HIJMS Submarine I-56: Tabular Record of Movement

2001-2008 Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp Revision 1

29 September 1942:
Yokosuka Navy Yard. I-56 is laid down.

30 June 1943:
Launched and registered in the Kure Naval District.

8 June 1944:
Completed and assigned to SubRon 11. LtCdr (later Rear Admiral, JMSDF) Morinaga Masahiko (former CO of I-2, I-5 and others) is the Commanding Officer.

20 September 1944:
Reassigned to SubRon 1's SubDiv 15 in Vice Admiral Miwa Shigeyoshi's (former CO of CL KINU) Sixth Fleet.

Early October:
Kure. I-56 begins conversion to a "kaiten" human torpedo carrier. Her 140-mm deck gun is landed. A Type 22 radar and a E27 Type 3 radar detector are also installed at this time, or possibly earlier.

12 October 1944:
Carriers of Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Marc A. Mitscher's (former CO of HORNET (CV-8) Task Force 38 launch air strikes against Formosa (Taiwan) and northern Luzon, Philippines. I-56s conversion is halted and she commences preparations for her first war patrol.

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.

15 October 1944:
The I-56, I-26, I-37, I-45, I-53 and I-54 are designated "Group A", personally led by Vice Admiral Miwa. Group A is originally tasked to intercept Task Force 38. That day, I-56, accompanied by I-54, departs Kure on her first war patrol towards an area 240 miles SE of Formosa.

18 October 1944:
I-56 is redirected to an area E of Mindanao, Philippines. Her ETA is 24 October.

20 October 1944: American Operation "King Two" - The Invasion of Leyte, Philippines:
Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) William F. Halsey's (former CO of SARATOGA (CV-3) 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 (24 th Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions) and the XXIV Corps (7th, 77th and 96th Infantry Divisions) that begin the campaign to retake Leyte.

24 October 1944:
I-56 fires three torpedoes at an American convoy. Three explosions are heard. LtCdr Morinaga reports three transports as sunk. In the evening, Vice Admiral Miwa orders his submarines to an area E of Samar to intercept an enemy task force reported there. [1]

25 October 1944:
170 miles SE of Leyte. At 2234 (JST), LtCdr Morinaga fires five torpedoes at a task group composed of four carriers steaming at high speed. Fifty seconds later three explosions are heard. Elated, Morinaga reports one carrier sunk. As I-56 has only three torpedoes left, including one that is defective, she is ordered to return to base. [2]

26 October 1944:
2.5 hours after his last attack, I-56 is spotted on the surface by an enemy destroyer that delivers a fierce depth-charge attack. Morinaga crash dives to 460 feet. When I-56 surfaces, a teardrop-shaped Mark 9 depth-charge is found on I-56's afterdeck. [3]

4 November 1944:
I-56 arrives at Kure. LtCdr Morinaga is credited with sinking one carrier, one destroyer and three transports. I-56 continues conversion to carry four kaiten.

10 November 1944:
Admiralty Islands. The ammunition ship USS MOUNT HOOD (AE-11) explodes in Seeadler Harbor, Manus. Later, "Tokyo Rose" in one of her broadcasts credits Japanese midget submarines with her "sinking". As a result, ASW measures around Manus Island are stepped up.

12 November 1944:
Start of kaiten launch drills.

2 December 1944:
A special conference of more than 200 staff officers and specialists is held aboard the Sixth Fleet's flagship, the TSUKUSHI MARU to evaluate operation "kikusui" (floating chrysanthemum) - the first kaiten mission to Ulithi. The staff considers reports and post-attack photo-reconnaissance and concludes erroneously three aircraft carriers and two battleships were sunk in the attack.

21 December 1944: The Second Kaiten Mission:
The plan calls for the "Kongo" (steel) group: I-56, I-36, I-47, I-48, I-53 and I-58 to attack the Americans at five different points. Departs Kure for Otsujima base to embark the kaiten.

22 December 1944:
At 1300, departs Otsujima to attack anchored enemy shipping in the Bismarck Sea at Manus, Admiralty Islands on 11 January, 1945. Later, the attack time is changed to the dawn of 12 January.

6 January 1944:
Manus, Admiralty Islands. A Japanese reconnaissance plane reports the presence of six cruisers and 28 transports in Seeadler Harbor.

10 January 1944:
60 miles W of Manus. While trying to take a fix to establish her location, I-56 is spotted by enemy ASW forces and chased for an hour.

11 January 1944:
At 2300 I-56 surfaces 50 miles N of Seeadler to charge her batteries prior to run-in. When arriving 35 miles N of the harbor, I-56's radar detector spots an approaching aircraft and the submarine dives. Soon thereafter, the sonarman reports the presence of several ships searching the area. LtCdr Morinaga decides to abort the attack and retires northwards.

12 January 1944:
After sundown, I-56 attempts another surfaced run-in from a position 60 miles N of Seeadler. Forty miles away from the target a radar-equipped aircraft is spotted. Five minutes later I-56s radar detects an approaching ship. Her radioman monitoring enemy frequencies reports overhearing an English order to launch "more aircraft". The submarine floods down partially and continues the approach.

13 January 1944:
At 1902 (JST), I-56 is attacked by ASW aircraft in the same area. At 0230, Morinaga orders I-56 submerge. Soon thereafter the propeller noises of several ships are heard from ahead. Morinaga decides to abort the attack. In the evening, I-56 receives an order from the Sixth Fleet HQ to undertake a last attempt in the morning of 14 January and then to return to her base.

14 January 1944:
55 miles W of Manus. At 0310 (JST), during her second attempt to reach the launch area, I-56 is again attacked by ASW aircraft.

18 January 1944:
I-56 is ordered to return with her kaitens aboard as a test of their long term duration and reliability.

1 February 1945:
LtCdr Masata Keiji is posted as I-56's new CO.

3 February 1945:
Returns to Otsujima, where all kaiten are disembarked, then proceeds to Kure.

29 February 1945: American Operation "Brewer" - The Invasion of the Admiralty Islands:
Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Thomas C. Kinkaid's (former CO of INDIANAPOLIS (CA-35) Seventh Amphibious Force lands the 1st Cavalry Division of LtGen (later General) Walter Krueger's Sixth Army that captures Los Negros and Manus Islands from Colonel Ezaki Yoshio's defenders.

26 March 1945: The Invasion of the Kerama Islands, Ryukyus:
MajGen (later General) Andrew D. Bruce's 77th Infantry "Statue of Liberty" Division lands on the Keramas and by 29 March captures advance bases and anchorages for the invasion of nearby Okinawa.

31 March 1945:
I-56 is assigned to the "Tatara" Unit with I-44, I-47 and I-58 each carrying six kaitens. Departs Otsushima for Okinawa.

1 April 1945: American Operation "Iceberg" - The Invasion of Okinawa:
Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Raymond A. Spruance's (former CO of MISSISSIPPI, BB-41) 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 and 1st, 6th Marine divisions), makes amphibious landings and eventually takes the island from LtGen Ushijima Mitsuru's 32nd Army defenders. [5]

17 April 1945:
E of Okinawa. At 2305, radar aboard Task Force 58's battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63) detects a submarine 12 miles from her formation. MISSOURI's report sets off a hunter-killer operation by USS BATAAN (CVE-29) and several destroyers. Cdr A. T. Hathaway's HEERMAN (DD-532) makes radar contact and Cdr S. C. Small's UHLMANN (DD-687) attacks with depth charges.

18 April 1945:
160 miles E of Okinawa. In the morning, the submarine is repeatedly depth-charged by two aircraft from BATAAN in a combined attack with Cdr J. D. Collet's USS COLLET (DD-730), Cdr F. D. Michael's McCORD (DD-534) and Cdr W. S. Maddox's MERTZ (DD-691). After several hours, the submarine - arguably I-56 - is sunk at 26-42N, 130-38E. [4]

2 May 1945:
Presumed lost in the Okinawa area with all 116 crewmen plus six kaiten pilots.

10 June 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Notes:
[1] I-56's conventional torpedoes were fitted with magnetic exploders. Author and historian Kimata Jiro speculates that these may have caused premature explosions.

[2] Several Western historians credit I-56 with a torpedo hit on USS SANTEE (CVE-29) off Samar, despite differences in both time and location.

[3] One of I-56s attackers was probably USS RICHARD M. ROWELL (DE-403).

[4] Most Japanese historians agree that I-56 was sunk by USS HUDSON (DD-475) on 5 April 1945, but other sources credit HUDSON with sinking RO-49 at that time and place.

[5] Several sources credit I-56 with sinking Cdr J.F. Walling's USS SNOOK (SS-279) sometime after 8 April, but this is not confirmed by any Japanese sources.

Special thanks for help in preparing this TROM go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan.

Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

Back to Submarine Page