In WW2, which midget submarine program was the most successful?

In WW2, which midget submarine program was the most successful?

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In WW2, which midget submarine program was the most successful? I know at least Great Britain and Japan had midget submarines and used them during the course of the conflict. Which WW2 combatant had the most success with their midget subs?

This is a rather long answer outlining the strengths and weaknesses of various nations' midget submarine fleets. If you just want the short answer, skip to the last paragraph. During World War II, the UK, Italy, Germany, and Japan had midget submarines. The US, the USSR, and China did not.

The Royal Navy had two main submarines. The X-class submarine was built from 1943-1944, eventually replaced by the XE-class submarine. 20 X-class submarines and at least twelve XE-class submarines were built. There were also a few unsuccessful submarines, such as the Sleeping Beauty and the Welman submarine. Six of the X-class were lost in battle and one in training. Another six of the X-class were training-only. The operational X-class were mainly used in preparatory work such as taking surveys of Normandy beach and cutting torpedo nets in harbors. However, six were used in Operation Source to neutralize German warships. All but two of the submarines involved were lost in this operation. XE-class submarines were used similarly. However, only four of them ever saw action. In 1945, they were used to cut Japanese telephone cables off the coast of Vietnam and China.

Italy had 16 midget submarines over the course of the war. There were two classes, the CA-class and the CB-class. Two CA-class subs were manufactured Between 1938 and 1939 and two more were manufactured in September 1943. They were originally designed for coast defence but later modified as attack craft. Italy planned for them to attack New York Harbor, but their transport submarine was sunk and the plan was scuttled.

Seventy two boats [CB-class] were ordered… but only 22 were laid down. 12 boats were completed before the Armistice… [Six boats] fought the Soviets [in the black sea,] sinking two submarines.

Italy also had a few unsuccessful miniature sub designs.

Germany had four types of midget subs of which only one was successful. The first was the Biber.

The Biber was hastily developed to help meet the threat of an Allied invasion of Europe. This resulted in basic technical flaws that, combined with the inadequate training of their operators, meant they never posed a real threat to Allied shipping, despite 324 submarines being delivered. Wikipedia- Biber

Bibers took part in many missions, but few ever survived them. For example, in the first Biber operation, 14 took part. Only two even made it to the operational area. In 1944, the Bibers deployed against traffic going to Antwerp. In the first attack, 18 were sent out and one returned. They sank only one ship-- the Alan A. Dale. This was one of the the only ships ever sunk by a Biber. Further operations in the area lost over thirty more Bibers.

The Molch, another German Midget submarine, was highly unsuccessful. Although 393 were built, it suffered heavy losses.

The complicated system of tanks made it difficult to control during combat operations… Due to the ineffectiveness of the Molch in combat operations, it was later used as a training vessel for more advanced midget submarines. Wikipedia- Molch

The Neger was a torpedo-carrying craft. Although not designed as a suicide weapon, the torpedo would often fail to release from the submarine when fired and would carry the craft with it to the target.

About 200 vessels of this type were manufactured in 1944… However, the Neger turned out to be very hazardous for its crew, and up to 80% of the crews were killed. In return one cruiser, one destroyer, and three Catherine Class BAMS minesweepers were sunk in 1944 with the weapon.

Due to this, the Neger was eventually retired and withdrawn from service.

The last major type of German midget sub was the Seehund. It was the most successful of the German Midget Submarines. Of the 1000 planned, 285 were completed and only 35 of those were lost, mostly due to bad weather. However, it was designed in 1944 and only used in the last months of the war. It's small size made it difficult for it to be picked up by ASDIC. It was also a very quiet craft, making detection by hydrophone impossible. It mainly operated around the German Coast and the English Channel, attacking merchant ships. It sank nine and damaged three.

The Japanese had the largest fleet of submarines of any of the navies in the pacific although Germany had the most overall.

The Japanese navy also built submarines with the fastest underwater speeds of any nation's combat submarines. They employed 78 midget submarines capable of 18.5 to 19 knots submerged, and built 110 others capable of 16 knots. Japanese Submarines

These were by far faster than any other midget submarine sailing at the time. Few could go over 10 knots.

These were comprised of one main type- the Ko-hyoteki Class Submarine. It was subdivided into three types: A, C, and D. Five type A participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor, but only two made it into the harbor and none survived it. Three type A attacked Sydney Harbor in 1942, but one was sunk before it could do damage. The other two survived but sank before they could return to their transport submarines. They damaged only one ship however. Two type A's also took part in the Battle of Madagascar. One was lost at sea and the other seriously damaged one battle ship and sank an oil tanker. Type D's were mas produced-- even more than the type A's and type C's. 115 type D's were completed by the end of the war and almost five hundred more were under construction. The Ko-hyoteki also played a defensive role in the Aleutians and alsewhere in the Pacific.

To put a conclusion on this lengthy answer, I would say the Japanese had the best midget submarines. However, the Germans had the best program as the Japanese did not often utilize their fleet in important offenses.

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Both military and civilian midget submarines have been built. Military types work with surface ships and other submarines as mother ships. Civilian and non-combatant military types are generally called submersibles and normally work with surface ships.

Most early submarines would now be considered midget submarines, such as the United States Navy's USS   Holland   (SS-1) and the British Royal Navy's HMS   Holland 1.

The Story of How Tiny Submarines Crippled Hitler's Deadliest Battleship

The British midget submarine attack on the mighty German battleship Tirpitz left the giant warship crippled at her anchorage.

By mid-1942, the towering German battleship Tirpitz stood alone as the largest, most powerful warship in the world. Despite rarely venturing from her lair deep within the Norwegian fjords, her mere presence in the region forced the British Royal Navy to keep a large number of capital ships in home waters to watch over Allied convoy routes to the Soviet Union.

The fact that the menacing shadow of one ship could hold so many others virtually captive in the North Atlantic at a time when they were desperately needed elsewhere was an intolerable situation in the eyes of Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. “The greatest single act to restore the balance of naval power would be the destruction or even crippling of the Tirpitz,” he wrote. “No other target is comparable to it.” His obsession with the massive dreadnought was the driving force behind numerous Royal Air Force and Royal Navy attempts to sink her, but all had met with failure.

The harsh reality was that inside Norwegian waters the Tirpitz enjoyed the protection of an ice-clad fortress bounded by sheer walls of solid rock and enhanced by German ingenuity. The natural defenses had been substantially bolstered by the deployment of countless artillery batteries and antiaircraft guns in the surrounding mountains while close-quarter protection for the 42,000-ton battleship was provided by layers of heavy antitorpedo nets that were closed around her like a second skin. Nothing had been left to chance, and within these all-encompassing defenses, the Germans confidently believed the “Lonely Queen of the North,” as the Tirpitz was known, was untouchable. To the Royal Navy looking on from afar, it was not an idle boast.

Churchill wanted action, but the British Admiralty could see no way to strike at its nemesis. Naval bombardment was impossible due to the configuration of the intervening land, the fjords were mostly beyond the range of land-based bombers, and a raid by conventional submarines would be suicidal.

The X-Craft Program

However, from within the deepening gloom that beset the Royal Navy, a ray of light emerged. For a number of years, Navy engineers had been working on the prototype for a 51-foot, 30-ton, four-man midget submarine specifically designed to attack naval targets in strongly defended anchorages. They had developed, in effect, a complete submarine in miniature, but in lieu of torpedoes, the midgets were fitted with two crescent-shaped detachable explosive charges fitted externally on either side of the pressure hull. These mines, each containing two tons of Amatex explosive, were to be planted on the seabed directly under the target ship then detonated with a variable time fuse.

It was deemed unlikely that the German command ever envisaged a raid by midget submarines or X-craft, as the British vessels were known, giving rise to optimism that at last an attack on the Tirpitzmight stand a fighting chance of success. It was a tantalizing prospect.

Winston Churchill, a renowned enthusiast of covert operations, had been greatly impressed by an earlier raid launched by Italian divers against British ships in Alexandria harbor and was eager for the X-craft to replicate a similar feat against the Tirpitz. His impatience to strike, however, was tempered by a Royal Navy that would not be rushed. While operational considerations dictated that these vessels would require many unique features, Navy experts were determined to develop the X-craft prototype along principles firmly grounded in reality and based on sound submarine practice. Within the halls of the Admiralty there was little enthusiasm for the unconventional, outlandish approach typical of the Special Operations branch.

Even at this early stage of X-craft development, the sheer volume of pipes, dials, gauges, levers, and other vital equipment crammed inside the tiny hull left very little space for crew comfort. Navy planners recognized only that men possessing extraordinary self-control could cope with the claustrophobic conditions, and they sought volunteers “for special and hazardous duty” from among newly commissioned Royal Navy officers. The candidates, including many from Australia and South Africa, were not told what the mission entailed, but over the next few months, they were filtered through rigorous selection criteria. The physically unsuitable, the timid, or men with a “death or glory” outlook were steadily weeded out. Those who made the grade quickly found themselves undergoing intense training and theoretical courses on the X-craft.

Training and weapon development proceeded simultaneously, as further modifications, tests, and sea trials were conducted until the final construction design was approved. With the aid of civilian firms, the first six vessels, designated X-5 through X-10, rolled off the line to form the fledgling 12th Submarine Flotilla.

The Plan to Sink the Tirpitz

As the momentum of the operation gathered speed, bold theory predictably collided head-on with practical application. Before any attack could be launched, a number of significant roadblocks would need to be cleared, not the least of which involved getting the X-craft to Norway. Experts agreed that German patrols and air reconnaissance ruled out launching the vessels from a depot ship near the Norwegian coast, and a weeklong journey across the North Sea was considered beyond the endurance of the four-man crew. They would be completely exhausted before they ever reached the target. It was a vexing problem, but after much deliberation it was decided that the midgets would be towed to the operational area behind patrol submarines using 200-yard manila or nylon cables.

Even under tow, however, the 1,200-mile journey would still take eight days, so “passage crews” would be trained to ferry the craft to the target area. Then these men would be swapped with the “operational crews” who would make the voyage in the towing submarines.

These transit crews would play a vital, yet largely unsung role in the operation. Theirs would be an exacting, demanding duty in which they were to remain virtually submerged throughout the entire journey, only coming to the surface every six hours for 15 minutes to ventilate their hulls. It promised to be a voyage of incredible hardship, and few envied them.

Another critical factor in the planning was the timing of the raid. By early 1943, the Norwegian Battle Group of Tirpitz, the battlecruiser Scharnhorst, and the pocket battleship Lutzow had relocated to new berths within the small landlocked basin of Kaafjord, northern Norway. The German ships were now anchored five degrees north of the Arctic Circle where there was no darkness in summer and no light in winter.

Summer was unsuitable for a British attack because the X-craft needed the cover of darkness to recharge their batteries winter deprived them of daylight to make visual contact with the target. The most favorable times for an attack occurred during the two occasions each year when daylight and darkness were equal, the equinoxes in March and late September. March was too soon, so the Admiralty settled on late September with the attack to go in on September 22. Navy planners had been swayed by intelligence reports from Norwegian agents indicating that on this date the Tirpitz’s 15-inch guns would be stripped and cleaned, and her sound detection equipment would be down for routine servicing.

Operation Source

In June 1943, specialized training for what came to be called Operation Source started in earnest when men and machines moved to the secret wartime base known as Port HHZ in Loch Cairnbawn, northern Scotland. Amid tight security, the Navy had designed a course that replicated the fjord up which the men would travel to attack the Tirpitz and her escorts, Scharnhorst and Lutzow. Now putting their new X-craft through trials, the men vying for selection carried out simulated attacks, rehearsed towing procedures behind larger submarines, and perfected techniques for cutting through antisubmarine nets. The men grew accustomed to the squalid, cramped interior of the vessels, but they never learned to enjoy it.

Throughout their arduous training, the strengths and weaknesses of the volunteers were constantly evaluated everything they did and said during these interminable months played a role in determining who would go and who would be left behind. If the mission were to stand any chance of succeeding, the personnel conducting it would need to be the very best, both mentally and physically. The Navy recognized that a midget submarine would get the men to within striking distance of the Tirpitz, but it would take cold-blooded courage and fierce determination to breach the defenses and sink her.

Finally, after nearly 18 months of training, planning, and construction, Operation Source was ready for the ultimate test. The crews had been finalized, and among those selected was a 26-year-old Scotsman, Lieutenant Duncan Cameron, Royal Naval Reserve, whose natural leadership qualities and stout character saw him awarded the command of X-6. Another successful candidate was a 22-year-old veteran of the submarine service, Lieutenant Godfrey Place RN DSC, who took command of X-7. These remarkable men were destined to play pivotal roles in what was to be one of the most daring exploits of the entire war.

With much better range than coastal submersibles, these were based in Bordeaux from the end of 1940, but gradually moved their operating area (and later tactics, with better coordination with the Germans) in the South Atlantic. Some even became in 1942-43 transport submersibles bound to Japan.

Ballila class oceanic submersibles (1927)

The genesis of Balilla (also Toti, Millelire, Sciesa) comes from the Admiralty’s desire to build a fleet of submarine cruisers able to operate in the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean from the Italian colonial bases in Africa. ‘is. The model was, as for other European nations, the last submersibles Germans, especially the U120, transferred to war damage in 1919 and whose Balillas were largely inspired.

Naturally endowed with a double hull, they were very sturdy, the Millelire diving to more than 120 meters in crash tests. Their Fiat diesels used for cruising, were directly based on WW1 German MAN Diesels. They could travel 13,000 nautical miles. Four boats were launched in 1927-28 and completed in 1928-29. Considered to be too big to operate in the Mediterranean, and despite some success, on patrol (Toti sank HMS Rainbow in 1940 for example), they were all converted into tankers and survived the war but the Sciesa, sunk and scuttled at the end of 1942 in Tobruk.

Displacement: 1,427 t. standard -1 874 t. Diving
Dimensions: 86.5 m long, 7.8 m wide, 4.7 m draft
Machines: 2 propellers, 2 diesel diesels, 2 electric motors Savigliano, 4900/2200 hp.
Top speed: 16 knots surface / 7 knots diving
Armament: 1 x 120, 2 x 13.2 AA MGs, 6 x 533 mm TTs (4 bow, 2 stern, 16 torpedoes)
Crew: 77

Ettore Fieramosca (1929)

This rather large submarine was designed by Bernardis to carry a small floatplane for reconnaissance, stored in an extension of the conning tower, like the French Surcouf. however the hangar was removed in 1931 and her old 120 mm/27 gun replaced by a 120mm/45. Of single-hull construction with large bulges, she was more stable than the ballila, but still quite slow to dive, and with poor agility underwater. She was never able to reach her designed speed of 19 knots. Range was 5000 miles, but her carrer was short: After a few missions she suffered a fatal battery explosion in mid-1940, and was laid up and never repaired. She was broken up in 1946.

Displacement: 1,530 t. standard -2 094 t. Diving
Dimensions: 83.97 m long, 8.3 m wide, 5.11 m draft
Machines: 2 propellers, 2 Tosi diesel, 2 Marelli electric motors, 5200/2300 hp.
Top speed: 15 knots surface/8 knots submerged. Oil 150 ton.
Armament: 1 x 120, 4x 13.2 AA MGs, 6 x 533 mm TTs (4 bow, 4 stern, 14 torpedoes)
Crew: 78

Archimede class oceanic submersibles (1933)

Built in Tosi in 1931-35, these four units designed by the engineer Cavallini were only two in 1940, Archimede and Torriceli having been transmitted to the Spanish Nationalist fleet in 1937. They were enlarged versions with more of autonomy of Settembrini. The Galilei was captured in the Red Sea by the armed trawler HMS Moonston in June 1940 and used by the RN as a training submarine. The Ferraris was sunk by a plane then a destroyer escorting a convoy off Gibraltar on October 25, 1941.

Displacement: 970 t. standard -1 240 t. Diving
Dimensions: 70.5 m long, 6.87 m wide, 4.12 m draft
Machines: 2 propellers, 2 Tosi diesels, 2 Marelli electric motors, 3000/1100 hp.
Top speed: 17 knots surface/8 knots dive
Armament: 2 of 100, 2 of 13.2 mm AA, 8 TLT 533 mm (4 bow and 4 stern and 18 torpedoes)
Crew: 55

Glauco class oceanic submersibles (1933)

Author’s rendition of the Otaria, Glauco class as built.

Glauco and Otaria had been ordered at the CRDA shipyard of Montfalcone by Portugal in 1931 under the name of Delfin and Espadarte. Canceled shortly thereafter, they were taken over by Regia Marina, and both units were commissioned in 1935 and 1936. Glauco was scuttled in front of Gibraltar, badly damaged by a destroyer, and the Otaria served as a transport and patrolled. Mediterranean from 1941 to 1943. She survived the war.

Displacement: 1,054 t. standard -1 305 t. Diving
Dimensions: 73 m long, 7.2 m wide, 5.12 m draft
Machines: 2 propellers, 2 diesel diesels, 2 electric motors CRDA, 3000/1200 hp.
Top speed: 17 knots surface / 8 knots dive
Armament: 1 cannon of 100, 2 mitt. 13.2 AA, 8 TLT 533 mm (4 bow, 4 stern, 14 torpedoes)
Crew: 58

Pietro Micca (1935)

Pietro Micca – Old illustration made for Atlas Editions
The Micca, simply put, was Italy’s largest prewar submarine, with a displacement around 1545t/1940t. Designd by engineer Cavallini as a cruiser and minelayer of the same concept than British Porpoise, she can only carry 40% of her mine load and was slower, but she was better armed and had a good range of around 12,000 nm at 8 knots. She was built and launched at Tosi in 31.3.1935 and in 1940 undertook a few minelaying missions. She was eventually torpedoed by Britsh submarines HMS Trooper in the strait of Otranto.

Displacement: 1,545 t. standard -1,940 t. Diving
Dimensions: 90.30 m long, 7.7 m wide, 5.3 m draught
Machines: 2 shafts Tosi diesels, 2 Marelli electric motors, 3500/1500 hp.
Top speed: 15.5 knots surface/8.5 knots sub
Armament: 2 x 120mm/45, 4 x 13.2 AA, 6 TT 533 mm (4 bow, 2 stern, 10 torpedoes), 20 mines
Crew: 72

Calvi class oceanic submersibles (1935)

Giuseppe Finzi, Calvi class

These are modernized versions of Balilla. The hull was enlarged and optimized for better stability. Engine power was sacrificed in favor of two more torpedo tubes and an extra gun. This class had a slightly lower speed but a better radius of action, 13,400 nautical miles. Their crushing depth was 100 meters. Built at OTO Muggiano, there were three: Calvi, Finzi and Tazzoli. The first two were scuttled (Atlantic in 1942 and Bordeaux, the latter with a German crew late 1943) and Tazzoli disappeared at sea in May 1943 for some unknown reason.

Displacement: 1,525 t. standard -2,028 t. Diving
Dimensions: 84.30 m long, 7.7 m wide, 5.2 m draught
Machines: 2 propellers, 2 diesels Fiat, 2 electric motors, 4400/1800 hp.
Top speed: 17 knots surface/8.5 knots sub
Armament: 2 x 120, 4 x 13.2 AA MGs, 8 x 533 mm TTs (4 bow, 4 stern, 16 torpedoes)
Crew: 77

Foca class oceanic submersibles (1937)

Designed by the engineer Cavallini, they were the last submersibles minesweepers Italians They could dive more than 100 meters and had a range of 8500 nautical miles. They did not have tubes at the stern, and their stern was arranged so as to be able to wet the mines contained in long longitudinal silos. In 1941-42, their cannon was put back in front of the kiosk. They had been completed in 1938-39, and the Foca was sunk on a mission to Haifa in October 1940. The other two survived the conflict.

Displacement: 1,305 t. standard -1 625 t. Diving
Dimensions: 82.85 m long, 7.17 m wide, 5.20 m draught
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 diesels Fiat, 2 electric motors Ansaldo, 2280/1250 hp.
Top speed: 16.1 knots surface/8 knots sub
Armament: 1 x 100 mm, 4 x 13.2 mm AA MGs, 6 x 533 mm TTs (bow), 36 mines
Crew: 60

Marcello class oceanic submersibles (1937)


The 11 Marcello-class ships designed by Bernardis were oceanic submarines launched in 1937-39. They were fast enough and maneuverable in diving, but suffered from an excessive roll, which the adoption in 1941-42 of a smaller kiosk solved. They were sunk or lost during the conflict, starting with the Provana, which was destroyed by the French aviso La Curieuse off Oran June 17, 1940. The class comprised the Barbarigo, Dandolo, Emo, Marcello, Mocenigo, Morosini, Nani, Provana, Veniero, Cdt Capellini and Cdt Faa di Bruno. For some authors they were the best Italian submarines of the war.

The Barbarigo and Cappellini were converted into transports to Japan at the end of 1943 and the Cappelini was seized in November by the Japanese at Sabang, Barbarigo having been sunk off Spain. The Cappellini was transferred to the Kriegsmarine, becoming IUT-24, then taken over by the Japanese in March 1945 and renamed I-503. But she did not operated long because of the lack of fuel, she surrendered to the Americans in Kobe on September 2nd.

Displacement: 1,043 t. standard -1 290 t. Diving
Dimensions: 73 m long, 7.20 m wide, 5.10 m draft
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 diesels Fiat / CRDA, 2 electric motors CRDA, 3600/1100 hp.
Maximum speed 17.4 knots surface / 8 knots diving
Armament: 1 cannon of 100, 4 mitt. 13.2 mm AA, 8 TLT 533 mm (4 bow, 4 stern, 16 torpedoes)
Crew: 57

Brin class oceanic submersibles (1938)

Schematics of the Brin class

Derived from the Archimede, these 5 submersibles built by Tosi were completed in 1938-39. Two replaced the units of the previous class transferred to the Spaniards. They were a little heavier and their only gun was placed in the back of the Kiosque, configuration proper to the Italians.
They were all sunk by war events, the Toricelli for her part during a surface duel against three destroyers and an English sloop in the Red Sea, and later scuttled to avoid capture. The Brin survived the war and was discarded in 1948.

Displacement: 1,000 t. standard -1 245 t. Diving
Dimensions: 72.47 m long, 6.68 m wide, 4.5 m draught
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 Tosi diesels, 2 Ansaldo electric motors, 3400/1400 hp.
Top speed: 17.3 knots surface/8 knots sub
Armament: 1 x 120 mm, 4 x 13.2 mm AA, 8 TLT 533 mm (4 bow, 4 stern and 16 torpedoes)
Crew: 58

Liuzzi class oceanic submersibles (1939)

Launch of the Liuzzi at Tosi Yard

These four units built at Tosi were virtually enlarged Brin. They were launched in 1939-40 and their cannon was in the forward position. The Liuzzi was scuttled in 1940, after being disabled by the firing of several destroyers, the Tarantini was sunk by the HMS Thunderbolt in 1940, off the Biscay. The Bagnolini and Guiliani were used from January 1943 as transports to Japan. They were both captured at the surrender of Italy in November 1943, the latter in Singapore by the Japanese, and the first by the Germans in Bordeaux. They operated under the flag of Kriegsmarine (UIT-22 and 23), and sunk in 1944, UIT-23 by HMS Tally Ho in the Straits of Malacca and IUT-22 by an Australian Catalina off the Cape of Good Hope.

Displacement: 1,148 t. standard -1,460 t. Diving
Dimensions: 76 m long, 7 m wide, 4.55 m draught
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 Tosi diesels, 2 electric motorsAnsaldo, 2500/1500 hp.
Top speed: 18 knots surface / 8 knots dive
Armament: 1 x 100 mm, 4 x 13.2 mm AA, 8 x 533 mm TTs (4 bow + 4 stern, 12 torpedoes)
Crew: 58

Marconi class oceanic submersibles (1939)

These are six units designed by Bernardis in line with Marcello, but with more length and less width, and a more powerful engine to reach better surface speed. In order to optimize the stability, a gun was removed and reduced as well as their conning tower. Four were sunk or lost in action in 1941, the Leonardo da Vinci in 1943 (the best Italian submarine of the war), and the Toricelli was converted to Japan, captured in Singapore in 1943, briefly used by the Germans as ITU-28 and in April 1945, shortly before capitulation, transferred to the Japanese, becoming I-504. She was damaged and went to Kobe yard in September 1945. She was later dynamited and dismantled on situ by the Americans in 1946. For most authors, this was the overall best class of italian submarines of the war.

Displacement: 175 t. standard -1 465 t. Diving
Dimensions: 76.5 m long, 6.8 m wide, 4.7 m draft
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 CRDA diesels, 2 Marelli electric motors, 3600/1500 hp.
Top speed: 17.8 knots surface / 8.2 knots dive
Armament: 1 x 100 mm (4 × 2), 4 x 13.2 mm AA, 8 x 533 mm TTs (4 bow, 4 stern)
Crew: 57

Cagni class oceanic submersibles (1940)

Old rendition of the Cagni (Atlas Editions)

This was a class of four large submersible cruisers intended to operate in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean against the English merchant traffic. As a result, the focus was on the number of torpedo tubes (14, the absolute record for a ww2 submarine) and reserve torpedoes on board, with 450 mm tubes for civilian ships, instead of the usual 533 mm (21 in) “for war”.

Their superstructure was reduced to a German style conning tower, and they had two guns. They made long cruises in 1941, the Cagni remaining in the South Atlantic for 4 months and a half. Named after admirals, they had an autonomy of 13,500 nautical miles. Saint Bon and Millo were sunk by English submarines, the Caracciolo scuttled at Bardia and the Cagni surrendered to the allies in 1943, being used for training until 1948.

Amiraglio Cagni, limited copyright image used for visual identification of the object under fair use. Source:

Displacement: 1,653 t. standard -2 136 t. Diving
Dimensions: 88 m long, 7.7 m wide, 5.7 m draught
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 diesels CRDA, 2 electric motors CRDA, 4370/1800 hp.
Top speed: 17 knots surface/8.5 knots sub
Armament: 2 x 100 mm, 4 x 13.2 mm AA, 14 TLT 450 mm (8 bow, 6 stern, 36 torpedoes)
Crew: 85


One and two-man Japanese midget submarines were transported by ship or larger submarines and used covertly to infiltrate enemy targets including Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and Sydney Harbor.

Such a submarine could have been destroyed by an American air raid or naval bombardment or even scuttled by the Japanese toward the end of the war .

New Zealand Navy Lt. Commander Matthew Ray said underwater remote-controlled vehicles with cameras will be used to try to identify the wreck.

Oakley said it could be the first Australian submarine lost in World War I, although that submarine, AE1, was thought to have sunk in another harbor 12 miles (20 kilometers) away.

AE1 became the first Australian naval loss of the war when it sank on Sept. 15, 1914, with the loss of 35 lives. Rabaul was then the capital of the German New Guineau colony, which was quickly lost to the British.

Simpson Harbour, in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, was one of Japan's major military bases for most of World War Two

It is thought that around 65 Japanese submarines were sunk in Simpson Harbour by Allied forces in the Second World War

7 unique upsides of being a disabled dad

Posted On February 04, 2021 23:00:56

Despite needing a ventilator to breathe, a feeding tube to eat, a tablet to type, and a power chair to get around, life is good. Seriously.

First, you must be wondering: What kind of glass-half-full, sappy, optimist comes up with a list like this? Maybe it’s a guy that got hit by a Domino’s delivery driver and now has more money he can count? Or maybe he was Tony Robbins’ number two, so he was well equipped to handle the tragic life of being completely paralyzed?

Well, I’m not the heir to the Domino’s empire nor did I work as a motivational speaker. I am, however, an optimist. And I’ll be damned if I let my situation beat me.

I am completely paralyzed with the exception of a few stubborn facial muscles that refuse to quit. My condition did not happen overnight. It was an extremely gradual process that has been happening since the summer of 2010.

The culprit behind its methodical degeneration is a neurological disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. You might remember hearing about it during the Ice Bucket Challenge, a global phenomenon that gave the disease its 15 minutes of fame. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that were raised in the summer of 2014 there is still no known cause or cure.

Fortunately for me, despite needing a ventilator to breathe, a feeding tube to eat, a tablet to type, and a power chair to get around, life is good. Seriously. I have a beautiful, kind, and smart wife. I’m also a father to the world’s next RBG, our three-year-old daughter Elliott Monroe. Perspective is everything, and I sure as hell won’t allow my situation to dictate my mood. So I wanted to write about some of the positive aspects of my life. Here goes.

  1. When it comes to skipping out of the chores around the house, it doesn’t get any easier than pulling the ALS card. I have not had to do the dishes once. Dirty diapers? No thanks! It turns out that you need fine motor skills to do both tasks.
  2. Need some help multitasking? I’m your man. Thanks to being completely paralyzed, I am able to write emails, while getting my fingernails clipped, and have lunch at the same time! Easy breezy baby, thanks to eye gaze technology, a caregiver, and a feeding tube.
  3. Is there anything worse than a gulp of fresh squeezed orange juice right after toothpaste? Or debating on having a cup of coffee after you just brushed your teeth? Not me, I don’t ever have to worry about such a conundrum.
  4. I’m no Carrie Bradshaw, despite once finding a pair of Manolo Blahniks in the back of a cab in NYC. But my shoe game is strong. I do have a lot of custom-designed sneakers from Nike. The best part about having fresh kicks and being in a wheelchair is that my shoes are always on display. Not to mention that they never get dirty because they never touch the ground.
  5. Everyone poops. It’s not just a great book, it’s a fact of life. Now, I do require two different people to help me do my business, and I am quite regular. The two lucky individuals that get to join me have very defined duties. Pun intended. One person lifts me up in a bear hug motion while the second person pulls my pants down. But thanks to technology, that is really the only part of the experience that requires hands on help. I have a wonderful bidet that has more settings than a Sharper Image recliner. You haven’t lived until you felt the warmth of a heated toilet seat in the middle of winter.
  6. Lady Gaga is not the only one with a poker face. Thanks to ALS I can keep a straight face, no matter how high the stakes get. There is some minimal movement in my eyebrows and that is how I signal yes or no when I don’t have my tablet. This nuanced language is tough for people to fully understand. However, it gives me and my wife an incredibly intimate form of communication.
  7. I draw the line at smuggling narcotics across foreign borders, but other than that, if you got stuff to smuggle or “hold”? I am your man. Nothing makes a security guard feel worse than having to pat down a completely paralyzed guy that talks with his eyes. I am also quite the Sherpa too. If we’re at the mall or Disney and I can hold bags. Throw them on the back and let’s roll.

This list was surprisingly easy to make. I am a truly positive person, but I am not an angel or some type of hippy-dippy sap that has his head in the clouds. I believe my life is hard but it is not any more difficult than yours. We all have battles and struggles. The choice to allow it to dictate your mood or how you see the world is exactly that, a choice. What do you choose?

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It is known the sub eventually left the area without harm and, possibly because of her actions against the Absaroka, the December 27th attack was called off.[1]

Two months later, on the night of February 25, 1942, one of the most mysterious events to have transpired in the war, or any other time for that matter, unfolded. At 1:44 AM in the morning, a remote military radar installation that was part of a newly minted early warning system, picked up an unidentified aerial target 120 miles west of Los Angeles and closing. At 2:15 AM Los Angeles area anti-aircraft batteries were put on Green Alert --- ready to fire --- and at 2:21 AM the regional controller ordered a total area-wide blackout. Then, just minutes before the object should have come into the path of the waiting anti-aircraft guns it suddenly vanished. Soon it was seen rising up over the Santa Monica Mountains behind and to the east of the aimed direction of the anti-aircraft guns. At 3:06 AM the Santa Monica area anti-aircraft batteries turned inward toward the object and started firing out over the city following it's track toward Baldwin Hills. Suddenly "the air over Los Angeles erupted like a volcano." (source)

During the intervening period the the giant object of unknown origin, said to be 800 feet long --- the size of a Zeppelin --- withstood the continued pounding of 1440 direct hit anti-aircraft rounds with no signs of any ill effect. From Baldwin Hills it turned back toward the coast heading south past the beach cities of Manhattan and Hermosa. When it reached Redondo Beach it turned inland again then south back out to sea between Long Beach and Huntington Beach, never to be seen again. The true aspects of mystifying incident have never been answered. Some say it was the Japanese, although after the war they completely refuted any implication in the event. Others say it was pure mass hysteria.

A person by the name of C. Scott Littleton was a young boy living along the Strand in Hermosa Beach when the object flew past his house just beyond the surf-line paralleling the coast. It was Littleton's later published reports as an adult that supports the the fact that the object turned inland around Redondo Beach. It was however, not the only confirmation. Within minutes of the Littleton sighting, just south of the Edison steam plant another eyewitness confirmed the object turned diagonally inland toward the south-southeast flying almost directly over the top of the Happy Hour Cafe at 400 Strand, Redondo Beach, owned by the infamous Fifie Malouf.

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The following, describing the eyewitness account, is found at the Fifie Malouf link:

"(O)ne night in February 1942 right there on the Strand a huge, giant object, as big as a locomotive, came in off the ocean and flew right over the top of the Happy Hour Cafe and the apartments. (I) had heard a ruckus going on outside, sirens, guns firing, all kinds of stuff, so (I) went out on to the Strand only to see this 'thing' a few hundred feet above the beach slowly glide overhead off the ocean, not making a sound and, because of its length, taking forever to pass over."

As the object approached the top of the hill as it sloped up from the beach, it's path was picked up by a man named Edwards. Edwards, along with his father, owned and operated a neighborhood store on Garnet Street maybe a mile or so inland. The younger Edwards grew up in Redondo Beach and lived in a house on Juanita Avenue just up the street from the store almost on the top of the crest of the Garnet Street hill. Edwards was probably in his early 30s or so in 1942 when the object crossed right over his house. The following is how he recalled the event:

"(Edwards) was awakened in the darkened pre-dawn hours by what he thought was the sound of gunfire. Then the house began to rattle, then shudder, causing a few things to fall off the shelves as though a bulldozer or a freight train had gone by right out front of the house on the sidewalk or something. He ran outside just barely catching a glimpse of what he said looked like the dark black hull of a 'flying ship' cresting over and going down the hill toward Torrance Boulevard. He raced inside, threw on a pair of shoes and a jacket over his pajamas and ran out to the top of the hill thinking all along that whatever it was crashed into the houses on Lucia Street or into the oil fields beyond. When he got to the top of the hill none of the houses were destroyed, nothing was on fire, and there was no sign of the object." (source)

Then, not very many minutes after it had been seen in the sky over Redondo Beach, the object was out over the agriculture fields that existed in those days a few miles inland east and south of the beach cities. That same night a young man and recent college graduate named Albert Nozaki was helping guard a relative's field from vandals that had been ruining crops and breaking irrigation systems because, he thought, they were Japanese. Below describes what Nozaki saw that night in the early morning hours:

"(A)pproaching him well above the fields from the west, silhouetted against the slightly lighter night sky, was a fairly huge dark airborne object coming straight toward him at a fairly quick pace. At first it seemed as though it would take a path off to the right of where he was standing, but before it reached him it just barely began turning flatly toward the south, almost as in a controlled drift. By then he was just under the edge of the object as it went over him with the center off to his left, continuing its turn and eventually disappearing in the southern night sky while all the time gaining altitude. It was huge, dark, very long and wide with no lights or signs of windows. Although it did not have protruding wings like an airplane, the object's outside edges ominously curved down. As well, other than feeling a slight vibrational 'hum' in his chest as it passed over, the object made no sound."

ALBERT NOZAKI: War of the Worlds

Nozaki, who later went on to be an Oscar nominated art director, apparently drawing upon his his experiences in the field that night in 1942, designed the terrifying Martian flying machines seen in the 1953 movie War of the Worlds. Without any real answers to what the object might have been, a strong string of out-of-this world extra-terrestrial connontations has blanketed the phenomenon, of which such an angle, pro and con, is explored as found in The Battle of Los Angeles: 1942 UFO.

Although I remember the events of the so-called Battle of Los Angeles on February 25, 1942 quite well I have no personal recollection from the same period regarding the aforementioned barge, the Kohala, being accidently bombed off the coast of Redondo Beach just two months earlier on Christmas day, 1941. It could be my parents, possibly thinking it was an enemy submarine so close to Redondo, may have purposely chosen to withold knowledge of the events of that day from my brothers and me because it WAS Christmas day. The thing is, even the Japanese say they were not involved in the Battle of Los Angeles incident --- so, in that sense the Battle was not exactly "war related," like say the barge situation was. There are however, two actual physical World War II Japan versus the United States war related events I personally saw and still remember quite well --- although both were apparently minor in the overall scheme of things and neither show up anywhere in history books I have ever been able to find.

One was in Santa Barbara, the other in Redondo Beach. Chronologically the Santa Barbara event happened a few years after the Redondo Beach one, but I am presenting the Santa Barbara incident ahead because I want to close with Redondo.

When the war started, as far as I knew, my mother was well and healthy. Such was not the case. As the war wore on she appeared to be sicker and sicker. Eventually she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, a tumor that impacted her daily activities and in the end led to her being totally incapacitated and death at a very young age.[2] During that lead up period to her total incapacitation it became increasingly more difficult for my father to care for her as well as take care of three young boys, so much so that he decided to investigate the possibility of a full time care facility. One of the facilities he looked into was an around the clock full care sanatorium-like hospital in Santa Barbara. The day he went to see it he took me and my mother along. While we were there we went out on the Santa Barbara pier. Somewhere along one edge of the pier was a crane-like boom that was in the process of pulling an airplane out of the water and placing it on a flatbed trailer. To me the plane was what I would call a seaplane. On its wings and behind the wings on both sides of the fuselage were clearly distinguishable bright red circular Japanese insignias. The plane was intact and showed no signs of visible damage. Years later I would identify the plane as a Yokosuka E14Y Floatplane. How such a plane ended up being put onto a waiting flatbed trailer on the dock in Santa Barbara has been semi-explained to me as I've cited elsewhere, however, personally, for me it still remains a mystery and unclear. So too, as it is, the whole of the year remains somewhat fuzzy or unclear to me, but the Santa Barbara plane-thing I think most likely occurred early in the year of 1943 and for sure before the end of the year because by Christmas of 1943 I was in India, not returning until the summer of 1944.

The first part of 1943 can be fairly well substantiated as well. My dad was an air raid warden on our block and for several blocks around and did a lot of what I thought was really neat air raid warden stuff. Wanting to be like my dad I mimicked him in a proud sort of way by answering an ad in a comic book for a Junior Air Raid Warden Kit, thus becoming, at least as I viewed it, an air raid warden myself. I know the advertisement began appearing as early as February 1943, meaning most likely, by taking into consideration the cover date lead time, the ad was showing up on the magazine stands by sometime in mid-late December 1942 or at least by January 1943. Knowing me and how I responded to other like offers plus how important being an air raid warden meant to me personally I was most likely chaffing at the bit to get one as soon as I could, so I'm sure by early February 1943 I had one.

FYI, the E14Y floatplane was typically launched from a B-1 type Japanese submarine. To my knowledge there is no record of a B-1 type submarine operating that far south along the coast during the time period I saw the plane being lifted out of the water.[3]

The second of the two war related events I really remember involved a two-man Japanese Midget Submarine that washed up on the beach just south of the Redondo Beach pier --- an event that goes totally unreported for some reason. A then Redondo Beach resident named Max Harris and an avowed eyewitness to the midget sub washing up on the beach, who would be well into his 90s now if still alive, was age 26 at the time and, extrapolated from his own words, describes how he recalls the event:

"It was a quiet morning around 10:00 AM and me and my girlfriend were walking along the beach. All of a sudden out of nowhere, six American bombers flew right over us and started dropping bombs about 500 yards from the shoreline. They then circled back and did it again, dropping at least 50 bombs and then flew away. The next thing I knew about 200 soldiers appeared and they quickly closed the beach.

"Later that day radio news broadcasts said that a Japanese two-man submarine had been sighted off the coast of Redondo and it was destroyed. Two days later the submarine washed up on shore and inside they found the bodies of two Japanese Naval officers." (source)

Harris has cited the date of the above event as being October 4, 1942. It is not clear exactly what the date Harris gives signifies. Since the sub took two days following the bombing to actually show up on the beach, when Harris says the 4th, does he mean the day of the bombing was the 4th thus indicating the day the sub washed up on shore was the 6th? Or does he mean the day the sub washed up was the 4th meaning the sub was bombed the 2nd?

Why is it important? It has to do with HOW the sub was able to end up being off the coast of Redondo Beach in the first place. I remember a different date, maybe only a few days later, but enough days to allow the submarine to be off Redondo on a more-or-less "official record" basis.


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My brother's birthday is more toward the middle of October. Since his birthday fell on a weekend in 1942 my parents decided to give him a surprise party. To pull it off required my brothers and me to be out of the house while it was being decorated and guests, friends and kids secretly arrived --- so my dad took us to the beach for a walk. It was not unusual to wander along the sand with one or the other or both of our parents, or even grandparents, so it was no big thing. However, we invariably hunted moonstones on what was called Moonstone Beach in front of the Strand that ran north of the pier in those days near the previously mentioned Happy Hour Cafe. Instead, this time, no sooner had we reached the Strand than we worked our way south of the pier to see a highly-muted town event, a two-man Japanese midget submarine that had washed up on shore. Even though the sub was roped off blocking any formal access from the front, to get to it my dad took us along a narrow strip between the Horseshoe Pier and the rocks, crossing under the pilings of the straight pier along the surf line and onto the beach proper. When we reached the sub he lifted me up and I was able to look inside through an open hatch.

A handful of well armed GIs, if not toting rifles slung over their shoulders were at least carrying side arms, whose job it was to apparently guard the submarine in some fashion from incorrigibles or worse, had repositioned themselves some distance from the immediate vicinity of the sub to the somewhat more palatable sidewalk above the beach in order to interact with a few of the more viable members of the local female population. Eventually one of the GIs saw us climbing all over the sub and waved us off with no shots fired.

A few days before, within minutes of the midget submarine being spotted 500 yards off the Redondo Beach pier, a half a dozen airplanes dropped bombs from her last known position to all along her suspected path of travel. Two days later the sub, although virtually undamaged, washed up on shore. The date of the event has been reported as being October 4, 1942, although it doesn't really matter much that the bombing occurred in October but that I personally saw the midget submarine within days of it washing up on the beach --- and I remember quite clearly seeing it with my dad --- we were there that day because we had to be out of the house for my brother's birthday

Six planes dropped 50 bombs a quarter mile off the beach at 10:00 in the morning! That is a heck of a lot of bombs and a WHOLE lot of noise, especially so early in the day on whatever day or date it was done. One would think I would recall specifically such a major noise making event living only a few blocks from the ocean and straight up from the pier. The thing is, the thumping noise of explosives had become common place. Not long after Pearl Harbor the military installed two 155mm guns of the end of the Redondo Beach pier as well as anti-aircraft guns a short distance away just above the beach south of Redondo by the Hollywood Riviera Club. They were constantly test firing the things, so much so that in the case of the anti-aircraft guns the continued pounding of the ensuing target practice structurally damaged the club so much it actually had to close the place in 1942.


By October 1942 most if not all of the Japanese submarines, except for the I-25, had departed the west coast for other areas of operation. The whereabouts of the I-25, which had just participated in the aerial bombing of Oregon on September 9th and the 29th, was known to still be off the south Oregon coast on October 4, 1942 because on that date she torpedoed the 6,653-ton American tanker Camden. Two days later on October 6th the I-25 sunk the 7,038-ton American tanker Larry Doheny somewhere south of Cape Sebastian. Thereafter it is said to have departed the Oregon coast arriving in Yokosuka, Japan October 24, 1942 for overhaul. During the 20-day span that lapsed between the September 9th aerial attack on the U.S. mainland in Oregon and the second one on September 29th, the I-25 embarked on an extremely top secret mission involving the release of the midget submarine that ended up being bombed off Redondo --- a mission that one day, once it came to light, would reveal a top secret Japanese plan embracing the uncontrolled unleashing of a nuclear weapon against U.S. soil along the Pacific west coast, more specifically the Los Angeles basin.

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On the 10th of September, one single day after the I-25's first aerial bombing of Oregon, which was for the most part was so ineffective it was basically unknown at the time --- and basically still is --- an Army Air Force maritime patrol bomber out of McChord Field in Tacoma, Washington, not searching for the sub but on routine patrol, caught the I-25 exposed on the surface with a number of crew members on deck. The sub managed to crash-dive eventually escaping with no damage after the bomber dropped a whole bomb bay of explosives on her (some reports cite anywhere from 3 to 10 depth charges unleashed by the bomber). A few days later, well off the Oregon coast and no longer being pursued --- and apparently what the crew was on deck making preparations for --- the sub took on a two-man midget sub. The sub was apparently offloaded from an armed merchant ship or commerce raider, with all fingers pointing to the Japanese transport ship Hakusan Maru, she being escorted at the time in the open seas south of the Aleutians by the Japanese submarine RO-64, both vessels operating out of the occupied island of Kiska, Alaska.

Midget subs, which had a short range of operation, typically carried only two crew members, and had to be launched from a mothership, of which the I-25 had the capability of being, and as clearly shown on the map to the right, transported it south, leaving it and it's crew in the shadow of one of the Channel Islands, most likely Santa Barbara Island, 38 miles off the southern California coast or San Nicolas located 76 miles south west of Redondo Beach. There the midget sub lurked for several days up to a week or two waiting along the beach or one of the coves for the right time to strike or complete its mission.[4]

It should be noted that B-1 type submarines like the I-25 that carried and launched the midget sub had a 14,000 nautical mile range. The home base for the I-25 was thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean from the U.S. on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It was scheduled to arrive in Yokosuka, Japan October 24, 1942 for overhaul after having left Kwajalein ten months earlier, on January 11, 1942.

When the I-25 departed the waters off Oregon in September and headed south to release the midget submarine it had already transited clear across the Pacific and been prowling up and down the U.S. Pacific west coast close to ten months, soon after-which it was low on or had no torpedoes as well as running low on fuel and provisions. It is my belief the I-25, after launching the two-man sub on or near one of the Channel Islands she continued south to the La Palma Secret Base seen and reported on by American espionage agent and actress Rochelle Hudson as being located in the estuaries near Acacoyagua, Chiapas, Mexico. There she refueled and took on supplies --- then returned north, of which one would think to retrieve the midget sub and/or pick up it's crew. However, on September 29th the I-25 was back in northwest waters, having bypassed both Redondo Beach and the Channel Islands because it is a known fact she launched a plane to set fire to the Oregon forests on that date. Then, a few days later, on October 4, the same day the midget submarine was bombed off Redondo, the I-25 torpedoed the 6,653-ton American tanker Camden in Oregon waters. Two days after that, on the 6th, she sank the 7,038-ton American tanker Larry Doheny somewhere south of Cape Sebastian.

Following the semi-successful attack against the tanker Camden which, although on fire, did not sink until seven days after being torpedoed, and the more successful attack against the Larry Doheny which sank immediately, the I-25 departed the Pacific west coast altogether, arriving in Yokosuka, Japan October 24, 1942. The question is, was the crew and midget sub left out to dry or had the I-25 picked up the crew on the way back north leaving the sub abandoned only to end up floating unmanned off Redondo? Although it is known the I-25 as a mother ship had the ability to launch a midget sub it isn't clear that she could float under one or actually pull one out of the water and safely reattach it on her aft deck. Hence, if such was the case, i.e., not being able to reattach the sub, crew or not, the two man sub would have to be left, albeit most likely scuttled.

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As for the midget submarine, although there were plenty of targets in the north around Seattle and San Francisco for both full-size and midget submarines, there were no known substantial hard targets that fell into the range of capabilities of a two-man sub in the general Los Angeles area. No U.S. aircraft carriers, battleships, or other major naval vessels or warships like up north. Nothing coastal that could have been impacted adversely enough to warrant such a mission either. At the time the midget sub was thought to have been dealing with a soft target, say like the pick up or delivery of documents, maps or blueprints or a high profile person, most likely a spy, saboteur, or turncoat. In that there were only two naval officers said to have been on board, if they were delivering, it is not known if our military interceded or confiscated whatever it was prior to or after the bombing OR if the sub's crew had already transfered the package to the mainland, with the whatever it was blending into the wartime milieu of America.

Why the two-man sub was running close to or on the surface at 10:00 AM in broad daylight right off the coast of Redondo Beach and WHY Redondo Beach, is not known, although the quoted paragraph below sheds light on the prime suspected possibility. Nobody knows if the sub was coming or going or which direction it was traveling. If it had been positioned due west by it's mother ship off one of the Channel Islands there would be no practical reason, military or otherwise, for the sub to be transiting the blight in a north-south direction paralleling the South Bay coastline during daylight hours. Same with east-west. Midget subs only carried a small air reserve and not much under surface battery power compared to conventional subs, but usually had sufficient supplies of both for any mission assigned. The midget submarine may have already completed it's mission and abandoned. As well the mission may have involved San Nicolas Island, re the following from the source so cited:

"Top of the list was the then little known, never before built nor never before tested theoretical weapon called the atomic bomb. The brain trust that was eventually put together to design such a weapon knew that once constructed, before it could ever be used formally, some form of the weapon would have to be tested --- and that any test would have to be done in some isolated spot without prying eyes, with minimal concern for destruction and radioactive fallout. Top secret at the time, several locations were suggested, of which one was San Nicolas Island, the most remote of the California Channel Islands." (source)

Harris reported two dead Japanese were found on the sub which means at the time of the bombing the sub wasn't abandoned by it's crew. Nothing about the Japanese officers or their fate has ever been revealed. But, if they were still alive at the time of the bombing or already dead is not known. I saw the sub on the beach within a day or so of it washing up and to my knowledge no bodies were found in conjuction with the sub. Even though there is very little that could be much more blatantly obvious than an enemy two-man sub washing up on a public beach in a highly populated area, let alone with two dead Japanese officers, the whole incident must have been super-sensitive on BOTH sides because it was kept quiet at the time and very little or nothing has surfaced regarding the event since.

It is odd that after all these years not one official has come forward with details of what happened. After all, Harris is quoted as saying "200 soldiers appeared and they quickly closed the beach." That is an awful lot of witnesses, and for sure, not all of them could have had security clearances. If the two dead naval officers died in the line of duty, out of courtesy, more than likely their bodies were returned to Japan, so another sizable group of non security clearance personel would have been involved.[5]

I find it even more odd that in 1942, Harris, who was age 26 at the time, single, and apparently in good health --- he said he was with his girlfriend and when his article was made public he was in his 90s --- was not in the military himself, especially being it was at the height of the draft. Nowhere does he claim any military or service connected affliation in what he writes. It could be he was actually in a more official capacity than he was willing to say.

As found in The Wanderling And His High School Chums, just as I started high school I returned to living in Redondo Beach after having been gone all of my elementary school years --- albeit living as close as Hermosa Beach for awhile during the second or third grade. No sooner had I entered the ninth grade than I found a part-time job running errands several days a week for a house-bound former merchant marine who lived around the corner and up the street from my house. The ship he was on during World War II was torpedoed by German U-boats off the coast of Florida just at the beginning of the war. He was severely burned when he was forced to jump overboard into oil burning along the surface of the water. Over the two-year period or so I worked for him we became friends. One day returning from my errands my Merchant Marine Friend introduced me to a man who was visiting him as they were discussing various aspects of submarine warfare. One of the topics that came up was the two-man sub that ended up on the beach next to the pier in Redondo. When I interjected that my father had lifted me up to see inside the sub the man got all excited and went on and on about it. If that man was Max Harris or not I do not know. He was however, the only person I knew that ever talked about it much.[6]

Japanese Midget Submarine Operations 1942-45 II

By the end of 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy worked to redesign and redeploy the kō-hyōteki. Unfortunately for Japan, this effort focused on the technical deficiencies of the submarines instead of focusing on the misuse of the craft and crews on ill-suited missions. Private doubts plagued naval leaders and doubtless some of the veterans of the corps, but the program pushed on. As the last group of Type A submarines was completed, a new sub, numbered HA-53, was designed and laid down in October 1942 and completed in February 1943 with a major difference. Less than a third of a meter (1 foot longer than the Type A boats), its extra space accommodated a 40 hp, 25 kilowatt diesel generator to recharge the sub’s batteries, thus correcting the major design inefficiency of the earlier midgets. From this prototype, called an otsu-gata (Type B), a new group of hei-gata (Type C) boats emerged (Itani et al. 1993:127). These 81-foot-long, 49 ton craft carried a crew of three, the third man serving as the engineer. More complex than their predecessors, the hei-gata began to emerge from the factory in the summer of 1943, with five modified kō-hyōteki, HA-49, HA-50, HA-51, HA-52, and HA-53 rebuilt as Type C boats.

The Imperial Japanese Navy decided to ship these five submarines to the Bismarck Archipelago (now in Papua New Guinea) to be based at the former Australian base at Rabaul, which was now a heavily built up and fortified Japanese bastion after its January 1942 capture. As supply convoys ferried supplies and personnel and towed a supply and support vessel for the midget submarines, the submarines were readied for towing across the Pacific. Only two of the five would arrive, the first being HA-53, which reached Rabaul on December 16, 1943, under tow of the merchant ship Hidaka Maru. HA-52 arrived under tow of the support ship Sanko Maru, which steamed from Palau with the sub on February 12, 1944. Diverted to Kavieng, New Ireland, Sanko Maru and HA-52 arrived at Three Islands Harbor, New Hanover, in time for a US aerial assault on February 16 that sent the ship to the bottom. Strafed and straddled by near misses from bombs, HA-52 was scuttled by the crew after the second day of attacks on February 17. The other midgets fared no better. The submarine USS Seawolf sank the tanker Yamazuru Maru, towing HA-50, on January 14, 1944. The submarine USS Whale sank Tarushima Maru, towing HA-51, on January 17, 1944. Finally, the ship Neikai Maru, towing HA-49, was sunk by aircraft January 28, 1944 (Cressman 2000:205, 208). With only HA-53 at Rabaul, there was to be no effective midget submarine force in the Bismarcks. The base itself, heavily bombed and strafed throughout the first months of 1944, was left cutoff and mauled until the end of the war. When surviving Japanese forces surrendered on September 6, 1945, they scuttled HA-53 in shallow water.

Japan was withdrawing from the South Pacific. A lack of fuel led the Sixth Submarine Fleet to withdraw from Truk in the spring of 1944. The navy sent the beleaguered garrison at Saipan some of the new kō-hyōteki. Again, they made no appreciable difference. Two boats out of five towed there were lost at sea, and the other three and their crews vanished in the destruction of Japanese forces who massed for one last banzai charge during the island’s invasion. In the aftermath of the battle for Saipan, one of the submarines was discovered in 60 feet of water, raised for inspection, and then scuttled (Commander Surface Squadron Twelve 1944:12). The sad legacy of the midget submariners, begun at Pearl Harbor, continued to be one of needless sacrifice.

Ten of the new Type C boats were sent to the Philippines on D-type destroyer transports in 1944. Based in the southern Visayas at Davao, Cebu, and Zamboanga, the midgets were commanded by Captain Kaku Harada, one-time skipper of Chiyoda and the “father” of the program. Hammered by American attacks, the bases were abandoned in favor of Cebu, where Harada was located at the end of the war at the 33rd Naval Special Base (Smith 1991:609). There the last of the midgets fought to the close of the Philippine campaign from an advance base at Dumaguete at the southern side of Negros Island, where they sortied to ambush US forces coming through Surigao Strait into the Mindanao Sea.

While the Japanese claimed to have sunk a destroyer with a midget attack on December 8 and two transports on December 18 in Ormoc Bay, the reports were false. Another Japanese claim that a later, newly developed Type D sub sank a cruiser and four cargo ships in early 1945 likewise is not supported by either Japanese or US records. The United States, however, did sink a submarine in Ormoc Bay on November 28, 1944, and while the target was listed as a possible I-boat, it may well have been a midget. Another of the Cebu-based midgets was definitely lost when it was stranded in December (Holmes 1966:398). The Cebu midgets were the last Japanese submarine forces left in the Philippines by February 1945. A plan to send the larger submarine RO-43 to Cebu with torpedoes and supplies for the midgets was called off by naval headquarters the midgets, as always, were expendable.

An attack on USS Boise (CL-47) on January 5, 1945, as it approached Luzon by three midgets was met by the destroyers USS Nicholas (DD-449) and Taylor (DD-468). Boise executed an emergency turn and evaded a torpedo by maneuvering “radically at high speeds” (Commanding Officer, USS Boise 1945). An escorting TBF aircraft from a nearby carrier spotted one sub, and a well-placed bomb drove it to the surface, where Taylor rammed and depth charged it, sending the kō-hyōteki and its crew to the bottom (Commanding Officer, USS Boise 1945). The other two midgets escaped, reporting back in Cebu they had sunk an American destroyer and one other warship (Rohwer 1983:287). The midgets based at Dumaguete waged a bitter war against the US Navy through March, reporting various unverified successes and one successful attack. In what was likely an attack by a Dama-guete-based midget on February 21, the destroyer USS Renshaw (DD-499) was hit with a single torpedo while escorting landing ships and craft through Surigao Strait. The torpedo tore into the destroyer, killing nineteen of the crew. The ship’s log reported: “Ship is dead in the water. Examination shows that forward engine room and the after fire room are completely flooded and open to the sea. The bulkhead between the after fire room and after engine room is intact but bulging aft about one foot. There are numerous leaks from bulkhead ruptures where cable pass through the bulkhead that are slowly leaking and flooding the after engine room” (Renshaw Log, February 21, 1945).

Drifting without power, Renshaw engaged the midget with a 40 mm antiaircraft gun. The midget escaped, and after starting an emergency generator, and with assistance of other ships, Renshaw survived.

In March, as troops landed at Cebu, the destroyers USS Conyngham (DD-371) and Flusser (DD-368) encountered another midget and bracketed it with shells, but it escaped. The next morning, however, the destroyer Newman (DE-205) spotted a midget some 7 miles south of the previous day’s encounter. Approaching the sub, Newman’s crew opened fire with automatic weapons, reporting they had struck the conning tower and possibly sank it (Morison 1963:236). It was the end of the kō-hyōteki force at Cebu the remaining three subs were scuttled, and the base and sub crews joined land forces defending Cebu (Willoughby and Prange 1994:548, n. 72 Vego 2006:298). When the battle ended, the Japanese lost 5,500 men, and another 8,500 troops surrendered (Smith 1991:617).

The summer of 1944 also saw the Japanese send a force of eleven Type C boats to Okinawa. A base at Unten Ko, a small village on the north shore of the Motubu Peninsula, on the northwest shore of the island, housed them in a tiny harbor in the lee of two small offshore islets, Kouri and Yaguchi (Appleman et al. 1948:142–43). The base also housed a torpedo depot and four squadrons of explosive-packed Shinyo suicide boats. The base’s presence was known to US forces, and an aircraft carrier strike on October 10, 1944, hit it and sank at least two midgets and the depot ship, the 5,160 ton Jingei. A later report claimed that four midgets were sunk in the attack (Appleman et al. 1948:45). This may be true, for by March 1945, only six operational midgets remained, three of which sortied on March 25 to attack TF 54, the Okinawa bombardment force. Only one of the kō-hyōteki, HA-67, returned, its crew claiming their torpedoes hit an “enemy battleship.” The attack may have been on the destroyer USS Halligan (DD-584). On March 26, while patrolling off Okinawa, the bow of the destroyer exploded, with the forward half of the ship literally disintegrating, killing 160 of the 327-man crew. The badly damaged ship drifted ashore and was a total loss. US Navy accounts state Halligan struck a mine, but the commander of HA-67 reported he fired two torpedoes at a ship that exploded on that date. If true, it was the only midget submarine success at that stage of the war (Stille 2014:44). On the same day, however, the minesweeper USS Strength (AM-309) reported it came under attack from a partially submerged midget submarine, which fired its torpedoes but missed. In the confusion of the battle and the loss of most of the Japanese contingent and records, the reality of the role of the midget submarines in the battle for Okinawa will likely never be known.

On that same day, the cruisers USS Wichita (CA-45), Biloxi (CL-80), and St. Louis (CL-49) reported spotting torpedo tracks in the morning. USS Callaghan (DD-792) definitely accounted for one of the midgets that day. While screening the battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40), the destroyer’s crew noticed “a small periscope . . . about 35 yards to port and abreast the bridge” (Commanding Officer, USS Callaghan 1945). The destroyer went hard to port and depth charged the area, blowing the sub to the surface. Rolling on its side, the sub sank. Callaghan kept depth charging until an oil slick and pieces of wood from the midget’s interior rewarded their efforts (Commanding Officer, USS Callaghan 1945).

Another midget attacked the transport USS Catron (APA-71) on April 5, but the torpedo missed the ship and exploded on the reef. The following day, the last operational submarine at Okinawa was scuttled, and the base and sub crews joined the naval forces of Rear Admiral Minoru Ota and the land forces of General Mitsuri Ushijima’s 32nd Army for a last-ditch fight to the death with the invading US forces. The base at Unten Ko was cut off and isolated on April 7, when the 29th Marines reached Nago and isolated the Motobo Peninsula. The Marines discovered twenty-one sub pens and six destroyed midgets when they reached the base, another tangible reminder of the failure of a once-vaunted program and its craft (Dyer 1972:1100).

After the fall of the island, and the death of most of its defenders, a small group of seven of the kō-hyōteki corps joined fifteen infantry soldiers in an attempt to escape to Japan. Pushing off from Okinawa in a small barge in early August, they drifted through the islands without food and water for 3 weeks, strafed on occasion by American planes. Eight survivors were reportedly rescued on August 18 by an unnamed US submarine (Warner and Seno 1986:194–95).

See the Picture: Japan’s Midget Submarines Never Lived Up to the Hype

Throughout the war in the Pacific, Japanese midget subs made meager contributions.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Paintings and postcards romanticized the midget submarine sailors who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, but Sakamaki is excluded from any mention. His image is not present in memorial artwork. The Japanese were aware that HA-19 and Sakamaki had both been captured. Having failed in his mission and lived, Sakamaki had become an outcast.

During the early hours of December 7, 1941, five midget submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy waited to enter Pearl Harbor, the anchorage of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Their mission was to complement the attack of naval aircraft in dealing a crippling blow to the American naval presence in the Pacific. This ambitious plan failed. Only one craft survived, HA-19, along with one member of its two-man crew, Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki, who became “Prisoner No. 1” of the United States in World War II.

The Midget Submarines

Sakamaki grew up in a tradition-bound Japanese culture that showed deep reverence for family, teachers, and Emperor Hirohito. He later explained, “We were taught, and we came to believe, that the most important thing for us was to die manfully on the battlefield—as the petals of the cherry blossoms fall to the ground—and that in war there is only victory and no retreat.” So, he applied for admission to the Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima and became one of 300 chosen from 6,000 applicants. After graduation, he spent a year at sea, then was promoted to ensign and ordered in April 1941 to report to the Chiyoda, a converted seaplane tender, at the Kure naval shipyard.

Sakamaki had been chosen to take part in the development of a secret weapon, the midget submarine, and would join an elite group called the Special Attack Naval Unit. Cadets received training on the island of Ohurazaki, along with a theoretical education at the Torpedo Experimental Division of the Kure Navy Yard. Classes were also held on the tug Kure Maru and seaplane tenders Chiyoda and Nisshin. This intense training program, which was observed and monitored, caused some cadets to drop out and others to commit suicide. Only the finest survived.

Sakamaki and his fellow crewman, Warrant Officer Kiyoshi Inagaki, learned the ins and outs of their special craft. Each sub held two crewmen because of cramped space. The only entrance was through a 16-inch hatch in the conning tower. The Imperial Japanese Navy called these minisubs Ko-Hyoteki, but those attached to units used the mother sub’s name, such as I-24’s midget. Paul J. Kemp says in Midget Submarines that these were “perhaps the most advanced midget submarines in service with any navy during the Second World War.”

Built in 1938, these cigar-shaped minisubs stretched nearly 80 feet with batteries arranged along each side. They could travel at a speed of 23 knots surfaced and 19 knots submerged, but battery charges lasted only 55 minutes. None of the craft carried generators, so they required recharging by a tender or mother submarine. The torpedo room housed two 18-inch torpedoes, each with around 1,000 pounds of explosives in the warhead. The Japan Optical Manufacturing Company perfected a specialized 10-foot-long miniaturized periscope in secrecy.

In fact, great secrecy shrouded the entire project. The Japanese eventually produced over 400 vessels of four types in a special factory near Kure. Of these, around 60 Type A submarines, the type commanded by Sakamaki, were built. Only key commanders knew details. Dispatches called the craft Special Submarine Boats Koryu (dragon with scales) and other creative names to avoid revealing the true nature of the machines.

When the subs first arrived, one seaman recalled, “After we secured, a barge came alongside each submarine. The barges were carrying strange objects heavily screened by black cloth and guarded by armed sailors and police. The objects were hoisted onto the casing and secured in the cradles—still wreathed in their coverings. We, the ship’s company, were not informed what the objects were. It was only when we proceeded to sea for trials in the Sea of Aki that we learned what we were carrying. The morale on the submarine was incredible.”

Piggy-Backing to Pearl Harbor

In mid-October 1941, maneuvers around islands in the Inland Sea shifted from mid-ocean strategies to invading narrow inlets at night. “When Captain Harada told us to pay particular attention to Pearl Harbor and Singapore,” Sakamaki recalled, “we thought that one group would probably be used against Pearl Harbor and another group against Singapore.” After crewmen graduated and received a 10-day leave, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Combined Fleet, spoke to them aboard the battleship Nagato and emphasized the importance of their secret mission against Pearl Harbor.

Five submarines, I-16, I-18, I-20, I-22, and I-24, were to carry midget submarines behind their coming towers. Each minisub would travel piggybacked to the large submarine’s pressure hull with steel belts and was to be released while the mother ship was submerged, enabling it to avoid exposure to the enemy. Some officers opposed the daring plan to use midget submarines to attack American ships in the narrow confines of Pearl Harbor. Captain Hanku Sasaki, commander of the First Submarine Division, wondered if the big submarines could handle so much weight. “There was too much hurry, hurry, hurry,” he criticized after the war.

Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the air attack against Pearl Harbor, scoffed at the entire plan. Others thought the midget submarines rolled and pitched too much. Their conning towers were exposed, and they depended on mother ships for equipment and maintenance. Besides, the element of surprise, which was essential to the success of the air attack, might be compromised if the midget submarines were discovered.

Sakamaki’s minisub was strapped to submarine I-24, which was a long-range reconnaissance type, 348 feet long with a 30-foot beam. Nine thousand horsepower enabled them to reach a surface speed of 22 knots. A telephone line from HA-19’s conning tower connected the two craft, and an attached cylinder between the boats allowed crewmen to stock supplies and make periodic equipment checks en route. On November 18, 1941, Sakamaki wrote home, “I am now leaving. I owe you, my parents, a debt I shall never be able to repay. Whatever may happen to me, it is in the service of our country that I go. Words cannot express my gratitude for the privilege of fighting for the cause of peace and justice.”

The five I-class mother ships and their Special Attack Force minisubs left Kure and headed across the North Pacific to Pearl Harbor on a moonless night. They traveled slowly because of cargo and rough weather, running submerged during the day to avoid detection and surfaced during the evening, maintaining a distance of about 20 miles from each other. Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, skipper of I-24, remembered many troubles during the ocean trip to Hawaii, including clogged pumps, defective valves, and gear malfunctions.

Once I-24 nearly sank because of a stuck blow-valve, which was freed at the last moment. After surfacing, the crew found a crushed torpedo on Sakamaki’s midget sub and worked all night to replace it with a spare. Hashimoto later said, “This operation may sound easy enough, but in fact, it was far from simple. The lack of space on the narrow upper deck made transporting something weighing over a ton to the after-end of the boat no mean task, say nothing of having to dispose of the damaged torpedo quietly over the side.”

“We were Members of a Suicide Squadron”

The five midget submarines were to be launched off the coast of Oahu where they were to quietly enter Pearl Harbor, navigate around Ford Island counterclockwise, and strike the U.S. battleships moored in the shallow water of the harbor. The minisubs were initially expected to attack between the first and second waves of the air attack. When the American battleships attempted to get underway and escape to the open sea, they might be crippled and clog the mouth of the harbor. “I was astonished and felt as if suddenly petrified,” Sakamaki remembered of the moment the details of the plan were revealed to him. “The effect was like a sudden magic blow.”

Although the plan called for the midget submariners to rendezvous with their mother subs to be recovered on December 8, 1941, about eight miles west of the island of Lanai, Sakamaki realized that the mission was suicidal. The midget submarines lacked battery power to travel such a distance after the assault.

Sakamaki said, “We were members of a suicide squadron. We did not know how we could ever come back.” Rear Admiral Hisashi Mito, who commanded a division of submarine tenders, also remarked after the war that all minisub crewmen “were prepared for death and not expected to return alive.” The name “Special Naval Attack Unit” was a euphemism for suicide attack in the Japanese language. These submariners predated later kamikaze attack units.

By the night of December 6, the mother ships neared Hawaii, and the flickering lights along Oahu’s Waikiki Beach were visible. Landing lights at Hickam Field on Ford Island blazed. Jazz music floated from radios and bars. Everything appeared calm. The large subs fanned out within 10 nautical miles of Pearl Harbor’s mouth and waited for the moment to launch their midget submarines.

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