The D4Y Suisei (Comet) was a Japanese carrier-based dive bomber, designed to replace the Aichi D3A “Val”. It was initially powered by a license-built Daimler-Benz DB 601 twelve-cylinder inline engine which gave it an impressive speed and sleek profile. Later versions were powered by a Mitsubishi Kinsei 42 fourteen-cylinder radial engine due to reliability and maintenance issues with the inlines. The type suffered from an unusually long developmental period while various bugs were worked out, which delayed its service introduction until the middle of the Pacific War. By then Japan had suffered numerous setbacks, and the general decline in pilot training and loss of aircraft carriers reduced the potential impact of the design.
The book covers the Judy’s design history and operational service, along with reconnaissance, dive bombing, nightfighter, and Kamikaze variants. The type was first used operationally when a developmental aircraft was used for reconnaissance, flying from Soryu during the Battle of Midway. Similarly, the fourth prototype operated from Shokaku during the Battle of Santa Cruz in October 1942. Notable successes were the sinking of USS Princeton (CVL-23) by a Judy Kamikaze, and the near-sinking of the USS Franklin (CV-13) by conventional dive-bombing attack. Kamikaze operations are covered in detail, with a number of pages devoted to the tactics and procedures which they employed. The final section is devoted to the use of the Judy as a nightfighter.
Like the rest of the Osprey Aircraft of the Aces series the highlight of the book is the full-color profiles. These are well-rendered and thoroughly researched. However, like most Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft, the camouflage was limited to the green over gray scheme with only some variation in the standard markings so there is not much variety. The earliest profiles are of 1943 machines, so if you’re looking for the Midway or Santa Cruz Judys you’ll need to keep looking. Despite that the book is well-researched and enlightening, and any book on Japanese aircraft (particularly in English) is most welcome. Recommended.
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
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.
Softcover in dustjacket, 96 pages, profusely illustrated, index
Published by Osprey Publishing, November 2009
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.
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.
The actions of the midget submarines are listed below in order of their parent subs. “I-16-tou” means “I-16’s boat”. 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.
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 local time 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
WHENEVER ANY FORM OF GOVERNMENT BECOMES DESTRUCTIVE OF THESE ENDS (LIFE,LIBERTY,AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS) IT IS THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ALTER OR ABOLISH IT, AND TO INSTITUTE A NEW GOVERNMENT― Thomas Jefferson