Japanese submarine I-168

Japanese submarine I-168

The "I-168" was a Japanese "Kaidai" class submarine (KD6 Type) of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. At the Battle of Midway she sunk two American warships: the aircraft carrier "Yorktown" and the destroyer "Hammann". At that time she was commanded by Lt. Cdr. Yahachi Tanabe.

The sub was completed at the Kure Dock Yard on July 31, 1934. She was originally designated "I-68". On November 23, 1941, "I-68" and the rest of Submarine Squadron 3 were stationed near Hawai'i to perform reconnaissance duties in preparation for the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. Still on station near Hawai'i on December 13, "I-68" was subjected to 21 separate depth charge attacks. The last attack damaged her batteries and flooded the aft torpedo tubes. After undergoing repairs at Kwajalein, "I-68" conducted several uneventful patrols of the Pacific, before being redesignated "I-168" on May 20, 1942 as part of a general sub re-numbering program undertaken by the IJN.

"I-168" was one of 13 submarines forming the Advance Expeditionary Force of the Japanese attack on Midway. She scouted south of Midway, and scouted Kure Island during her approach on 31 May 1942. The American aircraft carriers had passed through the area of the submarine patrol line before the submarines arrived on their patrol stations. "I-168" spent the first 3 days of June observing Midway by periscope at Midway's southern horizon by day, and through binoculars at a range of five miles at night. "I-168" observed and reported heavy aircraft activity indicating Midway anticipated the Japanese attack. She made periscope observations through the first Japanese air attack on Midway. "I-168" commenced shelling Midway with its 10-cm (4-inch) deck gun at 0130 5 June; but submerged when illuminated by shore searchlights after firing only 6 rounds. [Tanabe, May 1963, pp.60-61]

"I-168" was unsuccessfully attacked by aircraft on 5 June; and, upon surfacing after the attack, received orders to sink the damaged American aircraft carrier USS "Yorktown". Lookouts detected "Yorktown" at 0530 6 June. "I-168" closed the range from 11 miles at 6 knots, and then slowed to 3 knots for the final approach through "Yorktown"'s destroyer screen. Cautious use of the periscope resulted in getting too close to the carrier on the initial approach, so the submarine circled to starboard to increase range and then fired a salvo of four torpedoes at 1330 from a range of 1200 yards. After observing the torpedo hits, "I-168" descended to 200 feet and slowed to 3 knots directly under "Yorktown". American destroyers "Gwin", "Hughes", and "Monaghan" dropped 60 depth charges before damaging "I-168" at 1530. A depth charge exploding near the bow put out the lights, damaged the forward battery room, sprung the hatches to No. 1 torpedo tube, and decreased submerged depth to 60 feet. All unoccupied crewmen grabbed sacks of rice from forward storage and moved astern to trim the submarine from the flooding forward. After a few hours of relative quiet, "I-168" surfaced an hour before sunset and ran west at 14 knots to charge batteries and ventilate interior spaces with fresh air. Two American destroyers spotted her at a range of 11000 yards and commenced firing from a range of 6500 yards about 30 minutes later. "I-168" submerged and evaded the approaching destroyers. [Tanabe, May 1963, pp.59-65]

After conducting emergency repairs, Tanabe and his crew limped back to Japan using only two engines, a journey of twelve days. Following full repairs at Sasebo, "I-168" was placed under command of LtCdr. Katsuji Watanabe and was reassigned to conduct cargo transportation missions to the beleaguered Solomon Islands and Kiska.

On July 27, 1943, "I-168" engaged the American submarine USS "Scamp" in the Steffen Strait near New Hanover Island. After crash-diving his boat under an incoming torpedo, LtCdr Walter Ebert returned fire, sinking "I-168" with all hands.

Commanding officers

*Chief Equipping Officer - Cmdr. Nobumichi Tsuruoka - 23 February 1934 - 31 July 1934
*Cmdr. Nobumichi Tsuruoka - 31 July 1934 - 15 November 1934
*Lt. Cmdr. Nobunosuke Ota - 15 November 1934 - 15 November 1935
*Lt. Cmdr. Yasuchika Kayabara - 15 November 1935 - 1 December 1937
*Lt. Cmdr. Sumihiko Hatanaka - 1 December 1937 - 15 December 1938
*Lt. Cmdr. Shinji Uchino - 15 December 1938 - 1 September 1939
*Lt. Cmdr. Tomiichi Muraoka - 1 September 1939 - 19 October 1940

"In Reserve" - 19 October 1940 - 25 July 1941

*Lt. Cmdr. Otoji Nakamura - 25 July 1941 - 31 January 1942
*Lt. Cmdr. Yahachi Tanabe - 31 January 1942 - 30 June 1942
*Cmdr. Kinzo Tonozuka - 30 June 1942 - 31 August 1942
*Lt. Cmdr. Katsuji Watanabe - 31 August 1942 - 15 October 1942
*Lt. Cmdr. Sakae Nakajima - 15 October 1942 - 27 July 1943 (KIA)




Tabular record of movement at [http://www.combinedfleet.com/I-168.htm]

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