Featured Book

November 2011

"Darwin’s Submarine I-124"

Book Review
by Bob Hackett

"Darwin’s Submarine I-124" is by Dr. Tom Lewis, a naval officer, dive master and Director of the Darwin Military Museum. His softbound book, ISBN # 978 0 957 73519 4, published by Avonmore Books, Kent Town, South Australia, tells the story of minelayer I-124, the first IJN submarine sunk by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in World War II.

Lewis is the author of six history books and many other works. This book is a fresh version of his 1997 “Sensuikan I-124” with many new and improved graphics and text additions. Currently available in Australia or by contacting the publisher at: shop@avonmorebooks.com.au, the book also will be available in North America in the coming new year with a planned retail price of $29.99 USD.

Lewis sets the scene with little-known historical information about the port of Darwin on the coast of northern Australia. In early January 1942, Darwin was transformed from a small RAN refueling station to a temporary refuge for the aging warships of United States Asiatic Fleet retreating from America's impending defeat in the Philippines including cruisers USS HOUSTON (CA-30), MARBLEHEAD (CL-12), BOISE (CL-47), tender LANGLEY (AV-3), old desroyers ALDEN (DD-211), EDSALL (DD-219) and others.

I-124’s construction details, early combat history and that of her SubRon 6 sisters I-121, I-122 and I-123 are laid out, together with the Japanese strategy for deploying these large boats so far south. Lewis also gives brief backgrounds on the book's main protagonists, the CO’s of corvette HMAS DELORAINE and I-124.

Lewis provides new details on sister submarine I-123's attack on oiler USS TRINITY (AO-13) escorted by old four-piper destroyers ALDEN and EDSALL. This was followed the next morning by I-124's last battle against HMAS DELORAINE. The book also pays attention to controversial things like Allied efforts to recover I-124's code books, her possible involvement with German auxiliary cruiser KORMORAN in sinking light cruiser HMAS SYDNEY and wartime and post-war salvage attempts on the submarine. Finally, the book is replete with interesting anecdotes, related side-stories and copious facts.

This well-researched 182 page book contains a forward, explanatory notes, acknowledgements, 15 chapters with endnotes, two appendices, references and a general index. It also includes maps, 93 rare photos, illustrations and specifications of key vessels such as I-124, corvette HMAS DELORAINE, patrol boat HMAS VIGILANT, destroyer USS EDSALL and others.

Lewis' book was the basis of an Australian abc.net.au TV documentary. I highly recommend the book for anyone with interests in history, submarines, the Pacific War and the war at sea.

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