only Japanese survivor of the midget submarine attack on Pearl Harbor
seven years ago today, has had enough of war. Small
Fish in a Big Spring - War bond tour brings Japanese submarine
to West Texas by John Troesser
He says he is "not so happy" about the world situation, but adds:
"If another war comes along, I would want to stay out of it — remain
Sakamaki, 30, works as a clerk in the Toyota truck company here.
He is a moderately happy man, married to a bride of his choice and
the father of a round-cheeked, almond-eyed son.
He no longer believes that he disgraced himself, his family, his
ancestors, his country, the Imperial Japanese Navy and his emperor
by being captured after his submarine grounded off Pearl Harbor.
He is glad he became the first Japanese war prisoner of World War
But seven years ago, Sakamaki was one of five officers who set forth
in five midget submarines ready, indeed eager, to die for the glory
of his country in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Each submarine carried two persons each was 74 feet long, weighed
30 tons, had a maximum speed of 24 knots and a cruising range of
about 400 miles, and was equipped with radio transmitters and two
Sakamaki trained long and hard for what he sincerely believed was
his date with destiny. He studied at the naval academy, learned
to fly at Kasumigatura, practiced seamanship aboard the training
ship Abukuma and underwent special training at Chujo Bay, which
closely resembles Pearl Harbor. He was commissioned a sub-lieutenant.
He recalled vividly how his midget submarine was launched from its
"hanger" on the afterdeck of a mother submarine off Pearl Harbor
on the moonlight night of Dec. 6. He was 23 years old then.
His orders read to coordinate an underwater attack with the aerial
bombardment of Pearl Harbor. He was instructed to attack, in order,
aircraft carriers, battleships, and heavy cruisers.
The instructions said that he should rendezvous after the attack
at point 7 off Lanai Island. But he knew that was only a formality.
All were expected to die for their country.
"I said good-bye
to the captain of the mother sub and 10 minutes later we surfaced
so that we could enter our midget submarines," he said.
"It was then I got a nasty shock. My gyrocompass was out of commission.
Why, I don't know. There was no time for repairs. After consulting
the captain, I decided to attempt to make the journey anyway."
Without the gyrocompass, Sakamaki said he found his craft almost
unnavigable and unmaneuverable.
"But I finally got to the entrance to Pearl Harbor just before 7
a.m.," he said. "We were to attack at 7:50."
For the next
three hours, he said, he "hung around" Pearl Harbor trying to
make repairs and trying to find a target.
Several times he surfaced and was depth-charged. He saw several
small craft — mine sweepers and destroyers — but he wanted to
save his torpedoes for bigger game. Through his periscope he saw
columns of smoke rising over the harbor.
The midget submarine grounded several times on reefs. Bilge water
spread to the battery racks and deadly gases began to fill the
submarine. Depth charges rocked in.
Their senses dulled, Sakamaki and his fellow crewman, Petty Officer
Kiyoshi Inazaki, decided to try to make Lanai. Then the ship grounded
for the 10th and last time.
Sakamaki swam for the shore of what he thought was Lanai. His
Collapsing on the shore, Sakamaki remembered nothing until he
was shaken by an American soldier pointing a pistol at him, he
had been traveling in circles and was back on Oahu.
"I was terribly ashamed," Sakamaki said. "I asked for an opportunity
to die an honorable death, but they just laughed at me."
The commanders and crewmen of the other midget submarines were
lost and were enshrined by the Japanese as "war Gods" soon after
Pearl Harbor Day. The Japanese made no mention that Sakamaki had
fallen into American hands.
Lone Star Diary
July 2001 Column
Published with author's permission.
Harbor Survivor by Sandy Fiedler
Related Topics: Columns
| Texas |