What Happened to the Japanese Submarine Crews?
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The idea that some Japanese-Americans on the island provided support for the Japanese attackers is a sensitive one that raises passionate emotions, even today. However, just as one can point to unquestioned evidence of loyalty to America amongst the majority of the Japanese population on Hawaiian islands, one cannot ignore isolated incidents of demonstrated loyalty to the Japanese Emperor by others. The Ni'ihau incident, where collaborators on the Hawaiian island of Ni'ihau helped a downed Japanese fighter pilot terrorise the local inhabitants of the island for period of time, is the most obvious example of this.

Tom found an interesting incident in a book written in 1942 by Lieutenant C.E. Dickinson, who was surprised by Japanese fighters and shot down in his SBD-3 Dauntless aircraft as he flew in from the USS Enterprise on the morning of the attack. His radioman killed, Dickinson bailed out of his plane over Ewa Field and parachuted to the ground. He wrote:

My main worry was to get out of the tangling shroud lines of my parachute and on to Pearl Harbor to stand by for orders. As I cleared myself a big red automobile van appeared, headed towards Barbers Point; I stood up and it slowed down, stopping some forty feet beyond me. The driver got down from the cab. He was a Japanese, excited almost to incoherence. I don't think he had been expecting to see a white man in association with that parachute.

I yelled to him that he must turn around in a hurry and take me to Pearl Harbor. With a great show of white teeth he protested in good English that he wasn't going my way. I was polite but firm. So was he.

"Sorry. I've got to pick up my friend down here."

"What friend?"

"Oh, a friend down here by the point." His small brown hands made a little gesture as if to suggest that I probably did not know his friend.

"See here. I can't waste a minute. You've got to take me to Pearl Harbor. Understand? I've commandeered your truck."

I was striding towards him when he began to run. He scampered up into the cab and had that enormous van roaring away before I realized that its closed red body could be a secret shelter, as much an instrument in the heathens' raid as the Zero that had shot us down. I have never felt so futile as I did watching him get away. At least I was smart enough to notice his license number; but my forty-five Colt automatic on this, my first day of war, was miles off at sea, aboard the carrier. I couldn't shoot him. So I yelled curses at him.

This is guessing, of course, but I suspect the assignment of that Jap in the red moving van was to pick up Japanese who had parachuted near Barbers Point; there were two or three. It is also possible that he had been impudent enough to patrol the roads in the vicinity of Ewa Field and sighting my parachute had supposed it was Japanese. Unhappily during the next forty-eight hours his license number got crowded out of my mind. I've tried and tried and can't remember it.

If Dickinson was right in his assumption that the van driver was out to pick up downed Japanese airmen, then what would he had done with his charges? Was there a means known to local Japanese to spirit stranded Japanese military men off the island? Would the van driver have taken his charges to Dr. Uyehara's house? These questions remain unanswered, but they do remain.

Let's return to our submariners. Once they came ashore on O'ahu, they would be just like a downed aviator...stranded on an enemy island. They wouldn't be able to leave the island without help, both from someone on the island and Japanese military forces in the area. We have found no direct evidence of anyone on the island of O'ahu helping stranded Japanese military men, but as the examples above show, the possibility cannot be dismissed.

Even if a stranded Japanese airman or submariner could receive help from a local, what then? How would they get out of enemy territory and return to Japan?

When Ensign Sakamaki was interrogated by his captors the day after the attack, he told them that:

He wished to commit suicide and had not done so at the time of landing on shore because of the possibility which remained of making his escape and rejoining the Japanese Navy.

- 14th Naval District Intelligence Office memorandum, dated 8 December 1941

How did Sakamaki intend to rejoin the Japanese Navy?

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