The story of the
Imperial Japanese Navy
I-25 was one of eleven Japanese submarines configured to carry a seaplane.
The aircraft provided a unique reconnaissance capability, but could also
carry two bombs. Although the plane-equipped submarines were primarily
intended for reconnaissance and scouting missions, they were heavily armed
and capable of surface and submerged attack.
The I-25 was the sixth boat
of the B-1 type, I-15 class. It was built by Mitsubishi in
Kobe, Japan, and completed in October 1941. The submarine was positioned
off Pearl Harbor during the attack on December 7, but damage to the aircraft
precluded it from conducting scouting missions for the attack.
The I-25 displaced 2,584
tons submerged, with a length of 356 feet. Its twin diesel engines
and two propeller shafts were capable of providing a cruising range of
over 14,000 miles. The submarine carried a crew of 97 men, including
a pilot and crewman for the seaplane.
Armament included 17 torpedoes
and a 5.5 inch deck gun, as well as two 25mm antiaircraft guns.
The seaplane was housed in
a watertight hangar forward of the conning tower. The wings and floats
were removed and the horizontal stabilizer folded up to fit in the hangar.
Two launch rails extended from the hangar to the bow. A compressed-air
catapult launched the reassembled plane. For recovery, the pilot
landed on the surface, taxied to the submarine and was hoisted aboard.
Yokosuka E14Y1, nicknamed "Glen," was powered by a 9-cylinder, 340-hp Hitachi
Tempu 12 radial engine, capable of providing a maximum speed of about 150
mph, although speeds of 85 mph were more common. It could remain
aloft for five hours with an operating radius of about 200 miles.
The frame was constructed
of metal and wood, with fabric-covered wing and tail surfaces. It
weighed 3,500 pounds, had a wingspan of 36 feet, and carried a pilot and
The Glen could carry a bomb
payload of 340 pounds, and was outfitted with a rear-facing 7.7mm machine
gun for self defense.
Chief Flying Officer Nobuo Fujita
was born in 1911 and was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1932,
becoming a pilot in 1933. Although he was on the I-25 during the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, non-battle damage to the aircraft prevented
him from participating in the operation.
Fujita came up with the idea
of using a submarine-based seaplane to launch attacks on the U.S. mainland,
as well the strategic Panama Canal. His idea was approved and the
mission given to the I-25. His two attacks on Oregon in September
1942 constituted the first attacks on the continental United States since
the British invasion in 1814 during the War of 1812. He remains the
only enemy pilot to have ever dropped bombs on the continental United States.
Fujita continued reconnaissance
flying until 1944, when he returned to Japan to train kamikaze pilots.
After the war ended, Fujita opened a metal sales business in Japan. Twenty
years after the attack, Fujita was invited to several towns on the southern
Oregon Coast near the area of his air attacks. The pilot presented
the city of Brookings with a 350-year old samurai sword as a gesture of
friendship. Fujita was also made an honorary citizen of Gold Beach.
He died in 1997; some of his ashes were scattered on Mount Emily.
According to records of the
Imperial Japanese Navy and the U.S. Navy, the I-25 conducted three missions
to the American west coast. These missions came after an extensive
reconnaissance patrol during February and March 1942 in the south Pacific.
The reconnaissance mission included Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Wellington,
Auckland, and Fiji.
The I-25 missions to the U.S.
December 1941 - early 1942:
The I-25 was positioned
off the coast of Hawaii during the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the attack, the submarine conducted a patrol of the U.S. west coast
from San Francisco to the Columbia River. No other information is
available on this mission.
May – July 1942:
The first operation on this
mission to the west coast was a reconnaissance flight over Kodiak, Alaska
on May 27. The intelligence derived from this flight was to support
planning for a diversionary attack on Dutch Harbor. The attack was
to divert American attention from the upcoming carrier attack against American
positions on Midway island. So important was the expected information
from the reconnaissance flights that a second I-15 class submarine -- the
I-26, sailing with its hangar empty -- was positioned in the area to recover
the aircraft should something happen to the I-25.
Fujita and the aircraft
he used for the attacks on Oregon
While moving south toward
Washington, the submarine attacked the freighter SS Fort Camosun
on June 20 with her deck guns; the freighter survived.
Heading further south, on
the night of June 21, the submarine fired 17 rounds from its deck gun at
Fort Stevens - a coastal defense installation on the north coast of Oregon.
The only reported damage was to the baseball backstop. However, the
real impact was the alarm to the American public when it was reported that
the Japanese Navy had attacked the American mainland.
On July 30, on its return
to Japan from this mission, the I-25 is believed to have sunk the U.S.
Navy submarine USS Grunion (SS-216) near Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.
However, Japanese navy records indicate that the I-25 had returned to Yokosuka
by July 27.
August – October 1942:
In the summer of 1942, the
Japanese high command developed a plan to attack the dense forest in the
Pacific Northwest. The Japanese hoped that a large forest fire would
draw American attention to defense of the west coast and cause the U.S.
Navy to reposition its Pacific fleet closer to the mainland. The
I-25 was ordered to undertake this operation, and was provided with six
incendiary bombs for the mission.
Later operations of the I-25:
So began a very successful
patrol for the I-25. The submarine departed Yokosuka on August 15,
1942, and arrived off the Port Orford Heads on the Oregon coast by early
September in bad weather. By September 9, weather conditions had
improved. The I-25 surfaced just before dawn and the Glen seaplane
was assembled and readied for the attack. Fujita took off at sunrise
and flew northeast toward the easily visible Cape Blanco lighthouse.
After flying southeast for about 50 miles, Fujita dropped one of his two
incendiary bombs on Mount Emily, releasing the second a few minutes later
a several miles east of the first. The bad weather that had delayed
his mission a few days earlier had saturated the woods, and rendered the
bombs ineffective. Otherwise, the bombs could have started large
releasing the bombs, Fujita descended to low level and returned to the
waiting submarine. A U.S. Army A-29 bomber aircraft on patrol from
McChord Field in Tacoma spotted the submarine, now on the surface to recover
Fujita’s aircraft. The A-29 attacked the submarine with several bombs,
but only inflicted minor damage as the submarine dove to the relative safety
of the ocean floor just west of Port Orford.
The captain of the I-25 mounted
a second attempt to ignite a large fire in the Oregon forests. The
submarine surfaced just after midnight on Tuesday, September 29, about
50 miles west of Cape Blanco. Although the entire west coast of Oregon
was blacked out, the Cape Blanco lighthouse was still in operation.
Using the light as a navigation beacon, Fujita flew east over the coast
for about 90 minutes and dropped his bombs. Although Japanese Navy
records indicate that Fujita observed flames on the ground after this attack,
no traces of the attacks have ever been located. The only U.S. records
of this attack were of an unidentified aircraft flying east of Port Orford.
The I-25 did not use its last
two incendiary bombs, and reverted to torpedo attacks on American shipping.
On Sunday, October 4, the submarine sank the freighter SS Camden
off Coos Bay on the south Oregon coast; one crewman was killed. The following
Tuesday, the I-25 was successful again, this time sinking the tanker SS
Doheny off Cape Sebastian. Two crewmen and four U.S. Navy Armed
Guards manning guns on the
Doheny were killed in the attack.
The I-25 departed the Oregon
coast a few days later. On October 11 while en route to its homeport
of Yokosuka, the Japanese submarine attacked and sank the Soviet submarine
L-16 while the Russians were in transit from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to San
Francisco. The captain of the I-25 believed he was attacking an American
ship; Japan and the Soviet Union were not at war at this time.
On May 18, 1943, the I-25
torpedoed and shelled the American tanker H.M. Storey in the south
Pacific. The I-25 was again noted conducting aerial reconnaissance
of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides island chain.
However, the I-25’s luck
had run out. On September 3, 1943, U.S. Navy warships sank the I-25 approximately
150 miles northeast of Espiritu Santo. Which American ship sank the I-25 remains unknown. Three destroyers - USS Ellet (DD-398), USS Patterson (DD-392) and USS Taylor (DD-468) were involved in the naval engagment that day.