Probably because of the distractions of the holidays, I completely missed the December 2 report that a lost WWII Japanese megasubmarine had been found. As a kid I never missed a submarine movie or episode of TV’s “The Silent Service,” and I’ve been fascinated by submarines ever since.
The lost submarine was of the Sen Toku I-400 class, one of three giant subs the Japanese built that could carry and launch seaplanes armed with bombs. Their intended purpose was to attack and shut down the Panama Canal, one of America’s primary routes to the Pacific theater. At 400 feet, they were the largest submarines built prior to the nuclear submarines of the 1960s, with a range sufficient to reach any target on earth and return.
The subs were captured at the end of the war, before they could be used against the canal. After transporting them to Honolulu for examination, the Americans scuttled them in 2,300-foot-deep water off the island of Oahu. That action might be considered the first incident of the Cold War because the Soviets were demanding the right to examine them and US officials wanted to deny them access to the technology. The Soviets were told that the subs had been used as targets and sunk during a US naval exercise.