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Thread: Pearl Harbor mini-submarine mystery solved? The 5th midget sub.

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    Pearl Harbor mini-submarine mystery solved? The 5th midget sub.

    Pearl Harbor mini-submarine mystery solved? -- latimes.com

    The "Nova" episode describing the search for the I-16-tou will air Jan. 5

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    The article in question:

    The remains of a Japanese mini-submarine that participated in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor have been discovered, researchers are to report today, offering strong evidence that the sub fired its torpedoes at Battleship Row.

    That could settle a long-standing argument among historians.

    Five mini-subs were to participate in the strike, but four were scuttled, destroyed or run aground without being a factor in the attack. The fate of the fifth has remained a mystery. But a variety of new evidence suggests that the fifth fired its two 800-pound torpedoes, most likely at the battleships West Virginia and Oklahoma, capsizing the latter. A day later, researchers think, the mini-sub's crew scuttled it in nearby West Loch.

    The loch was also the site of a 1944 disaster in which six tank landing ships preparing for the secret invasion of Saipan were destroyed in an ammunition explosion that killed 200 sailors and wounded hundreds more.

    When the Navy scooped up the remains of the so-called LSTs and dumped them outside the harbor to protect the secrecy of the invasion, it apparently also dumped the mini-sub's remains, which were mingled with the damaged U.S. ships.

    "It's not often that a historian gets a chance to rewrite history," said marine historian and former Navy submariner Parks Stephenson, who pieced together the evidence for the television program "Nova." "The capsizing of the Oklahoma is the second most iconic event of the attack. If one submarine could get in in 1941 and hit a battleship, who knows what a midget sub could do today. Iran and North Korea are both building them. It's very worrying."

    Stephenson and his colleagues have put together a convincing chain of circumstantial evidence, but it is just circumstantial, said Burl Burlingame, a journalist at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and author of "Advance Force: Pearl Harbor."

    "There is a good chance that this is the Pearl Harbor midget, but I don't think the case is closed on it," Burlingame said. "At this point, it is not hard evidence."

    The two-man, 80-foot-long sub in question does not have a name of its own. Each of the five subs in the attack was carried by a conventional submarine and took its name from the mother boat. It is thus called the I-16-tou -- tou being Japanese for boat. Powered by a 600-horsepower electric motor, the sub could reach underwater speeds of 19 knots, twice as fast as many of the U.S. subs of the day.

    The three pieces of the sub were found during routine test dives between 1994 and 2001 by Terry Kerby, chief pilot of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's submersibles Pisces IV and Pisces V. But Kerby and others assumed they were a part of a war trophy that had been captured by allied forces at Guadalcanal or elsewhere, towed back to Hawaii and scuttled.

    Stephenson got involved in 2007 because he was looking for the fifth Japanese mini-sub.

    In 1941, a crewman on the I-16 had received a radio call from the I-16-tou at 10:41 p.m. on Dec. 8 reporting the success of its mission. That indicated to Stephenson that the mini-sub had found a calm place in the harbor and hidden until the next night before surfacing and sending the call.

    The crew members would have then scuttled the craft because they could not get it out of the harbor. The West Loch would have been a good location to hide, but researchers could find no trace of the boat there.

    A diver who had been looking for the mini-sub suggested that Stephenson talk to Kerby, who sent him pictures of his find.

    "As soon as I saw the bow section with the distinctive net cutter, I knew that we had found the fifth midget sub," Stephenson said. The Japanese navy modified net cutters on the subs for specific missions, and the one on the wreck was identical to those on the other mini-subs.

    No torpedoes were found on the wreck, and evidence suggests that they were not present when the boat was sunk. A newly declassified photograph taken by a Japanese plane during the attack appeared to show a mini-sub firing a torpedo into Battleship Row. A report to Congress in 1942 by Adm. Chester W. Nimitz describes an unexploded 800-pound torpedo recovered after the battle. That's twice the size carried by the torpedo bombers.

    That torpedo was apparently a dud that missed the West Virginia.

    But an examination of the remains of the Oklahoma shows that it apparently had underwater damage much larger than that associated with aerial torpedoes. An underwater blast would have caused it to capsize, Stephenson said. "Otherwise it would have settled to the bottom upright," like the other sunken ships.

    The 1944 disaster at West Loch occurred on May 21 as the Navy was preparing to invade the Mariana Islands in Operation Forager. The Navy clamped a top-secret classification on the incident to keep it from the Japanese, and few records are now available. What is known is that it was crucial to clear out the debris because the loch was by then the site of an ammunition dump.

    Records from the salvage ship Valve showed that it was brought into the loch during the cleanup and its 250-ton crane was used for an undisclosed reason. Stephenson thinks it lifted the I-16-tou, but there are no records to confirm that.

    The remains of the mini-sub were then dumped three miles south of Pearl Harbor along with those of the LSTs, to be found by Kerby 50 years later.

    Bulkheads on the wreck are sealed, so researchers don't know whether the mini-sub crew was trapped. But a map taken from one of the other mini-subs showed the location of a safe house in Pearl City, Hawaii, suggesting the crew might have scuttled the boat and escaped.

    The "Nova" episode describing the search for the I-16-tou will air Jan. 5.

    thomas.maugh@latimes.com
    If, and this is a very big 'if'.... it can be proven that the 5th midget sub successfully fired torpedoes at USS Oklahoma...it would be the most significant discovery of the past 60+ years with regards to the Pearl Harbor attack.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Quote Originally Posted by TopHatter View Post
    If, and this is a very big 'if'.... it can be proven that the 5th midget sub successfully fired torpedoes at USS Oklahoma...it would be the most significant discovery of the past 60+ years with regards to the Pearl Harbor attack.
    I don't want to take time to Google it now, BUT; the fifth sub was found.

    There are plenty of photos of it including the shell hole in the conning tower by the USS Ward that spotted it trying to follow in the wake of another small ship.

    And its torpedoes were still in it and were never fired.
    Able to leap tall tales in a single groan.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RustyBattleship View Post
    I don't want to take time to Google it now, BUT; the fifth sub was found.

    There are plenty of photos of it including the shell hole in the conning tower by the USS Ward that spotted it trying to follow in the wake of another small ship.

    And its torpedoes were still in it and were never fired.
    I don't think that's the sub they're talking about.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Quote Originally Posted by TopHatter View Post
    I don't think that's the sub they're talking about.
    Different subs, the one the ward killed died outside the harbor not inside it.

    Bit if naval trivia combined with the theme of the movie franchise final destination. The USS Ward survived the attack for exactly 3 years. She was sunk Dec 7th 1944 off the Philippines. She had been hit by a kamikaze and the fires could not be contained so the crew and the ships bell abandoned ship. Then the USS O'Brien under the command of the Ward's commander at Pearl Harbor sunk her by gun fire.

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    Z, you're right. From Wiki

    Fleet submarines I-16, I-18, I-20, I-22, and I-24 each embarked a Type A midget submarine for transport to the waters off Oahu.

    At 03:42 Hawaiian Time, the minesweeper USS Condor spotted a midget submarine periscope southwest of the Pearl Harbor entrance buoy and alerted the destroyer USS Ward. That midget probably entered Pearl Harbor, but Ward sank another at 06:37am (That's 1)

    A midget on the north side of Ford Island missed the seaplane tender Curtiss with her first torpedo and missed the attacking destroyer Monaghan with her other one before being sunk by Monaghan at 08:43. (That's 2)

    A third midget submarine grounded twice, once outside the harbor entrance and again on the east side of Oahu, where it was captured on December 8. Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki swam ashore and became the first Japanese prisoner of war. (That's 3)

    A fourth had been damaged by a depth charge attack and was abandoned by its crew before it could fire its torpedoes. (That's 4)

    A United States Naval Institute analysis of photographs from the attack conducted in 1999 indicated a midget may have successfully fired a torpedo into USS West Virginia. Japanese forces received a radio communications from a midget submarine at 00:41 December 8 claiming damage to one or more large war vessels inside Pearl Harbor.[39] That submarine's final disposition has been unknown,[40] but she did not return to her "mother" sub.[41] On December 7, 2009 The Los Angeles Times reported that there is circumstantial evidence that three pieces of a submarine discovered three miles south of Pearl Harbor between 1994 and 2001 could be that of the missing submarine. The publication also reported that there is strong circumstantial evidence that the submarine fired two torpedoes at Battleship Row. (And that's the missing 5th midget)
    I always knew that Monaghan rammed and sank a midget (which was recovered, if I'm not mistaken) but I forgot that it fired both it's torpedoes in the process.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Has there ever been any unclassified records of the torpedio nets? Like any large holes?theses looked like steel rings. I am sure they were check in the inquiry. Or did the mini sub lip in under or behind a ship, into the harbor.
    "Peace through Power" Late Ronald Reagan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Master Chief View Post
    Has there ever been any unclassified records of the torpedio nets? Like any large holes?theses looked like steel rings. I am sure they were check in the inquiry. Or did the mini sub lip in under or behind a ship, into the harbor.
    The torpedo nets at the entrance to the harbor were opened and closed to allow traffic in...which means they probably snuck in behind ships. I believe the Ward observed a sub doing just that, following USS Condor, IIRC
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    I have to admit that I am somewhat embarrassed to say that it was only about five years ago that I realized that mini subs were used in the attack on Pearl!

    As the same types of mini subs and intended mission was launched by the Japanese against Sydney Harbour, Australia on 31 March 1942, I should have been more aware!!

    I have viewed these 'Type A' mini subs at the Australian War Memorial, and I must say as an Assault Pioneer who spends a bit of time in in closed areas and spaces - they can have that gig!
    It must have taken a special man to man and operate one of these things!!!!!!!!!

    Regards
    Pioneer
    Last edited by Pioneer; 09 Dec 09, at 09:40.

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    We know of four torpedoes fired by midget subs during the attack. Two were targeted at the St Louis. Two were fired at Curtiss and Monaghan. Three of the midget subs have been found with their torpedoes still in place, meaning the five boats launched only four torpedoes. That leaves zero torpedoes to have been fired at Battleship Row.
    All the hooplah about hits to Battleship Row has arisen due to optimistic analysis of an old photo (not a newly declassified one) that, if you try hard enough, you can imagine to show something like a midget submarine. Historical fact is boring, but novelty sells air time.

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    Mini Sub Query

    After viewing the history documentary, the fact that the LST was taken out by a unknown "accident", is curious to me. Could the mini sub crew have taken refuge on Pearl, and sank the LST as the last act the year(s) after 7 December?

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    Quote Originally Posted by morbas View Post
    After viewing the history documentary, the fact that the LST was taken out by a unknown "accident", is curious to me. Could the mini sub crew have taken refuge on Pearl, and sank the LST as the last act the year(s) after 7 December?
    I don't even consider that a possibilty by any stretch of the imagination.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    When would the accident have been, two and a half years after the Pearl raid? If we allow for the possibility, why would they pick on a landing craft when there were cruisers, battleships, destroyers, carriers, etc to attack?
    Accidents happen. Port Chicago. Or USS Mount Hood. Is it really a good idea to name an ammo ship after a volcano?
    http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/s...h-m/ae11-k.htm

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    Pearl Conspiracy

    Tiornu: Nice details...thanks.
    TopHatter: Not beyond any imagination... So when will this story air again...
    All: This is well beyond anything I have expertise on...could be a NCIS story?

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    Quote Originally Posted by morbas View Post
    Tiornu: Nice details...thanks.
    TopHatter: Not beyond any imagination... So when will this story air again...
    All: This is well beyond anything I have expertise on...could be a NCIS story?
    How about, beyond any informed imagination? Or an imagination that decides to think it through even just a little, regardless of expertise?

    Let's imagine these two, or even just one, Japanese managed to even physically survive from Dec 7 1941 all the way into 1944 and not get arrested by the draconian anti-Japanese security that instantly sprung up on Hawaii and the US mainland?

    That's entirely unlikely, but hey, we'll go with it.

    So one or both not only survive, and are free, but they manage to conceal a 47 ton, 75 foot long midget submarine for years in one of the busiest naval anchorages in the world.

    (Are we approaching "impossible" yet?)

    Not only that, but they were able to keep the torpedoes, notoriously finicky and maintenance-intensive beasts, in reasonably working order, not to mention the launch mechanism on the sub. (We'll pretend that they have the tools, the know-how and the privacy to do so...even though the fish are muzzle-loaded, so out comes the nearly one ton, 17 foot torpedoes from the front end of the sub....)

    But let's keep going and imagine that instead they used the sub's scuttling charge. Again, assuming they have tools, know-how and the physical wherewithall to pull that sucker out of the sub.

    They then get to move the charge next to the LST, no doubt with the scuba or rebreather gear that they don't have.

    Sure. It's possible. In Hollywood perhaps.

    Are we starting to see where thinking the problem through rapidly gets us to the "not a chance" conclusion?
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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