The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor

The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor

The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor

The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor

Synopsis

In the pre-dawn darkness of December 7, 1941, five Imperial Japanese Navy submarines surfaced off the coast of Oahu. Secured to the decks of these vessels were secret weapons to be deployed for the first time in modern warfare: two-man midget submarines, intended to enter Pearl Harbor without being detected and torpedo the US Navy battleships lying at anchor there. None of them would return from their mission.

“One of the last remaining and persistent mysteries of the Pearl Harbor attack is that of the Japanese Midget Submarines. It is a fascinating story of innovation, courage, secrets, and failed expectations. And it is not only a story of the morning hours of December 7, but of the years before to develop these weapons and the years after, where they were deployed in the great Pacific War and how they fared as weapons of war.”

These words by Daniel J. Basta, from the foreword of this work, capture both the essence and the impact of The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor. James P. Delgado and his coauthors have worked on the story of these incredible craft for decades. They combed the records of the US Navy and the recollections of its veterans as well as Japanese, Australian, and British archives in order to uncover the truth. They have logged hours of direct observation and research on the midget subs in their final resting places, in some cases more than 1,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific. And in the end, they have woven a tapestry of scholarship, historical sleuthing, scientific insight, and good storytelling that will enthrall specialists and history enthusiasts alike.

Excerpt

ALTHOUGH UNDERSTANDING HISTORY IS SO VITAL TO UNDERSTAND ing our future, it is often difficult to draw attention to its meaning and lessons. But there are certain events and subjects that can and have drawn people to them. For a wide range of Americans, and others, there is a no more compelling event than the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. The mysteries surrounding how it happened, what happened, and the secret weapons that were involved continue to stimulate great interest in every generation since and will likely continue to stimulate the curiosity of future generations. One of the last remaining and persistent mysteries of the Pearl Harbor attack is that of the Japanese midget submarines. It is a fascinating story of innovation, courage, secrets, and failed expectations. And it is a story of not only the morning hours of December 7 but the years before, to develop these weapons, and the years after, where they were deployed in the great Pacific War, and how they fared as weapons of war.

This book contains many lessons worthy of contemplation: What were the key participants in the saga thinking? Who was making decisions? How was the Japanese Navy organized and operated, and in the end, how did desperation set in and affect people and events? Equally valuable to think about when reading this book is how researchers have carefully unraveled the story over many years, exploring to discover the lost submarines and assemble the physical evidence to complete the story. For those who seek to explore and discover, there are insights in how advanced technology, partners, and forensic archaeology work in unison.

I myself was involved in a few of the submersible expeditions to the Ward midget submarine outside of Pearl Harbor and thought I knew a lot about Japan’s top-secret midget submarines. Reading this book showed me how little I actually knew of the full story. The authors have brought together a heretofore unavailable body of information that is woven together in a blend of academic scholarship, good storytelling, and pointed insights that finally renders a full understanding of midget submarine aspects of the Pearl Harbor attack and their role in the greater war in the Pacific.

All mysteries are only unanswered questions in the absence of facts. This book resolves the mystery of these secret weapons and their use and, if read carefully, offers lessons that can be of value today. Just as Japan was not the only nation developing midget submarines in secret (many others also were), development of “secret weapons” continues apace today. These efforts are always wrestling with many of the same institutional, personal, technological, and political considerations that brought “Japan’s secret midget submarines” to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Daniel J. Basta

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