© 2006 Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp


Midget Submarines in the Invasion of Midway

27 May 1942: Operation "MI" - The Invasion of Midway Island:
Hashirajima. In the afternoon, Vice Admiral (Admiral, posthumously) Nagumo Chuichi's (former CO of YAMASHIRO) First Air Fleet Striking Force ("Kido Butai") CarDiv 1's AKAGI and KAGA and CarDiv 2's HIRYU and SORYU depart the fleet anchorage.

29 May 1942:
Hashirajima. The First Fleet's Main Body consisting of BatDiv 1's YAMATO, NAGATO and MUTSU departs with Supply Group No. 1's oilers NARUTO and TOEI MARU and DesRon 3's light cruiser SENDAI with nine destroyers. Seaplane/submarine tenders CHIYODA and NISSHIN and light carrier HOSHO are in the Main Body's Special Force as reserve under the command of Captain (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Harada Kaku. The Main Body remains 300 miles behind Nagumo's Striking Force.


CHIYODA carries eight Type A midget submarines (HA-28, HA-29, HA-31, HA-32, HA-33, HA-34 and two others), about 150 men of the 12th Construction Battalion and 16 crewmen. NISSHIN carries torpedo boats No. 4 and No. 5. The Midway Invasion plan calls for the midget submarines to be stationed at Kure Island about 56 miles WNW of Midway. Lt (j.g.) Otozaka Shoichi, a member of the second midget training course, leads the Kure Island midget submarine unit.

The plan calls for the midget submarines to be landed on Kure Island on the afternoon of 6 June 1942. If Kure Island is found to be fortified by the Americans, Captain Harada is to form a Rikusentai (Naval Landing Force) of CHIYODA's crew to occupy the island. Kure Island is then to also operate as a seaplane base for use against Midway. Later in June, four additional midget submarines are to be landed on the island. [1][2]

Kure (Ocean) Island
(U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office)

4 June 1942:
At 0430, Nagumo launches a strike against Midway. At 1025, as carriers AKAGI, KAGA and SORYU are preparing to launch strike against American carriers, they are attacked by "Dauntless" SBD dive-bombers from USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) and YORKTOWN (CV-5) and all are set afire. At about 1035, HIRYU is attacked unsuccessfully by Douglas TBD"Devastator" torpedo bombers of VT-3 from YORKTOWN. At 1054 and 1245, HIRYU launches strikes that heavily damage YORKTOWN. At 1703, while preparing to launch yet another strike, HIRYU suffers hits by four SBD's from ENTERPRISE and YORKTOWN and is set afire. At 1916, SORYU sinks by the stern followed at 1925 by KAGA that also sinks stern first.

5 June 1942:
At 0255, the C-in-C, Combined Fleet, Admiral (Fleet Admiral, posthumously) Yamamoto Isoroku (former CO of AKAGI) sends a signal from flagship YAMATO that cancels the invasion of Midway. Captain Harada receives the signal and orders CHIYODA, NISSHIN and HOSHO to set course westward.

HIRYU Just Before Sinking
(Naval Historical Center)

At 0510, HIRYU is scuttled by an IJN destroyer. At 0520, the burning hulk of AKAGI is scuttled by torpedoes from IJN destroyers and sinks bow first. The Main Body joins up with the remnants of the retiring Striking Force. MUTSU takes aboard about one-half of the survivors from AKAGI, KAGA, SORYU and HIRYU picked up earlier by DesRon 10's destroyers.

Abandoned YORKTOWN
(Naval Historical Center)

6 June 1942:
At 0410, a lookout of Cdr Tanabe Yahachiís I-168ís spots YORKTOWN 12 miles away. For nine hours, Tanabe skillfully makes his approach. At 1331, he fires five torpedoes. Two strike the already damaged YORKTOWN, but she still does not sink.

7 June 1942:
At 0458, YORKTOWN rolls over to port and sinks in about 18,000 feet of water.

14 June 1942:
CHIYODA and her embarked midget submarines return to Hashirajima with the Main Body. [3]

Authors' Notes:
[1] Kure Island, better known as Ocean Island, is about 6 miles in diameter and is the northernmost coral atoll in the world at 28-25N. It lies 1,200 miles NW of Honolulu and is the oldest and westernmost exposure of the Hawaiian Islands chain of volcanoes.

[2] Author/historian Kimata Jiro notes the midget submarines' mission was to attack any future US invasion force en route to Midway. Kimata adds the idea to use the midget submarines as a defensive weapon was a complete reversal from their original tactical purpose.

[3] CHIYODA later delivers midget submarines HA-28, HA-29, HA-31, HA-32, HA-33 and HA-34 to Kiska, Aleutians.

-Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp

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