(RO-63 - Scanned from "Submarines of World War II" by E. Bagnasco)

IJN Submarine RO-61:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2001-2011 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp:
Revision 1

5 June 1922:
Kobe. Laid down Mitsubishi Shipbuilding as a 990-ton L4 submarine.

10 March 1923:
LtCdr (later Rear Admiral) Yokoyama Sugao (36) (former CO of SS-33) is posted Chief Equipping Officer.

19 May 1923:

9 February 1924:
Completed and commissioned in the IJN as SS-59. LtCdr Yokoyama is the Commanding Officer.

1 November 1924:
SS-72 is redesignated RO-61.

15 November 1939:
RO-61 is home-ported at the Sasebo Naval Base. She is assigned to SubRon 7's SubDiv26 in the Fourth Fleet.

2 December 1941:
The coded signal "Niitakayama nobore (Climb Mt. Niitaka) 1208" is received from the Combined Fleet. It signifies that hostilities will commence on 8 December (Japan time). Mt. Niitaka, located in Formosa (now Taiwan), is then the highest point in the Japanese Empire.

6 December 1941:
Kwajalein. The RO-61 is in Captain Matsuo Yoshiyasu's (47)SubDiv 26 of Rear Admiral Onishi Shinzo's (42)SubRon 7, Fourth Fleet with the RO-60 and the RO-62 . LtCdr Yamamoto Hideo is RO-61's Commanding Officer.

8 December 1941: The First Attack on Wake Island:
Kwajalein. SubDiv 26 is on 'standby alert' at the outbreak of hostilities.

Wake Island is assaulted by Rear Admiral (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Kajioka Sadamichi's (former CO of KISO) Occupation Group: DesRon 6's light cruiser YUBARI, eight destroyers, two transports and RO-65, RO-66 and RO-67. The United States Marines beat back the first assault with their 5-inch shore batteries. Kajioka loses LtCdr Takatsuka Minoru's destroyer HAYATE to the shore batteries and LtCdr Ogawa Yoichiro's destroyer KISARAGI to Marine Grumman F4F "Wildcats".

12 December 1941:
CarDiv 2's HIRYU and SORYU are detached from Vice Admiral (Admiral, posthumously) Nagumo Chuichi's (former CO of YAMASHIRO) Striking Force returning from Pearl Harbor to reinforce Kajioka, as is Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Abe Hiroaki's (former CO of FUSO) CruDiv 8's TONE, CHIKUMA and two destroyers. Rear Admiral (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Goto Aritomo's (former CO of MUTSU) CruDiv 6's AOBA, KINUGASA, KAKO, FURUTAKA, seaplane tender CHIYODA and two other destroyers also reinforce Kajioka. Rear Admiral Abe, now senior officer present, has overall command.

SubDiv 26's RO-60, RO-61 and RO-62 are assigned to the reinforced Wake Occupation Group and sortie from Kwajalein.

23 December 1941: The Second Attack on Wake Island:
After a magnificent stand, Wake's garrison is overwhelmed and its few defenders surrender.

27 December 1941:
RO-61 returns to Kwajalein.

5 January 1942:
Reassigned to Marshalls Area Guard Unit with RO-62. Patrols off Kwajalein.

1 February 1942: American Air Raid on Kwajalein:
Vice Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) William F. Halsey Jr's (USNA ’04) Task Force 8 (USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) raids Kwajalein and Wotje in the Marshall Islands. Douglas "Dauntless" SBDs of VB-6 and VS-6 and Douglas TBD "Devastators" of VT-6 sink a transport and damage the light cruiser KATORI, flagship of the Sixth Fleet's (Submarines) Commander, Vice Admiral Shimizu Mitsumi (36)(former CO of ISE). I-23, submarine depot ship YASUKUNI MARU and several other important ships are also damaged in the raid.

Two hours after the attack, Sixth Fleet HQ orders SubRon 1's I-9, I-15, I-17, I-19, I-23, I-25 I-26 and RO-61 and RO-62 put to sea to intercept Halsey's force, but they fail to make contact.

9 March 1942:
Arrives at Truk with RO-61.

19 March 1942:
RO-61 and -62 depart Truk for Saipan.

22 March 1942:
Arrive at Saipan, depart on the same day for Sasebo.

30 March 1942:
Arrive at Sasebo.

24 May 1942:
LtCdr Tokutomi Toshisada is assigned as the CO. LtCdr Yamamoto Hideo becomes the CO of the new I-35.

31 May 1942:
Departs Sasebo for Saipan with RO-61.

6 June 1942:
RO-62 and RO-61 arrive at Saipan.

7 June 1942:
Depart Saipan for Truk.

10 June 1942:
Arrive at Truk.

27 June 1942:
Depart Truk for Yokosuka.

5 July 1942:
Arrive at Yokosuka.

14 July 1942:
SubDiv 26 is reassigned to the Fifth Fleet.

24 July 1942:
Departs Yokosuka for Paramushiro with RO-61.

30 July 1942:
RO-62 and RO-61 arrive at Paramushiro.

1 August 1942:
Depart Paramushiro for Kiska.

5 August 1942:
Arrive at Kiska.

August 1942:
The RO-61 is based at Kiska, Aleutians in Cdr (later Captain) Kato Ryonosuke's SubDiv 33 with I-6, RO-62, RO-63, RO-64, RO-65, RO-67 and RO-68.

7 August 1942:
Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) William W. Smith's (USNA ’09)(former Chief of Staff to Admiral H. E. Kimmel (USNA ’04)), TG 8.6 shells Kiska. RO-61, RO-64, RO-68 and I-6 anchored in the harbor crash-dive to escape damage. After the bombardment, some of the submarines are sent to intercept the task group, but they fail to overtake the Americans.

8 August 1942:
Depart Kiska to intercept the American TG.

10 August 1942:
Return to Kiska.

11 August 1942:
Departs to patrol off Kiska in anticipation of another raid.

13 August 1942:
Returns to Kiska.

15 August 1942:
Departs to patrol off Kiska.

17 August 1942:
Returns to Kiska.

28 August 1942:
A Kiska-based Aichi E13A1 "Jake” reconnaissance plane detects the 1,766-ton BARNEGAT-class seaplane tender USS CASCO (AVP-12) and a destroyer in Nazan Bay at Atka Island, Aleutians, but mistakenly identifies CASCO as a light cruiser. RO-61, RO-62 and RO-64 sortie to intercept her.

29 August 1942:
All three submarines arrive off Atka. LtCdr Tokutomi, the CO of the northernmost RO-61 is ordered to penetrate Nazan Bay to lure the Americans out.

30 August 1942:
After sunset, LtCdr Tokutomi enters Nazan Bay and makes a slow, cautious approach that almost depletes his batteries. From 875 yards, he fires a spread of three 6th Year Type torpedoes at what he identifies as a “NORTHAMPTON”-class heavy cruiser. The first one passes the CASCO and lands on the beach. The third torpedo also misses but the second hits CASCO's forward engine room and damages the tender severely. She is beached to prevent sinking. LtCdr Tokutomi reports one hit on a NORTHAMPTON-class cruiser. [1]

31 August 1942:
Aleutian Islands. In the lee of the Atoka volcano, Lt S. E. Coleman of VP-42, flying a PBY-5A "Catalina" through the fog, spots a submarine on the surface, probably recharging her batteries. He strafes her and drops two depth charges, heavily damaging the submarine. Lt Carl H. Amme of VP-43, flying another Catalina, also makes a depth-charge attack. The submarine crash-dives, leaving a large oil slick.

Lt Amme signals to nearby LtCdr H. H. McIllhenny's USS REID (DD-369) and directs her to the site. Amme marks the oil slick with smoke floats. McIllhenny then drops two patterns of 13 depth charges each that damage the submarine and forces her to surface.

RO-61 first runs at 130 feet, but after the first pattern dives to 200 feet. The next attack causes multiple leaks in her diesel and electrical engine rooms. The battery compartment is flooded and the boat fills with chlorine gas. To fight the stern trim, the sailors haul bags with rice and canned foods to the bow sections.

One of the explosions shorts out the central switchboard. Fires break out in the control room and in the shell magazine. A sudden forward trim causes the crew to haul over twenty 3-in shells to aft compartments. One petty officer dies from chlorine poisoning. LtCdr Tokutomi orders "Battle Surface".

The Japanese attempt to man their deck gun and some fire at REID with Type 38 Arisaka rifles. Most of the crewmen on deck are cut down by 20-mm fire.

McIllhenny finishes off the submarine with his 5-inch/38 cal main armament. The submarine capsizes and sinks by the stern at 52-36N, 173-57W. LtCdr Tokotomi and 59 crewmen are lost. REID rescues five survivors who identify the submarine as RO-61.

1 September 1942:
Presumed lost in the Aleutians.

20 October 1942:
Removed from the Navy List.

Author's Notes:
[1] CASCO was the first warship ever attacked by an RO-class submarine.

Thanks go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan and to Matt Jones for additional CO info.

– Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

Back to Submarine Page