The Last Pearl Harbor Survivor
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Two subs?

I discussed above why Holzhaus's observation of a B-17 being attacked could not have come before 0830. In his timeline, BM2c Ludwig sights the periscope around Buoy #19 some minutes after the B-17 incident; read literally, it was as much as 15 minutes later. That would make the observation at 0845, 3 minutes after I-22tou was observed from the Navy Yard Signal Tower as having been sunk by Mongahan. Given the lack of preciseness on the times, I settled on an estimated time of 0840 when Ludwig sighted the periscope. I weighed it closer to the upper end because of the time needed for the tug to motor from the approach to Hickam Field (under which she was strafed by the Japanese fighter) to being in the vicinity of Buoy #19 (a distance of approximately 1800 yards, or just under a nautical mile). Regardless of the actual time, the main point to consider is that Holzhaus's report of a periscope near Buoy #19 occurs at a time when the only confirmed submarine inside the harbour was at that moment in a fight for her life elsewhere.

Until now, everyone's assumption has been that YT-153 sighted and attempted to ram a submarine headed up the channel, headed for the inner harbour. What our analysis tells us now is that it is quite possible that Holzhaus caught a sub headed down the channel, toward the entrance. This may explain why Holzhaus was unable to run over the sub, even though it dropped from sight just 50 yards away. It also explains why Holzhaus was not able to re-acquire the sub as he attempted to track it up the North Channel, even though other units had the conning tower in plain sight.

Regardless, YT-153's ramming attempt drove the sub down, effectively blinding it. Without the use of the periscope, the midget sub commander could only navigate from memory and his best estimate of where he was when he went blind. That may explain why at around 0900, the USS Bobolink spotted and fired upon a disturbance in the water along the bank of Waipio Point, at which they believed was "a submerged enemy submarine [brushing] the left bank of the channel on its way to open sea after an attack in Pearl Harbor."

So, instead of forcing an enemy submarine to surface where it could be destroyed, Holzhaus and the YT-153 most likely forced a midget sub running at periscope depth to submerge deeper, blinding the sub and causing it to reveal its position after it blundered into the bank of the Waipio peninsula. Without any visual references, especially after a hurried dive, the chance that the submerged sub could successfully make the turn up into the North Channel is close to nil. More than likely, the sub would run aground on Ford Island. Likewise, the sub would have to be able to see where it was going in order to avoid Waipio Point on her way out of the harbour. According to Bobolink, the sub did not avoid the tip of the peninsula but rather scraped her side along the bank. The YT-153 blinded the sub; in so doing, she left us with a chain of evidence that indicates a sub going down the channel in a run to the open sea.

Aftermath

The encounter with the submarine was not the end of the day's activities for the tug and her crew. Later that day, as Admiral Nimitz's citation reads, "When the U.S.S. NEVADA was disabled and appeared to be out of control with serious fires aboard, you placed your tug alongside and put a line to stay her position, and assisted materially in extinguishing the fires, despite the severe enemy strafing and bombing attacks to which the NEVADA was being subjected."

BM1c Holzhaus would later be promoted to Lieutenant and awarded the Bronze Star for his actions as Commanding Officer of the LST-914 during the amphibious assault against Inchon, Korea, in 1950. He retired from the Navy as a Lieutenant in 1952, after which he became a policeman in his native Arizona town.

What of YT-153, the small tug that accomplished so much on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack?


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