(I-44 - colorized photo by Edward Tambunan)

IJN Submarine I-44: Tabular Record of Movement

2001-2014 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp
Revision 5

5 March 1943:
Launched and officially attached to Yokosuka Naval District.

15 November 1943:
LtCdr Morinaga Masahiko (59)(the current CO of I-5) is appointed the Chief Equipping Officer on paper.

8 December 1943:
LtCdr Itakura Mitsuma (61)(current CO of I-2) is appointed the Chief Equipping Officer on paper until 15 December.

31 January 1944:
Completed at Yokosuka Navy Yard. Cdr Yokota Minoru (51)(former CO of I-26) is the Commanding Officer. I-44 is assigned to SubRon 11, Sixth Fleet.

28 March 1944:
Arrives at Tokuyama Fuel Depot. Refuels.

29 March 1944:
Departs Tokuyama.

31 March 1944:
Following the sighting of an enemy task group heading for Palau, I-44, I-183, RO-47, RO-116 and RO-117 are ordered to proceed to an area E of Palau. Departs Agenosho Bay, Inland Sea.

5 April 1944:
Cdr Yokota receives a recall order.

14 April 1944:
Arrives at Kure.

28 April 1944:
Reassigned to SubDiv 15, Advance Unit. During the same period, I-44 becomes the first IJN submarine to be equipped with a Type 13 air-search radar.

April 1944:Operation "Tatsumaki" (Tornado) - Amphibious Tank Attack at Majuro, Marshall Islands:
Inland Sea. I-44 participates in training with I-36, I-38, I-41 and I-53. The operation calls for the submarines to carry amphibious tanks armed with torpedoes from Kure to Majuro. There they are to be put ashore, make their way overland, enter the water again and make a torpedo attack on American ships. Later, the plan is cancelled.

15 May 1944:
Departs Kure on her second war patrol accompanied by I-41 and I-53 for picket duty NE of New Ireland (N of Kavieng) in the Bismarcks.

27 May 1944:
While running on the surface and relying on her radar, I-44 is attacked by an enemy aircraft that scores several near-misses. After crash-diving, I-44 is chased by patrol vessels that also achieve seven near-misses. Her periscopes, main switchboard and many instruments are damaged and a leak appears in bow area. Cdr Yokota rigs for silent running, using the automatic trim system. I-44 surfaces, unable to dive. A Consolidated PB4Y "Privateer" patrol plane is sighted in the vicinity, but Yokota escapes in a rain squall. [1]

5 June 1944:
Returns to Kure for battle damage repairs.

16 September 1944:
Lt Kawaguchi Genbee (66)(former torpedo officer of I-45) is appointed the CO.

13 October 1944: Operation "Sho-I-Go" - The Defense of the Philippines:
Admiral Toyoda Soemu, CINC, Combined Fleet, orders the Sho-I-Go plan activated.

19 October 1944:
Departs Kure to operate east of the Philippines and off Leyte with the B Group (I-38, RO-41 and RO-43) on her third war patrol.

20 October 1944: American Operation "King Two" - The Invasion of Leyte, Philippines:
At night when navigating Bashi Strait, an explosion occurs in automatic trim system pressure tank, disabling one shaft, wrecking the gyrocompass and killing three sailors. Lt Kawaguchi decides to abort the sortie and return to Japan.

22 October 1944:
Returns to Kure for repairs. Refitted to carry "kaiten" human-torpedoes as the last vessel of her class. Her aircraft hangar and deck gun are removed. One Type 22 surface-search radar is installed.

Early November 1944:
I-44 is stricken from the list of submarines participating in the First Kaiten Mission.

Early February 1945:
Combined Fleet HQ issues an order to dispatch I-44, I-368 and I-370 to Otsujima for "kaiten" handling training.

19 February 1945: American Operation "Detachment" - The Invasion of Iwo-Jima:
Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Raymond A. Spruance's Fifth Fleet of over 450 ships, lands the 54th Amphibious Corps (3rd, 4th, 5th Marine Divisions) who capture the island and its vital Motoyama airfields from LtGen Kuribayashi Tadamichi's defenders.

The "Chihaya" kaiten group is formed. The plan calls for I-44, I-368 and I-370 of the "Chihaya" group to attack American ships at anchor off Iwo Jima.

22 February 1945: The Third Kaiten Mission:
Departs Otsujima at 0900, on her fourth war patrol following I-368 and I-370.

25 February 1945:
48 nm SW of Iwo Jima. While recharging her batteries, I-44 is spotted by two or three destroyers or subchasers and forced underwater. She is chased for the next 47 hours. The carbon dioxide level in the air in the submarine reaches 6 percent.

26 February 1945:
Arrives S of Iwo Jima.

28 February 1945:
Lt Kawaguchi attempts to approach Iwo Jima from the east but is attacked by an "Avenger". He reports his failure to HQ, Sixth Fleet, but his message fails to reach Vice Admiral Miwa Shigeyoshi, Commander, Sixth Fleet (Submarines).

1 March 1945:
Lt Kawaguchi reports that he intends to head for Oki-Daito Shima area.

2 March 1945:
I-44 is questioned about her whereabouts and successes by HQ, Sixth Fleet.

3 March 1945:
LtCdr Kawaguchi sends a regular situation report without providing any details.

6 March 1945:
Vice Admiral Miwa orders all submarine operations in Iwo Jima area canceled. I-44 receives the order to return.

9 March 1945:
Lt Kawaguchi returns to Otsujima to debark his "kaitens".

11 March 1945:
I-44 arrives at Kure, where Lt Kawaguchi is relieved of command by Vice Admiral Miwa.

17 March 1945:
LtCdr Masuzawa Seiji (65)(former CO of RO-109) assumes command of I-44.

26 March 1945: American Operation "Iceberg" - The Invasion of Okinawa:
The 77th Infantry Infantry Division lands on the Kerama Islands and by 29 March captures advance bases and anchorages. On 1 April, Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Raymond A. Spruance's Fifth Fleet, including more than 40 aircraft carriers, 18 battleships, 200 destroyers and over 1,000 support ships surround Okinawa. LtGen Simon B. Buckner Jr's Tenth Army (7th, 77th, 96th Infantry, 1st, 6th Marine divisions) makes amphibious landings and takes the island from LtGen Ushijima Mitsuro's 32nd Army.

27 March 1945:
The "Tatara" kaiten group is formed.

3 April 1945: The Fifth Kaiten Mission:
The plan calls for I-44 accompanied by I-47, I-56 and I-58 of the "Tatara"group, each carrying six kaitens, to attack anchored American shipping off Okinawa.

4 April 1945:
I-44 departs Otsujima for Okinawa on her fifth war patrol with the same kaiten crew as during the "Chihaya" sortie, i. e. Lt ( j.g.) Doi Hideo, Ensign Isumi Yasuhiko, Ensign Tatewaki Takaharu and FPO2C Sugawara Hikogo).

21 April 1945:
Sixth Fleet HQ orders I-44 to return to her base. There is no reply.

29 April 1945:
220 miles SE of Okinawa. At 1418, Lt (j.g.) Donald L. Davis of Composite Squadron VC-92 takes off from the USS TULAGI (CVE-72) on an ASW patrol in his Grumman TBM "Avenger" torpedo-bomber. Later in the mission, Davis sights a submarine on the surface. He pounces on it from 4,000 feet and releases a depth bomb that explodes next to the crash diving submarine's conning tower. On his second pass, Davis releases a Mark 24 "Fido" acoustic homing torpedo that explodes against the submarine's hull - probably I-44 - and sinks her at 24-15N, 131-16E.[2]

2 May 1945:
Presumed lost off Okinawa with all 130 crewmen plus four kaiten pilots. [3]

10 June 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Note:
[1] Some Japanese authors claim the Type 13 radar was defective in this encounter, but other sources suggest it was the operator's fault, that his performance improved constantly during the sortie and that the radar set was effective.

[2] Some Japanese sources suggest I-44 was sunk on 18 Apr '45 by a hunter-killer operation carried out by USS BATAAN (CVE-29) and several destroyers. Otherwise, it is generally acknowledged that the submarine sunk then was I-56.

[3] According to Cressman, on 26 May 1944 USS PERMIT (SS-178) torpedoed and damaged I-44 WSW of Truk, 07-05N, 152-00E, but this is not confirmed by Japanese sources. According to the best available estimate, I-44 was attacked and chased in the area of 27-02N, 151E the next day.

Thanks go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan.

Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

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