IJN 6th Fleet

IJN 6th Fleet

The nihongo|IJN 6th Fleet|第六艦隊 (日本海軍)|Dai-roku Kantai was a fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, primarily responsible for command of submarine operations.


The IJN 6th Fleet was formed on 15 November 1940, and was assigned general control of all Japanese submarine operations. Its initial mission was reconnaissance off the west coast of the United States, east coast of Australia, and the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean.


Prior to World War II, Japan had a very diverse and technically advanced submarine fleet, including the only submarines of over 5,000 tons submerged displacement, or submarines over 400 feet in length until the advent of nuclear power. Japan was also unique in that it built 41 submarines that could carry aircraft: something no other nation had yet produced. Japan also had submarines with the longest ranges and highest speeds of any nation. With the development of the Type 95 submarine-launched variant of the Long Lance oxygen-propelled Japan not only had the world's most advanced torpedo, but one with the largest warhead.Polar, Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy]

However, despite numerous technical advantages, Japanese submarines achieved remarkably little during World War II. This was primarily due to the antiquated strategy of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff, which viewed submarines as little more than scouts, whose main role was to locate and shadow enemy naval task forces in preparation for a decisive surface conflict. [Boyd, Japanese Submarine Force in World War II]

Early stages of the Pacific War

At the start of the Pacific War, Midget submarines were used in preparatory reconnaissance of the US Navy anchorage at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and in the initial stages of the attack on Pearl Harbor.With the outbreak of general war, the mission of the IJN 6th Fleet expanded to include shipping interdiction and mine laying. A few specialized missions, such as the Attack on Sydney Harbour with the use of midget submarines were also undertaken. The IJN 6th fleet cooperated briefly with the German Navy in the Indian Ocean in operations to interdict British commerce from its base in Penang, but these missions were a minority. The Navy General Staff placed more emphasis on ambush operations of Allied capital ships. In 1942, Japanese submarines were credited with sinking two aircraft carriers, one cruiser and several destroyers, as well as damaging one aircraft carrier and two battleships. [Dull, A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy ]

However, the success of 1942 could not be repeated in 1943, due to increased anti-submarine capabilities by the US Navy and to the vast scale of the Pacific conflict, which made it difficult for a submarine to be in “right place at the right time” to make a successful attack.

Latter stages of the Pacific War

After 1942, the Navy General Staff also gave very little support to continued commerce interdiction or ambush operations. Instead, submarines came to be increasingly used (especially after massive Japanese surface vessel losses in the Solomon Islands campaign for transport of critical supplies and reinforcements to the starving garrisons on isolated islands. The Japanese Navy expended hundreds of sorties on such missions, which might have otherwise been used offensively against the Allied war effort.

In the meantime, continuous developments in anti-submarine warfare by the US Navy resulted in ever-increasing losses for Japan's submarine fleet. Japan started the war with 63 ocean-going submarines (not including midgets), and completed 111 during the war, for a total of 174. Of this total, 128 vessels were lost during the conflict. Most of the survivors were either training vessels, or were else recently completed by the end of the war and never saw combat. Of the 30 submarines that supported the Pearl Harbor attack, none survived the war. [D'Albas, Death of a Navy]

Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands was the main base for Japanese submarine operations in the Pacific until it fell to the Americans in February 1944. IJN 6th fleet headquarters was relocated to Saipan in the Mariana Islands, which the fell to the Americans in July 1944 with the death of IJN 6th fleet commander in chief Admiral Takeo Takagi and most of his staff. The remnants of the IJN 6th fleet were based at Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands until the end of the war.

Japan's submarine forces were unable to provide much support during the Battle of the Philippines due to increased vigilance by the American fleet. In the final stages of the war, surviving submarines were largely used as carriers for "kaiten" suicide missions. [Parshall, Combinedfleet.com ]

The final sortie of the IJN 6th fleet was after the termination of the war, when the super submarine Japanese submarine I-401 returned to Yokosuka from Ulithi.

Organization of the IJN 6th Fleet (original)

* 1st Submarine Squadron
**Japanese cruiser "Katori",
***Japanese submarine tender "Ozame"
***1st Submarine Flotilla(I-15, I-16, I-17)

*2nd Submarine Squadron
**Japanese cruiser "Isuzu"
***1st Submarine Flotilla (I-74, I-75)
***11th Submarine Flotilla (I-68, I-69, I-70)
*** 20th Submarine Flotilla (I-71, I-72, I-73)

*3rd Submarine Squadron
**Japanese submarine tender "Chozame"
***7th Submarine Flotilla (I-1, I-2, I-3)
***8th Submarine Flotilla (I-4, I-5, I-6)

Commanders of the IJN 6th Fleet

Commander in chief [Wendel, Axis History Database]

Chief of staff



*cite book
last = Boyd
first = Carl
authorlink =
year = 1995
title = The Japanese Submarine Force and World War II
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 1557500150

*cite book
last = D'Albas
first = Andrieu
authorlink =
year = 1965
title = Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II
publisher = Devin-Adair Pub
location =
id = ISBN 0-8159-5302-X

*cite book
last = Dull
first = Paul S.
authorlink =
year = 1978
title = A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-87021-097-1

*cite book
last = Polmar
first = Norman
authorlink =
year = 1978
title = Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 0870216821

External links

*cite web
last = Nishida
first = Hiroshi
url = http://homepage2.nifty.com/nishidah/e/ja03.htm#6F
title = Imperial Japanese Navy
accessdate = 2007-02-25

*cite web
last = Parshall
first = John
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/ss.htm
title = Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy
accessdate = 2007-08-25

*cite web
last = Wendel
first = Marcus
url = http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=7824
title = Axis History Database
accessdate = 2007-08-25


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