For good reason, the Japanese referred to Guadalcanal as “Starvation Island.”1 By late 1942 the situation of the Japanese troops had become indescribably wretched. Efforts to transport supplies by “Tokyo Express” destroyers under the command of the redoubtable Rear Admiral Raizo “Tenacious” Tanaka were increasingly inadequate, leading to the decision to also use submarines as transports.
Among the subs assigned this task were the four large junsen (cruiser) type boats of the I-1 class. The I-1 and I-2 were modified for use as transports with the after 5.5-inch gun removed, torpedo loads reduced, and provision made for carrying a 46-foot landing craft, amphibious tanks, or cargo rafts. These submarine supply missions were not particularly successful, with sister submarines I-3 sunk by PT-59 on 10 December 1942 and I-4 probably sunk by the submarine Seadragon (SS-194) on 20 December (although some sources attribute this sinking to PT-122).2