This local story about the finding
of a WWII-era sunken Japanese submarine off the coast of
O’ahu is starting to get national attention so maybe it will
be of some interest to you. It seems that near the end of World
War II, the Japanese built three huge submarines capable of
carrying, launching, and recovering aircraft.
By huge I mean about 400 ft. long (about 122m). By
comparison, a present day Virginia class attack
submarine such as the
USS Springfield SSN 774, is only 377 ft. (about
114m) long. While it is true that the current Ohio
class ballistic missile submarines, at 560 ft. (about 171m),
are longer, you have to remember we are talking about 1940s
technology here. Fully loaded with fuel, these “Sensuikan
Toku” class of diesel/electric submarines could sail
one-and-a-half times around the world without refueling.
Each of these submarines held three torpedo-bomber
aircraft with enough parts to build a fourth. The aircraft
were hangered in a water tight compartment until made ready
for flight. Within seven minutes, the planes wings could be
unfolded, float pontoons attached as landing gear, and the
plane launched, via catapult (see the illustration
The original mission was to fly over the west coast of the
US and drop rats/insects infected with bubonic plague,
cholera, dengue fever, and typhus. This mission was changed to a
secondary target of the Panama Canal. This, in turn, was changed to a third target closer to the Home Islands.
Two of these submarines were captured at sea, a week after
the Japanese surrender in 1945. These two, along with some
other captured Japanese submarines were sent to Pearl Harbor
for evaluation. While there, our allies the Soviet Union
decided they also wanted to study these subs. Things being
what they were at that time, the US decided to sink the subs
off the coast rather than let the Russians have a look.
There they rested until a University of Hawai’i research
submarine, Pices, came upon the monster
submarine last week Thursday (see the photo below).
For more information on these leviathans follow this link