IJN Submarine I-47: Tabular Record of Movement

© 2001-2019 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp
Revision 4

21 November 1942:
Laid down at Sasebo Navy Yard as the C2 class Submarine No. 377.

31 July 1943:
Renumbered I-47 and provisionally attached to Yokosuka Naval District.

29 September 1943:
Launched as I-47.

15 April 1944:
LtCdr (later Cdr and Captain, JMSDF) Orita Zenji (59)(former CO of I-177) is appointed the Chief Equipping Officer (CEO).

10 July 1944:
Sasebo Navy Yard. I-47 is completed and registered in the IJN. Attached to Yokosuka Naval District. LtCdr Orita Zenji is the CO.

I-47 is equipped with a Type 22 surface-search radar and an E-27 radar detector as built.

July-September 1944:
I-47 is assigned to SubRon 11 in Vice Admiral Miwa Shigeyoshi's (former CO of KINU) Sixth Fleet for working-up and battle training in Iyo Nada Sea.

8 October 1944:
Reassigned to SubDiv 15, Sixth Fleet.

13 October 1944: Operation "SHO-1-GO" - The Defense of the Philippines:
Admiral Toyoda Soemu, CinC, Combined Fleet, orders the "SHO-1-GO" plan activated.

October 1944:
At Yokosuka Navy Yard. I-47 is configured to carry four kaiten human torpedoes. Initially only two kaiten racks are fitted with underwater access tubes.

20 October 1944: American Operation "King Two" - The Invasion of Leyte, Philippines:
Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) William F. Halsey's Third Fleet of 738 ships including 18 aircraft carriers, six battleships, 17 cruisers, 64 destroyers and over 600 support ships land the Army's X Corps (24th Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions) and the XXIV Corps (7th, 77th and 96th Infantry Divisions) that begins the campaign to retake Leyte.

29-31 October 1944:
Conducts kaiten launch exercises in Tokuyama Bay.

6 November 1944:
Embarks four kaitens at Otsujima Naval Base, Tokuyama Bay (locally known as Ozushima).

7 November 1944:
Otsujima Naval Base. The CinC, Combined Fleet, Admiral Toyoda Soemu, and the CinC, Sixth Fleet, Vice Admiral Miwa Shigeyoshi arrive to see off the kaiten crews.

8 November 1944:
At 0900, the "Kikusui-tai" Kaiten Group (including I-47, I-36 and I-37, each armed with four kaitens and eight conventional torpedoes), departs Otsujima. I-47 and I-36 are to attack Ulithi. I-37 is to attack enemy anchorage at the Palau Islands. After the kaiten attacks I-47 and I-36 are to proceed to Leyte Gulf and attack American shipping with conventional torpedoes.[1]

16 November 1944:
A Nakajima C6N1 Saiun ("Myrt") high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft of the 141st NAG from Truk reports that four fleet carriers, three battleships, cruisers and destroyers are in the north central part of the Ulithi lagoon while south central part of the anchorage is occupied by transports, oilers and other vessels. This intelligence is relayed to the Kikusui Group's submarines.

18 November 1944:
In the evening, I-47 arrives at an area 50 miles W of Ulithi and starts an approach from the SW direction.

19 November 1944:
I-47 and I-36 reach their launching area off Ulithi. At dawn, I-47 surfaces. LtCdr Orita approaches on the surface at 12 knots. From 4.5 miles, he sees over 200 ships in the anchorage at Ulithi.

20 November 1944:
I-47 surfaces at 0030. Between 0328 and 0342 all four kaitens are launched, manned by Lt(jg) Nishina Sekio (71), the co-inventor of the human torpedo, Ens Sato Akira and Watanabe Kozo, and Lt(jg) Fukuda Hitoshi.

At 0547, one kaiten, probably No. 1, piloted by Lt(jg) Nishina Sekio, hits the 11,316-ton fleet oiler MISSISSINEWA (AO-59). Engulfed by flames, the oiler capsizes and sinks at 0928.

I-47 withdraws on the surface at 20 knots, proceeding towards Leyte Gulf thereafter.

22 November 1944:
I-47 reports the result of her attacks to the Sixth Fleet.

24 November 1944:
I-47 and I-36 receive a signal that cancels their orders to proceed to Leyte. Instead, they are ordered to return to Kure.

30 November 1944:
I-47 and I-36 return to Kure via Otsujima.

2 December 1944:
A special conference of more than 200 staff officers and specialists is held aboard the Sixth Fleet's flagship TSUKUSHI MARU to evaluate the "Kikusui-tai" mission to Ulithi. The staff considers reports and post-attack photo reconnaissance and concludes quite erroneously that three aircraft carriers and two battleships were sunk in the attack.

8 December 1944: The Second Kaiten Mission:
I-47 is assigned to the "Kongo-tai" (Steel) Kaiten Group with I-36, I-48, I-56, I-53 and I-58. The plan calls for attacks on American fleet anchorages at five different points at dawn of 11 January (later postponed to 12 January).

25 December 1944:
I-47 departs Otsujima for Hollandia, New Guinea.

30 December 1944:
290 miles W of Guam. I-47 rescues eight starved Imperial Army soldiers who escaped from Guam on a raft after an attempt to storm the American airfield there and drifted in the open sea for 32 days.

8 January 1944:
An IJAAF recconnaissance plane observes 40 large transports in Humboldt Bay, Hollandia, and ten smaller units outside that anchorage. That information is relayed to I-47.

11 January 1945:
NW of Humboldt Bay. At 1030, LtCdr Orita sights Cape Soeadja and changes the course to the north. After sundown the submarine surfaces 30 miles off the coast to recharge the batteries. An American hospital ship passes I-47 without noticing her presence. At 2330, I-47 changes course to south to approach Humboldt Bay.

12 January 1945:
By 0300, the submerged I-47 reaches the launch area 18 miles N of Cape Soeadja. Between 0414 and 0430 all four kaitens are launched, piloted by Lt(jg) Kawakubo Teruo (71), CPO Muramatsu Minoru, PO2C Sato Katsumi and Lt(jg) Hara Atsuro.

I-47 surfaces and departs the area at flank speed. After 0520 a red column of fire is observed from the direction of Humboldt Bay.

Humboldt Bay, 02-33S, 140-06W. At 0515, shortly before sunrise, one kaiten grazes the anchored "Liberty" ship PONTUS H. ROSS on the port side, 13 ft below the waterline. The impact does not result in an explosion, but a small leak is later detected in No. 3 hold.

At 0521, some hundred yards off PONTUS H. ROSS's port bow, the kaiten suddenly blows up, causing minor damage to its intended target's hull. A few seconds later another explosion occurs off Cape Soeadja.

1 February 1945:
Returns to Kure. The deck gun is removed to accommodate two additional human torpedoes.

7 February 1945:
During a staff conference aboard TSUKUSHI MARU, the Sixth Fleet staff credits I-47 with the destruction of four enemy transports.

16 March 1945:
During kaiten launch exercises off Hikari FPO2C Yazaki Yoshihito, recently assigned to I-47, is killed as a result of carbon dioxide poisoning.

20 March 1945:
Inland Sea. Conducts battle exercises with I-36, I-44, I-53, I-56 and I-58.

26 March 1945: American Operation "Iceberg" - The Invasion of Okinawa:
The 77th Infantry Division ("Statue of Liberty") 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, 2nd, 6th Marine divisions) makes amphibious landings and takes the island from LtGen Ushijima Mitsuru's 32nd Army.

27 March 1945:
Assigned to lead the "Tatara-tai" Kaiten Group with I-44, I-53, I-56 and I-58 to attack the American shipping off Okinawa.

28 March 1945:
Departs Kure in the morning for Hikari Naval Base, Yamaguchi Prefecture, after embarking food for two months and 20 conventional torpedoes. After arrival, commences embarking six kaitens.

29 March 1945:
Conducts diving tests, then returns to Hikari to embark the kaiten pilots. Rear Admiral Nagai Mitsuru (former CO of CHOGEI), CinC, 1st Base Unit, personally hands over the ritual daggers to each pilot.

Departs Hikari that evening, navigating the Bungo Suido at 20 knots. Auxiliary subchaser Cha-200 provides escort for the next couple of hours. Around 1600, in Hyuga Nada Sea, both ships are attacked by American carrier planes. Cha-200 is sunk, I-47 crash-dives.

The submarine surfaces after sundown, but two aircraft patrolling in the vicinity illuminate her with flares and drop several depth charges. I-47 again escapes with minor damage.

30 March 1945:
20 miles E of Tanegashima Island, S of Kyushu. At 0230, when recharging batteries, two patrol vessels are sighted dead ahead. LtCdr Orita orders to crash-dive, but a main ballast vent failure causes the submarine to plunge to 260 ft with a 50-degree down angle. The crew finally succeeds in stabilizing the submarine at 200 ft.

An 11-hour chase ensues, during which one periscope and a fuel tank develop leaks and the temperature inside the submarine reaches 127 degrees. After escaping, the battered I-47 surfaces 7 miles S of Tanegashima. LtCdr Orita orders to retire S to escape new attacks, but two patrol aircraft spot the submarine, dropping some 20 depth charges on her. I-47 dives away and escapes with minor damage, but the oil leak cannot be stopped.

On that day, FRUMEL provides the following information:
"5 I-class submarines carrying Kaitens were equipped with these weapons at Kure. It is considered probable that these unknown weapons are carried externally by the submarines. I-class submarines are known to carry 5 or 6 Kaitens. Movements of these submarines are as follows:
I-56 departed Bungo Channel 31st at 1630; I-58 departed Bungo Channel 31st at 1700; I-47 returned 31st; I-53 to depart Kure."

31 Mar 1945:
Before sunrise, I-47 enters Uchinoura Bay, Kyushu, for inspection of damage. An unexploded depth charge is recovered from the bridge. The explosions have damaged the outer hull above the ballast tanks and the anti-sonar coating has peeled off in several areas. LtCdr Orita reports the damage to the Sixth Fleet and receives the order to return.

1 April 1945:
Arrives at Hikari where the kaitens are debarked, then proceeds to Kure.

2 April 1945:
Arrives at Kure for repairs. Dry-docked until 15 April. During the repairs all kaiten racks are fitted with underwater access tubes and a Type 13 air-search radar is installed.

4 April 1945:
At 1745, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a message regarding earlier events in March 1945 that reads: "---I-47 sortied from the western Inland Sea on 28 March. On the 29th she attacked the enemy striking force and was subsequently attacked by surface craft and sustained some damage to her --- and Kaitens. She was ordered to Kure where she arrived on 1 April. She was deleted from the Tatara Unit on the 6th ---."

17 April 1945:
Departs Kure for Hikari.

20 April 1945 - The Sixth Kaiten Mission:
I-47 and I-36, each carrying six kaitens, form the "Tenmu-tai" (Heavenly Warriors) Kaiten Group, tasked with attacking the American communications between Okinawa, Ulithi and the Marianas.

22 April 1945:
Departs Hirao for the area E of Okinawa.

23 April 1945:
While recharging the batteries before sunrise, I-47's radar detector registers enemy radar emission and the submarine dives. When surfacing 30 minutes later in the same area, a sonobuoy is sighted, evidently dropped from an American patrol plane.

25 April 1945:
LtCdr Suzuki Shokichi (62)(former CO of RO-46) is appointed the future CO.

26 April 1945:
Arrives to the area 200 miles SE of Okinawa, when the starboard diesel breaks down. The repairs continue until 28 April.

27 April 1945:
LtCdr Orita receives a signal from I-36 about a successful kaiten attack on a convoy.

1 May 1945:
100 miles SSW of Oki-Daito Jima. Around midnight, I-47’s Type 22 radar detects an Allied convoy 19 miles away. LtCdr Orita commences a chase and launches four conventional torpedoes from the distance of 4,370 yds. Three explosions are heard.

2 May 1945:
160 miles SSW of Oki-Daito Jima. Around 0900, a 10,000-ton tanker, escorted by two destroyers, is sighted, heading NW at 10-12 knots. At 1100, I-47 launches kaiten No. 1, piloted by Lt(jg) Kakizaki Minoru (72). Five minutes later, No. 4, piloted by PO1C Yamaguchi Shigeo, is launched. Two heavy explosions follow.

The soundman next reports the screw noises of two FLETCHER class destroyers. At 1120 kaiten No. 2, piloted by CPO Furukawa Shichiro, is launched. The sound contact with the kaiten is temporarily lost, but then the sound of fast-moving propellers is heard, followed by a heavy explosion.

I-47 retires SE at flank speed.

7 May 1945:
SSW of Oki-Daito-Shima. I-47's radar detects a "British LEANDER-class cruiser". LtCdr Orita launches a kaiten piloted by Lt(jg) Maeda Hajime. The remaining two kaiten cannot be launched because of malfunctioning torpedoes. Orita reports a hit on the cruiser to the Sixth Fleet. I-47 is ordered to return to port.

12 May 1945:
Arrives at Hikari. The kaitens and their crews are debarked. Departs Hikari for Kure.

13 May 1945:
Arrives at Kure for repairs which last until late June. Probably during that time a snorkel is installed.

30 June 1945:
Departs Kure for working-up in inland Sea.

5 July 1945:
Arrives at Hikari. Embarks kaiten with dummy warheads and their crews to practice kaiten launches in vicinity of Hikari.

13 July 1945:
Returns to Kure to refuel from other submarines currently located there.

14 July 1945:
On that day, FRUMEL provides the following information:
"Four submarines have been ordered to carry out reconnaissance and offensive operations against Allied shipping. The first, I-53, leaves Bungo Suidoo (sic) at 1700 on 14th to patrol half-way between Okinawa and Leyte Gulf. I-47 and I-367 leave on 19th to patrol between Mariannas and Okinawa, I-367 to proceed to position 450 miles from Mariannas."

17 July 1945:
Departs Kure for Hikari. After the arrival embarks six kaitens and their crews.

18 July 1945:
Conducts several test dives off Hikari.

19 July 1945: The Ninth Kaiten Mission:
I-47 is in the "Tamon-tai" Kaiten Group with I-53, I-58, I-367, I-366 and I-363. Departs Hikari for an area 300 miles E of Okinawa.

23 July 1945:
Arrives to her patrol area. During the next six days three contacts with surface vessels are made, but no kaitens are launched.[2]

29 July 1945:
The Sixth Fleet HQ order I-47 to proceed to a new area NE of the Philippines.

30 July 1945:
I-47 is caught by a typhoon. Unable to complete the recharging of her batteries, she is forced to stay surfaced and becomes swamped on several occasions.

1 August 1945:
After sundown, I-47 surfaces to recharge her batteries. In heavy seas kaiten No. 1 is washed away, colliding with its mother submarine immediately thereafter. The remaining human torpedoes develop leaks.

6 August 1945:
I-47 is recalled to Kure.

13 August 1945:
Returns to Hikari where five kaitens and all pilots are debarked, then proceeds to Kure.

14 August 1945:
Arrives at Kure.

15 August 1945:
The Emperor Hirohito (Showa) broadcasts an Imperial Rescript that calls for an end to hostilities.

The crew of I-47 refuses to surrender. They board a kaibokan in Kure harbor and confiscate its food supply, several rifles and machine guns. They intend to proceed to Rabaul to continue fighting, but the plan fails because of the lack of fuel. Eventually, the revolt peters out and the submarine is abandoned by her crew.

2 September 1945:
At Kure. I-47 is surrendered.

30 November 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.

1 April 1946: Operation "Road's End"
Scuttled off the Goto Islands by the US Navy.

7 September 2017:
The Society La Plongée for Deep Sea Technology research team, led by Research Professor Ura Tamaki from Kyushu Institute of Technology, locates and photographes the wreck of I-47, using a multibeam echosounder and an ROV. The wreck is located at the depth of 230 ft.

Authors' Notes:
[1] The Floating Chrysanthemum was the crest of Kusunoki Masashige (1294-1336), a revered champion of Emperor Go-Daigo.

[2] Several sources erroneously credit I-47 or I-53 with torpedoing the attack transport USS MARATHON (APA-200) on 22 July 1945. In reality, I-47 made no attacks on that day.

Thanks go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan, to John Whitman of the USA for info on CNO intercepts of Japanese messages and to Hans Mcilveen of the Netherlands for research based on wartime FRUMEL intercepts.

– Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

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