Forum: Midget E
Topic: Midget E - The I-16 Midget
started by: Ken Hackler

Posted by Ken Hackler on Jun. 12 2001,2:05
[NOTE:  I moved this from another spot in the Midget Submarine area since it seemed to be a fitting topic by itself.]


Interesting read on the mini-submarine.  I don't know if you saw it, but we posted an essay on 7 Dec. 1999 over at's Tech Board which also debunked that Naval History article.

I'm new to this board, I was really just looking around for additional information on St. Louis's sub contact since that seems to be the "missing" one in both the NavHist article and the June issue of National Geographic as neither article mentions that submarine at all.  I see that you cover that particular one quite well in your post on this subject.

You mention Walter Lord's book.  In his book, there's another good picture, possibly taken by the same Japanese aircraft that took the one "showing" the mini-submarine, that is a direct overhead view of Battleship Row after the attack began but before Arizona was destroyed.  I call this to your attention as it seems to be obvious from this photograph that under water visibility was poor, even from directly overhead, which would imply that you couldn't see the mini-submarine from this viewpoint, let alone from a large angle as in the photograph used by NavHist article's authors.

Tony D.

(Edited by Ken Hackler at 2:08 pm on June 12, 2001)

Posted by Ken Hackler on Jun. 12 2001,2:10

I have now read your previous response to the Autometric and Burl Burlingame fairy tale concerning the "second" midget in Pearl.  David sent me the link in early June.  Sorry I hadn't read it before.  You make a number of really good points in that, and it is an interesting read that I'd recommend to anyone.  I've been up to my ears in other work the past month so I have not been able to respond on here as often as I'd like, but here goes on the St Louis contact (for what my opinion is worth).

St Louis left the channel at about 10:00 that morning, and is the only account verified by multiple sources of torpedoes running towards a specific target that were tracked all the way in from launch to explosion.  That is why I give that sighting a great deal of weight compared to the many other false reports outside the harbor that day (Helm, Breese, Aylwin/Indianapolis, and a second false report by St Louis moments after the first).

CAPT Rood on St Louis was seeing a lot that morning, so one should be careful when accepting his story. However, in this case it is verified by many others and supported by fact and logic.

In the first St Louis report, the torpedoes are tracking in from the southwest (that is, from seaward), anywhere from half a mile to a mile out when first sighted.  Near St Louis were two minesweeps operating just outside the entrance buoys.  A bit farther out, and slightly southeast, the USS Blue was chasing sound contacts (probably fish).

St Louis crewmen sighted the torpedoes as St Louis was in the approach channel heading to sea.  The torpedoes had been fired 20 seconds or so prematurely, so they actually hit the reef by the #1 buoy, which is probably the only thing that saved St Louis that morning.

St Louis crewmen then sighted a "submarine conning tower," which they opened fire on.  However, despite their claims, it was not a submarine - it was the minesweeping float from one of the two minesweeps at the channel entrance.  The description given by CAPT Rood of the "conning tower" in his Action Report makes this a certainty.  The picture is completed by ADM Hewitt's inquiry, which included track charts from St Louis and both minesweeps.

So St Louis did NOT see and shoot at a submarine, that was just another false sighting.  However, the torpedoes were real.

As for where the torpedoes came from, the only Japanese source for those torpedoes was Midget E from the I-16.  The planes had already gone, the fleet boats were not around Oahu, and the other midgets are accounted for.  Midget E was the only midget still afloat and capable of firing torpedoes at anyone, and obviously she was not inside Pearl as the fairy tales suggest.

Some may suggest the Japanese fleet submarines fired the other torpedoes, but that never happened.  The Japanese fleet boats were too far out that morning (poor planning and tactics on their part) to do any good.  Only one of the fleet boats fired torpedoes at anything near Oahu that day, and they were fired at a merchant.  The torpedoes missed.

So we know that the other midgets are accounted for, as well as the Japanese fleet boats.  The first St Louis torpedo sighting is the only verified by many eyewitnesses, and is the only one that made any sense.

Of the false sightings that day, Helm sighted a torpedo approaching her from the southeast as she turned west from the channel entrance buoys shortly after 8:20 that morning.  As she made the turn she was shooting at a surfaced midget submarine on Tripod Reef (about half a mile west of the channel entrance).  The Helm torpedo sighting was a dolphin simply because there were no aerial torpedos dropped outside the harbor, all of the midget submarine torpedoes are accounted for (including the first St Louis sighting), and none of the Japanese fleet boats fired a shot at any US warships near Oahu that day.

Next came the torpedoes reported by Aylwin and Indianapolis around 1 that afternoon.  They were out in deep water about 10 miles south of Oahu at the time, so it was not a midget submarine that fired the torpedoes they saw.  However, it was not a fleet boat either because the Japanese fleet boats did not report firing at any warships that day (somewhat embarrassing I would think given the number of targets available had they simply been close enough to do anything).

The Aylwin report is interesting because it says that the torpedoes ran some distance after missing the Indy, and the torpedoes exploded when they were a pretty good distance from the Indy.  This could not have happened for the simple reason that the Japanese torpedoes did not self-destruct at the end of their runs.  They just sank and there would have been no explosions.  The "explosions" witnessed by Aylwin crewmen were actually waves or whales splashing.  Or imagination.

This was one of the 40 odd false sightings that day, made by men who were shocked out of sleep that morning by people trying to kill them.  They saw and reported all sorts of things on December 7, and as far as I am concerned, they are more than justified in seeing things.

Breese also made a report of torpedoes fired at her late that night out near Barbers Point.  Gordon Prange incorrectly suggests that these torpedoes may have come from the I-16 midget, but he was wrong.  The torpedoes seen by CDR Stout (the Breese CO) were caused by imagination, fatigue and adrenalin, and were nothing more than dolphins.  Moments before the torpedoes were sighted, Stout reported that (1) the night was terribly dark (it was about midnight), (2) they were very close to the reef (shoreline) at Barbers Point and could see the waves, (3) he commented on how he'd been watching the dolphins swimming along Breese for quite some time, and (4) Breese could not get any type of sound or magnetic contact.

Since there was no Japanese submarine that could have fired torpedoes at Breese, I'd say he really did see dolphins.  After all, he'd been awake for a very long time by then, under fire for the first time in his life, the adrenalin rush was probably peaked and decreasing by midnight so fatigue was setting in, and he simply allowed his imagination to get the best of him for a moment.  I sure would have had I been there at the time, instead of sitting in a comfortable chair reading the reports 60 years after the fact.

(Edited by Ken Hackler at 1:30 pm on June 15, 2001)

Posted by Tony D on Jun. 12 2001,4:32

Thank you for the additional information, it's much more than I was looking for!

One of the comments I've received from our Tech Board essay was that since I-70 was sunk on 10 December she could have been the one that fired at St. Louis as supposedly she never reported her status prior to being sunk.  However, somewhere or other (and long ago) I read something that suggested that all of the Japanese submarines reported their status shortly after the attack was over.  Do you have any thoughts or information on this matter?

Posted by David Aiken on Jun. 12 2001,7:32
Hi Tony,
Usually I don't respond as Ken does such a great job, but I also understand the Japanese fleet submarines reported their status shortly after the attack was over. However, the mother subs were the only ones close -but not near enough- to the sector of the USS St Louis. The other I-Boats were assigned other locales.
Posted by Ken Hackler on Jun. 13 2001,9:27
Tony and Dave,

I've always heard that the boats radioed their status on the evening of December 7 (8 in Tokyo), but I have no direct proof of that.  Just inferences made from Japanese accounts written after the war.

But yes, as David said, the fleet boats were out 20-30 miles and certainly not in any position to make an attack within sight of Oahu.  The I-70 couldn't and didn't fire torpedoes at any warships that day (or any other ship).

Posted by mmarland on Aug. 11 2004,12:49
I'm very fascinated by the Mini Sub encounters on Dec 7th. In looking at action reports from several of the ships that day that claimed encounters with the Mini's I have several questions. I seems like the Helm had contact and fired shots around 8:10, the Monaghan had a confirmed encounter around 8:45. That's 20 minutes apart. The St Louis had an encounter at 10:00, in which torpedoes were fired and exploded on a reef. Also I've read accounts from Kazuo Sakamaki , in which he states that he was depth charged and shot at several times and also grounded, this seems to coincide with the Helm's report. It seems that the sub that the Helm sighted might have been in fact that of Sakamaki's.

Is it possible the Helm did fire on Sakamaki.

Here are the link to the battle reports as well as testimony from Sakamaki.

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Posted by Ken Hackler on Aug. 11 2004,7:01
Yes, it is possible the HELM fired on Midget C as HELM was leaving the channel.  I do not know of any way to confirm that however.

Sakamaki's account is very garbled and twisted (see his book) because he was very much under duress that day.  

Having said that, it is possible he was the one that HELM fired at.  It is also possible that it was Midget D, something that can never be proven or disproven.

Finally, there is the last possibility that the HELM fired at no midget submarine at all, something that happened many times that day.  Mistaken identity was very common that day, and for many following the attack.
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