Daily Event for February 2, 2014

On February 2, 1939 two Japanese submarines were conducting an exercise in the Bungo Channel between Shikoku and Kyushu Islands when disaster struck. The two boats, I-60 and I-63 were both built at Sasebo Navy Yard (the other three, I-56, I-57 and I-59 were built at Kure and Yokosuka) and were of the KD3B class. They were 331' long and displaced 1,635 tons (up to 2,300 full load) and carried eight 21" torpedo tubes in the bows.

On that February morning visibility was poor and the commanding officer of I-60, Lt. Hajime Nakagawa, apparently mistook the lights on I-63 for a pair of fishing boats. He sailed between the lights and right through I-63 sending her to the bottom. The depth of the water in the channel can be up to 350', but I don't know exactly where the boat sank so I don't know how deep she was. We do know that eighty-seven men were inside her. How many were killed in the collision is unknown, but there were survivors trapped inside the boat. The Japanese responded immediately, but the exact details of how long it took to find the boat are again not known to me.

Because of tensions with the United States over the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and China few details were released by the Imperial government about the loss. It was announced on Feb. 5 that six men had been rescued, but how they got out and exactly when was not stated. In the end eighty-one submariners died in I-63. The boat was raised on Jan. 21, 1940, but that was not announced until Feb. 1st. She was scrapped at Kure, Japan.

I-60 was repaired and returned to service. She was one of the first Japanese submarines lost in the Second World War. On Jan. 17, 1942 she was sunk in a gunfight with HMS Jupiter F-85 off Sumatra, only two of her crew survived.

Nakagawa, the commander of I-60 was suspended or released from the navy, but in Oct. of 1940 was placed in command of I-158. He commanded three other boats during the war and was one of the more brutal commanders in the Japanese submarine service. He sank seven ships totaling almost 40,000 tons, including HMHS Centaur, but it was his decision to machine-gun survivors in the water that earned him a reputation that the Allies looked into after the war. He was put on trial as a war criminal and sent to prison for four years. He lived until the age of 84 and died in 1986.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

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