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.

The Coral Sea 1942 Book Review

The Coral Sea 1942: The first carrier battle

Osprey Campaign Series Book 214

By Marke Stille, Illustrated by John White

Softcover in dustjacket,  96 pages, profusely illustrated, index

Published by Osprey Publishing, November 2009

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-1-84603-440-4

Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.2 x 9.5 inches

The Imperial Japanese Navy planned Operation Mo to seize Port Moresby on the southern coast of New Guinea for the purpose of isolating Australia and threating Allied air bases there.  This would help secure the southern frontier of their Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and protect their bases at Rabaul.  Supporting the Japanese invasion fleet were the large aircraft carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku and the light carrier Shoho.  American and British signals intercepts warned Admiral Nimitz of the impending operation, and he decided to contest the invasion by sending all four of his available aircraft carriers, although Enterprise and Hornet did not arrive in time to participate in the battle.

The battle was the first naval engagement fought entirely by aircraft.  Although the opposing fleets were often in close proximity they never sighted each other.  The Americans lost the aircraft carrier Lexington, with Yorktown damaged, while the Japanese lost the light carrier Shoho, with Shokaku damaged.  With Zuikaku’s air group depleted the Japanese determined the landings at Port Moresby could not be supported and cancelled the invasion.

Both sides claimed victory.  On the Allied side, the threat to Australia was abated and the Japanese juggernaut was turned back for the first time in the war.  On the other hand, the Japanese thought they had sunk two American carriers.  Their own fleet carriers could be repaired and their air groups replenished, and the IJN would enjoy a two to one superiority in aircraft carriers in the meantime.  In reality, damage to the Yorktown was (quite heroically) repaired in time for her to participate in the Battle of Midway, while neither Zuikaku nor Shokaku were present.

Author Mark Stille has done an excellent job of documenting the events leading up to the Battle of the Coral Sea as well as the play-by-play of the battle itself.  Naval battles are complex affairs, but the graphics-intense format of the Osprey Campaign series shines in making a clear presentation of the ship and aircraft maneuvers.  The length of this work is just enough to present this engagement well.  This is one of the better volumes of this series and well worth picking up.

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.

Kaiten (回天) “Heaven Shaker” Manned Torpedo

The Kaiten was a manned torpedo employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy during the last months of the Pacific War. It was constructed by using the propulsion section of the successful Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedo, but with an enlarged forward section containing the pilot and a 3,420 pound warhead. The photograph is of a preserved example at the Yasukuni Museum in Japan.
The Kaiten were carried to the target area on the decks of fleet submarines, which could carry between four and six depending on the type. The pilot could enter the Kaiten while the submarine was submerged, but there was no way to recover the Kaiten once lunched. It was intended to be a one-way trip. The photograph shows I-361 with Kaiten aboard on 24MAY45, she was sunk with all hands eight days later.
A pilot poses with two Kaiten on the forward deck of I-36.
Pilots cheer from atop their Kaiten as their last voyage begins. Note the details of the securing arrangements.
Kaiten secured to the deck behind the conning tower as the crew musters on deck for departure. 89 Kaiten pilots were lost in combat, many before they could be launched. Eight IJN fleet submarines were sunk by American forces while transporting Kaiten to their operating areas.
The first employment of Kaiten was against the U.S. Fleet Anchorage at Ulithi Atoll. A total of eight manned torpedoes were launched from I-36 and I-47 on 20NOV44. One of these struck the oiler USS Mississinewa (AO-59) which emitted a column of smoke visible for miles. This was observed by the parent submarines, and assessed by the Japanese as the destruction of three aircraft carriers and two battleships.
The Mississinewa rolled over and sank, extinguishing the fires. One of the more surreal photographs from the war.
The USS Antares (AG-10) is most famous for sighting one of the five Japanese midget submarines attempting to enter Pearl Harbor on 07DEC41, which resulted in the USS Ward (DD-139) sinking the midget with the first shots fired of the Pacific War. Antares’ war with Japanese minisubs was not finished however, on 28JUN45 she was attacked by a Kaiten launched by I-36 off Guam. By this time she had been fitted with defensive armament, and sank the Kaiten herself with gunfire. An escorting destroyer, USS Sproston (DD-577) sank another, but the I-36 escaped. The strange story of the USS Ward here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/01/23/uss-ward-dd-139-apd-16/
The USS Underhill (DE-682) was the last victim of Kaiten. On 24JUL45 while escorting a convoy she detected a swarm of Kaiten launched from I-53. Defending the convoy aggressively, she depth charged the contacts. As she was passing over a Kaiten she had rammed, she was struck by a second and both exploded. She sank almost immediately with heavy losses to her crew.
The Imperial Japanese Navy intended to launch Kaiten from surface vessels to oppose the anticipated invasion of the Home Islands. They began modifying several ships to carry Kaiten, including destroyers of the Minekazi and Matsu classes, and the Kuma-class light cruiser Kitakami. Kitakami could carry up to eight Kaiten in her final configuration.
The Kaiten were carried on deck atop a rail and roller system. This is a launching trial aboard Kitakami.
The Kaiten were deployed by rolling them off the stern. The launching cradles would then separate, and the torpedoes would then attack the American fleet. The surface ships never launched Kaiten in operationally.
While small models, Kaiten kits have been offered by several manufacturers, including this pair from Fine Molds. Finished model here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/kaiten-japanese-manned-torpedo-in-1-72/

Fine Molds Nakajima A6M2 Zero of CDR Taketora Ueda in 1/72 Scale

This aircraft is Tora (Tiger) – 110, the mount of the CO of the 261 Kokutai.  This aircraft features prominently in Thorpe’s classic Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage and Markings of WWII, being pictured on the cover, a photograph (below), and a color profile.  Very attractive, but also problematic.  The photograph shows a Type 21, with a dark finish on the forward fuselage and a lighter finish aft.  Various people (all of whom know much more about this than me) have interpreted the difference in colors as two greens, discoloration due to primer, dirt or fading, or even as the aft fuselage being painted red matching the Hinomaru.  Thorpe’s cover artwork depicts a Type 22 with the wing stripes and upper wing Hinomaru moved inward.

For my build I chose the primer interpretation and mixed the green a little lighter for the aft fuselage and sections of the upper wings, but I keep thinking it would look good in red.  Fine Molds kit, all stripes are painted, tail codes are Hasegawa decals.

DSC_7469

DSC_7471

DSC_7472

DSC_7729

DSC_7730

DSC_7731

DSC_7732

Tiger110

Hasegawa Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero of Takeo Okumura in 1/72 Scale

The fifth leading Imperial Japanese Navy ace was Takeo Okumura with 54 victories.  The model represents WI-108, an A6M3 Type 22 assigned to the 201 Kokutai at Buin in September 1943.  The only profile I was able to locate of this aircraft was in Osprey Aces 22, IJN Aces 1937-45, which was depicted in a badly chipped paint job.  Most photographs of operational Zeros show little or no chipping, so mine is rendered similarly. Okumura was credited with four Chinese aircraft prior to the start of the Pacific War.  He was assigned to the aircraft carrier Ryujo during the Guadalcanal Campaign and was transferred to the Tainan Air Group at Rabaul.  When operating from Buin in September 1943, he was credited with nine victories and one shared over five sorties, a record for the Pacific War.  He was lost at the end of the month attacking a convoy off Cape Cretin, New Guinea.

DSC_7464

DSC_7463

DSC_7462

DSC_7461

DSC_7721

DSC_7722

DSC_7723

DSC_7724

Tamiya Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero of Saburo Sakai in 1/72 Scale

Saburo Sakai is the most well-known of the Japanese aces in the West, thanks to the publication of books in English of his exploits by Martin Caiden and by Henry Sakaida.  He opened his account in China where he scored four victories.  He was part of the force which attacked US airfields in the Philippines on 08DEC41 (local time).  Over Guadalcanal he was wounded by rear gunners of a formation of SBD Dauntless dive bombers which he mistook for Wildcats, the mistake cost him an eye.  He survived the war and was credited with 64 victories.  V-103 was one of the aircraft flown by Sakai while a member of the Tainan Air Group.  The remains of this aircraft (and those of its’ last pilot) were discovered on Guadalcanal in 1993, and Sakai himself has verified that this is one of the aircraft which he flew while with the Tainan Air Group.

DSC_7444

DSC_7443

DSC_7442

DSC_7441

DSC_7744

DSC_7743

DSC_7742

DSC_7741

Hasegawa Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero of Shoichi Sugita in 1/72 Scale

Shoichi Sugita was credited with his first arial victorie on 01DEC42, a B-17 Flying Fortress.  He formed part of the escort for the transport carrying ADM Isoroku Yamamoto on the day he was shot down.  T2 190 was an A6M3 Type 32 assigned to the 204 Kokutai at Rabaul in May, 1943, and wears a field applied mottled camouflage.  In August of 1943 he was himself shot down but escaped by parachute, although badly burned.

Chief Petty Officer Shoichi Sugita flew the Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden-Kai with 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, shot down while attempting to take off by US Navy F6F Hellcats.  His Shiden-Kai is modeled here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/05/07/hasegawa-kawanishi-n1k2-shiden-kai-%e7%b4%ab%e9%9b%bb-violet-lightning-george-in-1-72-scale/

DSC_7458

DSC_7457

DSC_7459

DSC_7460

DSC_7725

DSC_7726

DSC_7727

DSC_7728

Tamiya Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero of Tetsuzo Iwamoto in 1/72 Scale

This aircraft is only known from entries and a sketch in Iwomoto’s journal, and is one of three he flew from Rabaul which displayed kill markings.  Researchers have been trying to determine the manufacturer, model, and markings for these aircraft, but only one rather fuzzy photograph has surfaced publicly thus far.  Tetsuzo Iwamoto survived the war.  His personal diaries record 202 enemy aircraft claimed, historians have put the actual total at 80.

DSC_7474

DSC_7476

DSC_7475

DSC_7473

DSC_7736

DSC_7735

DSC_7734

DSC_7733