3 Japanese Mini-Sub Questions

  1. How close were the tender ships (I presume there were tenders) that launched the Japanese mini-subs from Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941? I believe the main flotilla of Japanese warships was hundreds of miles away when the attack commenced.

  2. Were the mini-subs on a suicide mission or was there a plan to recover the sailors following the attack? Were the mini-subs supposed to rendezvous with their tenders after the attack was completed?

  3. It appears that at least some of the mini-subs were captured (or ran aground) following the attack. If they were captured, who captured them and how?

almost mandatory bump… :slight_smile:

Here’s the wikipedia page with the best account of the mini-sub attacks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ko-hyoteki_class_submarine

They were launched from “mother submarines” that would get very close to the target. These were just normal attack submarines. After the attack, the crew was supposed to ditch the submarines and get rescued somehow. Presumably after Pearl Harbor they were supposed to get back out to sea, scuttle and get picked up by the mother submarines. I’d think it’s a little questionable how likely they thought that was, and so even if they weren’t suicide missions per se, they were definitely insanely dangerous.

The one mini-sub that got captured was having trouble with it’s control mechanisms and wasn’t able to actually enter the harbor and instead repeatedly crashed into a reef, damaging the torpedoes. Even though the torpedoes were both damaged, they tried again to enter the harbor (intending to engage the crew of a battleship in hand to hand combat!), but crashed into the reef again. They passed out from fatigue and possibly gasses from the damaged batteries. The next morning they tried another attack, but ran aground right in front of a large contingent of soldiers guarding an airfield on the east side of Oahu. The crew scuttled the boat, but the explosives that were supposed to destroy the sub didn’t go off. One of the crew drowned, but the other one washed ashore and was captured (and later became president of Toyota’s Brazilian subsidiary).

I remember reading somewhere about the japanese mini-subs at Pearl Harbor (IIRC, in a book by Walter Lord). So, going from memory:

  1. The Japanese fleet was some 200 miles away when the attack begun, but the mini-subs (there were 5 of them) were carried by specially modified standard subs (a kind of submarine-carrier submarine) to less than 20 miles from Pearl Harbor. From there they were supposed to navigate by themselves.

  2. There was a rendezvous planned, but none of them made it.

  3. 4 mini-subs were lost in battle (I think two of them were sunk by US destroyers, one of which was fired upon minutes before the air attack started). The fifth one lost its way, had problems with its batteries and, due to the toxic fumes released, the crew lost consciousness. It drifted to a beach were it was found by US infantry. Only one (out of 2) member of the crew was captured, but I don’t remember what happened with the other one.

The USS Ward sank one, just before the attack started. The missing 5th sub is now suspected by some of completing its attackand scuttled in West Loch.

Wow. Great replies. Thanks!

Is there anything the SDMB doesn’t know? (rhetorical question only)

So, the Americans fired the first shots. The Pearl Harbor raid was merely a counter-attack. :wink:

Of course, the planes were already on the way.

Well, when they saw how close Pearl Harbor had gotten to their minisubs, they just knew they had to intervene;)

If I remember correctly (from the same Walter Lord book), the captured Japanese sailor became U.S. POW #1. Quite a distinction.