Submarine in the West Loch
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Outside the harbour?

Our first promising lead was provided by an account written by BM2 Douglas Harkreader, a crewman aboard the USS Salt Lake City (CA-25). According to a story he posted on the Internet for his granddaughter's school project, Harkreader wrote about returning to Pearl Harbor as part of the USS Enterprise task force. As they approached the entrance to the harbour, he was quoted as saying, "We sailed into Pearl Harbor the next morning, ships were still burning...Airfields smoldering from mangled hangars and wrecked airplanes...A heavily damaged Japanese midget submarine was aground on the beach near the entrance to Pearl Harbor." Wanting to follow up on this exciting lead, I searched for and found Doug Harkreader just a few miles from my home in San Diego. When I asked him about the midget submarine, he described the beached, captured boat; in other words, Sakamaki's boat. Still wondering why his account described a proximity to the harbour entrance, I showed Harkreader the story as I had downloaded it from the Internet. He was confused, as he didn't recognise some of what was written. As events turned out, Harkreader had dictated his story to another person who composed the webpage. That person mixed Harkreader's observation of the heavily-damaged battleship USS Nevada aground near the Pearl Harbor entrance with stories that Harkreader had heard about the midget sub that had washed ashore on a beach. The webpage has since been corrected and what I first thought might be a very promising lead to our midget sub wreck fell completely apart.

Aside from the Harkreader account, the only mention we could find of any sub located outside the harbour was that of the Keehi Lagoon sub. This sub was discovered almost two decades after the war by diver C. F. Buhl during a routine Navy training dive in shallow waters near Keehi Lagoon. There is no record of any intent or attempt to search the waters outside Pearl Harbor for a missing Japanese midget submarine prior to this discovery; in fact, the US Navy was fairly callous about these submarines after they had extracted all the needed intelligence information from I-24tou, Sakamaki's boat. They disposed of the second midget sub they recovered (I-22tou, Iwasa's boat) as landfill during the 1942 Naval Base expansion and after a third submarine wreck was found decades later near Keehi Lagoon, the Navy's first reaction was to destroy the sub in place. The case made to instead raise the sub was to provide valuable real-world salvage training and experience to the crew of the USS Current. Had the wreck not been found by accident in 1960, it is quite possible that it would have remained undiscovered until about 1973, when dredging began for the proposed construction of the "Reef Runway" at Honolulu International Airport.

In 2000, famed marine archaeologist Bob Ballard attempted to locate the midget sub sunk by the USS Ward. For two weeks, Ballard and his crew searched for but failed to find the submarine wreck, even with the latest in deep-water imaging vehicle technology, US Park Service sonar survey data and veterans aboard who remembered where they had sunk the sub. In the end, Ballard was forced to give up his search, leaving the wreck for Terry Kerby to find during a test dive two years later.

This demonstrated the difficulty of finding a midget submarine wreck in deep water. We could also not establish a credible motive for the expenditure of money, assets and personnel in a search for a midget sub, especially since the naval authorities on O'ahu had demonstrated no interest in keeping any midget sub other than the one that Sakamaki had unwillingly delivered into their hands. Without any supporting evidence, the idea that the US Navy would have had either the intent or capability to search for, much less raise, a Japanese midget sub could not be defended.

What if the sub had not come from Hawaiian waters but instead have been brought to O'ahu from another theatre for intelligence study? Aside from the fact that the sub had been positively identified as having participated in the Pearl Harbor attack, there was no documentation that could be found regarding any submarine being brought to O'ahu for study until after the war (the I-400 submarines being the precedent we followed).

Based upon precedents, then, it was concluded that:

Therefore, my associate Tom and I proceeded under the assumption that the wreck was found and raised from shallow water under conditions that could be controlled by Navy authorities; i.e., from inside the harbour. This conclusion – operating assumption, if you will – led us full circle back inside the harbour, where we had found no record, no paperwork trail, of a midget submarine (other than the previously-mentioned I-22tou) being raised.

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