Midget Submarines Based in the Philippines

2006-2019 Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp
Revision 2

5 August 1944:
The IJN decides to establish two midget submarine bases at Davao and Zamboanga on Mindanao, Philippines. Rear Admiral (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Harada Kaku (former CO of CHIYODA) is appointed the CO of the 33rd (Special) Base Unit located at Cebu. The unit is intended to operate against the Allied invasion shipping in the Sulu and Mindanao Seas.

August 1944:
Davao. The first two midget submarines arrive under Lt(jg) Kojima Kozo (70) and are incorporated into the 33nd (Special) Base Unit.

September 1944:
WO Maruyama Goro's midget submarine HA-78 and Lt Ichikawa Hiroshi's HA-79 arrive at Zamboanga. Lt(jg) Ichikawa is the CO of the two-submarine unit.

(U.S. Army)

12-13 September 1944:
Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Marc A. Mitscher's Task Force 38's TG 38.1, TG 38.2 and TG 38.3 begins operations against Japanese shipping and airfields in the Visayas. Planes from all three carrier groups bomb installations on Cebu and destroy its submarine base.

11 October 1944:
Transports T.9 and T.10 arrive at Kure and Sasebo. Each embarks two Type C midget submarines (HA-81 thru -84).

15 October 1944:
T.9 and T.10 depart for Davao via Manila.

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 begins the campaign to retake Leyte.

Following the landing at Leyte, transports T.9 and T.10 are diverted to Cebu.

Late October 1944:
T. 9 and T. 10 arrive at Cebu and unload the midget submarines. Lt(jg) Sasakawa Tsutomu is appointed CO.

23 October 1944: Operation "TA" - The Reinforcement of Leyte:
Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi (former CO of KIRISHIMA), CinC, Southwest Area Fleet, commences "TA" to provide reinforcements, supplies and munitions to IJA forces engaging the American invasion forces on Leyte. Between 23 October and 11 December 1944, nine major convoys attempt the 600-mile passage from Manila to Ormoc Bay, Leyte.

1 November 1944:
Cebu. The midget submarine base is again operational and supports six midget submarines. Lt Sasakawa Tsutomu's HA-81, HA-82, WO Kashiwaki Kimihiro's HA-83 and WO Matsuda's HA-84, all landed by T.9 and T.10, start patrols in Canigao Channel for working up.

Cebu. Later in the month, WO Maruyama Goro's midget submarine HA-78 and Lt Ichikawa Hiroshi's HA-79 arrive from Zamboanga. Cebu's midget submarines conduct operations in Ormoc Bay, Leyte, but are ineffective because of the four to seven days travel time from Cebu to Leyte.

(USS Abbot (DD-629) website)

December 1944:
Camotes Sea. Lt Sasakawa's midget submarine HA-81, WO Mizuno Aimasa's HA-82 and WO Matsuda Sakuichi's HA-84 conduct patrols and reconnoiter shore areas.

8 December 1944:
Ormoc Bay. Lt Sasakawa's HA-81 claims sinking an American destroyer in the Camotes Sea, but the report cannot be substantiated.

9 December 1944: Operation TA - The Reinforcement of Leyte:
Manila. In the afternoon, the ninth and final "TA" operation gets underway. Naval transport T.9 carries two midget submarines to Cebu. Later that day, T.9 arrives and delivers Lt Shima Yoshimitsu's midget submarine HA-69 and Lt(jg) Shibuta Kiyoshi's HA-76.

Type C Midgets aboard Transport T.5, 17 Aug '44
(Scanned from Paul Kemp's "Midget Submarines of the Second Wold War")

18 December 1944:
Bohol Sea. Lt(jg) Shibuta's midget submarine HA-76 attacks a convoy and he claims sinking of two transports, but neither of the claims can be confirmed. WO Mizuno Aimasa's HA-82 is grounded in Cebu Harbor and rendered inoperable as a result of damage.

Late December 1944:
Cebu. WO Kashiwaki Kimihiro's HA-83 is lost after being grounded and damaged.

3 January 1945:
S of Mindanao Island. WO Matsuda's midget submarine HA-84 attacks a convoy and claims one destroyer and two transports as sunk, but his report cannot be confirmed. [1]

Type C Midget HA-69 being launched from Transport T. 5, 17 Aug '44
(Scanned from A. J. Watts "Axis Submarines")

5 January 1945:
Lt Shima's midget submarine HA-69, WO Mizuno's repaired HA-82 and another unidentified midget submarine depart Cebu in an attempt to intercept enemy convoys heading for Lingayen Gulf on Luzon. HA-82 attacks USS BOISE (CL-47) in Surigao Strait and surfaces after having fired its torpedoes. Lookouts aboard PHOENIX (CL-46) sight the torpedoes' wakes and warn BOISE. She turns and evades. General Douglas MacArthur is aboard at the time. TAYLOR (DD-468) launches a depth charge attack. WO Mizuno Aimasa's midget submarine HA-82 surfaces and is rammed by the destroyer.

General MacArthur and Admiral Kinkaid aboard PHOENIX
(U.S. Army)

Later that day, Lt Shimayoshi's HA-69 reports sinking one destroyer and one unidentified vessel in the Mindanao Sea.

21 January 1945:
The Zamboanga midget submarine detachment led by Lt Ichikawa, CO of midget submarine HA-79, departs the base for Cebu and join the local unit after their arrival.

24 January 1945:
Mindanao Sea. Lt(jg) Shibuta's midget submarine HA-76 reports sinking a large transport. Lt Sasakawa's HA-81 reports sinking a seaplane carrier in the same area, but neither of the reports can be substantiated.

Cebu. At 1330, WO Matsuda's midget submarine HA-84 departs for the advanced base at Dumaguete. At 1725, Matsuda sights a convoy comprising some 50 vessels. At 2230, he fires two torpedoes at a large transport leading the left column of the convoy. Two explosions are heard. After 2233, HA-84 is chased by escorts that drop seven depth-charges. Lt(jg) Shibuta's midget submarine HA-76 and Lt Sasakawa's HA-81, operating in the same area, withdraw. [4]

24-25 January 1945:
Mindoro. Lt(jg) Shibuta's HA-76, Lt Sasakawa's HA-81 and HA-86 launch attacks on American ships, but without results.

25 January 1945:
At 0830, WO Matsuda's midget submarine HA-84 returns to Dumaguete.

8 February 1945:
Dumaguete. The advance base is ready. Early in the morning, the first of Cebu's midget submarines departs for Dumaguete and arrives the next day. Thereafter, the midget submarines lie in wait to attack American convoys. When alerted by coast watchers, the midget submarines leave the advanced base with fresh batteries to attack shipping in the Mindanao Sea and the Surigao Strait.

Southern Philippines showing Cebu, Dumaguete, Zamboanga, Leyte and Davao
(U.S. Army)

13 February 1945:
Mindanao Sea. Lt Shima's midget submarine HA-69 reports sinking a large transport, but the claim cannot be confirmed.

Dumaguete. Lt(jg) Shibuta's midget submarine HA-76 is rendered useless by flooding and is scuttled.

Kure. That same day, medium submarine RO-43 prepares to depart the next day to deliver a shipment of Type 97 (457-mm) torpedoes for the midget submarine unit at Cebu, but the mission is canceled because of American activities in the Okinawa area.

21 February 1945:
Siquijor Island, Mindanao Sea. Cdr G.H. Cairnes' USS RENSHAW (DD-499), is part of Task Unit 78. 7. 6, escorting a convoy of about 50 various Landing Ship types (LSTs, LSMs, LCTs) with 12 other escorts from San Pedro Bay, Leyte that later invade Palawan Island, Philippines.

Surigao Strait. Japanese coastwatchers send a report to Dumaguete about a westbound enemy convoy. At 1059, RENSHAW's lookouts sight a torpedo wake, then a submarine's periscope and part of a conning tower. This is probably WO Matsuda Sakuichi's midget HA-84 from Cebu. One minute later, the torpedo explodes about six feet below the waterline. The explosion tears a 26 foot hole in the hull, twists the keel, damages bulkheads and decks and causes flooding in the forward engine room and after fire room and the ship loses all power. Nineteen crewmen are KIA. RENSHAW's 40-mm AA gun crew spot a conning tower momentarily and get off 20 rounds, but without apparent effect.

Cdr Cairnes jettisons his torpedoes, starts his emergency generator and RENSHAW is able to continue under her own power. WALLER (DD-466) and SHAW (DD-373) fire at the midget with their AA guns and conduct an unsuccessful ten-hour search for the submarine.

USS RENSHAW after being torpedoed by HA-84

22 February 1945:
Dumaguete. At 1500, WO Matsuda's midget submarine HA-84 returns and claims sinking a heavy cruiser.

23 February 1945:
Cebu City. Marine Aircraft Group 12's (MAG-12) VMF-115 XO Major Eldon Railsback's division sights two surfaced midget submarines hidden under the docks. Four USMC Chance-Vought F4U "Corsairs" attack with bombs, but miss and race back to base to rearm. When they return they release only 25 feet above the water doing about 320 knots IAS. One bomb is 100 feet short and skips towards the pier exploding near one of the submarines. Another bomb scores a near miss on the other midget. The resulting explosion causes a geyser of water 50 feet high. A third bomb skips over a midget submarine and explodes on the beach. On a second strafing pass, the F4U pilots notice a large oil slick near one of the midgets. The Marines actions result in a claim for a sinking, but in reality, there were several near misses that caused unknown damage.

10 March 1945: American Operation VICTOR V:
The U.S. Eighth Army begins operations to retake Mindanao, southern Philippines.

10 March 1945:
That same day, WO Maruyama's midget submarine HA-78 and WO Matsuda's HA-84 from Cebu launch attacks on unidentified American ships without results.

A Liberty Ship of the OLIVER KELLY Type

17 March 1945:
Lt Ichikawa's midget submarine HA-79 reports an attack on two large transports in an unknown area. In the Surigao Strait, the "Liberty" ship SS OLIVER KELLEY is damaged by what is most likely a dud torpedo.

18 March 1945:
Davao Gulf. On the basis of reports from Filipino guerillas, two Lockheed PV-1 "Venturas" of VPB-128 flown by Lts Dorrington and Snyder sink one midget submarine and claim a probable.

19 March 1945:
Cebu. PV-1's of VPB-128 bomb and damage another midget submarine.

20 March 1945:
Mindanao Sea. Lt Ichikawa's midget submarine HA-79 reports sinking a large transport, but the claim cannot be confirmed. That same day, Lt Shima's HA-69 is rendered inoperable as a result of a battery explosion.

22 March 1945:
Cebu City. Two PV-1's of VPB-128 flown by Lt George Hall and Lt Tepuni attack a midget submarine at a wharf. The submarine is sunk by rockets, but Lt Tepuni and his crew are killed when their PV-1 is hit by AA fire and crashes immediately following the attack.

26 March 1945:
N coast of Cebu Island. In the morning, one of the midgets embarks LtGen Suzuki Sosaku, CinC, 35th Army, and one of his staff officers and delivers them to Cebu harbor.

Surigao Strait. WO Maruyama's midget submarine HA-78 reports sinking a transport, but the claim cannot be confirmed.

Mindanao Sea. WO Matsuda's midget submarine HA-84 reports sinking a large transport and an unidentified vessel, but the claims are not confirmed.

Talisay, Cebu. That same day, in Operation VICTOR II, Captain Albert T. Sprague's Task Group 78.2 lands the U.S. Army's Americal Division, less one RCT, covered by Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Russell S. Berkey's Task Group, consisting of three light cruisers and six destroyers. The landing is made against only slight resistance. Several midget submarines are attacked south of the city during the afternoon.

Following the landings, the Japanese scuttle Lt Shima's HA-69, WO Maruyama's HA-78, Lt Ichikawa's HA-79 and Lt Sasakawa's HA-81. All the remaining midget submarine crews join infantry units.

27 March 1945:
Talisay, Cebu. At 0038, WO Matsuda's HA-84 departs Cebu as the last battleworthy unit. She gets entangled in the anti-submarine net at the entrance of the bay. USS CONYNGHAM (DD-37), FLUSSER (DD-368) and NEWMAN (APD-59), covering the landings on Cebu, sight the midget submarine. NEWMAN attacks her and is given credit for a "possible" submersible sunk, but HA-84 evades her attacker.

29 March 1945:
Dumaguete harbor. WO Matsuda's HA-84 is rendered inoperable after a forward battery explosion.

Late March 1945:
Davao. After the American landings, the two midget submarines at the base are scuttled.

Cebu. Thousands of Japanese seek refuge in the impassable northern region where 8,500 survive until the war ends.

18 May 1945:
Davao. The U.S. 24th Infantry Division seizes Davao City, the last major Philippine city under Japanese control.

27 May 1945.
Davao Gulf, Mindanao. Three PV-1 patrol bombers of the Seventh Fleet attack an abandoned Type C midget. The submarine, which has a long float alongside its port side, is hit by a rocket and bullets from the planes' .50 caliber machine guns.

Midget submarine under attack by three PV-1 patrol bombers
(Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NARA via Naval Historical Center)

30 August 1945:
Rear Admiral Harada and his 200 sailors (mostly sick and/or wounded) surrender to American forces.

25 September 1945:
Manila. Rear Admiral Harada dies in an American hospital of a tropical disease contracted at the front. He is promoted Vice Admiral, posthumously.
Authors' Notes:
[1] Author/historian Kimata Jiro speculates this could have been the 69-ship convoy that departed Leyte on 2 January 1945. The credit for Matsuda's "kill" seems to be based on visual observations by a Japanese aircraft, which also reported that considerable confusion ensued within the convoy after the midget attack.

[2] On 25 May 1945, Admiral Toyoda Soemu, CinC, Combined Fleet, promotes all three crewmembers of WO Mizuno Aimasa's HA-82 posthumously.

[3] Some sources credit the sinking of HA-82 to an aircraft from USS MARCUS ISLAND (CVE-77).

[4] Kimata suggests that one of the ships damaged could have been the dock landing ship USS SHADWELL (LSD-15), listed as damaged by an aerial torpedo at 09-01N, 123-45E, on 24 January. According to Kimata, there were no Japanese torpedo bombers left in that area by that time.

[5] According to some Japanese sources, there was a "Type Z" model midget submarine among the Type C midget submarines deployed to Philippines. While a Type Y certainly existed, the Type Z could well be a typo.


Thanks go to readers/authors Barrett Tillman and George Kernahan for more details about the 23 February 1945 F4U attack on two midget subs off Cebu.

-Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp

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