IJN Submarine I-12: Tabular Record of Movement

© 2001-2016 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp
Revision 2

5 November 1942:
Laid down at Kawasaki's Kobe Yard as Submarine No. 620.

5 July 1943:
Designated I-12 and provisionally attached to the Yokosuka Naval District.

3 August 1943:

5 March 1944:
LtCdr (Captain, posthumously) Kudo Kaneo (56)(former CO of I-20) is appointed Chief Equipping Officer (CEO).

1 May 1944:
LtCdr Kudo is promoted Cdr.

25 May 1944:
Kobe. I-12 is completed and attached to Yokosuka Naval District. She is assigned to SubRon 11, Sixth Fleet for working-up. Cdr Kudo is the CO.

20 September 1944:
Departs Kobe. Works up en route to Kure.

30 September 1944:
Arrives at Kure. The staff of the Combined Fleet decide to dispatch one long-range submarine to disrupt enemy communications between Hawaii and the West Coast in early October.

4 October 1944:
Reassigned directly to the Sixth Fleet. I-12 departs Kure via the Sea of Japan and the Tsugaru Strait to attack shipping along the American West Coast, then the Hawaii area, Tahiti and E of the Marshalls.

7 October 1944:
I-12 spends the night in Hakodate Bay, then continues her voyage through Tsugaru Strait.

29 October 1944:
North Pacific. At 2105, the submerged I-12 attacks 7,176-ton American "Liberty" ship JOHN A. JOHNSON, en route from San Francisco to Honolulu with 6,900 tond of food and provisions, 140 tons of explosives and a deck cargo of trucks. JOHN A. JOHNSON receives one torpedo hit to the starboard; the other torpedo passes about 50 yds astern and explodes two miles aft on the port side.

The massive explosion breaks the "Liberty" ship's back, flooding No. 3 hold and wrecking one lifeboat. A distress signal is sent, using the reserve transmitter. Three minutes later the ship begins to break up forward of the bridge. Ten minutes after the hit, JOHN A. JOHNSON splits into two sections. The second lifeboat founders while the crew abandons ship at 31-55W, 139-45W. Four sailors, five Armed Guards and the security officer are missing and presumed dead.

30 minutes later I-12 surfaces and shells both sections of the ship. The submarine then rams a lifeboat and makes its way among JOHNSON's lifeboats, spraying the survivors with machine guns and pistols, killing six men. 24 hours after the attack the remaining survivors are picked up by USS ARGUS (PY-14) on patrol out of San Francisco. [1]

The IJN Radio Intelligence Section of the Owada Communication Unit, Saitama prefecture, intercepts a message concerning the sinking of JOHN A. JOHNSON, which erroneously states that two different vessels had been sunk. Cdr Kudo is tentatively credited with two victories.

2 November 1944:
Captain (Rear Admiral-Ret) Clarence Wade McClusky Jr's USS CORREGIDOR's (CVE-58) hunter-killer group Task Group 12.3 is detached to find and destroy I-12. The Grumman TBM-1C "Avengers" of VC-83 from CORREGIDOR attack an unidentified submarine, followed by a second attack two days later. [2][3]

13 November 1944:
100 miles WSW of Los Angeles, California. USCG cutter ROCKFORD (PF-48) and minelayer USS ARDENT (AM-340) are escorting a six-ship convoy from Honolulu to San Francisco. At 1232, ARDENT makes a sonar contact with a submarine ahead of the convoy. After 1241, ARDENT makes two "Hedgehog” projector charge attacks with negative results. At 1308, ROCKFORD makes another attack with 13 "Hedgehogs." Fifteen seconds later, three distinct detonations are heard, followed four minutes later by numerous underwater explosions.

ARDENT makes two more attacks and ROCKFORD drops 13 depth charges. After more explosions, contact with the submarine is lost at 31-55N, 139-45W. Diesel oil and air bubbles appear on the surface along with debris, including teak planks, ground cork, pieces of varnished wood, and a piece of an instrument case inscribed with Japanese characters. Both warships receive equal credit for the probable destruction of a Japanese submarine, in all likelihood I-12.

19 December 1944:
The Sixth Fleet HQ orders I-12 to return to Kure.

20-31 December 1944:
The Owada center informs the Sixth Fleet HQ about the sinking of an Allied transport and a tanker in mid-Pacific. I-12 is credited with both sinkings.

2-4 January 1945:
The Owada center intercepts two submarine sighting reports by USN ships and aircraft relayed to Pearl Harbor. The Sixth Fleet staff concludes that I-12 is still operating off Hawaii.

5 January 1945:
The Owada center intercepts a garbled report about the sighting of a surfaced Japanese submarine N of the Marshalls (14-10N, 171-02E). The Sixth Fleet HQ concludes that it must have been the returning I-12.

31 January 1945:
I-12 is presumed lost with all 114 hands in mid-Pacific area.

10 August 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.

Author's Notes:
[1] The survivors from JOHN A. JOHNSON described I-12 as a very large submarine, painted black (or dark grey) above the waterline, light grey below the waterline, with a white six-inch horizontal stripe running around the stern.

[2] Captain McClusky was USS ENTERPRISE's air group CO during the Battle of Midway.

[3] Some sources identify I-12 as the submarine sighted from the ex-Finnish/German 2,796-ton four-masted barque PAMIR, sailing under the New Zealand flag on 12 November 1944 at 24-31N, 146-47W. There is very little evidence to support that theory; in fact, Orita Zenji, the wartime skipper of I-47, who first proposed it in his "I-boat Captain", later admitted that his identification must have been off. A recent article published in the "Ships of the World" magazine suggests that a far more likely candidate for the submarine sighted from PAMIR was USS SPOT (SS-413).

Thanks go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan.

– Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp


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