I-400: Japan's Secret Aircraft Carrying Strike Submarine
|Henry Sakaida, Gary Nila & Koji Takaki|
|$19.95 from Specialty Press|
|Notes:||ISBN 978-0-9554268-1-0, 144 pages, 140 plus illustrations, Softcover|
Japan was probably the only nation that used submarine-borne aircraft in an offensive role. Though the damage they inflicted was insignificant, it was a valid concept. Isoroku Yamamoto envisioned very large submarines operating in small fleets and attacking major US coastal cities using aircraft carried on board these large submarines. So the word was given and the I-400 series of boats were constructed, albeit rather slowly. Originally 18 boats were authorized, but the lack of quality steel had that reduced to five and though construction was started on all five, only three were completed, the last one just a few days before the end of the war so it was never involved in ops.
The I-400 was launched in December of 1944 and her sister ship the I-401 a few months later. Now these were not the only aircraft carrying submarines as the I-14 and her sister ships were also able to carry planes, but the I-400 and I-401 were much larger. In fact, even with the low grade fuel oil they had to use, these huge submarines had a range of 40,000 miles.
But the submarines, as huge and powerful as they were, comprised only the means to get three planes to a target. These planes were the Aichi M6A1 Serian, aircraft so secretive that they had not been discovered by the Allies so not given an Allied code name. They were able to fly with floats or, for a faster flight, without them or they could be jettisoned in flight. By early 1945, when preparations were underway for their first mission, finding experienced float plane crews was not easy. Same with locating maintenance personnel.
Held in water tight hangars with the wings folded to their sides and the tail tip folded over, the Serian was able to have the engine artificially warmed up with coolant and oil prior to removal from the hangar and assembly. This reduced the time the sub would be on the surface prior to launch, a process that still was not super swift.
As luck would have it, the war ended literally hours before the launch of its first mission on the US anchorage at Ulithi, so we will never know how effective these planes would have been.
The authors have taken what is known about these boats and included interviews with a number of the surviving crew members of the boat and the pilots of the planes to provide a complete and fascinating look at what was the world's largest submarines. After the war, these subs were sailed back to Pearl Harbor for intensive research into the design and systems of these boats. Manned by US Navy crews, we get their impressions of these boats as well. I found it interesting that on the Ulithi mission, all the Serians were painted aluminum with US insignia on them in an attempt to fool any air patrol. What the painters neglected to notice was that US planes only had one insignia on the upper and one on the lower wing, where the Japanese put one on each wing! Of course, no photos were ever taken as the planes were jettisoned soon after learning of Japan's surrender. I-401, however, lies just off Barber's Point in Hawaii and nearby somewhere is her sister, the I-400
This book is a truly fascinating read. The first hand accounts along with a number of superb photos and illustrations makes this a book that is a must have. You will not be disappointed.
Review book courtesy of Specialty Press, where you can order your copy of this and many other superb aviation and modeling books. Visit their website at the link above or call them at 1-800-895-4585
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