Daily Event for June 13

One submarine sank thrice due to accidents, the I-33, a Japanese type B-1 submarine built at Mitsubishi in Kobe, Japan. Commissioned in June 1942 the I-33 departed for the Solomons on her first war patrol in August. During this patrol I-33 did not engage any enemy shipping but did sight the US Task Force on Aug. 30 but was unable to get into a suitable position to make an attack. On Sept. 25, 1942 the I-33 arrived at Truk for repairs to her bow torpedo tubes and was tied up to the repair ship Urakami Maru on the 26th when she sank the first time.

An officer, attempting to stabilize the boat in the heavy swells, ordered the valve to the aft main ballast tanks to be opened to raise the bow out of the water. The extra weight caused the lines to part and the boat sank in less than two minuets. While a rescue attempt was made and divers confirmed that at least some of the crew were still alive, the attempt failed due to lack of proper equipment and the fact that the boat was in 120' of water. All 33 crewmen ultimately die.

On Dec. 19 an attempt was made to raise the boat by pressurizing the hull. The boat did come to the surface but a hatch gave way under the pressure and again the I-33 was on the way to the bottom. Two days later on the 29th the I-33 finally came to the surface and stayed there. In March the I-33 was towed to the Kure Naval Yard for repairs which lasted until early June 1944.

On June 13, 1944 the I-33 began a series of test dives while on trials off Kure and once again an accident claimed the boat. A piece of wood was jammed  in the air induction line causing a malfunction in the main induction valve. When the boat made a crash dive, the main induction valve did not close and the boat began to flood aft of the control room. The main tanks were blown and for a few minuets it looked like the crew would be able to save the boat.

Her bow broke the surface but only for a few seconds, she then plunged stern first into the depths. When she came to rest 180' down only 23 crewmen were still reported to be alive. (10 in the control room and 13 in the forward compartments.) The commanding officer ordered the nine men with him in the control room to escape through the conning tower, he made no attempt to leave the boat. Eight of the men who got out made it to the surface but only two managed to make land.

All thirteen in the forward section died from lack of oxygen (although it is said the last man alive committed suicide.) In total 102 of her crew are lost. The two survivors reported the loss of the submarine to naval officials and a rescue attempt was made, of course without success and the boat is left there on the bottom until 1953 when she was raised and scrapped.

Of the 20 boats in the B-1 class only I-36 survived the war, and even she was ultimately sunk by the US after the war.

© 2006 Michael W. Pocock