SENSUIKAN!

(Type B1 submarine - colorized photo by Irootoko Jr)

HIJMS Submarine I-17: Tabular Record of Movement

© 2001-2011 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp
Revision 4


18 April 1938:
Laid down at Yokosuka Navy Yard as Submarine No. 38.

19 July 1939:
Launched as I-17.

1 June 1940:
Cdr (later Captain) Nishino Kozo (48)(former CO of I-5) is appointed Chief Equipping Officer.

24 January 1941:
Completed and attached to Yokosuka Naval District. Assigned to SubDiv 1, SubRon 1, Sixth Fleet, with I-15 and I-16. Cdr Nishino Kozo is the Commanding Officer. [1]

5 August-9 September 1941:
I-17 is designated the temporary flagship of SubDiv 1, replacing I-15 in that capacity. 11 November 1941: Operation "Z":
Reassigned to the Advance Force with Captain Imazato Hiroshi's SubDiv 1 in Rear Admiral Sato Tsutomu's SubRon 1. [2]

Admiral Shimizu convenes a meeting of all his commanders aboard his flagship, light cruiser KATORI. Cdr Nishino and the other commanders are briefed on the planned attack on Pearl Harbor.

21 November 1941:
I-17 departs Yokosuka for the Hawaiian Islands on her first "war" patrol in company of I-15.

2 December 1941:
The coded signal "Niitakayama nobore (Climb Mt. Niitaka) 1208" is received from the Combined Fleet. It signifies that hostilities will commence on 8 December (Japan time). Mt. Niitaka, located in Formosa (now Taiwan), is then the highest point in the Japanese Empire.

7 December 1941: The Attack on Pearl Harbor:
I-17 patrols northeast of Oahu during the attack on Pearl Harbor, forming a patrol line with I-9, I-15 and I-25. Their mission is to reconnoiter and attack any ships that try to sortie from Pearl Harbor.

9 December 1941:
I-6 reports sighting a LEXINGTON-class aircraft carrier and two cruisers off Oahu heading ENE. Vice Admiral Shimizu in KATORI at Kwajalein orders all of SubRon 1's boats, except the Special Attack Force, to pursue and sink the carrier. I-17 sets off at flank speed after the carrier.

10 December 1941:
While running surfaced, I-17's lookouts spot an American flying boat and the submarine crash-dives immediately. While resurfacing, I-17 is attacked by a land-based aircraft, but escapes damage.

I-17 surfaces and sets off at flank speed after the carrier.

14 December 1941:
After their unsuccessful pursuit of the carrier, I-17 and the other submarines joined by the I-10 and the I-26, are ordered to the West Coast of the United States to attack shipping. I-17 is assigned to patrol off Cape Mendocino, California.

Imperial General Headquarters orders the IJN to shell the United States West Coast. Vice Admiral Shimizu issues a detailed order on the targets. I-17, I-9, I-10, I-15, I-19, I-21, I-23, I-25 and I-26 are each to fire 30 shells on the night of 25 December. Rear Admiral Sato, aboard I-9, is charged to execute the order.

18 December 1941:
12 miles off Cape Mendocino, California. Just before dawn the surfaced I-17 spots the 1997-ton lumber steamer SAMOA (ex-LAKE PEPIN) en route to San Diego. In the pre-dawn haze the submarine switches on her 30-cm searchlight and then fires several shells from the 5.5-in deck gun. One of them explodes mid-air, showering the steamer with fragments. SAMOA cranks up full speed and heads for San Diego. Still surfaced, I-17 fires one 6th Year Type torpedo, which passes below SAMOA's keel and explodes at a safe distance.

SAMOA escapes without sustaining any damage. In port a Navy investigation team collects a number of shell fragments from her decks. [3]

20 December 1941:
8 miles W of Cape Mendocino (approximate position 34-30N, 124-50W). Around 1345 (Pacific Coast Time), the lookouts on the surfaced I-17 spot the 6,912-ton Socony-Vacuum Oil Company tanker EMIDIO (ex-HAMMAC) en route from Seattle to Ventura in ballast. Having sighted the submarine closing up from astern, about 10 miles landward, EMIDIO cranks up full speed and turns toward Eureka, transmitting the SOS signal.

Despite the choppy seas, I-17 overtakes the fleeing tanker, firing six shells and scoring five hits in rapid succession. One of them topples the ship's radio antenna; another strikes a lifeboat, blowing 3 sailors over the side. Another boat capsizes after getting caught in the discharge of the ship's condenser. Within 30 minutes most survivors have cleared the now stationary tanker in two lifeboats and one workboat.

All of a sudden, I-17 crash-dives. Two Army bombers arrive and one of them drops two depth charges at the submarine; both miss. At 1435, after the aircraft have departed, the submerged I-17 fires two 6th Year Type torpedoes; one of them hits EMIDIO's starboard side at the stern, killing two sailors in the engine room. In all, one officer and four sailors are lost in the attack. EMIDIO becomes the first casualty of the IJN submarine campaign off the Pacific Coast. [4]

Cdr. Nishino observes the tanker settling rapidly by the stern and later reports her sinking. I-17 is again attacked by a passing Navy bomber, but receives no damage.

22 December 1941:
Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, CINC, Combined Fleet, postpones the Christmas Eve attack until 27 December.

23 December 1941:
80 miles SW of Eureka, California. Around 0310 the surfaced I-17 opens fire at the 7,038-ton Richfield Oil Company tanker LARRY DOHENY sighted on her starboard beam, 3,060 yds away. After four shell hits smoke is observed rising from her bridge area. A patrol plane arrives and I-17 crash-dives, returning to periscope depth 15 minutes later. At 0329 Cdr Nishino fires a torpedo, followed by an explosion 90 seconds later. While Nishino claims the tanker as sunk, in reality his torpedo exploded prematurely, blowing off the tanker's chart room portside door.

27 December 1941:
Most I-boats off the coast have depleted their fuel reserves. Vice Admiral Shimizu cancels the shelling.

2 January 1942:
500 miles E of Hawaii. At 0300 (JST), I-17 spots a convoy of five transports, escorted by one cruiser and one destroyer. Both I-17 and I-15 are detached to intercept the convoy, but fail to locate it again.

11 January 1942:
Arrives at Kwajalein. Cdr Nishino is credited with sinking two enemy merchants. That same day, LtCdr J. H. Willingham's USS TAUTOG (SS-191) spots three IJN subs going into Kwajalein, one of which may have been I-17.

31 January 1942:
I-17 finishes preparations for her second war patrol to the Northern Line Islands area (Palmyra and Johnston atolls).

1 February 1942:
Vice Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) William F. Halsey Jr's Task Force 8 (USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) raids Kwajalein and Wotje in the Marshall Islands. ENTERPRISE's Douglas SBD "Dauntlesses" of VB-6 and VS-6 make the first attack followed by a second wave of TBD "Devastator" torpedo planes of VT-6.

Halsey's planes sink a transport and damage light cruiser KATORI, flagship of the Sixth Fleet's (Submarines) Commander, Vice Admiral Shimizu Mitsumi (former CO of ISE). Shimizu himself is wounded. I-23, submarine depot ship YASUKUNI MARU, and several other important ships are also damaged in the raid.

I-17 is caught on the surface while being moored alongside YASUKUNI MARU and fires at the attacking aircraft with her twin 25-mm AA guns. After the first attack she submerges and settles on the bottom at the depth of 120 ft until a signal to re-surface is received from KATORI. She departs at 0625 (JST) in company of I-15, I-19 and I-23 to chase the retiring Task Group 8. 1 off Wotje.

That same day, I-17 is reassigned to SubDiv 2.

3 February 1942:
I-15, I-19, I-23 and I-26 are recalled to Kwajalein. I-17, I-9 and I-23 are ordered to proceed to the area S of Hawaii.

7 February 1942:
I-17, I-9 and I-23 arrive 200 miles S of Hawaii. I-17 is detached to raid American communications off the West Coast of the United States. From the following day on she sights several American patrol aircraft, but escapes without being spotted. 20 February 1942:
I-17 arrives off San Diego, California.

21 February 1942:
Around midnight while recharging batteries, a patrol vessel is sighted to port. I-17 increases speed and moves away from it. When the vessel appears to be following the submarine, I-17 finally submerges to escape being detected.

22 February 1942:
Cdr Nishino decides to move north in search of better targets. Later that day he receives an order from the CinC, Sixth Fleet, to shell a shore target of his own choice around the sunset of 23 February in order to create panic along the West Coast.

An ad hoc pow-wow is convened in officers' quarters to choose a suitable target, using a list of West Coast locations drafted prior to the aborted Christmas Eve shelling last year. The waterfront of San Francisco and the town of Castroville are among the rejected objectives. Lt Yamazaki Atsuo, engineering officer of I-17, finally suggests they bombard Ellwood's oilfields off Santa Barbara. His suggestion is approved, since it provides an easy access and escape route.

23 February 1942:
Ellwood City, 12 miles N of Santa Barbara. At dawn the submerged I-17 arrives off the north end of the Santa Barbara channel to conduct periscope reconnaissance. Two suitable targets are sighted, a pair of oil storage tanks and a building identified as the oil refinery.

A few minutes before sunset I-17 surfaces and commences the run-in, entering the channel. At 1910 (Pacific War Time) the first shell is fired at the oil tanks, dimly visible in the fading light. After firing seven AP rounds, the gunners claim several hits, but there is no fire. Aim is shifted to the oil refinery and ten more shells are fired, exhausting the entire ready use ammunition locker supply. By that time, several cars are sighted on shore and a siren is heard. At 1935, Cdr Nishino orders check fire and heads for the open sea. At 2030, several eyewitnesses see the submarine exiting the south end of the Santa Barbara channel.

Three aircraft and two destroyers give chase, but fail to locate retiring I-17.

Of 17 rounds fired, three strike near the Bankline Co. Oil refinery. One explodes near an oil well, causing about $500 in damage to a catwalk and some pumping equipment. One shell overshoots the target by three miles, landing at Tecolote ranch. Another shell lands on the nearby Staniff ranch, digging a hole five feet deep. The shelling does only minor damages to a pier and an oil well derrick, but creates "invasion" fears along the West Coast. [5]

1 March 1942:
SW of San Francisco. Around 1800 (PWT), I-17 attacks the 8,298-ton Standard Oil Co. tanker WILLIAM H. BERG at 37-25N, 123-28W. I-17 fires a salvo of several torpedoes. Nishino hears one explosion and orders battle-surface to finish off his target, but the tanker returns fire. After an approaching destroyer is sighted by the lookouts, I-17 dives again, heading north. WILLIAM H. BERG escapes undamaged. Imperial HQ, nevertheless, announces the sinking of a 10,000-ton tanker off the California coast on 16 March.

2 March 1942:
Off Cape Mendocino. Around 1700 (PWT), I-17 attacks a 7000-ton merchant and reports it as sunk.

6 March 1942:
Arrives off Cape Blanco, Oregon. Heads back toward the San Francisco area that same day.

12 March 1942:
Around 1630 (PWT), I-17 departs the San Francisco area, heading for Yokosuka.

16 March 1942:
Vice Admiral, the Marquis, Komatsu Teruhisa (former CO of CA NACHI) assumes command of the Sixth Fleet (Submarines) replacing wounded Vice Admiral Shimizu who returns to Japan to convalese. Later, he is reassigned as Commander of the First Fleet.

30 March 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka for an overhaul. Cdr Nishino is credited with sinking two American oilers.

15 May 1942:
Departs Yokosuka for Ominato, northern Honshu.

17 May 1942:
Arrives at Ominato.

19 May 1942:
Departs Ominato on her third war patrol.

20 May 1942:
Reassigned to Northern Force.

27 May 1942:
Reconnoiters the Holtz Bay area, Attu Island, carrying out a four-hour periscope observation of the possible landing areas from a distance of 3,280 yds. Cdr Nishino sights a building with a red roof, probably a church.

29 May 1942:
I-17 is reassigned to the Forward Patrol Unit of Rear Admiral Kakuta Kakuji's 2nd Carrier Striking Force.

5 June 1942: Operation "AL" - The Invasion of the Western Aleutians:
Twenty ships of the Vice Admiral Hosogaya Boshiro's Fifth Fleet, including light cruisers KISO and TAMA, three destroyers, three corvettes, three minesweepers and four transports land Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Omori Sentaro's Occupation Force on Attu, Aleutians without opposition.

7 June 1942:
Captain (later Rear Admiral) Ono Takeji's Occupation Force occupies Kiska, also without opposition.

11 June 1942:
I-17, heading towards Unimak Island on the surface, is spotted by a PBY-5A "Catalina" from VP-43, piloted by Pilot Machinist Leland L. Davis. Davis commences a bombing run just when the submarine is diving and drops two depth charges immediately ahead of the wake left by I-17. He observes a large oil slick spreading from each side of the submarine’s hull and claims it as sunk. [6]

In reality, I-17 is buffeted by explosions, but the damage is minor. The oil leak is repaired by the following morning.

13 June 1942:
Reconnoiters the S coast of Unimak Island, Aleutians.

25 June 1942:
Off Dutch Harbor, Amaknak Island. After sundown the submerged I-17 spots a destroyer and commences an attack. Just before the launch of the torpedoes another destroyer is sighted, closing in from dead astern. Cdt Nishino orders an emergency turn to port, but the destroyer still strikes a grazing blow, causing slight damage to I-17's catapult and the bow buoyancy tank. I-17 dives to 260 ft and escapes without being chased.

29 June 1942:
Reassigned to Advance Force. Departs her patrol area.

7 July 1942:
Returns to Yokosuka.

14 July 1942:
I-17 is in SubRon 1's SubDiv 2 with I-15 and I-19.

15 July 1942:
LtCdr (Cdr, posthumously) Harada Hakue (52)(former CO of I-165) is appointed the Commanding Officer.

7 August 1942 - 9 February 1943: American Operation "Watchtower" - The Invasion of Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands:
Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Richmond K. Turner's Amphibious Task Force 62, covered by Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Frank J. Fletcher's Task Force 61 and Rear Admiral (later Admiral) John S. McCain's Task Force 63's land-based aircraft, lands Maj Gen (later Gen/Commandant) Alexander A. Vandergrift's 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal opening a seven-month campaign to take the island.

15 August 1942:
Departs Yokosuka to patrol in the Solomons area on her fourth war patrol.

23 August 1942: Operation KA: The Destruction of the American Fleet and the Recapture of Guadalcanal:
Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Kondo Nobutake's (former CO of KONGO) Second Fleet, Advanced Force's CruDiv's 4 and 5, CarDiv 11's seaplane tender CHITOSE, DesRon 4's light cruiser YURA and nine destroyers arrive off Truk from Japan. Kondo joins Vice Admiral Nagumo Chuichi's Third Fleet's CarDiv 1's SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU, CarDiv 2's RYUJO, BatDiv 11, CruDiv 7 and 8 and Desron 10's light cruiser NAGARA and destroyers for operations in the Solomons.

N of Stewart Islands (now Sikaiana), Solomons, at 06-48S, 163-20E. At 0745, surfaced I-17, while proceeding on course 200 (T) to join the patrol line E of Malaita, is spotted by two VS-5 SBD-3 "Dauntlesses" from USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6), The dive-bombers, piloted by Lt. Stockton B. Strong and Ensign John F. Richey, bounce the diving submarine, but all their bombs miss. At 0815, I-17 surfaces again and is repeatedly strafed by the same aircraft before diving again. As a result of multiple attacks she receives 4 bullet hits to her starboard main ballast tank cover.

24 August 1942: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons:
Vice Admiral Frank J. Fletcher's Task Force 61's USS SARATOGA (CV-3) and ENTERPRISE launch aircraft that find and sink light carrier RYUJO. In turn, SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU launch aircraft that find and damage ENTERPRISE. That evening, aircraft from SARATOGA damage CHITOSE.

During the battle, LtCdr Harada's submarine is caught running on the surface by Lt Turner Caldwell of ENTERPRISE. Caldwell bombs I-17, but misses and inflicts no damage.

25 August 1942:
At 0030, LtCdr Harada spots one carrier escorted by six destroyers.

27 August 1942:
At 0130, I-17 reports sighting ENTERPRISE, retiring to the south at 20 knots. Fifteen minutes later the American Task Force is sighted by I-15 stationed 13 miles south. Cdr Ishikawa of I-15 tries to contact I-17 to conduct a coordinated attack, but fails to make contact.

28 August 1942:
Harada reports the sighting of a carrier, escorted by a battleship and four cruisers. I-17 is depth-charged by two destroyers at the depth of 265 feet, but escapes without damage.

15 September 1942:
Reassigned to the 1st Picket Unit. Receives the order to proceed to the southern entrance of the Indispensable Strait at flank speed.

20 September 1942:
LtCdr Harada spots a lone destroyer. Departs her patrol area.

25 September 1942:
Arrives at Truk.

5 October 1942:
Reassigned to the 2nd Picket Unit. Departs Truk for Shortland.

8 October 1942:
Arrives at Shortland. LtCdr Harada participates in a conference with the staff officers of the 11th Air Flotilla.

9 October 1942:
Departs Shortland to rendezvous with an Aichi E13A1 Jake floatplane of the 11th Air Flotilla at Indispensable Strait instead of damaged tender KUNIKAWA MARU.

13 October 1942:
Enroute to the rendezvous point, LtCdr Harada sights USS HORNET. After reporting his sighting, I-17 is redirected to intercept the carrier but fails to find it. That same day, I-17 is reassigned to the "A" patrol unit.

18 October 1942:
I-17 arrives at the Indispensable Strait and spends three hours on the surface, waiting on the "Jake's" arrival. The plane does not arrive as the mission was cancelled earlier.

22 October 1942:
Rear Admiral Mito Hisashi assumes command of SubRon 1 from Rear Admiral Yamazaki. I-17, I-15 and I-26 are assigned to patrol west of San Cristobal and prevent enemy reinforcements from landing on Guadalcanal.

31 October 1942:
Reassigned to "B" patrol unit.

11 November 1942:
I-17 is patrolling SW of San Cristobal with I-15 and I-26. Early in the morning her crew witnesses heavy depth-charging sounds coming from the area 15 miles N where I-15 is sunk by USS SOUTHARD (DMS-10).

16 November 1942:
Truk. Vice Admiral Komatsu convenes a meeting of his submarine captains. He announces that the submarine force has been ordered by Admiral Yamamoto, CINC, Combined Fleet to organize a supply system for the IJA's 17th Army garrison on Guadalcanal.

9 November 1942:
Arrives at Shortland.

22 November 1942:
I-17's 140-mm deck gun is removed. Departs Shortland with I-19 for the first supply mission to Guadalcanal.

24 November 1942:
Arrives at Kamimbo Bay, Guadalcanal with I-19. Debarks 11 tons of supplies.

25 November 1942:
I-17 departs with 8 tons of supplies still aboard. She also evacuates seven passengers, including Cdr Sakuma Eiji (former CO of DD AYANAMI), midget submarine crews and sick soldiers.

30 November 1942:
Returns to Truk.

2 December 1942:
Departs Truk for Yokosuka.

8 December 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka for an overhaul.

3 January 1943:
Departs Yokosuka for Truk.

9 January 1943:
Arrives at Truk.

17 January 1943:
Departs Truk for Rabaul.

20 January 1943:
Arives at Rabaul.

24 January 1943:
Departs Rabaul for Guadalcanal on her second supply run there.

28 January 1943:
Off Kamimbo, I-17 releases 10 tons of cargo in supply drums. Some of the cargo cannot be debarked. On that day she is tactically attached to Rear Admiral Komazawa Katsumi's Submarine Force "A". I-17 receives the order to proceed N of Rennel Island.

29 January 1943: The Battle of Rennel Island:
Vice Admiral Komatsu deploys the I-17, I-25, I-26 and I-176 to support the attackers. At night, I-17 surfaces near the battle area but crash-dives when the sound of destroyer screws is heard.

30 January 1943:
I-17 and I-176 are ordered to intercept "two damaged heavy cruisers" in the battle area.

31 January Operation "KE" - The Evacuation of Guadalcanal:
A task force of units of the Second and Third Fleets from Truk steams north of the Solomons as a feint to cover Rear Admiral Hashimoto Shintaro's (former CO of HYUGA) destroyer force from Rabaul. The IJN begins to evacuate the starving IJA troops from Guadalcanal.

1 February 1943:
I-17 sights a lone retiring destroyer, possibly USS LAVALLETTE (DD-448).

2 February 1943:
Rear Admiral Komazawa, after receiving the information that an American carrier task force is at sea 100 nautical miles SE of San Cristobal Island, orders his submarines to proceed to intercept the carriers, but they do not make contact.

8 February 1943:
Air reconnaissance spots American naval forces 150 miles SSE of Rennel Island. Komazawa orders his submarines to proceed to this location. I-18 and another submarine discover and engage the Americans, but then they lose contact. Admiral Komazawa orders all the submarines, except I-11 and I-17 to return to Truk.

9 February 1943:
The IJN completes successfully the evacuation of 11,700 troops from Guadalcanal.

13 February 1943:
Harada sights a cruiser and a destroyer heading south at 14 knots.

27 February 1943:
Coral Sea. Reconnoiters Frederick Reef.

4 March 1943: Operation "RO-81" (The Battle of the Bismarck Sea):
On 2 March, a convoy under Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Kimura Masatomi (former CO of CA SUZUYA) is en route to Lae, New Guinea with troops of the IJA's 51st (Utsunomiya) Division embarked. Over the next three days, the convoy is bombed and strafed repeatedly by USAAF and RAAF planes. All of the eight transports and cargo vessels in the convoy and four of the eight escorting destroyers are sunk. The Japanese in lifeboats, rafts and in the water are strafed by planes and PT boats.

I-17, returning from Coral Sea, is redirected from the area E of Lae.

5 March 1943:
25 miles NE from Cape Ward Hunt. About 0500, Lt J. Baylis' USS PT-143 and Lt R. Hamachek's PT-150 discover I-17 and three lifeboats: a large one with more than 100 soldiers and two smaller ones with about 20 soldiers in each. The men are survivors of the Bismarck Sea battle. The submarine is taking them aboard. Each PT fires a torpedo. PT-143’s runs erratically. PT-150’s runs true, but misses as the submarine crash dives. The PTs strafe the conning tower as I-17 submerges, then they sink the three boats with machine gun fire and depth charges.

Four hours and 45 minutes later, I-17 resurfaces and picks up 34 soldiers, one of whom later dies of his wounds.

6 March 1943:
Despite air and PT attacks, I-17 rescues another 118 soldiers and four sailors.

12 March 1943:
I-17 arrives at Lae and disembarks her 151 passengers.

8 April 1943:
Arrives at Truk. Reassigned to Submarine Force "B". Departs Truk sometime thereafter to reconnoiter Phoenix Island and intercept a converted PT tender whose arrival is predicted by the Combined Fleet's code-breaking unit.

16 April 1943:
The I-17 approaches the anchorage and fires two torpedoes at a moored vessel from 3,280 yards (3,000 meters), but both torpedoes pass under the keel of the target.

18 April 1943:
I-19, I-25 and I-32 are ordered to raid enemy communications in the Fiji-Samoa area.

24 May 1943:
75 miles S of Noumea, New Caledonia. I-17 sets up and torpedoes 10,138-ton Panamanian-flagged armed tanker STANVAC MANILA en route from New York to Noumea. The tanker carries fuel and 150 tons of machinery for the Navy and, as deck cargo, six PT boats of TorpRon 10. At 0407, a torpedo hits the tanker in the port quarter. The engine room and fire room are flooded, all power and communications are lost and MANILA begins to sink by the stern. "Abandon Ship" is sounded. At 1205, MANILA corkscrews to starboard as her bow heaves up and sinks at 23-44S, 166-30E.

PT-165 and PT-173 are lost with the ship, along with eight merchant sailors, three Armed Guards and one torpedo boat sailor. About 1300, light minelayer USS PREBLE (DM-20) arrives and takes PT-167, PT-171 and PT-174 in tow. PT-172 makes it to Noumea under her own power. The other boats arrive the following day.

12 June 1943:
Returns to Truk.

4 July 1943:
Admiral Koga Mineichi (former CO of ISE), C-in-C, Combined Fleet aboard the flagship MUSASHI orders the C-in-C, Sixth Fleet, Vice Admiral (Admiral, posthumously) Takagi Takeo (former CO of MUTSU) to conduct recce flights over Espiritu Santo, Fiji and Noumea. I-11, I-17, I-19 and I-25 are slated for the mission.

25 July 1943:
I-17 departs Truk to reconnoiter Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides and Noumea, New Caledonia and raid enemy communications. She carries a Yokosuka E14Y1 Glen floatplane for this mission.

10 August 1943:
The Glen's pilot reports the presence of several battleships and carriers in the harbor. LtCdr Harada sends a report with the results of the reconnaissance flight over Espiritu Santo. This is the last message received from I-17.

19 August 1943:
55 miles SSE from the Phare Amedee lighthouse, off Noumea. Around 1400, the submerged I-17 spots a small convoy en route from Noumea to Espiritu Santo. LtCdr Harada commences an approach.

Minesweeper HMNZS TUI of the Royal New Zealand Navy 25th Minesweeping Flotilla, providing ASW escort to cargo ship USS TAGANAK (AG-45) and Liberty ship WILEY POST, makes an ASDIC contact bearing east, 3,400 yds away. The convoy makes an emergency turn to starboard and commences zigzagging.

TUI makes three runs over the position of the contact, dropping four depth charges. The target is lost. TUI carries out another ASDIC sweep, fails to regain the contact and rejoins the convoy at 1555.

Lt (j.g.) Robert J. Clinton's Chance-Vought OS2N-1 "Kingfisher" of Scouting Squadron VS-57 is on a routine ASW sector search. Clinton overflies HMNZS TUI and receives a visual message indicating that she has made a submarine contact. He lands his floatplane alongside TUI, verifies the contact and takes off again, soon sighting the periscope's "feather" cutting the water. Lt(j.g.) Clinton dives and drops two depth charges ahead of the periscope. Another "Kingfisher" drops two more DCs. Two of them explode close enough to I-17 to cause several leaks. A trail of air bubbles and an oil slick appears in the water. At 1629 (local), the Kingfishers mark the submarine's location with smoke floats.

I-17's bilge pumps fail and she has to surface. She breaks the water bow first, at a steep angle. Clinton strafes the deck of the submarine with his single .30-cal machine gun to keep the crew from manning their guns, but it jams. At 1715, I-17's crew reaches their 25-mm twin AA mount and opens fire while the submarine is running at 18 knots. Clinton climbs out of range and calls for assistance. Four more "Kingfishers" soon arrive. The submarine is maneuvering at the best possible speed, firing from her AA guns.

LtCdr Harada orders a message be sent to C-in-C, Sixth Fleet: "I am under fire, breaking through to Noumea harbor!" His signal is not received at Truk.

Lt R. L. Gittings' "Kingfisher" attacks from astern and drops two depth charges, but neither explodes. Lt(j.g.) Knut W. Lee drops a depth charge that explodes 30 feet aft of the conning tower. Harada first orders I-17 to dive and immediately thereafter orders all his men to the upper deck. He and eleven sailors remain within the corkscrewing submarine.

Lt Gittings makes another pass and drops a charge that hits within 10 feet of the submarine's starboard beam. The blast sends water upward 50 feet. In less than a minute, I-17 sinks at 23-26S, 166-50E. Ninety-seven crewmen are lost. Later, HMNZS TUI rescues six survivors.

24 October 1943:
Presumed lost with all hands off Australia.

1 December 1943:
Removed from the Navy List.


Authors' Notes:

[1] According to a widespread theory, in case of I-17 the locations of the hangar/catapult and the deck gun were reversed. This notion is not supported by photographic evidence or eyewitness accounts, all indicating that I-17 had the same layout as the other submarines of her class.

[2] "Advance Force" was the tactical designation of SubRons 1-3 for the duration of the Pearl Harbor operation.

[3] In various sources SAMOA's attacker has been identified as I-7, I-10 or I-19. In reality. none of them made an attack in that area at that time.

[4] EMIDIO did not sink immediately, but drifted 85 miles northward until she ran up on Steamboat Rock near the Battery Point Lighthouse. The hulk remained there for the next 18 years and was then towed to Long Beach for disposal.

[5] Capt Bernard Hagen, US Army, was wounded when the fuse of one of the recovered shells exploded as a result of the deactivating effort. He received the Purple Heart for his wounds.

[6] Pilot Machinist Leland L. Davis and his five crewmembers were killed in a plane crash three days later. He received a Navy Cross posthumously.

Special thanks go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan, Steve Eckardt of Australia and Andrew Obluski of Poland.

– Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp


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