foot thick canvas hassock was positioned in the control room at the foot of the conning tower ladder. The padding was effective, but so filthy and odorous that we heaved it overboard. Afterwards an unfortunate Japanese sailor who hadn't got the word dropped down from the conning tower with his usual elan and struck the steel deck with a resounding crash. Although clearly distressed he staggered off without comment . . . no weakness would be shown in front of the Americans.
Figure 2 shows I-400's aircraft storage and catapult for her three M6A1 Seiran (Storm from a Clear Sky) torpedo-bombers.2
Accommodations for a crew of 145 were designed into the capacious twin hulls, but her complement when she was intercepted was 213. A Japanese officer told me that she'd actually carried as many as 220 men to facilitate speedy submarine and aviation operations at sea. Within 45 minutes of surfacing her skilled personnel could break out, assemble, fuel, arm and catapult all three aircraft. The I-400's great cruising range enabled her to launch her three bombers within striking distance of targets as far from Japan as San Francisco, the Panama Canal, Washington or New York. All of these missions were considered by the Tokyo naval strategists.
Below the hangar in the starboard twin hull was a special compartment equipped to conduct aircraft engine overhaul and test. An adjacent magazine stored four aircraft torpedoes, fifteen bombs, and gun ammunition; more shells were stored topside in pressure-proof, ready-use lockers handy to the guns. Each of the two engine rooms housed a pair of 1900 horsepower diesels linked through Vulcan hydraulic couplings to drive the twin propeller shafts as shown in Figure 3.
|photo: collection of Jack Bowers|
Figure 4 shows I-400's primitive but effective snorkel, fitted as an afterthought abaft the periscope shears; you can see the exhaust piping branching over the hangar to reach the starboard engine room.2
Meals for her oversize crew were prepared in a galley in the starboard hull, where large steam kettles turned out great quantities of rice. As in all long-range submarines, a four month supply of food was stowed in every cranny, including a layer of crates laid out on deck which the crew walked on until they'd eaten their way through. Supernumeraries slept on the deck wherever they could find a nook, being used to a floor and tatami mat. The oriental style heads were just holes in the decks above sanitary tanks . . . excretory inaccuracy, inevitable in a seaway, guaranteed that no one lingered there. While inspecting the giant I-boats boats Admiral Lockwood, our wartime ComSubsPac, expressed horror at these odiferous "sanitary" arrangements.7
On March 26th, 1945, this sinister mission was canceled by General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, who declared that "Germ warfare against the United States would escalate to war against all humanity."10 As an alternative the staff considered bombing San Francisco, Panama, Washington or New York, and decided to launch a surprise air strike against the Panama Canal's Gatun Locks. Destroying these locks would empty Gatun Lake and block the passage of shipping for months.
For the 17,000 mile round trip to Panama each submarine needed 1600 tons of diesel fuel, which was unavailable at Kure. I-401 was therefore dispatched to Dairen, Manchuria, to bring back the needed oil. On April 12th she grazed a B-29 laid mine off Hime Shima Lighthouse in the Inland Sea and had to return for repairs. In her place I-400 successfully carried out the undersea tanker mission.2
By early June all four boats were fueled, armed, equipped with new snorkels, and disguised with false funnels. They sailed north through Tsushima Strait and the Sea of Japan to Nanao Bay on the west coast of Honshu near Takaoka. Training there was hampered by B-29 laid mines, American submarines penetrating their training areas, and shortages of aviation gasoline, material and aircraft, but SubRon One managed to launch a number of simulated air strikes on a full scale model of the Gatun Locks erected at Toyama Bay.
While the submersible carriers were perfecting their tactics to cripple the Panama Canal, the position of the Japanese Navy was steadily deteriorating. Before the submarines could set sail for Panama more than 3000 Allied warships and transports had reached the Pacific for Operation Olympic, the forthcoming invasion of Japan. This growing threat forced Tokyo strategists to reconsider the attack on distant Panama, which now appeared a questionable diversion. Over his vehement objections Captain Ariizumi was ordered to abandon his squadron's carefully rehearsed canal strike and attack instead American naval forces at Ulithi Atoll. In his account of this period Captain Orita relates how Sixth Fleet staff in Tokyo told the fulminating ComSubRon One: A man does not worry about a fire he sees on the horizon when other flames are licking at his kimono sleeve!9
In response to the new orders I-13 proceeded on July 4th to the Ominato Naval Base on the northern tip of Honshu. There she loaded two crated C6N2 Nakajima Ayagumo (Colored Cloud) long range reconnaissance aircraft, then sailed into the Pacific through Tsugaru Strait bound for Japan's island stronghold of Truk. After repairing a hot propeller bearing I-14 followed on July 14th. On the 23rd I-400 and I-401 departed Ominato on separate tracks far to the east for a rendezvous at sea southeast of Ulithi in three weeks.2
Figure 5 charts the I-boats' courses, with X marking the spot where I-13 was probably sunk east of Honshu on the 16th by the destroyer escort Lawrence C. Taylor (DE-415) and planes from the escort carrier U.S.S. Anzio (CVE-57).2, 9
|[image missing - still being processed]|
Bypassed Truk had become a live practice bombing range for the U.S. Army Air Force, used to train new B-29s aircrews flying from Guam. Constant hammering had destroyed all the long range reconnaissance aircraft there, but a few attack planes were operational. I speak from personal knowledge, having been Officer of the Deck of the U.S.S. Pompon (SS-267) on lifeguard station off Truk at dawn on July 5th when a circling plane we thought friendly suddenly dove at us.11 As the pilot banked I spotted orange "meat balls" on her wings, and instantly pulled the plug. Down we plunged past 150 feet, the general alarm bonging insistently as I called out over the intercom: Rig for Depth Charge! Rig for Depth Charge! For some reason he didn't drop, so we thankfully secured and piped all hands to breakfast. Over beans and bacon the skipper drily repeated his favorite maxim: Don't worry, Tom -- there's not a Jap within a hundred miles!
Suddenly, on August 15th, Emperor Hirohito broadcast direct from the Imperial Palace his dramatic decree ending hostilities. The I-boat crews off Ulithi were thunderstruck; their combat careers ended just as they reached the attack rendezvous. After a council of war with his officers, the shattered ComSubRon One reluctantly carried out Tokyo's orders to cease hostilities, hoist a black flag, and return on the surface to his home port. Captain Ariizumi ordered his squadron to jettison all documents and munitions, fire all torpedoes, and catapult all aircraft into the sea.
Admiral Lockwood tells how the huge I-Boats were intercepted east of Honshu on August 28th and taken over by the U.S. Navy.7 Figure 6 shows the I-400 striking her colors at sea to Commander Hiram Cassedy U.S.N. (right).2
As skipper of the submarine Searaven (SS-196) Hi Cassedy had rescued 31 RAAF personnel from Timor in a bold two-night operation in 1942, and three years later in command of Tigrone (SS-419) plucked a record 31 U.S. airmen from the sea off Honshu. He didn't last long in command of I-401, though, running afoul of Admiral Halsey in a misunderstanding over confiscated Japanese swords. Hi thus became the only U.S. naval officer to be relieved of command of a Japanese submarine. I remember him for another first, though: when he died his ashes were placed in a canvas-covered box and fired from a torpedo tube in deep water -- a unique submarine Viking's funeral.
I-14's new skipper, "Junior" McCain, had commanded the U.S.S. Gunnel (SS-253) with distinction from landings in North Africa to Pacific war patrols. In the late 1960s I worked with him again when I headed NASA and he was Commander Pacific, providing carrier support for the splashdown of Apollo Astronauts returning from the moon. While he smoked his famous long, black, cigars we chuckled over the irony of two old I-boat sailors working together on interplanetary transport! His wife was a charming identical twin, whom he liked to scandalize by answering queries on how he told them apart by saying "I don't - that's their problem." He was an outstanding naval officer.
I-400's first American skipper, Barney Sieglaff, was highly regarded for his outstanding war patrols in the U.S.S. Tautog (SS-199). As the duty officer of her relief crew during the Pearl Harbor attack he'd helped lug a 50 caliber machine gun to the bridge and shoot down a bomber flying low over the Sub Base to attack Battleship Row; he was thus the first submariner to strike back at the enemy. A year later he took command of Tautog in Fremantle, and in seven aggressive war patrols sank 13 enemy vessels totalling 33,000 tons. These included the torpedoed destroyers H.I.J.M.S. Isonami and Shirakumo, and, in a minefield he laid off the oil port of Balikpapan, H.I.J.M.S. Amagiri, the destroyer which sank Lieutenant John F. Kennedy's PT-109. Because he planned the 1945 submarine foray under the Tsushima Strait minefields into the Sea of Japan it was named Operation Barney.12 To me his taking command of I-400 alongside Proteus brought the submarine war full circle, from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay.
I began to wonder how long Japan could continue the war when our Marianas Armed Forces Radio Station started switching from English to Japanese for fifteen minutes every evening to broadcast a warning to Japanese civilians to flee the cities targeted for tonight's fire bomb raids. While a voice of doom slowly read the list of cities that our fire bomb raids would destroy by morning, I could hear nearby the roar of engines as the long stream of heavily laden B-29s rose into the night sky. This broadcast was not an act of humanity -- bombing civilian populations is inherently inhumane -- but a contemptuous display of America's overwhelming military power. As propaganda designed to inspire terror it sure beat "Tokyo Rose."
Without warning in the eventful second week of August dread mushroom clouds rose over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Russia declared war on Japan, and Emperor Hirohito's faltering voice told his stunned subjects that Japan was defeated and must cease hostilities. Despite the appalling tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I could only feel grateful to those who built the atomic bomb. They undoubtedly saved my life, and the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Americans and Japanese who would inevitably have been killed in a bloody Operation Olympic invasion of Japan. When the shouting died I was transferred to the submarine tender U.S.S. Euryale (AS-22) for intensive training in the Japanese language, as the U.S. Navy prepared to demilitarize the Imperial Navy's submarine force.
I'd made 7 war patrols in the Pompon since 1943, so there was a large lump in my throat as I waved goodbye to her. Stateside-bound, she backed out from the nest of boats alongside the tender, her long commissioning pennant, held aloft by balloons, rippling in the trade wind. My shipmates waved happily, and the skipper sounded a prolonged, triumphant blast on her whistle. Although unconvinced that she could dive safely without me, I wasn't ready to head back to the states. I was determined to marry and carry Barbara home with me. I wanted to head south, but north at least kept me in east longitude. At this time sharp-eyed Barbara spotted me in a news clipping in the West Australian, showing our language class on the deck of the Euryale at the Guam Submarine Base (Figure 7).
Admiral Lockwood's narrative of this period truly reflects our ambivalent feelings: elation that we'd finally won the war, mixed with rage and disgust over the enemy's brutal treatment of the few survivors from our lost submarines.7 I was one of the officers at Guam detailed by Admiral Lockwood to interrogate submarine P.O.W.s as they were flown in from Japan. We needed to prepare a muster list of all known survivors to ensure that we quickly recovered every prisoner still alive. We also wanted to learn the details of how each boat had been sunk -- but many remain simply "Overdue and Presumed Lost".13
The Japanese Naval Staff was directed to prepare immediately a report in English specifying the time, place and circumstances of every submarine they'd sunk during the war. The handwritten document we received in response proved of little value; we'd lost 52 boats, but their ASW forces claimed some 500 confirmed sinkings. With some satisfaction I noted the Pompon's "certain destruction" on several occasions after some rude action.
Meeting the pathetic P.O.W.s was a sad experience. I had friends and former shipmates aboard many of our missing boats, and anxiously inquired for news of them. Of the 35 classmates who'd volunteered for submarines with me from the Reserve Battalion at Annapolis 7 had been lost. I asked everyone for news of J. W. Gamel in Sculpin (SS-191), R. O. Littlejohn and F. H. McKelvey in Grayback (SS-208), D. B. McCorquodale and W. C. Ostlund in Gudgeon (SS-211), W. A. Hoffman in Herring (SS-233), H. F. McKnight, Jr. in Robalo (SS-273), W. H. Turner in Shark (SS-314), C. E. Traynor in Albacore (SS-218), G. H. Eckardt in Scamp (SS-277), or W. B. Phelps and W. H. Mendenhall in Lagarto (SS-371). Bill Mendenhall's dress white uniforms were in my duffel bag; I was best man at Bill Hoffman's wedding the day we were commissioned at Annapolis; Ben Phelps had introduced me to Barbara in Perth. The grief I felt when their boats failed to return was renewed when none turned up among the human wreckage we recovered from the appalling P.O.W. camps.
Admiral Lockwood also recounts the story of the recalcitrant Japanese submarine squadron commander who shot himself rather than surrender.7 This was the above mentioned ComSubRon One, Captain Tatsunosuke Ariizumi. Neither Admiral Lockwood nor the Japanese authors8,9 mention the atrocities Ariizumi had committed in the Indian Ocean as skipper of H.I.J.M.S. I-8 operating out of Penang. On March 26th, 1944, Captain Ariizumi had methodically collected from the water and massacred 98 unarmed survivors of the Dutch merchantman Tjisalak he'd sunk south of Colombo. He was repeating this brutal performance with 96 prisoners from the American Jean Nicolet in the Maldives on July 2nd when he was forced to dive, leaving 35 bound survivors on deck. Next morning 23 survivors who'd managed to untie their bonds and swim all night were rescued by a Royal Indian Navy escort.14,15 The memory of these war crimes was probably a factor in Captain Ariizumi's decision to commit hara-kiri while his squadron was being escorted to Yokosuka by the U.S. Navy.
In September the Euryale set sail for Kyushu via Okinawa. On arrival we took care to enter Sasebo Harbor with all watertight doors dogged shut, steaming in the wake of our escorting minesweeper right down the middle of the swept channel. The wretched burnt-out city and oily harbor littered with wrecked naval vessels was an unforgettable sight, underscoring the tragedy of World War II for Japan. I wondered what insanity had led the leaders of this shattered nation to believe that they could defeat the United States.
I landed at the Sasebo Naval Base with the first boatload of marines; my orders were to seize samples of every type of torpedo, complete with chests of spare parts and special tools for each. We had learned to respect Japanese torpedoes, which substantially outperformed our own. Our first hours in Japan were extremely tense - rumors flew, and nobody really knew what to expect. We were well armed and prepared to deal with sporadic kamikaze attacks from diehard fanatics. One militant patrol boat crew threatened trouble, but the Japanese decisively handled this themselves, and everyone on both sides was relieved when an orderly local surrender took place. I soon found myself presented with a Japanese naval officer's sword and a detail of Japanese technical personnel to help me assemble my torpedoes and ordnance equipment. They spoke no English, so my broken Japanese began to improve through constant usage.
After much climbing around in wrecked buildings, and sloshing through the mud in dark, dripping caves, I assembled all of the requested ordnance for shipment back to the states. Some of the large Japanese torpedoes now on display in New London came from my collection. My Japanese torpedo expert used a procedure new to me to bleed the pure oxygen charge from an oil-coated Long Lance torpedo. I wondered how he would do this in view of the obvious fire and explosion hazard from mixing oil and oxygen. The operation proved to be simple. The torpedo was carted to the middle of an open field, where a junior rating was handed a wrench and instructed to open the oxygen valve after the rest of us had retreated to a safe distance; in response to a shouted order he spun open the valve and darted to safety. High pressure oxygen whistled out around the oily torpedo, but there was no fire or explosion - that time. It was far safer to go into combat armed with that mighty Japanese oxygen torpedo, though, than with our Bureau of Ordnance's poorly designed and inadequately tested Mark 14s and 18s, which sank at least two of our own submarines through lack of an anti-circular-run mechanism.
My torpedo collecting was just a side-line to our primary mission, which was to locate and disarm the Japanese submarine fleet, interrogate the crews, study the material and, when ordered, scuttle the boats. The duty of Boarding Officer for incoming submarines was rotated, and I happened to be on watch when the giant I-402 appeared off Sasebo from Kure and requested clearance to enter harbor in accordance with U.S. Navy orders. She was told to heave to, and a group of us shoved off to board her in a whaleboat. Our armed detail included an Interpreter, Chief Torpedoman, Gunners Mate, Signalman, and Radioman.
This was my first experience aboard an I-400 class submarine, and I recall my mixed emotions as we pulled alongside her towering hull and scrambled up her superstructure over the degaussing gear and onto her foredeck. I was excited to be carrying out a classic naval Boarders Away! operation, wary of the impassive Japanese who stiffly greeted us, curious about the unfamiliar aircraft handling equipment all around us, delighted to be directly involved in this historic finale of the undersea war, and concerned about both the technical and human problems involved in carrying out our orders to disable her torpedo, ordnance and radio gear before bringing her in. Perhaps that's a wild mix of emotions for a traditionally phlegmatic submariner, but you must bear in mind that I was only 23 years old. In his sea classic Youth Joseph Conrad captures my feelings perfectly:16
|And then I saw the men of the east - they were looking at me . . . I have known its fascination since; I have seen the mysterious shores, the still water, the lands of brown nations, where a stealthy nemesis lies in wait, pursues, overtakes so many of the conquering race, who are proud of their wisdom, of their knowledge, of their strength. But for me all the East is contained in that vision of my youth. It is all in that moment when I opened my young eyes on it. I came upon it from a tussle with the sea - and I was young - and I saw it looking at me. Ah! The good old time - the good old time. Youth and the sea. Glamour and the sea!|
A grim looking Japanese officer conducted us across the catapult and up the port ladder to the top of the hangar. We walked aft, then climbed onto the bridge, whose bizarre offset position distracted me. I exchanged proper salutes and introductions with the Captain, then pointed to the gold dolphins on my blouse and said slowly in what I hoped was impeccable Japanese: Watakushi wa Beikoku no Kaigun no Sensuikan shoko: Painu Tai, des! (I'm an American Navy submarine officer: Lieutenant Paine.) He looked perplexed and unhappy, and mumbled something in reply which neither I nor our interpreter caught. Eventually we made ourselves understood, though, and arranged for his petty officers to conduct our specialists to the designated compartments, with our interpreter to facilitate communications and report back. This left me surrounded by the non-English speaking officers and bridge watch, who clearly didn't realize that I was speaking to them in Japanese. This was disheartening after all those studious hours aboard the Euryale, but I just raised my voice and plunged on.
The I-402's navigator kept insistently repeating something like Hobby Sea Toy, which I struggled to link to some English or Japanese nautical phrase. Then it came to me: Haben Sie deutsch? - he must have made one of those long I-Boat voyages from Penang to Germany. Ja, Ja, Herr Leutnant, aber mein deutsch ist nicht sehr gut! Konnen Sie mein nippon verstehen, bitte?, I asked, before trying again in Japanese: Anata wa Watakushi no Nihon go wakarimaska, kudasai?" (Can you please understand my Japanese?) "Ah, so! Sehr gut, sehr gut!" he replied, bowing respectfully. This told me nothing, but everyone else on the bridge thought that two great linguists had established communication. Fortunately word was soon passed up that all was secure below, and we mustered enough fractured Japanese-English-German-sign language among us to bring her in to her moorings. When I got to know the Japanese officers better, I found out that part of my problem was that our interpreter instructors had been taught by elderly Japanese-American ladies who spoke only old fashioned, honorific Japanese. Instead of barking orders in proper quarterdeck style I'd been most respectfully and politely requesting. The puzzled Japanese must have thought we were a boarding party from Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore under orders from Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B.:
For I hold that on the seas,
The expression "If you please,"
A particularly gentlemanly tone implants,
And so do his sisters and his cousins and his aunts.
Sasebo was our home port, but the Euryale (known fondly to her crew as Urinal Maru) also sailed around Kyushu, and up through the Kii Suido and Inland Sea to Kure, to pick up a number of surviving I-Boats at that major naval base. It was eerie to sail along the Japanese coast and realize that it was no longer dangerous enemy territory that we must attack. As landmarks familiar through the periscope slid by I hummed a raucous song we'd written after sinking a small transport at dawn off Muroto Zaki. The song ruefully hailed the ability of Chidori-class torpedo boats to locate us with sonar pings and lay down clangorous depth charge patterns:
|PINGING PETE CHIDORI
(Tune: Pistol-Packing Momma)
|Off Muroto Zaki, we were having fun;
Along came Pete Chidori,
And now we're on the run.
Oh, lay that pattern down, Pete!
Lay that pattern down!
Pinging Pete Chidori, lay that pattern down!
Click Click - BANG!
Click Click - BANG!
Click Click - BANG!
|- Anonymous, U.S.S. Pompon (SS-267)|
Now the Chidoris were laid up; instead of exploding torpedoes and thunderous depth charge attacks, picturesque fishing sampans dotted the sea. The tranquillity seemed unreal.
The mines in Kure harbor had not been completely swept, but Hiro Wan was clear. We anchored six miles out from the burned out Navy Yard and put our ship's boats into the water to ferry boarding parties to the Japanese submarines moored around the harbor.
I remember that first boat trip on a sunny autumn afternoon past picturesque pine clad islands. The scene was right out of a Hiroshige print, except for the fire-blackened hulks of shattered warships canted at rakish angles around the oil-smeared shores. Passing the awash decks of the wrecked battleships H.I.J.M.S. Hyuga and Haruna we drew alongside H.I.J.M.S. I-58, a large Kaiten-carrying submarine with six suicide torpedo launching racks visible.
The deck watch announced our approach, and tended our lines as a group of officers climbed out of her forward torpedo room hatch and lined up on deck to receive us. Our scarce interpreters were assigned elsewhere, so I climbed aboard I-58 with only a non-Japanese speaking fellow submariner and naval intelligence officer, hoping we'd find someone aboard who spoke better English than my halting Japanese. We were in luck as the Commanding Officer introduced himself in highly-accented but understandable English as Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, I.J.N. He invited us below to conduct our business, and led us past the empty Kaiten racks, down the hatch into the forward torpedo room, and aft through a bulkhead to the wardroom, where we sat around a table with him and three of his officers; on the table lay his sword.
This was first U.S. Navy contact with the I-58, and the dramatic scene that ensued in her wardroom is very clear in my mind's eye. I refused Captain Hashimoto's offer to surrender his sword, explaining that I had come aboard specifically to issue disarmament instructions and to learn about the I-58's operational career. He said proudly that of course he'd been expecting us since "this is the submarine that sank the U.S. Navy warship that carried the Atomic Bomb."
We were astonished at this statement, and exchanged looks of consternation - what was he talking about? Atomic weapon information was Ultra Secret; we had never been told which ships transported atomic bombs. As we fired questions at him he drew out a chart for us and described precisely how he'd recently sighted, approached, attacked and sunk the U.S.S. Indianapolis (CA-35). He told us that he'd manned his Kaiten torpedoes, but had decided that conventional torpedoes were adequate for such a simple attack: it was a clear moonlit night with a calm sea, a target proceeding at moderate speed without zigzagging, an advantageous position forward of her beam, and no signs of sonar transmissions or escorts. He'd easily sunk her.
We knew of the sinking of the Indianapolis, and the tragic loss of life that ensued when a bungling staff failed to note her absence while her dwindling survivors battled exposure and sharks for days.17,18,19,20 We had no idea that the Indianapolis had carried the fissionable core for the first atomic bomb to the Tinian B-29 base, though. How did Commander Hashimoto know this? Did a P.O.W. from one of the final B-29 raids reveal it? Had we missed a relevant news release? Or could the I-58 have picked up and interrogated an unknown survivor from the Indianapolis? This still remains a mystery to me. To Commander Hashimoto's dismay we later sent him back to Washington to testify in the court-martial of the skipper of the Indianapolis, Captain C. B. McVay, U.S.N. Commander Hashimoto considered this highly improper.
While we were at Kure I drove over the hill in an Army jeep to see Hiroshima. Both Kure and Hiroshima were utterly devastated, with rubble and gray ashes extending as far as you could see. Each was a chilling sight. I wondered whether their destruction had resulted in a net saving of lives by ending the war without a bloody invasion, and consoled myself with the conclusion that it probably had - at least I hoped so. I didn't see how it could have made much difference to the devastated populations of the two cities how the flames had been lit: the A-bomb demolition of Hiroshima and the total destruction of Kure by fire bombs looked much the same. The difference was the number of bombers employed, and the mind-boggling implications for the future. Like many Pacific veterans, I believe that the horrors of Hiroshima ended the savagery of World War II, and discouraged a hot war between the super-powers (many of my academic friends disagree with this).
By November 2nd we'd gathered together in Sasebo enough operational Japanese submarines to require some administration, so on that date I received Memorandum No. 4-45 from ComSubDiv 131, Commander James E. Stevens, U.S.N., organizing the boats for which we were responsible into four divisions:
The Ha-101 Class Sensuikan Yu Sho (Small Supply Submarine) was a simple 370 Ton boat without torpedo tubes designed to transport aviation gasoline from Singapore to Japan or to carry 60 Tons or 103 cubic meters of cargo to bypassed garrisons within a radius of 3000 miles. The Ha-101 boats were equipped with snorkel and radar. Their top speed from a single 400 HP diesel was 10 knots, submerged endurance at 2.3 knots 20 hours, test depth 300 feet, armament one 25mm gun, and complement 21 officers and men. Lieutenant Kunihiro was the senior captain.
I list the names of the Ha-101 boat skippers in Japanese SubDiv 2 because I later became acting Division Commander - the peak of my naval career! A short boat ride each morning brought me to my nest of seven submarines, where I was formally greeted by the Commanding Officers. Lieutenants Murayama and Takezaki spoke some English, and my Japanese had greatly improved with constant usage (less recourse to: Ah, so des nay!), so our joint inspections proceeded smoothly.
Our orders were to keep the boats demilitarized, but to operate all equipment periodically and maintain readiness to get under way on 4 hours notice. After each boat had been methodically checked the seven skippers and I sat around the wardroom table in one of the boats to settle any problems that had arisen (an ill quartermaster, next week's rations, a hot engine bearing, typhoon moorings, low battery gravity, etc.). When business was over a warm bottle of sickly sweet orange beverage was produced (U.S. Navy regulations against alcohol were strictly enforced - for obvious reasons) and informal conversation followed. The topics discussed ranged from professional naval subjects to the complexities of their continual games of Go.
Our extreme curiosity about each other's submarine combat experiences soon overcame our initial reserve, and I learned a lot about their reaction to the surrender, war patrols of the boats in the harbor, emotions on launching Kaiten torpedoes, midget submarine operations, hazards of supply runs (they never suspected that we were decoding their rendezvous messages), their respect for American radar and contempt for our torpedoes, etc. These discussions were essentially verbal patrol reports delivered in Homeric style.
They confided that their initial reaction to news of Japan's defeat had been to sail at once on a mass suicide mission. Fortunately they'd cooled off soon after getting under way and soberly returned to port.
Ha-106 had supported a desperate long range air strike from Kanoya, at the southern tip of Kyushu, against Ulithi Atoll. Lacking sufficient range for the round trip, the bombers had ditched on the way home off Minami Daito Shima, 200 miles east of Okinawa, where Ha-106 lay waiting to pick up the aircrews. A number of the Ha-101 boats had patrolled the Bungo Suido, and served as submarine tenders for hundreds of the Kairyu (Sea Dragon) two-man midget submarines being prepared to repulse the U.S. invasion fleet.
Even the decrepit old I-158 had a story to tell. While patrolling 300 miles north of Singapore on 10 January, 1942, she'd sighted and fired at H.M.S. Prince of Wales and Repulse. The torpedoes missed, but her contact report brought in the 22nd Naval Air Flotilla from Thailand bases; the two capital ships were sunk by air attacks before dark, dooming Malaya.
Ro-50 had had several brushes with U.S. carrier task forces. She was credited with sinking a carrier and destroyer 150 miles northeast of Lamon Bay in the Philippines on 25 November, 1944, but the U.S. Navy recorded no such attack. She was more successful 300 miles southeast of Surigao Strait on 10 February, 1945, when she torpedoed and sank the U.S.S. LST-577.
The venerable I-157's saga included running hard aground at high speed in a dense Aleutian fog on Little Sitkin Island. She only escaped by throwing overboard everything portable, firing all torpedoes, pumping all fuel and water tanks dry, and breaking up and jettisoning over one hundred battery cells.
I-366 had released 3 Kaiten torpedoes against an American convoy 500 miles north of Palau on the evening of 11 August, 1945. She was credited with 3 sinkings, but the explosions she'd heard had only marked the ends of the torpedo runs, and their three brave young pilots.
Within a few days I was startled to notice that when I discussed submarine tactics and ASW countermeasures with the Japanese officers we'd unconsciously started to use the terms us and them to refer to Submarines and Surface Ships, not to Americans and Japanese. I was surprised how quickly close bonds of mutual professional interest developed from our shared experiences in a demanding, hazardous calling.
By mid November most of the operational Japanese submarines slated to be scuttled off Goto Shima were moored in Sasebo harbor awaiting final orders. It was decided that the unusual design features of the giant boats, and their implications for the new atomic and missile era, merited more detailed study in the United States. U.S. Navy Prize Crews were therefore ordered to prepare the I-14, I-400 and I-401 for a transpacific voyage to the Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor. The Euryale would follow in January bringing with her two of the high underwater speed boats.21 Thus I received orders to leave my roomy quarters aboard the sub tender and report to Commander J. M. McDowell U.S.N., the current Captain of the Prize Crew of the U.S.S. Ex-H.I.J.M.S. I-400: for duty as Executive Officer and Navigator of that vessel.
With sign language, exchanges of broken Japanese and English, and wild gesticulation our prize crew traced every system, including trim and drain, vent and blow, hull openings, electric power, communication circuits, hydraulic and pneumatic lines, steering, depth control, engine cooling and fuel oil, fresh water, hull and battery ventilation, high and low pressure air piping, torpedo tubes, and other systems. Under the critical eyes of Japanese petty officers we operated engines, motor-generators, pumps, air compressors, ventilation blowers, gyros, sonar, fathometer, radar, radios, and other equipment. We hung so many descriptive colored labels on essential valves and switches that the I-400's interior began to look like an inside-out Christmas Tree festooned with paper ornaments.
Japanese submarine terminology still sticks in my mind: Okii Sensuikan (Big Submarine), Barasuto Tanku (Ballast Tank), Gyorai (Torpedo), Hikoki (Airplane), Hatsudenki To (Electric Light), Benjo (Toilet), Sembokyo Periscope (in calligraphy "underwater looking mirror"). This 1945 vocabulary is not helpful today at Tokyo's Hotel Okura.
I soon felt at home in I-400, with the exception of the two "Siamese-Twin" pressure hulls and huge hangar - the giant submarine's proliferation of compartments was hard to get used to. Walking aft through the port hull my submarine experience told me that I was inspecting the whole boat. I'd duck through the hatch from a large torpedo room with four tubes into the chiefs' quarters, then through the radio shack, capacious wardroom (featuring fine wooden cabinet work, a shinto shrine, and officers' staterooms), large control room with conning tower trunk in the overhead, engine room with two 1900 HP diesels, motor room with a 1200 HP electric motor-generator, and into the aft crew compartment with raised wooden decks polished like a dance floor (you took your shoes off before walking there).
At that point I had to remind myself that I hadn't yet finished checking all compartments, that welded to the large pressure hull I'd just checked were two others, and I'd better keep going because every compartment in all three hulls required close attention. I kept a particularly wary eye on the enormous hydraulic door opening into the I-400's spacious hangar. A loss of buoyancy here, with a 115 foot long free water surface sloshing around above her metacenter, would have had a devastating effect on stability. I remembered how the Royal Navy had lost the experimental aircraft-carrying submarine H.M.S. M-2 in 1932 by flooding through her hangar door.5
Figure 8 shows our Chief of the Boat leaning over to operate the hydraulic deck valve that swung open and shut our huge hangar door.1
My friend Admiral Joe Vasey, who was "Junior" McCain's Exec on the U.S.S. Gunnel, sent me this description of the condition of the I-400 when the U.S. Navy took over.
|While you were at Sasebo I was in Yokosuka with the Proteus group. When the I-400 entered Yokosuka I was detailed, along with a few marines, to accompany the squadron doctor for a medical inspection of the boat. This was quite an experience - as you so eloquently described in your report. The sub was incredibly filthy, with a layer of grease and left-over food on the decks and rats running freely in every compartment. The stench was almost unbearable, particularly near the heads where one of our party lost his breakfast as he was hovering over the sanitary tank opening.
Despite the unhygienic conditions we witnessed, the physical appearance of the crew was remarkably good. Everyone seemed to be lean and alert. I think that in the closing weeks of the war, the Japanese submarine crews realized the collapse of the Empire was imminent and morale dropped sharply. Incidentally, when we questioned the ship's officers as to the total complement, the reply was 187. By our count it was 213, I believe.
The next morning, the crew was ordered on deck and the fumigation commenced. If my memory is correct it was conducted under Joe McDowell's supervision and resulted in about a dozen gunny sacks full of dead rats.23
Sailing across the Pacific to Pearl Harbor (or through space to the moon) requires a sound plan for fitting out, manning and supplying your ship. The I-400 had no blueprints or Machinery History describing her equipment, no crew's Watch, Quarter & Station Bill, and no Standard Allowance Lists of tools, spares and supplies. It was clear that we'd have to improvise, so we were given wide latitude by the powers that be in readying and supplying our unusual boat for her transpacific voyage. The Euryale's workshops and stores were put at our disposal, and we were authorized to salvage any Japanese spare parts and supplies we needed from the warehouses and caves I'd explored around the Sasebo Navy Yard.
Experienced submariners can imagine the results of opening a trove of untended Japanese stores to the crew of a homeward bound submarine equipped with a cavernous hangar and 12 ton crane. Yes, the I-400 quickly became history's first Undersea Interisland Trader. Overnight our hangar became an armory suitable for a major gun running operation, with stacks of rifles and bayonets from a relatively dry cave I'd spotted. From Japanese uniform buttons and rating badges to rubber stamps and a sampan, down our capacious hatches they went to stock our Submarine War Surplus Store.
The prize crew which had brought the I-400 from Yokosuka had maintained her well, and it didn't take long to put her in shipshape seagoing condition, with vital machinery inspected, overhauled and tested by a responsible crew member. Since we had no plans to dive the boat before a complete overhaul at Pearl Harbor we didn't worry about her malfunctioning snorkel, stiff diving gear or minor defects like leaky hatch gaskets or an inoperative automatic trim system. To conserve the Euryale's supplies we loaded provisions for only 14 days to carry us through the first leg of our passage to Guam, where we'd reprovision for the rest of the voyage to Hawaii. By the end of November we were able to report the I-400 "in all respects ready for sea."
Our squadron of three giant I-Boats got under way for Pearl Harbor on 11 December, 1945, escorted by the submarine rescue vessel U.S.S. Greenlet (ASR-10) (Figure 9).
Falling in astern of the I-14 we made turns for an easy 12 knots on a southerly course clear of the unswept minefields west of Kyushu. We kept a sharp lookout for floating mines, but the Officer of the Deck's main concern became precise station keeping. It seemed dangerous and unnatural not to be constantly alert, meticulously sweeping the horizon for enemy mastheads or smoke, the sky for ASW aircraft, and the sea for periscopes. When I climbed up to the bridge at twilight to get my evening star sights I felt a strong urge to douse the running lights. My unease soon passed, however, as the pleasures of peacetime submarine cruising began to sink in. It was perfectly safe to be running so casually here on the surface - we owned it!
The shallow East China Sea grew choppy, and we found that the I-400's high freeboard, broad beam, deep draft and ample bow buoyancy tank gave her a dry bridge and an easy roll and pitch. She was a comfortable boat in a seaway and would have had no difficulty rounding the stormy southern capes. Her 130 foot long gun platform atop the hangar gave us a promenade deck worthy of the RMS Queen Mary, while our small prize crew spread out luxuriously below in the spacious twin hulls. For peacetime surface cruising our submarine liner couldn't be beat, but as I-13 demonstrated, in combat submerged such a huge, low speed, low endurance target with a shallow test depth would not last long against a modern ASW team. Her best tactic would probably have been a bold offensive against ASW vessels, staying at periscope depth and taking her chances with aircraft while rapidly firing and reloading her eight torpedo tubes. Those "Down the throat" shots at charging escorts are sporty, though, and you can understand why the Japanese turned next to small, handy, fast, deep diving submarines.
We passed uneventfully through the Tokara Gunto, and I enjoyed the contrast with my last tense wartime passage against vigilant ASW patrol craft and planes equipped with radar and magnetic airborne detectors. Now the I-400's 1900 horsepower diesels pounded steadily on, driving us southeast on the 1200 mile leg of our voyage across the Philippine Sea. Soon we were sailing through tropic seas, where we discovered a culinary drawback of the I-400: fewer fresh flying fish on deck each morning for breakfast than we'd have collected with a fleet submarine's lower freeboard. Overall, however, I can attest that the I-400 proved to be a fine sea boat throughout our transpacific voyage.
Her 23 foot draft was not so handy, though, as we led the division up the harbor toward the Submarine Base at Guam. In submarine fashion we'd taken no pilot, and I was surprised when we suddenly came upon a new pipeline from a SeaBee dredge crossing the shallow channel under our route. It was unmarked on our charts, and I grew increasingly nervous about our clearance. It was too late to take the way off our ponderous bulk, though, so we ploughed on and slipped across. I assured my skeptical skipper that I knew every inch of that muddy bottom, having slogged around down there with lead shoes, canvas suit and brass helmet getting my deep sea diver's rating. He hissed that I'd damn well better be right, gripping the bridge coaming with white knuckles until the Division Commander also made it in our wake.
My piloting worries were quickly forgotten as we threw our heaving lines across to dock at the Submarine Base. We were met with a tumultuous welcome - whistles blowing, bands playing and VIPs lining up to board our colorful squadron. In the six months since the end of the war Guam had become a dull back-water as Operation Magic Carpet ferried its once large Navy and Air Force population back to the states. For the rear echelon personnel still there the arrival of our esoteric I-Boats flying the stars and stripes over the rising sun provided a stimulating release from boredom and "Island Fever." Visitors of all ranks swarmed aboard.
In every corner of the I-400 we had Japanese artifacts "liberated" by our crew from the deteriorating caves of Sasebo. Being outside the cash economy, we exchanged our government-owned souvenirs for government-owned goods rather than for money. The receding tides of war had left the quonset huts of Guam as crammed with unneeded supplies as Sasebo's caves, and our crew quickly opened our floating flea market for informal trading. Of course I can't give you the texts verbatim, but all over the Naval Operating Base Guam you might have heard conversations along these lines:
Say, Chief, could you use these rifles? I need two 16mm projectors and some good movies - good movies.
This bayonet used to belong to Tojo, Swabbie, but I'll swap it for a new Automatic Silex Coffee Maker - OK?
My guys won't eat no more lousy Spam, Cookie. Now I figure your wife could flash this genuine Japanese stuff around back home to show how you won the war, and we got to have canned hams and prime steaks - is it a deal?
The complete transformation of the I-400 had begun.
These yarns may be historically significant when future underwater archaeologists diving on the I-400 in deep water off Hawaii wonder why her scuttlebutts were equipped with General Electric refrigerated fountains. Why did her galley feature gourmet cooking equipment (including an ice cream machine)? Why deluxe porcelain plumbing fixtures in the heads? Why crude military electronics topside, while bunks below were wired for music from a deluxe jukebox with flashing colored lights? You have the explanation.
Of course all this "cumshaw" dealing was bound to lead to trouble, and it came in the form of an irate marine lieutenant storming on board to demand that the I-400 return his motor scooter. Discreet inquiry pointed to the real culprit being his double-dealing motor pool sergeant, but our Chief of the Boat reassured me; "Don't worry, Mr. Paine, we'll take care of that swindling gyrene, and nobody is going to find any motor scooter in this boat." That was not quite the same as saying that the lieutenant's motor scooter was not aboard our labyrinthine craft, but I believed our chief: nobody was going to find it. Clearly the time had come to crack down on our I-Boat bazaar, though, so we lowered the boom on our pirates while, in the fine tradition of Queen Elizabeth I, enjoying the fruits of their buccaneering.
I'd hoped that the submarine command at Guam might be able to help me find a way to return to Perth to marry Barbara, but with all U.S. Navy operations in Australia being terminated there wasn't a chance. She'd have to come to America, so I'd better get back stateside. I was happy therefore when our now lavishly stocked and well equipped I-400 set sail from Guam with her squadron for the next 1000-mile leg of our trip to Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Running east by south we enjoyed fine tropical weather with occasional drenching rain squalls. We took advantage of these in submarine style with a bar of soap and towel sent up to the bridge, even though the I-400's fresh water capacity was ample to provide showers for our small crew. Figure 10 is a Japanese painting of our giant I-Boats at sea (but we didn't fly those three sleek Seiran float planes).
Christmas Eve found us cruising through tropic seas approaching Eniwetok, relying on the Greenlet's radar to pick up low-lying atolls. Despite our superstructure's rubberized anti-radar coating Santa Claus was able to find our little squadron, and small presents were distributed to all hands. The greatest gift, of course, was the one our unique surroundings reminded us of: A World at Peace. Each of us had his own memories, emotions and reflections on that Christmas, 1945. Our hard-bitten captain was moved to express his feelings in this poetic Christmas Greeting he posted in the Control Room for the I-400 crew:
|CHRISTMAS AT SEA, 1945|
|A Merry Christmas, which I know
Is better here than in Sasebo!
Next Christmas, and the ones to come
I hope all hands will spend at home.
Let's hope and pray that ne'er again
Must we spend Christmas killing men,
That peace will reign beyond our time,
No guns compete with Christmas chimes.
Let's offer thanks for where we are,
For Christmas time not spent at war,
And honor those who gave their lives,
While we head home toward our wives.
| -- Commander J. M. McDowell, U.S.N.
Commanding Officer, ex-H.I.J.M.S. I-400.
For several days our large galley had been bustling with elaborate preparations for Christmas Dinner. It proved to be a magnificent feast, testifying to both the culinary and cumshaw talents of our submarine cooks. Figure 11 shows both sides of our menu, which I kept as a souvenir.
EX JAPANESE SUBMARINE I-400
ENROUTE PEARL HARBOR
COM. J. M. MCDOWELL USN
LT. T.O. PAINE
LT. (JG) J.V. JOHNSON
LT. (JG) W.E. STRINGFELLOW
MACH. B.F. JOHNSON
ASST. ENGINEER - COMMISSARY
Our stop in Eniwetok was short, paralleling our experience at Guam, but not brief enough to keep us out of hot water. This time it was the mysterious disappearance of the Island Commander's jeep on the eve of our departure which brought official wrath down upon the I-Boat Buccaneers. Our crew was all innocence, and a thorough search of the three submarines and the Greenlet failed to turn up a clue. We were granted reluctant permission to sail - told, in fact, to get the hell out and not come back or they'd open fire on us. I don't know what happened to that jeep, but the I-401 crew flaunted a newly-painted one in Pearl Harbor they said they'd purchased with their welfare fund (the I-400 crew thought our racy motor scooter had more class.)
Ploughing along on the last leg of our voyage I had every petty officer prepare a list of the design features in his area that he considered superior to those in U.S. fleet submarines. These included items like a recording fathometer that facilitated navigation using soundings, and a shallow depth gauge with a cross section of the ship's hull painted on the scale from the waterline to the tip of the periscopes to tell the Diving Officer at a glance how much of his superstructure was still exposed while submerging.
We prepared a list detailing the work that should be done when we arrived at the Submarine Base to put the I-400 in satisfactory shape for diving. I went over every item carefully with each department to make sure that we included everything essential for safe operation, but nothing extra that might make the Com-SubsPac staff decide that it would be too costly to refit her for diving tests. After a thorough personal inspection of the boat with our petty officers I boiled the list down to three pages containing 39 items. Figure 12 is a copy of page three of this work list to give some idea of the condition of the I-400 at that time.
New Year's Eve found us steaming eastward across the International Date Line for Hawaii on a course laid out to take us under the lee of Johnson Island in case one of the boats had to heave to for repairs. Submarine custom decrees that the deck log entry for the last watch of the year be written in rhyme. I liked Stringfellow's deathless verse so well that not only did I keep a copy, but next noon I set the calendar back a day. After entering 1946 we went back into 1945 for another 12 hours, so at midnight he had to consult his muse again. Figure 13 preserves his painstaking poetry.
On January 6th, 1946, our unique squadron sailed triumphantly into Pearl Harbor, solemnly dipping our American and Japanese ensigns in salute as we glided past Battleship Row and the gutted hulk of the U.S.S. Arizona on our way to the Submarine Base. Although it was late, we were given a warm reception by the submarine force, with many officers showing lively interest in our giant aircraft (or missile) carrying submarine's capabilities and potential.
One of ComSubsPac's senior staff officers was particularly curious about our Japanese navigation gear, and although I'd never liked him (he was a stuffed shirt who had never made a war patrol) I proudly demonstrated all of our equipment. Then, when my back was turned, he walked off across the gangplank with my beautiful Japanese sextant . . . why, that son of a bitch hadn't taken a star sight in years! Gritting my teeth, I reminded myself of the high price you pay for a moment's lack of alertness aboard a submarine.
To anyone who would listen I argued the case for refitting the I-400 for submerged operation and evaluation. I was convinced that we should find out how such a huge submarine handled submerged, how her automatic trim system worked, what lessons her Japanese naval constructors had incorporated into her design from their long experience with big submarines, and all of the other things I felt she could teach us. Decisions had slowed to a peacetime tempo, though; we were to stand by for further orders.
The time had now come for me to make a decision on my own future, and it was clear that I'd already experienced the most exciting events of a submarine career. Although I was attracted to life in the navy, and would have liked to have been skipper of my own boat, I feared that peacetime training exercises would prove an inevitable letdown. I doubted that Barbara would enjoy life in the Navy, and didn't foresee the early advent of the nuclear submarine. I decided that the next phase of my life should be in the new science and technology developments that had emerged from the war. I'm sure it was the right decision - my lucky gold dolphins went to the Moon with Neil Armstrong - but I made it reluctantly. I'll never forget my experiences as a young submarine officer going to sea on war patrol. As George Grider observed, we were the last of the corsairs.22
I caught a homeward bound Fleet Submarine to San Diego, enrolled for a doctoral degree at Stanford, and married my lovely WAAAF, cutting our wedding cake with my Japanese sword (Figure 14).
|ed. notes: The I-400 and other Japanese aircraft carrying submarines have intrigued many naval historians and builders of ship and aircraft models. For further information see the following:
Did they know that the war was over?
WWII Japanese submarine found near Hawaii
(I-400 Sensuikan Toku class)
Historical sea story break.
Wow, amazing forgotten tale of post WW-2!
Any bubbleheads out there who are willing to talk about ballistic missile subs/technology and their political implications 1950-1990?
One of my ex-bosses has a son who is looking for a 'primary source' for a HS freshman report.
He was a great boss, and is a good guy, his son sounds pretty squared away, and I'd like to give them a good lead.
I think it may be as much as 20 minutes or so of phone interview.
FReepmail me if you're interested.
What's amazing is how important these subs are to history. Hitler and the Japs had planned to attach a dirty nuclear bomb to one of the planes held in these subs. Then the sub was to be moved and the bomb kamikazed into San Francisco. The dirty bomb material was surrendered to the US on it's way to the sub/carrier rendezview as the allies took the Eagles Nest and Germany surrendered. The target day of the San Francisco strike was only 1 week after Japan surrendered.
Travis McGee wrote:
Wow, amazing forgotten tale of post WW-2!
--> If this technology was available during WW2, i can't start to imagine what kind of technology we have now that our country must hold in super top secrecy! It's nice to learn a new piece of history.
Nice catch; and thank you.
Schratz's book (mentioned in the footnote) is a good read, and documents his own voyage from Sasebo to Pearl aboard the Sorry Sasori in late '45.
How'd they land the plane and get it back in the ship when it completed its mission?
Bump for later read...