(Type B1 submarine - colorized photo by Irootoko Jr)

HIJMS Submarine I-37:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2001-2010 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp

Revision 2

7 December 1940:
Laid down at Kure Navy Yard as Submarine No. 150.

22 October 1941:
Launched and renumbered I-49.

1 November 1941:
I-49 is renumbered I-37.

20 December 1942:
Cdr (later Captain) Otani Kiyonori (49)(former CO of I-18) is appointed the Chief Eqyuipping Officer (CEO).

10 March 1943:
Kure. I-37 is completed, commissioned, and attached to Kure Naval District. Assigned to Kure SubRon. Cdr Otani Kiyonori is the Commanding Officer.

13 March 1943:
Navigates Iyo Nada Sea.

22 March 1943:
Inspected by the staff of Kure SubRon.

26 March 1943:
Participates in a torpedo practice with I-38, RO-104 and RO-105.

1 April 1943:
Reassigned to SubDiv 11 for working-up.

2 April 1943:
Arrives at Kure for the repairs of the attack periscope and the retractable short-wave antenna.

May 1943:
Participates in Unkato cargo container towing tests in the Inland Sea. A Type 22 surface-search radar is installed.

23 May 1943:
I-37 is reassigned to the Sixth Fleet in SubRon 8's SubDiv 14.

25 May 1943:
Departs Kure for Penang, Malaya.

4 June 1943:
Arrives at Penang.

8 June 1943:
Departs Penang for her first war patrol in the Indian Ocean. Her patrol area extends from the Chagos Archipelago to the Persian Gulf.

16 June 1943:
Indian Ocean, SE of Chagos Archipelago. I-37 torpedoes the 8,078-ton British armed motor tanker SAN ERNESTO, independently en route from Sydney to Abadan, in ballast. After the crew has left the ship in position 09-18S, 80-20E, the submarine briefly shells the tanker, but fails to sink her. The master and 22 sailors are picked up by the American cargo ship ALCOA POINTER.

Twenty-eight days later twelve sailors from another boat land on Fanhandu Island, Maldives. Two sailors and 2 gunners are lost. The derelict hull drifts some 2,000 miles before running aground on west side of Nias Island, Sumatra (01-15N, 97-15E).

19 June 1943:
Indian Ocean, SW of Maldives. At 1850 I-37 torpedoes the 7,176-ton American Liberty-ship HENRY KNOX at 01-00N, 71-15E. Independently en route from Fremantle to Bandar Shapur, she is carrying 8,200 tons of Lend-Lease supplies (fighter planes, tanks, and explosives) destined for the Soviet Union.

HENRY KNOX receives one hit to her port side, which detonates the cargo of explosives in No. 3 hold. The cords of burning explosive shower the vessel from stem to stern, setting the deck cargo and catwalk in fire. The Liberty-ship goes dead in the water and at 1907 the order to abandon ship is given.

A total of 25 merchant sailors and Armed Guards gunners perish during the torpedo attack, the ensuing fire and shark attacks after abandoning their ship. HENRY KNOX finally sinks by the bow around 2200, following several explosions.

I-37 surfaces and her navigator orders the chief mate's boat alongside. He questions the survivors about their cargo, route, destination, and the Allied vessels encountered in the vicinity. Following the interrogation, various items of gear are passed over to the stationary submarine on a handline. The boat's sails, charts, some rations, and a flashlight are confiscated. Personal gear, matches, and liquor are returned. [1]

The survivors set off for the Maldives in several groups. A total of 13 of 42 merchant sailors and 13 of 25 Armed Guards perish before the last survivors make landfall on 30 June.

1 July 1943:
In Advance Force with Rear Admiral Ishizaki Noboru's (former CO of HYUGA) SubRon 8 with I-8, I-10, I-27 and I-29 based at Penang.

9 July 1943:
Reconnoiters the coast of the Persian Gulf.

17 August 1943:
Returns to Penang.

19 August 1943:
ComSubRon 8 Rear Admiral Ishizaki Noboru is relieved by Rear Admiral Ichioka Hisashi (former CO of CL YURA).

22 August 1943:
Departs Penang for Singapore.

5 September 1943:
Departs Singapore for Penang.

12 September 1943:
Reassigned to the Southwest Area Fleet.

Mid-September 1943:
Departs Penang for a patrol in the Indian Ocean. Soon after departure one sailor goes down with appendicitis and I-37 returns to base, aborting the patrol.

20 September 1943:
Departs Penang for her second war patrol in the Mozambique Channel-Mombasa area. I-37 carries an E14Y1 "Glen" floatplane.

28 September 1943:
The British Admiralty sends a warning based on an ULTRA intercept from 25 September regarding the possibility of Japanese submarine-based seaplane recce flights in the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and in the area extending from 15S to 01-30N, west of 54E.

11 October 1943:
The "Glen" from I-37 conducts a recce flight over Diego Suarez, Madagascar (now Antsiranana). Its pilot, WO Imaizumi Jinzo, reports that the anchorage is heavily guarded.

23 October 1943:
Indian Ocean, NW of Madagascar. I-37 torpedoes and sinks 3,404-ton Greek merchant FANEROMENI.

4 November 1943:
Mozambique Channel, SE of Pemba Island. In the morning I-37 attacks an Allied merchant (probably the 2,850-ton Norwegian steamer HALLBYØRG, ex-CANADIAN VOYAGEUR) and misses her with one torpedo.

5 November 1943:
Mozambique Channel, SE of Pemba. On the afternoon I-37 attacks another Allied merchant and again misses it with one torpedo. [2]

17 November 1943:
The "Glen" from I-37 piloted by WO Imaizumi conducts a recce flight over Kilindini harbor, Mombasa.

27 November 1943:
Indian Ocean, SW of Addu Atoll, Maldives. At 1240 (Z), just after the sundown, I-37 torpedoes 9,972-ton Norwegian armed tanker SCOTIA detached from the convoy PB.64 and now independently en route from Bahrein with a cargo of diesel oil to Melbourne, Australia. After a hit to her starboard quarter the tanker soon develops a 15-degree list to that side. The steering gear is disabled and SCOTIA goes dead in the water. The crew abandons ship while the first engineer and the radio operator remain aboard to transmit the SSSS signal.

Around 1255, SCOTIA receives another torpedo hit to starboard engine room and breaks in two. The stern sinks immediately at 03S, 69-08E, while the bow remains afloat. I-37 surfaces and scuttles it with gunfire. SCOTIA's master Captain Karl Hjalmar Hansen is taken aboard the submarine as a prisoner.

31 survivors are rescued by HMS OKAPI on 29-30 November. According to the testimony given by one Norwegian sailor, his boat was machine-gunned from a Bren gun and a total of 8 officers and sailors were killed.

5 December 1943:
I-37 returns to Penang.

12 December 1943:
Departs Penang for Singapore.

13 December 1943:
Arrives at Singapore for an overhaul at Seletar naval base.

15 December 1943:
Dry-docked at Seletar. SubDiv 14 is deactivated. I-37 is directly attached to the Eighth Fleet.

18 December 1943:
Undocked. Embarks provisions at Singapore.

27 December 1943:
Singapore. Cdr Nakagawa Hajime (50)(former CO of I-177) is appointed the CO.

12 January 1944:
Departs Singapore for Penang.

15 January 1944:
Arrives at Penang.

Early February 1944:
Most key officers of I-37 are rotated.

10 February 1944:
Departs Penang on her third war patrol in the area off Madagascar. I-37 carries an E14Y1 "Glen" floatplane.

14 February 1944:
Indian Ocean, S of Ceylon. At 0030, I-37 spots an Allied merchant and chases it on the surface until 0100 the following day, but fails to overtake the vessel, making at least 16 knots.

Indian Ocean, SW of Addu Atoll, Maldives. At 1030 I-37 attacks 7,118-ton British armed steam tanker BRITISH CHIVALRY, independently enroute from Melbourne to Abadan in ballast. BRITISH CHIVALRY receives two torpedo hits to starboard, disabling her engines and killing six sailors.

I-37 surfaces 660 yards away from BRITISH CHIVALRY and scuttles the abandoned tanker with gunfire at 00-50S, 68-00E, firing a total of 17 shells. Two lifeboats with survivors are ordered alongside. The survivors are interrogated by I-37's medical officer and BRITISH CHIVALRY's master Captain Walter Hill is taken aboard the submarine. He surrenders his briefcase, containing some fifty diamonds and sapphires.

Cdr Nakagawa orders the crew of I-37's floatplane and two sailors to open fire at the survivors. A total of 13 British sailors are killed and 5 wounded. Thirty-seven days later 29 sailors and 9 gunners are rescued by the British merchant DELANE. [3]

26 February 1944:
Arabian Sea, 200 miles W of Diego Garcia. At 2030, the lookouts of I-37 sight an unescorted merchant on starboard bow. It is 5,189-ton British armed motor vessel SUTLEJ, detached from a convoy enroute from Kosseir to Fremantle with a cargo of 9,700 tons of rock phosphates and mail.

Shortly after sundown, I-37 fires two torpedoes from the distance of 2,190 yards. SUTLEJ receives one torpedo hit to the port side between holds Nos. 1 and 2 and sinks in four minutes at 08S, 70E. The survivors escape in a lifeboat and several rafts.

I-37 surfaces and illuminates the surrounding area with a searchlight. One of the survivors, a teenage Indian boy is found clinging to the submarine's rudder and taken aboard.

I-37's medical officer attempts to identify SUTLEJ's master, who apparently died in the explosion. After receiving information about the ship's cargo and destination, Cdr Nakagawa orders his crew to open fire on the survivors. A total of 41 sailors and 9 gunners are lost.

Eleven sailors and a gunner are rescued after 46 days adrift by HM sloop FLAMINGO. Another ten sailors and a gunner are rescued after 42 days on a raft by HM whaler SOLVRA. SUTLEJ's 3rd engineer, Arthur S. Bennett is awarded the Lloyd's War Medal for bravery at sea.

29 February 1944:
Indian Ocean, 800 miles NW of Diego Suarez. At 1130, I-37 fires two torpedoes at 7,005-ton British armed cargo steamer ASCOT, independently enroute from Calcutta to Port Louis, Mauritius, with 9,000 tons of general cargo. After one hit to her engine room the steamer goes dead in the water at 05S, 63E; four sailors are killed in the blast. Fifty-two survivors board a lifeboat and a raft.

I-37 surfaces starboard of the abandoned steamer and her medical officer attempts to identify ASCOT's skipper and the chief officer. When the survivors claim that all senior officers had been killed, several warning shots are fired from the submarine. ASCOT's master, Capt James Fawcett Travis identifies himself in an attempt to prevent any casualties.

Travis and his chief officer Claude Blackett are taken aboard the submarine and then both dismissed following a brief interrogation. I-37 first scuttles the wreck of ASCOT by shellfire and then sinks the lifeboat with all its occupants. Only 4 sailors and 3 gunners are rescued on 3 March by Dutch steamer STRAAT SOENDA.

3 March 1944:
Early in the morning the "Glen" from I-37 piloted by Ens Takahashi Kazuo conducts a recce flight over Chagos Archipelago. On this occasion, the floatplane carries two 132-lb bombs on makeshift racks. After no ships are sighted, the bombs are dumped during the return flight. I-37 next heads for Diego Suarez, Madagascar.

9 March 1944:
At 2300, I-37 stops an Indian junk en route from Colombo to Capetown. After it is found to carry some hundred women and children, Cdr Nakagawa decides to let the junk to pass undisturbedly.

14 March 1944:
150 miles NE of Diego Suarez. After 1700, the sound operator of I-37 picks up destroyer screw noises. After a consultation with his officers Cdr Nakagawa decides against an attack in order to proceed with the recce flight scheduled for the next day.

15 March 1944:
After sundown the "Glen" from I-37 piloted by Ens Takahashi conducts a recce flight over Diego Suarez. He reports the presence of an aircraft carrier, two heavy cruisers, and three destroyers. I-37 next heads for Mombasa.

18 March 1944:
An unescorted Allied merchant is sighted, but Cdr Nakagawa decides against an attack. On 22 March and 1 April two more merchants are let past.

5 April 1944:
In the afternoon, I-37 arrives 50 miles E of Pemba Island, S of Mombasa. A heavy swell is observed in the area, preventing the launch of the plane. By midnight the weather deteriorates further and Cdr Nakagawa decides to postpone the flight.

7 April 1944:
Despite of the bad weather the "Glen" conducts a nightly recce flight over Pemba Island and Mombasa. Ensign Takahashi counts over 60 merchants in the port of Mombasa. I-37 next heads for Penang.

10 April 1944:
I-37 passes the area 5 miles S of Ceylon.

20 April 1944:
At 0430, returns to Penang.

27 April 1944:
At 0500, I-37 departs Penang for Singapore, escorted by her E14Y1 "Glen" floatplane. Around 0800, when I-37 arrives about 20 miles S of Penang, an explosion occurs off the submarine's port bow, 110 yards away. I-37 is badly shaken, the lights go out and an electrical switchboard shorts, but there seem to be no other damage. The submarine settles to the bottom at shallow depth and returns to Penang by the morning of the following day. The berthside inspection reveals damage to the valves of two ballast tanks on the port side. [4]

3 May 1944:
Departs Penang for Singapore.

5 May 1944:
Arrives at Singapore for repairs at Seletar.

10 May 1944:
Cdr Kono Masamichi (52)(former CO of I-155) is appointed the CO.

21 July 1944:
Lingga anchorage. Between 0900 and 1330 (JST), I-37 acts as ASW target for Vice Admiral Kurita Takeo's fleet.

9 September 1944:
Arrives at Kure for overhaul and refit. I-37's hangar, catapult and deck gun are removed and she is configured to carry four kaiten.

15 September 1944: American Operation "Stalemate II" - The Invasion of the Palaus:
Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) William F. Halsey's Third Fleet lands the First Marine Division on Peleliu and the Army's 81st Division on Anguar Island. The islands are taken in a bitterly fought month-long campaign.

11 October 1944:
LtCdr (promoted Cdr 15 October; Captain, posthumously) Kamimoto Nobuo (56)(former CO of I-156) is appointed the CO.

7 November 1944: The First Kaiten Mission:
Otsujima Kaiten Naval Base, Tokuyama Bay. Vice Admiral Miwa Shigeyoshi, Commander, Sixth Fleet (Submarines) advises crewmen of the plans for a kaiten attack on the American Third Fleet's anchorage at Ulithi Atoll.

Embarks four kaitens.

8 November 1944: Operation "Kikusui" (Floating Chrysanthemum) - Tokko (suicide) attack on Palau-Ulithi anchorage:
I-36, I-37 and I-47 depart Otsujima. I-37 carries four kaiten to attack enemy shipping at Palau, piloted by Lt Kamibeppu Yoshinori, Lt (j.g.) Murakami Katsutomo, Ensign Kondo Kazuhiko and Ensign Utsunomiya Hideichi.

19 November 1944:
Kossol Roads, Palau. At 0858, some twelve hours before I-37 is scheduled to launch her kaiten, she is sighted at the western entrance of the Kossol Roads by USS WINTERBERRY (AN-56), laying a torpedo net across the entrance. Twenty seconds later the submarine surfaces again at a steep angle in approximately the same position and then disappears again. USS WINTERBERRY alerts minesweeper YMS-33 and the Port Director of Kossol Passage. YMS-33 fails to locate the submarine.

At 0915, LtCdr Edmund L. McGibbon's USS CONKLIN (DE-439) and LtCdr Edwin K. Winn's McCOY REYNOLDS (DE-440) are ordered to find and destroy I-37. Navy planes are also dispatched from Peleliu to assist. The ships begin a sonar search.

Around 1504 both destroyer escorts obtain a sound contact. At 1539, McCOY REYNOLDS commences the first attack, firing two patterns of Mark 10 "Hedgehog" projector charges. I-37 descends to 350 feet and commences evasive maneuvers. After her third Hedgehog attack McCOY REYNOLDS loses contact at a depth of 400 feet or more.

At 1603, CONKLIN relocates I-37 and commences her first Hedgehog attack at 1615. Twenty-five seconds later a single underwater explosion is heard. Ten minutes later CONKLIN fires the second pattern of projector charges; 28 seconds later another explosion is heard. Nevertheless, I-37 continues to maneuver and manages to turn inside CONKLIN's pattern immediately prior to her third attack, during which no hits are recorded.

LtCdr Winn, Officer in Tactical Command, now orders CONKLIN to stand by and at 1645 McCOY REYNOLDS drops 12 depth charges set to the depth of 450 feet. An air bubble about 25 feet in diameter arises at least 5 feet above the surface, followed by a heavy underwater explosion. At 1700, just after the contact has been regained, another massive explosion shakes the destroyer escort violently, temporarily disabling her sound gear. A minute later, a huge air bubble appears on the starboard bow at 08-07N, 134-16E.

Several smaller explosions follow and no further contacts can be established. Sudden gushes of debris and oil emerge in a large area around both ships. By sundown a whaleboat from McCOY REYNOLDS retrieves a number of items, including wood stenciled with Japanese characters, polished pieces of instrument cases and deck planking. A piece of human flesh with bits of steel embedded in it is likewise retrieved. By darkness the oil slick expands over several square miles and new debris continue to appear.

6 December 1944:
I-37 is presumed lost off Palau with all 113 hands.

10 March 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Notes:
[1] The occupants of the boat later confirmed the presence of a hangar and degaussing coil on I-37. According to their testimonies the diesel engines of the submarine started without a splutter which appeared to indicate their excellent condition and the high quality of the fuel used. The submarine was reported to have been fitted with a stereoscopic camera with some type of filtering apparatus mounted to the conning tower.

[2] It has been suggested that I-37 actually attacked HALLBYØRG twice, firing three torpedoes on both occasions. I-37's own radio messages from that period indicate that she attacked two different vessels in one and the same location. More details regarding the attack on HALLBYØRG and the subsequent loss of SCOTIA can be found on Siri Lawson's Norwegian Fleet website (

[3] According to the testimony of a former crewmember of I-37, prior to departure Cdr Nakagawa was authorized by ComSubRon 8 to carry out actions against the Allied armed merchant crews as a retaliation for the alleged slaughter of Japanese merchant ship crews by Allied submarines.

In January 1947, Cdr Nakagawa pleaded guilty for his wartime crimes before the International Military Tribunal in Tokyo. He was sentenced to 8 years of hard labor. Nakagawa actually served six years and was released on probation after the end of the Allied Occupation.

[4] The damage was apparently caused by a premature explosion of a Mark 13 mine laid by Consolidated B-24 "Liberator" heavy bombers of the 10th Air Force's 7th Bomb Group. Alternatively, the mine could have been laid by British submarine HMS TAURUS.

Thanks go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan.

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