(Type KD7 submarine scanned from "Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy" by Polmar and Carpenter)

IJN Submarine I-181: Tabular Record of Movement

2001-2016 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp

Revision 3

11 November 1941:
Laid down at Kure Navy Yard as Submarine No. 159.

2 May 1942:
Launched and provisionally attached to Sasebo Naval District.

20 February 1943:
LtCdr (Captain, posthumously) Ohashi Katsuo (53) (former CO of I-156) is appointed Chief Equipping Officer.

24 May 1943:
I-181 is completed, commissioned in the IJN and attached to Sasebo Naval District. She is assigned to SubRon 11 at the First Fleet for working-up. LtCdr Ohashi Katsuo (promoted to Cdr on 1 June) is the Commanding Officer.

20 August 1943:
Reassigned to SubDiv 22 in SubRon 3.

25 August 1943:
Departs Kure for Truk.

1 September 1943:
Arrives at Truk.

7 September 1943:
Departs Truk on her first war patrol to patrol off Espiritu Santo, Solomons.

15 September 1943:
SubRon 3 is disbanded. I-181 is reassigned directly to the Sixth Fleet.

30 September 1943:
Patrols off Cape Esperance. No enemy vessels sighted. The I-181 is then redirected to the Torres Strait.

2 October 1943:
Arrives at the Torres Strait.

14 October 1943:
Torres Strait. Cdr Ohashi attacks a convoy twice but fails to score any hits.

20 October 1943:
Returns to Truk.

11 November 1943:
Departs Truk for the Bougainville area on her second war patrol.

12 November 1943:
Reassigned to Vice Admiral, the Baron, Samejima Tomoshige's (former CO of NAGATO) Eighth Fleet/Southeast Area Fleet based at Rabaul.

24-25 November 1943: The Battle off Cape St. George:
50 miles E of Cape St. George, New Britain. Destroyers AMAGIRI, YUGIRI, ONAMI, MAKINAMI and UZUKI are on a troop transport run to Buka, off Bougainville. They are intercepted by Captain (later Admiral/CNO) Arleigh A. Burke's DesRon 23. YUGIRI is sunk by gunfire by USS CHARLES AUSBURNE (DD-570), CLAXTON (DD-571) and the DYSON (DD-572) at 04-44S, 154 E. The same three American destroyers, joined by the SPENCE (DD-512) and CONVERSE (DD-509), sink MAKINAMI with torpedoes and gunfire and damage UZUKI. The Americans suffer no damage.

26 November 1943:
I-177 rescues 278 survivors from YUGIRI. I-181 rescues another 11.

29 November 1943:
Arrives at Rabaul.

7 December 1943:
At 0930, departs Rabaul for Sio, New Guinea, carrying 44 tons of cargo including four packages of code books, one package of light globes, two packages of type H ammunition and one package of type U ammunition.

9 December 1943:
After arrival at Sio, I-181 is attacked by bombers that drop a total of 15 depth charges. Cdr Ohashi crash-dives and later unloads his cargo.

11 December 1943:
At 0800, returns to Rabaul.

16 December 1943:
Arrives at Buka on her fist supply run there, unloads her cargo, then departs for Rabaul.

20 December 1943:
LtCdr (Cdr, posthumously) Taoka Kiyoshi (55) (former CO of RO-500) is appointed Commanding Officer.

21 December 1943:
Departs Rabaul on her second supply run to Buka.

22 December 1943:
Arrives at Buka but fails to deliver her cargo.

1 January 1944:
I-181 is redirected to the area N of Choiseul to intercept an enemy task force.

2 January 1944: American Operation "Michaelmas"- The Invasion of Saidor, New Guinea:
Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Daniel E. Barbey's Task Force 76 lands the Sixth Army's 126th Regimental Combat Team of the 32d Division at Saidor and by-passes the Japanese garrison at Sio, 75 miles east.

3 January 1944:
I-181 is returning to Rabaul from a supply run to New Guinea.

St. George's Channel. Major (later Col/MOH) Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, the 26-victory "ace" CO of the famed Marine "Blacksheep" squadron (VMF-214), is shot down while on a fighter sweep over Rabaul. Boyington ditches his Chance-Vought F4U-1A "Corsair" about five miles from shore. He is injured in the crash. Eight hours later, the I-181 surfaces near Boyington. Cdr Taoka takes Boyington aboard as a POW. Two hours later, I-181 arrives at Rabaul. [1]

6 January 1944:
Departs Rabaul on her third supply run to Buka.

7 January 1944:
Arrives at Buka, unloads her cargo.

8 January 1944:
Returns to Rabaul.

13 January 1944:
Departs Rabaul on a supply run to Gali, New Guinea in company of RO-104, carrying ComSubDiv 22, Capt Maejima Toshihide (48) and his staff. I-181's estimated time of arrival at Gali is 16 January, but she remains MIA thereafter.

16 January 1944:
Vitiaz Strait. That evening, I-181 is intercepted and sunk in a running battle with an unidentified American destroyer and a PT boat. Her demise is witnessed by the Japanese garrison at Gali. [2]

1 March 1944:
Presumed lost SW of New Guinea with all 89 hands.

30 April 1944:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Notes:

[1] On 17 February 1944, Boyington and five other POWs are flown aboard a Mitsubishi GM4 "Betty" bomber to Truk. Just after landing, Truk is attacked by Task Force 58's aircraft in Operation "Hailstone". The Betty is destroyed just after Boyington exits. Weeks later, he is flown on a "Tabby"(DC-3) via Saipan to Japan. He spends the next 18 months at Ofuna prison camp near Yokohama. Years later, he says the treatment he received aboard I-181 was the best he received in captivity.

[2] According to some sources I-181 was sunk in St. George's Channel that same day by the USN aircraft.

The well-known photo taken in Kelanoa Harbor, New Guinea, supposedly depicting the beached wreck of I-181, actually shows the wreckage of the large type towed supply container destroyed in that area by the USN torpedo boats PT-151 and PT-192 on 24 December 1943.

Special thanks for help in preparing this TROM go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan and author Henry Sakaida for help in identifying the submarine that rescued Boyington.

Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

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