2009: Hawaiian Seas Yield Remains of WWII Japanese Super-Sub


“[the I-201 Super-Sub] was nothing like anybody had in the Second World War. It had a streamlined body and conning tower and retractable gun.” 

The said Japanese super-sub had been found off the coast of Hawaii four years ago – in 2009. The said statement above was from the mouth of Dr. Hans Van Tillburg who further said that the super-sub looked more like a Cold War war craft than an underwater war vessel for World War II. It was clearly built for ‘high speed underwater travel’.

Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory

This super-sub’s sister vessel, the I-401, was found in 2005. The said sub was able to carry a load of 144 people within a distance of 37,000 miles. The I-401 was three times larger than any modern submarines.

Japan had built these super-subs to carry an attack against continental US way back in WWII. As the war was progressing, Japan realized it was weak when it came to surface ships. So the country, which was part of the Axis power, decided to spend all its efforts in building submarines, concentrating on making aircraft carriers that were based underwater.

Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory

To be able to make the mission possible, the ships used three Aichi light bombers each one capable of carrying 800-kilogram bomb. After completing their mission, the bombers returned to the submarines landing on water employing floats.

Japan had planned on using the superior model of the two super-subs it made, the I-201, to launch a bacteriology attack on US. Bacteriological weapons of rats plagued with the plague and insects carrying various infectious diseases like cholera, typhus and even dengue fever were loaded in an aircraft.

Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory

However, before it could do the attack, America had already launched a similar attack on the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima – the atomic bomb attack – that had Japan surrender to the Allies.

These two subs were among the crafts Japan handed over US when they raised the white flag in 1945. However, they were deliberately sunk in 1946 after the Soviets demanded on inspecting them. The reason behind the deed was – the US was able to inspect the technology Japan used in building the submarines and did not want those ‘technological secrets’ falling into the hands of its former WWII ally.

Based on the super-subs, Japan had been the pioneer in the development of advanced aerial attack technology using submarines. The Cold war period, later, was witness to the development of the sea-to-air cruise missile. Currently, US Navy is developing drones launched by submarines while the latter are underwater.

-Article based from Gizmodo and Daily Mail 

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE