Legendary Japanese Submarine Located!

Legendary Japanese Submarine Located!
Public Domain

The World War II-era Japanese submarine was the most advanced of its day.

A mystery of the seas has been solved! After more than fifty years, a Japanese “super submarine” that was lost at sea in 1946 has been found off of the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

An Underwater Aircraft Carrier

The submarine, designated I-400, was the largest and most advanced of it’s day. Where normal subs during and after World War II were entirely ship hunters, designed to clandescently find and sink enemy ships at port or at sea, the I-400 was a behemoth able to launch bomber aircrafts, essentially making the sub a submerged aircraft carrier.

The sub carried three Aichi M6A type aircrafts, each armed with an 1,800 pound bomb. These aircrafts, which were pontoon-style seaplanes with a top speed of 295 mph and a maximum range of more than 600 miles, could be launched within 7 minutes of sub surfacing.

An Aichi M6A type aircraft carried by the I400 submarine – Credit: Public Domain

Add to this that the sub itself could circumnavigate the earth one-and-a-half times without needed to refuel, and you have a formidable, tactical weapon. Eventually, subs like these would pave the way for the nuclear ballistic missile subs that were the ultimate threat of the Cold War’s nuclear arms race.

The I-400 class of submarines weren’t introduced into the Japanese navy until 1944, and relatively few were launched before the Japanese capitulation in September of 1945. Had the Japanese introduced them earlier, or had had the capacity to build more of them sooner, the fortunes of war might have gone very much differently.

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Spoils of War

This particular I-400 was actually captured by US forces in the final days of the war, and was deliberately sunk in 1946. The US had several Japanese submarines, a total of five including the I-400, that had been captured during various altercations, at Pearl Harbor for inspection. With the Cold War already warming up at the peace talks that followed the war, the US knew that any insight into this ground-breaking submarine’s technology could become a major tactical advantage in the decades that followed the war.

US Navy personnel inspecting the gun of I-400 – Credit: Public Domain

However, as part of the peace talk arrangements, Russia were given access to all Japanese wartime weapons technology. Under this arrangement, the Russians laid claim to the captured subs. The United States government were unwilling to hand over the innovative sub to their once ally, now adversary, and instead scuttled the sub in the deep waters off of Oahu. Records were kept limited, and the US officials claimed ignorance, stating that they didn’t know where the ships in question had disappeared to.

Ever since, the location of the I-400 has been a mystery.

Finding the I-400 Again

The University of Hawaii runs a program called the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, in collaboration with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that, with their own words, has had the I-400 on their “must find” list for quite some time. They had already been successful in location three of the other subs scuttled at the same time, so hopes were high.

However, the sub was located much closer to land that was expected, based on the research done by the team. The sub was ultimately located in 2013, but the announcement was only made now, after the find had been confirmed.

Not for Scuba Divers

Unfortunately, the sub rests at 2,300 feet of water, so it is not exactly as if it will become a new wreck for Hawaiian scuba divers to explore.

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However, finding the sub itself closes the chapter on a major undersea mystery, and opens up a wealth of knowledge for everyone, scuba divers or not, to enjoy.

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