Attack of Sydney Harbor

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Trevor William Sturdy

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Hi Jim, I think there is a segment on the Australian 60 Minutes program this sunday night in relation to this find...

Regards.
 

Jim Hathaway

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Dec 18, 2004
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Thanks, Trevor, I wish I had access to it, but I am in the states and sent my cable TV provider packing-
I read quite a good book on the Type A midgets called "Advance Force Pearl Harbor" by Burlingame.
It had a great account of the plan, training and execution of the midget attack at Pearl but also had a lot of information on the attack on Sydney, and also on the ones in the Aleutians.
 
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Trevor William Sturdy

Guest
Jim, Yes definately on our 60 minutes program tomorrow night. I am working tomorrow but will hopefully get home in time to see at least some of the story. From what i have found out it is sitting upright on the bottom somewhere not to far north of the harbour entrance.

The sub-mariners on the missions you mention certainly had "guts" - I think we can safely say these gents knew it was basically a suicide mission.

Regards.
 

Jim Hathaway

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Dec 18, 2004
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Thanks, Dave, it will be interesting to find out if it has it's torpedoes.
"The sub-mariners on the missions you mention certainly had "guts" - I think we can safely say these gents knew it was basically a suicide mission."
While the Type A midget subs were considered Tokkotai weapons (meaning "Special Attack" a classification which includes suicide weapons) they were not considered Kamikaze weapons, but the surviving crewmember at Pearl Harbor said none of them expected to live through the attack and rendezvous with the rescue sub.
At Pearl, there were 5 subs, one is unaccounted for- after the attack, the 9 crew who were lost were revered as gods, but Sakamoto, the survivor was never shown in pictures after the attack.
I'm a little curious about the designation M-24, all the Pearl Harbor ones were designated by the number of the launching submarine followed by -tou (I-24tou)
Burlingame made the point that the mission at Pearl had all the appearances of trying to score a propoganda victory since they did not provide intellegence and being caught sneaking into the harbor would only serve to alert the enemy. (although Burlingame did find some evidence that one may have fired it's torpedoes inside the harbor)
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Trevor William Sturdy

Guest
Hi Jim/Dave,
I am fairly sure you would have caught the show Dave, so for Jim's benefit I will try and relay what was shown-

The exact location is being kept a secret to stop unauthorised visits. She was found by a group of amateur explorers/divers. From the few glimpses of land that were seen, I would say about 2.5 to 3 miles off Sydneys northern beaches. She is sitting there upright, on a sandy bottom, definately recognisable as a submarine.
The bow is damaged/nose appears to be broken off, the navy representative said it appeared she hit bottom nose first at some speed. The sub has not been entered so the questions of human remains, torpedo status has not been established.

As you would expect it is classified as a war grave and the penalties associated with that are pretty heavy for anyone planning on interferring with the wreck. The gentlemen associated with the find appeared extremely pleased with there find and have handed over the co-ordinates to the Australian Government in a noble gesture.

Hope this fills you in on some of the details.

Regards.
Trev.
 
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Trevor William Sturdy

Guest
Forgot to mention she did have what appeared to be battle damage, with what appeared to be holes in the hull caused by 20mm machine gun fire...
 

Jim Hathaway

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Dec 18, 2004
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Thank you, Trev,
The 20 mm damage is interesting, when Burlingame put forth evidence of one firing it's torpedoes from within Pearl Harbor, it was in the form of a photo of something broaching in a photo taken of the attack.
The people who were involved with the program said the boats did have a tendency to broach when torpedoes were fired, so it might have exposed itself in this way, or just revealed itself while trying to get into the harbor.
It will be interesting if there was a contact report anywhere near where the sub was found.
I wonder how close this would be to the position where the torpedo attack occurred. The boats carried 2 type 97 torpedoes which had a range of 5.5km (3.4mi) at 44 kts (82kmh)
There was a joint in the forward hull and aft which were also weak points, so if the forward section broke off on contact with the bottom, it probably split along this joint.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>The people who were involved with the program said the boats did have a tendency to broach when torpedoes were fired,<<

That shouldn't come as a surprise. These were very small craft and firing even one torpedo...to say nothing of both weapons...would result in the boat shedding a substantial amount of weight in an instant.

Specifications for World War II era Japanese torpedos can be seen at http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WTJAP_WWII.htm

The Type 97 and the Type 98 which were used on midget submarines weighed in at 2,161 lbs and 2,094 lbs respectively. They also carried a 772 lb warhead so they packed a helluva punch!
 

Jim Hathaway

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HI michael,
Yes, the boats did pack quite a punch! Inspite of some tactical drawbacks,(broaching already mentioned, also electric propulsion only in the type A) the midget subs could form a credible force-
Even with just electric power, the boats could manage a 100 mile range, but using them offensively, it would be hard to think of a scenario where the crews could be rescued after a mission.
BTW, off topic, I am reading "Shattered Sword", a new history of Midway, told from Japanese sources. If you have not read it, I think you would enjoy it!
 
Dec 2, 2000
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With electric motors only, it's not hard to see how such a mission could be seen as one way. Midget subs had a lot of appeal, and there were some jobs that just couldn't be pulled off any other way. The Tirpitz stands as an example, and even today, the U.S. Navy uses swimmer delivery vehicals for commando operations.

In the long haul however, they don't strike me as having a lot of value. Suicide missions aren't very popular for obvious reasons, and they tend to be a lot more wasteful of manpower and resources then they're worth.
 
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Trevor William Sturdy

Guest
Hi Jim, There are no reports of contact I am aware of once she left the harbour. It was suggested that she may have had to come to the surface to fire upon the USS Chicago due to periscope damage, the sub-mariners sighting there aim from the conning tower using there own eye's. The torpedoes were fired from close range, approx half a mile(or less), both missing the US ship. Apparently the Chicago did fire upon the sub using 20mm gunnery. It would appear that she was slowly flooding during her escape attempt and was eventually dragged to the bottom, hence her proximity not far from the harbour.
Jim, with my father and uncles involved in the Pacific conflict, one uncle aboard an Australian cruiser during the coral sea battle, I have read a great deal in regards to Midway - I will also keep an eye out for "Shattered Sword".

Regards.
Trev.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Some good footage on 60 Minutes last night - reminds me of why I love diving locally! She can't be too deep...they were diving mostly on single tanks and nitrox (I saw one twin-tank set up...the closest thing to a tech diver's rig in the group). The find was rumoured in dive circles before it filtered through to the heritage groups and then to the media. Early reports gave her location as close to where I live. Only last week I was out on the balcony pointing out the locations of known wrecks along the coast to visitors - Long Reef, not too far from us, has a number of both artificial and 'natural' wrecks, of which the sub is reported to be one.

My father remembers the day the attacks happened. Only a boy, he had just finished a day at a swimming carnival and had won several races. He heard a sound he mistook for thunder, but his father - a WWI vet - replied 'No son...that's gunfire.'

Given the extent of damage they're conjecturing she sustained, if reports of the Long Reef location are correct it strikes me as remarkable that she made it that far.
 

Jim Hathaway

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I've heard diving in Australia is fantastic, it is high on my list of places to go-
While I was doing a websearch on this subject, I also found a Malaysian dive site with photos of HMS Repulse- quite interesting too. I wish I could afford to go places like that instead of work;-)
I'm looking forward to seeing photos of the Sydney sub, hopefully there will be a study of the wreck done.
 

Dave Gittins

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The Australian government has acted quickly to protect the wreck. Interfering with it will cost you up to seven years in the slammer.

There are reports that say the remains of the tow crewmen are inside the sub. Australian and the Japanese are holding talks on its future.
 

Inger Sheil

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It is a tremendous - and tremendously diverse - place to dive, Jim. From the kelp forrests of Tasmania through to the well known Barrier Reef and Coral Sea sites. We have wonderful blue groupers and sea dragons locally, in addition to many wrecks off the NSW coast.

Dave, I heard those reports about the two crew bodies having been seen - these stories were circulating in the dive community last week. Don't know whether there's any confirmation yet.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Since the article indicated that there were still torpedos on board, setting up that exclusion zone is a good idea. The historical signifigence of the boat aside, messing around with the thing would be pretty dangerous. Smart money is that the explosive ordnance disposal people will get first crack at the sub in any officially sanctioned dives.
 

Jim Hathaway

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I remember one sub that was recovered where the torpedo section was removed and dropped in deep water-I believe the rest was returned to Japan.
Some time ago I also remember an article stating that many of the Japanese explosives were picric acid based and prone to become very unstable over time.