HIJMS Submarine I-39: Tabular Record of Movement

2001-2004 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp

Revision 1

22 April 1943:
The I-39 is completed at the Sasebo Navy Yard, commissioned in the IJN and based in the Yokosuka Naval District. The I-39 is assigned SubDiv 11. LtCdr Tanaka Makio (former CO of I-166) is the Commanding Officer.

May 1943:
The I-39 undergoes working-up in SubDiv 11.

20 July 1943:
Reassigned to SubRon 8's SubDiv 14.

21 July 1943:
Departs Yokosuka to raid enemy communications E of Australia/New Hebrides area for her first war patrol.

7 August 1943:
N of Espiritu Santo, Solomons. The I-39 is attacked by a destroyer.

2 September 1943:
LtCdr Tanaka sights a convoy of three transports escorted by four destroyers but fails to attack them.

12 September 1943:
E of New Hebrides. LtCdr Tanaka reports sinking a British ACHILLES-class light cruiser, but the ship he sinks actually is the 1,280-ton ocean-going tug USS NAVAJO (AT-64) that is towing the YO-42 from Pago Pago to Espiritu Santo. The NAVAJO explodes and goes down by the bow in two minutes.*

25 September 1943:
En route to Truk, the 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:
The I-39 is ordered to proceed to Tarawa in the Gilberts with the I-19, -35, -169 and the I-175. Departs Truk for the area SW of Tarawa, carrying an E14Y1 "Glen" floatplane (her second war patrol).

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

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

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

26 November 1943:
60 miles SW of Tarawa. At 1156, Cdr (later Admiral/CincPacFlt) Ulysses S. Grant Sharp's USS BOYD (DD-544) detects a submarine, depth-charges it and probably sinks the I-39 with her entire crew of 96 men.*

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

30 April 1944:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Notes:
* Japanese author Kimata Jiro suggests that the I-39 was sunk on 12 Sep '43 by the USS RADFORD (DD-446) returning to Guadalcanal from New Zealand, but the I-39 was still active for the next two months.

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

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