Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Not Quite as Sinister as it Seems

Michelle Malkin has an entry up on the recent re-discovery of a WWII Japanese submarine off the coast of Oahu. Now, Michelle is one of the best bloggers out there, but in this case I think she's using a little selective editing to try to make the story seem more sinister than it really is. (In the same way, the KGMB9 article linked above tries to make it seem like Japanese ship-building skills were way advanced compared to ours and that we cravenly sank the I-401 to keep the Russians from building the same thing.)
Here's some more about the Japanese Sen Toku-class boats. The real story behind this neat find is summarized thusly: The Japanese started building a fleet of very large, sea-plane carrying submarines as a way of hopefully taking the war to the western coast of North America. Some Japanese scientists thought that they could use this capability to deliver a potential bacteriological weapon, if they had gotten it to work, and if they had gotten political approval (unlikely -- remember, both sides had chemical weapons but didn't use them; any Japanese use of bacteriological weapons would have been responded to in kind, and the Japanese realized they were more susceptible to these weapons than we were.) Both sides worked on strange weapons (remember the U.S. Bat Bomber program) but simply conceiving a weapons system doesn't mean they were about to use it. The boat was found off Oahu because we sent it there after we captured it in Japan at the end of the war, and sank it in weapons tests. (We sank some other Japanese ships in a weapons test here.)
Regarding the charges that we sank it because it was "so sophisticated", well, I'm sure we didn't want the Russians to see it just on G.P. We didn't build our submarines that big because it would have been foolhardy; a WWII boat that big would be too easily sunk by ASW forces. Until the advent of nuclear power, such a large boat would have been very slow, and very easily seen by the active sonar sets of the day, and thus easily depth charged. A big submarine? Sure. Sophisticated? Probably. Sunk to keep the Russians from winning the Cold War? Not quite...

Going deep...

Update 1130 22 March: Here's a web page with some personal recollections of the I-401 post-war, along with a link to a page on a report from one of the American crewmembers who sailed her from Japan to Hawaii.

Bell-ringer 2249 22 March: From the comments, here's a great resource about the I-400, sister ship of the I-401.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent SUBVET recollections of I-401 personal experiences.

But what is this? To be fair, the Japanese have already confessed to using their bacteriological weapons against China during WWII and preparations to use them against the US and UK. A Tokyo court acknowledged in August 2002, that Japan had used germs as weapons before and during World War II. Evidence showed that Japanese troops, including Unit 731, used bacteriological weapons on orders of the Imperial Army's headquarters. According to documents, supported by Japanese researchers, between 1940 and 1948 more than 300,000 Chinese civilians in the region were infected with the plague and other diseases. An estimated 50,000 died in the Quzhou area alone. The Tokyo district court acknowledged that Unit 731's activities had caused "immense" suffering and were "clearly inhumane."
Japanese historians testified that the full extent of the germ attacks remained unknown partly because the United States made a deal with the Japanese not to prosecute those involved in exchange for the scientific data.
We launched our asymetrical nuclear attack before their China-type bacteriological warfare was unleashed at our doorstep.

3/22/2005 3:05 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

The Japanese did use bacteriological weapons in WWII, it's true, against a country that was unable to retaliate in kind. My point is that I believe they would have shown some restraint before using them against the U.S., especially when you consider that even in the 1940s antibiotics had made the plague not very dangerous, and that U.S. cities are much less crowded than similar Japanese cities. That being said, Truman's decision to launch the assymetrical warfare was still justified.

3/22/2005 7:01 PM

Blogger Chap said...

You're right. They don't know what the hell they're talking about.

The book Submarine Commander by CAPT Paul Schratz talks about bringing those subs over--one hell of a ride. Lots of pictures.

Sounds like the boats were pretty tough to keep running, and the utility was pretty limited.

This link has all you want to know about the transit.

3/22/2005 9:30 PM

Blogger Zoe Brain said...

Alas, the USNI Proceedings Archive doesn't go back to 1986. I have a dead tree edition of that somewhere, and was going to comment on it. However, I see you've already got a link to the data the article was based on.
I was always fascinated by these boats since I got a 1/700 Tamiya model of an I-400 when in High School. And the reason I got that was because I'd also got a model of the USS Hallibut.... but that's another story.

3/24/2005 7:04 AM

Blogger Zoe Brain said...

Twas Ever Thus

From The Transpacific Voyage of the I-400, relating events in October/November 1945 : Within a few days I was startled to notice that when I discussed submarine tactics and ASW countermeasures with the Japanese officers we'd unconsciously started to use the terms us and them to refer to Submarines and Surface Ships, not to Americans and Japanese. I was surprised how quickly close bonds of mutual professional interest developed from our shared experiences in a demanding, hazardous calling.

Don't worry, Skimmers feel the same about Bubbleheads.

3/24/2005 7:21 AM


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