A colossal discovery was made near coastal Hawaii – a Japanese, state-of-the-art submarine from World War II. Cold War with the Soviet Union prompted the U.S. to hide the submerged innovation that has now been brought to the public eye decades later.
Researchers from the University of Hawaii found the I-400 under 2,300 feet of water southwest of Oahu. It was a completely “unexpected” find according to the university’s statement. They initially thought the sub would be much further away. Though the sub was found in August, the public was only informed after the laboratory alerted the governments of the U.S. and Japan first.
The sub, almost 400 feet in length, and its two sister ships were classified as Sen-Toku submarines and were considered to be among the biggest to be built ahead of nuclear ballistic missile subs of the 1960s. According to Terry Kerby of the University of Hawaii, even though 18 such submarines were ordered by General Yamamoto at the start of the war, only three were actually made. Up until the Japanese surrendered, the Allies were absolutely unaware of the submarines’ existence, he said.
The I-400 was captured by the U.S. Navy along with four other subs near the end of the war. They were then sent to Pearl Harbor to be examined. Till date, the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory has recovered four of the five subs that were captured and sunk by the U.S. in an attempt to hide their novel engineering.
The subs were originally designed to attack locations on the U.S. mainland and did not require refueling to reach any place on the world map. Essentially, they were subs-cum-aircraft carriers that housed three planes with foldable wings in its 150-ft hangar. The nifty seaplanes could each carry a bomb weighing 1,800 pounds. However, the ships remained “gently used” till 1945 as Japan surrendered before any U.S. mainland attack could be realized.
Still, the subs presented a paradigm shift in how submarines could be used more broadly in mainland offense instead of just as a weapon against ships only. By the start of the nuclear age, the U.S. had already followed Japan’s lead in equipping their subs with the ability to launch ballistic missiles, according to James Delgado, a director at the University of Hawaii.
Despite WWII ending, the U.S. found itself entering the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Even though the two countries fought on the same side against Axis countries in WWII, the U.S. long remained anxious about looming communism in a Russia ruled by tyrant Joseph Stalin. Soviets were angered by U.S. rejection of the USSR’s claim to a rightful place in the global community. They also held Americans somewhat responsible for entering WWII late, a war that saw millions of Russians dead.
The ill feelings on both sides eventually culminated into a mutual lack of trust and tense rivalry. Historians contend that not any one party can be blamed for the enmity, and perhaps the Cold War was unavoidable.
Calling on the treaty that ended World War II, the Soviets insisted on their right to approach the subs. To keep the coveted Japanese engineering a secret from their rival, the U.S. tucked away the behemoth subs under a bed of water while maintaining that they had no idea of the ships’ whereabouts.
By Fatema Biviji