The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor: The Rediscovery and Archaeology
of Japan's Top-Secret Midget Submarines of World War II
by James P. Delgado, Terry Kerby, Hans K. Van Tilburg, Steven Price, Ole
Varmer, Maximilian D. Cremer, and Russell Matthews
Texas A&M University Press, 2016, 226 pages
Although this book contains many high-quality photographs and a professional
layout, it will not hold the interest of most readers. Maybe seven authors make
it impossible to put together an attention-grabbing narrative for an entire
book. Although the book does not specify how the authorship got divided up, most
likely each author got one chapter since there are seven chapters in total.
Two chapters, which make up about a quarter of the book, do not deal with "the
lost submarines of Pearl Harbor," which is the title of the book, but rather
discuss the history of Japanese midget submarines after the attack on Pearl
Harbor to the end of World War II. This long diversion even includes six pages on the
Japanese kaiten (human torpedo), which was not a midget submarine at all
but rather a modified Model 93 "Long Lance" torpedo steered by one man.
The Acknowledgments section at the front correctly states that Burl
Burlingame's book, Advance Force Pearl
Harbor (1992), "was the first and remains the definitive book on the
role of Japanese submarines in the Pearl Harbor attack" (p. IX). Whereas Burlingame's
many years of experience as a newspaper journalist resulted in a fascinating
story about the Japanese midget submarine attack at Pearl Harbor, The Lost
Submarines of Pearl Harbor lacks clear direction in its storyline and at
times has extremely technical details, such as those in Chapter 5 on "The
Ward Midget" and Chapter 6 on "The Three-Piece Midget," which make it
difficult to continue reading to the end. James Delgado, the first of seven
authors listed, has written a much more accessible book on a subject of naval
archeology, Kamikaze: History's Greatest Naval Disaster
(2010), but this book on the Pearl Harbor midget submarines falls far short in
making this technical subject interesting for the general reader.
All five Japanese Type A kō-hyōteki midget
submarines used in Pearl Harbor attack now have been located. Chapter 5 tells how
the last midget submarine was found in 2002. This midget submarine was
identified as the one sunk by the destroyer Ward (DD-139) by the shell
hole in the conning tower. The Ward's No. 3 gun hit the midget submarine's
about an hour before the Japanese aerial attack began on December 7, 1941. The authors summarize arguments to
support identification of the five different submarines but do not arrive at a
consensus. They also disagree on whether or not one of the midget submarines
entered the harbor and fired two torpedoes into Battleship Row.
The ten men who manned the five two-man midget submarines to attack Pearl Harbor
were designated as a tokubetsu kōgekitai or
abbreviated to tokkōtai (meaning special attack unit), since they had little chance of
surviving the attack even though they arranged to rendezvous after the attack
with the I-boats (larger submarines) that had carried them from Japan to Pearl
Harbor. They were the first tokkōtai members of the Pacific
War, which starting in October 1944 also included airmen in the Kamikaze Special
Attack Corps who made suicide attacks
against enemy ships.
Degradation in action.
Bow of the Ward midget in 2002 (p. 131).
Degradation in action.
Bow of the Ward midget in 2014 (p. 131).