(Type B1 submarine - colorized photo by Irootoko Jr)

IJN Submarine I-39: Tabular Record of Movement

2001-2017 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp

Revision 2

19 June 1941:
Laid down at Sasebo Navy Yard as Submarine No. 152.

15 April 1942:
Launched as I-39 and provisionally attached to Yokosuka Naval District.

3 February 1943:
Cdr (Captain, posthumously) Tanaka Makio (current CO of I-166) is appointed the Chief Equipping Officer (CEO) of I-39 as additional duty.

22 April 1943:
I-39 is completed, commissioned in the IJN and attached to Yokosuka Naval District. Assigned to SubRon 11 for working-up. Cdr Tanaka Makio is the Commanding Officer.

20 July 1943:
Reassigned to SubRon 8's SubDiv 14, Submarine Advance Force.

21 July 1943:
Departs Yokosuka for Truk.

27 July 1943:
Arrives at Truk.

2 August 1943:
Departs Truk on her first war patrol to raid enemy communications off New Hebrides archipelago.

7 August 1943:
N of Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. I-39 is attacked and briefly depth-charged by a destroyer without receiving any damage.

29 August 1943:
I-39 is spotted by two destroyers and chased without receiving any damage.

2 September 1943:
Around 9700, Cdr Tanaka sights a convoy of three transports, escorted by four destroyers and fires two torpedoes. Both explode at the end of their run close astern of the attack transport USS FULLER (APA-7), carrying the Third Division of the New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force from Vila Harbor, Efate, New Hebrides, to Point Cruz, Guadalcanal. A destroyer attempts to counter-attack the submarine, but fails to locate it.

10 September 1943:
Around 0950 Cdr Tanaka sights an unescorted transport heading for Espiritu Santo, but fails to attain the firing range.

11 September 1943:
E of Espiritu Santo. At 0505 an unescorted transport is sighted. At 1810 two transports, escorted by a destroyer, are sighted.

12 September 1943:
150 miles E of Espiritu Santo. I-39 torpedoes the 1,235-ton fleet tug USS NAVAJO (AT-64), towing the 6,600-ton gasoline barge YOGN-42 from Pago Pago to Espiritu Santo. Struck by a single torpedo to starboard amidships, NAVAJO explodes and goes down by the bow in two minutes at 14-58S, 169-17E. A total of 17 sailors are lost; the survivors are rescued by the minesweeper YMS-266. Cdr Tanaka misidentifies his target as a British ACHILLES-class light cruiser.

25 September 1943:
En route to Truk, I-39 is damaged in a depth charge attack.

27 September 1943:
Returns to Truk for battle-damage repairs.

20 November 1943: American Operation "Galvanic" - The Invasion of the Gilberts:
The Americans invade Tarawa and Makin Islands. The invasion fleet of 200 ships includes 13 battleships and 11 carriers.

21 November 1943:
I-39 is ordered to proceed to Tarawa in the Gilberts with I-19, I-35, I-169 and I-175. Departs Truk on her second war patrol for the area SW of Tarawa, carrying an E14Y1 "Glen" floatplane.

24 November 1943:
I-39 reports approaching her prescribed area.

25 November 1943:
At 0330 (JST), Cdr Tanaka reports his arrival at prescribed patrol sector. This is the last message received from I-39.

That same day, I-39 is reassigned to SubRon 1's SubDiv 2.

26 November 1943:
80 miles SW of Tarawa. At 2252 (Z-12), USS MASSACHUSETTS (BB-59), steaming with Task Group 50.2, makes a radar contact with a surface target at 9 miles to SW. At 2302 Cdr (later Admiral/CincPacFlt) Ulysses S. Grant Sharp's USS BOYD (DD-544), is detached to investigate the contact. At 2320 the destroyer detects a surfaced submarine and closes the target. After the radar contact is lost, BOYD locates the submarine with her sonar. Two depth charge patters are dropped. Fifteen minutes after the last attack at 00-31N, 172-16E, a loud underwater explosion is heard. On the following morning the aircraft from USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) report a large oil slick in the vicinity. [1]

20 February 1944:
Presumed lost with all 96 hands in Gilberts area.

30 April 1944:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Notes:
[1] While Theodore Roscoe (1960) credits USS GRISWOLD (DE-7) with sinking I-39 off Koli Point, Guadalcanal on 23 December 1943, that location does not match the submarine's patrol area.

USS RADFORD (DD-446) attacked a submarine (possibly I-39, I-40 or I-19) on the evening of 25 November, while she (just like USS BOYD) was escorting TG 50.2.

Special thanks for help in preparing this TROM go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan.
Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

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