Chapter 15 of Thurston Clarke's book "Pearl Harbor Ghosts" discusses the December 1967 Our Navy article "A Voice from the Bottom of the Sea" by Ellsworth Boyd. Mr. Clarke says, "In 1967, a Japanese man in suburban Baltimore claimed to be Okino Sasaki, one of the crewmen of Midget E." He goes on to tell how Sasaki claimed to have been drafted into the Japanese Navy in 1941 at the age of 17, assigned to submarines, and had been chosen to participate in the Pearl Harbor attack.
In the article, Sasaki claims that he was captured on December 8 and spent the war in a POW camp. In 1945, he found work on a tramp steamer, met and married a girl in Baltimore, then worked for her father until he had saved enough money to open his own restaurant. The article did not name what prison camp or where, nor did it say why there is no record of a Japanese POW from Pearl Harbor other than Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki from Midget C.
Sasaki tells of climbing into the midget submarine on the night of December 6/7 with the boat's commander, a lieutenant named Sakamoto. He says that as they were climbing aboard their midget, one of the 'mother' submarine crewmen gave him a small duffle bag. Sasaki says this unidentified crewman had originally been assigned to the Kaiten (suicide) command. In the duffel bag was a sweater with the word Kaiten on it, and bottle of sake.
Sasaki continues by telling the author of the article, Ellsworth Boyd, how the midget malfunctioned and sank in 90 feet of water. The crew waited for nine hours before lighting the fuses on the demolition charges and leaving the boat. Sasaki said he had no idea what happened to the lieutenant after that. According to Sasaki, he made it to the beach, collapsed, and woke up in a prison camp.
Clarke calls Sasaki's boat Midget E, which is the I-16 midget. That midget submarine was still afloat late on the night of December 7, 1941, and sent two messages. Her crewmen were ENS Masaharu Yokoyama and PO2 Tei Uyeda according to every other source, including the official Japanese records. In other words, Sasaki's boat could not have been Midget E.
The only Sasaki in the midget submarine group that attacked Pearl Harbor was PO1 Naokichi Sasaki on the I-22's midget, commanded by LT Naoji Iwasa. Iwasa was also the only lieutenant assigned to the midget submarine group. As the senior officer, Iwasa was the commander of the five midgets and their crews.
The Baltimore-area restaurant that Sasaki claimed to own and work at was the Jade East, which closed in the early 1980s. Clarke tracked down one of its owners, who said that he never heard of Sasaki, although people asked about him following publication of the Our Navy article.
Clarke speculates that:
(1) Boyd and the man claiming to be Sasaki perpetrated the hoax
(2) Only Sasaki perpetrated the hoax and Boyd was unaware of it
(3) The story is true
Clarke also speculates that the POW story was fabricated by Sasaki (if he was who he claimed to be) to hide the truth, which was that he had made it to shore and blended in with the local Japanese population using an assumed name. After spending the war years in Hawaii, Sasaki created a new life for himself on the mainland.
My thoughts on that are:
All the information about the midget submarines that comes out in the Our Navy article was publicly available in 1967. When Midget D was located and raised in 1960, newspapers in Hawaii covered the story extensively, including speculation on the fate of her crew. Two Naval Institute Proceedings articles, two All Hands magazine articles, and other magazine and newspaper articles, had all discussed the Midget D salvage, and the official Navy salvage report was easy to obtain. There was nothing new or unique in the Our Navy article.
Nor was any proof offered - it was strictly one man's story told in a bar one night.
The information in the 1967 Our Navy article is wrong on many points. For example, there was only one lieutenant in the Pearl Harbor midget submarine group, and his name was Iwasa, not Sakamoto. There was no Sakamoto in the group at all. Surely Sasaki would remember the name of the only other crewman he shared a two-man submarine with, particularly following such a memorable and life-altering experience as the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Clarke said that Sasaki's midget submarine was Midget E, yet Midget E came from the I-16 and had a different crew. The I-22 midget is the only submarine that had a lieutenant (Iwasa), as well as the only submarine with a crewman named Sasaki.
The I-22 midget may have been Midget D, which is what I believe, but there is no way to prove that. Midget D could not be identified when she was recovered due to extensive corrosion after almost 20 years underwater. There were no crew remains found in the boat, and the hatch had been opened from the inside.
The man named Sasaki who is listed by the Japanese Navy as a crewman on the I-22 midget (commanded by LT Iwasa) was a 1st Class Petty Officer. He had to have been in the Navy some time to achieve that rank in the pre-war Imperial Japanese Navy. It is highly unlikely that he was a 17-year-old draftee with less than a year of service.
Another problem is that the Kaiten unit mentioned by Sasaki did not exist - even in someone's mind - until much later in the war. Someone in 1941 could not have been assigned to a unit that didn't even exist for several more years.
Finally, there is the story itself. It is amazingly similar to Kazuo Sakamaki's story - problems with the boat, they try to destroy the vessel but fail, the crew leaves, one man drowns, the other wakes up on the beach with a guard.
Sakamaki's book was published in the United States in 1949, and his story was told in many newspapers, magazines, and books before 1967, including Walter Lord's popular "Day of Infamy" (published in 1957). What I think is that Sakamaki's very true story was adapted by the man claiming to be Sasaki for the Our Navy magazine article, and either Sasaki or Boyd used circumstances surrounding the discovery of Midget D to fill in the story.
By the way, notice how closely the name Sakamoto is to Sakamaki.
(1) The Our Navy article is a hoax. Even though I have interviewed Ellsworth Boyd, I do not know if he was part of the fabrication, or if it was perpetrated by the man claiming to be Sasaki.
(2) If Ellsworth Boyd was not part of the deception, he certainly accepted a lot of bogus information from Sasaki. As an author, Boyd would have had to consciously avoid verifying the information. It's difficult to imagine that Boyd wrote the article without knowing anything about the midgets used at Pearl, but if he did know, why didn't he put a disclaimer in his article saying that he was merely documenting the man's story?
The same authors who wrote "Pearl Harbor - Attack From Below" (Naval History magazine, USNI, December 1999) also wrote another for USNI Proceedings in December 2000. The second article begins with an assumption of accuracy of their first, although that article contained so many errors that it is not worth talking about.
The December 2000 Proceedings article notes that Midget D was accidentally found in 1960, proclaiming that it was the midget from the I-20. The article says there is "substantial evidence" to support that claim, although they do not provide that information. The authors only cite Midget D's location when found, and the release times and locations of the various midget submarines on December 7, 1941.
They do not say that Midget D could have been the I-22 midget, although her launch time and location means that she could have been Midget D as easily as the others.
In the next paragraph, the authors cite Thurston Clarke's book and his discussion of the Our Navy article. They say, "Sasaki, together with Lieutenant Sakamoto, were the crew of the I-20 tou (midget submarine)." However, all other sources say the I-20 midget's crew consisted of Ensign Akira Hiroo and PO2 Yoshio Katayama. Only the Our Navy article lists Sasaki and "LT Sakamoto" as being members of the same midget crew, but it does not say they were on the I-20 midget.
To their credit, the authors used the word 'alleged' when referring to Sasaki.
However, Rodgaard and Company seem to have accepted Boyd's story at face value, and spent the remainder of the paragraph explaining why Sasaki's submarine (they say the I-20's midget) ended up where Midget D was found, and that the I-18 midget must therefore have been Midget A.
After discussing Midget E (the I-16 midget), they finally mention the midget submarine launched by the I-22. According to the authors, the I-16 and I-22 midgets were in the best position to have been the "mystery midget" in Pearl Harbor as discussed in their previous Naval History article. They do not say which submarine was Midget B (the Monaghan midget), but presumably it must be either the I-16 or the I-22 midget since their article accounts for the others.
They note that USS Condor and USS Crossbill were out sweeping for mines at about 0200, and that the I-16 midget could have made it to the entrance of the dredged channel by then. The authors say, "At this point it was irrelevant whether the nets were open, because each midget crew planned on their being closed. They anticipated that each boat would need to dive below the nets (intelligence had told them how far down the nets went and how deep the channel was at this point)." [Italics added]
This detailed intelligence is not mentioned by any other source, nor is it contained in the official Japanese account of the Hawaii Operation written by Navy officers involved with the planning of the midget submarine attack. Even the Japanese Navy's spy at the Honolulu consulate, Takeo Yoshikawa, stated that he did not know if there were nets or not, although he suspected there were. He told the Japanese Navy in November 1941 that there were probably nets across the Main Channel entrance, but he had no way to verify that. What is the author's source of information that the Japanese knew the location and depth of the nets, something that no one else seems to have discovered? Are they simply making an assumption?
For the record, there are no nets of any sort shown across the Main Channel entrance on the charts used by the Japanese midget submariners for the Pearl Harbor attack. Is it just me or does anyone else find it strange that the Japanese would forget to put something that important on the charts being used by the very submarines that had to avoid the nets?
Overall, the Proceedings article is a recap of known information about the midget submarines, such as release times and locations. They say the skipper of the I-16 midget was a Lieutenant Yokoyama and his crewman a Warrant Officer Eyed. However, those ranks were not conferred on them until after their deaths, when the Japanese Navy promoted the midget submariners posthumously (excluding Sakamaki). Continuing their practice of inaccuracy, they also misspelled the crewman's name as Eyed instead of Uyeda.
The authors engage in a great deal of speculation (which midget went where) that is not even worth addressing, and they seemingly accept as fact an article that is only slightly more incredible than their December 1999 Naval History article. Basing part of their article on an obvious hoax story further destroys their credibility.
Michael Gannon's new book, "Pearl Harbor Betrayed: The True Story of a Man and a Nation Under Attack," contains the fictional Sasaki's story, as mentioned in the Autometric Team's articles, as well as the other fiction from the Autometric Team about the mysterious "electric light barrier." What disturbs me most about this is that the Autometric Team's articles are so terribly flawed and inaccurate that they belong in a shredder, yet they are being cited as fact by others who don't take the time to verify the information.
That is how history becomes so distorted.
Why is this important?
Because the truth matters, even small details. If it is not accurate, it is not history.