Japan’s Midget Submarine Attack on Pearl Harbor Was a Suicide Mission

    Sebastien Roblin

    Security, Asia

    Some history that seems to get lost–until now. 

    Unfortunately for officials in Tokyo, the Japanese Navy had struck a powerful blow, but not a crippling one. The bombardment failed to hit the repair facilities and fuel depots, which allowed the U.S. Pacific fleet to get back on its feet relatively quickly. Just as importantly, not a single U.S. aircraft carrier was in Pearl Harbor at the time. The flattops would swiftly prove their dominance over battleships in the coming Pacific War. Despite the debacle, the Japanese Navy continued sending Kō-hyōteki into combat. As at Pearl Harbor, the submariners in their tiny ships had very limited successes in operations from Australia to Alaska to Madagascar.

    On Dec. 7, 1941, the aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy rained devastation upon the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. But Japanese warplanes didn’t actually fire the first shots that brought America into a massive Pacific War.

    An hour before the air attack, a squadron of tiny Japanese midget submarines attempted to slip into the harbor’s defenses, like burglars in the night, to wreak havoc on Battleship Row. Unlike the aerial assault, the sailors failed spectacularly — and the story is often forgotten.

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    By the 1930s, Imperial Japan and the United States were set on a collision course. Tokyo’s decision to invade China in 1931 and intensify their brutal campaign six years had provoked ultimately irrevocable tensions.

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