Appendices - Hirohito's War
APPENDIX A: SUBMARINES - THE UNDERSEA WAR
Japanese Submarine Cargo Missions to Europe: The increasing vulnerability of Japanese submarines was displayed in their attempts to undertake cargo missions to Germany. After August 1943, when over the course of the previous 12 months only four out of 13 cargo ships reached Bordeaux, and only two out of 14 ships reached Japan, submarines became the only viable means of contact between Japan and her German allies.
Personnel and strategically important commodities were shipped to and fro. Products taken to Germany included gold for Japanese purchases as well as products needed by Germany including rubber, edible oils, quinine, tin, tea and coffee. I-8, a large pre-war submarine that carried a reconnaissance airplane, also took 48 crewmen designated to bring back U-1224 for purposes of reverse engineering. I-8’s famous voyage set out from Kure on 1 June 1943 and was completed with great fanfare in Brest after a two-month passage via Singapore. Key personnel such as submarine technicians were badly needed in Japan as were specialist products such as periscopes, optical products, electric torpedoes, sonar devices, scientific equipment and pharmaceuticals such as penicillin, some of which were required for human experiments on prisoners of war. I-8 also brought back Rear-Admiral Yokoi who had been naval attaché in Berlin since 1940 and Captain Hosoya, naval attaché to France. In addition three German officers and four radar hydrophone technicians made the return journey.
The mixed race voyages were not successful bonding exercises. A German passenger on I-8 complained that ‘The Japanese showed lack of understanding of the use of German canned food except fruits. The majority of it was thrown overboard. Fat was cut away from flitches of bacon and sausages were served cold etc. The Japanese crew showed free and easy homosexual behavior tolerated by the ships’ officers.’15
The following year the captain and crew of I-8 were principally responsible for the most noted submarine atrocities of World War II. After torpedoing the Dutch freighter SS Tjisalak on 26 March 1944, Commander Ariizumi made the 97 captured crew and passengers run the gauntlet of the Japanese crew who hit them with wrenches and sledgehammers and slashed them with samurai swords. They were then shot and thrown into the water. Six men managed to survive when they found a raft.
Two months later I-8 sank the Liberty ship, SS Jean Nicolet. Merchantman Carl Rosenbaum reported that the killing started when a Japanese officer hit 17-year old William Musser with a steel pipe before shooting him and throwing him overboard. Another seaman plunged a bayonet into the stomach of 19-year old seaman Richard Kean while another hit him over the head with a rifle butt and kicked him overboard. Commander Ariizumi harangued the other survivors: “You are now my prisoners. Let this be a lesson to you that Americans are weak. You must realize that Japan will rule the world. You are stupid for letting your leaders take you to war. Do you know that the entire American fleet is now at the bottom of the Pacific?”16 Some 23 men survived when the I-8 was forced to dive by an approaching aircraft. One of the men onboard was Francis J. O’Gara, a well-known sports writer on the Philadelphia Inquirer before the war. In memory of the supposedly deceased writer, a Liberty ship, SS Francis O’Gara, was named in his honor. After the war O’Gara was found in a Japanese prisoner of war camp and he was thus the only living person to have a Liberty ship named in his honor. Many of I-8’s crew died when US destroyers USS Morrison and USS Stockton sank the submarine off Okinawa on 31 March 1945. After the war three surviving crewmen were tracked down and imprisoned for war crimes. By then Commander Ariizumi had committed suicide.
Other submarines that made the trans-ocean journey to Europe had mixed fortunes. I-34 stopped in Singapore on 23 October 1943 and took on important stores including rubber, tungsten, tin, quinine, medicinal opium as well as samples of advanced Japanese weaponry. On 11 November, I-34 left for Penang to pick up passengers but was sunk in the Straits of Malacca by HMS Taurus, a British submarine sent to hunt her down after receiving American ULTRA intercepts. Just 14 of 94 men on board survived.
I-29, another B1 Type submarine, 356.5ft with a seaplane carrying capacity, managed to reach Mozambique with a cargo of gold; here she rendezvoused with U-180 where she took on board Subhas Chandra Bose, the pro-Japanese Indian leader who would subsequently take charge of the 40,000 troops of the Indian National Army fighting the British in Burma.
In spite of successful ULTRA intercepts, a second secret mission saw I-29, a B-1 Type submarine, commanded by the ace Japanese submariner, Takakazu Kinashi sail to Europe. On 15 September 1942 Kinashi had sunk the fleet carrier USS Wasp as commander of I-19 (another B-I Type) as well as damaging the battleship USS North Carolina and sinking the destroyer USS O’Brian in the same attack. I-29 arrived in Lorient in France on 11 March 1944 with a cargo of 80 tons of rubber, 80 tons of tungsten, 50 tons of tin, zinc, quinine, medicinal opium and coffee. Six RAF aircraft including two De Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers narrowly missed destroying her off Cape Penas in Spain.
On the return journey, I-29, loaded with an Enigma coding machines, radar equipment, a rocket engine and a Messerschmitt Me-163, was attacked off Luzon Island in the Philippines by a taskforce of three US submarines, USS Tilefish (Balao Class), USS Rock (Gato Class) and USS Sawfish (Gato Class) which had sought her out after receiving ULTRA intercepts. I-29 sank after being hit by a spread of four torpedoes fired by USS Sawfish; only one crewmember survived. Captain Kinashi was among the dead.
The last mission to Europe by I-52, a Type C-3 cargo submarine replacement for the lost I-34, was taking gold, molybdenum, tungsten, rubber and coffee to France and was due to pick up 800kg of uranium oxide. After receiving intelligence, escort carrier USS Bogue and five destroyers led by Captain Aurelius Vosseller sought out I-52 and it was sunk by Lieutenant Commander Jesse Taylor’s Grumman Avenger Torpedo Plane. Having picked up the I-52 by radar travelling on the surface by night Taylor lit the Japanese submarine with flares and sank it with a well-directed torpedo-mine on 24 June 1944. All hands were lost. It was the last cargo submarine run to Europe. Captain Vosseller’s task force had sunk another Japanese submarine on 13 May 1944; in all, his group sank 13 Japanese and German submarines over an 18-month period to July 1945.
Overall the submarine missions to Europe were an expensive failure. From 1944 to 1945 some 2,070 tons of commodities and goods were shipped to Japan by submarine of which only 869 tons arrived. In the opposite direction just 611 tons of goods arrived out of 2,606 tons shipped. Plans authorized by Hitler on 18 January 1943, to build 20 XX Type cargo submarines to bring much needed metals and other resources to Europe, failed to materialize. By 1945 the tenuous links between the Axis powers were effectively stymied. The Allies would later conclude that “cooperation was never direct and at best the assistance rendered to each other was negligible.”17 In some cases help was denied. Japan was refused access to the technology included in the target searching acoustic T-5 Zaunkunig torpedo of the Kriegsmarine.