(Kaichu type submarine scanned from "Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy" by Polmar and Carpenter)

IJN Submarine RO-34:
Tabular Record of Movement

2001-2017 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp
Revision 3

25 April 1934:
Laid down at Mitsubishi Kobe Yard as a 960-ton type K5 submarine.

21 April 1934:
Numbered RO-34.

12 December 1935:

2 November 1936:
LtCdr (later Capt) Tonozuka Kinzo (50)(former CO of RO-27) is appointed the Chief Equipping Officer (CEO).

31 May 1937:
RO-34 is completed, commissioned in the IJN and attached to Sasebo Naval District. Assigned to Cdr (later Rear Admiral) Uozumi Jisaku's (42) SubDiv 21. LtCdr Tonozuka Kinzo is the Commanding Officer.

15 November 1937:
LtCdr Hirokawa Takashi (51)(former CO of RO-67) is appointed the CO.

19 March 1938:
LtCdr (Captain, posthumously) Narizawa Chinao (52) (former torpedo officer of I-57) is appointed the CO. [1]

15 September 1938:
LtCdr (later Captain) Asada Shiroku (54)(former torpedo officer of I-69) is appointed the CO.

August 1939:
RO-34 makes a research cruise from Yokosuka to Saipan in order to explore the impact of prolonged confinement and shipboard diet to the crew health. A nutrionist from the Tokyo Imperial University and the ComSubDiv 21, Cdr Sasaki Hankyu, are aboard during the voyage. En route, dysentery breaks out among the sailors, necessitating several changes in the established staple diet.

15 November 1939:
LtCdr (Rear Admiral, posthumously) Fukumura Toshiaki (54) (former navigating officer of the submarine tender KOMAHASHI) is appointed the CO.

5 November 1940:
LtCdr (Rear Admiral, posthumously) Kinashi Takakazu (51)(former CO of I-3) is appointed the CO.

15 May 1941:
Placed in 3rd reserve at Sasebo; on the 21st the flag of SubDiv 21 is transferred to RO-31.

1-31 July 1941:
LtCdr (Captain, posthumously) Watanabe Katsuji (55) (current CO of RO-33) is appointed the CO of RO-34 as an additional duty.

31 July 1941:
LtCdr (Cdr, posthumously) Sakamoto Eiichi (57)(former torpedo officer of I-65) is appointed the CO of RO-33 and RO-34 as an additional duty.

Mid-October-early-November 1941:
Undergoes repairs and refit at Maizuru Navy Yard.

31 October 1941:
LtCdr (Cdr, posthumously) Ota Takeshi (55)(former CO of I-52) is appointed the CO.

15 November 1941:
RO-34 and RO-33 are assigned to Captain Iwagami Eiju's SubDiv 21 in Rear Admiral Yoshitomi Setsuzo's (39) SubRon 4.

18 December 1941: Operation "E" -The Invasion of Malaya:
RO-34 and RO-33 are in Rear Admiral Yoshitomi SubRon 4 in Captain Iwagami's SubDiv 21 as a part of Malaya Invasion Force. At 1600, SubDiv 21 departs Sasebo for Camranh Bay, Indochina. Departs Sasebo with RO-33 to raid enemy communications in the Malaya-Java area.

24 December 1941:
Arrives at Camranh Bay. Refuels from NAGOYA MARU. The crew is given a three-day liberty.

28 December 1941:
Departs Camranh on her first war patrol in Karimata Strait.

11 January 1942
Returns to Camranh.

31 January 1942:
Departs Camranh on her second war patrol at the northern entrance to Lombok Strait.

2 February 1942:
RO-34 is directed to a new patrol station at the northern entrance of the Sunda Strait.

5 February 1942:Operation "J" - The Invasion of the Dutch East Indies:
Java Sea, NE of the Sunda Strait. RO-34 encounters a British squadron consisting of heavy cruiser HMS EXETER, Australian light cruiser HMAS HOBART and destroyer HMS ENCOUNTER, returning after an offensive sweep to the N of Bangka Island.

LtCdr Ota mistakes them for a convoy of merchants, guarded by a cruiser and a destroyer. After a botched submerged approach he fires a salvo of four torpedoes at the nearest vessel (HMS ENCOUNTER), but misses. The sonarman of RO-34 reports no less than four hits, probably confusing them with depth charge explosions.

The submarine escapes the brief chase and later reports the sinking of a destroyer. After the attack Ota has no torpedoes left. Rear Admiral Yoshitomi orders RO-34 to return to Camranh, replacing her with I-55.

9 February 1942:
RO-34 and RO-33 are reassigned to the Submarine Group "A".

20 February 1942:
Returns to Camranh.

27 February 1942:
Departs Camranh to support the invasion of Java. Patrols off Java, SE of the Lombok Strait and Tjilatjap.

Early March 1942:
Off Noesa Kembang lighthouse on Kambangan Island, S of Tjilatjap. While diving away from a corvette patrolling off Tjilatjap, RO-34 gets entangled in an anti-submarine net (or possibly a fishing net) at the depth of 100 ft. LtCdr Ota makes several attempts to break free, depleting the batteries. He orders to battle-surface after sundown, intending to engage the corvette with the deck gun.

RO-34 surfaces among several fishing boats, breaking free in the process; the corvette is nowhere in sight. The submarine then heads away at flank speed, recharging batteries.

7 March 1942:
Arrives at Staring Bay, Celebes.

10 March 1942:
SubRon 4 is disbanded. SubDiv 21 is reassigned to SubRon 3.

20 March 1942:
RO-34 is designated the flagship of SubDiv 21 until 1 May, replacing RO-33 in that capacity.

22 March 1942:
Departs Staring for Palau in company of RO-33.

26 March 1942:
Arrives at Palau.

30 March 1942:
Departs Palau for Truk.

3 April 1942:
Arrives at Truk.

4 April 1942:
SubDiv 21 is reassigned to the South Seas Force.

10 April 1942:
SubRon 6 is disbanded. SubDiv 21 is reassigned to SubRon 7, Eighth Fleet.

15 April 1942:
Departs Truk for Rabaul.

18 April 1942:
Arrives at Rabaul.

19 April 1942:
Departs Rabaul to reconnoiter Deboyne islands, Jomard Passage and the anchorages on Rossel Island on her fourth war patrol.

24 April 1942:
Returns to Rabaul.

1 May 1942:
RO-34 departs Rabaul in company of RO-33 to support the capture of Port Moresby, New Guinea, on her fifth war patrol.

4 May 1942: Operation "MO" - The Invasions of Tulagi, Solomons and Port Moresby, New Guinea:
Rear Admiral (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Kajioka Sadamichi's (39)(former CO of KISO)'s Attack Force departs Rabaul towards the Jomard Passage in the Louisiade Archipelago with DesRon 6's light cruiser YUBARI, four destroyers and a patrol boat escorting Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Abe Koso's (40)Transport Force of 12 transports and a minesweeper.

4 May 1942: The Battle of the Coral Sea:
Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Frank J. Fletcher's (USNA '06)Task Force 17 attacks Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Shima Kiyohide's (39)(former CO of OI) Tulagi Invasion Force at Tulagi. Douglas SBD dive-bombers and TBD torpedo-bombers from YORKTOWN (CV-5) sink a destroyer, three minesweepers and damage four other ships. The next day, Fletcher's force engages Vice Admiral (Admiral, posthumously) Takagi Takeo's (39)(former CO of MUTSU) Carrier Strike Force. SBDs and TBDs from YORKTOWN and LEXINGTON (CV-2) sink Rear Admiral (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Goto Aritomo's (38)(former CO of MUTSU) light carrier SHOHO. In turn, Japanese planes damage oiler USS NEOSHO (AO-23) and sink the destroyer SIMS (DD-409).

8 May 1942:
Aircraft from LEXINGTON sight the Carrier Strike Force Main Body (SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU). SBDs from YORKTOWN and LEXINGTON damage SHOKAKU and force her retirement. ZUIKAKU's air group suffers heavy losses. Takagi's planes damage YORKTOWN and LEXINGTON that is further damaged by gasoline explosions. She has to be abandoned and later scuttled by destroyer PHELPS (DD-360).

5 May 1942:
RO-34 arrives off Port Moresby.

19 May 1942:
The Battle of the Coral Sea halts the Japanese thrust toward Port Moresby and they are forced to cancel Operation MO. RO-34 returns to Truk.

23 May 1942:
Departs Truk for Sasebo in company of RO-33.

30 May 1942:
Arrives at Sasebo for repairs and overhaul.

5 June 1942:
Lt (later Cdr and Rear Admiral, JMSDF) Morinaga Masahiko (59)(former torpedo officer of I-16) is appointed the CO.

9 July 1942:
Departs Sasebo for Truk in company of RO-33.

17 July 1942:
Arrives at Truk in company of RO-33.

23 July 1942:
Departs Truk for Rabaul in company of RO-33.

27 July 1942:
Arrives at Rabaul.

29 July 1942:
Departs Rabaul on her sixth war patrol for an area E of Cape York, Australia. [2]

7 August 1942: American Operation "WATCHTOWER" - The Invasion of Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands:
Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Richmond K. Turner's (USNA '08) Amphibious Task Force 62, covered by Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Frank J. Fletcher's TF 61 and Rear Admiral (later Admiral) John S. McCain's (USNA '06) TF 63's land-based aircraft, lands MajGen (later Gen/MOH/Commandant) Alexander A. Vandegrift's 1st Marine Division on Florida, Tulagi, Gavutu, Tanambogo and Guadalcanal opening a seven-month campaign to take the island.

Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi (38)(former CO of KIRISHIMA), CINC, Eighth Fleet, orders SubDiv 21's RO-34, then returning from the E coast of Australia, RO-33, and SubDiv 13's I-121-123 to the Indispensable Strait off Guadalcanal to reconnoiter the captured areas and to contact the surviving IJA shore units.

10 August 1942:
Arrives off Tulagi.

12 August 1942:
By 1800, RO-34 manages to establish the contact with the Japanese outpost on Taivu Point, N coast of Guadalcanal. She briefly shells the Marine positions off Lunga Point thereafter. [3]

16 August 1942:
Returns to Rabaul.

21 August 1942:
Departs Rabaul to reconnoiter Guadalcanal on her seventh war patrol.

22 August 1942:
Reassigned to SubRon 7, Advance Force.

23 August 1942:
Rear Admiral Yoshitomi (39) orders RO-34 to intercept an American supply convoy that reportedly arrived Lunga Roads on the 22nd (in reality the attack cargo ships USS ALHENA (AK-26) and USS FOMALHAUT (AK-22).

In the evening RO-34 reconnoiters Lunga Roads, observing one 10,000-ton transport ship being unloaded, as well as a destroyer and a corvette patrolling in the area. Lt Morinaga commences an approach and at 1827 fires two torpedoes at the transport. One explosion is heard and RO-34 later reports her target as sunk.

RO-34 endures a vicious depth-charging during the subsequent 18-mile chase. At one point all lights fail and the submarine takes a 15-degree up angle. Nevertheless, RO-34 escapes; only a periscope shaft develops a leak. [4]

26 August 1942:
Reconnoiters Tulagi Harbor in search of American supply ships.

28 August 1942:
Off Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal. At 0134 the lookouts on RO-34 spot a surfaced submarine, making slow speed. RO-34 dives and lines up a shot, firing a salvo of two torpedoes. Two explosions are heard. RO-34 is credited with the sinking of an American submarine.

29 August 1942:
Early in the morning RO-34 is redirected to the area E of Savo Island. Between 0900 and 1100 several distant explosions are heard from the eastern direction, probably marking the destruction of I-123.

6 September 1942:
Returns to Rabaul.

27 September 1942:
Departs Rabaul to patrol off Port Moresby on her eighth war patrol.

5 October 1942:
SubDiv 21 is disbanded. RO-34 is attached to SubRon 7 HQ.

6 October 1942:
Ordered to proceed to Rossel Island area at the best p ossible speed.

9 October 1942:
Returns to Rabaul.

12 October 1942:
Departs Rabaul for Truk.

Late October 1942:
Arrives at Truk.

29 October 1942:
Departs Truk for Shortland anchorage, carrying several sets of Type A midget submarine access tubes and mountings for the future midget submarine operations in Guadalcanal area.

30 October 1942:
Lt (promoted LtCdr 1 November; Cdr, posthumously) Doi Takashige (60)(former torpedo officer of I-172) is appointed the CO.

1 November 1942:
Arrives at Shortland.

2 November 1942:
Departs Shortland for Rabaul.

3 November 1942:
Arrives at Rabaul.

7 November 1942:
Departs Rabaul on her ninth war patrol NE of San Cristobal to intercept reinforcement convoys heading for Guadalcanal with I-172 and I-175.

27 November 1942:
Arrives at Truk.

1 December 1942:
Departs Truk for Sasebo.

9 December 1942:
Arrives at Sasebo for overhaul.

Mid-January 1943:
During the diving tests the battery is accidentally flooded and several electricians come down with chlorine poisoning.

20 February 1943:
Departs Sasebo for Rabaul.

4 March 1943:
Arrives at Rabaul. RO-34 is assigned to Rear Admiral (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Harada Kaku's (41)(former CO of CVS CHIYODA) SubRon 7 in SubDiv 13, Eighth Fleet at Rabaul.

9 March 1943:
Departs Rabaul to patrol off Tulagi.

28 March 1943:
Returns to Rabaul.

30 March 1943:
Lt (LtCdr, posthumously) Tomita Rikichi (61)(former torpedo officer of I-168) is appointed the CO.

1 April 1943: Operation "I-GO" - The Reinforcement of Rabaul:
Admiral (Fleet Admiral, posthumously) Yamamoto Isoroku (32), CINC Combined Fleet, orders aircraft from CarDiv 1's ZUIKAKU and ZUIHO to reinforce the 11th Air Fleet's base at Rabaul and CarDiv 2's HIYO and JUNYO to reinforce the base at Ballale Island, near Buin.

2 April 1943:
At 1200, RO-34 departs Rabaul on her eleventh war patrol to provide weather reports and perform lifeguard duty E of the Russell Islands during the Operation "I-GO".

5 April 1943:
40 miles off Russell Islands, Solomons. (Vice Admiral-Ret) Francis X. McInerney's (USNA '21) DesRon 21 is returning from a night of shelling Japanese shore installations in the New Georgia area. At 0218, LtCdr (Rear Admiral-Ret) Donald J. MacDonald's (USNA '31) USS O'BANNON (DD-450) and STRONG (DD-467) of DesRon 21 make radar contact with a surfaced submarine at 9,350 yds.

O'BANNON detaches to investigate the contact. At about 0230, she approaches the submarine rapidly and prepares to ram. At the last minute, LtCdr MacDonald decides it could be a minelayer. He puts his rudder hard over to avoid a collision. O'BANNON is too close to depress her guns to fire.

Lt Tomita orders the RO-34 to crash-dive. O'BANNON draws away to approximately 1,000 yds, brings her 5-inch main armament to bear and commences firing as does STRONG. At least one shell hit is observed before the submarine crash-dives. O'BANNON closes to fire her K-guns. She passes less than 100 yds ahead of the submarine, then throws depth charges at it.

Contact is broken, but at 0319, O'BANNON's sonar reacquires the submarine. MacDonald drops a pattern of eight depth charges. RO-34 is seen sinking by the stern. An oil slick is sighted the next morning. MacDonald later claims a kill at 08-15S, 158-58E.

O'BANNON is credited with sinking an enemy submarine. [5]

7 April 1943:
At 2151 (L), while screening the cruiser Task Force 18 off San Cristobal Island, Cdr (Rear Admiral-Ret) Joseph H. Wellings' (USNA '25) USS STRONG (DD-467) makes a radar contact with a surfaced submarine bearing 150 degrees (T) at a range of 9,350 yds. At 2204, STRONG illuminates RO-34 and opens fire with the 5-in, 40-mm and 20-mm guns, scoring at least three sure hits with her main battery. After the submarine dives, down by the stern with a 10-15 degree angle, the destroyer drops two patterns of DCs. Debris are observed on the surface at 10-05S, 162-08E. USS STRONG is credited with the sinking of an enemy submarine. Cdr Wellings is awarded with a Navy Cross. [6]

16 April 1943:
RO-34 is ordered to return to Rabaul, but the signal is not acknowledged.

2 May 1943:
Presumed lost with all 66 hands in the Solomons area.

14 July 1943:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Notes:
[1] LtCdr Narizawa's name has several possible readings; in several sources it also appears as Narusawa Sunao.

[2] Several postwar Japanese sources credit RO-34 with attacking the Australian troopship KATOOMBA on 4 August. In all likelihood this is a mistake and KATOOMBA was attacked by I-32.

[3] I-123 had received a similar task and shelled the Marine positions around 1100 that morning. She made likewise an attempt to contact the Taivu Point outpost, but failed.

[4] In reality both RO-34's torpedoes missed (one of them reportedly run aground on the beach and exploded). The nearby IJA outpost witnessed the attack, but suggested that the target was a destroyer. It could have been the high-speed transport USS STRINGHAM (APD-6), who attacked a submarine in that area after being near-missed by a torpedo.

[5] USS O'BANNON and RO-34 were the participants of the largely apocryphal "Maine potato episode".

[6] Older sources credit USS O'BANNON with the sinking of RO-34.

Thanks go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan.

Special thanks go to Mr. Steve Harding, Senior Editor of the Military History Magazine, for his input and additional information regarding the sinking of RO-34.

Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

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