Daily Event for April 7, 2015

The Japanese submarine I-2 was an I-1 (J1) class boat over 300' in length built at Kawasaki in Kobe, Japan. At over 1,900 tons (empty) this class of submarines was built from a design based on the German cruiser boats. She was launched on Feb. 23, 1925 as submarine #75, but was renamed I-2 later in the year. In the 1930's I-2 was involved in Japan's war in China as a transport for troops and supplies. Later she was relegated to training duty.

She received many modifications and was refit to more modern specifications on several occasions, including in late 1939. When Japan decided to go to war with the United States and Great Britain, I-2 was at the forefront. She supported the attack on Pearl Harbor, but was not one of the boats that launched the midget submarine attack. She was used to patrol between Oahu and Kauai. She found no targets or at least did not attack any ships, but remained in the waters near Hawaii until early January. She even shelled Maui in late December.

She moved to the Indian Ocean to attack merchant shipping, but only managed to sink one ship, the British freighter Chilka of 4,360 tons. I-2 also supported the Japanese attacks against Ceylon, even trying to enter Trincomalee, but British patrol boats sighted by her commander prevented him from entering.

From there I-2 was used almost exclusively as a supply boat. She was involved in the invasion of the Aleutian Islands (a diversionary attack to cover the attack on Midway) and later the evacuation of the Aleutians. Then she supported the re supply of the Japanese garrisons at Guadalcanal where she made eight supply runs under very dangerous conditions. I-2 was also there to aide in the evacuation of Guadalcanal. After this it was back to the cold waters in the North Pacific to evacuate Kiska. She was nearly sunk on one of the voyages, but again escaped with little damage. Over her career I-2 had several close calls, but the men in her must have been quite tenacious as they never gave up.

As with most Japanese warships and submarines the grim reaper would come calling before the war ended. In fact by Feb. of 1943 the other three boats in her class had already been destroyed. On Dec. 20, 1943 Lt. Commander Kazuo Yamaguchi took command of I-2 and the boat was assigned a new supply duty, New Guinea. Based at Truk, I-2 sailed on Mar. 26, 1944 for her first supply run to Rabaul, New Britain. She arrived at Kimbe Bay, New Britain on Apr. 2nd and discharged her cargo. She moved to Rabaul the same day and embarked a number of personnel and some material. I-2 left Rabaul at about 1800 on Apr. 4th. bound for Truk. She was due to arrive at about 1300 on Apr. 11th. The voyage is a little less than 1,000 miles, but I-2 did not even make it out of the Bismarck Sea before the U.S. Navy located her.

On April 7, 1944 USS Saufley DD-465 and DESDIV 43 were conducting a patrol in the waters south of Mussau and Emirau Islands when at 0630 (ship time) Saufley picked up a sound contact about 54 miles west of New Hanover Island. The contact was 1,350 yards, 035° true from the ship. The commanding officer, Lt. Commander Dale E. Cochran, USN, ordered a depth charge attack. A pattern of nine charges were dropped at 0645. A second pattern of nine were dropped at 0715 and at 0723 the ship felt two underwater explosions. The ships searched the area, but contact was not reestablished with the target. At 1120 a large oil slick was sighted about four miles from the location of the last depth charge attack. Samples were taken and it was determined that the oil was diesel fuel. Before the sun went down oil was seen to cover an area 14 miles long and ¾ of a mile wide. The search continued until 1945 when they had to break off to refuel. The only evidence of a kill came from the diesel oil on the water, no other debris was reportedly recovered. It is believed that this was the end of I-2 and the one hundred and ten people in her.

The submarine had been in service since 1926 and in combat in the 1930's. She was at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 and served in every theatre of war that the Japanese Empire was involved in from the Aleutians to the Indian Ocean. This included the dangerous missions to Guadalcanal. She had been bombed by aircraft, shelled by ships, grounded, depth charged and even sunk by USS Wahoo SS-238 (well they thought they had sunk her, but the torpedoes missed). As an offensive weapon she was not a success, she had only one confirmed combat victory, but had claimed two others. She had more than a dozen commanders and probably hundreds of crewmen over her long career. Her crew may even have considered her to be a lucky boat, and taking into account all that she had been through, they would have been justified in that thought.

Since there were no survivors and the wreck has not been found one can not know what caused her to sink, but it would be interesting to find out. The lack of floating debris indicates that there was not a direct hit, but the diesel leak suggests some damage had been done. If she was taking on water and had her equipment damaged perhaps she could not blow her tanks and she sank to the depths. This class had a maximum diving depth of 260 feet, the ocean in that area is between 6,000 and over 8,000 feet deep. It is possible she could have survived up to 500 feet, but not much more than that. Only those who went down in her will likely ever know.
© 2015 Michael W. Pocock