Daily Event for June 10, 2014

Japanese submarines during World War II were a threat in the Pacific Ocean, but overall the Japanese misused their submarine force. Apparently they had a lack of understanding in submarine tactics which, coupled with their overall belief in the "great battle" made a reasonably impressive fleet of boats more or less useless. Japans naval strategy against the United States in the Pacific was based on surface ships, submarines were only an afterthought. The attempt to draw the U.S. fleet into one large and decisive battle between warships caused them to loose sight of the singular victories which the U.S. would use to win the war. While there were no doubt great battles, it was the singular victories which helped to bleed the Japanese Empire dry.

One of these singular victories occurred on June 10, 1945 when at 1120 (submarine time) Commander Richard B. Lynch, USN and his USS Skate SS-305 sighted a square black object on the horizon, just 5 miles northwest of Fushima (Cape Rokugo), Honshu, Japan. Skate was one boat in the Hellcats wolfpack of nine submarines. They had entered the heavily mined waters east of Honshu using a new sonar that helped detect mines. At 1128 Lynch writes "The damned thing has a gun. It's a submarine." He identifies the enemy vessel as I-121, but it is in fact I-122 on a training cruise.

I-122 was built at Kawasaki Jyuko in Kobe, Japan and launched on Nov. 8, 1926. She was the 49th submarine built by the Japanese Empire, but was named I-22. She was a KRS Class (I-21 Class) boat, 279' long and displacing 1,142 tons (1,768 full load submerged) and carried four 21" torpedo tubes with 20 torpedoes along with 42 mines. The class had been built on a German design and were rather effective minelayers.

She was renumbered I-122 in 1938 and after the war started she was used to lay mines and search for enemy shipping and aircraft. In early 1942 I-122 was refitted to refuel seaplanes, in this role she was involved in the Battle of Midway as well as operations off Guadalcanal and Savo Island. When 1943 began she was at Kure under repair, when she came out in March she was used to supply Japanese troops in New Guinea. This continued until August when she was withdrawn from combat duty and relegated to a training boat. Her active war service was now over. During her career she had laid mines off Singapore and in the Torres Strait (between New Guinea and Australia) and claimed shooting down one U.S. aircraft, but had failed to sink a single enemy vessel. On Mar. 25, 1945 her last commanding officer, Lt. Sosaku Mihara, took command, this was his first and last command.

Now in the sights of USS Skate, I-122 apparently never knew what hit her as Mihara took no evasive action. Cdr. Lynch fired a spread of four torpedoes from only 800 yards at 1144 and reported a hit "squarely amidships" at 1145. He wrote that the second torpedo "went plowing into all the fuss and exploded with much less sound". The last two exploded at the end of their runs. At 1150 he reported breaking up noises and then a large air bubble leaving the sea covered in oil, I-122 sank taking all eighty-five hands with her. Of the four boats in the KRS class, three were sunk by the U.S. and one was scrapped after the war.

For Commander (later Rear Admiral) Lynch this was his second war patrol as commanding officer of Skate, he had previously commanded USS Seawolf SS-197. Lynch was awarded the Navy Cross for this war patrol.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

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