What Happened to the Japanese Submarine Crews?
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Rescue

The submarine fleet that was deployed to the waters of the Hawaiian islands were assigned the following duties (quoted directly from notes taken by a Yomiuri-Hochi newspaper correspondent wartime interview with Captain Shinki Nakaoka):

Nakoaka was also quoted as saying that, "In Hawaiian waters the submarines floated on the sea in the night, and in the day time they submerged to periscope depth." In other words, the subs were not to expose themselves on the surface during daylight hours.

According to these orders, it would be a Japanese submarine that would retrieve the stranded Japanese submariners and/or airmen. However, none of the returning submarines carried rescued personnel. The only possible exception was I-70, which was the submarine force's only loss during the Hawaiian Operation. It's unclear on what day I-70 was sunk, because she was lost with all hands. Our best clue comes from Lieutenant Dickinson from the USS Enterprise, who found a sub on the surface approximately 160 miles northeast of Pearl Harbor three days after the attack. He pressed an attack against worrisome AA defence thrown up by the sub's deck guns, seeking revenge for the loss of his radioman and airplane on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack. He dropped a bomb on the sub amidships, which left the sub stopped and settling in the water, according to his memoir. Dickinson reported to the carrier that "possibly" the sub had sunk.

If the I-70 wasn't sunk that day, then it certainly was the next, when Dickinson watched from the flight deck of Enterprise as a destroyer in plane guard duty depth-charged a sub that appeared suddenly in the carrier's wake:

The two vessels were practically touching as they passed; and that was when the destroyer's depth charges were going over into the water; not one at a time and spaced, but six or more closely grouped. We could feel shocks. We saw that water rise as if right below there was an active volcano. The bow of the submarine was flung out of the sea. We saw almost half of the craft. Then it fell back but only to be caught by a second series of depth charges and again the bow was thrown up. This time the stern was submerged and the bow stayed up. The submarine was caught there, at an angle of sixty or seventy degrees just for an instant. Then she slid down into the sea.

Between the two reports, it appears that at least one submarine was sunk. Since only one submarine failed to return to Kwajalein, then I-70 must have been the one described in at least one of Dickinson's accounts. So why was I-70 north of O'ahu when her assigned patrol area was directly south of the Pearl Harbor entrance? Why was she on the surface during daylight hours when her orders were to stay submerged? Is it possible that I-70 diverted to the north in order to fulfill her fourth duty of rescuing stranded Japanese personnel? Was it the ultimate fate of the crew of the Keehi Lagoon midget submarine to die aboard the I-70? We may never know.

Four midget subs

In summary, then, we have discussed the fates of the following special submarine crews:

That leave us with the crew of just one special submarine, I-16tou.


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