It is generally conceded that American publications are minutely scanned and clipped by foreign intelligence agencies, but when one of these carefully selected items materializes in an enemy’s hands to our disadvantage, it has a nightmare-like quality.
The Japanese second attack on Pearl Harbor during the early morning of May 4, 1942, followed too closely, in reverse, the general outline of Alec Hudson’s story, “Rendezvous,” to have been coincidence or pure chance.
Readers of that story in the August 2 and August 9, 1941, issues of the Saturday Evening Post will recall that it told of a conference at an American Naval Base (Pearl Harbor?) where the Chief of Staff of the High Command met with the Submarine and Patrol Wing Commanders to plan a surprise moonlight bombing attack on a concentration of enemy amphibious troops and transports assembled in the port of Basoko, (Yokosuka?) more than 3,000 miles away. As the PBY’s did not have the capability for such a mission, a scheme was devised whereby three submarines, the Neptune, Dryad, and Unicorn, which had previously conducted experimental refueling of flying boats, would proceed secretly to an anchorage at the uninhabited atoll of Moab (Maug?—Northern Marianas), less than 1,000 miles from the enemy’s coast, and there refuel the PBY’s. Taking off at sunset, these planes would carry out the desired bombing attack, returning to the submarine anchorage after daylight (assisted in finding this isolated atoll by one of the submarines acting as a radio beacon to “home in” a lost plane), and again be refueled for the return flight to their home base.
That fine story of the utilization of a submarine’s ability to penetrate, undetected, an isolated enemy position, surreptitiously refuel patrol planes, and thus extend their normally expected operational range, was unique and in keeping with the best submarine yarns from the pen of Alec Hudson.
The Japanese, military as well as civilian, have been characterized by their ready adoption and orientation of novel “foreign” ideas and techniques. Japanese official naval records obtained since V-J Day show that when called upon for plans to follow up the spectacular success of their Carrier Task Force sneak attack on Pearl Harbor with night attacks by long-range patrol planes, the Japanese strategists devised an operation which they called the “K Operation.” The two following dispatches, translated for the Japanese official report of that operation, clearly indicate the concept to be “Rendezvous in Reverse”:
“FROM: CHIEF OF STAFF, CINC COMBINED FLEET 16 JANUARY 19421
ACTION: CHIEF OF STAFF, CINC 4TH (MANDATE AREA) FLEET CHIEF OF STAFF, CINC 6TH (SUBMARINE) FLEET
INFO: COMMANDER 24TH (MANDATE AREA) AIR FLOTILLA IMPERIAL HEADQUARTERS (CHIEF 1ST SECTION)
COMBINED FLEET SECRET RADIO DISPATCH #81
INSTITUTE DETAILED PLANS AND PREPARATIONS TO CARRY OUT NIGHT BOMBING ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR (PATROL PLANES REFUELING FROM 6TH FLEET SUBMARINES AT AN ATOLL WEST OF OAHU) SUBSEQUENT LATTER PART FEBRUARY IN ORDER DISRUPT AND NULLIFY ENEMY’S WORK SALVAGE AND REPAIR DAMAGE THERE. TWO TYPE 13 (NEW TYPE LONG RANGE) PATROL PLANES WILL BE ASSIGNED TO 24TH AIR FLOTILLA FOR THIS MISSION EARLY FEBRUARY.”
“FROM: NAVY MINISTRY (HEAD, 1ST SECTION) 25 JANUARY 1942
ACTION: CHIEF OF STAFF, CINC COMBINED FLEET
INFO: CHIEF OF STAFF, CINC 4TH (MANDATE AREA) FLEET
CHIEF OF STAFF, CINC 6TH (SUBMARINE) FLEET COMDR. 24TH (MANDATE AREA) AIR FLOTILLA
NAVY MINISTRY SECRET RADIO DISPATCH #572
FOLLOWING SUBMITTED FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION IN CONNECTION PLANS ATTACK PEARL HARBOR WITH TYPE 13 FLYING BOATS:
(1) CARRY OUT OPERATION ON 2 MARCH.
(2) REFUEL (PLANES) AT FRENCH FRIGATE SHOALS;2 PROVIDE ONE ADDITIONAL SUBMARINE AS RESERVE REFUELING UNIT IF SUBMARINE DISPOSITIONS AND SITUATION PERMIT.
(3) STATION ONE SUBMARINE VICINITY JOHNSTON ISLAND TO ACT AS RADIO BEACON (FOR PLANES); STATION ONE SUBMARINE TO S.W. OF OAHU.
(4) IF FLYING BOATS UNABLE ARRIVE PRIOR DEPARTURE OF REFUELLING SUB-FEB IN ORDER TO CONDUCT TRAINING WITH RADIO BEACON SUBMARINE, THE OTHER PLANE TO ARRIVE BY 19 FEB.
(5) ATTACH ONE OR TWO AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE RATINGS TO EACH REFUELLING SUBMARINE.”
The new type long-range planes were four-engined flying boats which were then undergoing final acceptance tests at Yokosuka. Only the two prototypes of this class of planes had been completed and no others would be ready before late July or August. The acceptance-test performance figures of this plane (later nicknamed Emily, for identification, by Allied Intelligence) were encouraging: 3664 nautical miles3 for reconnaissance (no bombs); 3040 miles with a one-ton bomb load; 2928 miles with full bomb load (two tons); maximum speed, 252 knots at 14,763 feet; cruising speed 160 knots; service ceiling—29,000 feet. A study of the data available suggested three concepts for the bombing attack, using in each case the one- ton (four 550-pound bombs) loading.
Plan I. Planes take off from Wotje (Marshall Islands), for French Frigate Shoals (1605 miles), there refuel from submarines, thence to Pearl Harbor (482 miles) for the attack and return direct (1980 miles) to Wotje. If necessary, make another refueling stop at French Frigate Shoals on return flight to Wotje; use Necker Island (80 miles east of French Frigate Shoals) should American patrols or security render refueling operations impossible.
Plan II. Direct flight from Wotje to Pearl Harbor, returning via Washington Island (1010 miles south of Oahu) for refueling by submarines, thence return to Wotje.
Plan III. Take off from Makin (Gilbert Islands) for Christmas Island (1161 miles south of Pearl Harbor), there refuel from submarines, thence to Pearl Harbor, returning to refuel at Christmas Island and return to Makin.
Of these, Plan I was the preferred one, even though the distances involved and the period of the year required an initial take-off from Wotje two hours before sunrise, and one from French Frigate Shoals two hours after sunset. The long take-off runs necessary for the planes’ 31 ton full-load required full moon conditions to minimize hazards of rough water or debris. This the Nautical Almanac promised for the night of March 2, thus assuring good illumination for both take-offs, for navigation during the French Frigate-Pearl Harbor leg, and for target identification and bombsight setting during the bombing run. Ten-Ten Dry Dock at Pearl Harbor was selected as the bombsight point of aim.
A comprehensive program of training was instituted covering day and night navigation, night take-offs, reconnaissance, and night bombing as well as all phases of radio communications. Practice in refueling from the submarines had to be deferred until after the arrival of the planes in the Marshall Islands, scheduled for mid-February. Submarine crews were trained in refueling techniques by the I-23 refueling an older type flying boat at Kwajalein on January 28.
About half of Japan’s newest submarines at that time were built with a water-tight, tubular deck-hangar to carry a small two- place twin-float seaplane. Designed for rapid assembly and disassembly, these planes could be launched from a deck catapult for reconnaissance flights.4 To carry sufficient aviation gasoline for refueling large flying boats, the scout-plane was removed and the deck-hangar converted to gasoline storage with appropriate connections for four refuelling hoses and compressed air.
During a conference at Kwajalein in early February, the previous studies and concepts of the operation were discussed and a draft of the “K Operation” Order drawn. This provides that bombing attacks be conducted in accordance with Plan I on two dates. The first (“P” Day) set take-off for early March 1; the second, “Q” Day, called for take-off early on March 6. It was recognized that any delays beyond March 6 would jeopardize a second attack, since a waning moon would render night take-offs after that date increasingly hazardous. A critical factor, which could cause a delay in either attack, was that of favorable weather over such a long slice of ocean. Here, the Japanese had an “ace up their sleeve” for, in addition to their own efficient weather-reporting and forecasting system, their “Black Chamber” had succeeded in decrypting U. S. Naval weather codes, enabling them to read the daily weather reports made from Naval Air Stations at Midway, Johnston, and the Hawaiian Islands.
The operation order also set forth the stations and duties of each submarine: I-15 and I-19 as refuelers with the I-26 as contingency refueler at French Frigate Shoals, each to carry ten tons of aviation gasoline. If their initial periscope reconnaissance from outside the reef should discover American lookout towers or security personnel, the submarines would battle surface, bombard and destroy these. The I-26 would remain outside the reef as picket vessel when the I-15 and I-19 went inside to refuel the Emilys. The Flagboat of the Flotilla, the I-19, was to take station at Point “M” along the flight path in a position (Lat. 19-OON, Long. 174-20W) about 700 miles SW of French Frigate Shoals and transmit “radio beacon” type messages from 30 minutes before, until 30 minutes after the passing of the planes overhead, in order to “home” them as well as act as a navigation checkpoint.
The I-23 was to proceed to a “lifeguard” station5 Point “N,” 10 miles South of Pearl Harbor; there to rescue the crew, or if possible, refuel a plane forced down in that area. All subs were to arrive on station by P minus one day, and again on Q minus one day in order to observe and render twice-daily weather reports, in addition to giving supplementary warning of any radical changes in the weather. Communications procedures, frequencies, special call signs and special codes between bases, planes, and submarines were also set forth. As an additional precaution, two “RO”-type, coastal-defense submarines were ordered to take station 300 miles northeast from Wotje along the flight path, to assist in the navigation of the returning planes.
Both Emilys left Yokosuka on February 15 for their base at Jaluit via Saipan and Truk. On the 19th, Plane #1 flew from Jaluit to Kwajalein to carry out refueling training, and refueled in turn from the I-16, I-19, and I-26. Plane #2, having damaged a flap on take-off, remained for repairs at Emidj.
Late that afternoon, an unforeseen complication arose when Japanese naval aircraft reported they sighted and attacked an American task force, centered in the Lexington, east of Rabaul. Admiral Yamamoto, fearing a raid on his Fleet Base at Truk, ordered all available submarines including some “K” Operations boats, to concentrate on the search and attack on the Lexington Task Force. Failing to make contact and when released for the “K Operation,” the I-15 and her group reported they could not reach French Frigate Shoals until 0530 March 2. Consequently, P-Day was changed to March 3.
While its effect on the impending operations was not critical, the following dispatch, translated from the Japanese report of the “K-Operation,” speaks for itself:
“FROM: NAVY MINISTRY (HEAD, 1ST SECTION) 1 MARCH 1942
ACTION: CHIEF OF STAFF, CINC 4TH (MANDATE AREA) FLEET
INFO: COMDR. 24TH (MANDATE AREA) AIR FLOTILLA
COMDR. YOKOHAMA AIR UNIT (“EMILY” UNIT COMDR.)
CHIEF OF STAFF, CINC COMBINED FLEET
NAVY MINISTRY SECRET RADIO DISPATCH #848.
THE AMERICANS CHANGED THEIR WEATHER CODE ON 1 MARCH AND WE CANNOT NOW CONSTRUCT A WEATHER MAP BASED ON THEIR REPORT AS HERETOFORE X WE ARE NOW ENDEAVORING TO BREAK THE NEW CODE X OUR PREDICTED WEATHER FOR TWO AND THREE MARCH FOLLOWS: PEARL HARBOR WINDS NE- ENE APPROX 23 KNOTS; FRENCH FRIGATE SHOALS WINDS E-SE APPROX 26 KNOTS”
On March 2, special weather search-planes were sent northeast of Wake and the Marshalls in order to supplement the regular weather reports from the air and naval bases in that area. Weather reports from the submarines at point “M” and French Frigate Shoals portrayed favorable local conditions. No reports were received from the I-23, which was the first, and final, indication of her loss while en route to her station. A consolidated weather analysis showing generally favorable conditions, takeoff was planned for early morning of March 3.
The two Emilys, which had been flown from Jaluit to Wotje, were standing by, loaded and fully gassed, ready for the flight. After a final briefing and pep-talk by Vice Admiral Inoue, Commander in Chief of the 4th Fleet, the flight crews manned their planes and taxied down wind to their takeoff positions.
After final checks, their engines roaring, they sped across the moonlit lagoon, lifting off the water in a final trail of spray at 0555 (0325 Wotje time). As they began their steady climb to cruising altitude through scattered tropical rainshowers, Wotje Radio sent a departure report to all concerned. By sunrise, #2 plane had closed the leader and weather conditions steadily improved.
After a navigational fix at 1130 showing their position to be slightly to the north of their track, course was changed toward Point M. Two hours later, the planes picked up the I-9’s “radio beacon” transmissions on their radio-direction finders, and flying down the bearing passed over the beacon submarine at 1440. The submarine also radioed all concerned of the progress of the planes.
On sighting French Frigate Shoals at 1830, the pilots could see the refueling submarines heading for their designated anchorages inside the reef. The planes after cruising lazily over the area to reconnoiter, landed and taxied astern of the submarines I-15 and I-19, which had anchored northwest of Sand Island. Each deck crew paid out a mooring pendant with an eye at its bitter end buoyed by small floats, which the planes picked up after coming up from astern. Attached to the eye was a messenger which, when hauled in by the plane crew, carried over the four gasoline hoses. When “ready to receive gasoline” was signalled, the submarine applied compressed air to the hangar avgas storage-tanks, forcing over the gasoline. Fueling operations were interrupted when fresh winds, and moderate swell caused each of the Emilys to part its mooring pendant. After picking up newly streamed mooring pendants, the planes used their motors to relieve the strain and reduce yaw. Before the refueling was completed, the sun set in a brilliant, but relatively brief, display of colors and the full moon, having risen thirty minutes previously, now offered soft illumination.
After receiving some 3,000 gallons of gasoline, each plane slipped its pendant and headed for the take-off area. After a bumpy run into the brisk wind, both planes pulled off at 2138 and set course to utilize the rocky pinnacles and islets of the westward chain of the Hawaiian Islands as navigation check points en route to Pearl Harbor.
Back in the Hawaiian Islands the air activity on Oahu this March 3 was a repetition of previous days’ routine air searches, patrols, and training. Army and Navy planes making pre-dawn and pre-sunset searches, as well as day and night training flights, had neither sighted any of the “K Operation” submarines nor made any other suspicious contacts. At sunset all lights, except certain lighthouses left burning for navigation, were blacked out. During the night, air raid wardens patrolled their areas, lest the unwary householder accidentally show a forbidden light, although the bright full moon, now riding high in the sky, nullified man’s attempt at self-concealment. The electronic eyes of radar stations reported bearings and distances of planes aloft to the Air Raid Defense Center, where trim Wards (Women Air Raid Defense Service) moved markers on the plotting board to the positions reported. Here, liaison officers were on duty from the Army and Naval Air Commands to identify a plane’s plot, from their knowledge of flight plans or areas of flight operations then in progress. I.F.F. equipment had not yet been installed in planes in the Hawaiian area.
Less than an hour after take-off from French Frigate Shoals, Lt. Toshio Hashizume, the flight commander and pilot of Plane #1, picked up the precipitous narrow ridge of volcanic rock that is Necker Island and, after passing overhead at 2229, altered course for Nihoa (Bird Island). The weather remained good and at 2355, when the tall twin peaks of Nihoa were left 15,000 feet below, course was set for the Island of Kauai. To avoid being spotted by lookouts when approaching Kauai (Hashizume was blissfully ignorant of radar), the Emilys planned to head south between Kauai and Niihau and, when clear, head east for Kaena Point, the westerly tip of Oahu.
At 0014, the Emilys appeared on the screen of the Army Radar Station on Kauai which immediately forwarded to the Honolulu Air Raid Defense Center their report: “Aircraft, bearing 290 true, distant 204 miles from Oahu.” Thereafter, Kauai Radar Station continued to send in a stream of reports of the approaching planes positions, which were later supplemented by radar reports from stations on Oahu.
When these first reports were placed on the plotting board at Air Raid Defense Center, the plot was labeled “unidentified,” since neither the Air Corps nor Navy Air liaison officers could identify them as their own, nor affirmatively rule out the possibility the plot might be a stray “friendly,” returning outside its assigned flight sector. By 0043, the plot having crept steadily toward Kauai, the Air Defense Commander who also commanded the fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft artillery, searchlights and radar network, ordered his Initial Air Striking Group to take off. At 0048 COM. 14 as Commander of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base Defenses, ordered “General Quarters,” for all units of his command.
Thirty minutes later the radar showed the plot (still typed “unidentified”) to be two planes, now on an easterly course for Oahu. At 0115 the first element of the Air Striking Force, three Navy PBYs, took off armed with torpedoes, with orders to search for and attack the seaplane or aircraft carrier6 from which the unidentified planes might have been launched. They were followed by two more PBYs, similarly armed. At 0136, four Army P-40s roared off their runway to intercept and attack the intruders, if hostile. Minutes later, the plot showed the planes passing over Kaena Point on course East. At one minute before two o’clock the Hawaiian Defense Commander ordered “Full Alert, Air Raid” for his command and the civilian population of Oahu.
The pilots and crews of the Emilys, flying in close formation at 15,000 feet, sighted and identified the winking eye of Kaena Point Lighthouse. Some clouds could be seen topping Oahu’s Koolau Mountain Range and over-flowing into leeward valleys; however, the weather still looked fairly good with some clouds visible in the direction of Pearl Harbor. To facilitate surprise and retirement after the attack, Lt. Hashizume had planned to continue east until about north of Pearl Harbor then swing due south for his bombing run. Suddenly, the clouds stacked up by the Koolau Range spread like a gossamer veil, rapidly blanketing nearly all the island in a light tropical rain. On turning toward Pearl Harbor, Hashizume found his target area cloud covered. When over what he believed to be Pearl Harbor, he thought he made out Ford Island and radioed orders for an emergency left turn to circle back to commence the bombing run and at 02107 dropped his bombs “on the target.”
After circling once again to observe the fall of bombs, he retired to the south before heading back to his base. Ens. Tomano, piloting #2 plane, failed to receive both the order to turn, and to bomb, hence continued on course and thus became separated from Hashizume. On learning his error, Tomano turned north and made an independent bombing run “by dead reckoning,” dropping his bombs at 0230; “all of Pearl Harbor being then completely obscured by clouds.”
The silence that followed the sounding of the Air Raid Alarm on Oahu early March 4 was broken by an explosion of four bombs hitting an uninhabited area on the slopes of Mount Tantalus, some six miles east of their objective. No other explosions were heard, indicating that Ens. Tomano’s bombs had landed harmlessly in the sea. No material or personnel damages were sustained; a cluster of lonely algaroba trees suffered the only injury, for all the extensive efforts expended.
The Air Defense Command now ordered the searchlights to illuminate the intruders for the anti-aircraft batteries, but the tropical rain screened the Emilys from searchlights just as it had blanketed Pearl Harbor from the attackers. The P-40s failed to make contact “due to overcast conditions,” while the PBY search for the seaplane or aircraft carrier to the westward was equally fruitless.
Some Army and Navy flyers, on ascertaining that planes of their respective services had not jettisoned any bombs between midnight and dawn, began accusing their rivals of having jettisoned the bombs on Mt. Tantalus since both factions were sure that no Japanese planes could possibly have made the round trip to Oahu from the nearest Japanese bases, Wake or the Marshalls.
Intelligence officers, and others, recalling to mind the Saturday Evening Post story, had no difficulty in recognizing the raid as “Rendezvous in Reverse,” and it was thus reconstructed in official reports to Washington. Alec Hudson, who was then the Assistant Intelligence Officer, Hawaiian Sea Frontier also agreed. Warnings were issued forthwith to prepare all island Commands for such attacks in the future; additionally, French Frigate Shoals was mined to preclude its successful re-use as an enemy refueling area.
Hashizume’s plane, having incurred a hull puncture on take-off from French Frigate Shoals, returned direct to the base at Jaluit for repairs, arriving at 1500; Tomano’s plane, flying direct to Wotje arrived fifteen minutes earlier. In their first reports the pilots and crews stated that due to dense clouds the results of their bombing was “unknown” but that they had observed one battleship in dry dock in Pearl Harbor, as well as an aircraft carrier and a cruiser at anchor there. The Japanese official report of “K Operations” claimed that a broadcast from Los Angeles had announced that “considerable damage (including the explosion of one gasoline tank) had been suffered by military installations at Pearl Harbor in this attack, in which thirty sailors and civilians were killed and some seventy wounded.”
The time required to repair the hull of Hashizume’s plane, plus the initial delay in P-Day, rendered Q-Day less desirable, involving as it did night take-offs with reduced moonlight. The High Command in Tokyo decided it needed photographic reconnaissance of Midway and Johnston Islands more than a Q-Day attack on Pearl and issued orders accordingly.
Tomano was to photograph Johnston; Hashizume drew Midway and flew to his death. The Marine Fighters there, having been alerted against such a raid and warned by radar, closed in and “splashed” the intruder. There were no fighter planes at Johnston Island to molest Toma.no, who accomplished his photography and made an excellent report of his visual observations.
The Japanese Naval High Command planned a “#2 K Operation” for May 30, 1942 as a full-moon reconnaissance of Pearl Harbor to ascertain the Pacific Fleet strength there as a prelude to their Midway attack, which commenced June 4. However, the refueling submarine on arrival at French Frigate Shoals reported that refueling would be impossible due to the surveillance there by U. S. Aircraft and destroyers. Instead of shifting the refueling site to the alternate, Necker Island, the High Command cancelled the operation. Had #2 K Operation8 not been cancelled, the flying boats might have sighted and warned Admiral Yamamoto of our Carrier Task Forces, then proceeding from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Forewarned of the trap being laid for his Midway assault, Yamamoto would probably have been able to capitalize on that intelligence to avoid the disaster that befell him there.
1. All times and dates herein are converted to Honolulu Daylight Saving Time (Zone + 9½).
2. Japanese selection of this refueling anchorage was greatly assisted by their capture on Wake Island in Dec. ’41 of the U. S. Naval Air Pilot, Pacific Islands, 1936—a confidential registered publication.
3. All distances will be given in nautical miles; speeds in knots.
4. Subsequent to their sneak-attack, the Japanese reconnoitered Pearl Harbor with submarine-based aircraft; the I-7 at dawn December 16, 1941; the I-19 by moonlight on night of January 4, 1942; and the I-9 on night of February 23, 1942 (then returned to its “radio beacon” station at Point M).
5. This provision of “lifeguard” submarines by the Japanese pre-dates our efforts in this field; they were provided for their carrier task force attack on Pearl Harbor as well as for their air attacks on Manila at the outbreak of the war.
6. At this time the Japanese Navy possessed large seaplane carriers, as well as aircraft carriers.
7. Hashizume’s record stated “bombs away at 0215”; Honolulu records agree that bombs exploded at 0210.
8. “K-Operations” continued in other areas: After the American assault on Guadalcanal in August, 1942, Japanese submarines were stationed at Indispensable Reefs (200 miles South of Guadalcanal) to refuel flying boats for long-range searches in the Coral Sea in order to provide intelligence of U. S. Naval movements in that general area. By this means, Japanese surface forces, air units and submarines were able to execute several effective attacks.