Operation Shinki No. 1
Operation Shinki (Divine Turtle Operation No. 1) was the Japanese midget submarine component of the larger “Plan Z” surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The midget submarine operation was a relatively late add-on to the plan, approved by the commander in chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, during a planning conference on 11–13 October 1941 over the heated objections of the aviation planners, who believed the midget submarine operation risked blowing the element of surprise for little gain. The aviators were right, except the U.S. command and control process at Pearl Harbor at the time could not react fast enough.
On 19 October 1941, the commander of Sixth Fleet (Japan’s submarine force) issued orders to modify five Type C1 submarines to each piggyback one modified Type A midget submarine. The necessary modifications were complete by 10 November. The five Type C1 submarines (I-16, I-18, I-20, I-22, and I-24) were new, large, long-range diesel-electric submarines (3,500 tons submerged, 358 feet long, range 14,000 miles at 16 knots, maximum speed 23.5 knots surfaced/8 knots submerged, eight 21-inch torpedo tubes all in the bow with 20 torpedoes, a 5.5-inch deck gun, and a crew of 101, all completed in 1940–41).
The Type A midget submarine was a two-man submersible of 46 tons submerged and 78 feet in length armed with two Type 97 17.7-inch torpedoes with nearly 800-pound warheads. The Type A was powered by a battery-operated electric motor with a maximum speed of 23 knots surfaced/19 knots submerged, a range of 80 nautical miles at 6 knots/100 nautical miles at 2 knots, and a maximum depth of 100 feet. The five midgets selected for the mission were modified with a scuttling charge in addition to a unique figure eight–shaped net guard/cutter, jump line, propeller guard, telephone connection to the “mother submarine,” and other engineering and battery upgrades, but at a cost of reducing maximum speed to 16 knots. Range at slow speed was essentially unchanged. Of note, even though there would eventually be 46 Type A midgets constructed, the net guard/cutter configuration on the five Pearl Harbor boats was a unique identifier.
Many accounts use different means to identify each of the five midget submarines. Although the midgets had numbers, the Japanese at the time generally identified them by the mother submarine. For example, I-16 tou means I-16’s boat. Other accounts use an HA series identifier, although this system was created after the war. Still other accounts use the name of the midget’s pilot. Others use the mother boat followed by an a such as I-16a. The midget sunk by Ward (DD-139) is often referred to as the “Ward midget.” This gets very confusing in various accounts.
On 22 October, the Japanese passenger liner Taiyo Maru departed Yokohama for Honolulu, ordered unknowingly to follow a track that would be used by the Japanese carrier strike force (the Kido Butai). Aboard Taiyo Maru were three Japanese naval officers disguised as crewmen, one of whom was midget submarine pilot Lieutenant Matsuo Keiu, whose mission was to observe the approaches to Pearl Harbor. Taiyo Maru arrived in Honolulu on 1 November 1941 and departed on 3 November, returning to Japan on 17 November, just in time to provide an extensive intelligence briefing on Pearl Harbor’s defenses to the midget officer pilots (and other senior personnel and planners).
The officers of the Special Attack Unit were briefed that their mission was to occur only if it was determined that the majority of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was in Pearl Harbor. They were to enter the harbor only if they could do so covertly, and once in the harbor they were to lie low and conduct their attack in the lull between the two waves of the Japanese air strike. If they survived the attack, the midget submarines were to rendezvous with their mother submarines off the island of Lanai. Two other submarines (I-68 and I-69) were assigned to go into the launch area after the attack as an additional means to attempt a rescue of survivors. The enlisted crewmen were only “read in” on the plan after the mother submarines were underway. Of note, only 2 of the 10 crewmen were actually “volunteers,” the rest had been assigned to the midgets as part of routine rotations.
On 18 November, the Special Attack Unit, commanded by Rear Admiral Sasaki Hanku, departed Kure, Japan, making a direct transit to Oahu but steering 600 NM clear of Wake Island and Midway Island to avoid U.S. patrol aircraft searches. Roughly concurrent with the Special Attack Unit’s transit, 20 other Japanese submarines were en route to Hawaii and would converge in sectors around Oahu prior to the attack. Meanwhile, three other submarines (I-19, I-21, I-23) would scout the track ahead of the carrier strike force and then provide a barrier (and rescue) force just south of the carrier’s launch position. Twenty-eight Japanese submarines (plus five midgets) would converge on Oahu the day before the air attack.
On 2 December, the Special Attack Unit (and the rest of the strike force) received the code word message “Climb Mount Niitaka” signaling that the attack was a go for 8 December (Tokyo time), 7 December (Pearl Harbor time). The Special Attack Unit arrived off the entrance to Pearl Harbor under cover of darkness on 6 December 1941. Each submarine was assigned an operating sector, with two submarines in an inner sector within about 7 nautical miles of the entrance (I-16 to the southwest of the entrance, I-20 to the southeast). In the outer ring, I-24 was to the southwest, I-22 to the south, and I-18 to the southeast. The launch sequence commenced after midnight, sometimes complicated by the midgets, which turned out to have many problems, most notably depth control.
At 0042 on 7 December, I-16 launched HA-16 commanded by Lieutenant (j.g.) Yokoyama at 7 NM southwest of the harbor entrance. At 0016, I-22 launched HA-15 under Lieutenant Iwasa—the senior pilot in the unit, and a volunteer. At 0215, I-18 launched HA-17 commanded by Lieutenant (j.g.) Furuno from the outer ring at 13 NM southeast of the harbor. At 0257, I-20 launched HA-18 (Ensign Hiroo) at 5.3 NM southeast of the entrance. At 0330, I-24 (the force flagship) launched HA-19 (Ensign Sakamaki) at 10.5 NM southwest of the entrance. HA-19 (I-24 tou) immediately encountered serious depth control problems and began to broach. Later, the gyrocompass would malfunction and Sakamaki would have to spend an inordinate amount of time with his periscope up attempting to navigate.
With the exception of the account by Sakamaki, who was the only survivor, there is no positive identification of which midget did what, but based on locations and timing, educated guesses are possible. Sunrise on 7 December was at 0624, but as the sun was blocked by Oahu’s mountains and clouds, the midget operating area remained relatively dark until about 0700.
The Inshore Patrol Command and Defensive Sea Area
To get into Pearl Harbor, the midgets would have to first get through the defensive sea area, a 10-square-mile area of constantly patrolled restricted waterspace, and then through the antisubmarine and torpedo boom barrier with nets that blocked the channel. The midgets were under orders not to attempt to force their way through the boom, lest they give away the surprise, so the only way in was to trail another ship that was entering the harbor while the boom was open.
The Inshore Patrol Command, subordinate to the 14th Naval District, was responsible for patrolling the area. The commander of the 14th Naval District was Rear Admiral Claude Bloch, who reported to the Chief of Naval Operations but coordinated with the Commander in Chief of U.S. Fleet/Pacific Fleet (CINCUS/CINPACFLT) Admiral Husband Kimmel. The 14th Naval District, which included all of Hawaii, was responsible for the defense of the fleet when it was in port, as well as coordinating with the U.S. Army, which was responsible for the air defense of the islands. The 14th Naval District, in coordination with the fleet, was responsible for long-range surveillance by Navy patrol aircraft. Of note, Rear Admiral Bloch had previously been the four-star CINCUS from 1930–1940 before reverting to his permanent two-star rank and taking the 14th Naval District assignment. It was not unusual in the interwar period for the very few four- and three-star officers to take two-star jobs afterward if they had not yet met the mandatory retirement age.
The Inshore Patrol Command included several minesweepers and four World War I–vintage destroyers. The destroyers would rotate duty, patrolling the approaches to Pearl Harbor for a week at a time. The minesweepers would sweep for mines, and the destroyers would challenge and identify any vessels entering the defensive sea area, and turn away any vessels that were not authorized. U.S. submarines were supposed to only transit the area on the surface and under positive escort by a surface ship.
The 27 November top secret “War Warning” message from Washington mentioned impending Japanese operations in Asia and that the Japanese could attack “in any direction,” specifying Guam and other locations in Asia, but not mentioning Pearl Harbor. In response, Admiral Kimmel issued new, more liberal rules of engagement (ROE). Any submerged submarine in the defensive sea area was to be immediately attacked with no need to secure permission from higher authority. Also, any active submarine prosecution radio transmissions were to be conducted in clear voice (not coded) on a frequency specifically established for the purpose, and with 24-hour communications watches established.
Kimmel unilaterally implemented these new ROE without consulting with Washington. Kimmel believed that any air attack on Pearl Harbor would be preceded by submarine activity, and he was deeply concerned about the vulnerability to both air and submarine attacks. However, raising concerns about the vulnerability of the fleet (and that the fleet’s presence was a provocation, not a deterrent, to the Japanese) had gotten Kimmel’s predecessor, Admiral James O. Richardson, fired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
On the night of 6–7 December, the two minesweepers Condor (AMc-14) and Crossbill (AMc-9) were conducting routine minesweeping just outside the channel while the duty patrol destroyer Ward was operating a little farther out. Although the “war warning” message had extremely limited distribution, the officers in general had a very acute understanding of the high level of tension with Japan and held the widespread belief that war was imminent (but expected to commence in Asia).
USS Ward (DD-139)
Wickes-class destroyer Ward was one of about 200 “flush-deck” or “four-piper” destroyers rushed into production when the United States entered World War I because the Navy needed convoy escorts to counter the serious German U-boat threat. Built at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Ward set records with a construction period of less than a month. Her keel was laid on 15 May 1918. She was commissioned on 24 June 1918 and transferred to the Atlantic.
With the end of the war in November 1918, the United States suddenly had a glut of destroyers. After serving as a beacon ship and a plane guard for the historic crossing of the Atlantic by the U.S. Navy NC-4 flying boat in 1919, Ward was put into reserve in San Diego and decommissioned on 21 July 1921. In anticipation of the outbreak of war, Ward was recommissioned on 15 January 1941. Except for officers and senior enlisted, most of her crew consisted of 85 naval reservists from Minnesota. Their unit was called up on 21 January 1941 and reported for duty on 23 January 1941. They were shipped by train to San Diego where Ward was conducting work-ups in February before transferring to Pearl Harbor.
Although old, Ward had a very respectable top speed of 35 knots. The ship was 1,060 tons standard displacement and 310 feet long. Her main armament was four 4-inch/50-caliber guns, one forward, two amidships (one on each side), and one aft. Her woefully inadequate antiaircraft armament was one 3-inch/23-caliber gun and two .50-caliber machine guns. She also had four triple 21-inch torpedo mounts (two per side), two depth-charge racks on the stern, and one Y-gun depth-charge thrower. Her designed complement was 131 (8 officers, 10 senior enlisted, and 113 junior enlisted). However, on 7 December, she was undermanned (like every other ship at Pearl Harbor).
Ward had gotten underway at 0630 on 6 December after a change of command on 5 December. Ward was the first command for Lieutenant William W. Outerbridge. Outerbridge had been in the Navy for 14 years (promotions were slow then) and had served on seven ships, including three years on the Asiatic Station aboard heavy cruiser Augusta (CA-31) from 1937 to 1940.
Under a heavy cloud cover and waning moon, Condor and Crossbill slowly plied back and forth across the entrance to the channel. At 0342, Condor’s officer of the deck, Ensign Russell G. McCoy, spotted a suspicious phosphorescent wake 50 yards ahead on the port bow. After having Quartermaster R. C. Utrick and Seaman First Class R. B. Chaves lay eyes on the wake as well, Russell determined that a periscope was causing it, along with what appeared to be the conning tower of a small submarine, something none of them had ever seen before. Regardless, whatever it was, it was not supposed to be there. Condor made a turn to avoid the object, and the submarine turned away as well.
At 0357, Condor sent a message to Ward via yardarm blinker and clear-voice radio: “Sighted submerged submarine on westerly course, speed 9 knots.” The transmission was monitored by the naval radio station at Bishop’s Point. (The communications watch had only recently gone to 24 hours every day.) It should also have been monitored by the 14th Naval District communications watch, except the lieutenant on watch was asleep. Ward’s officer of the deck, Lieutenant (j.g.) Oscar Goepner (also Ward’s gunnery officer), immediately called for Outerbridge, who ordered the crew to General Quarters at 0408.
Over the next few minutes, there was a series of clear-voice radio exchanges of information between the two ships, a critical one being Condor’s report that the submarine contact was only 1,000 yards from the channel entrance, was heading toward the entrance, and had been last spotted at 0350. Ward searched the area visually and with sonar but gained no contact. After a fruitless search, Ward contacted Condor at 0430 for any update, and Condor replied negative. Ward secured from General Quarters at 0435, although she continued to search.
Bishop’s Point monitored and logged the communications, and other stations on the island should have heard them as well on the recently established dedicated frequency set up for submarine prosecutions in the defensive sea area. However, neither Condor nor Ward made a specific report to the 14th Naval District. As there had been multiple submarine reports in the preceding weeks, all of which had turned out to be false or could not be verified, the Bishop’s Point duty officer assumed this was just another false alarm since Ward had failed to find anything. The duty officer made no specific report to the 14th Naval District, also assuming the 14th Naval District communications watch had been monitoring as well.
At 0458, the antisubmarine net boom was opened to allow the two minesweepers to return to Pearl Harbor, and Crossbill went in first at 0508 with Condor. As opening and closing the barrier was time-consuming, standard procedure was to leave it open if other ships were expected to transit, and the general cargo ship Antares (AKS-3) was due in at 0600. As it turned out, Antares did not enter Pearl Harbor at all on 7 December, although the barrier remained open waiting for her, leaving the channel wide open for the midget subs to get through, if they could navigate their way there in the dark.
At 0530 (some accounts say 0500), the two Japanese heavy cruisers escorting the carrier strike force each catapulted an Aichi E13A1 “Jake” floatplane from over 200 NM north of Oahu. The mission of the plane from Tone was to observe the Lahaina anchorage off Maui discreetly to verify previous Japanese intelligence reports that it was no longer routinely in use. Lahaina had frequently been used as a fleet anchorage (because getting in and out of Pearl Harbor was a pain), but Kimmel was concerned about the extreme vulnerability of the unprotected and deep-water anchorage to submarine attack, and it was rarely used in 1941. The Japanese were hoping U.S. ships would be there (and had a branch plan ready if any were), because any ship sunk at Lahaina was not going to be raised afterwards. Tone’s Jake verified the intelligence that the anchorage was empty.
Chikuma’s plane circled wide around Oahu to disguise its true direction of origin before making a very accurate reconnaissance of the harbor. The Jake was tracked by U.S. Army radar, but was not recognized or reported as a threat. Both planes were directed not to report their findings until after the first carrier strike wave launched, to preclude radio intercept. Chikuma’s plane also verified recent Japanese intelligence reporting that no carriers were in port.
At 0605, the six Japanese carriers commenced launching defensive combat air patrol, immediately followed by the first strike wave. By 0615, a 183-plane strike led by Commander Fuchida Mitsuo was en route to Pearl Harbor.
Also at 0605, Ward gained her first visual on Antares and made identification via flashing light. Antares was an 11,000-ton general cargo ship commanded by Commander Lawrence C. Grannis that also served as the flagship for Training Squadron 8. Antares had departed Pearl Harbor on 3 November 1941 with a 300-man Army engineer battalion embarked and arrived at Canton Island on 14 November. Antares had towed a 500-ton barge and two smaller barges (both of which foundered en route) with Army equipment to set up an airfield on Canton intended to ferry Army and Air Force aircraft to Asia via a more southerly route, less exposed to possible Japanese interdiction than Wake Island and Guam. Canton Island was also jointly claimed by the United States and the United Kingdom. Antares had dropped the Army unit at Canton and then proceeded to Palmyra Island, where the U.S. Navy was building a facility. After a mix-up of barges, Antares had returned to Canton and picked up a different empty barge for the return transit to Pearl Harbor.
On the return transit to Pearl Harbor, Antares was afforded escort by destroyer Selfridge (DD-357). During the transit, there were multiple possible submarine sightings, and the crew of Antares believed they were being followed by a submarine. The southern group of Japanese submarines had arrived at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands on 20 November, refueled, and departed on 23 and 24 November en route to Pearl Harbor, so it is conceivable that one of these submarines could have crossed paths with Antares, but I have been unable to find any confirmation. Selfridge was actually running low on provisions, and as the group approached Oahu, Selfridge was given permission to proceed ahead and entered Pearl Harbor on 6 December.
At 0615, Patrol Squadron 14 (VP-14) commenced launching three PBY-5 Catalina flying boats from Naval Air Station Kaneohe with the mission to search the southern and westerly approaches to Pearl Harbor. Via communications traffic analysis, U.S. naval intelligence was aware of the buildup of Japanese submarines at Kwajalein (southwest of Pearl), which was considered the most likely vector for a submarine attack and hence the focus of the search. Plus, the weather was lousy north of Oahu due to a thick cloud deck.
Ward’s Attack on a Midget in the Defensive Sea Area
At 0630, Antares arrived off the entrance to Pearl Harbor at a rendezvous point to transfer the barge to a tug, about a mile outside the channel entrance. However, no tug was in sight. Antares commenced a slow turn to the east to “mill about smartly” awaiting the tug. At this point, several things happened almost simultaneously. As Antares made the turn, lookouts on Antares spotted an object 1,500 yards on the starboard quarter, between Antares and the barge. Commander Grannis quickly assessed this as a submarine, even though he had never seen one like it before.
At 0637, Antares transmitted a radio message in the clear to Ward, monitored by Bishop’s Point: “A partially submerged submarine spotted 1500 yards off starboard quarter … seems to be having depth control trouble … trying to go down.”
Ward responded, “Roger Antares. Stand by.”
At this point, Ward’s helmsman, Seaman Second Class Herbert Raeubig, spotted the object behind Antares, which was about a mile away, and pointed it out to the quartermaster of the watch, Seaman Second Class Donald Gruening, who looked through binoculars, thought it looked like a small submarine conning tower, and notified the officer of the watch, Lieutenant (j.g.) Goepner. Goepner initially assessed it as a buoy, although he quickly changed his mind as the object appeared to be making way. Goepner summoned Outerbridge, who quickly appeared on the bridge dressed in pajamas and a Japanese kimono. Ward responded to Antares’ call: “We have visual.” At 0640, Outerbridge ordered General Quarters, and Ward’s crew went to their battle stations for the second time.
As Antares and Ward were exchanging calls, the sharp-eyed copilot of one of the recently launched VP-14 PBY Catalina flying boats (14-P-1), Ensign Robert B. Clarke, spotted the submarine. The pilot, Ensign William P. Tanner, was initially reluctant to believe it was a submarine, and then assumed it must be a U.S. submarine in distress. Tanner made a low pass, and the plane dropped two smoke floats to mark the sub’s location.
Outerbridge ordered, “All ahead full,” and Ward jumped from 5 to 25 knots on a course of 125 degrees (true). Outerbridge considered ramming the sub, but then thought better of it, as submarine steel was tougher than thin-skinned World War I-era destroyers. By 0645, Ward had closed within 300 yards, with the submarine on a reciprocal course. The two vessels would pass starboard to starboard at a combined rate of speed. The submarine gave no indication it was aware of Ward bearing down on it. Outerbridge gave the order to fire, and at a range of about 100 yards, the forward 4-inch gun (No. 1) on the bow fired one round that passed just over the submarine conning tower and hit the water some distance beyond.
As the submarine passed down Ward’s side, the starboard-side 4-inch gun (No. 3) was able to get off one shot before its arc of fire was fouled at the near point-blank range of 50 yards. (Ward’s report, repeated in many sources, says “560 yards,” but that makes no sense and is presumably a typo for 50–60 yards.) Too close to fuze, the shell did not detonate, but nevertheless was a direct hit at the base of the conning tower, witnessed by many crewmen on Ward. Ward veered to starboard as the submarine rolled to starboard.
Outerbridge ordered an immediate depth-charge attack as the submarine passed astern, and with four blasts of the ship’s whistle as a signal, four “ashcans” (depth charges) set for a 100-foot depth were rolled off the stern racks and appeared to detonate under the submarine. The submarine rolled over, went down, and never came back up.
Seeing Ward attacking the sub, Ensign Tanner in the PBY then made two passes, dropping a depth charge each time on the submarine datum. By 0647, the attack was over.
At 0651, Outerbridge made a clear-voice radio transmission to the 14th Naval District watch: “We have dropped depth-charges upon sub operating in defensive sea area.” Outerbridge immediately realized that the transmission did not adequately reflect the confidence that Ward had attacked a genuine submarine. Ships had dropped depth charges on contacts in the area before with no confirmation of an actual submarine. Firing on a submarine was something new and different.
At 0653, Outerbridge sent the following message, acknowledged and logged by Bishop’s Point: “USS Ward to Com 14. Have attacked, fired upon, and dropped depth-charges upon unidentified submarine operating in defensive sea area [almost every account ends at this point, but there was more to the message] … a direct hit from our number three gun on his conning tower. Followed up with four ashcans. Oil slick 300 yards astern visible on surface – Lt William W Outerbridge, CO USS Ward (DD-139).” This series of messages woke up the 14th Naval District’s communications watch officer.
Immediately after the attack on the midget submarine, a white “Japanese-style” sampan was observed by Antares at 0648 only 500 yards away, intruding into the defensive sea area, and Ward proceeded to investigate while still in the process of transmitting messages on the attack on the submarine. The sampan initially disregarded bullhorn orders to stop, until Outerbridge had his gunner’s mates put a few rounds of rifle fire across the bow of the sampan, causing the sampan’s master to wave a white flag and come to a halt. Ward then radioed to the Coast Guard to have a cutter come out and escort the sampan away. This transmission resulted in confusion, as some officers in the chain of command, attempting to assess the validity of Ward’s attack messages, made the assumption that if Ward was off chasing some sampan, then the submarine reports couldn’t have been all that serious.
Rear Admiral Edwin Layton (Pacific Fleet N2) would later criticize Outerbridge for not filing a detailed report, and much time would be lost in the notification process that followed as officers asked for confirmation, which results in the following question: was Outerbridge’s entire message passed up the chain, or just the first part that appears in almost every source?
Ensign Tanner’s PBY also noted the oil slick, and at 0700 sent a coded message to commander Task Force 3 (CTF-3) and commander Patrol Wing 1 (COMPATWING-1). Tanner’s message should have been sent in the clear by the new ROE. PATWING-1 quickly acknowledged, but TF-3 did not until 0715, requesting confirmation. Tanner responded in the clear: “Sunk one enemy sub 1 mile south of Pearl Harbor.”
At 0700, HA-19 (I-24 tou) headed for the Pearl Harbor entrance, but could not get there before the air attack commenced. Sakamaki would later claim he sighted Ward and could have attacked, but was saving his torpedoes for bigger warships. The other midget submarines were presumably in the area near the entrance to the Pearl Harbor channel at the time of Ward’s attack.
At 0700, Admiral Kimmel woke up. At 0702, the Army radar station at Opana at the northern tip of Oahu detected the inbound Japanese air strike. The Army then suffered their own command, control, and communications breakdown, which is outside the scope of this H-gram. At about the same time, the six Japanese carriers were launching the second wave of 167 planes.
At 0703, Ward gained sound contact on another submarine, commenced an attack run at 0705, and dropped more depth charges at 0706. Ward then sighted a black oil bubble 300 yards astern. Communications regarding this attack are not available in any source I could find. Ward would make several more depth-charge attacks on submarine contacts during the day, expending a total of 172 depth charges.
As the transmissions from Ward were received, the 14th Naval District communications watch officer hurried to pass the information verbally to the 14th District duty officer, Lieutenant Commander Harold Kaminski. Kaminski tried to call Rear Admiral Bloch’s aide but could not get through. Kaminski then called the fleet duty officer, reaching the assistant fleet duty officer, Lieutenant Commander R. B. Black, and passing the report to him. Black reached the fleet duty officer, Commander Vince Murphy (Murphy was the assistant fleet war plans officer, and had in his possession the plan completed the day before for the disposition of the fleet in the event of a declaration of war or a surprise attack). Murphy directed Black to call Kaminski back to get more information while Murphy got dressed to come into the fleet headquarters, but Black couldn’t get through. Concurrently, Kaminski was able to reach the 14th Naval District chief of staff, Captain John B. Earle. Earle asked for more information, but directed Kaminski to have the duty destroyer Monaghan (DD-354) get underway and investigate, although it would take Monaghan at least 45 minutes to get up steam. Earle was then able to reach the commander of the 14th Naval District, Rear Admiral Claude Bloch, at 0712, and the two discussed the report, both inclined to believe it another false report, but both taking it seriously. Bloch concurred with getting the duty destroyer underway.
When Fleet Duty Officer Murphy reached headquarters, he immediately received a call from Lieutenant Commander Logan Ramsey of Patrol Wing 2 (PATWING-2) advising of a call from the Ford Island duty officer (the Ford Island operations center tracked the PBY patrols, among other things) Lieutenant Dick Ballinger, reporting that one of the PBYs had “sunk a submerged submarine one mile off the entrance to Pearl Harbor.” Murphy replied that they received the same sort of message from one of the COs (commanding officers) of the DDs on inshore patrol.
As soon as Murphy and Ramsey ended their call, Kaminski got through to Murphy with a report of Ward’s action, most of which Murphy now knew. Murphy called Admiral Kimmel (accounts of when this first happened range from 0720 to 0735), who had arisen at 0700 for a golf match scheduled at 0900 with Lieutenant General Walter Short, commander of U.S. Army Forces in Hawaii. Kimmel said he would cancel the golf match and come in.
If you are confused at this point, then so was everyone else, including historians after the fact, as there are numerous conflicting accounts, including in official testimony, of who told whom what and when. For example, Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison wrote that Kaminski did not receive Ward’s report until 0712 due to a delay in decoding the message by a “not too bright” yeoman. (Kaminski’s testimony just says the duty yeoman was “not trained.”) However, this is probably conflated with the PBY’s first report, which was coded, and not Ward’s transmissions, which were sent in the clear.
The entire notification and assessment process was plagued by busy signals as the telephone exchanges jammed, since what is listed above is probably just the tip of the iceberg. A number of simultaneous calls were being made among various headquarters and command centers in an attempt to assess the validity and implications of Ward’s reports. These processes had actually been tested during previous exercises (which entailed additional manning) and had worked reasonably well. However, on the night of 6–7 December, the “C3 architecture” was not even at an exercise level of proficiency, let alone a wartime level.
Two things stand out, however, from the telephone tag: it was all too late, and no one called the Army, which was responsible for the air defense of the island. Kimmel was waiting for his duty driver on his front lawn, where he had a clear view of the first bombs falling. He had just been on a call with Murphy that was interrupted by a yeoman reporting that an attack was underway.
At 0733, Tone’s scout plane radioed that the Lahaina anchorage was empty. At 0735, Chikuma’s scout plane reported no carriers, nine battleships, one heavy cruiser, and six light cruisers were in port. Actually, there were eight battleships, plus ex-battleship Utah (AG-16), two heavy cruisers, and six light cruisers (making the Chikuma scout’s report one of the more accurate by either side during the war).
The scout planes’ reports were relayed to the Japanese strike leader, Commander Fuchida. The Chikuma scout’s report of clear weather over the target was a relief to Fuchida, who was worried the strike would overshoot Oahu due to the cloud deck north of the island. The cloud cover parted as the strike reached the northern tip of Oahu at 0740 and commenced a transit down the west side of the island.
At 0751, the duty destroyer Monaghan received orders to get underway and investigate Ward’s contact.
At about 0800, things began to go from bad to worse for HA-19 (I-24 tou) when the midget ran aground east of the harbor entrance, damaging the lower torpedo tube and other parts of the midget. At 0817, the destroyer Helm (DD-388) exited the harbor, sighted a midget submarine hung up on a reef east of the exit, and opened fire, but missed. Sakamaki said he was fired on by a destroyer about this time, so his midget was probably the one Helm shot at. Sakamaki was able to extricate the midget off the reef in the nick of time. However, by then the gyro was completely useless. Chlorine gas knocked Sakamaki and his crewman unconscious, and the midget drifted east along the south shore of Oahu. Sakamaki periodically regained consciousness, observing smoke rising from Pearl Harbor and that his midget was depth charged several times.
Monaghan’s Attack on a Midget Inside the Harbor
At 0830, destroyer Monaghan was transiting southwesterly on the west side of Ford Island with the intent of exiting the harbor during what turned out to be the short lull between the two waves of attacks. At that point, destroyer minesweeper Zane (DMS-14) reported sighting a submarine 200 yards astern of repair ship Medusa (AR-1), anchored at the entrance to Middle Loch, west of Ford Island. Shortly thereafter, minesweeper Breese (DM-18) and seaplane tender Curtiss (AV-4) sighted the sub and opened fire.
At 0837, Monaghan sighted the conning tower of the submarine 1,200 yards off her starboard bow. Monaghan’s skipper, Lieutenant Commander William P. Burford, ordered flank speed with intent to ram. At this point, the submarine was under heavy fire from multiple ships but nevertheless fired a torpedo at Curtiss that missed and hit a dock in Pearl City. In turn, Curtiss hit the conning tower of the submarine with a 5-inch shell, assessed to have decapitated the pilot. Nevertheless, the submarine turned and fired a torpedo at the onrushing Monaghan that narrowly missed (probably too close to arm anyway) and hit Ford Island (Morison says it detonated), although some of the aerial torpedoes launched at ships on the west side of Ford Island buried themselves in the mud. Regardless, Monaghan crunched over the submarine, forcing it to the 30-foot bottom, and dropped two depth charges to complete the kill. After the ram of the submarine, Monaghan was momentarily out of control and scraped along a derrick barge, then fired another shot at another submarine that turned out to be a black harbor buoy, just as the second wave attack commenced. Lieutenant Commander Burford was awarded a Navy Cross for the action.
The midget submarine sank by Monaghan was raised two weeks after the attack. It was so badly battered and filled with chlorine gas that it was never entered by some accounts, which actually wasn’t necessary since HA-19 (I-24 tou) was captured mostly intact. At some point, the midget was used as fill for the S-1 submarine dock. Accounts vary on what happened to the bodies of the crew, with some indicating they remained in the sub, others that the personnel compartment was cut out and separately buried with the crew, and yet another that a naval intelligence officer did get into the midget and push out the two bodies, which were later buried at the Nuuanu cemetery in Honolulu (and a lieutenant’s shoulder patch was recovered and returned to Japan in 1946). This midget was “rediscovered” in 1952, but reburied in the same place.
“Monaghan’s midget” is generally assessed to be HA-15 (I-22 tou) commanded by Lieutenant Iwasa. Iwasa was the most senior and experienced of the midget pilots, which might have made it more likely that he would be the one to gain access to the harbor. In addition, a lieutenant’s dress blue uniform sleeve was found floating in the harbor, and he was the only one with that rank in the midget force. Some historians have postulated that the sleeve could be from an aviator (one crashed into Curtiss in the second wave attack). However, I find it unlikely an aviator would be in dress blue, but perfectly plausible that a midget pilot on a probable “suicide mission” would get dressed up.
At 1004 on 7 December, after the air attack ended, the light cruiser St. Louis (CL-49) came barreling out of the Pearl Harbor entrance at 25 knots. Under the command of Captain George A. Rood, St. Louis was the first major ship to exit the harbor. As she passed the first entrance buoy, St. Louis lookouts sighted two torpedoes at 2,000 yards inbound on her starboard beam. The torpedoes may very well have hit St. Louis had they not hit a reef first. St. Louis fired on and claimed to hit the submarine’s conning tower, although some have postulated the target was floating minesweeping gear. The submarine that fired these torpedoes is unknown, but the most likely candidate is HA-16 (I-16 tou) commanded by Yokoyama, which would have approached from the southwest sector, and possibly taken up station there after being unable to enter the harbor when it was still dark.
At 2241, I-16 received a radio message: “Se, Se, Se” (short for “success” three times). I-16 assessed the transmission as being from her own midget, although there is no way to confirm that (I-16 was one of the six submarines sunk by England [DE-635] in May 1944). At 0051 on 8 December, I-16 received another transmission, “unable to navigate,” which was the last heard from any midget.
Meanwhile HA-19 (I-24 tou) commanded by Sakamaki drifted east along the south shore of Oahu, then around the southeast point before washing ashore at Waimanalo Beach near Bellows Field. After finally coming to, Sakamaki set the scuttling charge and then he and Chief Warrant Officer Inagaki abandoned the boat. Sakamaki made it ashore, but Inagaki had his head bashed in and drowned. The scuttling charge failed to go off. Sakamaki ran up and down the beach until he was captured, becoming prisoner of war No. 1, resulting in him being erased from Japanese wartime accounts of the operation (even from the famous painting of the nine “hero gods”).
In truth, Operation Shinki was a total failure, and almost ruined the element of surprise, as the aviators had predicted. However, Japanese propaganda gave the midgets credit for sinking Arizona (BB-39) to the considerable consternation of the Japanese aviators. Sakamaki’s midget, with both torpedoes still in the tube, was salvaged, repaired with parts from the “Monaghan midget,” extensively studied for intelligence value, and taken on war bond drives around the United States. It is now on display in the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas (Admiral Chester Nimitz’s home town).
Accounting for All Five Midgets
After HA-17 (I-18 tou) commanded by Lieutenant (j.g.) Furuno was launched, there is no confirmed record of what became of her during the Pearl Harbor attack, although it is quite likely she was the subject of one of the many depth-charge attacks by Ward and other destroyers as they exited the harbor. However, in 1960 a Pearl Harbor–configured Type A midget submarine was found by a Navy diver in 75 feet of water in Keehi Lagoon, southeast of the Pearl Harbor entrance, and subsequently raised by Current (ARS-22). Before the expansion of Honolulu International Airport, Keehi Lagoon was connected to the sea. The midget was relatively undamaged outwardly, but with definite interior signs of being battered by depth charges. The midget had the distinctive figure eight net guard/cutter, and both torpedoes were still in the tubes (live, as was the scuttling charge). The conning tower hatch was open, with no sign of the crew except stray shoes and some clothing. How the midget came to be in Keehi Lagoon is unknown, but the discovery accounted for 6 of the 10 torpedoes of the midget force, and it definitely is one of the Pearl Harbor midgets. The midget was returned to Japan, where it was restored with fabricated parts and is located at the naval tactical school in Etajima.
In July 1992, the Pisces V deep submersible vehicle of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) located the aft section of a Type A midget in 1,200 feet of water. The aft section was found in the defensive sea area off Pearl Harbor in an area extensively previously used for dumping all manner of military equipment. It was originally assessed as a midget captured from elsewhere in the Pacific, studied, and then dumped. However, in September 2000, the Pisces V located the midsection of a Type A midget in roughly the same area as the stern, with some damage suggesting a scuttling charge had been used, and that the midsection had at some point been towed and dumped. In November 2000, explorer Bob Ballard located what turned out to be the same midsection.
In August 2001, the Pisces IV was on the way to relook at the midsection when it stumbled across the bow of a Type A midget with the distinctive net guard/cutter and both torpedo tubes empty. The stern section found nine years earlier was “rediscovered” nearby. This was definitely a Pearl Harbor midget, and the evidence suggested that it had been scuttled with a charge, and then raised, towed, and dumped at some later date (the sub was clearly cut into three pieces, except for a missing chunk where the scuttling charge would have been), leading to years of speculation as to how and when it got to where it was found.
Then in 2002, the HURL’s Pisces IV and Pisces V discovered a midget submarine in 1,312 feet of water about five miles outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor, but significantly outside the defensive sea area to the east, which is why it eluded discovery for so long. The submarine was definitely a Type A midget, with the unique Pearl Harbor net guard/cutter configuration, both torpedoes still in the tubes (accounting for 8 of the 10 torpedoes), and a four-inch hole on the starboard side at the base of the conning tower—exactly where Ward’s gunners said they hit the midget on 7 December 1941 (after enduring years of doubters questioning whether their gunnery could have really been that good, especially since they were “just a bunch of reservists”).
Trying to account for the location of the “Ward midget” was a problem, since it is about 1.5 miles from where Ward reported the sinking. Analysis suggests that Ward’s shell, which didn’t detonate, penetrated the hull but was deflected downward and out the bottom, enabling water pressure to force the air out of the relatively small hole, and with the configuration of the control surfaces, resulting in a slow sink rate and long glide before reaching the bottom. Although there is no way to confirm a hole in the bottom, the evidence fits the theory pretty well. Most analysts believe the “Ward midget” is HA-18 (I-20 tou), piloted by Ensign Hiroo Akira with Petty Officer Second Class Katayama Yoshio. Given the time and location of launch, and the time and location of Ward’s attack, this assessment seems reasonable to me.
So, with the discovery of the “Ward midget” and the “three-piece midget,” all five midget submarines are accounted for, and assuming St. Louis’s report of two torpedoes inbound is correct, all 10 torpedoes are accounted for. So, only one midget made it into Pearl Harbor. Case closed. Probably, but not so fast.
Speculation that a second midget submarine made it into Pearl Harbor and fired on Battleship Row possibly began with none other than the esteemed naval historian Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, who wrote that “at least” one midget succeeded in entering the harbor due to the antitorpedo barrier at the entrance to the harbor being inexplicably left open until 0840. Later, in the autobiography of Rear Admiral Edwin Layton (Lieutenant Commander Layton, U.S. Fleet/Pacific Fleet intelligence officer at the time of the attack), Layton wrote that “at least two” midgets entered the harbor.
In addition, the U.S. Pacific Fleet action report (15 February 1942) mentioned the recovery of an unexploded torpedo with a warhead of 1,000-pound high explosive in a section of the report that clearly associates the find with torpedo strikes on Battleship Row, so it is unlikely that this would have been a Monaghan midget Type 97 torpedo that didn’t explode (despite what Morison wrote).
The Type 91 aerial torpedo came in several versions with differently sized warheads. Those used at Pearl Harbor were the “Mod 2” with a smaller 449-pound warhead (these torpedoes were specially made for the Pearl Harbor attack and were in short supply). Other versions of the Type 91 had warheads as large as 713 pounds but well short of 1,000 pounds; even the midget subs’ Type 91 torpedoes had warheads that were 722 pounds. The 1,000-pound warhead report may not be accurate, but certainly suggests a big torpedo.
Some analysis also suggests that one of the many torpedoes that hit battleship Oklahoma (BB-37) caused damage consistent with a torpedo bigger than an aerial version. However, given how many torpedoes hit Oklahoma (at least five, the Japanese claimed nine, and the number is probably somewhere in between), including when she was already capsizing, I don’t know if that analysis is completely convincing.
Much of the possible evidence of a midget sub attack on Battleship Row is in one of the most famous photos of the battle, hiding in plain sight. The photo was taken by a Japanese rear seat gunner in a torpedo bomber just north of Ford Island looking back out over Battleship Row and up the Southeast Loch. In the photo, West Virginia (BB-48), Oklahoma, and California (BB-44) have already been hit by torpedoes, with shock waves radiating and oil gushing. More torpedo wakes are visible, and Arizona hasn’t blown up yet. Right in the middle of the photo is a black speck, roughly consistent with the size of a midget submarine conning tower and what might be interpreted as spray from the propellers of a small porpoising submarine having difficulty with depth control (to be expected after firing two heavy torpedoes).
Most historians and analysts dismiss the black speck and possible spray as film anomalies, smudges, a loose buoy, or even antiaircraft fire (and note that the “rooster tails” cast no shadow). This may very well be true, but would be more convincing if the black speck and spray were not exactly where one would expect a midget submarine to be while trying to take a shot on Battleship Row. Mitigating against that, however, is that according to the plan the midget was not supposed to be launching torpedoes right at the height of the aerial torpedo attack.
Another data point is from Lauren Bruner, the second-to-last (and badly burned) Arizona survivor to make it off the ship, in discussion with medical personnel on hospital ship Solace (AH-5). Bruner claimed a Japanese midget sub tarried right under Solace, confirmed by a Solace diver, which prompted the commanding officer of Solace to move the ship. Hiding under a hospital ship would seem like a rather smart move, since the Japanese did not attack it. At that time, Bruner was in and out of morphine-induced hallucinations, so his recollection may be suspect. However, the log of the battleship Maryland (BB-46) records that at 1051 Solace reported sighting a submarine. Solace’s action report does not mention a sighting, however.
So, the “alternative” scenario is that a second midget made it into the harbor (plausible given how long the “gate” was left open) and executed an attack on Battleship Row, with one torpedo hitting Oklahoma and the other an apparent dud. The midget then worked its way around the north side of Ford Island (and under Solace) and eventually wound up in relatively isolated West Loch, where the crew made the last radio transmissions before scuttling the midget and themselves. The scuttled midget then remained on the bottom until the May 1944 West Loch disaster, a massive ammunition explosion that sank several tank landing ships (LSTs), killed 163, and was one of the most tightly held secrets of the war (and for many years afterwards).
This alternate theory postulates that the midget was scooped up along with other debris from the disaster, for which records were poorly kept (even the casualty count from the West Loch explosion and fire is suspect, i.e., too low), and then dumped. Under this theory, the “three-piece midget” is the second midget that made it into the harbor. This theory, however, leaves unexplained the two torpedoes fired at St. Louis; that report seems pretty solid, but it wouldn’t be the first or last time some phenomenon was mistaken for a torpedo wake. It also doesn’t explain the Japanese body (with a sword strapped to his back, i.e., probably not an aviator) that washed ashore on 12 December just west of the Pearl Harbor entrance.
In 1956, Naval Intelligence Officer Captain Roger Pineau (then working for Samuel Eliot Morison, and also the coauthor of Rear Admiral Eddie Layton’s autobiography) wrote a letter to a Life magazine writer that around 1950–51 a wreck of a midget submarine was located at the entrance to Pearl Harbor west of the port-hand sea buoy. By order of the commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, that midget wreck was raised and dumped further out at sea past the three-mile limit (approximately where the “three-piece midget” rests now). It is not inconceivable that that midget could have been raised from West Loch in 1945 and dumped, only to be found again in 1950–51, then raised and dumped again, except that possible West Loch debris was originally dumped farther out and not right outside the harbor entrance.
Assessing all the facts, I find the more plausible scenario to be that the “three-piece midget” (probably HA-16, also known as I-16 tou or Yokoyama) approaching from the southwest never made it into the harbor. Instead, HA-16 waited outside to the southwest and fired both torpedoes at St. Louis as she exited the harbor, which hit the reef west of the entrance. Then, possibly depth charged, unable to navigate, and running out of air, HA-16 made the last radio transmissions before scuttling herself. The crew may have tried to save themselves (although the mission had a low probability of survival, these were not kamikaze pilots). This scenario fits the facts.
As intriguing as the Battleship Row midget scenario is, it is far more complex, and requires more assumptions, and is therefore somewhat less plausible. (Although I have to admit that the enlargement of the black speck in the photo sure looks a lot like a midget sub.) I suspect that this historical controversy will continue.
Afterward (You Can’t Make This Stuff Up)
Lieutenant William Outerbridge was awarded a Navy Cross for his actions in command of Ward on the morning of 7 December 1941. In September 1942, in a routine change of command, recently promoted Lieutenant Commander Outerbridge was relieved of command of Ward. Outerbridge drove a desk in the office of the chief of naval transportation in Washington, DC, before being given a plumb command, the newly commissioned Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, O’Brien (DD-725) in June 1944, just in time for O’Brien to shell German positions on D-Day of the Normandy landings. After operations against the Germans, O’Brien and Outerbridge transferred to the Pacific.
In the meantime, Ward was subsequently converted to a fast transport, capable of carrying about 200 troops, and redesignated APD-16 in February 1943. The 4-inch/50-caliber No. 3 gun (which fired the second shot that hit and sank the Japanese midget submarine) was removed from the ship during the conversion. Some accounts indicate the No. 1 gun remained onboard, but other accounts I have recently seen, which seem more reliable, indicate that all four of the 4-inch guns were removed and replaced by more modern dual-purpose (antiair and antisurface) 3-inch guns. The No. 3 gun was preserved due to its historic significance, and as a result of an intense lobbying effort by the Minnesota congressional delegation, was loaned to the state of Minnesota, where most of the enlisted crew came from. It remains on outdoor display just west of the Veterans Service Building in Saint Paul, Minnesota. What may have happened to the No. 1 gun does not appear to be recorded.
Ward earned nine battle stars as a destroyer and fast transport during World War II. Her actions included the dangerous landing of Army Rangers on Dinagat Island at the entrance to Leyte Gulf, in rough seas and without air cover, in the opening move of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944. In December 1944, Ward carried Army troops from Leyte Gulf to Ormoc Bay (on the opposite side of Leyte) after the Army advance across Leyte bogged down. The 70-ship naval task force in Ormoc Bay came under concerted Japanese kamikaze (suicide plane) attack on 7 December 1944. Ward was hit by a kamikaze (a twin-engine “Betty” bomber) off the Philippines. The commanding officer of Ward at the time was Lieutenant Richard Farwell, who as an ensign had been the assistant engineering officer under Outerbridge during the sinking of the Japanese midget submarine at Pearl Harbor. He had been onboard Ward ever since.
With the fire out of control, and no way to confirm whether the forward ammunition magazine had been flooded (if not, the ship was at risk of blowing up at any moment), Farwell ordered the crew to abandon ship (which they did reluctantly), but the ship did not sink. However, the task force commander, Rear Admiral Arthur Struble (who would later command the Inchon landings in the Korean War) decided that trying to tow the damaged ship a long way back to Leyte, under the continuing air attack, was too risky to other ships, so he gave the order to scuttle Ward with gunfire.
The closest ship was O’Brien, still commanded by Commander Outerbridge, the former skipper of Ward. After the crew of Ward had been evacuated from the ship, amazingly with no loss of life given the severity of damage, Outerbridge gave the order to open fire on his former command, with Farwell at his side. The first salvo detonated the after magazine, and Ward blew up and sank.
On 1 December 2017, the research vessel RV Petrel, owned by the late Paul Allen and under the direction of Mission Director Robert Kraft, located Ward at a depth of 700 feet and conducted detailed underwater survey, providing the data to Naval History and Heritage Command at no cost to the U.S. Navy.
After a change of command, O’Brien was hit by a kamikaze off Okinawa on 27 March 1945. Although 50 men were killed and 76 wounded, the crew was able to save the badly damaged ship, which subsequently saw combat service in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and was decommissioned in 1972.
Sources include: The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor: The Rediscovery and Archaeology of Japan’s Top Secret Midget Submarines of World War II, by James Delgado et al.: Texas A&M University Press, 2016; History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Vol. III, Rising Sun in the Pacific: 1931–April 1942, by Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison: Little Brown and Co., 1958; Second to Last to Leave the USS Arizona: The Lauren F. Bruner Story, by Edward J. McGrath and Craig O. Thompson: RMR Publishing, 2017; “And I Was There”: Pearl Harbor and Midway—Breaking the Secrets, by Rear Admiral Edwin T. Layton, USN (Ret.) with Captain Roger Pineau, USNR (Ret.) and John Costello: Konecky and Konecky, 1985; Sunday in Hell: Pearl Harbor Minute by Minute, by Bill McWilliams: Open Road Integrated Media, 2011; Pearl Harbor, by H. P. Wilmott: Cassell & Co, 2001; Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor, by Robert Stinnett: The Free Press, 2000; At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor, by Gordon Prange: Penguin, 1981, 1991; USS Ward Fires First Shot in WWII, by Lieutenant Commander Arnold S. Lott, USN (Ret.) and Robert F. Sumrall, HTC, USNR: First Shot Naval Vets, 2004.
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