WWII Collector's Edition of the Pearl Harbor Magazine's
Official 50th Anniversary Magazine contributed by USS SLC VETERAN,
Bernard "Ben" McMurray
Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki was the only survivor of the ten-man midget submarine force that attempted to sneak into Pearl harbor and destroy US ships with their torpedoes. The five midget subs, each with a two-man crew, failed to do any damage during the attack.
Trouble for Sakamaki and his crew-mate, Petty Officer Second Class Kiyoshi Inagaki, started soon after they were launched from their mother ship, I-24. Their trim mechanism malfunctioned and they were barely able to right the craft. On their first attempt to enter the harbor, they missed the narrow channel entrance and crashed into a reef, destroying one of their two torpedo warheads. Battery gas escaped inside the boat, making breathing next to impossible.
After struggling to get off the reef, the midget sub missed the channel entrance a second time. On the third attempt, the sub again crashed into the reef. By the time the pair again managed to get their sub in deep water, the boat had lost all offensive capabilities.
But still they didn't give up. Sakamaki's next plan was to ram the Pennsylvania and climb aboard to engage the enemy in hand to hand combat.
Before this could be accomplished, the sub lost all power and the crew passed out from fatigue and near-asphyxiation. Sajkamaki and Inagaki awoke near dawn on December 8, and immediately crashed their boat into a reef again....this time in full view of US troops of the 298th Infantry Regiment who had been guarding the beach off Bellow Field. Sakamaki and Inagaki abandoned ship. Sakamaki lit a fuse to destroy his boat, so that it could not be captured, but the charge didn't work. In the water, Inagaki was swept out to sea and drowned. Sakamaki washed onto the beach where he was captured, thus becoming the first Japanese prisoner of war.
Sakamaki's determination and heroism was never recognized by his native land. On the contrary, according to the code of the Japanese soldier, Sakamaki became a non-person when he allowed himself to be taken prisoner. Though his treatment as a POW was not harsh, Sakamaki repeatedly requested that he be killed rather than live in shame.
A Japanese painting memorialized the heroes of the Special Attack unit who operated the midget subs during the attack. The painting showed nine faces. Only Sakamaki was missing.
Sakamaki's sub was shipped to the US mainland for intensive study by naval intelligence and later served as a draw for war bond sales rallies.
See Picture of Midget Japanese Submarine