Crossing Paths
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First Contact

Of the five midget submarines, I-16tou was the first to launch at 0045 on December 7, 1941. Launched at a range of 7 nautical miles from the harbor channel entrance with a speed of advance of 4 knots (the midget submarines were gear-driven with fixed speeds for each gear; e.g. gear position 1 = 4 knots, gear position 2 = 8 knots, etc.), I-16tou expected arrival time at the Pearl Harbor entrance would be around 0300.

I-22tou launches second at 0116 from 9 NM away with an expected arrival time at the Pearl Harbor entrance at around 0330.

[At 0200, American] minesweepers Condor, Crossbill and Reedbird waddled out of Pearl Harbor. Part of the new war-footing routine called for a late-night sweep for drifting mines. Nearly two miles south of the entrance buoys, Crossbill and Condor spread their paravane brooms and trundled back and forth. Reedbird went west.

- Burl Burlingame, Advance Force Pearl Harbor, pg. 159

I-18tou launches third at 0215 from 12+ NM away with an expected arrival time at the Pearl Harbor entrance at around 0545.

I-20tou launches fourth at 0257 from 7 NM away with an expected arrival time at the Pearl Harbor entrance at around 0500.

I-24tou launches last at around dawn (0530) from 10+ NM away with an expected arrival time at the Pearl Harbor entrance at around 0830.

[At 0342], a ghostly plume appeared 50 yards off the port bow of Condor. A stick-like periscope was silhouetted against the waning moon, moving at cross-purposes with the other waves...Helmsman R.B. Chavez could only see the glimmering wake, not the periscope. It was headed right at them. Chavez turned Condor to starboard, and at the same moment the sub turned to port, heading for the harbor. This was suspicious enough behavior, believed Condor skipper Ensign Monroe Harmon Hubbell. Identification wasn't positive enough, however, to report it to other than the Senior Officer Present Afloat – Lieutenant William Outerbridge, [Commanding Officer of the USS] Ward. At [0357], Condor used her yardarm blinker to report "Sighted submerged submarine on westerly course. Speed nine knots."

- Burl Burlingame, Advance Force Pearl Harbor, pg. 159

This unknown sighting matches with the expected arrival time of the I-22tou but is linked with the late arrival time of the I-16tou instead. The reason for this falls with the late channel entrance of the I-22tou as it passes Buoy #1 just after the Ward attack at 0630. The following is a running timeline of the USS Condor sighting with the on-station duty destroyer USS Ward:


The USS Condor (AMC-14) is making magnetic sweeps outside the actual channel between the reefs but on the swept channel approach into Pearl Harbor. Onboard, Ensign R.C. McCoy sights a white wake to port, less than 100 yards away, gradually converging on Condor and heading towards the harbor entrance. He askes Quartermaster B. C. Uttick what he thinks the object is. Taking turns with McCoy's set of binoculars; they both look at the wake. Uttick identifies the object as a periscope and McCoy agrees. The subsurface object closes within 50 yards of Condor at about 1000 yards from the Pearl Harbor entrance buoys.


As the ship moves toward the Pearl Harbor entrance, Condor loses sight of the periscope as the subsurface object quickly veers off in the opposite direction.


Condor contacts the USS Ward (DD-139) with flashing light concerning the submarine sighting and requests Ward to investigate. Quartermaster Uttick's blinker message reads: "Sighted submerged submarine on westerly course, speed nine knots." Condor adds, "the submarine is standing to the westward."

On the Ward's bridge, Executive Officer Lieutenant (j.g.) Oscar Goepner receives Condor's signal. Having done this type of inshore patrol work for more than year, nothing like this had ever happened before. He wakes up the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant William Outerbridge.


The USS Antares (AKS-3), flagship of Training Squadron 8, heads towards Pearl Harbor from Palmyra Island, with a target in tow.


Onboard Ward, Lieutenant (j.g.) Oscar Goepner discusses the Condor's submarine sighting with the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant William Outerbridge. Lieutenant Outerbridge is aware of the relationship between the United States and Japan and believes the sighting may be a Japanese submarine. Ward sounds "General Quarters." The ship proceeds to Condor's position and positions herself as close as she can get without fouling the Condor's sweeping gear. Ward stands out to westward, slows to ten knots, and the ship lookouts begin a visual sweep the area while the CIC conducts a sonar search around the area reported by Condor.


Ward signals Condor: "No contact on unidentified sub,"


Ward secures from "General Quarters." Most of the crew is released from their stations and many of them return to their racks. The ship's regular watch continues the anti-submarine sweep around the area reported by Condor with negative contact.


The gate in the antisubmarine net begins to open to allow surface traffic to enter the Pearl Harbor channel. The opening period takes between eight to ten minutes to accomplish.

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