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I-Boat Captain
Zenji Orita
(with Joseph D. Harrington)

Chapter 15


Construction of 1-47 was not completed until July 10, 1944. During the final phase of her construction, I learned that some of the things promised me in Tokyo would be forthcoming. 1-47 was off the ways before I got them, but workmen installed an air search radar set of the Mark 23 type, plus a schnorkel. The breathing apparatus was an older model, inferior to what the German U-boats were using at that time. As for the radar set, my engineering officer, Lt. Kikuichiro Tokuzawa, had to give up his sleeping space for installation of the control panel.

The enemy troops had leap-frogged Gen. Adachi's positions in New Guinea and his forces were ill-fed and sickly. He had no naval support. By May 2 our high command had written New Guinea off strategically. Adachi's orders were to hold on as long as he could and make it as costly as possible for the enemy to get past him and into the Philippines.

Our Combined Fleet commander, Adm. Soemu Toyoda, had a big problem handed to him when promoted to the top post. He had to answer a vital question-where would the enemy strike next? Like Koga, Toyoda wanted to husband his naval strength until he could meet the enemy in one decisive battle. His plan for this battle was called "A-Go." It called for waiting for the enemy to commit himself somewhere in strength, at which time our surface forces would rush out from the Philippines and Singapore to add their weight to attacks made by our planes. With MacArthur enjoying success in New Guinea, it was thought that the next point of enemy attack might be the Philippines. Or it could be the Marianas, now that Nimitz had the MarshalIs secured and could jump off from them.

To find out what the enemy was doing, Vice Adm. Takagi was ordered by Adm. Toyoda to set up a submarine sentry line across the path the enemy would take moving north from Australia toward the Philippines. In addition, 6th Fleet was to send submarines into the Marshalls, where we knew the Americans had some of their aircraft carriers.

Takagi sent I-10, 1-38 and RO-42 eastward. But, since the greater danger (and closer one) seemed to be MacArthur, Takagi sent 10 submarines down to an area north of the Admiralty Islands. These were I-41, 1-44, and 1-53, supplemented by seven medium-type submarines. As we shall see, the smaller boats did little more than provide excellent targets for the proficient American destroyermen, whose antisubmarine warfare skills were improving rapidly.

The seven small submarines were RO-104, RO-105, RO-106, RO-108, RO-109, RO-112 and RO-119 all completed since the war's beginning. Sending these boats south was not only one of the wars tragic tactical errors, but it also threw strategic moves off. The boats were skippered by men not long out of submarine commanders' school. They had been ordered to the Indian Ocean almost immediately after graduation to give them some seasoning and increase the effort in that area but, when an attack from the south seemed likely, the seven were suddenly switched to the Pacific. Five of them were lost within a few days.

On May x the enemy attacked Ponape, in the Carolines. Four days later Jaluit (in the Marshalls ) was hit. On May 15, another leap-frog landing on the north coast of New Guinea was made. And, on the same day, an enemy carrier force suddenly appeared behind one of our major defenses, the Malay Barrier (the islands through which one must pass when heading for Singapore and the Orient from the west ) and launched strikes against our holdings on Java. This shocked the high command. It gave evidence of the enemy's growing strength, that he could hit places so widely separated from one another.

On May 15 the only submarine we had that was equipped with radar, I-44, left Kure for her sentry work in the south. The radar set was defective and I-44 was nearly sunk by air attack while relying on it. She suffered severe damage on May 21 and had to retreat. Up until that time I-44 had been the anchor of an eight-boat sentry line north of New Britain and New Ireland, with I-44 at its north-eastern end. The rest of the line ran to the southwest in the following order: RO-106, RO-104, RO-105, RO.l16, RO-109, R0-112 and RO-108. There were about 30 miles between boats.

At this time, Adm. Koga estimated that the enemy had five powerful task forces at his disposal, each one including aircraft carriers. There was at least one in the Marshalls, one near New Guinea, and reports had come in on three others in the Carolines. However, Toyoda had no idea where any of them would strike. The main thrust could come across the Pacific from the east, into the Marianas, or it could come up {tom New Guinea, against Palau and the Philippines. A single American destroyer escort, catapulted Toyoda into making a wrong decision.

On May 16 our submarine I-16 departed Truk with a cargo of supplies her captain, Lt. Cdr. Yoshitaka Takeuchi, was supposed to take into Buin, Bougainville. Takeuchi was sighted by an American plane. Three U.S. destroyer escorts, England, George and Raby, were sent up from the southeastern Solomons to intercept him. Five days after leaving Truk, I-16 was picked up by England, steaming in a sweep with her sisters. The destroyer escort attacked, and sent I-16 to the bottom.
Our 6th Fleet had now come up against the deadliest enemy it ever met during the war, Lt. Cdr. Walton B. Pendleton and the 200 men of his crew, manning a ship that was about half the size and fire power of our own first-line destroyers. That was USS England.

The three enemy ships continued sweeping westward, and missed I-44. This boat was later attacked and damaged by another force. The trio did discover RO-106. Lt. Eyasu Uda had taken this boat out of Truk on May 6. On May 22 he was lit up in the glare of enemy searchlights after trackers got him on radar. When one of her sisters missed, USS England sank R0-106.

The advice of myself and other submariners had not been taken. Our submarines had not been scattered as we suggested, and we had also urged that they not be arranged in sentry lines. So, moving further west, the American ships found the next boat in line, RO-104, that same day. She had left Truk on May 17 under Lt. Hisashi Izubuchi, and survived the first attack made upon her. But the following day she was found again. All three American ships attacked RO-104, but it was England who got her, the third kill for this light-hulled ship in five days.

The next submarine in line was RO-105. She must have been submerged, where radar could not find her, and outside of sonar range, because the three ships passed her, missing her. They found RO-116, though. What I had warned against during my table pounding at Truk was happening. The enemy ships had come across the sentry line and were steaming right down it, getting one sentry after another. RO-104 was discovered less than 24 hours after RO-116. American accounts tell that  England got Lt. Cdr. Takeshi Okabe's boat (which had departed on May 6) and that USS.England's captain was beginning to "feel embarrassed" at winning all the glory while in company with other ships.

He became even more embarrassed two days later, when England killed off RO-108, the boat of Lt. Kanichi Obari. RO-108 had left Truk with RO-116 and lived only 36 hours longer. Again, the crew of UUSS England carried out what was becoming a familiar task. It took them only one attack to get this boat.

By this time the air was full of jubilant American messages about Japanese submarines being sunk one right after another. Our intelligence people intercepted all, decoded some, and realized that our patrol line was in danger. A warning was broadcast. Lt. Hiroshi Nakagawa, commanding RO-109, and Lt. Toru Yuchi, who had RO-112, did not wait for instructions, Both at once changed position, taking up new stations about 100 miles to the northwest of where each had been. This took them out of the sweeping path and saved their boats.

Meanwhile, word of these submarine losses got to Adm. Koga. It made him assume they had been sunk by the advance screen of an enemy task force that was proceeding north. When RO-108 was lost, the Combined Fleet commander was almost positive, but he became certain on the last day of May, when the fifth submarine in the sentry line, RO-105, went down that an attack on the Philippines from the south was imminent and prepared his forces to meet it. He sent no ships eastward,

RO-~105, the sixth submarine to be sunk by USS England in 12 days, had left Truk on May ~7, under Lt. Junichi Inouye. It took a lot of killing to sink it. The England force was joined by other ships, including an escort aircraft carrier, and they found Inouye's boat on May 30. He successfully dodged their attack, but was found again the next day. England scored again.

The days of May were also deadly to three other Japanese submarines. RO-45 went down on the first day of the month at a point only 20 miles south of Truk. Just 20 miles! It seems hard to believe, but it is true. Lt. Cdr. Yoshihisa Hamazumi had been at Truk when aircrart carriers attacked the atoll. He was sent to pursue them, an headed out. The U.S. destroyer MacDonough detected RO-45 the following day. Attacks by this ship, USS Potter, and a plane sent Hamazumi and his men down.

Lt. Cdr. Sadatoshi Norita had been a passenger in Kinashi's I-8 taking a crew to Europe for the purpose of bringing back the second submarine Germany was giving us. He and his men complete six months of training his new, excellent boat and, on Apr. 30 Norita took RO-501 out d Kiel, Germany, and headed for the Cape of Good Hope. He was supposed to give a position report at 30N, 37W. On May l1 he reported having passed that location five days earlier. He was not heard from again.

Postwar reports show that Norita fell afoul a type of vessel that was to be called by American writers "the scourge ofthe U-boats." This was the American escort aircraft carrier, a ship built on a merchant hull and used extensively against submarines. Cruising with destroyers or destroyer escorts, these ships closed the broad gap in the Atlantic Ocean's center that could not be reached by shoe based planes trying to protect convoys, an area that German submarines earlier found so full of fruit. The escort carrier USS Bogue left Norfolk, Virginia, in the first week of May. During the second week one of her escorts, USS Robinson, found and sank RO-501 in the Atlantic Narrows, that section of water between Recife, Brazil and Dakar, Africa.

Buka still had some of our troops on it in May and they had to be supplied so Cdr. Hideo Okada left Truk in I-176 with a cargo of supplies for them. The killer of USS Yorktown at Midway was sighted by aircraft, just as I-16 was to be a little later, and four destroyers were sent to get her. USS Haggard, Franks and ]ohnston chased I-176 for nearly 24 hours after making contact with her on May 15 on the east side of New Ireland. Many dozens of depth charges sank Okada's ship.

As if to mock Adm. Toyoda, on May 27, (Japan's Navy Day) the enemy chose to attack Biak Island, northwest of New Guinea. His force was reported to contain 2 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, cruisers, and 14 destroyers. That made the commander-in-chief certain that the enemy intended to jump from Biak to Palau and the Philippines. He ordered the First Air Fleet (our carrier force) to move down and crush the enemy, pulling planes out of the Marianas for this purpose. He also ordered the 2rid Fleet (which included the giant battleships Yamato and Musashi ) to stand by for a rush to the south. These were based at Tawi Tawi, our anchorage in the Sulu Archipelago, at the tail of the southern Philippines.

Toyoda was still busy deploying his forces when, on June 5, one of our land-based planes from Nauru Island flew over Majuro, in the Marshalls. This daring long-range flight resulted in a message that read "At Majuro, apparently ready to sortie, are 14 enemy aircraft carriers, 6 battleships, 14 destroyers, 4 tankers, and about 20 cargo ships."

This caught Toyoda out of position, because he was still working up to an all-out counterattack on Biak. But, he still believed that the Philippines was the enemy's next objective. Perhaps it was because he believed that MacArthur (a man whom our top leaden knew to be greatly sensitive of his person and position ) was eager to keep his promise of returning to the Philippines. In any case, Toyoda ordered the battleship-cruiser force at Tawi Tawi to start southward to Halmahera, from where it could strike into Biak. Our 6th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Takagi, moved from Truk to Saipan, in the Marianas, in order to have a better location (Truk being endangered ) from which to direct our submarine operations. Again, no ships were sent eastward.

Toyoda kept his carriers at Tawi Tawi and waited for the situation to develop further.

Contact with the enemy force from Majuro was lost on June 9 and Toyoda had no idea where it was heading. Meanwhile an American submarine, scouting off Tawi Tawi, sank three of our destroyers in four days. This was excellent submarine work by USS Harder and her captain, Cdr. Samuel Dealey, who certainly deserved having a ship named after him later.

The loss of the five sentry line submarines had given Toyoda the impression that a task force was sweeping up from the south. and the sinking of the three destroyers right off his main anchorage, plus the sinking of a fourth destroyer and three tankers not far away, plagued him further. Toyoda had to move his carriers out of Tawi Tawi soon. Otherwise they'd either be sitting ducks for attacking American planes or be trapped inside a ring of enemy submarines

On June 12 the carriers were still at Tawi Tawi (and Toyoda's heavy surface ships at Halmahera ) when an enemy task force suddenly appeared off the Marianas, sending in planes to hit Guam, Saipan, and Rota. But Toyoda felt this was merely a diversion-an attempt to draw his forces away from the southern Philippines, so that MacArthur could land on Mindanao. Toyoda thought so little of the attack on the Marianas, in fact, that 6th Fleet sent only three submarines, R0-36, R0-43, and RO-114 to that area to counterattack. The three boats were to operate east of the Marianas. All other submarines were to concentrate in the Carolines and in the area north of the Admiralties.

On June 13 and 14 reports came from Saipan and Tinian that enemy battleships and cruisers were bombarding them, while aircraft were bombing. On June 15 came word that American marines were landing. What Toyoda had thought was a lure was actually the vanguard of a mighty force containing more than 125,000 men!

Toyoda ordered Operation A-Go put into motion at once. It was actually an excellent plan. And it might have worked except for two things-the bright mind of American admiral Raymond Spruance, and American submarine men. The first battle in the Philippines Sea is called by the Americans 'The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot." It might just as easily be called "The Great Submarine Success' (if looked at from the American point of view) or "The Great Submarine Disaster" (if looked at from the Japanese side ).

First we lost those fice submarines in the sentry line. A sixth, I-44, was badly damaged. Then the American submarines Harder, Puffer, Gurnard, and Bonefish sank seven of Toyoda's ships. And, when Toyoda finally gave the order for his carriers to leave Tawi Tawi, the American submarine Redfin sighted them that very day.

Vice Adm. Jisaburo Ozawa had our aircraft carriers. He was sighted and reported when passing through the central Philippines and again when emerging from San Bernardino Strait. USS Flying Fish sighted him there. Meanwhile, Vice Adm. Matome Ugaki had left Halmahera with Yamato, Musashi and other heavyweights, his attack on Biak having been cancelled. The American submarine Seahorse sighted Ugaki's ťorce and the enemy knew our ships were coming.

Spruance sent fighter sweeps northward into the Bonins and Volcano Islands to knock out aircraft there, thus eliminating air counter attack against him from land bases for at least a few days. Then he stood by to await the arrival of our carriers and battleships. And, before his aircraft carriers had a chance to attack ours, two American submarines scored great victories. USS Cavalla sank our carrier Shokaku, and USS Albacore sent carrier Taiho to the bottom. After that, Spruance's pilots wiped out more than 80% of Ozawa's fliers.

Our underwater enemies chewed at the Combined Fleet before it sortied, reported it when it did, then smashed two of its most important fighting units before the main battle was even joined. What had been pre-war doctrine for both the American and Japanese submariners had been executed in a classic manner by our enemies. They did everything right, under Vice Adm. Charles A. Lockwood's direction. Our submarines, under Toyoda's and Takagi's direction, did everything wrong.

Operation A-Go called for land-based planes to attack the enemy's ships, land in the Marianas, rearm and refuel, then strike again on the way back to home bases. Our aircraft carrier planes were to do the same thing: strike the enemy, refuel and rearm in the Marianas, then strike again on the way back to their carriers. Operation A-Go was, therefore, intended to give our air forces twice their striking power.

Spruance, and American submarines, wrecked Operation A-Go. Our land bases were temporarily neutralized and our land planes made ineffective. Loss of two carriers meant loss of their planes while still out of range of the enemy. The remainder of our airpower, sea-based, was overwhelmed by the waves of planes from Spruanee's undamaged carriers.

And, when the battle was finally joined, where were Japan's submarines? Completely out of the picture, believe it or not!

When fleet forces met fleet forces, our nearest submarine was many hundreds of miles away. None was in the Philippine Sea. So sure was Toyoda that the enemy attack would be against the Philippines (thanks to USS England's accomplishments against our submarines and the submarine Harder's against our surface ships) that our submarines at Kure, Yokosuka, Saeki Bay, Truk and Palau received no orders from him until June 16. By that time communications with Vice Adm. Takagi, on Saipan, had been temporarily cut off and Rear Adm. Noboru Owada, heading SubRon 7 at Truk, had to take over command of the 6th Fleet for a while. He ordered 12; submarines to form three sentry lines.

I-6, I-185, I-184, I-5 and I-41 were ordered to take station in that order about 300 miles east of the Marianas on a north-south line, with I-6 the northernmost boat. Parallel to that line, and about 80 miles east of it, was to be a chain made up of R0-47, RO-42, R0-41, and R0-43. Another 150 miles east of this second line was to be a third (also parallel) made up of I-10, I-38 and I-53. Owada also ordered eight other submarines to deploy in waters closer to Saipan. These were R0-36, RO-109, RO-111, RO-112, RO-113, RO-114, RO-115 and RO-117.

On June 16, an order came down from Toyoda's flagship in the Inland Sea that all Japanese submarines were to remain east of the 145th east meridian of longitude. The first battle of the Philippine Sea took place west of that, so the order kept our submarines well away from where they might have done the most good. The order was rescinded on June 20, but by that time it was too late. The major damage to our fleet had already been done. The enemy no longer feared our aircraft carriers, which were fleeing. His own carrier planes were available for heavy attacks on our island garrisons and for intensified anti-submarine patrol sweeps.

From Truk (on June ~7) Adm. Owada gave orders for the eight RO-type boats near the Marianas to begin making attacks on the 19th against ships in that area, but they were still limited by the order to remain east of the x45th meridian, which cuts between Guam and Rota. Saipan and Tinjan were in the allowed area of attack, since they lie east of that meridian. But four of our submarines were sunk before the date of attack arrived.

RO-36, under Lt. Cdr. Tatsua Kawashima, had just made a supply run from Kure to Truk and returned home safely. On June 4 she left Saeki Bay, Kyushu, with more supplies. This time her destination was Wewak, New Guinea. On June 10 the U.S. destroyer Taylor, operating with an escort carrier and three other destroyers north of the Admiralties, sank a submarine. Since the submarine broached after being depth-charged and was actually seen in midafternoon by American sailors, I assume it was RO-36 that Taylor sank. We had no other submarines in that area at that time.

Another boat left Saeki Bay the same day. This was Lt. Cdr. Naozu Nakamura's RO-111. He had orders to sail for Saipan. I think that Nakamura's boat is the one sunk about 100 miles west of Saipan by the U.S. destroyers Melvin and Wadleigh, which got her on radar at midnight of the 15th. R0-36 could have been in that area, because the 145th meridian order had not yet been sent when the American ships made their contact.

The third submarine lost was RO-117, under Lt. Cdr. Yasuo Enomoto. He left Truk on June 5, heading north. On June 16 he was ordered to take station northeast of Saipan, and was still working his way into position when an American heavy bomber flying antisubmarine patrol out of Eniwetok (in the Marshalls ) sank him.

RO-114 left Saeki Bay under Lt. Yoshihiro Ata on June 4, to patrol in the Mariahas area. She was never heard from again. I think she is the submarine sunk on June 13 by the destroyer Melvin, east of Saipan. This ship got a radar contact not long after midnight, closed in, illuminated, and opened fire. RO-114 dived, but was sunk by depth charges slightly north of the patrol position assigned to her.

During the campaign for the Marianas we sent a total of 26 submarines there on various missions and lost 11 of them. American and Japanese records disagree as to the times and places some of them were sunk. Having made a careful study of the missions assigned, positions assigned, dates of leaving port, plus the dates and positions from which last heard, I am sure that my accounting of the lost submarines is the most accurate one available, especially since "official" American accounts were written and published long before many valuable records were unearthed in Japan and elsewhere.

There is no disagreement, however, on the two submarines we lost in the Marshalls during this period. They were RO-42 and RO-44. Lt. Cdr. Mochitsura Hashimoto gave over command of RO-44 to Lt. Cdr. Sadao Uesugi lust before it left Kure on May x5 for Saipan. From Saipan it went on to the Marshalls and checked on enemy activity around Eniwetok. After a second scouting of Eniwetok, R0-44 headed for Bikini. On June 16 it met up with the destroyer escort Hastings at about 3 A.M. Uesugi and his men died not long afterward.

By then, RO-42 had already been lost. She left Kure the same day as R0-44, and went straight to the Marshalls, from where she sent back situation reports. On June l0 she appeared on the radar screen of destroyer escort Bangust, east of Kwajalein, a little before midnight. Lt. Yoshonosuke Kudo and his crew never saw another dawn.

After a while, Rear Adm. Owada passed the command of 6th Fleet on to Vice Adm. Shigeyoshi Miwa, at Kure. This happened after Owada had given two more general orders. On June 19 he ordered all available submarines to make attacks in the Saipan area. The next day Adm. Koga's limiting order was rescinded, giving the boats freedom of action. But it was then too late to help our Combined Fleet, which had retreated. On June 22, Owada ordered all but six boats to pull out of the Marianas area. I-6, 1-38, 1-53 and RO-47 were to continue to attack when and where they could. I-10 was to make for Saipan to evacuate Adm. Takagi and his staff. I-41 was to head for Guam, where waited many pilots and airmen whose planes had been destroyed on the ground. The Naval General Staff wanted them brought back to Japan so they could fight again.

Nakajima had to get I-10 in past more than 100 ships and get Takagi out. I cannot account for the sinking of I-l0 on a specific date, but I am sure she was lost no later than June 28 and most likely to an enemy plane. American sources 1ist her as being sunk on July 4. I cannot agree, mainly because Adm. Miwa had already given her up for lost by June 28, the date on which he ordered 1-38 to take over I-l0's mission.

Only one submarine appears to have had any good fortune during the Marianas campaign. And even she did not achieve positive results. Lt. Hisash Watanabe took RO-115 out of Kure in mid-May with a cargo of supplies. He stopped at Truk, then Wewak and Palau, after which he was ordered to move in close to Saipan. On June 29 he was west of Rota, and fired four torpedoes at a Wasp Class aircraft carrier. That exhausted his offensive capability and he returned to Japan. No Amercan carrier was reported as receiving torpedo hits on that day.

On June 22 the pilots and airmen at Guam were picked up by 1-41, and taken safely to Japan. Lt. Cdr. Mitsuma Irakura brought off this coup after a strange plan was abandoned. I have already mentioned that Itakura made a much-needed supply run to Buin, despite the danger, when he could have gone back to Japan for a special mission. His was the last Buin run made. Itakura then rendezvoused with I-36, I-38 and three other submarines in the Inland Sea, south of Kure. Someone had conceived an idea nearly as weird as the wooden torpedoes Hashimoto had been ordered to test in 1942.

The six submarines were supposed to carry amphibious tanks from Kure to Bougainville and put them ashore. The tanks were equipped with, of all things, torpedoes! They were to go ashore, make their way overland, go into the water near the enemy beachhead, and make a torpedo attack on enemy ships!

This would be called the "Tatsumaki (tornado) Operation." The submarine captains were astonished to think that anyone was really serious about this new thing. First, submarines would have to get in near Cape Torokina, which none had been able to do so far. Then they would have to surface in this perilous area for at least 20 minutes to get the tanks away. That is, if the tanks' motors would start, after being underwater for so long. Then the tanks would have to reach land safely, cross it, and enter the sea again. They made a monstrously-loud noise and could only achieve a maximum speed of 4.5 knots! Were enemy sailors supposed to sleep through all this din while these creeping caterpillars closed in on them? The project was finally abandoned. I think it was laughed out of existence!

Itakura was then sent to the Admiralties as a sentry during the period when USS England killed off six of our submarines.  He sighted nothing, and nothing sighted him. I-41 was ordered into Guam, and evacuated l06 men from there, putting them ashore at Oita, Kyushu (near Beppu) on June 30. Irakura then went to Kure, where he received orders to help establish a kaiten organization.

On the same day Itakura evacuated the pilots in I-41, we lost another submarine, Lt. Cdr. Jun Arai's I-185. She was enroute from Kure to Wewak when ordered to intercept the enemy instead. On June 22, Arai spotted a convoy near Saipan bringing in reinforcements for the assault on that island. But the convoy's escort also spotted I-185. Destroyers Newcomb and destroyer-minesweeper Chandler sent Arai's boat to the bottom.

Another diverted submarine, I-184, had been sunk three days before that. On May 20 the boat of Lt. Cdr. Matsuji Rikihasa left Yokosuka with supplies for Mili, an island whose story is one of the war's saddest. Counting the troops who fled there from Majuro in January, over 4500 men were marooned on this tiny island. For 20 months thereafter they were subjected to bombing and shelling by passing ships and planes, even providing an occasional bit of target practice for new American units just arriving in the combat area. Except for the meager supplies a few submarines took to them, this garrison had nothing. Over 1600 men died from starvation, and from sicknesses brought on by lack of food. Another 900 succumbed to enemy attacks. The rest were all serious hospital cases at the time of finnal surrender.

Rikihasa arrived at Mili, unloaded his supplies, and left there on June 12. On June 15 he received word to close in on the Marianas. Before he could get there, a Grumman torpedo plane from the escort aircraft carrier USS Suwanee downed him with depth charges.

I-6 was one of the boats that Adm. Owada, while temporarily commanding the 6th Fleet, had told to stay in the Marianas area when the other boats left it. On June 30 she fired torpedoes at an aircraft carrier only 10 miles east of Saipan. I think that Lt. Shozo Fumon retreated after that attack and waited for a chance to strike again. On July 4, a group of American escort carriers and tankers was east of Guam. Part of their screen located a submarine that evening. Destroyer escort Riddle and destroyer Taylor made a depth charge attack, and reported sending it to the bottom. I am convinced that it was I-6.

No American sources are correct on the other three submarines lost in the June-July period of the Marianas fight-I-5, 1-55, and R0-48.

Lt. Cdr. Takeshige Doi left Truk in 1-5 on July 6 for a supply run to Ponape, in the Carolines. He got there safely on July 11, unloaded, and made for Truk. Three days later, Doi radioed that he was attacking some enemy ships about 300 miles east of Saipan. We never heard from him again. The ships he attacked were a group of hunter-killers, especially searching out submarines. The destroyer escort Wyman sank I-5 after Doi's ship had been picked up on radar in the darkness.

Three different submarines tried to tow "unpoto" to Guam, to help our beleaguered forces there. Cdr. Toshio Kusaka left Kure on June 27 with I-26 and, after many attempts to pierce the antisubmarine defenses unsuccessfully, finally got through them and unloaded his cannon carrier on July 7. Then I-45 and I-55 were sent to try, leaving Yokosuka on July 7. Chased off several times by alert enemy patrols, 1-45 had the misfortune of seeing her unpoto washed overboard in heavy seas. She had to return to Japan. This was the second piece of bad luck for 1-45 in a short period. On her previous mission (to the Marshalls) she had been bombed and heavily damaged by an enemy aircraft. The sub barely made it back to Japan, with a wrecked stern.

Cdr. Monshiro Izuzu had 1-55. He also kept trying to get in to Guam with an unpoto. Finally, word was sent him to abandon his mission and head for Tinian where airmen waited to be evacuated. Izuzu cast loose the unpoto, and acknowledged this order late on July 13, saying he expected to arrive at Tinian on the 15th. He must have been still sending this message when an American plane sighted 1-55 about 80 miles west of Saipan. An ambush was laid and the destroyer escort Miller picked up 1-55 on radar next morning. Miller was still making depth charge attacks when her crew heard a great explosion. It was 1-55's death cry.

R0-48 was the 11th of our submarines to be sunk in Marianas operations. She left Kure on July 5 under Lt. Cdr. Seita Kazutomi. On July 14 she reported undergoing a severe depth-charging only 30 miles east of Saipan. It was the last message received. I think that Kazutomi limped away from that attack and tried to make battle repairs. Then, shortly before sunset on July 28, a hunter-killer group built around the escort carrier USS Hoggat Bay found R0-48. Destroyer escorts Wyman and Reynolds sank her quickly.

After being raised at Truk, refioated, and towed home, 1-33 was refitted. Lt. Cdr. Mutsuo Wada was given command of her, and in June was giving refresher training to his crew in the Inland Sea, as well as shakedown training. On the 13th, at 8:40 A.M., Wada ordered a sudden dive. 1-33 did not come to the surface again until 9 years later, when it was salvaged and the bones of Wada and 89 other submariners recovered. The reason for the sinking of 1-33 was the same as that for the sinking of USS Squalus in 1939 (the American submarine that was recovered and refitted to fight against us as USS Sailfish). The main induction valve had not closed. This is the opening through which submarines of that period breathed" while running on the surface. It had to be closed when they dived. If not, a great column of sea water poured into the submarine, weighing her down.

USS Squalus was found and the McCann diving bell was used to rescue those of her crew who were still alive. In the case of 1-33, she was located, but we had no method of saving her men, even though they were in only 180 feet of water, a much shallower depth than Squalus. Wada and his crew must have suffered awfully, before suffocation finally brought them death.

1-52 was lost in the Atlantic. She had gone there under Cdr. Kameo Uno, carrying a cargo of rubber, tin and tungsten. She met a U-boat off Biscay Bay, but no report of her arrival in Europe ever got to Japan. After the war we learned that 1-52 was the victim of airborne radar and a weapon called the "sonobuoy."

The sonobuoy, when dropped into the water from an aircraft, acted both like a sound detection station and a radio station. Its sonar portion established the range and bearing of an underwater object, and its radio portion sent this information to aircraft in the sky. Three aircraft from the U.S. escort carrier Bogue discovered, depth-charged and sank Uno's boat on June 24, 1944.

In July we lost a submarine to a British submarine. I-166 was summoned east from the Indian Ocean, so Lt. Cdr. Shoichi Nishiuehi took her out of Penang on July 16, heading for a rendezvous with Fleet units off Singapore. I-166 was ambushed the following night by HMS Telemachus. Nishiuchi, fortunately for him, was on the open bridge when the enemy's torpedoes hit. I-166 sank from under him. He and a few others were picked up by a friendly craft in the Malacca Strait.

I-29 was sunk by a submarine also. Under Cdr. Takaichi Kinashi, the ace of our submarine fleet, she had gone to Europe. Kinashi brought his boat back safely as far as Singapore, loaded with machine tools and other valuable devices for our war industry, plus new weapons. He departed Singapore for Kure on July 22. Four days out, he was sunk by USS Sawfish south of Formosa. Some of I-29's crew survived, but Kinashi did not. He went down with his ship.

Organized Japanese resistance on Saipan ended July 9. Adm. Takagi and his staff had perished two days before that in a banzai attack. Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo, who had led our aircraft cartiers at Pearl Harbor, in the Indian Ocean, at Midway, and in the Solomons, committed seppuku on Saipan at that time.

Tinian men continued to fight as units until Aug. 1. And Guam, after being pounded by enemy ships and planes for a month, was invaded on July 21. The Marianas were lost and the Tojo Cabinet fell. At Kure, late in July, our new commander of submarines, Vice Adm. Miwa, held a conference to study what had happened to our boats in the 12 weeks since the Naval General Staff had handed down preliminary orders for Operation A-Go.

Those captains who had been badly battered by the Americans and barely returned to Japan alive had plenty to say. They pointed out that 9 of the submarines lost in the Marianas had been pulled out of the Indian Ocean, were manned by men just out of submarine school, or both. Captains of such submarines, they said, had no knowledge of the latest American developments and techniques in antisubmarine warfare. Lt. Hisashi Watanabe, CO of RO-115, was most vehement. He attacked the Kure school staff for adhering to obsolete curricula and making no change in their approach to tactics. "These people are too slow in developing means for use against the enemy!" he said.

Bear Adm. Keizo Yoshimura, chief of staff to Adm. Ozawa, who commanded our aircraft carriers in the Philippine Sea battle, was caustic in his reply to Watanabe. "In the Marianas battle," he said, "the American submarines performed brilliantly. Where were Japan's submarines? What were they doing to help us?"

Watanabe would have none of this, even from an officer so much senior to himself. He and his friends had fought too hard. His tongue was just as sharp as Adm. Yoshimura's as he answered: "You know very well, Admiral, that Admiral Toyoda himself ordered us to stay out of waters that were expected to be the battlefield. Therefore, you must know very well why we could not meet and strike at the enemy!"

Having gone this far, Watanabe felt that he might as well go all the way. "Before criticizing us submariners for supposedly having failed you," he said, "you may first reflect on the defeat of your own air and surface forces, and on how well American submarines were able to perform against you. If our submarines are to enjoy any degree of success in the future, you will have to stop underestimating the ability of men the enemy sends against our submarines. It is excellent! You think of nothing but the clash between two great surface fleets. You completely ignored us and the men who fought against us!"

After that there was a great commotion in the conference room, but Watanabe had made his point. Had our submarines been ordered west of the Marianas, we might have been able to make inroads on the enemy's strength, just as his submarines had been able to slice away a great deal of ours. We might have avenged the carriers Shokaku, Taiho and Hiyo, which were lost in the Philippines Sea battle. And the enemy might not have then been able to turn the full force of his power against Japanese submarines, the only sea force that opposed him in the Marianas after June 20.

Everyone began shouting opinions, charges, and countercharges when Watanabe finished talking. Nothing could be resolved, and the meeting adjourned on an angry note. It was some days before a new policy was drafted and a statement issued. I learned of it while putting 1-47's new crew through shakedown training. In summary, the 6th Fleets new policy was:

  1. Because of the small number of submarines now remaining, sporadic, separated Fleet attacks will not be made. Submarines will operate en masse, attacking enemy forces in conjunction with our air and surface forces. Until the enemy has approached nearer to Japan, our submarines will remain in home waters, refitting and undergoing extensive training, so as to achieve maximum capability.
  2. Submarines especially designed for transport duty are now being completed in rapid succession, one after another. They will increase the frequency of our supply missions to the defenders of our Pacific outposts.
  3. Kaiten are now being built, and kaiten pilots are now being trained. A number d submarines will be assigned to kaiten operations.

When the U. S. 5th Fleet smashed Ozawa's carrier force, it wrecked all chances of Japan's ever mounting enough naval air strength to score a decisive sea victory. Our island air strength was also in pieces and, although we could still manufacture aircraft at a high rate, we did not have the time to turn out high-caliber pilots to man them.

The Combined General Headquarters, Tokyo, admitted to the loss of only one aircraft carrier during the May-June period, while claiming to have sunk 1 battleship, 3 cruisers, 1 destroyer and 1 submarine; and to have sunk or damaged "more than 5 enemy aircraft carriers."

The truth, however, was that our navy in the air, on the surface, and under the sea had suffered what was very nearly its death stroke. Our hope now lay in a desperate measure. At last, two years after Hiroshi Kuroki and Sekio Nishina first thought of their human torpedo (the weapon that might "roll back the sky") it was accepted. Word came down from the Naval General Staff in June to rash ahead with mass production of kaiten, and to commence training men to man them. I,  Zenji Orita, would have much to do with this weapon.