“Storm from a clear sky”
December 3, 2013 3:08 AM   Subscribe

Researchers have located a sunken World War II Imperial Japanese submarine on the ocean floor off the coast of Hawaii.

It’s one of the three Sen-Toku-class subs which carried Seiran (“storm from a clear sky”) floatplanes – Aichi M6A1 attack bombers. This superweapon was meant to take the war to the East Coast of the United States or, alternately, put the Panama Canal out of commission. The enormous boats and their advanced aircraft came too late to help Japan, however, and the underwater carriers ended up in the hands of the U.S. Navy.

Earlier this year, Jeff Geoghegan wrote a detailed history of the Sen-Toku submarines and interviewed the surviving crewmembers of both the I-401 and the USS Segundo, the Navy ship that captured the I-401. You can read a little about this and see lots of photos of the crews, the boats, and the floatplanes at this site.

Previously.
posted by bryon (33 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
The last surviving Aichi M6A1 is now on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia.
posted by hawkeye at 4:19 AM on December 3, 2013


Your link leads to a different plane - the URL I get for the M6A1 is http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?object=nasm_A19630308000.

Edit: didn't work the first time, but does now.
posted by wotsac at 4:51 AM on December 3, 2013


Can it be retrofitted with a Wave Motion Gun and used against our battle with the Gamilons?
posted by 1970s Antihero at 4:52 AM on December 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


I had no idea that these things ever existed, and reading the Wikipedia article is fascinating; the attack on the Panama Canal came scary-close to happening, with a full-scale model of the locks built for practice runs and one of the pilots finding out by accident that the mission was being changed to a kamikaze run when he saw a bomb being bolted directly to the plane fuselage.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:59 AM on December 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a show about the development of both the sub and the plane that shows up on (I think) History Channel (maybe PBS?) every once in awhile. If you manage to ignore the "OMGJapaneseSuperWeaponAlmostKilledUsAll!!!!11!!" overtones, it's actually a really interesting hour.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:21 AM on December 3, 2013


Speaking of sunken vessels, here's an amazing video of a body recovery dive on a shipwreck (the Jascon 4 off Nigeria) where they found a survivor who'd lived for more than two days in an air pocket. The encounter is a bit after the five minute mark in the video.
posted by exogenous at 5:33 AM on December 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was browsing this just the other day

The modelling ability demonstrated on this site is stunning

Then that got me to the Wiki Link for the I400 subs

I love the way that the Seiran was designed to fold down into a small hanger on deck. Necessity sure is a mother
posted by mattoxic at 5:55 AM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was lucky enough to see Udvar-Hazy's M6A1 while it was being restored at the Garber Restoration Facility. I wonder if there are any more stored on that sub.
posted by hanov3r at 5:55 AM on December 3, 2013


Here's the PBS "Secrets of the Dead" documentary about the I-400, "Japanese SuperSub".
posted by ShooBoo at 6:06 AM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


This seems to be footage: I-400 initial sighting
posted by Zeinab Badawi's Twenty Hotels at 6:26 AM on December 3, 2013


Goodness gracious, somebody help the Chicago Tribune with their sentences.

The accidental discovery of the 1-400, an aircraft-toting
I-400 mega sub, on the rock- and debris-littered ocean floor,
some 2,300 feet (701 meters) beneath the surface, has solved the
mystery surrounding a ship long thought to be further afield.

posted by entropone at 6:35 AM on December 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whenever I hear the word "imperial" I get the impression of some kind of hastily built steampunk creation made of foam, gold leaf and wood glue.
posted by parmanparman at 6:48 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Goodness gracious, somebody help the Chicago Tribune with their sentences.

If only someone in Chicago knew anything about writing style!!! Perhaps they could publish, say, a manual of such?
posted by eriko at 6:54 AM on December 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


If only someone in Chicago knew anything about writing style!!!

I know a guy named Manuel, he's in Chicago and is pretty good with Style.
posted by entropone at 6:57 AM on December 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Exogenous that link is pure nightmare fuel.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:58 AM on December 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


According to one documentary, the super sub was basically two subs joined together to hold up a third tube in the top middle without capsizing. This tube contained small attack planes. The allies discovered this sub when they surrendered, and realized it would hold missiles better, and the idea for a nuclear attack submarine was born. The allies destroyed them all to hide the fact that they ever had them, to prevent the Soviets from wanting to see them.
posted by Brian B. at 7:02 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Other mega subs have been found in waters off Oahu and in the Sea of Japan. One in the submarine class remains missing.

Screenwriters: This is you last real chance to capitalize on your World War II Science Fiction based on actual events of WWII. Here are some other things to consider: Reanimation of Osama Bin Laden after having been recovered from being dumped at sea becoming the captain of the ship... If you can somehow work the Russians and North Koreans into this you'll have created a goldmine of McCarthy-esque fear that drives some folks to the box office.

Rasputin - OOOH yes! this needs Rasputin too!
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:13 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


In fairness, a movie with Rasputin and Osama driving a sunken Japanese sub would be pretty rad and I'd probably go see it. However, since this is Hollywood and float planes are lame, may I suggest we turn it into a Japanese version of the Surcouf and aim it at New York?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:28 AM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this Rasputin the deceased Russian mystic or the Boney M song about Rasputin the deceased Russian mystic?

either one is good i am just wondering
posted by elizardbits at 8:36 AM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Throw in a soundtrack by Rasputina and we've got a party.
posted by kmz at 8:40 AM on December 3, 2013


I was just reading about the Shinano the other day. I think it was one of the largest aircraft carriers in the world at the time, if not the largest in terms of size (it did not actually have much capacity to carry aircraft), and was initially laid down as the third of the Yamato-class battleships.

Anyway, Shinano gets built, and gets sunk during her fitting out.

They built this huge monstrous thing, launch it, and immediately the damn thing gets sunk by a waiting American submarine. Apparently the Shinano lies 14,000 feet down.

1500 men died in the sinking, which really reinforces for me the sorrow and the pity of war. A friend persuaded me to play Axis and Allies for the first time the other day, and all I could think at the end was what a material waste it all was - build up units to be annihilated, do the same thing, round after round.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 AM on December 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Japanese mega subs and Rasputin: capable of projecting power well beyond their immediate locale, scuttled to remove their influence over Russia, and highly submersible.
posted by mosk at 9:03 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this Rasputin the deceased Russian mystic or the Boney M song about Rasputin the deceased Russian mystic, Russia's greatest love machine?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:54 AM on December 3, 2013


Is there gold? Do we need Waterhouse and Shaftoe!?

Seriously though, very very cool.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:08 AM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Screenwriters: This is you last real chance to capitalize on your World War II Science Fiction based on actual events of WWII

It's actually funny you should mention that. There's an ongoing manga (comics) series in Japan called Arpeggio of Blue Steel which basically imagines an alternate timeline in which (potentially alien) artificial intelligences choose to take on the form of WWII-era warships; one of the main characters in the series is the AI of the I-401. It's being heavily cross-promoted in Japan right now with a very popular browser game called Kantai Collection, where you play as an admiral managing a fleet of personified Japanese WWII warships. There's supposedly going to be an in-game event this winter promoting Arpeggio that will almost certainly introduce the I-401 and perhaps other ships as well.

Not quite what you had in mind, but...
posted by Noms_Tiem at 2:52 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could the course of the war have been changed by eighteen submarines, each carrying three planes with one bomb per plane? I find it unlikely; I think the plan must have been a fantasy from the beginning.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:34 PM on December 3, 2013


Could the course of the war have been changed by eighteen submarines, each carrying three planes with one bomb per plane? I find it unlikely; I think the plan must have been a fantasy from the beginning.

The Japanese were testing a number of biological weapons in Manchuria during the course of the war. One of the original plans for these was to load those bombs with biological agents and then drop them on major cities. From the Japanese point of view, even if they didn't do major harm, they would induce panic and might have dampened the US interest in continuing to fight.

It's worth remembering that Admiral Yamamoto, in charge of Japan's navy for most of the war, didn't want a war with the US because he didn't think it was possible to win it in the long run. His goal was basically to back the US into negotiations that would have been favorable to Japan.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 3:38 PM on December 3, 2013


It's fascinating - and incredibly fortunate that Japan and Germany did not cooperate at all during the war.

If Japan kept pressure on the Soviets through Manchuria and on the British through the Pacific and up through India - didn't attack Perl Harbour then it would have been a very different war.

The oil embargo would have been meaningless as Japan could have sourced oil from Burma and Indonesia. Britain would have almost certainly lost India and then the Middle East.
posted by mattoxic at 7:43 PM on December 3, 2013


Chain the hatches open, baby! Good for those extremely brave US sailors. Reminds of the brass-balled guys who saved the U-505.

I might have once had some sympathy for the Japanese back in the days of WWII, but I don't because of things such as Bataan, Corregidor, and the Bataan Death March.

I know I sound heartless, but my late father served three years in the south pacific (43-46) because of the Japanese, and I also frequently visit the graves of several relatives killed in the wars with Germany (WWI and WWII).

It's a shame we don't have a surviving museum piece of one of these Japanese "super subs," but, if they were the basis for ballistic missile submarines, then I guess I fully understand the need to make sure they didn't get a chance to give the Soviets any ideas.

That "Secrets of the Dead" episode is great.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:23 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


That story of the man who survived [Slate link] multiple days in the air bubble is quite interesting.

tl;dr : when people are trapped in enclosed spaces, they don't usually die from lack of air, but rather because once the available air gets to be about 5% carbon dioxide (due to the persons exhalations), they lose consciousness and die pretty shortly afterwards.

The man stuck in the bubble, had the luck to be surrounded by icy seawater... the cold water was very efficient at absorbing the CO² from the air, thus letting the air last longer in a useful (breathable, not 5% CO²-saturated) form.

If he had been trapped in say, a similar-sized air-tight meat locker, he would have died pretty quickly (again, because of the CO² buildup). That said, it's lucky he was rescued when he was since otherwise he faced living longer only to die of thirst (lack of drinking water).
posted by blueberry at 7:10 PM on December 4, 2013


It's fascinating - and incredibly fortunate that Japan and Germany did not cooperate at all during the war. If Japan kept pressure on the Soviets through Manchuria and on the British through the Pacific and up through India

The same conditions that would have have to been met in order to get Germany and Japan to coordinate activities in order to win the war would have probably prevented a war in the first place.

Japan got into the predicament not only because the militarists (a pretty unimaginative bunch of people in general) had taken over control of the country, but also because the militarists were divided, and no one was really in control in Japan (kind of like the situation in China today, where the PLA does whatever the fuck it wants).

The army wanted to invade China, and so it did, and there was nothing anyone in the "leadership" could do about it. The navy wanted to invade the South, and that's what they did, despite the fact that splitting Japan's resources basically would ensure defeat.

Many Japanese people think that Japan was intentionally forced by the United States to declare war because of American embargoes on oil and raw materials. While there is no doubt the US was playing hardball, the stated intent was to get Japan to withdraw from China, which Japan could have done. But they didn't, notably because there was really was no one in control (although a lot of people, including the Showa Emperor, certainly were responsible for pushing for war).

Anyway, my point is that Japan could not even coordinate its own activities (the Kwantung operated as an independent paramilitary army on the Continent). If it could have, I am pretty sure there would not have been war, at least not in 1941.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:00 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I might have once had some sympathy for the Japanese back in the days of WWII, but I don't because of things such as Bataan, Corregidor, and the Bataan Death March.

Not to mention the many many atrocities committed by the Japanese on civilians and service men and women from countries other than the US.
posted by mattoxic at 1:22 AM on December 7, 2013


You do realize the Phillipine-American War left 1.5 million Filipinos dead, don't you? There are no colonial powers free from guilt. And as always the common people suffer.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:27 AM on December 7, 2013


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