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K​eep America Alert






In 2016, for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a photograph, taken by a Japanese pilot during the attack on Pearl Harbor was released into the public domain. That photograph (below), reveals a Japanese midget submarine located in the Main Channel at Pearl Harbor just NE of Battleship Row. All photographs and official records used on this page were researched from materials previously released by the US government and all may be found in the public domain.  

On 7 December 1941, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by both naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. Military records show that Japan's sea forces were led by five midget submarines that were each carried aboard Japanese I Class Submarines (mother boat) from Japan to just outside of Pearl Harbor. From both U.S. and Japanese military records, they account for five mother subs I-16, I-18, I-20, I-22, and I-24. The midget subs were HA Class sub with their own letters and numbers of designation and for purposes of simplicity, they will be referred to according to their mother ship hull number. Records also confirm the five midget subs and their two occupants per sub. Each midget sub was a 78 1/2 foot long, cigar shape tube, and each carried two, 1,000-pound torpedoes that launched from the nose of the sub. 


Before daybreak of December 7th, just outside of Pearl Harbor, all five midget subs were launched from their mother sub. They were to enter the harbor while four of the subs were to lye-in-wait until after the attack had started then torpedo the ships trying to escape the raid thence blocking up the harbor entrance. Japanese military records reveal that submarines I-68 and I-69 were ordered to lay off the entrance to Pearl Harbor to rescue stranded midget submarine crews. Those records also show at 0042, the I-16 mother sub launched her midget sub about seven miles SSW of the harbor's entrance. By 0333, all 5 midget subs had been successfully launched from their carrier sub. 

Due to mechanical failure, the midget sub-I-24 is unable to navigate and fails to enter the Harbor and she flounders. The sub eventually beaches on the east side of Oahu near Bellows Field and is captured by American military forces. From the I-24 midget sub, a map of Pearl Harbor (below), carried by both Japanese air and sea forces was discovered. The map shows on it the locations of military installations and ship mooring placements around Pearl Harbor. The map also plots a course to be followed by the I-16 midget sub. The first to enter the harbor, the I-16 continued north along the sea channel into the main channel and to the entrance of the southeast loch just across from Ford Island and Battleship Row. According to the map, I-16 was to fire her 2 torpedos into Battleship Row then continue the coarse plotted and exit back out of the harbor to the awaiting I-68 and I-69 submarines for their rescue if needed. 


According to a Congressional report by Admiral Nimitz, Commander of the Pacific Fleet following the attack, the I-16 midget sub was successful in breaching the entrance to Pearl Harbor and following the plotted course into Battleship Row where she launched her two, 1,000-pound torpedos. The Congressional report describes in a passage within the report of an unexploded torpedo with an explosive charge of 1,000 pounds was recovered at Pearl Harbor in the days following the December 7 attack. 

I-16 & USS Oklahoma BB-37

The Nimitz Congressional Report describes a sub-launched torpedo that was recovered at Pearl Harbor following the attack. There has been much speculation over which ship was struck by the sub's other torpedo. From the map (above), it shows that after the sub entered the harbor, it continued along its plotted course to near the entrance of the Southeast Loch and settled at about 400 yards distant off the port side of USS Oklahoma (see "I-16" at "0450" on the above map and see photo below). Had the I-16 fired her torpedo at USS West Virginia, moored directly behind Oklahoma, the sub would have had to have made a diagonal shot at about 500 yards distant from where she was located. In the photo (below), the sub is submerging after firing her first torpedo and is on the move to set up and launch a second torpedo (below, curved red line to I-16).

Conning Tower of Midget Sub Discovered

I-16 midget sub in Pearl Harbor

The photograph (above) was taken by a Japanese pilot at the onset of the attack. The flat-top dome (colored in red) is the sail/conning tower of a midget sub (above, 3 inset windows, at red/white arrows). Blown from the ship, is the debris in the water around the sub. As the debris rains down on the sub, she is moving forward leaving a disturbance just under the white caps of rolling waves after firing her first torpedo. The waves appear to be rolling over the backside of the sub, seen next to the debris (at yellow arrow), and forward of the 3 water sprays, the water sprays caused by the debris sinking. The sub is also diving and its cigar shape creates a vortex of the same shape in the water around the conning tower. Smoke is just visible from the torpedo strike on Oklahoma as it begins to rise up over her port side bow and also through her lower main mast "windows". Behind the debris are 2 whaleboats that also blew from the ship, 1 of the boats (at left) is underwater and its tether line may be wrapped around the conning tower of the sub. Just forward of the debris is a rubber raft also probably from Oaklahoma, some debris may be from West Virginia as both ships were struck almost simultaneously with torpedos. West Virginia was struck with an aerial torpedo (above at blue arrow). The blue arrow points to the area of the splash (white foam) where the torpedo entered the water. Its track (white foam) leads to West Virginia where smoke is already rising from the torpedo strike. There also may be another torpedo track to the right of the track at the blue arrow. Although it may very well be another aerial torpedo, the "track" does not hold up solid in the tremor waves as the track does at the blue arrow and it may be from the debris falling down into the water. The debris quickly sank and is not visible in any other photographs. Another aerial torpedo is also visible (green arrow) as it heads for USS California (center, far right). 

Midget sub sinks USS Oklahoma

From Japanese period artwork (above, left), shows a midget submarine firing a torpedo at USS Oklahoma. The sub-fired torpedo strike is celebrated by a tall water geyser. A water geyser from an aerial torpedo is about half that size. The ship's main mast (above, left, red arrow) displays the same as the main mast on USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7 (above, right, red arrow). The main mast on West Virginia, moored directly behind Oklahoma (above, right, red circle) shows to be a mast completely different in appearance than the main mast in the artwork. Other period Japanese artworks show the same mast as the Oklahoma shows on December 7.

Photographs show that a 500 lb. aerial torpedo may have struck first the West Virginia just a second or two before Oklahoma was struck by a 1,000-pound sub-launched torpedo. The water geyser from the West Virginia strike is receding (above at left arrow). The geyser from the Oklahoma midget sub strike appears to have just topped out and is receding also (above at right arrow). As reported in Oklahoma's Action Report of the Dec. 7 attack, it describes that the ship was struck by torpedos on the port side at frames 25, 35-40, and 115. Frame 115 is located at the port stern of the ship where the sub torpedo may have struck as seen in the photo above. The torpedo may have instead struck at the other frames being closer to the ship's midsection. Oklahoma's report reveals: "the ship was [first] struck by three torpedoes on the port side. The ship began to list to port immediately after the first hit [sub torpedo]. It heeled to angle of 45 degrees after the third hit. Two or three additional torpedo hits were felt. Great quantities of oil and water which covered the major portions of the weather decks were forced up by the explosions. The ship continued to heel rapidly and turned over through an angle of about 135 degrees in about eight to ten minutes." 


There has been much speculation that the USS Arizona was struck by a torpedo. According to the map found in the I-24 midget sub, it shows that from the position from where the first torpedo was launched at Oklahoma (at left, blue arrow), that the sub is to proceed about 600 yards north from there to about 100 yards off of Arizona's exposed bow (at left, red arrow). The supply ship USS Vestal was moored to the port side of Arizona with about 100 feet of Arizona's bow exposed to the channel. Seaman 1st class Donald Stratton was on the Arizona during the attack, directing anti-aircraft guns at incoming planes. Don states that he saw a torpedo headed right towards the ship. According to the map, the I-16 was to fire its second torpedo at the Battleship Arizona. In the photo (below), it shows the I-16 about 100 yards off the port bow of the ship. The sub is firing her second torpedo. The nose of the sub is visible and it may be rocking up and down from the force of the torpedo launch and tremor waves (below at red arrows). 

Midget sub discovered in Pearl Harbor torpedo's USS Arizona

The booklet Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial: A Pictoral History, was published in 1977 and approved by the National Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Inc. The booklet reveals in a photo the nose of a midget sub breaching the water's surface and firing a torpedo at the USS Arizona in Battleship Row (above). The torpedo failed to detonate upon impact and was later recovered by the U.S. Navy following the attack. The wake caused by the sub at the point of launch appears to be much wider and more violent than a wake caused by an aerial torpedo entering the water. The line seen drawn follows over the torpedo track and up to the point of impact and over Arizona's bow to show that the ship was struck by a dud torpedo. What appears as a small plumb of "smoke" at the point of impact of Arizona's bow, is oil. That same size and shape of oil plume can also be seen there in other photos taken at different times. From the USS Arizona's action report, Ensign J.D. Miller stated "I had gotten up at about 0745 and had started to dress when a short air raid alarm sounded...I felt one explosion near the ship which seemed to me like a no-load shot on No. 2 Catapult. However, it was followed by two more explosions." A plane sat on top of the catapult and usually went off the port side. It is probable that the "no-load shot" sound from a catapult was the 1,000-pound torpedo dud slamming into the end of the ship's bow. Note the other explosions just forward, starboard, and port sides of Arizona (above photo) that Ensign Miller states also to have heard seconds after hearing the "no-load shot". Had the torpedo exploded, the Japanese would show within their artwork of the midget sub attack, a second large water geyser from their two sub-launched torpedos into Battleship Row, but they do not as the second torpedo was a dud. 

From period Japanese artwork (at left), it does not represent the true mooring positions of the battleships on 7 December. It shows only the USS Oklahoma BB-37 (at left), USS Arizona BB-39 (center), and USS West Virginia BB-48 (at right). According to the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Report, the West Virginia sustained 7 aerial torpedo strikes and sunk down upright. In the picture, a torpedo track represents that aerial torpedos sunk the West Virginia beneath the harbor waves with 106 men. At center, the Arizona was sunk from bomb strikes. The sinking of Arizona is represented by   

bomber planes circling above the ship with bombs exploding on the ship. The Japanese did not show in their artwork a torpedo track in the sinking of the Arizona. Following the attack, Japanese airplane pilots were upset that the midget sub(s) were receiving credit for sinking Arizona as the pilots knew she was sunk from their aerial bombs and not torpedos, 1,177 men went down with the ship when the 1 kiloton explosion detonated. USS Oklahoma (at far left) shows to be instantly listing from the sub-launched torpedo strike (represented by the tall geyser). An aerial torpedo track appears to the left of the sub also as the sub breaches the surface of the water and fires a torpedo into Oklahoma, its periscope directly behind causing the 4th wake. Oklahoma received both sub-launched and aerial torpedo hits and according to her action report of Dec. 7, she rolled over beneath the harbor's waves in about 8 -10 minutes with over 400 men trapped inside her hull. Although some men were rescued, those that remained trapped alive continued for days pounding on the hull for rescue. That rescue proved impossible and 429 men went down with the USS Oklahoma.

The I-16 Midget Sub Discovered in Main Channel near Aiea Bay 

Midget Sub I-16 Discovered in Pearl Harbor

The above picture taken by another Japanese pilot shows a Japanese "Kate" torpedo-bomber plane just north-east of Battleship Row. Just in front of the plane's left wing is the midget sub-I-16 (in red circle). A water contrail emits from the sub's propeller and she is on the move counterclockwise around Ford Island as is plotted on the map. In the photo, the Japanese choreographed certain aspects of the attack and this was one of those choreographed shots showing a Japanese bomber plane, a Japanese midget sub, and battleship row burning. (see the I-16 sub below.) 

I-16 & USS Arizona Survivor

In 2008, as secretary for the Colorado Pearl Harbor Survivors, I wrote up an article for our chapter's newsletter about seaman 1st class Don Stratton. He served aboard the USS Arizona and lived just outside of town and I stopped in and spoke with him. A question that I asked him was regarding his witnessing a torpedo headed for Arizona on Dec. 7. During the attack, Don was directing the AA guns at the incoming planes. Arizona was hit by one sub-launched torpedo and aerial bombs. He describes how one of the bombs lit off a black powder magazine below decks causing a massive explosion! Just a handful of men in these gun directors miraculously survived the blast, all of them badly burned when her forward magazine exploded as a result of a modified, armor-piercing bomb. The massive explosion, caused by ammunition powder, aviation gasoline, and fuel oil, killed almost everyone in the forward two-thirds of the ship.

As there was no definitive proof that any aerial torpedos were launched at the Battleship, I asked him what details he recalled about the torpedo he saw headed for Arizona. He replied, "I saw from my vantage point (forward mast) torpedo wakes forward from where I was at headed right for the ship (USS Arizona)."  The ship Vestal was moored port side to port side and outboard of Arizona. From Vestals Action Report of Dec. 7, it states that "A torpedo was seen to pass astern of VESTAL and strike ARIZONA, whose bow extended about 100 feet beyond VESTAL's stern."  Since my conversation with Don, it has been discovered that there was a torpedo fired at the Arizona from a midget sub. The torpedo track was forward from where he was stationed as it struck against the port side of the ship's bow and fizzled. At about that same time and as explosions were lighting off in the water around the ship, a 1 kiloton explosion erupted just minutes later and blew the bow off from the ship and she began to sink. The ship is still at rest there with much of her crew at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

According to the Nimitz Congressional report, a torpedo with a 1,000-pound warhead was found in Battleship Row, the same torpedo that Don Stratton and those aboard the Vestal had witnessed. That torpedo can be seen in the above photo as it is launched from the midget sub. 

Don Stratton claims that he saw 2 torpedo tracks together; 1 headed for Arizona, and 1 headed for Vestal. Arnold "Max" Bauer a Machinists Mate aboard USS Vestal was standing on the quarter-deck on the starboard side of the ship. Max explains that he saw a torpedo headed for his ship and that he ran across the deck to the other side (port side) of the ship to avoid the explosion. In the photo (below), there shows what possibly may be another torpedo that Max and Don both saw. In the photograph and outlined in blue, there appears to be an aerial torpedo splash and track that has mostly dissipated. The track appears to have started out headed for Arizona's bow. The track begins to slightly bow and then curves hard (at white arrow) and appears to head into the back end of West Virginia. USS Vestal's Action Report states the following: "3" anti-aircraft and after machine gun both fired at plane which released torpedo at Arizona..." The force from explosions from West Virginia's port side (below at white lines) may have been pushing the water at the aerial torpedo intended for Arizona (outlined in blue). Possibly the force from those explosions "bumped" the torpedo from its initial course and it then turned toward the West Virginia. West Virginia's official damage report reveals that its "rudder was knocked off by a torpedo." Note the plumes of smoke rising just off the stern of the West Virginia in the area of its rudder. 

And as the harbor waters were pumped out of the sunken West Virginia, salvage crews began to work through compartments, removing the remains of 66 trapped sailors. Marks on a bulkhead in one compartment indicated three sailors survived there until December 23. With access to food and water, they held on until the breathable air ran out.

Don Stratton - Witness to both the sub and aerial torpedos launched  at USS Arizona.

Arnold "Max" Bauer - USS Vestal. Witness to an aerial torpedo launched at USS Arizona.

(Photo above left and right): Sub launched torpedo (dud) from midget sub (red arrow). Probable aerial torpedo strike on West Virginia intended for Arizona (blue outline). The force from explosions moving water (white lines). Witness to aerial torpedo vantage point of Max Bauer from USS Vestal's starboard side deck (yellow arrow). Witness to sub-launched and aerial torpedos vantage point of Don Stratton from high up in USS Arizona's director in forward mass (green arrow). 


Namesake - Vestal in ancient Rome, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being were regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of the Holy Roman Empire.

Moored outboard of the USS Arizona, USS Vestal's Action Report states "ARIZONA was also being bombed, and her forward magazines blew up soon after the torpedo hit was observed. This explosion started fires aft and amidships on VESTAL. Fuel oil on the water between the ships was ignited. The bombs were probably of the armor-piercing type, 16 inches in diameter, weight 1575 lbs." Smoke billows up from the USS Vestal (above photo, left, bottom right corner at arrow). The Action Report also describes that the tug Hoga, pulled VESTAL clear of the Arizona and she got underway, that the ship was on fire in several places by then and the fires gave off a great deal of smoke. That "great deal of smoke" is seen in the photo above where Vestal is anchored in Aiea Bay. (above, left, and right photos). 

Following the attack, the action report from USS Vestal reports: "Identified dead - Six. Unidentified dead - Three, one from 3" anti-aircraft gun platform and two from stern of Vestal. These men may have been either Arizona personnel blown over by magazine blast or members of Vestal after gun crews; they were burned beyond recognition. Missing - seven. Hospitalized - Nineteen. About twenty per cent of those hospitalized are seriously injured suffering primarily from burns and fractures."

Commander of the USS Vestal, Cassin Young, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on Dec. 7. Fifteen minutes into the attack, at about 08:10 am, a bomb penetrated Arizona's decks and lit off a million pounds of black powder below. Like a volcanic eruption, the forward part of the battleship exploded, and the concussion from the explosion literally cleared Vestal's deck. It blew Vestal's gunners overboard, everything, including Cdr. Young who had taken personal command of the 

3-inch antiaircraft guns. The commander swam back to the ship through the igniting fires on the waters, however, and countermanded an abandon ship order that someone had given, coolly saying, "Lads, we're getting this ship underway." And they did. With holes blown through the ship from armor-piercing bomb hits, the ship was both burning and taking on water and they sailed it out of the inferno and anchored her at Aiea Bay and he saved his ship. 

"The conduct of all officers and enlisted personnel was exemplary and of such high order that I would especially desire to have them with me in future engagements. - C. Young" 

John W. Finn

Congressional Medal of Honor

December 7, 1941, NAS Kaneohe Bay

                                     THE HIGHEST IN HONOR

                                                                                              Congressional Medal of Honor

                                                                                    December 7, 1941,  Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
















Japanese Carrier Group Leader Fuchida - "Tora, Tora, Tora"

A Nakajima B5N2 type 97 carrier attack bomber, also known as a Kate torpedo-bomber (above) is from the above photos. As the image is darkened, some of the painted features on the plane appear. It is unclear exactly what all of the letters and numbers are on the tail of the plane. The last number shows to be a number "1". It is likely that this plane is serial # AI-301, with Cdr. Mitsuo Fuchida (observer), Lieut. Mitsuo Matsuzaki (pilot), and Radioman-Gunner PO1c Tokunobu Mizuki, aboard. They are viewing the I-16 midget sub just north-east of Battleship Row after the sub fired her two torpedos. Cdr. Fuchida led 183 planes in the first wave of attacks on Pearl Harbor. At 0749 local time, his Kate torpedo bomber arrived over Pearl Harbor and he gave the now-famous signal ‘Tora, Tora, Tora,’ to the carrier Akagi. AI-301 has three horizontal stripes on its tail, and three verticle stripes around the fuselage just forward of the tail. The three stripes represent the plane of the carrier group leader. Within the photo, the stripes on the tail are blown out from the glare and are mostly not visible. There are two stripes visible around the fuselage (above, yellow arrows) with a wider third stripe in-between the two narrow stripes. There also appears to be a person in the third cockpit seat in the rear of the plane (above, at red arrow). The carrier leader's plane carried a pilot and 2 passengers, Commander Fuchida sat in the 2nd cockpit seat as an observer. In the 3rd seat was Radioman-Gunner Mizuki. The photo (above, top left) shows the interior of a Kate torpedo-bomber and the third cockpit seat (at red arrow). The seat is located in the rear, left side of the aircraft. A machine gun is to the right of the seat and the radio is located forward of the machine gun with its own seat. The figure that appears in the 3rd seat is seen sitting on the left side of the aircraft and next to the gun. That would be Radioman-Gunner Mizuki who radioed Cdr. Fuchida's message "Tora, Tora, Tora." Cdr. Fuchida and Lieut Mitsuo were in the two seats forward and are not visible in the picture.                                                                                                                                                  

The photograph (at right) was titled by officials: Aerial photograph,​ taken by a Japanese observer on a torpedo bomber in the first wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor]. At the white arrow, it shows the water geyser from the midget sub torpedo strike on USS Oklahoma. At the red arrow, it shows the splash of the debris blown from the ship that is not visible in other photographs. This photo was taken by an observer from a torpedo bomber as the title states. Commander Fuchida was an observer, not a professional photographer. This may have been taken by him as it is not clear who else it may have been so early on in the attack. Note in the photo (top left), the reflection in the window of what appears to be a flight suit. This photo can be viewed in larger and sharper detail at the Library of Congress. The photo (below, right) is additional Japanese period artwork made of the attack. It shows the splashing of the debris down on the sub (at red arrows) and possibly the artwork was made from the photo above it.

The first wave of planes consisted of 183 fighters, bombers, and torpedo bombers that Cdr. Fuchida led to Pearl Harbor. Within the photos taken of the first strikes using torpedos in Battleship Row, they show there to be only 4 or 5 Japanese planes in the air. At least 2 of those planes were photographing the scene and 2 planes each dropped an aerial torpedo (1 at West Virginia and 1 at California). Cdr. Fuchida was an observer in his plane and this appears to have been another choreographed shot.


Remember Pearl Harbor

"And as the black smoke billowed over Pearl Harbor, over 3,500 people counted dead or wounded, being shot or blown up, many drowned or were cremated within the intense fires around the harbor. In the days following the attack, the sound of tapping from men trapped within the dark and sunken ship hulls echoed methodically through the harbor as their ship above them burned...and then smoldered...until there was no more oxygen left to breath did the tapping stop.

And through the smoke-filled sky burned the rising sun over Pearl Harbor and retreated skyward hundreds of steel horses and his name that road upon them was death."





Memorial service for men killed during the Japanese attack on NAS Kaneohe

Burial by American forces of Japanese lieutenant killed in Pearl Harbor attack.


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