First Shot Book Review

First Shot:  The Untold Story of the Japanese Minisubs That Attacked Pearl Harbor

By John Craddock

Hardcover in dustjacket, 210 pages, bibliography, notes, photographs, and index

Published by McGraw-Hill, October 2005

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎0-07-143716-9

ISBN-13: ‎978-0-07-143716-5

Dimensions: ‎6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches

The use of the five Japanese minisubs during the attack on Pearl Harbor has always been controversial.  Many Japanese naval officers opposed the idea, fearing the submarines would contribute little and risked alerting the Americans to the impending attack.  On the American side, the submarines represented missed opportunities to warn of the attack (just as many Japanese officers feared), and the penetration of the harbor revealed inadequacies of the defenses.  In the aftermath, the Japanese were convinced the minisubs had torpedoed American warships.  The American Navy insisted they had done no damage, a position which was maintained for decades.

In First Shot John Craddock documents what was known about the attack and the fates of the minisubs in 2005.  The midget submarine (I-20-tou) sunk by USS Ward’s gunfire had been located, but not positively identified.  I-16-tou had not been located although she was suspected to have torpedoed the USS West Virginia (BB-48) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37) by some.  He also briefly describes the midget submarine raids against Sydney Harbor and Diego Suarez, the latter arguably their most successful operation.  Operations in the Solomons are briefly mentioned.  There is some interesting information on ENS Kazuo Sakamaki, who commanded I-24-tou and became PoW Number One.

However, for a good part of the book Craddock is exploring peripheral subjects.  Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s early career is described in detail, and there is an entire chapter on his assassination.  There is a chapter on Coral Sea and Midway, as well as the use of the Kaiten manned torpedoes during the last year of the war.  Another chapter discusses Japan after the war.  All interesting and well written, but not the topic of the book.

There are also some missed opportunities which are not mentioned.  For instance, Ward had a busy morning on 07DEC41, and reported depth charging a total of four submarine contacts off the entrance to Pearl Harbor – and at least three of the minisubs were known to have been damaged by depth charges outside the harbor.  Tracing her movements could have filled a chapter, and she was not the only destroyer prosecuting submarine contacts in the area at the time.  Midget submarine operations in the Solomons and the Aleutians would also be interesting, and would give some insights into the evolution of doctrine and employment of these vessels as the war progressed.

While this book is worth reading, it is limited by what was known at the time.  The author “gets out into the weeds” with topics outside of the book’s scope, and doesn’t fully explore topics which are related.  This work is a start, but there is a comprehensive book still waiting to be written on the saga of the fifty Ko-hyoteki midget submarines used by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War.

Type A Ko-hyoteki (甲標的甲型) Target “A” Midget Submarines and the Attack on Pearl Harbor

The Japanese Ko-hyoteki midget submarines were used in several theaters of the Pacific War, but their first and most famous use was during the attack of Pearl Harbor on 07DEC41.  They were 80 feet in length.  They were powered by a 600 horsepower (447 kW) electric motor, which could drive them at a maximum speed of 23 knots (43 km/h) or for 100 nautical miles (190 km) at a low speed.  They carried a crew of two and two torpedoes, which were loaded externally from the bow.

For the Pearl Harbor raid they were carried piggy-back by five I-16 class fleet submarines and launched outside the harbor entrance.  The minisubs were launched during the night before the raid, with orders to penetrate the harbor and attack.  Nominally they were to rendezvous with their parent submarines after completing their missions, but the crews were under no delusions of the likelihood for successfully completing this phase and expected not to return.

There are some loose ends remaining.  The Light Cruiser USS St. Lewis (CL-49) reported being missed by two torpedoes outside the harbor entrance at 1004.  The Japanese fleet submarines were not positioned there so if the report is accurate, it is possible these were fired by I-16-tou.  Alternatively, many believe a photograph taken of Battleship Row during the attack shows a midget sub broaching after firing her torpedoes.  In either case, it is likely that I-16-tou ended up in the West Loch at the end of her mission and her wreckage was dumped off the harbor entrance in 1944.

The midget submarines are listed below by their parent subs.  “I-16-tou” means “I-16’s boat”.

Individual details:

I-16-tou, ENS Masaharu Yokoyama and PO2c Tei Uyeda, launched at 0042.  Likely penetrated Pearl Harbor, skuttled in the West Lock.  Many believe a photograph taken by a Japanese aviator during the attack shows I-16-tou firing torpedoes at the USS West Virginia (BB-48) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37).  Three messages were received from I-16-tou confirming a successful air attack, claiming that she had damaged U.S. warship(s), and a final message received at 0051 on 08DEC41 reporting that the submarine was unable to navigate.  Her wreck was discovered in three sections in the debris field of the West Lock disaster, dumped outside the harbor during the clean-up.  Torpedoes fired, scuttling charge detonated, crew unaccounted for.

I-18-tou, LTJG Shigemi Furuno and PO1c Shigenori Yokoyama, launched at 0215.  Found outside of Pearl Harbor, East of the entrance, recovered by USS Current (ARS-22) on 13JUL60 from depth of 76 feet.  Damaged by depth charges, abandoned by her crew, torpedoes were not fired.  Currently on display at Eta Jima, Japan.

I-20-tou, ENS Akira Hiroo and PO2c Yoshio Katayama, launched at 0257.  Sunk by the Destroyer USS Ward (DD-139) at 0645.  The crew died in the attack, her torpedoes not fired.  Found on the sea floor in 1,312 feet of water by a University of Hawaii submarine in August 2002.  Declared a war grave.

I-22-tou, LT Naoji Iwasa and Petty Officer 1c Naokichi Sasaki, launched at 0116, penetrated Pearl Harbor.  Fired one torpedo at the Seaplane Tender USS Curtiss (AV-4) and one torpedo at the Destroyer USS Monaghan (DD-354).  I-22-tou was struck by shellfire from Curtiss at 0840, then rammed and depth-charged by Monaghan.  Crew was killed in the attack.  Her wreck was recovered on 21DEC41 and used as fill during construction, remains of the crew still aboard.  LT Iwasa’s shoulder insignia was recovered from the wreckage confirming the identification, as he was the only full Lieutenant among the crews.  The insignia is currently on display at Yasukuni.

I-24-tou, Ha-19, ENS Kazuo Sakamaki and CWO Kiyoshi Inagaki, launched at 0333.  She had a faulty gyrocompass which delayed her launch.  She was depth charged twice off the entrance to Pearl Harbor and ran aground.  Broke free and proceeded east, then ran aground again off Bellows Field.  Submarine broke free during air attack and hauled ashore by U.S. forces.  Torpedoes not fired due to damage, scuttling charge failed to detonate.  Inagaki killed, Sakamaki taken prisoner.  Ha-19 was salvaged and went on a War Bond tour, and is currently displayed at The National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

The Ko-hyoteki crews were deified after the raid. Based mainly on the radio report from I-16-tou, the Japanese believed that the midget submarines penetrated Pearl Harbor and that at lease one had attacked successfully. Missing from the portrait is ENS Sakamaki, who was captured.
A photograph of Battleship Row taken from a Japanese B5N2 “Kate” during the attack. In the center, both West Virginia and Oklahoma can be seen after taking torpedo hits and beginning to list, with oil slicks forming on the water.
A tighter expansion of the previous photograph. The disturbance in the water to the left has been interpreted as the I-16-tou breaching after firing her torpedoes. The three sprays to the left of her conning tower are water being thrown up by her screw, and two torpedo wakes are visible originating from that point. Just to the right of the submarine is a small boat. The interpretation of this photograph remains controversial.
The West Lock Disaster occurred on 21MAY44, when an accidental explosion spread through amphibious assault ships loading ammunition prior to the Marianas invasion. The explosions sank six LSTs and killed 163 sailors. The accident was hushed up and remained classified until 1960.
Debris from the West Lock Disaster were quickly cleared away and dumped off the entrance to Pearl Harbor. Among the debris lie the remains of I-16-kou, broken into three sections. In places the hull is pierced and cables have been threaded through the holes so the sections could be hoisted. The bow section has empty torpedo tubes and the unique “figure 8” cable cutter fitted to the Pearl Harbor attackers.
I-18-tou was discovered by U.S. Navy divers outside of the harbor to the east of the entrance. Her torpedoes remained in their tubes, her hatch had been opened and there was no trace of her crew. Submarine contacts were reported off the harbor entrance throughout the morning and many were depth charged (the USS Ward attacked four separate contacts). I-18-tou showed damage from depth charging, perhaps she was another of Ward’s victims?
There can be no question about this one. This is the I-20-tou resting on the sea floor, the hole from Ward’s #3 4-inch gun clearly visible at the base of her sail.
This is I-22-tou. She penetrated the harbor and worked her way around to the west side of Ford Island. There she was engaged by the USS Curtiss and USS Monaghan. She fired a torpedo at each ship but missed. Her hull shows the “washboard” effect of Monaghan’s depth charges and her hull is broken from being rammed and rolled under the destroyer. She was recovered two weeks after the raid.
I-24-tou was plagued by misfortune. The last midget sub to be launched because of trouble with her gyrocompass, she ran up on a reef outside the harbor. After working free she was depth charged and her crew disoriented. She worked around Oahu to the east until she hung up on another reef. Her crew exhausted and overcome by fumes, they abandoned ship after the scuttling charge failed to ignite. ENS Kazuo Sakamaki made it to the beach to become PoW #1, CWO Kiyoshi Inagaki drowned. I-24-tou is seen after being hauled up onto the beach off Bellows Field.
The control station of I-24-tou. Behind the ship’s wheel a man has his hand on the faulty gyrocompass. Reportedly it began to work properly after it was hit firmly.
One of the items recovered from I-24-tou was a detailed map of Pearl Harbor, the entrance is at the bottom. Mooring positions and target ships are indicated. Also note that courses and turning times have been annotated to assist navigation. The Imperial Japanese Navy had spies who provided detailed observations of the harbor prior to the raid, proof such as this only fueled suspicions concerning the Japanese population on Oahu.
The I-24-tou was shipped to the mainland for use in War Bond drives. She is seen here being inspected by shipyard workers in California.

Battleship Ramillies Book Review

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Battleship Ramillies: The Final Salvo

Edited by Ian Johnson with Mick French

Hardcover in dustjacket, 256 pages, well illustrated

Published by Seaforth Publishing June 2014

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-1-84832-2110

Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.0 x 9.2 inches

HMS Ramillies was one of five Revenge class battleships built for the Royal Navy during World War I.   Her main armament was eight 15 inch (381 mm) guns carried in four twin turrets.  She was quite active during the Second World War.  She was part of the escort for HMS Illustrious during the Toranto Raid, and her presence with Convoy HX 106 was enough to prevent the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau from attacking.  She was the flagship for the British invasion of Madagascar, and was torpedoed by a Japanese midget submarine there at Diego Suarez on 30MAY42.  She participated in Operation Neptune, the naval portion of the Normandy Invasion where she expended over one thousand rounds of 15 inch.  Her last major action in WWII was Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France.

This book consists entirely of “sea stories” from the crew as collected by the HMS Ramillies Association.  These are very personal accounts and vary greatly as each sailor tells his story from his own perspective.  All seem to have a lasting affection for the ship and shipmates, Ramillies is consistently described as a clean ship and a happy ship.  The Royal Marines are also represented, as are the wives and sweethearts.

Most accounts mention that HMS Ramillies was the first battleship to call on New Zealand, where her Captain was presented with a Māori warriors’ skirt, the piupiu.  It was said to be able to protect the crew from harm if worn in action.  The Captain did indeed wear the skirt, and the Ramillies suffered no losses due to enemy action while he was wearing it.

I enjoyed this book.  It really conveys what life was like in the Royal Navy during WWII, both on the ship and ashore.  Sailors from any navy will recognize much from these accounts, although some of the jargon is unique to the British – the Royal Navy is “The Andrew” and sailors are “matelots”.  The book also contains several photographs, my one criticism is that they should have been reproduced in a larger format to better see the details.  Recommended.

Note:  The dustjacket on this copy is not torn, the “damage” is a rather odd artistic choice of the publisher and is printed on.

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The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors Book Review

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The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour

By James D. Hornfischer

Hardcover in dustjacket, 427 pages, illustrated, indexed

Published by Bantam Books, February 2004

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0553802577

ISBN-13: 978-0553802573

Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches

The Battle of Samar is the United States Navy version of the Charge of the Light Brigade.  On the morning of 26OCT44 a small group of six U.S. escort carriers and their screening destroyers (call sign Taffy 3) was surprised to see an overwhelmingly superior force of Imperial Japanese Navy battleships and cruisers steaming over the horizon.  The destroyers nearest to the Japanese armada turned to the attack in order to allow time for the carriers to escape.  The destroyers Johnston and Hoel, along with the smaller destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts were sunk, but they were able to save all the escort carriers except for the Gambier Bay.

Hornfischer tells the story from the perspective of the sailors who fought it, often in their own words.  Even though they each may have served on the same ship during the same action, the experiences of a gunner are very different than a boiler tender, and neither are the same as the Captain on the bridge.  This is very much a sailor’s story.  He also details the ordeal of the survivors who had to wait days for rescue – an often overlooked part of the story.

This is a very engaging book.  The Battle of Samar was just one action in the sprawling Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history.  It is a valiant fight against overwhelming odds and a study of how men react under pressure when – in the words of the Captain of the Samuel B. Roberts addressing his crew as they turned to attack the Japanese fleet, “… survival cannot be expected.”  An outstanding book, highly recommended.

 

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Hasegawa Mitsubishi J2M Raiden 雷電 Lightning Bolt “Jack” in 1/72

This is Hasegawa’s classic Mitsubishi Raiden kit from 1977.  It is a good kit for its time, but suffers from basic cockpit detail and shallow wheelwells.  I replaced both on my build.  There is photographic evidence for at least three Raiden with the lighting bolt markings on the fuselage which is not all that surprising given the aircraft’s name.  This one represents a machine of the 353rd Kokutai at Omura in March of 1945.

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AZ Yokosuka K5Y2 Akatombo 赤とんぼ (Red Dragonfly) “Willow” in 1/72 Scale

This is the “new” AZ Model Yokosuka K5Y2 Akatombo kit first issued in 2013.  This is a nice kit, but like the earlier LS issue does not come with a beaching cart.  The rudder is molded a bit too short and has to built up on the lower edge.  The kit’s seats are ridiculously small and should be replaced, I went ahead and detailed out the cockpit while I was at it.  The markings are from the kit and represent an aircraft of the Kishima Kokutai in 1944.

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LS Yokosuka K5Y2 Akatombo 赤とんぼ (Red Dragonfly) “Willow” in 1/72 Scale

This is the old LS mold of the Japanese Akatombo primary float trainer first issued in 1977.  The kit has a few limitations but still goes together well and can be built into a nice model.  I scratchbuilt a cockpit as there is very little included in the kit.  The beaching gear is scratchbuilt, and I replaced the vertical stabilizer with a broad cord clone from the newer AZ kit as the floatplanes all had the wider stabilizers.  The decals are from the new AZ kit and are of a machine from the Otsu Kokutai in August of 1945.

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Fujimi Aichi B7A Ryusei 流星 “Grace” in 1/72 Scale

The Aichi Ryusei (Allied reporting name “Grace”) was a Japanese carrier-based attack aircraft which was intended to serve as a torpedo-, dive-, and level-bomber aboard the Taiho and Shinano.  Both ships were sunk before the Ryusei could be embarked, and the limited numbers produced operated from shore bases.  The gull wings gave it a distinct appearance, and performance was exceptional for an attack aircraft of the period.

This is Fujimi’s kit from the mid 1980s.  It is a decent kit for its time but could use a little extra work.  I rebuilt the cockpit using Evergreen, replaced the engine with resin from Engines & Things, and deepened the wheelwells. The model depicts an aircraft of the Yokosuka Naval Air Group to match a photograph, the dual horizontal tail stripes indicate a flight leader.

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Hasegawa Kawanishi N1K2-Ja Shiden-Kai 紫電 Violet Lightning “George” in 1/72 Scale

Another build of the 1977 Hasegawa kit, this example has had the chord of the vertical tail reduced to represent a late-production Shiden-Kai.  It is marked as the aircraft of Warrant Officer Kaneyoshi Mutoh of the Yokosuka Kokutai in February 1945 operating from Oppama.  Mutoh was credited with twenty-eight victories total, including eight on the Shiden-Kai.

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Hasegawa Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden-Kai 紫電 Violet Lightning “George” in 1/72 Scale

This is the 1977 Hasegawa kit.  It has all the typical Hasegawa shortcomings of its time – basic cockpit, crude engine, and shallow wheelwells.  An additional problem which is often missed is it displays a shape error concerning the width of the vertical fin.  Kawanishi produced both a broad- and narrow-fin N1K2, Hasegawa’s kit splits the difference and so has to be modified to properly represent either version.  On this build the fin was widened to represent one of the first one hundred examples produced.

This aircraft carries the markings of Chief Petty Officer Shoichi Sugita of the 343rd Kokuti operating from Matsuama Japan in March 1945.  CPO Sugita was credited with approximately seventy victories, including seven in the Shiden-Kai.  He was killed on 15APR45.

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