Submarine in the West Loch
by Parks Stephenson
Copyright © 2010 Parks Stephenson
After identifying the 3-section wreck as being the remains of a Pearl Harbor midget submarine, and therefore the last of the five Advance Force submarines to be located, the next obvious question was: from where did it come?
Looking for a salvaged sub
The submarine wreck gave us valuable information, but could not spell everything out for us. We searched through known existing documentation and the only wartime mention we could find of a Japanese midget submarine being raised was that of a submarine wreck off Ford Island:
U.S. Pacific Fleet Battleships, Battle Force, USS Maryland, Flagship, Confidential Memoranda No. 2, dated 10 December 1941
Com14 to All Ships Present Hawaii — "Sunken enemy submarine located Lat two one two two zero five Long one five seven [five] eight two seven. Marked by two cork buoys with USS YORKTOWN marked on." (The loaction is west side of North Channel near Buoy #5, at entrance to Middle Loch.)
Memoirs of Roy Cella, USS Sumner
"The Sumner was a survey ship, and had sweeping capacity and equipment. We were askd to sweep the area where it was felt that the sub had sunk, and after a couple of passes, we found her, and once again a floating crane recovered the sub."
Base Force Salvage Organization Memorandum (BFSM) 3-41 (17 Dec 41)
JAPANESE SUBMARINE off FORD ISLAND - Divers are working on setting slings for hoisting. This work is not considered particularly urgent. In all cases divers give first priority to work on combatant ships and to salvage jobs in accordance with the general priority.
Base Force Salvage Group Memorandum for 17 Dec 41, dated 18 Dec 41
Lieutenant ROBERTSON proceeded in a 40' motor launch with a diving party to begin salvage of Japanese submarine sunk off buoy F-5. He found the marker buoys on the wreck had carried away. He succeeded in relocating the wreck and buoying it again. He will attempt to place wire slings around this submarine tomorrow, December 18, 1941.
BFSM 5-41 (19 Dec 41)
JAPANESE SUBMARINE - Preliminary diving underway. Tunneling under the conning tower completed. Divers have discovered that the bow is missing from the submarine on Ford Island, apparently from an internal explosion.
BFSM 6-41 (20 Dec 41)
JAPANESE SUBMARINE - No progress within the last twenty-four hours. Crane services delayed due to CALIFORNIA.
BFSM 7-41 (21 Dec 41)
JAPANESE SUBMARINE - Will hoist tomorrow if preliminary operations are successful.
BFSM 8-41 (22 Dec 41)
JAPANESE SUBMARINE - Delivered to Submarine Base yesterday afternoon.
These entries evidently referenced the midget sub I-22tou, which was fired upon by multiple ships and subsequently rammed and sunk by the USS Monaghan in the North Channel. The mid and stern sections of this wreck were deposited at the Submarine Base, where parts were removed to repair the captured I-24tou in preparation for delivery to the mainland. After that, the recovered remains of I-22tou were unceremoniously dumped as landfill to extend the shoreline up to a concrete pier built along the Quarry Loch side of the Submarine Base. No other source could be found that made any reference to a submarine that had either been raised from Hawaiian waters or brought to O'ahu from some other location.
We considered, but soon dismissed, the notion that our 3-section sub wreck had been found and raised after World War II. If that had been the case, we assumed that there would have been some record of it. The precedent for this assumption was the discovery and recovery of a midget submarine from the Keehi Lagoon in June of 1960. The discovery, recovery, and examination by naval personnel of that sub required the use of major assets (USS Current (ARS-22), YD-121 floating crane) which attracted a great deal of attention. The entire operation, from discovery to delivery to Pier W-10 in the West Loch, took about a month. Pacific Fleet Combat Camera Group cameramen and photographers recorded the lifting and delivery of the wreck for the historical record. From this example, it was logical to assume that similar attention would have surrounded any peacetime discovery of another missing submarine.
This, then, suggested the alternative...the submarine wreck was initially found and raised during the war. This made sense...the lack of documentation could be related to the wartime need for secrecy and the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard had the processes and assets to both salvage the craft and control the information.
The first place we looked was in the Base Salvage Force documents regarding the salvage of Battleship Row and areas surrounding Ford Island during the clean-up effort after the 7 December attack. Other than the salvage of the I-22tou wreck detailed above, no other submarine wrecks were mentioned. Other salvage and base histories were searched, to no avail. Maybe we were looking in the wrong place. Could the submarine have been located and raised outside the harbour?