SENSUIKAN!

(Type B1 submarine - colorized photo by Irootoko Jr)

IJN Submarine I-31:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2001-2016 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp
Revision 3


6 December 1939:
Laid down at Yokosuka Navy Yard as Submarine No. 144.

13 March 1941:
Launched as I-37.

1 November 1941:
Renumbered I-31.

10 March 1942:
LtCdr (later Cdr) Inoue Norikane (51)(former CO of I-75) is appointed Chief Equipping Officer.

30 May 1942:
Completed and attached to Kure Naval District. Assigned to the Sixth Fleet, SubDiv 15 in SubRon 1. LtCdr Inoue is the Commanding Officer.

7 August 1942: 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. Vandegrift's 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal opening a seven month campaign to take the island.

15 August 1942:
Departs Kure on her first war patrol in the area SE of the Solomons. I-31 is carrying a Yokosuka E14Y1 "Glen" floatplane.

25 August 1942:
175 miles SE of San Cristobal. At 0543 (Z-9), I-31 makes contact with the Americans, but is unable to attack. Later that day, I-31 experiences a serious main hydraulic system malfunction. She is diverted to Truk for repairs.

30 August 1942:
At 1330 (JST) arrives at Truk. Undergoes repairs.

6 September 1942:
Departs Truk on her second war patrol to reconnoiter the American seaplane bases on Ndeni and Vanikoro islands, Solomons.

11 September 1942:
At dawn, I-31 launches her E14Y1 "Glen" floatplane. Several Consolidated PBY-5A "Catalinas" from VP-11 and -23, as well as their tenders, USS BALLARD (AVD-10) and MACKINAC (AVP-13) are sighted in Graciosa Bay on the north coast of the island. After the recovery of the floatplane, the submerged I-31 penetrates the bay at 1030 (local). At 2235 she surfaces and heads towards the seaplane base.

12 September 1942:
At 0203, I-31 opens fire from her 14-cm deck gun, targeting the moored seaplanes. USS BALLARD and MACKINAC return the fire. After ten shots I-31's deck gun gets jammed; LtCdr Inoue orders to check fire and depart. The submarine heads towards the opean sea, diving at 0212. [1] As a result of the attack two PBYs are heavily damaged. Due to Ndeni's vulnerability, the "Catalinas" and their tenders are transferred to Espiritu Santo.

13 September 1942:
The E14Y1 from I-31 conducts a dawn reconnaissance of Vanikoro Island. After a heavy squall envelopes the island, the pilot decides to abort the flight. The landing floatplane capsizes and becomes a total loss. The crew is rescued by I-31.

14 September 1942:
Arrives to area SE of Guadalcanal. Assigned to the First Picket Unit with I-7,-17 and I-176 on the following day.

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

6 October 1942:
Returns to Truk.

14 October 1942:
Departs Truk on her third war patrol to patrol the area SE of Guadalcanal and reconnoiter the Americal naval bases at Fiji and Pago-Pago. I-31 is carrying a Yokosuka E14Y1 "Glen" floatplane. Reassigned to the "A" patrol unit that dame day.

4 November 1942:
I-31's Yokosuka E14Y "Glen" floatplane conducts a dawn reconnaissance of Suva harbor, Fiji.

11 November 1942:
I-31's conducts a dawn reconnaissance of Pago-Pago, American Samoa. The pilot sights one small transport vessel in the harbor. No aircraft are visible on Tafuna airfield and a full blackout appears to be imposed for the entire Tutuila Naval Station. The E14Y1 finally passes over Aunu’u Island to make sure if the local lighthouse is working.

An Allied biplane floatplane appears in the vicinity of the submarine just when the E14Y1 is about to be hoisted aboard. Nevertheless, the submarine is not sighted.

20 November 1942:
Arrives at Shortland. Embarks 30 tons of food and ammunition for the IJA troops on Guadalcanal.

25 November 1942:
Departs Shortland for a supply mission to Guadalcanal.

Departs Shortland on her first supply run to Guadalcanal.

27 November 1942:
Arrives off Kamimbo, unloads her cargo, then departs for Shortland.

29 November 1942:
Arrives at Shortland; departs for Truk on that same day.

2 December 1942:
Arrives at Truk. The floatplane is debarked. Embarks 15 tons of food in rubber containers.

22 December 1942:
Departs Truk for Shortlands.

25 December 1942:
Arrives at Shortlands; departs for Guadalcanal on that same day on her second supply run to that island.

27 December 1942:
Arrives off Kamimbo, unloads her cargo, then departs for Shortlands.

28 December1 942:
50 miles SE of Mono Island, Treasury Islands. I-31 discovers a surfaced submarine and attacks it with a salvo of torpedoes. All miss.

29 December 1942:
I-31 attackes another submarine in the same area and misses again.[2]

E 31 December 1942:
Arrives at Shortlands.

1 January 1943:
Departs Shortlands for Truk.

4 January 1943:
Arrives at Truk.

7 January 1943:
Departs Truk for Kure.

13 January 1943:
Arrives at Kure for an overhaul.

1 February 1943:
Reassigned to Northern Force.

25 February 1943:
Departs Kure to be based at Paramushiro, Kuriles to perform supply missions to Attu and Kiska, Aleutians.

2 March 1943:
Arrives at Paramushiro.

Early March 1943:
I-31 makes her first supply run to Attu; then proceeds to Kiska.

12 March 1943:
Arrives at Kiska. Departs for Paramushiro that same day.

18 March 1943:
Arrives at Paramushiro.

20 March 1943:
Paramushiro. Oiler TEIYO MARU refuels I-31, I-169 and I-171.

22 March 1943:
Departs Paramushiro on her fourth war patrol to patrol in the area 10 miles S of Agattu, Near Islands.

1 April 1943:
Arrives at Attu, embarks a cargo of ammunition and departs for Kiska that same day.

4 April 1943:
Arrives at Kiska. Unloads her cargo and departs for Paramushiro that same day.

9 April 1943:
Arrives at Paramushiro.

14 April 1943:
Departs Paramushiro for Attu, carrying the CO of the 2nd District Force of the North Sea Defense Force, Col Yamasaki Yasuyo and his staff.

17 April 1943:
Arrives at Attu. Departs for Paramushiro on that same day.

20 April 1943:
Arrives at Paramushiro.

22 April 1943:
Departs Paramushiro for Kiska on her second supply run to that island.

26 April 1943:
Arrives at Kiska, unloads her cargo. Departs for Paramushiro on that same day.

30 April 1943:
Arrives at Paramushiro.

7 May 1943:
Departs Paramushiro for Attu and Kiska on another supply run.

9 May 1943:
Arrives at Attu, unloads her cargo. Departs for Kiska on that same day.

10 May 1943:
Arrives at Kiska and discharges her cargo. Departs for Attu.

11 May 1943: American Operation "Landcrab" - The Invasion of Attu, Aleutians:
Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Thomas C. Kinkaid's Task Force 16, covered by Rear Admiral Francis W. Rockwell's Task Force 51, lands elements of the Army's 4th and 7th Infantry Divisions under the command of Maj Gen Eugene M. Landrum at Holtz Bay and Massacre Bay that later capture the island.

Arrives at Kiska, unloads her cargo. Departs to proceed to Attu area on that same day.

12 May 1943:
Nine miles NE of Holtz Bay, Attu. Captain William A. Corn's USS PENNSLYVANIA (BB-38) is proceeding northward, away from the island, to rejoin Captain Horace D. Clarke's IDAHO (BB-24) with which she is assigned to provide bombardment fire support.

Overhead, a PBY "Catalina" on anti-submarine patrol, radios that a torpedo is headed for PENNSLYVANIA! Captain Corn maneuvers the battleship evasively at full speed. Her lookouts sight the torpedo's wake passing safely astern. The PBY flies back along the track of the torpedo and drops a smoke bomb at the point from where the torpedo had been fired.

At 1937, LtCdr John E. Edwards' USS PHELPS (DD-360) of PENNSYLVANIA's Screening Group makes a sound contact. At 1939, PHELPS drops two depth charges, then loses contact.

Cdr Henry D. Rozendal's USS FARRAGUT (DD-348) and Lt Cdr Paul G. Osler's EDWARDS (DD-619) are detached to hunt down the submarine. For about ten hours, they conduct sonar searches and carry out depth charge attacks.

Five miles NE of Chichagof Harbor. The submarine - probably I-31 - is finally forced to the surface where EDWARDS sinks her by gunfire in about 1000 fathoms of water at 52-08N, 177-38E. Diesel oil rises and grows to cover an area of about five square miles.

14 May 1943:
Presumed lost with all 95 hands.

1 August 1943:
Removed from the Navy List.


Authors' Note:
[1] While several accounts suggest that Ndeni was shelled by two Japanese submarines, in reality only I-31 was present.

[2] I-31's target was almost certainly USS GRAYBACK (SS-208), who reported a submarine attack off Simbo island at 0406 (L).

Special thanks go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan.

– Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp


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