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National Geographic Expedition Week 2009


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Further Sources on WWII Japanese Submarine Wrecks
Wreck of the Imperial Japanese Navy Submarine I-104

A close-up shot of triple-deck guns at the scene of the I-401 underwater submarine wreck. The I-401 is one of five Japaneses submarines sunk by the U.S. Navy in 1946.

Photo credit: (c) Wild Life Productions

Bottom Line

"The Hunt for the Samurai Subs" is an interesting, scientifically-based description of the underwater archaeology search for five WWII submarines that will certainly make fodder for "what-if" science fiction for years to come. One problem is the emphasis on the reason for the scuttling—an interview featured in a New York Times news story linked below suggests that the subs were scuttled was not so much because of the fear that the Russians might get their hands on the technology, but that the subs were infested by rats and the Americans had gotten what they could out of them.

The program is clearly well-researched, with lots of interviews from the people concerned and with several CGI images of what these subs would have looked like. The underwater search accurately (as far as I can tell) displays how fifty-year-old film coupled with research and modern technology can assist in the identification of underwater wrecks.

Entertaining, educational. Good stuff.

Related Studies

The discovery of the WWII Japanese submarines off Oahu is too recent to expect scholarly studies derived out of them, but there are a handful of studies on the archaeology and history of previously discovered subs. Here are a few sources worth investigating, if you've a mind to it.

Juergens, Jeffrey K. 2009. The Impact of the General Board of the Navy on Interwar Submarine Design. MA Thesis, Department of Military Art and Science, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Free download.

Smith, Tim. 2007. Wreck of the Japanese Type ‘A’ Idget Submarine M24: Preliminary Archaeological Survey Report. Heritage Branch, New South Wales Department of Planning, Canberra.

Van Tilburg, Hans Konrad 2007. Unseen Battlefields: The Japanese Midget Sub at Pearl Harbor. pp. 182-195 in Out of the Blue:Public Interpretation of Maritime Cultural Resources , edited by John H. Jameson Jr. and Della A. Scott-Ireton. Springer, New York.

Wiltshire, John C., Terry Kerby, and Algis N. Kalvaitis 2002 The Search, Discovery, and Survey of a World War II Japanese Type "A" Midget Submarine. Oceanography 15(4):35-50. Free download

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