Sakamaki, only Japanese survivor
of the midget submarine attack on Pearl Harbor seven years ago today, has had
enough of war.
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
He is glad he became the first Japanese war prisoner of
World War II.
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 bow torpedoes.
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."
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 companion drowned.
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.
Published with author's permission.
Fish in a Big Spring - War bond tour brings Japanese submarine to West Texas by