Americans scientists have rediscovered the remains of two advanced Japanese submarines from World War II, buried in the waters off Hawaii. But these shipwrecks, the I-14 and I-201, aren’t relics of a great Pacific Theater battle. Rather, the U.S. captured and then sank them on purpose, along with three others Japanese ships including the gargantuan I-401, which was found back in 2005.
The I-401, along with the I-14 and I-201, were captured at war’s end and sailed to Hawaii, where US naval intelligence officers could plumb the ships’ secrets…. All were scuttled to avoid having to share the information with the Pacific war’s late-comer and co-claimant to such prizes, the former Soviet Union [Christian Science Monitor].
The United States was extra anxious to bury these boats because they were among the most sophisticated of the era. The I-201 attack sub was twice as fast as any in the American fleet. The I-14 was slower, but packed lethal cargo. Specifically designed for a stealth attack on the U.S. East Coast—perhaps targeting Washington, D.C., and New York City—the “samurai subs” were fast, far-ranging, and in some cases carried folding-wing aircraft [National Geographic News]. However, the two subs were commissioned at the end of the war, and never saw battle. The I-14 was also the forerunner of Japan’s I-400 series, which could travel around the world one and a half times without refueling.
Japan wasn’t sprinting toward naval superiority in every capacity—its radar still lagged behind U.S. technology at the end of WWII. But had the war not concluded in 1945, the Allies might have gotten a taste of Japan’s new naval prowess. “What really jumps out is these three submarines [found so far] represent quite an advanced concept of military technology that was ahead of its time,” said archaeologist Hans Van Tilburg of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries [Los Angeles Times].
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