HUNT FOR THE SAMURAI SUBS
Just before the atomic bomb forced Japan into submission, the Imperial Navy sent a fleet of incredibly advanced combat subs to attack a major U.S. naval base in the Pacific. But when Japan surrendered, the U.S. Navy confiscated them, only to later have them scuttled near Hawaii when Soviet scientists demanded access. The war machines’ precise location would remain a mystery for decades.
Now a team of explorers thinks they can find some of these lost subs in the Pacific’s dark waters. From the Hawaiian island of Oahu, deep submergence vehicle pilots Terry Kerby and Max Cremer, along with a team of devoted explorers, prepare to dive to depths of nearly 3,000 feet to hunt for some of WWII’s largest and fastest submarines — in a Japanese super-submarine graveyard ― and solve one of the war’s great mysteries.
- The I-400 class Japanese submarines built during WWII were the largest submarines ever built, at 400 feet long (or longer than a football field), until the introduction of nuclear-powered submarines in the 1950s and ‘60s.
- With a range of 37,500 miles at 14 knots, the I-400 class submarines were able to go one and a half times around the globe without refueling, a capability that has never been matched by any other diesel-electric submarine.
- Special aircraft-carrying submarines with powerful torpedoes were built to attack the U.S. mainland. Their target later changed to the Panama Canal, but they never carried out either mission.
- At the end of WWII, the U.S. Navy captured the subs and sailed five of them for evaluation: three aircraft-carrying submarines (I-400, I-401, I-14) and two fast attack subs (I-201, I-203).
- The United States was the only country that performed inspections on this technology. When the Soviet Union demanded access in 1946, the U.S. Navy scuttled the subs off the coast of Oahu.
- Japan’s aircraft-carrying submarines carried up to three bombers, which could be launched off the deck of the submarine by catapult ― some in as few as seven minutes.
- The Aichi M6A1 Seiran plane built for the subs could carry one aerial torpedo or a bomb weighing nearly 1,800 pounds, along with a crew of two — a pilot and an observer.
- Japanese subs used the powerful Type 95 torpedo, which utilized pure oxygen to burn kerosene, giving it three times the range of the Allies’ torpedoes. They were also harder to detect and avoid because of their reduced wake.
- The I-400 sub had radar so it could detect the enemy. Its exterior had a sonar-absorbing coating, making it less detectible.
- Crew aboard the aircraft-carrying submarine were limited to drinking half a cup of liquid with every meal, and were prohibited from taking showers or washing their clothes. There was only one toilet aboard, and waste tanks were often not emptied for fear of the enemy detecting them.
Wide shot of the Sen-Toku class “special attack” sub emphasizing the stern section (computer generated image).
A deck gun located on the I-401 submarine wreck, with the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab’s Pisces submersible in the background.
A close up shot of conning tower at the scene of the I-401 underwater submarine wreck. The I-401 is one of 5 Japanese submarines sunk by the US Navy in 1946.
At the scene of a I-14 underwater submarine wreck, the Pisces looking at the deck gun of I-14. The I-14 is one of 5 Japanese submarines sunk by the US Navy in 1946.
A close up shot of triple deck gun at the scene of the I-401 underwater submarine wreck. The I-401 is one of 5 Japanese submarines sunk by the US Navy in 1946.
The conning tower and machine gun on a Sen-Taka class “fast attack” submarine (computer generated image).
Hanger with two Seiran planes on a AM-Class submarine (computer generated image).
Three Seirans sitting inside the hanger of a Sen-Toku class “special attack” submarine (computer generated image).
Machine gun on the deck of Sen-Taka class “fast attack” submarine (computer generated image).
Seiran plane being catapulted from the deck of a Sen-Toku class “special attack” submarine (computer generated image).
Two Seiran planes sitting inside the hanger of a Sen-Toku class ”special attack” sub (computer generated image).
Wide shot of the Sen-Toku class “special attack” submarine (computer generated image).